accelerationism

There have been endless attempts at shifting from our market-based economy to something more egalitarian and enlightened, but nothing has stuck and some of the larger scale efforts have turned into horrific disasters. Anti-capitalists of various stripes haven’t stopped coming up with theories about how this system could finally fall, however. One of these theories is called accelerationism—the idea is that hyper-stimulation of the market on a mass scale will end with the collapse of capitalism. Consume like crazy, only drink from styrofoam, and throw handfuls of dead batteries into our oceans so the impending apocalypse can hurry up and get over with.

The spread of this idea is rooted in Marx’s belief that capitalism can’t sustain itself forever and will eventually fizzle out. The means by which people will bring about its end are unclear, but that’s where the ideas about accelerationism come from. Accelerationism is essentially the belief that the best way to shorten capitalism’s lifespan is to push it to the extreme. If normal capitalism is Mick Jagger, accelerationism is Jim Morrison.

McKenzie Wark - Afrofuturism and Acceleration

A conversation about radical or progressive futures in the twenty-first century clearly has to be a diverse and global one. Much more so than someone with my limited experience of the world could possibly manage. At least one component of it would have to be that current sometimes labeled Afrofuturism – even if some of the more interesting people making art or writing in such a space might adjure the label.

The term was put in circulation by my friend Mark Dery. But it might name a whole, vast current that arises out of the transnational experience of what Paul Gilroy called the Black Atlantic. Sun Ra might be an exemplary and well-known instance. His Afrofuturism was marked by a double refusal. Firstly, like many in the Afrocentric tradition, he did not identify with the Israelites, but with the Egyptians. He wanted to appear not from the position of the slave, but from a position of power. But secondly, he was much less interested in earthly roots than planetary trajectories. His Africans were from, and belonged in – space.

Perhaps my favorite example of Afrofuturism is Kodwo Eshun’s magnificent book More Brilliant that the Sun (1999). It is sadly out of print – and going second hand for over ninety American dollars – but fortunately it can also be found fairly easily in digital form.

For me, Eshun is a crucial piece of the current now known as Accelerationism. He traced a line through Sun Ra, the Detroit Techno of Underground Resistance and beyond, based on a writing practice he called “speculative acceleration.”

Here he is in conversation back in 2000 with my old friend Geert Lovink

If you’re so caught up in drooling over your fantasies about The Glorious Revolution that you actively encourage the worsening of the lives of everyone around you just so that they’ll get pissed off enough to Become Your Comrade, you actually don’t care about anyone or anything beyond your own stupid ideas, sorry

Whispered into the conservatives’ ear.–This is what was unknown earlier and is known today, or could be known today–a reversion, a reversal in any sense or to any degree is completely impossible. We physiologists, at least, know this. But all priests and moralists have believed in such a thing–they wanted to bring humanity back, wind it back to an earlier measure of virtue. Morality was always a Procrustean bed. Even the politicians have imitated the preachers of virtue in this: even today there are parties whose dream and goal is for everything to do a crab-walk. But no one is free to be a crab. It’s no use: one must go forwards, that is to say, further, step by step, into decadence (this is my definition of modern “progress” …). One can hinder this development, and in this way block up the degeneration, gather it up, make it more vehement and sudden: more than that one cannot do.–
—  Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

Found some notes I took a while back from the Accelerationism conference at Goldsmiths, recordings of which are available in full here. Has a lot of stuff on Nick Land and neoliberalism etc., thought it might be productive to type them up, no matter how shoddy and in some places no doubt grossly innaccurate they are. In fact half of it’s quotes anyway so you’d probs be better off just actually listening to the lectures. Of particular note are Ray Brassier’s and also Benjamin Noys’ (whose book The Persistence of the Negative was really amazing for the first chapter, after which I had to return it due to graduating, thinking I could just go back straight after and get it again, only for it to then be taken by what I assume is a member of the academic staff until July 2012).

