Library Dissertation Showcase

“It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism”: capitalist realism, nihiliberalism and contemporary apocalyptic theatre

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2020

Apocalyptic thought has always occupied the shadows of public discourse. At the present moment, remainers, nationalists and environmental activists are using apocalyptic rhetoric to advance their arguments (Coomasaru, 2019) leading apocalyptic thought to seem more present than ever. The recent apocalyptic turn in rhetoric found in public discourse gestures towards something greater. As Slavoj Žižek points out, the capitalist system is fast “approaching an apocalyptic zero-point” (2011, x). The term apocalypse can be traced to the Greek word apocalyptô, which translates to destruction and catastrophe but also means to reveal or unveil (Malabou, 2015, 113-114). In the process of destruction, the cause of society’s demise is revealed. Each apocalyptic play reveals what it deems to be the origins of societal destruction and effectively functions as a thesis. The thesis play, or called by
Gordon Green ‘The Propaganda Play’, “is a play which is written for the purpose of enforcing a particular point of view” (Green, 1961, 429) and to elaborate the playwright’s thesis, this essay uses an array of theorists to unpack their critique. However, even though this essay engages with a wide range of sources and thinkers, it culminates in a Fisherian analysis and reflects the complexities of his thought with theorists such as Slavoj Žižek, Jean Baudrillard, and Franco Berardi having explicitly influenced Mark Fisher’s thinking (2009, 2014b). Ultimately, this essay argues that apocalyptic theatre is indicative of a transition away from the typical neoliberal mode of ‘governance’, where the market and competition are paramount, to a new form of ‘governance’, where “[t]he rosy promises of neoliberalism are gone, but capitalist realism continues” (Fisher, 2013b).

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