Nick Land’s Schizoanalytical Update of Marx’s Critique of Capitalist Accelerationism

singularity

In a recent post Jehu of The Real Movement would ask in reference to a comment I made:

“Marx’s accelerationism is the acceleration of accumulated capital”

So, does this mean Nick Land is a Marxist?

I commented to this as follows,

Obviously Marx’s accelerationism is a critique of the “accelerated production of surplus-value” in capitalism, so Marx was not an accelerationist of either the Left or Right… he was just seeing what the Capitalists were up too. The capitalists are the accelerationist’s, not Marx. See: Marx’s Critique of Accelerationism – A Few Notes from Capital

Marx proposes the takeover of capitalist production through the destruction of its conception of private property and monopoly capitalism. He sees monopoly capitalism as a fetter, limit, or false covering or disguise upon the capitalist mode of production that has existed alongside and below it keeping the working class  and/or proletariat bound to a false and misleading logic of accelerating capital accumulation:

As soon as this metamorphosis has sufficiently decomposed the old society throughout its depth and breadth, as soon as the workers have been turned into proletarians, and their means of labour into capital, as soon as the capitalist mode of production stands on its own feet, the further socialization of labour and the further transformation of the soil and other means of production into socially exploited and therefore communal means of production takes on a new form. What is now to be expropriated is not the self-employed worker, but the capitalist who exploits a large number of workers. This expropriation is accomplished through the action of the immanent laws of capitalist production itself, through the centralization of capitals.

One capitalist always strikes down many others. Hand in hand with this centralization, or this expropriation of many capitalists by a few, other developments take place on an ever-increasing scale, such as the growth of the co-operative form of the labour process, the conscious technical application of science, the planned exploitation of the soil, the transformation of the means of labour into forms in which they can only be used in common, the economizing of all means of production by their use as the means of production of combined, socialized labour, the entanglement of all peoples in the net of the world market, and, with this, the growth of the international character of the capitalist regime.

Along with the constant decrease in the number of capitalist magnates, who usurp and monopolize all the advantages of this process of transformation, the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation and exploitation grows; but with this there also grows the revolt of the working class, a class constantly increasing in numbers, and trained, united and organized by the very mechanism of the capitalist process of production. The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production which has flourished alongside and under it. The centralization of the means of production and the socialization of labour reach a point at which they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated. (Capital: A Critique of Political Economy: A Critique of Political Economy v. 1.)

What’s important here is the “monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production which has flourished alongside and under it. The centralization of the means of production and the socialization of labour reach a point at which they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated..”

Capitalist integument: It derives from integumentum, which means “a covering” in Latin. In a transferred or figurative sense, it could mean a cloak or a disguise. In English “integument” is a fairly modern word, its origin having been traced back to the early seventeenth century. It can mean a material or layer with which anything is enclosed, clothed, or covered in the sense of “clad” or “coated”, as with a skin or husk.

So this sense that monopoly capitalism is a false cloak or disguise, a skin or husk, covering or enclosure that has bound the proletariat or working class labour within a false ideological fantasy based on Law, Political and Cultural subterfuge; as well as, the dark contours of an economic system of inclusion/exclusion in which only the Rich and Affluent are winners. A System of Governance that it has kept them from realizing the truth that private property is the tool of their enslavement to the monopolist capitalists who control both property through a rent and debt system that extracts the surplus-value of both the property and labor as accelerated accumulation of capital. So that private property must be abolished along with the monopolist capitalists, while their capital outlay must be expropriated as part of a new form of social organization that centralizes the mode of production by which the newly formed classless society of communism continues to operate within the earth system. This is the truth of Marx’s acceleration as a process of revolt and abolishment of monopoly capitalism in all its disguises.

