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.