"Exiting the Vampire Castle" by Mark Fisher (1968-2017)

Mark Fisher
As part of my reading and thinking to help me prepare to write my Sunday address this week I went back to look at a couple of pieces written by Mark Fisher (1968-2017). In recent years he increasingly became an important influence on my own thinking and, like many others, I continue to miss his creative, critical and always helpfully provocative voice. The fine contemporary Italian philosopher Franco "Bifo" Berardi (whose thought readers of this blog will know I also value highly) has recently written a powerfully reflective piece about Fisher's suicide and what it might say to us

Anyway, the piece that struck me as most powerfully relevant during this week's re-reading was something Fisher wrote back in November 2013 called "Exiting the Vampire Castle".

It is a sustained reflection on how someone like me – and perhaps, if you regularly read this blog anyway, someone like you – might best be able to resist succumbing to the feeling that for our own well-being we need to disengage from politics entirely. Do please consider reading the whole piece (found at the link above and at the end of this post) but, to whet your appetite, here are Fisher's Five Laws of the Vampire's Castle . . .

The first law of the Vampires’ Castle is: individualise and privatise everything.

While in theory it claims to be in favour of structural critique, in practice it never focuses on anything except individual behaviour. Some of these working class types [it proclaims] are not terribly well brought up, and can be very rude at times. Remember: condemning individuals is always more important than paying attention to impersonal structures. The actual ruling class propagates ideologies of individualism, while tending to act as a class. (Many of what we call ‘conspiracies’ are the ruling class showing class solidarity.) The Vampires’ Castle, as dupe-servants of the ruling class, does the opposite: it pays lip service to ‘solidarity’ and ‘collectivity’, while always acting as if the individualist categories imposed by power really hold. Because they are petit-bourgeois to the core, the members of the Vampires’ Castle are intensely competitive, but this is repressed in the passive aggressive manner typical of the bourgeoisie. What holds them together is not solidarity, but mutual fear – the fear that they will be the next one to be outed, exposed, condemned.

The second law of the Vampires’ Castle is: make thought and action appear very, very difficult.

There must be no lightness, and certainly no humour. Humour isn’t serious, by definition, right? Thought is hard work, for people with posh voices and furrowed brows. Where there is confidence, introduce scepticism. Say: don’t be hasty, we have to think more deeply about this. Remember: having convictions is oppressive, and might lead to gulags.

The third law of the Vampires’ Castle is: propagate as much guilt as you can.

The more guilt the better. People must feel bad: it is a sign that they understand the gravity of things. It’s OK to be class-privileged if you feel guilty about privilege and make others in a subordinate class position to you feel guilty too. You do some good works for the poor, too, right?

The fourth law of the Vampires’ Castle is: essentialize.

While fluidity of identity, pluarity and multiplicity are always claimed on behalf of the Vampires’ Castle members – partly to cover up their own invariably wealthy, privileged or bourgeois-assimilationist background – the enemy is always to be essentialized. Since the desires animating the Vampires’ Castle are in large part priests’ desires to excommunicate and condemn, there has to be a strong distinction between Good and Evil, with the latter essentialized. Notice the tactics. X has made a remark/ has behaved in a particular way – these remarks/ this behaviour might be construed as transphobic/ sexist etc. So far, OK. But it’s the next move which is the kicker. X then becomes defined as a transphobe/ sexist etc. Their whole identity becomes defined by one ill-judged remark or behavioural slip. Once the Vampires’ Castle has mustered its witch-hunt, the victim (often from a working class background, and not schooled in the passive aggressive etiquette of the bourgeoisie) can reliably be goaded into losing their temper, further securing their position as pariah/ latest to be consumed in feeding frenzy.

The fifth law of the Vampires’ Castle: think like a liberal (because you are one).

The Vampires’ Castle’s work of constantly stoking up reactive outrage consists of endlessly pointing out the screamingly obvious: capital behaves like capital (it’s not very nice!), repressive state apparatuses are repressive. We must protest!


beverley said…
Reading this a little belatedly - thank you for another thought provoking blog entry !

...and skimming Bifo's Heroes (maybe less optimistic than Fisher) ! He talks about the establishment of a kingdom of nihilism and the suicidal drive that permeates contemporary culture - a phenomenology of panic, aggression and resulting violence.

He laments the fact that mass murderers have not read the relevant texts before acting. In the case of James Holmes - Guy Debord (the shootings during a Batman film having situationist elements).

He comments on the "metaphorical density of an act that could be interpreted as breaking the separation between the spectator and the movie, the spectacle and real life (or death)".

Always a fascinating writer!

Hope you are having a good break!
Unknown said…
If I may introduce myself, I am a worshiping atheist and an internationalist Scottish Nationalist, a bundle of what to many, may seem an impossible and paralyzing tribe of savage ferrets in a sack of crippling contradictions. I also happen to be an acknowledged lay preacher within the Unitarian tradition but a Post-Christian. Oh dear, what a mess! How can I meet myself coming or going as I exercise my late-octogenarian body before breakfast? I am also a retired academic, a social entrepreneur, a trainer of psychotherapists and still an active pursuer of enlightenment and understanding. Oh dear!

I was moved by the family story of the uncle who followed Hitler and by the strong affinities and echoes that arose within the developing political situation.

I suggest that, in our present multiple dilemmas, we need to free ourselves from the emotional power of our tribalism, the inescapable inheritance of evolutionary past, and adopt what the leaders of the EU recognised and understood as the principle of subsidiarity. Some problems are best delt with at global level (for example an attack from another planet and, now, the threats arising from global warming), others are best dealt with at regional level, possibly, but only possibly at the level of European government, and others at local level, for example whether Edinburgh should regulate its AirBandB.s differently from Glasgow because the problems arising from the international success of its festival are different from those of Glasgow. The most enduring and emotionally inflaming problems arise where there are not just geographical or economical/commercial clusters of interests but also historical and cultural issues of identity.
At the moment we have a severe case of localised English Nationalism (remember the doctrine of economic autocracy (or was it autarchy?) of nineteen-thirties fascism) and all the echoes of old conflicts and wars are raised.

Iain Brown

Readers may be interested to know that the comment above makes reference to the following post A meditation on a dark and evil heirloom following the proroguing of Parliament yesterday.
Dear Iain,

Thank you for taking the time post your perspicacious comments. Much appreciated. I think you are right to point out the whole problem of English Nationalism. Given this you may be interested in watching the following talk byAnthony Barnett - Albion’s Call: Brexit, democracy and England

Best wishes,