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Mark Fisher

— Fisher admits some may see Land as ‘waving a flag in support of capitalism as its juggernaut rushes right past him’ though he points out that most traditional left-wing strategies are just as useless, tending to stand right in the juggernaut’s path. [c.f. Debord’s later obsession with the charge of the light brigade perhaps]

— Land as a 'cheerleader’ for capitalism is absurd, for if capitalism advertised itself as it is, this 'remorseless Terminator' deterritorialising everything and metabolising human intelligence, it could never actually work. It relies on the utterly banal cultural conditions of advertising and PR for its functioning, and rather than leading to an anonymous deterrirotiralisation of subjectivity and individuality, it instead leads to and perhaps requires the production of a banal biographical individualism, improvising increasingly inane forms of new subjective personalisation. [c.f. self-identity in the age of social media, muumuu house (Tao Lin et al), this SI quote from 'Report on the Construction of Situations’:

This process of supersession has made the author’s life more and more important in relation to his work. Then, the period of significant expressions having reached its ultimate reduction, the only remaining possibility of importance is the personage of the author who, rightly, could no longer have anything noteworthy other than his age, a fashionable vice, or an old, picturesque occupation.

Also Kauffmann in Revolution in the service of poetry RE: the lifestyle and requirements of a contemporary author in market capitalism leaving them no time or resources to actually lead the kind of interesting life that might be worth writing about.]

— Accelerationism would entail a form of militancy that could “be the Terminator back” at capital, an equally ruthless 'counter-remorselessness’ against capitalism. [Many wistful leftist types perhaps need to give this attitude of Land’s more thought, as if the reality of capitalism is a web of amoral inhuman networks, then it’s simply meaningless and ineffective to try and pit a sensitive romantic affirmation of humanity against it, which is anyway rather easily commodified or dismissed in its turn, various forms of human subjectivity being just another raw material for the processes of capital. c.f. Land in 'Machinic Desire’:

The obsolete psychological category of 'greed’ privatizes and moralizes addiction, as if the profit-seeking tropism of a transnational capitalism propagating itself through epidemic consumerism were intelligble in terms of personal subjective traits. Wanting more is the index of interlock with cyberpositive machinic processes, and not the expression of private idiosyncrasy. What could be more impersonal - disinterested - than a haut bourgeois capital expansion servo-mechanism striving to double $10 billion? And even these creatures are dissapearing into silicon viro-finance automatisms, where massively distrubuted and anonymized human ownership has become as vacuously nominal as democratic sovereignty. 

(in Fanged Noumena, p. 337)]

— A certain 'de-commodification’ coming through capitalism with, for instance, the internet and music, as less people bother respecting the commodity form and actually paying for it, and more artists start breaking out of industry structures. Key is to instrumentalise these things which, while being products of capitalsim, are nevertheless beginning to break through its defining principles and start doing what capitalism could never do. [c.f. Fisher's No Time talk at the Virtual Futures re-boot]

— Neoliberal thinkers etc. did genuinely change the world, the thing to learn from them is how. 

— We can’t appeal to some exteriority, we must start from the neoliberal reality in which we are embedded; criticise neoliberalism for not actually being the accelerationist capitalism it claimed to be?

+++++

Ray Brassier (His talk is long and a little dense and I only noted down a few things so there’s a lot of interesting stuff missing here and I’ll probably re-listen at somepoint. Excellent other piece to for anyone interested would be the 50-odd page intro to Fanged Noumena he did with Mackay which gives a detailed outline of Land’s project which in many ways is the main topic of this talk.)

— Land as advocating a kind of absolute-practice which in actuality is as practically impotent as the most abstract theory, with the imperative to simply act without any strategy/tactics no better than burying oneself in the academy and never doing anything [at least I think this is what he’s saying].

— Land like a 'dog chasing its own tail’ as he sought a form of writing which would transcode the intensities of praxis etc.

— Considers Land not entirely successful in wresting the negative from the 'affirmationist concensus’ that Noys attacks in Persistence of the Negative, though he certainly made a powerful and mostly consistent attempt, as he tried excising from Deleuze all of his Bergsonian vitalism.

— Brassier says that, unlike Land, he insists on the need for theory as a rational space for the working through of relations between representation, theory, practice etc., to “generate a locus of rational agency; keep a space of subjectivation open, providing a prism/prison[?] for practical incission, for a point of insertion … to maintain a kind of rationality that necessitates transformation at the level of practical existence.”

