Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Part One

“Let us not forget that philosophy is also primate psychology; that our loftiest speculations are merely picking through a minuscule region of the variegated slime encrusting a speck of dust.”
– Nick Land,  Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007

“How does thought think the death of thinking?”
– Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound Enlightenment and Extinction

 

Is there something beyond this meaningless void of internal and external degradation, this nihilistic dance of temporality, this decadent history of ruins named for no other reason than for its sheer unfathomability – late capitalism? Even Janus that Roman god of transitions, beginnings and endings, change and time once broke time’s sway on those bone days opening his gates wide: a gatekeeper holding the keys to the present, past and future, for whom the dog days of war once revealed the future situated on the knife’s edge like some temptation to a virulent annihilation? Even he could not fathom this alien force accelerating toward us from an unbounded future.

Samuel Beckett would bring those imponderables Estragon and Pozzo together to ambush language and silence, noise and sound. Godot like that big Other that seems to forever hold “our future in his hands” never appears, and in fact vanished from the scene long ago; or, like all twisted myths, became the face of our own desires rather than some dark progenitor of our wants and needs. Estragon would remark: “We are all born mad. But some remain so.” But what happens after madness? Do we all wake up and become happy consumers?

We’ve become the precarious migrants of an informational global economy that knows no borders and seeks to control not the material, but rather the immaterial goods of this new native realm, the infosphere, where the virtual elite put on the happy face of hypercynicism and nihilism and migrate right along with the multitude into the dark fiberous worlds of the net like cybernaifs rather than troubadours of some sonic rave or retromania. The corporate mesh begins to weave its dark threads through the tunnels of the net seeking ways of coercing its denizens into the fold of its economic clutches. Unlike the good old days of fictional cyber cowboys – roaming the lightlanes of a virtual or libidinal economy like so many escape artists – in search of the ultimate prize of a hacker’s paradise beyond control, our late capitalist worlds seem less colorful yet more dangerous as both governments and corporations reappropriate in advanced intelligence systems to do their bidding as AI extras in some accelerating retro-reel from the future. These new cognitariats look more like staid corporate climbers rather than the lock-and-load jacket boys of former cyberpunk machine dreams from the likes of Gibson, Sterling, or Cadigan.  We of the minor proletariat, service workers in a lost rodeo, live in a zombieland of stagflation where slow time meets time-famines and the future is a no way exit toward noman’s land rather than expeditionary force of some socialist revolt.

In an age when software code and the inherent algorithms within its confines can datablast trillions of bits in mere seconds,  while “high-frequency trading programmers” construct the next systems for corporate snooping and hacking, shading off millions of trades a millisecond ahead of their human counterparts who blink an eye and lose the market in a financial meltdown of fabricated black swans.1 Our techno-futurists on the Left and Right advance theories of acceleration and speed to set the information age adrift in the simultaneous light of tremendous forces that seem to be imploding toward us out of some inhuman future we neither expected nor imagined in our wildest nightmares. Like infonauts in some mathematical virtual ride we inhabit artificial realms of the infosphere as inforgs – informational organisms – like wind-up toys from some vision of the Jetsons CIRCA. 3232. Those scholars who would bind us to the straightjackets of Marx and Freud, Lacan or Heidegger, or any number of other flavors of the month pomo blather or speculative realism that comes to mind, find themselves in the nostalgic tempo of their philosophical forbears rhythmically wishing that it was all as simple as Marx once said it was: class warfare. But Marx never met a transhumanist, nor his alternate – an AI robot wandering the corporate headquarters of Google, or some Japanese executive’s dreamsuit serving cocktails to the elite oligarchs of a new technocapitalism.

In Spirit and Teeth Nick Land would give us a history of the world left out of your history books. A history that lives below the threshold of all those civilized barbarians that haunt our postmodern landscapes of late capitalism. Instead his history wakens the nightmares, the energies of blood and tribal wisdom, of the mythic underbelly that all those positivist scientists and philosophers tried to escape through their ever so subtle purification of the bittersweet linguistic web of lies that bind us all across the Vulcan codes of our dark arcologies. “The migrant blocks of tension summarized in the Freudian unconscious are much less a matter of Oedipus than of the mongols; of those who feed the world of spirit to their horses as they inundate civilization like a flood. If the unconscious is structured like a language it is only because language has the pattern of a plague.”2 We are the plague, the zombie extinction pact, the apocalyptic core of that inhuman kernel of the code/space that keeps returning from its repressive distance in the living cells of those genetic monstrosities of our becoming futures, our habitations among the feral citizens of some lapidary nightworld.

Like those characters in a J.G. Ballard story or novel we’ve become voyeurs of our own desires rather than participants, devoid of emotion we walk the lightworlds of our cities like imitations of false desires in search of death rather than love. Apathetic, alienated, distrustful of an other’s gaze, we’d rather slit their throats than make love to them. Our children imitate our false desires and literally enact them in all their murderous purity, traveling to those sites of their betrayed memories that seek to obliterate every trace of the horror of their existence, gathering the black metal nightmares from their victims hearts like so many skulls from a head hunter in the Amazonian forests to appease neither their god nor death itself, but rather to show off like so many trophies in honor of their father – the Promethean, whose fire branded them so long ago. Yet, we are wrong, this is not some powerful sky god but rather a god of rats and sewers,  of plagues and toxic amphitheaters, nightspawn of a terrible force that bores its way into civilization from an inhuman future, itself leaving nothing behind but the tattered bloodsheaves of a forgotten order of chaos in its wake.

Yet, there are those of late who have invoked that old liberator of the human animal, Prometheus, at once Titan and Trickster, master of fire and industry the true progenitor of commerce and the dark forethought, the cunning man’s guide to the sun and life’s force in the magic of fire and intelligence. In those great myths from ancient Greece in Hesiod, Homer, Pindar, and Pythagoras we learn that this trickster god survived the great generational battles between the Titans and the Sky Gods their children. Prometheus would trick the great Zeus in a simple but effective match of wits based on the appeal of the eye and stomach, forcing mighty Zeus to choose between two offerings in celebration of his victory over the Titans: one offering encompassed by bones hiding within a delicacy of meats, the other a sumptuous exterior feast of fats hiding within bones. Zeus blinded by his lust for appetitive pleasures chose the latter, while Prometheus reserved the former for his new creation: humanity. Besides giving humans fire he would also teach them the arts of civilization, such as writing, mathematics, agriculture, medicine, science, and commerce.

From Aeschylus down to the Renaissance and on to Goethe, Shelley and his sister, Mary, Prometheus would serve as a figure of light bearing truth and power for humanity. Yet, it would be in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein A Modern Prometheus that the myth would take on its darker hues for an emerging industrial society. In her version of the Promethean mythos it would be science and technology that would supervene rather than mythical gods in the creation of the first artificial life-form, giving us for the first time the central mythos of the technological sublime that would encompass the new era of a mechanized society based on Capitalism. Neither deterministic nor complete the sciences would infiltrate every aspect of modernity from the Enlightenment onward, its combination of technicity and an impersonal objectivity devoid of personal bias would inform the rational views of many; yet, underneath its rational exterior would be those hidden monsters, the humans themselves who wielded these new instruments of power as they dissected and constructed their new worlds of technology for an Industrial Elite.

Throughout history there have been a few misfits, vagabonds, visionaries, and intellectual outsiders who have penetrated to the core of the noumenal and brought back tales of this strange realm. For the most part these creatures have been misplaced, forgotten, castigated, and even pronounced insane by a society that conforms to a notion of security and safety that disallows heretical thought and opinion. From time to time such individuals arise in our midst and perturb the smooth waters of civilized life with their extreme visions of excess, transposing from those impenetrable realms signs and portents of other modes of being that we dare attempt in our self-inflicted slavery to an ideological reality that binds us all in its dark power. Once in a while certain individuals attempt the impossible and in their experiments with reality they discover long lost truths that shatter our conceptions of what it means to be human. What happens after is the need to put such visions to pen and paper, to somehow convey the richness of these felt worlds in words that might if not describe then at least transpose their figural limits through the medium of print.

