Both Nick Land and Mark Fisher have responses to Alain Badiou’s recent book, Our Wound is Not So Recent: Thinking the Paris Killings, and are available for online/offline reading at Urbanomic’s site.
Nick Land: Sore Losers
Nick Land’s last paragraph in Sore Losers is particularly apropos, attacking Badiou and ISIS for nostalgic slides into dated politics and strategies of false Universalisms, while the real enemy is elsewhere and accelerating beyond such false triumphalist Steampunk and spiteful Cyber-Gothic identitarian alternatives. Land, unlike the cybergothic lyricism of the 90’s, has become more gnomic and impersonal, delving and slicing with the scalpel of a cold and sardonic indifferentism through the fantasias our political and socio-cultural nostalgias:
Spite, or triumphalism, are identitarian confusions, extravagances, and also simply errors that we cannot afford. Our war is far less comprehensively won than theirs is lost. The adversaries that matter—real fascists—have controlled the commanding heights of our societies since the New Deal. The techno-economic dispersion of power remains radically incomplete. Sino-capitalism—momentarily trembling—has yet to re-make the world. The ‘liberation of liberalism’ has scarcely begun. None of this is a concern for Badiou, however, or for the Islamists. It belongs to another story, and—for this is the ultimate, septically enflamed wound—as it runs forwards, ever faster, it is not remotely theirs. (5)
For Land the enemy is what it has always been for the past sixty-odd years: the “Cathedral,” a machine of power, money, and media systems that make up and pervade the global propaganda (“media”), academic, think tanks, and governance (“Bureaucracies, Wall-Street, Bankers, and Politicos…”) systems, that are used by the elite social-capitalists (read: “centralized, economic fascists”) of the world to capture mass (“Consumer”) desires and enslave them to the commercialization of the world through ever-present fear, terror, and war. This sense of Sino-capitalism that he sees in the offing is the divorce of capitalism from democracy, the ‘liberation of liberalism’ as its Cathedral Complex alternative through de-sovereignized and de-nationalized systems of Law and Governance: the Globalized Security Networks which will unbind capitalism from the Nation State Model that has held sway for hundreds of years. And, as he sees in Badiou and ISIS a reversion to nostalgic and outmoded thought forms; both are stuck in the past fighting wars that are marginal at best, and miss the mark altogether concerning what is going on in the accelerating cannibalization of both our future, and the machinic intelligences of our global systems that are emerging to replace us and our species at the top of the food chain. For Land, humanity’s days are numbered, and there truly is only a slow death and marginalization of human aspirations and hopes ahead; instead there is an interminable acknowledgement of the parasitical relationship we have with technics and technology, and that our roles are reversing in this posthuman transitional period in-between one Symbolic Order and the next; and, the possible paths forward for the human species do not harbor well for this organic system as it gives way to those alternative hybrid forms that will replace it.
Mark Fisher: Cybergothic vs. Steampunk
Mark Fisher’s response in Cybergothic vs. Steampunk is toward collective action and belonging, an almost diagnostic return to the caring phenomenology of Heidegger with a molecular twist and update to old socialist dreamscapes and fallacies of hope (is this a return to Ernst Bloch’s Utopianism? or, a deferential nod to McKenzie Wark’s Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene):
But the rising tide of experimental political forms in so many areas of the world at the moment shows that people are rediscovering group consciousness and the potency of the collective. It is now clear that molecular practices of consciousness-raising are not opposed to the indirect action needed to bring about lasting ideological shifts— they are two aspects of a process that is happening on many different time tracks at once. The growing clamour of groups seeking to take control of their own lives portends a long overdue return to a modernity that capital just can’t deliver. New forms of belonging are being discovered and invented, which will in the end show that both steampunk capital and cybergothic ISIS are archaisms, obstructions to a future that is already assembling itself. (3)
You notice the subtle transition from “class consciousness” to “group consciousness,” as if this little wordplay was some kind of magic trick that would obviate the politics of class struggle and move the ball into some elsewhere of discourse beyond the old Left. Nope, not happening, folks… Fisher’s ingenious verbal pyrotechnics is just a watered down socialism which purports to offer a new way. Yet, Fisher would turn the clock back, bring to us a nostalgic revitalization of utopian ‘group consciousness’; one that seems to exist in a paradox: a time-machine (“happening on many different time tracks”), or parallax world of alternative experiments. Is this Pataphysics or a surrealists Marxism; maybe a situationist’s handbag of magical realism? His use of the ‘growing clamour of groups’ reminds one of Badiou’s nod to Deleuze in Deleuze: The Clamor of Being. And, again, — as with so many intellectuals who are unable to think the new, or define a conceptual shift that would truly be a decisive break from the past two-hundred years of failure — he offers us once again the worn out call of a ‘return to a modernity that capital just can’t deliver’? But isn’t capital at the core of modernity? How can this be? And, is he a pure formalist (” New forms of belonging are being discovered and invented”) – are they, or is this just the same old worn out cry of socialist and progressive returns we’ve heard before? Then this constructionism: “to a future that is already assembling itself.” As if there were some integral self-assembly of the future out of what, exactly? Where is the global platform of the Left to actually put into effect some agenda that would be viable? Yes, yes.. he’ll probably point to certain country’s that are showing signs of success; but are they? When one looks around the world we see the globalist economic system has the stranglehold everywhere. And, those countries that exist peripheral to that system or have entered into the Sino-Soviet pact of rogue states, etc. are just as anxious to have a counter-globalist régime to divvy up the remaining land reserves against climate change food sources, mineral and water rights, etc. All part of the continuing civil-war of resources that has been going on for some time now. Maybe Fisher hopes for some self-help socialist philosophy manual of care and belonging, a sort of romantic and nostalgic return to former glories and movements? How is this a possible path forward into the future? Rather it seems a return to the staid old future-past that has been tried many times before, a utopian dream of the future that lives on in thought shadowed forth in socialist dreamscapes of nostalgic glory days, buried in the tyrannies of collective suicide.
Land’s text is, expectedly, rather brilliant. But what is his own stance?
Land is gnomic in this late age, impersonal and cold in his carful sardonic portrayal. The hyperwired writings of the 90’s are gone, now he’s become the purveyor of machinic intellect, cold and calculating. Yet, underneath is still an out and out Spenserian Darwinist (“blood and claw” survival of the fittest, et. al.) – a technocommercialist with a penchant for the acceleration of intelligence or machinic civilization. I think he sees the Neoliberal regimes (or – what he prefers to call, the ‘Cathedral’) as a stop-gap solution onto the last gasp of human existence and civilization as it gives rise to the next evolutionary twist: AGI’s and Machinic Civilization. I don’t think he sees humanity as evolving beyond this stage, and rather sees its demise at the hands of its progeny (or in his take, the retroactive invasive redirection of machinic civilization at the hands of a hyperintelligence that has come back from the future to guide its own emergence). How much is trope, and how much is pure hyperbolic hyperstition I’ll leave up to those who know better than I.
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