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Mark Fisher (11 July 1968 – 13 January 2017), also known as "k-punk", was a British writer, critic, cultural theorist, and teacher 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 2000s, and was known for his writing on radical politics, music, and popular culture.

Mark Fisher
Mark fisher.jpg
Born (1968-07-11)11 July 1968
United Kingdom
Died 13 January 2017(2017-01-13) (aged 48)
Other names k-punk
Known for Capitalist Realism (2009)
k-punk blog (2003–2015)
Academic background
Alma mater University of Hull (BA)
University of Warwick (PhD)
Thesis Flatline constructs : Gothic materialism and cybernetic theory-fiction (1999)
Academic work
Discipline Critical theory, philosophy, music criticism, blogging, political theory

Fisher published several books, including the popular Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? (2009), and contributed to publications such as The Wire, The Guardian, Fact, New Statesman and Sight & Sound. He was also the co-founder of Zero Books, and later Repeater Books. He died in January 2017, shortly before the publication of his latest book The Weird and the Eerie (2017).


Education and early lifeEdit

Fisher earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and philosophy at Hull University (1989) and completed a PhD at the University of Warwick in 1999 titled Flatline Constructs: Gothic Materialism and Cybernetic Theory-Fiction.[1] During this time, Fisher was a founding member of the interdisciplinary collective known as the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit.[2][3] He spent a period teaching in a further education college as a philosophy lecturer[4] and began his blog k-punk in 2003. It has been called "one of the most successful weblogs on cultural theory."[5] Music critic Simon Reynolds described it as "a one-man magazine superior to most magazines in Britain"[2] 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, film, politics, and abstract theory were discussed in tandem.[6] Fisher also co-founded the message board Dissensus with writer Matt Ingram.[2]


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.[7] 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. In 2016, Fisher co-edited a critical anthology on the postpunk era with Kodwo Eshun and Gavin Butt entitled Post-Punk Then and Now, published by Repeater Books.[8]

Fisher died on 13 January 2017 at the age of 48, shortly before the publication of his latest book The Weird and the Eerie (2017).[9] His wife confirmed that he had taken his own life.[2][10] His struggles with depression were discussed by Fisher in articles[11] and in his Capitalist Realism, where he argued that "the pandemic of mental anguish that afflicts our time cannot be properly understood, or healed, if viewed as a private problem suffered by damaged individuals."

At the time of his death, Fisher was said to be planning a new book entitled Acid Communism[2], excerpts of which are to be published as part of a Mark Fisher anthology, K-punk: The Collected Writings of Mark Fisher, by Repeater Books in November 2018.[12]

Capitalist realismEdit

In the late 2000s, Fisher re-purposed the term "capitalist realism" to describe "the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it".[13] He expanded on the concept in his 2009 book Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?,[14] arguing that the term best describes the ideological situation since the fall of the Soviet Union, in which the logics of capitalism have come to delineate the limits of political and social life, with significant effects on education, mental illness, pop culture, and methods of resistance.[14] The result is a situation in which it is "easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism."[15] Fisher writes:

Capitalist realism as I understand it cannot be confined to art or to the quasi-propagandistic way in which advertising functions. It is more like 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.[16]

As a philosophical concept, capitalist realism is influenced by the Althusserian conception of ideology, as well as the work of Fredric Jameson and Slavoj Žižek.[17] Fisher proposes that within a capitalist framework there is no space to conceive of alternative forms of social structures, adding that younger generations are not even concerned with recognizing alternatives.[18] He proposes that the 2008 financial crisis compounded this position; rather than catalyzing a desire to seek alternatives for the existing model, the response to the crisis reinforced the notion that modifications must be made within the existing system. Fisher argues that capitalist realism has propagated a 'business ontology' which concludes that everything should be run as a business including education and healthcare.[19]

Following the publication of Fisher's work, the term has been picked up by other literary critics.[20]


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 failed to occur or were cancelled by postmodernity and neoliberalism.[21] In contrast to the nostalgia and ironic pastiche of postmodern culture, Fisher defined hauntological art and culture as typified by a "refusal to give up on the desire for the future."[22] Fisher and others have drawn attention to the shift into post-Fordist economies in the late 1970s, which he argued has "gradually and systematically deprived artists of the resources necessary to produce the new."[23] 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.[21]