One such vision came from a particular individual who dared to look chaos in the face and return with a few tattered stories. His name was Nick Land.

Nick Land – Fire and Ice: From Acceleration to Neoreaction

The story goes like this: Earth is captured by a technocapital singularity as renaissance rationalization and oceanic navigation lock into commoditization take-off. Logistically accelerating techno-economic interactivity crumbles social order in auto-sophisticating machine runaway. As markets learn to manufacture intelligence, politics modernizes, upgrades paranoia, and tries to get a grip.3

We shall call this the Myth of Accelerationism. It’s lineage would be sought among economics of Karl Marx, satires of Samuel Butler, cosmist cosmologies of Nikolai Fedorov, dynamo writings of Henry Adams, and the sociology of leisure class Americans in Thorstein Veblen. Yet, it would be in the philosophical and schizo-analytical work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari Anti-Oedipus, along with its complicit critique and satirization in Lyotard’s Libidinal Economy, we’d discover the Promethean desires revealed most prominently bearing strange signs from the future, machinic dreams and chaosophy cartographies full of diagrams and magical sigils, forcasting chromatic time-famines and massive disruptions of the technospheric worlds fragmenting and merging with ours as neoliberalism became the guiding mythos of the economic death plot guiding our post-modern age. Land would remark in Meltdown parenthetically: “Machinic Synthesis. Deleuzoguattarian schizoanalysis comes from the future.” (KL 6052) These future historians return with news of meltdowns and accelerated heat phases as we move toward the bindu point of some singularity in which “Nothing human makes it out of the near-future.”(KL 6063) We’ll come to these new prophets of the accelerating future soon enough.1

In that Deleuzoguattarian fold Land would discover what he needed when they asked the question Where is the revolutionary path?:

Is there one? – To withdraw from the world market, as Samir Amin advises Third World countries to do, in a curious reversal of the fascist ‘economic solution’? Or might it go in the opposite direction? To go still further, that is, in the movement of the market, of decoding and deterritorialization? For perhaps the flows are not yet deterritorialized enough, not decoded enough, from the viewpoint of a theory and practice of a highly schizophrenic character. Not to withdraw from the process, but to go further, to ‘accelerate the process,’ as Nietzsche put it: in this matter, the truth is that we haven’t seen anything yet.3

As Land would remark on this acceleration of deterritorialization: “Hyper-fluid capital deterritorializing to the planetary level divests the first world of geographic privilege; resulting in Euro-American neo-mercantilist panic reactions, welfare state deterioration, cancerizing enclaves of domestic underdevelopment, political collapse, and the release of cultural toxins that speed-up the process of disintegration in a vicious circle” (KL 6127). Do we see the eternal return as process running its dark Nietzschean core into ever smaller circles of collapsing density, an anti-authoritarian meltdown that Land himself would label by such tags as “cyberian invasion, schizotechnics, K-tactics, bottom-up bacterial warfare, efficient neo-nihilism, voodoo antihumanism, synthetic feminization, rhizomatics, connectionism, Kuang contagion, viral amnesia, micro-insurgency, wintermutation, neotropy, dissipator proliferation, and lesbian vampirism, amongst other designations (frequently pornographic, abusive, or terroristic in nature)” (KL 6130-6134). The Future was never more friendly than this.

Land himself after the explosion of the 90’s, the cyberdelia of a career darkening as late capitalism darkened toward some mythical beast, would renounce his last affiliations with the left’s ‘transcendental miserabilism’, and would bore his way through the shizoscapes and into a new sense of mission, riding the waves of a neoreactionary positing of annihilation toward the neo-liberal Cathedral instead. As Mackay and Brassier tell us “the apparent degeneration of his once scalpel-sharp dissection of the body of capitalism into schizophrenizing and repressive tendencies, may seem to dissolve the complexities of his work into a superlative cosmic version of the familiar neo-liberal narrative according to which ‘there is no alternative’, and the wholesale identification of capital with life, growth, and history”(KL 719-723), but they’d be wrong for Land would rise among the ashes and ruins of his former self and into the neoreactionary pluriverse where he’d find a “time-crisis, manifested through paradox” that (following Anomaly UK) Land would explicate as:

Ultimately, however, if after all these centuries of trying to improve society based on abstract ideas of justice have only made life worse than it would have been under pre-Enlightenment social systems, the time has come to simply give up the whole project and revert to traditional forms whose basis we might not be able to establish rationally, but which have the evidence of history to support them.

This understanding of neoreaction – undoubtedly capturing its predominant sentiment – equates it with a radicalized Burkean conservatism, designed for an age in which almost everything has been lost. Since the progressive destruction of traditional society has been broadly accomplished, hanging on to what remains is no longer enough. It is necessary to go back, beyond the origin of Enlightenment, because Reason has failed the test of history. (Neoreaction for dummies).

But we have to ask the simple question: Did Reason fail us, or did we fail Reason? How can nostalgia for a pre-Enlightenment world begin to assuage the complexities of this market world of late capitalism? What moral drift from the other ends of time will salvage us from this lethal and toxic system that is itself a product of the very pre-Enlightenment traditionalism? Oh, yes, we think we’re progressive but under the hood is the same old conservative smile parading in its hidden lair like old gentrified denizens of a Dicken’s novel. Nostalgia? More like white men in wigs sporting princely ambitions of sovereignty. In the end Land steered his ship to farther shores (literally in this case since he now lives in Shanghai) where he’d sing of the dark enlightenment, where for “hardcore neo-reactionaries, democracy is not merely doomed, it is doom itself. Fleeing it approaches an ultimate imperative. The subterranean current that propels such anti-politics is recognizably Hobbesian, a coherent dark enlightenment, devoid from its beginning of any Rousseauistic enthusiasm for popular expression.”

The dark embers still burn in this Promethean but within another universe of power where like some shamanic infonaut he prognosticates his dithyrambs on urban culture and the xenonomic ramblings for the new hotspurs of the neoreaction. As Mackey and Brassier – speaking of his philosophical divigations will tell us of his older pre-neoreactionary world visions: “…what we retain of Land’s expeditions are diverse and scattered remnants… These are also tools or weapons; arrows that deserve to be taken up again and sharpened further.” (KL 747-749) I’d rather think of Land as an alien psychonaut whose explorations or investigations from the outside in bring tidings from an even more alien future, one where humans have become if anything irrelevant. For Land we live in a transitional space in which time-famines rule the day, where humans are transmigrating by way escape velocities they neither control nor understand while an imploding future accelerates toward them like so many thoughts of death and annihilation.

A Short History of the Future Perfect

Benjamin Noys would be one of the first to rediscover or resuscitate accelerationism, “a term I’ve coined (unless someone out there proposed it w/o my knowledge) to describe the kind of strategy beautifully conveyed here. In a sense it has a fairly impeccable pedigree as one of the “spirits” of Marx, especially the oft-quoted passage from the Manifesto on “all that’s solid melts into air”. He’d go on to say: “this is “an exotic variant of la politique du pire: if capitalism generates its own forces of dissolution then the necessity is to radicalise capitalism itself: the worse the better. We can call these positions accelerationist.” 5 Instead of Deleuze and Guattari, or even Land, Noys would find his version of accelerationism in Brecht and Lyotard. Saying of Lyotard’s Libidinal Economy “the book of accelerationism, puts it: “in the immense and vicious circuit of capitalist exchanges, whether of commodities or ‘services’, it appears that all the modalities of jouissance are possible and that none is ostracized.” 

