The essay ends on a cliffhanger, and this call to understand the process fades away, seemingly without a road map. Following Fisher’s death in January 2017, the assumption has been that the particulars of Acid Communism were lost with Fisher himself. And yet, there remain breadcrumbs out in the world. Along with a collection of essays that reflects many of the themes and subjects he was expected to explore, there is also the structure of Fisher’s postgraduate module, “Postcapitalist Desire”, which he devised for the academic year of 2016/17 at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Postcapitalist Desire: The Final Lectures of Mark Fisher
Edited with an introduction by Matt Colquhoun, this collection of lecture notes and transcriptions reveals acclaimed writer and blogger Mark Fisher in his element — the classroom — outlining a project that Fisher’s death sadly left unfinished.
Beginning with that most fundamental of questions — “Do we really want what we say we want?” — Fisher explores the relationship between desire and capitalism, and wonders what new forms of desire we might still excavate from the past, present, and future. From the emergence and failure of the counterculture to the continued development of his left-accelerationist line of thinking, this volume charts a tragically interrupted course for thinking about the raising of a new kind of consciousness, and the cultural and political implications of doing so.
For Fisher, this process of consciousness raising was always, fundamentally, psychedelic — just not in the way that we might think…
264 Pages | Jan 2021 | £12.99 | Published by Repeater Books
Reviews, Essays & Endorsements
‘What I’m hoping will happen in the next decade’, Fisher says in an interview with Rowan Wilson, ‘is that a new kind of theory will develop that emerges from people who have been deep-cooked in post-Fordist capitalism, who take cyberspace for granted and who lack nostalgia for the exhausted paradigms of the old left.’ And so it is in these lecturers, where he is fulfilling that pedagogical role among his students, that we can see him in his element; we see students engaging with Fisher directly in the classroom, along with students engaging with one another.
— Lewis Hodder, “Postcapitalist Desire: The Final Lectures” for Ebb Magazine
Fisher’s “Postcapitalist Desire” series of lectures, tragically cut short by his death in January 2017, were devised in an attempt to confront the impasses faced by the contemporary Left, and to plot a route beyond them. A new transcription of the five completed lectures, edited and introduced by Matt Colquhoun, expands their reach beyond the academic confines they were born of, making the ideas, questions and strategies they contain available to a Left movement attempting to rebuild itself from electoral ruin.
— Tom Cozens, “Review – Postcapitalist Desire: The Final Lectures” for Upconversion.org
When it comes to lecture transcripts as opposed to a book, there is a slight change in receptivity. In a formal book there is the stoic image of the author stooped over the desk detailing over his or her choice of wording and prose. The former captures the spoken voice, the everyday oratory of conversation. To hear a real-time lecture taking place is a fresh experience. It’s like he’s talking with you. There is a sense of intellectual adventure and intensity. In this book’s case, it is in the abstract realm of post-capital existence.
— Anthony Cheng, “Book Review: Postcapitalist Desire” for The Indiependent
Few are mourned by the post-millennial left like Mark Fisher. If you know anything about us, then it makes perfect sense. We are a weird bunch, displaced on every level, living in a world terrifyingly different from the one we were prepared for. Between climate change and a rising far-right, our future diminishes daily. Fisher’s work speaks to us through this lens, this alien language of existential displacement.
— Alexander Billet, “Giving Up the Ghost: On the Legacy of Mark Fisher” for Los Angeles Review of Books
Mark Fisher’s work continues to retroactively provide glimmers of the trajectory towards a utopian postcapitalism. It’s a sore temptation to wonder what his take on the events of the last four years would be, with the consolidation of Tory rule in 2019 and doomy ramifications of the pandemic unknown at the time of these lectures, when one could be sanguine about a political rupture heralded by Corbynism. But as more of his back-catalogue of ideas is brought into public discourse, his legacy continues to shape our future in a mischievously non-linear way. It would daresay be unsurprising for some idea of his, unearthed from the past, to spawn more newfangled sociopolitical species sometime in the future.
— James Hendrix Elsey, “Review – Postcapitalist Desire: The Final Lectures” for Red Pepper
Neoliberalism was able to suppress these emancipatory forms of consciousness and to hijack modernity, Fisher contends, because of a failure of leftist politics: where the hippies were experimenting with communal living and alternative family units, all the left could muster was a fusty statism.
The contemporary left, then, must be relentlessly modern. For Fisher, this means accepting our entanglement in the infrastructures of advanced capitalism. Escaping from the bind expressed in Louise Mensch’s criticism of Occupy protesters means recognising both the luxuries and privations of modern technologies – the convenience and gratifications offered by an iPhone, as well as its encroachments on privacy and time.
