“Emancipatory politics must always destroy the appearance of a ‘natural order,’ must reveal what is presented as necessary and inevitable to be a mere contingency, just as it must make what was previously deemed to be impossible seem attainable.”
A stool is pushed laboriously out to the centre stage, and the student begins their diatribe to an empty auditorium.
Moberly House, Lower Argyll Road, EX4 4QS, room 221, day 7… is it day 7… How long have we been in this room, help me to recollect?
I squat, isolated, in a liminal mis— sold room of my own occupancy; an economic prisoner, present for my politico— economic necessity. Moberly House, ‘Exeter’s prison block’ they said, redecorated to attract more capital (students), a façade to mask the 1960s brutalist student housing. However, like an unhealed cicatrix, this façade has fissured due to the still—raging pandemic, the building has made ghosts out of us. Yet, the real irony is we are far more imprisoned than the students of yesteryear; ethereal prisoners, haunted by lost futures of our non— pandemic lives. The façade paints brushstrokes of a pretty shitty urban Elsinore, capitalism’s alternatives lay beneath the thinly cracked ice obscured to protect the hegemon. ‘The time is out of joint’, Hamlet cries, a spectre is teleologically haunting us beyond the tombstone of history — a contorted Jacob Marley dances atop, inhabiting the ghost of 1968. May 1968. Moberly imprisons these spectres, and therefore I wonder if we do too.
I am home, away from my cell, on day release. Lungs felled, liver poisoned, I stumble from my friend’s flat, I wonder what that giant building is above, so many windows, so many pillars, so very eerie. The Department of Work and Pensions building looms, I remember the irony, the socialist realist depictions of workers all connected under the camaraderie of labour. Stolen labour. Ingrained in the building, the metal carvings penetrate my ‘inner castle’, as Lacan would say, what is a castle to this monument of neoliberalism; the carvings are clinging, like ghosts to a murderer’s Being. It resembles the modern Parthenon, where subjects go to hear their omens, only to be told ‘there is nothing we can do’ — there is no alternative… you must serve the neoliberal deity.
One year ago, half a mile away, I’m listening and speaking to Laura Grace Ford, and now I’m attempting to emulate Savage Messiah. I begin the trek home, the thoughts are put to bed, my earphones blast Car Seat Headrest as I go towards the train station – how to think psychogeographically? Marsh Ln to York Street, I pause, take a drag, move upwards on Kirkgate, ‘Stop Smoking (We Love You)’ blasts, I don’t smoke, the city is a cigarette, Duncan street to Boer Ln, then New Station Street I can relax… ‘High to death’ plays I board my train thinking about the lyric ‘Keep Smoking, I love you’. Is this the Twin Fantasy of our predicament, are we reflective of the bi—polar, the boom and bust, nature of capitalism?
[Re— enter Ghost]
Day 23… I think.
The dominant ruling ontology has denied any possibility of the thoughts of radical ‘emancipatory politics’ another world is not possible; we cannot, as Fisher declares, ‘imagine an alternative to [capitalism]’. Therefore, how do we envision a brighter tomorrow, when the world totality of today crumbles before our eyes, and nobody cares to admit it. In Specters of Marx, Derrida argues, that Fukuyama’s ‘end of history’ proclamation fails to notice that capitalism will always be haunted by Marx, Fisher extends this to discuss a societal fear of lost futures, an obsequious devotion to Jameson’s notion of the ‘nostalgia mode’. However, capitalism is also innately eerie, it resurrects itself and denies its own death, so how do we combat this foe, and more importantly how do we critique it. The ice, we stand on, is fracturing, and perhaps Covid is the best tool to chip it, it may reveal alternatives, not yet discovered in a deep ocean of theory. Covid may have made ghosts out of us, but it has also revealed ghosts that were already present, haunting us, lost futures of 1968 begging to find their lost future. So perhaps, hopefully, the twin fantasies of capitalism and its alternatives revealed. Is another world possible?
[Remain as Ghost]
Derrida, Jacques. Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International. Trans. Peggy Kamuf. Routledge Classics, 1994.
Fisher, Mark. Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? Zero Books, 2009.
—. Ghosts Of My Life. Zero Books, 2014.
Ford, Laura Grace. Savage Messiah. Verso, 2019.
Headrest, Car Seat. Twin Fantasy (Face to Face), Matador Records. 2018.