Yet, for Noys this was all a piece of a mythical cultural complex that grew out of a misguided non-history. Recently he tells us that there is a vacation – in the sense of vacating the building, of accelerationism by those within the camp:

“The rejection of the term “accelerationism” from within accelerationism is a result of it being freighted with modernist and futurist baggage, too associated with the notion of accelerating capitalism, and linked to the toxic politics of, take your pick, fascism or Nick Land’s embrace of the neo-reactionary. The implication is that instead of acceleration we might think in terms of cartography, redesign, cunning, or various other descriptions of retooling and reinvention.6

It appears that accelerationism may have already seen its 15 minutes of fame. For Noys it was always more about the moment, the present moment: “The embrace of the present is the only route to saving the future and the only true exit from our present moment.”(ibid. 2014)  He is “or to be rather vague on how and when they will be repurposed.” (ibid. 2014) Noys himself admits that he’s done with accelerationism as formulated and opts for a return to “the necessity of class struggle emerging out of the negativity of this process of the incorporation (and abandonment) of living labour in capital.” (ibid. 2014) But this is to get ahead of ourselves. Noys leaves off where the others begin.

“Capital has run away from human and natural barriers; human beings have been domesticated: this is their decadence. The revolutionary solution cannot be found in the context of a dialectic of productive forces where the individual would be an element of the contradiction. Present day scientific analyses of capital proclaim a complete disregard for human beings who, for some, are nothing but a residue without consistency. This means that the discourse of science is the discourse of capital, or that science is possible only after the destruction of human beings; it is a discourse on the pathology of the human being. And on this we agree: the human being is dead. The only possibility for another human being to appear is our struggle against our domestication, our emergence from it. Humanism and scientism … are two expressions of the domestication of humanity. All those who nurse the illusion of the decadence of capital revive ancient humanist conceptions or give birth to new scientific myths. They remain impermeable to the revolutionary phenomenon running through our world.” So says Jaques Camatti in ‘The Decline of Humanity’, a work which would turn the tables on its master, Marx, and understand the revolutionary moment as a revolt not against capital in itself but rather against the very product of capitalism: the domesticated animal at its heart, the human as a product of humanism and science; the very truth of an animal as decaying agent of its own self-enslavement and passivity in the face of accelerating forces it neither understands nor could ever master nor tame, but rather is forced to abide by its onslaught like the automatons of some machinic unconscious out of control. It would seem that there is no exit. Capital holds us all in serial thrall. Yet, Camatte would like Kafka’s mole bid us with a truth: “Lying in my heap of Earth I can naturally dream of all sorts of things, even of an understanding with the beast, though I know well enough that no such thing can happen, and at the moment when we see each other, more, at that instant we merely guess at each other’s presence, we shall both blindly bare our claws and teeth, neither of us a second before or after the other, both of us filled with a new and different hunger, even if we should already be gorged to bursting.” One cannot escape the circle one can only radicalize it.

The neoliberal agent is the marker of what Jean Baudrillard would once term the perfect crime, a crime that would go unnoticed by all those sleepers dead and dying within its precincts. For we are those dead, we are the ghosts of humanism and science, the fallen ones, the zombies of capital who wander the streets like sheep seeking hedonistic pleasures to stay ourselves against the disturbances of an eternal night. Baudrillard in his fable of mirrors would tell it: “We dreamed of passing through the looking-glass, but it is the mirror peoples themselves who will burst in upon our world. And ‘this time will not be defeated'” (JB: The Perfect Crime, 150).

The Manifesto Kids: The Future Is No More, Long Live The Future

“Modernity invented the future, but that’s all over. In the current version ‘progressive history’ camouflages phylogenetic death-drive tactics, Kali-wave: logistically accelerating condensation of virtual species extinction. Welcome to the matricide laboratory. You want it so badly it’s a slow scream in your head, deleting itself into bliss.”

     – Nick Land, Fanged Noumena

“A fever, a mutilation, a cruel disappointment, a loss of wealth, a loss of friends, seems at the moment unpaid loss, and unpayable. But the sure years reveal the deep remedial force that underlies all facts.”

     – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Compensation

Instead of asking what accelerationism is we begin by asking: What does accelerationism want? What hides under the mask of accelerationism? Mark Fisher in Terminator vs Avatar begins his essay with a quote from Lyotard which attacks bourgeois intellectuals (of which he cannot be excluded) for inclining toward the proletariat as if they could speak truth to them or offer them a program or alternative beyond what the capitalists have already put into play. Most of all Lyotard reminds those political intellectuals with a truth from the proletariat: “…don’t wait for our spontaneity to rise up in revolt either” (#Accelerationism, 357).

This anti-Leninist notion that social revolution can and should occur spontaneously from below, without the aid or guidance of a vanguard party, and that it cannot and should not be brought about by the actions of individuals or parties who might attempt to foment such a revolution was at the heart of Lenin’s own attack against Rosa Luxemberg and others in What is to be done? Lyotard is of course parodying this whole tradition to make a point of his own: “Let me open a parenthesis of hatred, here, a word will suffice against the great cesspool of consolations called spontaneity and creativity…”.7 Of course he was attacking Cornelius Castoriadis for his installation of spontaneity as creativity: “…we broke with Castoriadis who, rightly bored with reassessing historical, dialectic and diarrhoetic materialism, nevertheless proposed to put in its place the abominable super-male thing of generalized creativity” (Lyotard, 116). Castoriadis for his own part would offer later on his own view of capitalist accelerationism (although not by that name), saying:

Far from having the “freedom” naively presupposed by the apologists of neoliberal ideology, the unchecked consumer is plunged into a world of unbridled conformism and actually ends up thinking and acting in strict accordance with what the institution calls for.  Heteronomy thereby establishes its hegemony in the heart of the  supposed freedom of unlimited consumerism. Moreover, the dominant imaginary signification of unlimited expansion becomes a vortex in which other significations disappear, leading to an overall atrophy of the imagination and a retreat of creativity in all fields (philosophy, art, science, etc.). Insignificance comes to saturate almost everything in a determined world of blind narcissism and hedonism orchestrated by the Eleatic fatalities of neoliberalism.8

In the above we notice the acceleration of consumerism in a void, a void that produces as its product the emptied consumer, the insignificant blank in a commoditized solipsistic circuit of revolving doors going nowhere, a conformity or adaptation to the market rather than the market to the free and creative, autonomous individual. The touted individual has long ago vanished and in his place is the Cipher almost in collusion with Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We: “All ciphers walked in measured rows, by fours, rapturously keeping step. Hundreds and thousands of ciphers, in pale bluish uniforms, with gold badges on their chests, indicating the state-given digits of each male and female.”9 Of course this Maoist sort of conformism in the West is replaced with the conformity of Wal-mart with its standardized duplications of goods and services to the lowest common denominator: cheap. Let’s keep the folk happy: a market populism that allows the consumer freedom at the lowest price, bargain basement specials and a life at the bottom assured for all. The human as cipher, insignificant except as a commoditized product and producer of insignificance: a market scion in a circular economy of expansion and contraction, acceleration and deceleration without end. No longer the affective creature of humanism who supports an autonomous identity and morality, rather a mindless zombie given to narcissistic and hedonistic pulsations at the mercy of the market elite who feed his pleasure zones with instant gratification and incentives.

