The british author Mark Fisher, who died a couple of days ago, was obviously one of the most interesting writers about our society and the diseases that are linked to it. He himself suffered from depression and wrote about his fight with it in a book called “Ghosts of my life”.
He argues that depression and other soul problems are not merely personal problems but strongly linked to the situation in which we live, that is the capitalist society.
In one of his other books „Capitalist Realism“ he discusses the idea of the „new“ that is so important for capitalism in a way that supplements our thoughts which were related to Max Scheler.
Fisher argues that despite all the idealizations of „innovation“ the idea of something new has vanished from our world and even worse: from our imagination. We are not able to see a new future in the sense of something that has overcome capitalism.
Fisher says (with Slavoj Zizek): Nowadays it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.
This is a good and important point. Innovation goes just as far as to the new „generation“ of smartphones and maybe selfdriving cars. But looking for something new in a deeper sense, a more human society, a life that is guided by something that makes sense, is a very difficult thing to do for us.
For our question of the artist in capitalism, I think that the artists are the ones who still have some relicts of this ability to think (and act) differently. And this is why we need this inner distance from the spirit of capitalism that we are looking for on this blog!
Mark Fisher won´t be able to help us any longer. He lost his fight against his depression and his „ghosts“. Depression is a disease that quite a lot of artist know somehow. If you look from outside, becoming depressed seems like an adequate reaction of the situation of the world as it is in these days. Artists, being sensitive creatures, are predestined to show this kind of reactions.
When you start to recognize this interdependence of society and soul you might start to see that your illness is not just “your fault”, but something not just personal. And this might help you to relax a bit and get rid of a part of the burden you take on.
One of the traps of capitalist thinking is that we believe in the idea of self optimization. We believe that we have to become better and then problems will be solved. (even a big danger for the voice work…) This is of course an illusion. Seneca is one of those who can tell us that we better accept that we won´t become perfect and that we - instead of trying to change ourselves - better start to change the way we see ourselves and the world.
Then we might find ways to transform the energy that led us into depression etc. to something healthier and more encouraging.
This issue and others you are invited to discuss with us at the next colloquium about "being artist in capitalism" in Cologne at the 18th Feb. Details in the previous post.