Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?

Resource person: Mr. Rutwij Nakhwa

About Rutwij Nakhwa: He received a Bachelor’s in Mass Media (Journalism) from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai in 2017 and, in the following year, a Postgraduate Diploma in Critical Theory, Aesthetics, and Practice from Jnanapravaha Mumbai, where he has also worked in various capacities. For many years, Rutwij worked closely with seasoned film programmer and journalist, Uma da Cunha, as writer and layout designer and assisted her with programming, subtitling, and casting. He was a finalist at the 2015 MAMI Mumbai Film Festival’s Young Critics Lab and part of that year’s Young Critics Jury. Rutwij has contributed articles on cinema for The Hindu and since 2018, conducted guest lectures at the Mass Media Department at St. Xavier’s.

Course Note: The late British cultural theorist and philosopher Mark Fisher’s book Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? sums up the idea of ‘Capitalist Realism’ in the slogan: ‘it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.’ However, as the book’s interrogative subtitle suggests, Fisher’s work aims to challenge ‘capitalist realism’ or at the very least makes a plea for us to imagine alternatives, given capitalism’s inherent tendency to generate crises and contradictions in all spheres of life: economic, political, social, cultural, ecological, and psychical.

Philosophically and in general, the first step to solve any problem is asking the right questions. Faced with apocalyptic scenarios of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the time seems ripe to question our ideological presuppositions about the world we live in and to activate our collective imagination towards possible alternatives, especially since the idea of a ‘return to normal’ seems increasingly impossible. This series of lectures aims to interrogate our ideas of what we held to be normal even before the pandemic and whether we really want to (or can) return to that (ab)normal world. The lectures will focus on broad themes of contemporary pertinence: education, mental health, popular culture, digital media, marketing; and our discussion will be anchored in a close reading of assigned texts, which will animate the class. Students are expected to attend each week’s lecture having carefully read the ‘required’ texts.

Week 1. Introduction: The Cultural Logic of Capitalist Realism

Required Reading:
Mark Fisher, Chapter 1: ‘It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the
end of capitalism’ and Chapter 2: ‘What if you held a protest and everyone came?’, In Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? (Winchester and Washington: O Books)pp. 1 – 15.

Week 2. Education and its Discontents

Required Reading:
Fisher, Chapter 4: ‘Reflexive impotence, immobilization and liberal communism’, in Capitalist Realism, pp. 21 – 30.

Mladen Dolar and Ben Jeffrey, ‘The Sting of Knowledge’, The Point Magazine, No. 16 (April 23, 2018):

Week 3. The Internet ‘Revolution’

Required Reading:

Angela Nagle, ‘Introduction: From Hope to Harambe’, in Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4Chan to Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right (Winchester and Washington: Zero Books)pp. 6 – 13 [PDF pages].
Fisher, Chapter 8: ‘There is no central exchange’ and Chapter 9: ‘Marxist Supernanny’in Capitalist Realism, pp. 62 – 80.

Jerry Aline Flieger, ‘Is Oedipus on-line?’, in Jacques Lacan: Critical Evaluations in Cultural Theory. Volume III. Society, Politics, Ideology, ed. Slavoj Žižek (London and New York: Routledge, 2003), pp. 394 – 410.

Laurie Penny, ‘On The Milo Bus With The Lost Boys Of America’s New Right: What happens when a movement of gamers recognizes they’re not players, but pawns?’, Pacific Standard, February 21, 2017,

Week 4. What Money Wants: On Consumerism

Required Reading:
Naom Yuran, What Money Wants: An Economy of Desire (Stanford: University Press, 2014). [Selections TBC]

Week 5. The Politics of Enjoyment: Manufacturing Authority

Required Reading:
Aaron Schuster‘Beyond Satire: The Political Comedy of the Present and the Paradoxes of Authority’, in Sovereignty Inc.: Three Inquiries in Politics and Enjoyment, by William Mazzarella, Eric L Santner, and Aaron Schuster (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2020) [Selections TBC]

Week 6. To Conclude: Stand up for Comedy!

Alenka Zupančič, ‘Stand up for Comedy’, Fall Semester, April 29, 2020, 1/2020/4/26/alenka-zupani-stand-up-for-comedy

After the six lectures, students will be provided with questions/topics based on each week’s broad theme viz. “Capitalist Realism”, “Education”, “Internet”, etc., and they may choose to write either

  1. Two reflective/journalistic pieces of not more than 750 words each to answer any two of the six questionsOR
  2. One academic paper of not more than 1500 words on one or multiple themes/topics/questions.

Total hours: 30

Contact hours: 16 hours of teaching/discussion Research work: 08 hours of reading/resource collection Writing work: 04 hours

Eligibility: Honours students – current SYBMM and TYBMM

Any student (from SY/TYBMM) who may want to do as a certificate programme Proposed Fees: Rs. 1000/-

Attendance compulsory. Submission compulsory to qualify for the certificate and grade.

Contact email: (Department Faculty) – Ms.Hazel Gandhi, Student coordinator, TYBMM

An academic community dedicated to the holistic education of future leaders who will demonstrate innovation in their professional competencies, integration in their personal lives and inclusion in their social contribution.

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