Lyotard of course would have his own notion of accelerationism. He’d play it off the old industrial worlds of reproduction as “cosmic slow time”, the time of the “seed and its fruit, of the chicken and the egg, of gestation, and of dripping honey”(240). Against this he would offer the immaterial monetization of ‘signs’: “We go crazy in signs: they allow several times, many times, they are accelerators or brakes, just because they are not constrained to (re)production, that is to say to consumption, to nihilism” (240). Instead as he remarks:

Their multiplication issues not from their fertility, from the translation of their face-value into productive commodities, that is, from their investment; this is only a concentration of wealth on one pole of circulation, stolen from the other pole; these are only sweeping movements which exhaust the surfaces. These movements are free of the constraints of all productive consumption; they make possible the dissipation of the surfaces they cross.” (240)

It’s this threshold dissipation into chaos, into complexity beyond the requirements of even surplus value, a value beyond consumption that leads toward an unknown and unknowable future as maximal efficiency of the market economy itself that is accelerationism. As Lyotard suggests and questions: “Isn’t it also a call loan, a speculation without intention, an incandescence of the surfaces swept away with no concern either to reproduce them or to augment them, a jealous zeal and not a conquest of power? Certainly. The utterly immortal duplicity and dissimulation of all capitalization?” (241)

Against this backdrop Mark Fisher will revisit what Lyotard considered his “evil book”. As Fisher will point out Libidinal Economy along with Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, Luci Irigaray’s Speculum: Of the Other Woman, and Baudrillard’s Symbolic Exchange and Death would all inhabit that space of resistance that seemed outside the prevalent channels of Marxist thought in its age. Each in their own way would renew a Nietzschean heritage marked out by Freud and/or against his influx and mediation of the Enlightenment project and its aftermath.

Fisher will offer his own quotes from Deleuze and Guattari and Lyotard respectively for precursors of accelerationism. He will also respectfully disincline himself from the Rousseauist primitivism of Hollywood Marxism and its kitsch gaudiness and iconic Avatar dreams of a return to some primal tribalism within the womb of a protective natural world, a paradise of guardian trees and endless days of play amid the Gaian lapidary of emerald forests and rivers of pure bliss. Instead Fisher plays the circuit board of the future, an accelerationism that harbors no way home only a way forward under the sign of libido, but not just any formulation will do rather “politics as a means to greater libidinal intensification… it’s a question of instrumentalising libido for political purposes” (#Acclerationism, 340).

This transcription of Nietzsche’s ‘Will-to-power’ as force, as libido or base materialism, an intensified and driven if not to say thanatropic movement operative within Lyotard, Grant, Land would lead to that enfolding from progressivist tendencies toward a reactionary intensification of those pulsations that Fisher describes as “telegraphic tech-punk provocations replacing the conspicuous cogitation of so much post-structuralist continentalism, with its implication that the more laborious and agonized the writing the more thought must be going on” (#Accelerationism, 341).

As Fisher points out Land in his attack on the academic and entrenched left “took earnestly … the Spinozist-Nietzschean-Marxist injunction that a theory should not be taken seriously if it remains at the level of representation” (#Accelerationism, 342). Fisher that asks: What is Land’s philosophy all about? In a nutshell it’s an inverted version of the historical materialist dialectic: “Capital will not be ultimately unmasked as exploited labor power; rather, humans are the meat puppets of Capital, their identities and self-understanding are simulations that can and will be ultimately sloughed off” (#Accelerationism, 342). So for Fisher Land’s cyber-heuristics, his experimentalism or hypermodernism moves us toward that information processing or modeling trajectory in which the end game is none other than the inhuman core of thought itself. Fisher will give us a litany of cyberpunk lit 101 from music to films, all informing an anticipated influx of the machinic future as dystopian paradise.

Then he will ask: What does all this have to do with the Left? On the one hand he tells us that Land is the sort of antagonist the Left needs, but on the other he criticizes Land for his misprisioning of his masters, Deleuze and Guattari’s understanding of capitalism as a collapse into schizophrenic excess, rather what it truly masks is just the opposite: an anti-market, a realm where the promise a utopian speed of thought is inversely shown to be the controlled and constrained speed of business, and the touted innovation and creativity of the market economy hides instead its essential inertia and stasis (#Accelerationism, 345).

Ultimately, Fisher tells us its high time to leave the “logics of failed revolts, and to think ahead again” (346). What we need now more than ever he tells us is a combination of anti-capitalist strategies – of which, accelerationism is but a unique trajectory that can function as a “terroristic” core within Marxism against the stagflationism of current capitalist pressures: “What we are not talking about here is the kind of intensification of exploitation that a kneejerk socialist humanism might imagine when the specter of accelerationism is invoked” (345). Against any form of “cynicism and lawlessness” (Marx) we need to situate ourselves in the midst of Good and Evil that is this system, to radicalize it and intensify its pressure points and seek those gaps in its armor that will lead us toward a future that only we can construct out of the ruins of this present moment.

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Part Two will continue…. here we’ll revisit Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek’s Manifesto for an Accelrationist Politics along with many other Prometheans in this new pantheon of philosophical speculation…

Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Part Two: Section One is up now…

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1. Lewis, Michael (2014-03-31). Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt (p. 2). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.
2. #Accelerate# the accelerationist reader. Editors Robin Mackay & Armen Avanessian (Urbanomic, 2014)
3. G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, tr. R. Hurley, M. Seem, H.R. Lane (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), 239-40.
4. Land, Nick (2013-07-01). Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 2504-2506). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.
5. Benjamin Noys. Accelerationism. (No Useless Leniency blog, 2008)
6. Benjamin Noys.  Abandoning Accelerationism? Two Exits.(Accelerationism Workshop, Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster (23 May 2014)
7. Jean Francois Lyotard. Libidinal Economy. (Indiana University Press, 1993)
8. Postscript on Insignificance: Dialogues with Cornelius Castoriadis (ed./trans. Gariel Rockhill and John V. Garner). Continuum, London 2011.
9. Zamyatin, Yevgeny (2007-12-18). We (Modern Library Classics) (pp. 6-7). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

 

 

25 thoughts on “Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Part One

  1. I think that one of the important things to consider about the dichotomy between Landian Acceleration and the New Accelerationism is the perspectives on the “libidinal charge”, so to speak, of capitalism. Reading “Meltdown” and other texts of Land’s, we get caught up in a strange sense of excitement, the swirling intoxication of the pull of acceleration itself. Its his own attempt to blend the “head-rush” of reading theory (anybody who has spent a considerable amount of time pouring over Deleuze and Guattari or Baudrillard knows exactly what I mean) with the euphoric body-rush of dance music, and in turn translate these into the schizophonic sensations of capitalism itself. “Converging upon terrestrial meltdown singularity, phase-out culture accelerates through its digitech-heated adaptive landscape, passing through compression thresholds normed to an intensive logistic curve: 1500, 1756, 1884, 1948, 1980, 1996, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2011 …” “The Turing Test. Monetarizing power tends to effacement of specific territorial features as it programs for migration into cyberspace. Capital only retains anthropological characteristics as a symptom of underdevelopment; reformatting primate behaviour as inertia to be dissipated in self-reinforcing artificiality. Man is something for it to overcome: a problem, drag.”… quotes like make the capitalism that was emerging then, from the shell of Keynesianism and bland social democracy, into a pure exhilaration.

    Yet capitalism is anything but exciting. It is mundane, boring. Maybe Land’s vision of capitalism exists, but not on our time scale. As a control system composed of particular, organizing rhythms, it drops us into a convergent network of generality that allows little imagination, and for every libertine it offers a judge to real it back in (this is one of the reasons I’ve been revisiting Situationism, as well as Lefebvre, as of late: I think there is a lot to be found in the analysis of everyday life’s saturation and the collapse of the imagination in a time that is heralded as the age of “creative capitalism”.) Our capitalist realism is precisely the way that Lyotard described way back in “Libidinal Economy”: swallowing the shit of capitalism, its plastics and bad food, the anonymity of pubs. This is where New Acceleration enters in: there is little libidinal charge to their work; similar to Tiqqun’s critique of Hardt and Negri, the Accelerationist Manifesto appears as the idealized face of the current political program, complete with the banalities and boredom. Instead of the fragmented generalities of neoliberalism (where weird events still occur and cracks can even reveal themselves and amplify), a pure, pulsing time where every cog in the abstract machine is greased.