 +++++

Benjamin Noys

— Funny opening @Fisher, “you say 'everyone’s an accelerationist’; I’m not.”

— Marxism isn’t accelerationism. “Accepting capitalism as the condition of communism does not require the absolutisation of capitalism as communism, it’s a mistake to conflate those two positions.”

— Attacks devoted fanboyish elevation of Land based on his wild experimentalism [guilty!] by saying “I understand where people are coming from but unlike Mark I don’t think there’s anything particularly noble about inhabiting a wrong position until it’s wronger and wronger, more and more false.”

— Rejects Land’s position as based on a particular 'incoherent dualism’ [which I think is outlined in Brassier’s talk so another reason to re-listen…]

— Land’s accelerationism as a deepening of neoliberalism. Fails to understand it and capitalism. Demands that every part of society must become goverened by the market form.

“In this valorisation of production coded as ontological power, or power unleashed, nothing is grasped of the fundamental stasis of capitalism, how its accumulation is not fundamentally creative, but rather an inertial drift. In these paired arguments capitalism is at once deflated into a mere integument - a skin we can break through - and inflated in its creative power, and I think this is the antinomy of accelerationism.”

— “The blind idiocy of the market is translated as an Azathothic immanence.”

— The 'hymning’ of impersonal processes means it is incompatible with any left-wing projects, which at a minimum assume some degree of human self-determination regarding forms of social life. 

— Error in treating the state as a parasite on markets rather than their fundamnetal condition for existence. [c.f. lots of stuff none of which I can find at the moment but which all shows how money and markets often initially emerged precisely because of the needs of the state, like increasing efficiency of resource distribution to the army or as a way of collecting taxes etc.]

— “Fetishisation of sino-capitalism and its lack of judaeo-christian hang-ups”. Poverty of theoretical moment unable to construct new rationality, so it wallows in recent capitalism’s own irrationalities. [makes sense with Land given how even Fisher talks in a comment on Hyperstition somewhere of his distaste for Land’s first book The Thirst for Annihilation, which he characterises as ridden by a tiresome Catholic-guilt complex, which is def. the case in certain chapters (I’m looking at you Easter), but on the whole I think its more important to understanding Land’s later stuff RE: capitalism/politics etc. than a lot of people realise, though this is something I’m still working through.]

— Land’s accelerationism as ultimately a “Deleuzian Thatcherism”. [lol]

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Nick Srnicek

— “The unique form of capitalist valorisation is no longer the commodity form, but the capitalisation form.”

— Global economy is largely monopolistic. Neoliberalism is therefore wrong regarding free 'competitive’ markets, as you often simply have large transnational blocks of independent capital, like big nationless states.

— Neoliberalism reverses accelerationism’s inhumanism, “but not in the name of some universal humanity”. Instead it intensifies the subjectivation of profit and power. “Neoliberalism becomes, not a system of inhuman market dynamics, but a profoundly human system of power”.

— "Neoliberalism emerges as a refutation of the accelerationist tendancies of capital". Re-use accelerationism as neo-liberalism against itself? 

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Alex Williams

— Land’s 'libinal materialism’ [c.f. preface to Thirst for Annihiliation] as close precursor to 'speculative realism’. [Brassier probably wouldn’t have liked hearing that]

— Capital for Land as assault on the social through increasingly incomprehensible 'experiments’ in commodification.

— Land objures moralism in favour of fatalism. In no way an 'apologist’ for capitalism, “since his conception of it offers nothing intelligible to an anthropocentric agenda”. 

— Land as post-Marxist in the sense that the proletariat is no longer the subject of history, but “capital itself is the 'non’ or 'alien(ated)’ subject and humanity as a kind of mere excrescence, its subjectivity a sick cosmic joke”. [c.f. Zapffe, who argued consciousness literally arose as a kind of cosmic glitch, which can only end up asking questions it sees as vitally important yet to which there is no possible answer]

— Land has same view of capital as Marx, a “gothic imaging as self-augmenting vampiric force.”

— Corporation as inhuman but self-preserving, blocking Land’s vision of capital.

— Proposes work towards a “Left-Landianism”. [yes plz]

— “Post-Sartrean, continental understanding of politics - the subject acts as 'cut’ in the world, self-initiating, rational starting point from which radical transformations can be enacted.’ This model as out of place with Land’s 'virulent’ anthropomorphism. [?! probably meant anti-anthropomorphism; should double check I didn’t mishear or something.]

