Mark Fisher (theorist)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Mark Fisher (11 July 1968 – 13 January 2017) was a British writer, critic, and cultural theorist based in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. He initially achieved acclaim for his blogging as k-punk in the early 21st century, and was known for his writing on radical politics, music, and popular culture. Over the course of his career, he contributed to publications such as The Wire, The Guardian, Fact, New Statesman and Sight & Sound. He also published several books, including Capitalist Realism (2009), Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures (2014) and The Weird and the Eerie (2017).



Fisher earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and philosophy at Hull University (1989) and completed a Ph.D. at Warwick University in 1999 entitled Flatline Constructs: Gothic Materialism and Cybernetic Theory-Fiction. During this time, Fisher was a founding member of the interdisciplinary research collective known as the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit. He spent a period teaching in a further education college as a philosophy lecturer and began his blog k-punk in 2003. It has been called "one of the most successful weblogs on cultural theory." Music critic Simon Reynolds described it as "a one-man magazine superior to most magazines in Britain" and as the central hub of a "constellation of blogs ... some of which are written by practicing philosophers or others involved in lumpen academia" in which popular culture, music, politics, and abstract theory were discussed in tandem. Fisher also co-founded the message board Dissensus with writer Matt Ingram.

Subsequently, Fisher was a visiting fellow and a lecturer on Aural and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College, a commissioning editor at Zer0 books, an editorial board member of Interference: a journal of audio culture and Edinburgh University Press's Speculative Realism series, and an acting deputy editor at The Wire. In 2009, Fisher edited The Resistible Demise of Michael Jackson, a collection of critical essays on the career and death of Michael Jackson, and published Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative?, an analysis of the ideological effects of neoliberalism on contemporary culture. In 2014, Fisher published Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures, a collection of essays on similar themes viewed through the prisms of music, film, and hauntology. He also contributed intermittently to a number of publications, including Fact and The Wire.

Fisher died on 13 January 2017 at the age of 48. His wife confirmed that he had taken his own life.


Capitalist realism

Fisher's Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? (2009) popularised the critical concept of capitalist realism as a mode of cultural analysis in relation to neoliberalism, describing it as the widespread ideology that capitalism is the only viable political-economic system. As a philosophical concept, capitalist realism is indebted to an Althusserian conception of ideology, as well as to the work of Fredric Jameson and Slavoj Žižek. Fisher proposed that within a capitalist framework there is no space to conceive of alternative forms of social structures. He proposed that the 2008 financial crisis compounded this position; rather than seeking alternatives to the existing model we look for modifications within the system. He defined the term as pertaining to:

a pervasive atmosphere, conditioning not only the production of culture but also the regulation of work and education, and acting as a kind of invisible barrier constraining thought and action.

In Jeremy Gilbert’s words, the term denotes,

both the conviction that there is no alternative to capitalism as a paradigm for social organisation, and the mechanisms which are used to disseminate and reproduce that conviction amongst large populations. As such it would seem to be both a ‘structure of feeling’ [...] and, in quite a classical sense, a hegemonic ideology, operating as all hegemonic ideologies do, to try to efface their own historicity and the contingency of the social arrangements which they legitimate.

Fisher's work has inspired other scholars to adopt this frame of reference.


In the mid 2000s, Fisher popularised the use of Jacques Derrida's concept of hauntology to describe a pervasive sense in which contemporary culture is haunted by the "lost futures" of modernity which were purportedly cancelled by postmodernity and neoliberalism. Hauntology has been described as a "pining for a future that never arrived;" in contrast to the nostalgia and revivalism which dominate postmodernity, Fisher defined hauntological art and culture as typified by a critical foregrounding of the historical and metaphysical disjunctions of contemporary capitalist culture as well as a "refusal to give up on the desire for the future." Discussing the political relevance of the concept, Fisher wrote:
At a time of political reaction and restoration, when cultural innovation has stalled and even gone backwards, when “power . . . operates predictively as much as retrospectively” (Eshun 2003: 289), one function of hauntology is to keep insisting that there are futures beyond postmodernity’s terminal time. When the present has given up on the future, we must listen for the relics of the future in the unactivated potentials of the past.

Fisher and others have drawn attention to the shift into post-Fordist economies in the late 1970s, which Fisher argued has "gradually and systematically deprived artists of the resources necessary to produce the new." Fisher's 2014 book Ghosts of My Life examined these ideas through cultural sources, such as the music of Burial and Joy Division, the films of Stanley Kubrick and Christopher Nolan, and the novels of David Peace and John Le Carre.


  • The Resistible Demise of Michael Jackson. Ed. by Mark Fisher. Winchester: Zero Books, 2009. ISBN 978-1846943485
  • Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative?. Winchester: Zero Books, 2009. ISBN 978-1846943171
  • Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures. Winchester: Zero Books, 2014. ISBN 978-1780992266
  • The Weird and the Eerie. Repeater Books, 2017. ISBN 978-1910924389

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Mark Fisher (theorist)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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