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ive here. I can neither confirm nor deny Mark Fisher’s claim that cultural change has slowed because truth be told, I haven’t done much in popular culture. But in an indirect confirmation, having listened to a lot of rock from the mid-’60s to late ’70s and then continued to hear a lot of gymnastics (until new ASCAP rules pretty much limited what coaches could put on their mixtapes), You at least top melodies. The only amazing thing is that when I was young, music from the ’40s and ’50s sounded pretty vintage. However, hit songs are from the ’60s and still get a lot of play.
The decline in average film quality and reliance on franchises also supports Fisher’s argument. readers?
Written by Mark Fisher, author of Capitalist Realism and Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Ghosts and a Lost Future (both published by Zer0 Books). His writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including Film Quarterly, The Wire, The Guardian, and Frieze. He passed away in 2017. Cross posted from openDemocracy
Mark Fisher’s book “Ghosts of My Life” was published in 2014 | Laura Grace Ford
This is an edited excerpt from Mark Fisher’s 2014 book “Ghosts of My Life,” recently published in a new edition by Zero Books. Read Jerry Hassan’s article on Fisher and Alternative Futures over here.
Franco Bevo Berardi in his book After the Future refers to the “slow abolition of the future.” [that] It started in the seventies and eighties.” He explains, “Future”:
I am not referring to the direction of time. I am thinking rather of the psychological conception that emerged in the cultural setting of progressive modernity, the cultural expectations that were fabricated during a long period of modern civilization, culminating in the aftermath of World War II. These expectations were shaped in the conceptual frameworks of an ever-advancing development, albeit through different methodologies: the Marxist Hegelian myths of the Aufhebung and the founding of the New College of Communism; bourgeois myths about the linear development of luxury and democracy; technocratic myths of the comprehensive power of scientific knowledge; and so on. My generation grew up at the height of this legendary temporality, and it is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to shake it off, and look at reality without this kind of temporal lens. I will never be able to live according to the new reality, no matter how obvious, obvious, or even dazzling the trends of the social planets may be. (After the Future, AK Books, 2011, pp. 18-19).
Bevo is a generation older than me, but he and I are on the same side of the time split here. I, too, will never be able to adapt to the ironies of this new situation. The immediate temptation here is the relevance of what I say in an exhausting familiar narrative: it is a matter of the old failing to reconcile with the new, saying it was better in their day. However, only this picture – assuming that young people are automatically at the forefront of cultural change – is now outdated.
Rather than regressing the old from the “new” in fear and incomprehension, those whose expectations were shaped in an earlier era are more likely to be stunned by the sheer insistence on recognizable forms. Nowhere is the culture of popular music more evident. Through the booms of popular music, many of us who grew up in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s learned to measure the passage of cultural time. But in the face of twenty-first century music, the sense of futuristic shock has disappeared.
This is quickly created by performing a simple thought experiment. Imagine any recording released in the last two years being broadcast in time, say, 1995 and played on the radio. It’s hard to think that it would shock listeners. Conversely, what would most likely shock our audience in 1995 be the recognizability of sounds: Was music really going to change that much in the next 17 years? Contrast this with the rapid change of patterns between the ’60s and ’90s: Play a record in the woods from 1993 to someone in 1989 and it would have sounded like something so new that it would have challenged them to rethink what music was or what it could be.
Whereas the empiricist culture of the twentieth century has been taken over by the delirium of recomposition, making it feel as if modernity was infinitely available, the twenty-first century is oppressed by an overwhelming sense of limitation and exhaustion. It doesn’t look like the future. Or, alternatively, don’t feel as though the twenty-first century has begun yet. We are still trapped in the twentieth century.
The slow cancellation of the future was accompanied by a contraction in expectations. There can be few who believe that next year a big record will be released such as, for example, “Funhouse” or “There is a riot” for the Stooges or Sly Stone. We’re still expecting some sort of rip off the Beatles or the disco. The feeling of being late, of living after the gold rush, is as ubiquitous as it is disavowed.
Compare the fallow terrain of the present moment with the fertility of earlier periods, and soon you will be accused of “nostalgia.” But the reliance of current artists on styles created long ago suggests that the present moment is in the grip of formal nostalgia, which will soon be.
Not that nothing happened in the period when the slow cancellation of the future began. On the contrary, those thirty years were a time of tremendous and sudden change. In the United Kingdom, the election of Margaret Thatcher ended disturbing concessions to the so-called post-war social consensus.
