News from the debt crisis in Spain and the rise of a global response
Capitalist realism
Por DIAGONAL English

Written by Ignazio Aiestaran
Translated by Christine Lewis

Everything comes and goes in history, except capitalism. Already in 1994, Fredric Jameson warned that “today it is easier to imagine the total deterioration of the Earth and nature than the collapse of late capitalism”. That’s a strange paradox because this capitalism that commodifies everything is the cause of most ecological destruction.

Mark Fischer calls this impossibility to imagine reality “capitalist realism”: the imposition of an unreal reality, under the appearance of a ‘natural order’ that does not need to recur to the propaganda of the classical political currents, as was the case with socialist realism. The capitalism that really exists doesn’t need to use traditional reasoning; the argument is simple: it sells. For this reason or without it, neoliberalism is a shallow ideology and tremendously efficient at the same time; the neoliberalist only needs to be cynical, or as some media would have it just funny and cheeky enough. Consequently, big corporations tolerate criticism: MTV can broadcast a concert criticizing themselves and still increase their audience and earnings.

The capitalism that really exists will tell you it defends the free market while controlling and regulating it, or it will claim it rejects the state while using it to close borders, sell arms, repress demonstrations and reduce salaries. For this purpose, it has at its disposal a whole set of devices: bureaucracy, certificates, dossiers, reports, attributions, budgets, audits, endless mechanisms that not even the most Stalinist machinery could have envisaged.

Capitalist realism is capable of managing contradictions and even empty signifiers because it will always claim there is no alternative. What it does not tolerate is the imagination which turns reality’s sense of value upside down. That’s why, faced with the realpolitik of inexorable capital, we must be realistic, demand the impossible and end the end of history.




DIAGONAL is a grassroots communication project based in Madrid. We print a biweekly newspaper and run this website with daily updates. We only accept adds from social collectives (cooperatives, non-profit or kindred associations) and exist thanks to a large base of suscriptors that collaborate with us. If you would like to help with translations or editorial suggestions, please contact english [at]

Tienda El Salto