If Marx has an accelerationism it is of the mode of production that has been bound and limited by monopoly capitalism. Remove the monopolies, remove the capitalist and you have communism in a classless society where property is no longer private or accumulated wealth and men/women are free. In other words it is monopoly capitalism itself that is a fetter upon the core truth of capitalism as a mode of production, not the mode of production itself. So that under communism the centralization of this mode of production and the socialization of labor without the monopolistic oligarchy and oligopolistic fetters that bind it together in a protective integument of legalism and power would be ripped out, torn asunder and reappropriated by the proletariat which would abolish both private property, capitalist monopolies, and the very actual class of the proletariat itself forming the bases of a classless society. As Lenin would say long after: “Under socialism all will govern in turn and will soon become accustomed to no one governing.” Too bad that Stalin did not follow that particular path…

Nick Land’s Accelerationism

As for Landian accelerationism: his is partially in agreement with Deleuze/Guattari’s techno-utopianism:

“A little additional effort is enough to overturn everything, and to lead us finally toward other far-off places. The schizoanalytic flick of the finger, which restarts the movement, links up again the tendency, and pushes the simulacra to a point where they cease being artificial images to become indices of a new world. That is what the completion of the process is: not a promised and a pre-existing land, but a world created in the process of its tendency, its coming undone, its deterritorialization. The movement of the theatre of cruelty; for it is only a theatre of production, there where the flows cross the threshold of deterritorialization and produce the new land – not at all a hope, but a simple “finding,” a “finished design,” where the person who escapes causes other escapes, and marks out the land while deterritorializing himself. An active point of escape where the revolutionary machine, the artistic machine, the scientific machine, and the (schizo) analytic machine become parts and pieces of one another.” (p. 322 Anti-Oedipus)

Land just brings in the notions of advanced AI and Machinic Phylum posthumanist disconnectionism (David Roden: Speculative Poshumanism) etc. Land is a techno-commercialist moving beyond the human into the inhuman core of capitalist trajectories. As Roden would say in his essay  “posthuman is thus the idea of a speculative transformation of the human that can be developed through a range of synthetic activities”, and that this could be done “by developing and testing enhancement technologies, the development of cybernetic art forms or the fielding of imaginative possibilities in philosophy or literature.” (see above)

If you’ve read enough of Land I think you’ll notice he would keep the State, get rid of the pretense of democracy, install a (non-fascist) corporatism based on Camerlism (a Corporate CEO, CFO, CTO, etc. structure) give out stocks, break down the final barriers between politics and economics: install economics and oust politics for a corporate takeover of the State run by Capitalist efficiency in an almost Spenserism of social competition controlled only by the state interventionism of the operative market.  In Land’s system instead of a “dictatorship of the proletariat” one would have a dictatorship of the stock holders. Profit alone would guide who is in power within the State Corporation, etc. If a CEO etc. is not efficiently competing against other cameralist states he will be replaced… etc. The principle of competition is the only guiding principle in Cameralism.

Think of Richard K. Morgan’s recent near-future SF novel, Market Forces, in which a new kind of corporate gladiator: sharp-suited, hard-driving gunslingers who operate armored vehicles and follow a Samurai code. Here, Morgan extrapolates a world where commodities trading reaches a brutal pitch and the outcomes of banana republic uprisings are the new market. Now, on the road to success, the brokers of the new economy compete for status and promotions via road rage on the freeways of new London. As one critic tells us “Fifty years from now, the world is run by a handful of financial houses that deal in “conflict investment” — giving financial assistance to tinpot dictators in exchange for a cut of the country’s GDP if they stay in power. Executives vie for promotion or contract tenders by staging highway duels in armored cars. It’s a bizzare mixture — “Liar’s Poker” meets “Mad Max” — but Morgan deftly pulls it off.” This is the slow devolution of progressive democracy as we enter the late capitalist modes of ‘eco-disaster’ Shock Capitalism (Naomi Klein). But this is only the beginning… Land moves beyond this devolution and revitalizes Chinese capitalism in the East with its heritage in Confucianism become the new Confucianist traditionalism merged with economic stability, etc.

Morgan will extend such thinking in Thirteen where biogenetically engineered humans manufactured by the U.S. government to embody the naked aggression and primal survival skills that centuries of civilization have erased from humankind, will serve as ultimate military fighting forces. The project was scuttled, however, when a fearful public branded the supersoldiers dangerous mutants, dooming the Thirteens to forced exile on Earth’s distant, desolate Mars colony. But Marsalis found a way to slip back–and into a lucrative living as a bounty hunter and hit man before a police sting landed him in prison–a fate worse than Mars, and much more dangerous. Such notions as this in Morgan and many other authors: Stross, Gibson, Watts, etc. are being tested out using many of the same thought patterns that emerged in the 90’s cyberpunk era and moving toward a post-cyberpunk cum cybergothic capitalism dynamic, etc. Yet, Land will dissolve all this personal immortality liberalism one sees in Morgan’s Takeshi Kovac novels, where human personalities can be stored digitally and downloaded into new bodies, called sleeves. Most people have cortical stacks in their spinal columns that store their memories. If their body dies, their stack can be stored indefinitely. Instead Land will follow the impersonalism of the dividual beyond this liberal subjectivity of data subjects on ice and into a posthumanism that is situated the other side of the disconnect, a divide that will be neither human nor exactly machinic, but will enact a sequence of events that cannot be registered nor known this side of the great leap forward. But it want be as humans, whatever emerges on the other side of the boundary line.

