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Magical voluntarism: I got this

‘Magical voluntarism’ is such a useful phrase from the late Mark Fisher. It’s defined by his student Matt Colquhoun on loc 859 of Egress: On Mourning, Melancholy and Mark Fisher as “the imaginary belief that we can solve all of our own problems through acts of individual will, closing off any collective critique of the system in which we find ourselves”. In this sense it’s related to what Andy Furlong and Fred Cartmel describe as the epistemological fallacy of late modernity: “although social structures, such as class, continue to shape life chances, these structures tend to become increasingly obscure as collectivist traditions weaken and individualist values intensify”. It’s connected in turn to what we might think of as a failure of sociological imagination in the sense that private troubles remain private troubles rather than being connected to public issues. It accepts that as an adequate state of affairs because it affirms one’s own capacity to solve any problem.

What about when people fail to solve problems? I suspect Ian Craib’s idea of the importance of disappointment is useful here. Even if we didn’t manage to solve it this time, we can defer things forward so that next time we assume it’s going to be possible. Perhaps when I’ve changed in some way? Improved myself? Made myself stronger? Or more resilient? The disposition of magical voluntarism provides an empirical entry point for an awful lot of interest about the lived experience of late modernity.

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