    If Land’s texts have anything to really offer us, I think it is that it contains that libidinal charge, and can be approached as a derive or drift through machinic time, instead of being read as some Baudrillardian fatal strategy. It might not be true to the original vision (or perhaps it is?) but all things that circulate can be appropriated…

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    • You say: “I’ve been revisiting Situationism, as well as Lefebvre, as of late: I think there is a lot to be found in the analysis of everyday life’s saturation and the collapse of the imagination in a time that is heralded as the age of “creative capitalism””… yea good place to begin! I’ve been doing catch up on those books by McKenzie Wark on the Situationist, and of course, Greil Marcus’s earlier work, along with the available works on scribd and other open access sites. Been reading through Jaques Camatti, and some of Cornelius Casteriadis’s works as well.

      Yea, I’m just working through the new #Accelerate reader … figured open with Land, Noys, and Fisher. Then move on to Williams and Srnicek, Negri, Terranova, Parisi, Negarestani, Brassier, Singleton, Reed…. and Land’s rebuttal… and wrap up with a back to the future look at Marx and others… Yea, of late it seems many of the former cybergothic proponents have all become staid adherers of some mixture of Brandomian normativity and Sellarsian “space of reasons” proponents (Negarestani, Brassier), while others seem to be retrofitting some back to the future modernism: Pataphysics, Futurism (Russian rather than Italian?), Situationism as an outgrowth of surrealism, etc. So many avenues of reappraisal… Cametti with his rejection of humanism and science as the enslavers seems apposite. Yet, you have Cosmists like Fedorov being touted as well, along with Firestone and LIpovetsky, Ballard, etc. Good to refuel the mix and see where its going… Noys even sees it might be a dead end, offers two exit strategy, and a possible post-accelerationist way out in aesthetics, etc.

      Land’s on essay in this new book ‘Teleoplexy: Notes on Acceleration’ brings back his adept compression of thought and history, an almost minimalist or even Beckettian divigation that leaves out more than it tells, yet tells enough for you to surmise your own jumps and starts, and take-off explorations… yea, I don’t agree with his politics, but his mind is ever sharp as usual. It’s like those that castigate using Schmidt. The Left always wants to put stops and blinkers on itself which reminds me of my early Christian upbringing, and one of the reasons I became an atheist: when people begin restricting your mind and seeking to conform you whether through linguistic conformism or religious it’s all the same to me… my anarchic nature comes to the fore at that time and says: I’ll read whatever I dam please, an learn from whomever I choose, thank you… Don’t tell me what I can or cannot do… the ten commandments were an ideological straight jacket mean to keep people under the thumb of the priest. Sometimes the Left gets just like that… and, even of late with their attacks on Zizek and others, anathemas, expulsions, etc. seem more like an Inquisition that communism. Strange days, indeed!

      When we think of early modernism we think of poets, artists, writers, etc. We don’t think philosophy at least from 1890 to 1815 or so… more of a reaction against the Symbolistes and Aestheticism of the age… a move beyond the late romanticism of the era… Maybe this is a move beyond post-modernism, etc.

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    • This is also to the point. Capitalism is boring and it is swallowing the shit. But it is also spikes laid down to prevent homeless people from sleeping rough (as in London this week). It is the need for victim blaming of survivors and potential survivors of sexual assaults. Its the people who can’t pay the bills, the rent, who have to turn to food banks- because of the organisation of labour and the distribution of food as a commodity. And its the psychic fallout in terms of depression, anxiety, schizophrenia. Where capitalism doesn’t produce these it certainly makes them worse, makes the last longer, makes them a rule rather than an exception. Capitalism is the immiseration of everyday life. I haven’t got the Accelerationist reader and I don’t know if I will…but I just don’t see that it has much to say about all this. It seems somehow below the grand ambitions to resurrect a political modernism that some people never really left behind. Its interesting that Craig titled this promethean, what with Toscano’s Plea for Prometheanism, his critique of Simon Critchley and the new wave of liberals dressed as revolutionaries who I take to be the real targets of the critique of horizontalism etc… (Critchley once described himself as “Bakunin minus the violence”…ha!)

      As dmf is always want to say, our theory has to guide our practice in making life liveable. In relation to everyday life- which is, y’know, the place where politics actually takes place, where suffering actually goes on, where organisation actually happens- there is a recent intriguing paper entitled ‘Ordinaryism: an alternative to accelerationism”. Here, the author spells out the core of ordinaryism, a name that already deflates some of the aesthetic pretension of accelerationism:

      “Ordinaryism doesn’t advocate a traditional ‘ordinary’, natural, ‘way of life’ against future mastery – nothing of the sort – rather, it seeks to expose the hidden wound of human mastery which becomes unavoidable.

      Ordinaryism is presented as what might be left over once accelerationism has finished in avenging the limits of rational concepts (and the violence in doing so), such that the ordinary always returns, inherently unwelcome, but always ambiguous. That accelerationism will be beset by the mark of tragedy, finitude and disappointment: but in ordinaryism’s eyes, this is to be accepted and resettled. Of course accelerationism, by its own definition, cannot abide disappointment: manifestos are not the best means of articulating disappointments.

      It is only after a state of affairs has been accelerated, that ordinaryism begins and works with the reconstruction or resettlement of the everyday, of what we already took for granted. Whilst accelerationism reimagines the future by eliminating the everyday, ordinaryism reimagines the entanglement of the everyday which weaves in and out of our collective grasp endlessly. We might indeed change the world, but in most cases, it feels like the ordinary changes us. Ordinaryism resembles and works through the difficult unsolvable left-overs of accelerationism, where it must be collectively reconstructed, rather than collectively mastered.”

      I think the absolutely fantastic work of someone like Beatriz Preciado works in this vein- and all the better because it doesn’t follow Ordinaryism’s (in truth, a stupid name) claims to romanticism.

      And I keep saying this and I’m yet to really be rebutted…so I’ll ask it as a question (to all) at the end here. How does accelerationism understood as a project of libidinous machinism and/or a strategy of repurposing differ from forms of anarchism that have receded but never disappeared? As far as I can see direct syndicalist organisation, and all non-primmo forms of anarchism have always argued for the repurposing of capital’s tools?

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      • I’ll hold off to answer those questions until I publish the second part of this two part series. But one thing I see as a difference between the Landian accelerationism and the Marxist accelerationism as offered by many of the philosophers in the reader is the difference between epistemology and ontology… Land’s notions are based on an ontology of base materialism (Bataille), while Williams and Srnicek are working an epistemic revisioning of accelerationism and incorporating it in the normative and ethical domain which seems to agree with where Negarestani and Brassier are heading with the new Synthetic turn in math, the Brandomian turn in normativity of “give and take of reasons”, and the Sellarsian use of the “space of reasons” much like Herman Hesse’s Glass Bead Game of which the recent accelerationist conference iconically paid tribute.

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      • Arran, you raise an excellent point about the inherent violence that the system reigns on its constituents. For those who live in the bombed out rubble of capitalism’s expansionary projects, or say the workers dying while building Dubai or Qatar’s World Cup arena, it might seem trivial to talk about the boredom of life in the so-called “developed” regions. But boredom exacts its own kind of violence – we’ve seen violence deployed by youths as a means to alleviate boredom, while others spiral into the black hole of drugs and despair. In America, the suburbs – perhaps the shining jewel of capitalist boredom, those expansive zones who are forever caught between the urban and the rural – are hotbeds of deviancy that can be viewed as being far more reactionary than, dare I say, proto-revolutionary or emancipatory. Capitalism and the state require crime, deviancy, and mental instability: even if these things work against it, it activates the disciplinary impositions and triggers the growth of entire industries, economic sectors… It goes without saying that creating a life that moves against boredom and grayness is essential to the project of making life worth livable. It seems to me that what is at stake here is imagination and creativity itself, without which we can never truly talk about creating an alternative world. Simon Reynolds had approached culture from the perspective of its inability to create anything new, and how we’re on a constant replay of the past in glitzier and glossier packaging. Its what Deleuze would call a generality, that enemy of difference; it prohibits us from seeing the marvelous in the everyday, in the angles of light or in the magic of a the chance encounter. Why should that libidinal charge, the excitement of a moment of event that moves against the currents of our present stagnation, be the sole property of some abstract notion of accelerationism?

