When the cultural critic and theorist Mark Fisher took his own life on 13 January 2017 at the age of 48, he was a third of a way through delivering a lecture series titled “Postcapitalist Desire”, which he had devised as part of an MA course in contemporary art theory at Goldsmiths, University of London. Fisher began the first lecture by playing three clips, the last from a 2011 episode of Have I Got News for You. In the video, the former Tory MP Louise Mensch – “I can’t believe she’s called ‘Mensch’; it’s like a daft Martin Amis character, isn’t it?” Fisher comments – claims that Occupy protesters were undermining their critique of capitalism by buying coffee from Starbucks and tweeting on their iPhones: “You can’t be against capitalism and then take everything that it provides.”
Rather than ridiculing Mensch’s disingenuous argument – as her fellow contestants do – Fisher takes it seriously. The protesters, he explains to his students, “may claim, ethically, that they want to live in a different world but libidinally, at the level of desire, they are committed to living within the current capitalist world”. Mensch’s criticism is, Fisher says, part of “the negative inspiration for the course, where I’m going to pose the question: is there really a desire for something beyond capitalism?”
This opening – which can be read in a newly published and more or less verbatim transcript of the truncated lecture series, Postcapitalist Desire: The Final Lectures (Repeater Books) – is typical of Fisher’s sensibility. His commitment to popular culture – as worthy of serious attention, a medium through which to think and a kind of political weathervane – followed from his lifelong immersion in it; popular culture was for Fisher a gateway to critical thought.
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