— Key with Land is that, just as capital is seen as an impersonal force puppetering humans, so politics should perhaps be thought in similar terms, with a logic which is not strictly anthropormorphic despite being made up of human subjects.

— Two ways of looking at politics in this way might be the undermining and overmining of the human subject: looking down towards sub-personal processes, as well as outwards at complex networks across assemblages.

2

Politics must be treated as a set of dynamic systems, riven with conflict, adaptations and counter-​adaptations, and strategic arms races. This means that each individual type of political action becomes blunted and ineffective over time as the other sides adapt. No given mode of political action is historically inviolable. Indeed, over time, there is an increasing need to discard familiar tactics as the forces and entities they are marshalled against learn to defend and counter-​attack them effectively. It is in part the contemporary left’s inability to do so which lies close to the heart of the contemporary malaise.

#accelerate manifesto, alex williams and nick srnicek

an iww rally in the 1900s versus an iww rally today

Tired of these American so called communists and socialists that refuse to vote because all they can think about is revolution instead of doing everything they can to alleviate the suffering of the working class.

There might not be a candidate that represents true socialist ideals but there’s sure as hell at least one that will actually help the proletariat much more than any of the other candidates. Only so called communists from bourgeoisie and petite bourgeoisie backgrounds care more about discussing revolution than actually advancing the cause of the working class because their privilege allows them the luxury not to vote. You can bet your ass that actual working class communists will be participating in the upcoming election because they know they can improve their plight with strategic voting rather than waiting for a revolution that may not come in their lifetime.

CYBERIAN WASTELANDS: an essay proposal

The future is xeno’s arrow shot at a black hole – infinitely and intimately drawing nearer to some dread horizon beyond which survival is unthinkable. It tempts us with unending territories of experience and infinite spirals of intensities. What are the implications of infinite growth for bodies living in a system with finite resources? Growth beyond limits, beyond death – beyond hope?

In mechanical systems, we understand that the drive towards infinity is an apocalyptic one. A positive feedback loop in a speaker system will destroy first its message, drowning out signal in incomprehensible noise, and then the physical structure of the system itself, as the magnitude and intensity of the waste output exceed the limits of the system. An intensity of waste accumulates exponentially, accelerating its own production until it can no longer be sustained. Collapse is inevitable.

In human systems, too, loops of positive feedback form and hurtle us, howling, into new realms of possibility. Genocide spirals. Death lusts. Capital hungers.  A circuit is formed between human bodies and the production of capital, burning bodies and labour value. Between humans and something exterior, something outside of ourselves and outside of our control. Capitalism as a dark god at the end of time, a technology fed on viscera splattering the neutron-mist of universal heat-death with human remains. As soon as the circuitry we inhabit feeds back into itself we ride a tidal wave of waste output into the unrecognisable future – a postapocalypse drowned in the wreckage of a planet unable to sustain the fervour with which it produced. Positive feedback is the vector by which the apocalyptic future infects the past with itself, bringing about its own existence.

Feedback loops rewind causality – a postcybernetic operation in which the future is already determined but the present is a chaos of potential. Technologies proliferate like telomeres in a lung tumour, overseen by spirits of cigarette ash and photochemical smog. The sunset flickers between widening cracks in the skyline. The future #accelerates. And in a final blueshifted vision of our fate, they loom up and around us, inside us, inevitable and inescapable – CYBERIAN WASTELANDS.



(drawing on systems management theory, postcolonial theory, tikanga Māori, scifi, sociocybernetics and the mania of typing with a broken arm, i hope to explore in detail the role of positive feedback loops in producing waste, and what this might mean for those of us living in an era of production which accelerates beyond comprehension.)

To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities - I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not - that one endures.
—  Nietzsche
…nobody has power over the totality as totality any more! The biosphere is in decline as a result of a mass of private interests competing to chop it into bits of exchange value. The challenge is to claim the totality, to open it, to put modernity back in play as a space affording more than one path to a viable future.
—  McKenzie Wark, Celerity: A Critique of the Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics