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Socialist realism in capitalist clothing

NewEurasia’s readers are no strangers to the aesthetic art form of Soviet and post-Soviet socialist realism, but are they familiar with its analogue in the Western financial industry? Of course, “capitalist realism”, like socialist realism, is a meta-category, grouping together what are actually a very diverse range of architectural, painting and sculptural styles. Nevertheless, I think there’s something to the concept.

The phrase figures prominently in Mark Fisher‘s book, Capitalist Realism. Is There No Alternative? (2009) and I was recently in London going buck wild with my camera to study the art form (click here to see my photo-essay).

Fisher argues that the term “capitalist realism” best describes the current global political situation of widespread liberalism (neo-liberalism) in which the logic of capitalism and the market are applied to all aspects of governance. Just as socialist realism celebrated the mechanization of humanity, capitalist realism celebrates the marketization of humanity. Indeed, the art form actively promotes such transformation.

If people disagree as to the content, it’s nonetheless hard to deny that there are definitely strong similarities in terms of style. Compare this sculpture of Kozhomkul taming a horse in front of the Bishkek Sports Palace with the sculpture of Bellerophon traming a pegasus that sits inside the banking cluster around Liverpool Street Station in London:

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