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vampirising the vampires, or trolling the trolls (i could never figure out the difference)

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Nice when a review can help out. Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism never uses the phrase “pseudo-marketization” or any variant thereupon. You can go amazon and search it this way and that and you’ll never find it. Neither will you find reference to “simulation” in this regard in his book. But these phrases have become touchstones, really the centerpieces, of interviews and talks in the wake of its release. It’s even more prominent in the talk I just linked to, but here’s some copyable print:

But the phrase ‘pseudo-marketisation’ is crucial — what we have in public services is an absurd simulation of market mechanisms rather the market as such, a kind of worst of all worlds scenario in which a simulated market goes alongside continuing surveillance and monitoring from state bodies.

Well, here’s me on the book, from the day of its official release back in December:

It’s not even the standard story about privatization that Mark is ultimately telling here, though it’s a related story. Rather, Capitalist Realism is ultimately focused on something else – the ways that public institutions that haven’t and likely won’t be privatized have been forced (have been forced to) to participate in simulated markets, where a rigorous regime of testing on a set of metrics replaces the invisible hand of the market. It’s a governmental gambit driven at once by a desire to reduce funding across the board and to convince voters that they are taking the efficacy of public institutions very seriously. Since it couldn’t / can’t actually expose some public institutions to market forces through opening competition or privatization, New Labour established (and continues to establish) pseudo-markets, fake market-like games, for public institutions to compete in in order to obtain funding.

Glad to be of help, I suppose. But perhaps in exchange for providing usefully clarifying language, he could agree to drop the gray vampire / troll stuff from now until the end of time? Because when he says that…

Grey Vampires don’t feed on energy directly, they feed on obstructing projects. The problem is that, often, they don’t know that they are doing this. (That’s one difference between them and a troll – trolls usually aren’t under any illusions about themselves, they just find spurious justifications for their activities.) There is very definitely a type of person who is a Grey Vampire – I’ve encountered a few, and, once their shield of sociability and charm falls away, they become revealed as horribly, tragically cursed, existentially blighted. But the Grey Vampire is also a subject position that (any)one can be lured into if you enter certain structures. Part of the reason I can’t hack it as an academic is that, in a university environment, I invariably find myself pincered between the troll and Grey Vampire positions. That’s why I sincerely admire anyone who can pursue a project in the academy.

… but then proceeds to co-opt the selfsame (ugh) vampire’s contribution without reference, it all starts to look a bit nervous and shifty, no?

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February 14, 2010 at 4:38 am

4 Responses

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  1. He does talk about the “supposed marketization” of education, though, which is not a million miles from your exact wording. And then in the ensuing discussion he uses representation and valuing the symbols of achievement over actual achievement instead of the possibly pithier word simulation, but again, I wonder if the difference is all that substantial. Are you saying that there is enough value-added in the particular words you used to warrant a footnote in a spoken presentation?

    I’d also point out that in the interview you linked to he used “pseudo-marketization” in response to Matthew Fuller, the interviewer.


    February 14, 2010 at 9:43 am

  2. (I’m pretty sure I ended up incorporating some key descriptors of my dissertation used by my supervisor in the dissertation itself. He was describing what I was doing in it, so it never felt like undue appropriation, but.)


    February 14, 2010 at 9:59 am

    • The difference is between your relationship with your supervisor is that you didn’t write a series of posts (that answered your supervisor by) talking about the importance of not listening to supervisors, especially “academics without projects,” and then go on to incorporate key phrases and turns of thought from the selfsame supervisor.

      So yes, the co-optation of those phrases is annoying given the (non)conversations Mark and I were(n’t) having last year. Of course he comes close to them in the book – I developed them in writing a review of his book after all, in re-analyzing the things that he discusses. The takeaway is not that I need credit, who gives a shit. It’s simply that critical conversation is valuable – and whatever Mark was saying about vampires and trolls and the like he’s proving the point in these talks…


      February 14, 2010 at 11:04 am

    • Funny story that I hope I haven’t told on here before. Recently got a readers’ report back on a piece of writing that included a strong criticism for not referencing Book X by Professor Y in the course of making a point. “What an obvious inclusion to miss!” But of course this piece had been originally, way back when, been written for a grad seminar taught by Professor Y… So yes, of course, about supervisors. I supervise tons of students, ever more grad students, and am happy to have the work I do for them lifted without reference…


      February 14, 2010 at 11:09 am

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