Thatcher’s neoliberal program in politics was reinforced by a transnational restructuring of the capitalist economy. The shift to what is called post-Fordism – with globalization, ubiquitous computerization and the casualization of work – has led to a complete transformation of the way work and leisure have been organized. Meanwhile, in the past 10 to 15 years, Internet and mobile technology have unimaginably changed the fabric of everyday experience.
However, perhaps because of all this, there is a growing feeling that culture has lost the ability to understand and express the present. Or it could be, in a very important sense, that there is no longer a present to be understood and expressed.
The future did not disappear overnight. Berardi’s phrase “slow cancellation of the future” is apt because it captures the gradual and ruthless way in which the future has eroded over the past 30 years. If the late 1970s and early 1980s were the moment when the current crisis of cultural temporality could be first felt, it was only during the 2000s that what Simon Reynolds calls “dyssynchrony” was endemic.
This imbalance of synchrony, this temporal disconnection, must feel strange, yet the predominance of what Reynolds calls “bounce back” means that he has lost any scary The charge: anachronism is now taken for granted. Frederick Jameson’s diagnosis of postmodernism – with its tendencies towards retrospect and pastiche – has been naturalized.
Take someone like the amazingly successful Adele: Although her music isn’t marketed as vintage, there’s nothing that marks her recordings as belonging to the 21st century either. Like so many contemporary cultural productions, Adele’s recordings are imbued with a vague but persistent feeling of the past without remembering any specific historical moment.
Jameson equates the “waning of historicism” with postmodernism with the “cultural logic of late capitalism,” but he doesn’t say much about why the two are synonymous. Why did the arrival of neoliberal capitalism and post-Fordism lead to a culture of retrospect and imitation?
Maybe we can take a few tentative guesses here. The first is about consumption. Could neoliberal capitalism’s destruction of solidarity and security have compensated me for my hunger for the established and the familiar? Paul Virilio wrote about “polar inertia” which is a kind of effect and counterweight to the massive acceleration of communications.
Virilio’s example is Howard Hughes, who has lived in a single hotel room for 15 years, endlessly rewatching the Ice Station Zebra. Hughes, once a pioneer in aviation, became an early explorer of the existential terrain that cyberspace would conquer, where it was no longer necessary to move physically in order to access the entire history of culture. Or, as Berardi has argued, the intensity and fragility of late capitalist labor culture leaves people in a state in which they are both exhausted and exuberant.
The combination of precarious work and digital communications leads to attention trapping. In this sleepless state, Berardi claims, the culture becomes de-eroticised. The art of seduction takes a long time, and according to Berardi, something like Viagra answers not a biological deficit but a cultural one: we desperately need time, energy and attention, we demand quick fixes. Like another of Berardi’s examples, pornography, retro offers a quick and easy promise of minimal variation in satisfaction that is already familiar.
Another explanation of the relationship between late capitalism and reactionary reflection focuses on production. For all its discourse on modernity and innovation, neoliberal capitalism has gradually but systematically deprived artists of the resources to produce the new.
In the United Kingdom, post-war social welfare grants and higher education preservation grants constituted an indirect source of funding for most experiments in popular culture between the 1960s and 1980s. The subsequent ideological and practical attack on public services meant that one of the places where artists could be protected from the pressures of producing something instantly successful was severely restricted. As public service broadcasting became “marketed,” there was a growing tendency to put out cultural productions that resembled what had already been successful.
The result of all this was that the social time available to withdraw from work and indulge in cultural production was significantly reduced. If there is one factor above all else that contributes to cultural conservatism, it is the massive inflation in the cost of rent and mortgages. It is no coincidence that the flowering of cultural invention in London and New York in the late 1970s and early 1980s (in the punk and post-punk scenes) coincided with the availability of cheap real estate in those cities. Since then, the decline in social housing, attacks on settlement, and a massive rise in real estate prices have drastically reduced the amount of time and energy available for cultural production.
But perhaps this only reached its final crisis point with the advent of digital communicative capitalism. Of course, the blockade of interest described by Berardi applies to producers as much as it does to consumers. The production of the new relies on certain types of withdrawal – for example, from social as much as it is from pre-existing cultural forms – but the currently prevalent form of socially connected cyberspace, with its endless opportunities for micro-connection and a deluge of YouTube links, has made opting out more difficult than ever. gone.
Or, as Simon Reynolds sternly put it, in recent years, everyday life has accelerated, but culture has slowed.