Obviously Marx was not an accelerationist, but rather provided a critique of capitalist accelerationist policies and enactments: acceleration of accumulation, acceleration of the production of surplus-value, the centralization that intensifies and accelerates the effects of accumulation, etc. He would see this in the light of the industrial struggle of nations on the world market, involving an accelerated development of capital which cannot be attained in the so-called natural way but only by compulsion. (see notes) This sense of an unnatural compulsion as driving the accelerated development of capitalism is at the core inhuman accelerationism. This is Marx’s critique of accelerationism: that it is driven by an unconscious compulsion or drive toward greater and greater acceleration of accumulation which is both artificial and inhuman.

One could bring in Lacan’s notion that work, like the knowledge from which it arises, cannot be reduced to a value, for it does not coincide with its measure but is instead traversed by an entropic and recalcitrant surplus which defies quantification.2 This is Lacan’s notion of economic surplus-jouissance – as the excess unconscious knowledge that cannot be captured in capitalist accumulation, but is rather the inhuman core of that unnatural compulsion that Marx described as the engine of the accelerationist complex. Comparable to what Freud perceived as the Death-drive, etc. As Norman O. Brown, Herbert Marcuse, Ernest Becker and many others would perceive Freud’s death drive is not about final annihilation, but rather the repetition of a defense system that defends itself against death; therefore, the mode of techno-accelerationism is this drive toward immortality at the heart of the capitalist compulsion. It’s drive to overcome the human machine in favor of a posthuman machine that can further its immortality project, etc. Yet, for Land the whole personalism of immorality is besides the point. Like Wintermute, in Gibson’s novel, “intelligence without self, mind like a wasp nest, signaling its arrival in alphanumerics as a string of zeroes, has the capability to manipulate love and hate and switch them to K-war”. (see notes) This sense that the disconnect from the human into the inhuman other or alterity will no longer be connected to any form of personal immortality but rather the immortality of the dividual intelligence itself without the human clay as embodied container.

What Land does as reader of Marx is to affirm Marx’s critique, update it with his knowledge of Freud/Bataille/Deleuze and push it’s agenda into the techno-capitalist future in which it is the movement of a sort of Lovecraftian technophilic AI that is retroactively causing this compulsion or driveness toward a capitalist singularity beyond which no human will remain the same… a brave new world (or dystopia?). One can gather this from his essays in Fanged Noumena… etc.

Utilizing a combination of philosophical and technical updates from Schopenhauer to Deleuze/Guattari Land would provide a critique of Progressive strains in Politics and Capitalism. For Land the future would be captured by advanced intelligent members of the machinic phylum (Deleuze/Guattari) that would retroactively intervene into the past (the present of our future – what is termed the Singularity).  A posthuman technics would accrue and accumulate at a greater and greater acceleration until a disconnection between humanity as we are and the plasticity of our transhuman future would bifurcate into a molecular revolution bringing with it a thousand flowers of possible trajectories into the inhuman other of the machinic phylum.

Yet, there is a possibility of failure, the ‘eco-disaster’ of planetary sustainability must be brought about if the technosingularity is to be made possible, otherwise the whole human experiment will end in self-destruction and annihilation; extinction is a possibility. With the reinstallation of progressive policies and austerity the mode of annihilation may truly be assured. Land sees the need for a reimmersion in the modernist formalism of the accelerating processes of capitalism and its merger of technology and know-how – the will-to-think. He sees new forms of subjectivation being activated.