        You ask “How does accelerationism understood as a project of libidinous machinism and/or a strategy of repurposing differ from forms of anarchism that have receded but never disappeared?” I can’t really answer that for the New Accelerationists, aside from my feelings that their program is more geared towards organized technocracy, but I think there is absolutely nothing in Land’s libidinal stylings, at least in its form as is, to offer contemporary movements. His primary fault is that capitalism for him is a difference engine: he starts from the proposition that the state/tradition/identity homogenize through overcoding (a pretty good proposition, if you ask me), but this is continued with Deleuze and Guattari’s identification of capitalism as a force that decodes, and becomes a heterogeneous machine against state thought, ideology and structure. Hence the association with dance music… when you’re out there, alcohol or other stimulants flooding your system, surrounded by other bodies and the lights and sound, there is a distinctive sensation of loosing oneself. It becomes what Deleuze and Guattari call a schiz, the break. Yet the night of dance is finite (and you frequently pay dearly the next day or two!).CCRU talked of capitalism as a war machine that advanced through “k-tactics,” with the K signifying cybernetics. K-tactics then, in my understanding, would be feedback loops. Capitalism puts into plays desire, which feed into commodities and then back into augmented, accelerated desires. But capitalism is also hyperstitional, a mythical monster. So use the K-tactics to move from desire to extreme demands, producing even more extreme desires. The system takes off, goes into overload. The sky is the limit? Punch through the sky! The project at this point becomes unimaginable, and the texts reflect this because they turn to death as the point of this void of thought. Land knows this well, since he extols endlessly on the Freudian drive of Thanatos as the guiding force behind all of this… yet its a dead end. Land takes us to the outside, but there is nothing to do with it. And this is all contrary to the fact that it isn’t an accurate reflection of capitalism. Capitalism is not a difference engine, it is a grand mediator of all that is social through capital, and as such reduces all difference in the drive for maximization of profits. And the fact that it decodes might take place on a sociological, political and economic scale, the product is not heterogeneity, but a rhythm of sameness for those who manage to get by and the iron fist behind the so-called invisible hand for those who slip underneath. Capitalism is nothing without its states and disciplinary organizations to keep it in check.

        And yet we keep talking about! I’m off to look up the paper on ordinaryism, so I can properly respond and quit rambling!

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      • Yea, you’re comments about prisons, etc. hit home. Been reading Susan Rosenberg’s recent work An American Radical. She was imprisoned for her activist connections and for unloading explosives and weapons in a raid back in the 80’s. She was as she remarks “totally and profoundly influenced by the revolutionary movements of the ’60s and ’70s.” She became active in feminist causes, and worked in support of the Puerto Rican independence movement and the fight against the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. She also joined the May 19th Communist Organization, which worked in support of the Black Liberation Army, the Weather Underground and other revolutionary organizations. Rosenberg was charged with a role in the 1983 bombing of the United States Capitol Building, the U.S. Naval War College and the New York Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, but the charges were dropped as part of a plea deal by other members of her group.

        Of course the other aspect is the Jim Crow angle that many have been pointing our for years. Like Angela Davis, an old radical in her own right, in Biehls, Are Prisons Obsolete? As well as works like compared Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Incarceration , Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, etc. Prisons have become big business for these privateers… and the vicious circle of gangs, drugs, trafficking, prostitution, abuse, etc. all tied to a lucrative world system in which banks and financial institutions continue to make money laundering money for the cartels etc. The world system is based on the total inclusion of both capitalist and drug/weapons/sex etc. cartels running smoothly… sure they go after the users and small time dealers rather than the larger institutions – except as they chop off one minor boss here and there for stepping to far out of line… it’s a world racket now and we’re the dupes!

        None of this realtime world issues are touched in the manifesto…. we have to address real issues on a global scale are its all shit! We all sit around glibly spouting our philosophical theorems while the real world goes under, takes a dive under our feet, and billions of lives are now at stake… I know I’m just as bad, taking a satiric bent in my writings, but below the surface I know the stakes are all real… it’s time for action rather than philosophy, that’s my issue at the moment with Speculative Realism, Zizek, Badiou, Johnson, and Accelerationism… who’s going to get this thing off the ground? As Williams and Srnicek admit it will take a lot of deep funding from somewhere… but who are those that would do this? We’d need a true alternate ICT’s channel world wide… information and communications technologies are central, for without a fully developed platform for media, education, and information it’s all moot to begin with (and, of course, they address this which is commendable). We don’t have time to spawn a grass roots movement worldwide, or do we? Maybe that’s it, maybe the message will need to be activated, instigated, taken down into the streets everywhere, building a base of support from below rather than some top-down think tank investigation. All I know is what history shows… revolution from below, rupture; or, a slow and gradual transformation from above through patient effort of education and incentives; or, a combination of the two…

        As you say: “Capitalism is not a difference engine, it is a grand mediator of all that is social through capital, and as such reduces all difference in the drive for maximization of profits.” Yet, capitalists are masters of Public Relations, Propaganda, Ideological crapology… and they control at the moment the world-wide grid of ICT’s as well as the scientific technological base, along with the Network Society to go with it…

        When we think about how long it took from the time the Communist Manifesto was published to the first actual efforts toward communism it was decades… and, then it failed and fell into the trap of totalitarianism. I see a few on the Left making the effort to truly understand the failure, but not many… before we suppose to take over the structure of capital, should we not first take a long hard look at our own history on the Left? Even now there are extreme idiots on the Left or Marxist ideologues who seem to be power mongers and priest like castigators of a new Inquisition. I’ve been watching as many of the supposed communist organizations around the planet have begun these infighting sessions and purges of late, mock show trials a’la Stalin. It’s disgusting. Is this where we’re heading? When W & S speak of think tanks and organizations, etc. I have this nightmare of disputes going on in my mind… it always seems we’re our own worst enemy. The outer world watches on and laughs or mocks our efforts. What to do? These are questions and issues that have to be faced.

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  2. Fisher will be speaking in Glasgow on the subject of accelerationism tomorrow, so I’ll maybe report back on what gets said there-is anything new. I’ve got to say that I agree with the reference to Camatte. I think I’ve continually said that along with Virilio I see Camatte as one of the unacknowledged figures in the accelerationism debates. The problem with Camatte is of course that he himself is already a kind of neo-reactionary…look where his thought took him. The critique of technoscientific capitalism he took us down and the revalorisation of revolution as return lead him to producing This World We Must Leave… a strange essay that is, in part, a hymn to some kind of palaeolithic mythology. Camatte is the quintessential dystopian Marxist, and always seems to lurk behind post-autonomist theories of the success of real subsumption. I mean, when Camatte write about the revolutionary movements prior and up to 68 he critiques everything the accelerationists laud:

    “The proletarian movement unfortunately retained certain presuppositions of capital, in particular the dichotomy of interior/exterior; the vision of progress; the exhalation of science; necessity of distinguishing the human from the animal. with the latter in every case being considered inferior; the idea of the exploitation of nature, even if Marx had proposed a reconciliation with it” (This world we must leave and other essays, 200-01).

