On Inevitablism…

The socialist author and academic Mark Fisher, who died earlier this year, wrote an engaging little book called Capitalist Realism which argued that neoliberalism has sustained itself by propogating the belief that there is no alternative to its ideas and institutions. Of course, I don’t think there is an alternative to capitalism – but capitalism can take different forms and I agree that Western culture has absurd conceptions of what is and is not thinkable. Preemptive war, for example, is always on the table, but rail nationalisation is an eccentric idea.

Thinking about Fisher’s book, after his tragic death, it struck me that inevitablism is one of the more powerful weapons in our rhetoric. It entails a sly shift from what is desirable to what is unavoidable; disheartening one’s opponents with the thought that resistance is doomed. Liberals use it, with their “wrong side of history” rhetoric. Emmanuel Macron, for example, claims that Europe “must get used to” mass immigration. But he means that it should. Hiding the should-must gap is what makes inevitablism work.

About bsixsmith

I am a writer of stories and poems - published by Every Day Fiction, The London Journal of Fiction, 365 Tomorrows and Det Poetiske Bureau - and a columnist for Quillette, Areo and Bombs & Dollars.
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7 Responses to On Inevitablism…

  1. Simon says:

    It does seem to be an increasingly popular narrative that the political spectrum will re-align to revolve around an alliance of communitarians both leftist and conservative against cosmopolitan liberals both social-democratic and right-libertarian. An example: Here in Denmark, the one Eurosceptic party on the left (and also the most hardline in terms of specific policy prososals) is frequently raked over the coals by the other left-wing parties for allying with our Pat Buchanan/Donald Trump-equivalent right-wing populists against the EU; meanwhile the libertarian right has shown themselves to be the most willing to compromise on their anti-EU standpoints in practice.

    Of course, this might be a return to business as usual in some sense: When nationalism as we know it today first emerged in the late 18th/early 19th century, it was as a left-wing reaction against church and monarchy usually promoted with the argument that you were more loyal to your fellow countrymen than the institutions of power. See William Blake’s ode to the French Revolution for one example, with the flip side being something like Friedrich Nietzsche frequently criticizing nationalism and promoting a cosmopolitan worldview but from the very far right – which must have been nowhere as jarring to his contemporaries than 20th century readers.


    • bsixsmith says:

      That’s interesting! I can’t see it happening in England or America. Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders have both tried to appeal to their respective electorates’ sense of identity while skirting round implications of exlusivism. Marxism and nationalism have always been an uneasy fit – though I do wonder how leftists deal with the fact the capitalists are so wildly cosmopolitan.


      • Simon says:

        On the other hand the Chapo Trap House/Jacobin Magazine subset of the US left are increasingly dipping their toes into vaguely nationalist rhetoric as an alleged logical next step from their downplaying of identity politics. Between that and Chapo’s reliance on 4chan-ish goofy shock humour with lots of internet meme inside jokes, I wonder if that podcast is a deliberate project to get Trumpists over to the left.

        Here in Denmark the far left frequently allies with the nationalist right against the EU and has done so since the late 1990s by the way, usually being raked over the coals by the mainstream left in the process. Oddly enough in my country it’s the *libertarian right* that’s the Eurosceptic faction by far the most willing to compromise, but maybe Denmark is unusual in this regard?


      • bsixsmith says:

        Hm. The Chapo guys attack PC but as far as I can tell it’s because they think moralising is no substitute for structural change. They had an episode after the protest of Trump’s ME immigration ban and were practically joyous. I suspect the laddish stuff and economic populism is intended to sweep up disaffected kids though.

        Interesting. In Britain we had the leftist No2EU but they steered clear of UKIP, still less the BNP.


      • Simon says:

        The “Chapobin” contingent have also taken Bernie Sanders’ support for economic protectionism and “open borders as Cato Institute proposal” remarks even further than he did – apparently in reaction against what you mention about our business elite being so cosmopolitan.


  2. Whyaxye says:

    Good point. The reasoning is “It’s going to happen, therefore you ought to learn to enjoy it”. This is the logic of the rapist applied to national and international politics. The excellent news, though, is that the people who tell us what is going to happen are being proved wrong with gratifying regularity.


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