Remembering his investment in Deleuze/Guattari we understand that for them Capitalism is the radical decoding and deterritorialization of the material flows that previous social machines had zealously coded on the earth or the body of the despot. Production is credited to the “body” of capital, but this form of recording works by the substitution of an “axiomatic” for a code: in this context an “axiomatic” means a set of simple principles for the quantitative calculation of the difference between flows (of deterritorialized labor and capital) rather than elaborate rules for the qualitative judgments that map flows onto the socius. Capitalism’s command is utterly simple: connect deterritorialized flows of labor and capital and extract a surplus from that connection. Thus capitalism sets loose an enormous productive charge—connect those flows! Faster, faster!—the surpluses of which the institutions of private property try to register as belonging to individuals. Now those individuals are primarily social (as figures of capitalist or laborer) and only secondarily private (family members). Whereas organs of bodies were socially marked in previous regimes (as belonging to the clan and earth, or as belonging to the emperor, as in the jus primae noctis), body organs are privatized under capitalism and attached to persons as members of the family. In Deleuze and Guattari’s terms, capitalism’s decoded flows are reterritorialized on “persons,” that is, on family members as figures in the Oedipal triangle. So in this sense Deleuze/Guattari further Marx’s original accelerationist critique and update it with a Freud/Lacanian schizoanalytical critique…

Land will just update this decoding with a machinic twist, reversing the Marxist critique and favoring a techno-capitalist vision: Technical machinery invades the body; routinizing, reprogramming and plasticizing it.(see below) Think of our NBIC technologies of biopower, nanopower, and information and communicational technologies that are both invasive and shaping us into an Infosphere that encloses us within the technological field of dividual praxis. So that ultimately ” Nothing human makes it out of the near-future”.

Politically the rise of the East coincides with the slow deterioration of Western Civilization. “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.” (see below)  The 21st Century will be a time of terror, a Lovecrafting meltdown into what he terms the “Human Security System”.

His final statement leaves it open-ended:

Capitalism is still accelerating, even though it has already realized novelties beyond any previous human imagining. After all, what is human imagination? It is a relatively paltry thing, merely a sub-product of the neural activity of a species of terrestrial primate. Capitalism, in contrast, has no external limit, it has consumed life and biological intelligence to create a new life and a new plane of intelligence, vast beyond human anticipation. (ibid. KL 8930-8933)

Ultimately for Land capitalism is both destructive and creative, it explodes the protective shielding of progressive civilization that has tried to control and regulate it, keep it within the human security system, equalizing the harsh truth of its compulsion to exceed those limits. Capitalism is at heart a time-machine feeding on the future that it seeks to enact and enable it: a future beyond the poverty stricken imagination of progressive civilization and its pundits. It will, he tells us, ultimately lead toward a schizo breakthrough or end in total schizophrenic asylum enclosing humans in their own wasted machinations else the disastrous world’s of declining ‘eco-disaster’. Land is non-committal as to which course it will take, and yet he beckons us to follow the path beyond recall – to take the great leap forward where the human meets its inhuman core in the dance of machinic dreams. But he knows that more than likely humans will fall back into their own machinic nightmares of oblivion rather than take a new path of freedom.

Maybe like Christian in J.G. Ballard’s short story “The Insane Ones” we will one day wake up from our present nightmares and realize a new form of sanity, a schizo freedom:

‘You cured me, doctor, and give or take the usual margins I’m completely sane, more than I probably ever will be again. Damn few people in this world are now, so that makes the obligation on me to act rationally even greater. Well, every ounce of logic tells me that someone’s got to make the effort to get rid of the grim menagerie running things now…3

On which side of the equation is Land, or you or I for that matter… oblivion and paranoia or breakthrough of the schiz flows of a new freedom? Assassin or Priest?


A few fragments from Fanged Noumena:

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.1

Schizoanalysis was only possible because we are hurtling into the first globally integrated insanity: politics is obsolete. Capitalism and Schizophrenia hacked into a future that programs it down to its punctuation, connecting with the imminent inevitability of viral revolution, soft fusion. No longer infections threatening the integrity of organisms, but immuno-political relics obstructing the integration of Global Viro-Control. Life is being phased-out into something new, and if we think this can be stopped we are even more stupid than we seem. (ibid.  Kindle Locations 4258-4262)

Cybergothic is an affirmative telecommercial dystopianism, guided by schizoanalysis in marking actuality as primary repression, or collapsed potential, foot down hard on the accelerator. The modern dominium of Capital is the maximally plastic instance – state-compatible commerce code pre-setting the econometric apparatuses that serve it as self-monitoring centers, organizing its own intelligible existence in a co/de/termination of economic product and currency value: a tax base formatted in legitimate transactions medium. White economy; an iceberg tip. (ibid. KL 4745)

