U.S. Intellectual History Blog

On the Passing of Mark Fisher (1968-2017)

It was with great sadness that the international literary community learned of the passing of the British critic Mark Fisher over the weekend. (See the thoughtful note here). Fisher was best known for his 2009 book Capitalist Realism, an instant classic that sought to diagnose the new affective maladies of financialized market society.

I did not know Fisher, but due to some accidents of history, I did a lot of my early education in critical theory while participating in unusual musical projects that looked to Great Britain as a spiritual homeland. Reading The Wire, a magazine that was the bible of this aesthetic sub-world, I became a big fan of Fisher’s writing. Fisher continued his hybrid research projects at a great blog called K-Punk, which I also followed avidly. I wish I had sent a fan letter at some point, and will try to remember to tell the strangers whose writing I love that I love their writing.

I felt a special affinity with Fisher, too, because he was a left intellectual who wrestled publicly with depression, and I, too, struggle with that. Honest writers who share their reflections on mental illness are, to my mind, a special class of heroes and heroines. For those of us who negotiate with these conditions, it may be especially important to fight the impulse to secrecy and try to be public with our difficulties, standing, as we are, on the precipice of what promises to be a moment of despair and stigmatization. If there is a way for that discussion to happen here, I would like to facilitate it. In a small way, maybe, that would be a way to honour Fisher’s memory.

9 Thoughts on this Post

  1. Thanks so much, Kurt, for your frankness and goodwill, I absolutely appreciate this post. As a fellow traveler marked by melancholy, I cannot agree more with you about the significance of sharing our troubles publicly, of processing our turmoil in public while also helping people grasp better the experience of depression, which is often dismissed in the everyday world as mere sadness, as if it were just a passing feeling necessarily linked to a particular object–or loss of an object . Of course, such feelings can produce plenty of suffering and lead to their own deeply dark places, but all too common it is ignored that depression can simply be, it can accompany our lives without any direct link to an event or a person. For all of us who are committed to radical social justice, it remains an urgent task to confront depression and other mental maladies directly, to go to the root of the matter–thinking about how the world that surrounds us, including academia, can foster these afflictions, which can be traced also historically–and, perhaps more importantly, listen to and support those who are most vulnerable to them. I have always felt that listening can be a profoundly transformative tool in this regard. Funny thing, I was a fan of The Wire back in my college years too, I remember fondly the intellectual effervescence of its pages, even when I felt utterly ignorant about the music Fisher and his colleages were writing about. What a tragic loss. Gracias otra vez.

  2. Thank you for this, Kurt, and more, for being such a wondering presence of thinking and principles.

  3. A lovely appreciation that gets at the heart of why Fisher mattered to so many of us. Thank you Kurt. You are missed on Twitter!

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