This was why, Fisher explained to his students, he was taken with the term “postcapitalism”. It suggests “a victory that will come through capitalism”. “It starts from where we are. It’s not some entirely separate space… we’re not required to imagine a sheer alterity, a pure outside.”
— Lola Seaton, “The ghosts of Mark Fisher” for the New Statesman
The lectures contained within Postcapitalist Desire bear an irresistible socio-political significance. Yet, it is perhaps Fisher’s doubts and hesitations, his lack of pretension to a complete understanding of the topics at hand, that give the text its main attraction. Towards the end of Fisher’s first seminar, a discussion around the implementation of a Universal Basic Income spurs a student to pose a question regarding inflation. “Oh God…”, Fisher replies, “I don’t know anything about economics, really…” — cue group laughter. We may well wonder: how feasible is it, to request faith in any critical and cultural project in light of such a glaring aporia? Yet, rushing in to fill the gap, Fisher’s relentless optimism, his ambitious commitment to imagining an alternative to capitalism, is what makes him and Postcapitalist Desire so enjoyable.
— Daniel Bakşi, “Mark Fisher: Postcapitalist Desire – The Final Lectures review — imagining the alternative” for TheArtsDesk.com
In an entry on his blog, k-punk, [Fisher] wrote, “More or less everything I’ve written or participated in has been in some sense an attempt to keep fidelity with the post-punk event.” Post-punk: not the loud, colorful, simple, proudly incompetent, and often nihilistic music known then and now as punk rock, but the strange and often foreboding music that came immediately after it, made by artists who occupied the space of possibility that punk had created by saying “No” to manners, taboos, and musical skill. Such artists … turned punk’s nothing into something, or many somethings. And just as Fisher attempted to keep fidelity with that brief opening in cultural history, that moment when a person could turn on the radio and instantly feel that the world of the possible had expanded, his students and friends, in the days after his death, kept fidelity with the event of Mark Fisher, who had done the same for them.
— Phil Christmas, “Turning Nothings Into Somethings” for Commonweal Magazine
Postcapitalist Desire is thus very much the course it was originally intended to be: a primer on the topic, with Fisher’s curation and guidance as strident and insightful as ever, but by no means sidelining the exploratory, improvisatory and indeed democratic dimension of the teaching process — as Fisher puts it towards the end of the first lecture, ‘far too much of me talking today’. It was not just his writing that was celebrated after Fisher’s death but his teaching, too, by the lucky few who got to experience it. And with this book, the growing number of readers Fisher has accrued since his death, many of them beyond academia and the theoretical left, have an incisive yet personable (and frequently humourous) introduction to writers as canonical and formidable as Herbert Marcuse, György Lukács, and Jean-François Lyotard as well as lesser known names such as Ellen Willis, Nancy Hartsock and Jefferson Cowie, and key but complex concepts such as the death drive, ressentiment, standpoint epistemology, reification, and even capital and capitalism themselves.
— Adam Harper, “The Classroom of Postcapitalist Desire: Mark Fisher’s Final Lectures” for ArtReview
[T]he recent publication of Mark Fisher’s Postcapitalist Desire, his final lectures at Goldsmiths College, edited and curated by Matt Colquhoun for Repeater Books, is immensely precious. Fisher’s last lessons are so vital because they feel familiarly alien and complex within Fisher’s own body of work, extending the ever-present rupture within his posterity.
— Enrico Monacelli, “The Last Monday on Earth: Mark Fisher’s Postcapitalist Desire” for The Quietus
How can the libidinal infrastructure of capitalism be confronted and reconfigured for communism? These lectures, intimate and exploratory, don’t have all the answers — more vital than that, they show the necessity of this wrenching question in our catastrophic times.
— Nicholas Thoburn, author of Anti-Book: On the Art and Politics of Radical Publishing
Mark’s unparalleled ability to infuse ideas with life comes across beautifully in these lectures. Throughout his work, he never stopped believing in and working towards an escape from capitalism — and this series of talks finds Mark weaving his way through working-class history, countercultural libidinal movements, and high theory in an unwavering effort to find just such an escape.”
— Nick Srnicek, author of Platform Capitalism
Mark Fisher was a brilliant public speaker. He found new connections between music, psychoanalysis, and politics. His lectures opened the world, making it available not just for critique but for comradeship.
Jodi Dean, author of Comrade: An Essay on Political Belonging
Mark Fisher has proven to be one of the most influential thinkers of our time. This influence has been exerted not only via his books, his blog, his talks, but also — crucially — his teaching. This volume offers an invaluable insight into Mark’s understanding of postcapitalist desire by giving the reader a glimpse of how he approached it with his students. The lectures are a fantastic resource for those of us interested in consciousness, counterculture, and communism. To read them is to remember, once again, Mark’s relentless appetite for the emancipation of desire from capital.
Helen Hester, author of Xenofeminism