    Its almost as if they’re talking directly to Camatte. As if they accept perfectly the “runaway of capital” and each of his three lunatic trajectories as a completed tasks. Faced with that, yes, you have to take up the positions that accelerationism takes up. How else to respond? How else to try to run alongside what has runaway, how else to retain the illusion of control over what has fundamentally escaped control. Because isn’t that the point? In Camatte the real subsumption thesis becomes the thesis of what he calls the autonomisation of capital, and its materialisation as a community composed of human bodies which are merely its appendages. If there is a truth to Camatte it is that he captures perfectly what technocapitalism believes it has achieved and which is certainly its aim:

    “The explanation for this is to be found in the domestication of humanity, which comes about when capital constitutes itself as a human community. The process starts out with the fragmentation and destruction of human beings, who are then restructured in the image of capital; people are turned into capitalist beings, and the final outcome is that capital is anthropomorphised. The domestication of humanity is closely bound up with another phenomenon which has intensified even further the passivity of human beings: capital has in effect “escaped”. Economic processes are out of control and those who are in a position to influence them now realize that in the face of this they are powerless: they have been completely outmanoeuvered. At the global level, capital’s escape is evident in the monetary crisis; [1] overpopulation, pollution and the exhaustion of natural resources. The domestication of humanity and the escape of capital are concepts which can explain the mentality and activity of those who claim to be revolutionaries and believe that they can intervene to hasten the onset of revolution: the fact is that they are playing roles which are a part of the old world. The revolution always eludes them and when there is any kind of upheaval they see it as something external to them, which they have to chase after in order to be acknowledged as “revolutionaries” (Ibid 91-2).

    So the revolutionaries turn to capitalism as the revolutionary process. They accept that they have become capital, that capital has become them. So there must be some search for autonomous space of reasons, for a pure transcendental rationality that we would submit ourselves to, or to some other pure space. If Camatte thinks the proletariat was a mythology so to quite a few of the accelerationists. Struggle is ceded.

    But where Camatte differs from the accelerationists (with probably some exceptions, certainly with the exception of Fisher going by the above) is that he believes the proletariat still has a function- perhaps this is what the proletariat actually becomes in his vision of an autonomous fully constituted capital, a function or operation of aberration, a viral bioalgorithm, a negative form of life against capital’s glittering death. If it has a function is it its own negation (this in common with autonomists like Tronti). But Camatte seems to proletarianise bios. The very question of the existence of forms of life as such becomes a revolutionary moment. Of the question of the “liberation” of work Camatte says we must also have its “abolition”. The liberation of work is what he calls a “capitalist slogan because it finally aims at making human beings superfluous: living capital with all its inorganic bodies created over the centuries” (ibid, 155).

    Again: “Finally, liberation and autonomization [of capital] are linked and are the movements of the reduction of human beings because they are fundamentally the loss of [i]Gemeinswesen[/i]” (Ibid, 160).

    A last time: “Capital’s only lifeblood is in the exchange it conducts with labour power. Thus when surplus value is created it…can only become effective capital through an exchange against future labour…clearly then capital’s first undertaking is to dominate the future…by the credit system…appropriate time” (Ibid132).

    So actually there seems to be something in Camatte that resists his own dystopian imagination. Its bios in the sense of form of life. And so if we have become- or always were- technobiological or biosynthetic creatures we remain for all that a form of life: a technoliving form, maybe. But it is the living element that is at stake. Camatte isn’t so reactionary as to abandon the terrain of bodies and desire…he just wants us to reintegrate it. The proletarian movement is exactly the production of a new form of life that doesn’t begin from the presuppositons of capital’s phantasies. Accelerationism and its other, primitivism, are both strategies that seem to do exactly that, and so the former exults while the latter rages in terror. I don’t think this implies any kind of necessary advocation of humanism- except in the sense that the human becomes a project in development, which is precisely what it always was for Marx in the first place…this still constituting “the pre-history” of the species.

    One a different note, I’m really interested in Fisher’s turn of phrase:” instrumentalising libido for political purposes”. If he brings it up tomorrow I’ll try to ask about it. It seems to have an unavoidable connection to Reich’s reading of fascism, as if there is an advocation of fascism. But Fisher’s project is a million miles away from this…so it must be more the case of the old postnihilist dictum of building from the ruins. Fascism proved itself a brilliant technology for the production of a certain kind of desire. Can we do the same thing? Of course my question, being one of those who still rather romantically (I think the critique would go) identify as anarchist…should we want to? Are we falling into the trap of efficiency? Capital’s tools of despotism and domestication have been so successful, perhaps we should also use them. But maybe that is where Camatte’s insistence- shared with Baudrillard- that every liberation is also a loss comes into play?

    Anyway… I’m just dribbling all over your page again…I’ll take my half-asleep brain and put it in a shed for a bit 🙂

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    • Yea, I actually think Fisher mentions how “instrumentalising libido for political purposes” could be troubling and used for fascism, too. He earmarks that in his wariness of the Left’s dabbling with Italian Futurism etc. Even the notion of instrumentalist reason coercing libido into its own political channels seems a little iffy? Yea, Camatte was quite contradictory and a contrarian of his own stances along the way… his arguments with Marx and his slow turn toward revisionism in a production of a new heresy so to speak all have their own inner logic. That’s the thing about any of these writers: what parts are of use, and what parts are sheer insanity… … you can dribble over my page anytime you feel the need too.. 🙂 haha

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    • Another quick comment, further to the above. I’m aware of Brassier’s critique of Camatte’s invariance hypothesis…I sort of got lost on the way to this point.. its how Brassier shows Camatte’s phantasy of a completed real subsumption gets us caught with the idea of ceding from capitalism or accelerating it. Its a false choice: go back or go further. Drop out or sign up. I prefer the pre-1970s moments in Camatte, and the spirit of some of his later writings, when he discusses life rather than humanity or species-being, and when he talks about the refusal of capital’s presuppositions in order to found something new. Whether that’s possible…hell, I’m just a psychiatric nurse blowing through the ward.

      But this is perhaps part of it all. After all, I’m convinced madness is today’s alienation. And if the workers movement is over- if the proletariat is a myth- I think it return in these displaced places. In questions of madness, which is always also the questions of the production of desires, the production of subjectivities. Recently- and I have to admit I was drunk so I dunno if I’d want to defend this entirely as a serious position- I found myself complaining that inside capitalism you’re not even allowed to be mad. This is where the strangle hold is. Capitalism produces aberrant subjectivities, and then, because it can’t tolerate them, it attempts to reintegrate them.

      Anyway, for real this time, my partner is waiting on me to watch Game of Thrones. Its full of wholesome fun.

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      • Haha.. enjoy!

        Yea, that was my point in brining in ‘Wating for Godot”: Samuel Beckett would bring those imponderables Estragon and Pozzo together to ambush language and silence, noise and sound. Godot like that big Other that seems to forever hold “our future in his hands” never appears, and in fact vanished from the scene long ago or like all good myths was the face of our own desires rather than some dark progenitor of our wants and needs. Estragon would remark: “We are all born mad. But some remain so.” But what happens after madness? Do we all wake up and become happy consumers?

        I agree that we’re like Debord, Solterjik, Zizek, and so many others have said, living in an ideological bubble that is in itself ‘madness’ – because this system or market economy is madness in principle and deed. Most of the time those that escape by way of schizophrenia or all the other forms of madness are actually sanity spelled backwards, that is except for those poor souls that have been so malformed by the abuse, personally or impersonally, by loved ones, etc.

        Oh, by the way: you still working on your notions for a Panic History? I think you mentioned something about that…

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  3. Pingback: Speed Reading | Urban Future (2.1)

  4. Looking forward to the sequel.

    Even though I understand the metaphoric appeal of the term ‘accelerationism’ your posts on the topic always remind me that it’s a misnomer, an exemplar of market reasoning you might even say, insofar as it, for me, anyway, so clearly illustrates how the nonlinearity of technological advance renders the future increasingly opaque. The slowest car on the road will always have a name like ‘Zephyr’ or ‘Dart.’ There’s an air of desperation to it all, a commitment to the fact of radical transformation absent any means to cognize that transformation. The future has outrun the capacity of the present to theorize – and the theorists are not amused.

