“He proposes to radicalise critique, to convert the ideal conditioning of the representation of matter to the material conditioning of ideal representation. In the Landian apparatus, materiality is construed solely as the production of production. Transcendental materialism in its Landian version becomes a materialization of critique.”
– Ray Brassier, Accelerationism
Ray Brassier wants to save Land from himself and “show that it’s possible to rehabilitate the powers of the negative” for a philosophy that is both a materialist critique and a materialization of critique. He tells us that Land’s texts bristle with sublimated fury, “a kind of non-conceptual negativity…, and that’s what makes them really powerful.” Matter is the key. We do not so much think as matter thinks us. As Brassier says “Land claims thinking is a function of materiality… The claim is that matter itself is synthetic and productive.” Land is a Schellingian in that elimination of the transcendental subject and the brokering of a “self-synthesizing potency of what he called intensive materiality” is the central motif running through his works.
Brassier sees this strain in Land’s thought as a weakness causing some difficulties for a materialist subversion of Kantianism and the elimination of the Bergsonian component in Deleuze’s thought. Why? The connection between thought and being, the Parmenidian flaw. If thought and being are reduced to base matter and productivity that leaves no room for access to either thought or being since both are produced not given. As Brassier states it: “He’s doing a kind of materialist metaphysics, and there’s an issue about what kind of traction this extraordinarily sophisticated conceptual apparatus can gain upon the process of primary production, the real as intensive difference, matter in itself, whatever you want to call it.”
Brassier’s basic take on this is that without a legitimating epistemological registrar for his metaphysics Land is left with a hyper-accelerationist intensification of the primary process of production that is “incoherent, because matter itself as primary production, or death, is not translatable into any register of affective experience or affective intensity.” Ultimately any transcendental materialism must have a limiting factor or material constraint placed upon this accelerationist process, what Brassier terms a “transcendental speed limit”. But for Land there are no limits only “death, or cosmic schizophrenia.”
Land strips ‘agency’ from the equation, and for Brassier this is a fatal mistake, for if the “continuation or intensification of the process demands the elimination of humanity as a substrate for the process” then success would breed elimination not only of humans but all agency. If this were to happen there would only remain the bizarre machinic process of absolute production. Yet, as Land tells us, this is no problem: “it’s happening anyway and there is nothing you can do about it.”
Yet, even here Brassier sees that Land’s dark turn toward pure productive process itself can be turned against him, as in the political sphere; for “once you dissociate tactics and strategy–the famous distinction between tactics and strategy where strategy is teleological, transcendent, and representational and tactics is immanent and machinic–if you have no strategy, someone with a strategy will soon commandeer your tactics. Someone who knows what they want to realize will start using you. You become the pawn of another kind of impersonal force, but it’s no longer the glamorous kind of impersonal and seductive force that you hoped to make a compact with, it’s a much more cynical kind of libertarian capitalism.”
So Brassier sees in Land the failure of a Parmenidian turned deadly, one that has forgotten that the fine line between thought and being cannot and should not be fused but should be broadened by subtler demarcations of an epistemological kind. Accelerationism on this account leads to a process that ends in cosmic entropy without bounds, where all thought of agency is left behind and the only thing left is absolute productivity as an intensive accelerating process that knows only its own unlimited power for destruction. But, then again, isn’t this just another name for that unmitigated process of acceleration we call Capital?
1. Accelerationism: Ray Brassier (9.20.2010)