On the Inescapability of Capital
Preface: This is just the first draft of what I plan to add on to. This is just a very basic explanation of capitalist realism and psychological effects of capitalism. More in depth analysis can be found in the work of people like ‘Bifo’ Berardi, Mark Fisher, Gilles Deleuze and so many more, but the aim of this essay (for now) is just to give a brief explanation of capitalist realism
The continuous increase in funding-and as a result, power- of repressive state forces such as police and the military is just the surface of conditions that paint capital as a seemingly inescapable force. I could write an entire separate essay on how these repressive forces protect capital and how they have grown and changed over the past few decades, however it has been written about time and time again so that is not the focus of this essay. The less easily observable changes in conditions and the psychological effects they’ve had is the topic at hand here.
In Mark Fisher’s 2009 book Capitalist Realism, Fisher talks about a predominant conception in modern society that capitalism is the only viable system and despite its flaws, there is no real alternative. This is what he calls Capitalist Realism. This view of capitalist society being the only possible society is not an accurate representation of what is, rather its a self fulfilling prophecy that reinforces capital. If we acknowledge the flaws of capitalism but accept them as nature or “just how the world is” we are not observing our conditions, we are creating and perpetuating them.
To deflect from any real criticism of capital, we have been told that any other possible alternative is worse and that what happens now is natural. Fisher elaborates on this saying “a brutal state of affairs, profoundly inegalitarian — where all existence is evaluated in terms of money alone — is presented to us as ideal. To justify their conservatism, the partisans of the established order cannot really call it ideal or wonderful. So instead, they have decided to say that all the rest is horrible. Sure, they say, we may not live in a condition of perfect Goodness. But we’re lucky that we don’t live in a condition of Evil. Our democracy is not perfect. But it’s better than the bloody dictatorships. Capitalism is unjust. But it’s not criminal like Stalinism. We let millions of Africans die of AIDS, but we don’t make racist nationalist declarations like Milosevic. We kill Iraqis with our airplanes, but we don’t cut their throats with machetes like they do in Rwanda, etc.” We have been told every alternative is worse to keep us compliant with the assumption we have the best conditions possible. We know our conditions are poor, we understand the flaws of capitalism, we are suffering. We still make the choice to stay compliant and participate in furthering this system every day with the idea that there is no means for real, significant change. This is called reflexive impotence. Daily, we contribute to capitalism and use our ideological opposition to capitalism to justify it. Things like war, poverty, starvation-surprisingly to some- reinforce this. We have been conditioned to see these things as natural affairs that only a naive or utopian person would attempt to truly solve. When a major question is answered with “that’s just how the world is” and that answer is accepted, the question essentially disappears
Some of the biggest developments over the last few decades, technology and online media, play a massive part in upholding the ideology and control of those in power i.e. upholding capital. While there is an illusion of freedom and equal exposure of information on the internet, one can only assume that the massive corporations in control of social media would not sustain this ‘freedom’ in the face of what they view as a true threat to their power. The competition of information only goes as far as power allows. Both sides of a conflict can compete in the online space until there is a true threat to power. Think of something like protests in Colombia earlier this year. When the protests started to present the threat of real revolt, their access to the internet was restricted and information on what was going on became limited. In other words, the new found accessibility of information through the online world doesn’t hold revolutionary capacity as it’s controlled to some degree by those we would be revolting against. A trillion dollar corporation will not allow the environment/tool it created be used to overthrow them.
An important question arises: Is capital inescapable or is Fisher’s idea that this notion is a self fulfilling prophecy, correct? This question, even using Fisher’s idea, is in my opinion impossible to answer. The presentation of reality that’s given to us in almost every way shows capitalism as natural and inescapable system. The issue here is that our perception of reality is influenced by our conditions and capitalist realism itself. Even what i said about social media’s lack of potential as a tool for revolution could be a false reality presented to us and a self fulfilling prophecy. Despite this lack of ability to confirm what Fisher says, we must move forward with the assumption that he is right. Our options are to either accept our condition with the assumption that capitalism is truly inescapable or we take the path of uncertainty that says we only see capital as inescapable because of ideological influence. In other words, we attempt to work against capitalist realism or we reject it and, in turn, confirm it. If we accept capitalism as nature and reject Fisher’s theory we will never escape and by doing so we only add to the proof. Whether Fisher is truly correct or not we cannot find through complacence.
Capital is not inescapable, there is a possible alternative. We must tell ourselves this as to not doom us to just the opposite becoming true and our current reality existing eternally