Hauntology has thus been described as a "pining for a future that never arrived," manifested in a foregrounding of these historical and ontological disjunctions.[24] Fisher's 2014 book Ghosts of My Life examined these ideas through cultural sources, such as the music of Burial, Joy Division, and the Ghost Box label, TV series such as Sapphire & Steel, the films of Stanley Kubrick and Christopher Nolan, and the novels of David Peace and John Le Carre. Fisher extended these ideas in his 2017 book The Weird and the Eerie, focusing predominantly on examples from science fiction and horror.[25]



  1. ^ Fisher, Mark. (1999). Flatline constructs : Gothic materialism and cybernetic theory-fiction. (PhD thesis). University of Warwick. OCLC 59534159. EThOS Archived from the original on 2010-12-24. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Mark Fisher’s K-punk blogs were required reading for a generation" by Simon Reynolds, The Guardian, 18 January 2017
  3. ^ Dazed (1 June 2011). "Nick Land: Mind Games". 
  4. ^ Mark Fisher and Jeremy Gilbert, 'Capitalist Realism and Neoliberal Hegemony: A Dialogue', New Formations, 80--81 (2013), 89--101 (at p. 90); doi:10.3898/NEWF.80/81.05.2013.
  5. ^ "Mark Fisher -- Zero Books -- Author Profile". 
  6. ^ frieze Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ "Fisher, Mark, Goldsmiths, University of London". Archived from the original on 22 June 2015. Retrieved 1 August 2015. 
  8. ^ "Post-Punk Then and Now: a review" by Guy Mankowski, 3:AM magazine, 22 December 2016
  9. ^ "Capitalist Realism Author Mark Fisher Dies", The Quietus, 14 January 2017
  10. ^ "Mark Fisher, influential music writer and theorist known as K-Punk, has died ", Fact, 14 January 2017
  11. ^ E.g. "Why mental health is a political issue" by Mark Fisher, The Guardian, 16 July 2012
  12. ^ "The Quietus | News | Mark Fisher Anthology To Be Released". The Quietus. Retrieved 2017-10-18. 
  13. ^ Fisher, Mark (2010). Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?. Winchester, UK: Zero Books. p. 2. 
  14. ^ a b Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is there no Alternative? (Winchester, UK; Washington [D.C.]: Zero, 2009); ISBN 978-1-84694-317-1 (pbk.); 1846943175 (pbk.).
  15. ^ Mark., Fisher, (2010-01-01). Capitalist realism : is there no alternative?. Zero Books. ISBN 9781846943171. OCLC 699737863. 
  16. ^ Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is there no Alternative? (Winchester, UK; Washington [D.C.]: Zero, 2009).
  17. ^ Fisher, Mark (2009). Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative?. Zero Books. ISBN 978-1846943171. 
  18. ^ Fisher, Mark (2009). Capitalist Realism. Is There No Alternative?. O Books. p. 8. ISBN 9781846943171. 
  19. ^ Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is there no Alternative? (Winchester, UK; Washington [D.C.]: Zero, 2009, pg15).
  20. ^ Prominently Mark Fisher and Jeremy Gilbert, 'Capitalist Realism and Neoliberal Hegemony: A Dialogue', New Formations, 80--81 (2013), 89--101 DOI:10.3898/NEWF.80/81.05.2013; Reading Capitalist Realism, ed. by Alison Shonkwiler and Leigh Claire La Berge (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2014).
  21. ^ a b Mark Fisher - The Metaphysics of Crackle: Afrofuturism and Hauntology
  22. ^ Fisher, Mark. Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures. Zero Books, May 30, 2014. ISBN 978-1-78099-226-6
  23. ^ The Metaphysics of Crackle: Afrofuturism and Hauntology
  24. ^ Stone Blue Editors (Sep 11, 2015). William Basinski: Musician Snapshots. SBE Media. pp. Chapter 3. 
  25. ^ Eugene Thacker, "Weird, Eerie, & Monstrous: Review of The Weird and the Eerie by Mark Fisher", boundary2 (27 June 2017).

External linksEdit