    I’m not saying quietism is the answer. What I am saying is that until the process itself can be cognized, no political prognostication has much chance of rising above the fray of dissenting voices. The simple fact of the internet might make such a program impossible: each of us now has a platform, and so each of us are now bidding for attention, and attempting to outbid one another, adducing something overlooked, a new angle, a revisionary revision of last week’s revision. The best way to silence an opinion you don’t like it is cram a thousand other opinions you don’t like into the same room with it.

    So I’m suggesting that perhaps the time has come to practice a little negative theology, to itemize all the things we don’t know, but perhaps can come to know, and all the things we can’t know, and the few things we do know, and ask whether it is possible to cobble together something that possesses real consensus-building power, acknowledging that there are no guarantees.

    So to the last category, I would venture:

    This is bigger than capitalism.
    This is bigger than human civilization.
    This is dynamically supercomplex.
    The only uncircumventable features are the laws of physics.

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    • Haha… sounds like you’d fit right in at the Mount Pelerin Round table they propose, a sort of preamble think tank where old and new curmudgeons gain insight into each other’s mental neglect. But being serious, yea there is a need to apply a little Adorno to all this, a slow crossing of the cognitive Rubicon rather than a burst…

      Let’s face it Williams and Srnicek propose is nothing less than leaving the capitalist structure and technological framework and infrastructure in place, just rearranging some of the feature sets: a sort of dispositional rematch for the Left, keeping the best while distributing the power out of the central institutions. A remake of the institutions that support current capitalism, rather than a total meltdown… in fact, their approach smacks of conservatism: of conserving certain elements within capitalism for the new Accelerationist Marxism… a sort of High-Tech Marx on the fly, with bells and whistles no longer dinging on Wall Street but in the grey academies of a new Glass Bead Game. Of course I josh… they know very well they’ll need the new data analyst technologies currently used for secrecy, spying, and global security… but for other uses… instead of paranoia of some big Other (China, Russia, etc. ) all the walls come down and the new wave of inforgs or cognotariat waiting in the wings takes over the intelligence systems and rewires them toward other ends: the global Commons.

      So, yea, you’ll fit in as one of the curmudgeons who balances the sheets, and gives them the straight-up about the missing information and limits of their reengineering project.

      Good to see you weigh in… 🙂

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      • Mount Pelerin would be the perfect model if any of us possessed capital and connections!

        But I’m serious about the negative theology bit. Just think of the sheer number of interpretative angles you’ve covered in just the past few months. Ask yourself what the chances are, realistically, that any of them will rally enough consensus to ground any effective praxis – that they will find any decisive arbitration *within the timespan afforded by Moores Law.* I’m saying that things are moving so fast that political theory can only be a spectator sport, short of some kind of revolution.

        The near future has gone all but opaque. Just think of Sandy Pentland’s stuff, and the way it seems to be spreading like wildfire. His group ignores the *content* of social exchanges, and tracks the *patterns* instead, subpersonally parses people the way moneyball statistically parses professional athletes, and then, with great success, optimizes organizational efficiency on the basis of what they’ve learned. This is post-intentional through in through.

        What we’re witnessing is the beginning of the post-intentional rationalization of the enlightenment rationalization of society – or so it seems. Who has a theoretical system capable of digesting the significance, downstream consequences, what have you, of a phenomenon like this?

        I sure the hell don’t!

        And this is just one nonlinear angle out of who knows how many.

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      • I agree: been an Adorno fan for ages… the negative dialectic is the satirist’s ironical gaze on the crapology of our age. I haven’t found anything out there that will rouse anything but more meetings, conferences, and academic bullshit. It’s a circular game for the academy philosophers. I’m almost disgusted with the whole business at the moment. Even now blogging is like a shadow zone: no conflict, no comments, no interaction… Facebook and Twitter are blips on a mindless perk world of inanity, bytes of info that flip switches in a vacuum.

        Yea, I take your gambit on “So I’m suggesting that perhaps the time has come to practice a little negative theology, to itemize all the things we don’t know, but perhaps can come to know, and all the things we can’t know, and the few things we do know, and ask whether it is possible to cobble together something that possesses real consensus-building power, acknowledging that there are no guarantees.” I agree and am beginning to think through what to add to the list… 🙂

        Ok, just bought his Social Physics book… going to put that at top of my list.

        I think one of the reasons I love Johnathan Swift so much as a teenager was his kind of slant on the madness of society, an inverse relation to his own insanity… my own hyperbolic models of writing have always let that influx between two insanities stream through the middle like some kind of pit bull fight with deadly consequences. What I see in Land that I don’t see in many of these other Left wing accelerationists is the daring, the ability to step into the abyss completely and ride the wave… what I see instead is this slow time, this return to some abstract theoretical space or Glass Bead Game of intellectual bullshit that plays with politics and culture as if it were some infinite game… what I don’t see is an action philosophy that even Deleuze in his anti-representationalism was striving for “Representation no longer exists; there’s only action.” (essay: Intellectuals and Power)

        It’s like we keep on keeping on blathering to the choir over and over from every angle possible in academic meeting and conference one after another without ever going down into the streets and doing something with it all… It’s like: When does it all start? Whose going to kick this thing off? Is it just words, just thoughts, just algorithms in someone’s imaginary game of beads? As you say: it’s all spectator sport for the moment…

        Hell, I thought I’d get some kind of feedback of use on this… seeing that a few thousand people have read this crap over the past few days, but no… it’s like people are voyeurs of thought rather than actors. Maybe I’m just too old, but growing up as I did in the early sixties and having thumbed my way around America at that time, investing time in the Viet Nam Protest movements etc. I just don’t see the same zeitgeist, the same ability to spark something in this age… it’s all too intellectual, no fire in the cooker… This manifesto is too boring, too rational, too .. shall I say it: capitalistic… I mean truly the only thing they offer is coopting the best tools of the capitalistic system for their own use. Even Mount Pelerin as a model… hell Mount Pelerin was the brain child of Fredrick Hayek who was its progenitor and dictator… he ruled it with an iron thumb and worked the system secretively for years knowing that he’d have to train these yokels and educate them in his ideas, then infiltrate both the corporate and government slowly but surely over decades to make it work… the end game was what these leftist are now attacking: neoliberalism was emerged out of Mount Pelerin and they want to use that as a model… with Negarestani we get this almost dictatorial implementation of normativity as the ultimate solution, and many think he’s just great… I loved his theory-fictions cyclonopedia, but his new turn seems under the wing Brassier and the academy, as if all those bad old days of the hyperstitional fiction worlds were just so many things best left in the shadows…

        Everyone attacks postmodernism now and the energy of the cyberpunk era, etc. Even the guys who wrote the original novels like Gibson have gone grey in their next incarnations turning from the energy of street worlds virtualized to the supposed present tense of this world in its staid fashion and surveillance.

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  5. Pingback: Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Part Two: Section One | alien ecologies

  6. the first two quotes were arresting and totally unfamiliar to me. yes we are specks of dust but not a noble as the other primates or animalia, and i have thought about it a lot, and know thought doesn’t die. we do.

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    • Hi, Cindy… yes, this true, and of course the two philosophers of the above quotes Nick Land and Ray Brassier are using these as figures of thought rather than speech so the literalization of death would for them be obvious, but their point is more of the cultural hocus pocus of most academic philosophy which since Kant has been overweaned on the notions of finitude for far too long to the detriment of other factors… you found some of my essays on a book #Accelerate the accelerationist reader which deals with two preeminent notions of speed and acceleration of society and technology in our age. One view from a more conservative and traditionalist perspective, the other the Left accelerationist. I try to be neutral when I discuss or provide commentary, although at time I fall into irony and comic satire of many of the current perspectives.

      Glad you found it interesting… 🙂

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