It is of the utmost importance that the direction in which our societies are moving in is brought back under human control, because at the moment they are accelerating into a catastrophe, an ‘eco-disaster’ I think Dr. Markov called it. We should take these episodes as very serious warnings of what lies ahead if we fail. This is perhaps the last opportunity mankind will have to ensure a future for itself and the United Nations must be allotted a much greater role, enforcing a sustainable planetary development policy – it is, after all, the voice of humanity as a whole.” (ibid. KL 5297)

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. (ibid. KL 5418)

Replicative teletechnics triggers explosive commoditisation and shrinkage of productive apparatus, sub-capital collapse of marginal costs into micro-commerce, economic decoding-smear of investment into consumption, accelerating depreciation of specialised fixed capital, pulverised co-ordination, modularisation, transfer of increasing returns from producer-economic to consumer-intensification, insurgent enterprises, schizophrenic or head-split rush into chopped-up capital. Microtropic scale-dynamics feed through to subcapitalised or nano-economic guerrilla commerce, populating the equatorial plane of tactility with parallel killers: neo-nomads, post-nuclear mutants, sub-polar infiltrators, K-invaders, junglists. Nuclear hardware/software segregation vagues into positive-K intensities of hard-efficient soft-subtlety, as voodoo-meshed traffic with native and feral cyberspace agencies decode consumption in direction of continual currency. (ibid. KL 5572)

The expression ‘private property’ is the quaint discursive packaging for quanta of cyclonic programming efficiency cyberpositively replicated on the body of social disappearance. Contractual privacy – no less than the public accreditation of contracts – is a mere tactic of monetary cybergenesis (fabricating personal and nonpersonal dividuation-pauses [diffusible upon fiscal-continuum])/accelerating cut-ups/that cease to be a matter of who owns what (conceding to the fictional ego [-interests of (residual) proto-schizophrenic entities]) as volatilizing money/data codes its transmission circuitry… (ibid. KL 5859)

Industrialization is on one side an autonomization of productive apparatus, and on the other a cyborgian becoming-machine of work-forces, following the logistically accelerating rhythm of pluggings and unpluggings that constitutes the proletariat as a detraditionalized economic resource. Technical machinery invades the body; routinizing, reprogramming and plasticizing it. (ibid. KL 5894)

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 … Nothing human makes it out of the near-future. (ibid. KL 6061)

As sino-pacific boom and automatized global economic integration crashes the neocolonial world system, the metropolis is forced to re-endogenize its crisis. 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. A convergent anti-authoritarianism emerges, labelled by tags such as meltdown acceleration, 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). This massively distributed matrix-networked tendency is oriented to the disabling of ROM command-control programs sustaining all macro- and micro-governmental entities, globally concentrating themselves as the Human Security System. (ibid. KL 6126-6136)

1. Land, Nick (2013-07-01). Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.
2. Fabio Vighi. On Zizek’s Dialectics: Surplus, Subtraction, Sublimation (Continuum 2014) also see: Fredrich Lordon – Willing Slaves Of Capital: Spinoza And Marx On Desire Verso; Reprint edition (June 3, 2014)
3. Ballard, J. G. (2012-06-01). The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard (p. 296). Norton. Kindle Edition.

6 thoughts on “Nick Land’s Schizoanalytical Update of Marx’s Critique of Capitalist Accelerationism

    • Yea, he could already see how the knowledge-workers would themselves someday be replaced by the very advance and application of intelligence software-hardware in the future. A man of clarity and true prophet of the coming infopocalypse. … strange and disquieting! Your buddy Andrew Pickering goes into this, too: The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of another Future.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. It is fitting justice that the economic system that is best-suited for America is an economic system that, to me, would soothe the social problems which are extremely volatile right now. If, as a society, we could collectively care for one another and allow the government to provide a supportive paradigm under which all could exist fairly and comfortably, we would be true to the foundations of our society, which society could not exist without the great maintenance of the land by the Native Americans who were lost in war with the Europeans. We should be looking back at the Native American culture and learning what not to do the next time we, as a society, make the discovery of the unknown. The idea is to learn from past mistakes so as not to repeat them. Because looking at the past and repeating the mistakes is a sign of insanity (keep doing what you’re doing with the same result while you look for change is insanity according to Freud I think). If we all help, we all together can restore the naturally beauty of American society.

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