Capitalist realism

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Capitalist realism is a term referring to capitalism's status as the default socioeconomic system for which viable alternatives do not exist and, more importantly, cannot be imagined.[1] It has been used by theorists such as Mark Fisher and Slavoj Zizek to describe society's modern order, where capitalism is assumed to be the most natural, humane, sustainable, etc., socioeconomic system developed thus far, and movements to replace this system have been intentionally marginalized or otherwise failed to adapt their critiques and platforms.[2]

It is a form of hyperreality, wherein the subjects of capitalist realism regard capitalism as an integral part of reality itself rather than as a contingent and impermanent system whose development is comparatively recent in human history. Indeed, people were saying that the divine right of kingsWikipedia's W.svg would last forever, but we now know that it didn't last forever, since we no longer live in a feudal society. In the same vein, it is folly to think that capitalism will last forever, and according to the theory of "late stage capitalism," we are already in the end stages of the capitalist era.

Historical materialism[edit]

In Marxist historical theory there exists a concept called a "bourgeois revolution," which is essentially the takeover of society by so-called "bourgeois" or capitalist elements at the expense of the feudal nobility, a la the aristocracy, and the replacement of feudalism by capitalism. Marxist theoreticians place a distinction between "classical bourgeois revolutions," which involve the mass mobilization of popular elements a la the French Revolution or the American Revolution, and the so-called "passive bourgeois revolution," such as the Italian RisorgimentoWikipedia's W.svg unification process, or the Meiji RestorationWikipedia's W.svg that overthrew the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, or the American Civil War, that involve the capitalist takeover of society from top-down rather than bottom up.[notes 1] Passive bourgeois revolutions involve active participation of the state or by state actors to initiate the capitalist takeover of society and government, which all three of the aforementioned events did. Classical bourgeois revolutions are typically pitted against the feudal state, at least in its initial phases.[3]

This is relevant because it shows how societal structures do not last forever, and as how feudalism was overtaken by capitalism, capitalism shall be overtaken by something else, what that something is remains to be seen. The current troubles of the modern day era are arguably construable as the death throes of capitalism, but what replaces it is something that is up to the denizens of society to determine, hopefully for the better, but possibly for the worse.

See also[edit]


  1. The name of the "passive bourgeois revolution" is something of a misnomer, since not all of these top-down bourgeois revolutions proceeded nonviolently, just take a look at the American Civil War for an example of a violent bourgeois revolution.


  1. Future City by Frederic Jameson. " is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism."
  2. Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? by Mark Fisher
  3. "Bourgeois Revolutions and Historical Materialism" (1989) by Alex Callinicos