The Accelerationist Reader
Robin Mackay + Armen Avanessian
In the 90s the demonic alliance with capital’s deterritorializing forces and the formal ferment it provoked in writing was pursued yet further by a small group of thinkers in the UK. Following Lyotard’s lead, the authors of this third section attempt not simply to diagnose, but to propagate and accelerate the destitution of the human subject and its integration into the artificial mechanosphere. It is immediately apparent from the opening of Nick Land’s ‘Circuitries’ that a darkness has descended over the festive atmosphere of desiring-production envisaged by the likes of Deleuze and Guattari, Lyotard and Lipovetsky. At the dawn of the emergence of the global digital technology network, these thinkers, rediscovering and reinterpreting the work of the latter, develop it into an antihumanist anastrophism. Their texts relish its most violent and dark implications, and espouse radical alienation as the only escape from a human inheritance that amounts to imprisonment in a biodespotic security compound to which only capital has the access code. From this point of view, it seems that the terminal stages of libidinal economics (as affirmation) mistook the transfer of all motive force from human subjects to capital as the inauguration of an aleatory drift, an emancipation for the human; while postmodernism can do no more than mourn this miscognition, accelerationism now gleefully explores what is escaping from human civilization, viewing modernity as an ‘anastrophic’ collapse into the future, as outlined in Sadie Plant + Nick Land’s ‘Cyberpositive’.
The radical shift in tone and thematics, despite conceptual continuities, can be related to the intervening hiatus: What differed from the situation in France one or two decades earlier? Precisely that, particularly in popular culture in the uk, a certain relish for the ‘inconceivable alienations’ outputted by the monstrous machine-organism built by capital had emerged—along with a manifest disinterest in being ‘saved’ from it by intellectuals or politicians, Marxist or otherwise. Of particular note here as major factors in the development of this new brand of accelerationism were the collective pharmaco-sociosensory-technological adventure of rave and drugs culture, and the concurrent invasion of the home environment by media technologies (vcrs, videogames, computers) and popular investment in dystopian cyberpunk sf, including William Gibson’s Neuromancer trilogy and the Terminator, Predator and Bladerunner movies (which all became key ‘texts’ for these writers). As Ballard had predicted, sf had become the only medium capable of addressing the disorienting reality of the present: everything is sf, spreading like cancer.
90s cyberculture employed these sonic, filmic and novelistic fictions to turbocharge libidinal economics, attaching it primarily to the interlocking regimes of commerce and digitization, and thanatizing Lyotard’s jouissance by valorizing a set of aesthetic affects that locked the human sensorium into a catastrophic desire for its dispersal into machinic delirium. The dystopian strains of darkside and jungle intensified alienation by sampling and looping the disturbing invocations of sf movie narratives; accordingly the cyberculture authors side not with the human but with the Terminator, the cyborg prosecuting a future war on the battleground of now, travelling back in time to eliminate human resistance to the rise of the machines; with Terminator II’s future hyperfluid commercium figured as a ‘mimetic polyalloy’ capable of camouflaging itself as any object in order to infiltrate the present; and against the Bladerunner, ally of Old Bearded Prosecutor Marx, agent of biodespotic defense, charged with preventing the authentic, the human, from irreversible contamination (machinic incest), tasked with securing the ’retention of [the fictitious figure of] natural humanity’ or organic labour.
Rediscovering Lipovetsky’s repetitious production of interiority and identity on the libidinal surface in the figure of a ‘negative cybernetics’ dedicated to ‘command and control’, cyberculture counters it with a ‘positive cybernetics’ embodied in the runaway circuits of modernity, in which ‘time itself is looped’ and the only command is that of the feverishly churning virtual futurity of capital as it disassembles the past and rewrites the present. Against an ‘immunopolitics’ that insists on continually reinscribing the prophylactic boundary between human and its technological other in a futile attempt to shore up the ‘Human Security System’, it scans the darkest vistas of earlier machinic deliriums, echoing Butler in anticipating the end of ‘the human dominion of terrestrial culture’, welcoming the fatal inevitability of a looming nonhuman intelligence: Terminator’s Skynet, Marx’s fantastic ‘virtuous soul’ refigured as a malign global ai from the future whose fictioning is the only perspective from which contemporary reality makes sense.
This jungle war fought between immunopolitics and cyborg insurgency, evacuating the stage of politics, realises within theory the literal welding of the punk No with the looped-up machinic positivity of the cyber—‘No demands. No hint of strategy. No logic. No hopes. No end…No community. No dialectics. No plans for an alternative state’ (ccru)—in a deliberate culmination of the most ‘evil’ tendencies of accelerationism. Beyond a mere description of these processes, this provocation employs theory and fiction interchangeably, according to a remix-and-sample regime, as devices to construct the future it invokes. Thus the performance-assemblages of the collective Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (ccru), of which the hypersemically overloaded texts here (‘text at sample velocity’) were only partial components.
The final section documents the contemporary convergence toward which the volume as a whole is oriented. While distancing itself from mere technological optimism, contemporary accelerationism retains an antipathy, a disgust even, for retreatist solutions, and an ambitious interest in reshaping and repurposing (rather than refusing) the technologies that are the historical product of capitalism. What is most conspicuously jettisoned from 70s and 90s accelerationism is the tendency to reduce theoretical positions to libidinal figures. Gone is the attempt to write with rather than about the contemporary moment, and a call for Enlightenment values and an apparently imperious rationalism make an unexpected appearance. If prima facie at odds with the enthusiastic nihilism of its forerunners, however, today’s accelerationisms can be seen as a refinement and rethinking of them through the prism of the decades that spanned the end of the twentieth century and the birth of the twenty-first. Broadly speaking, today the anarchistic tendencies of ‘French Theory’ are tempered by a concern with the appropriation of sociotechnological infrastructure and the design of post-capitalist economic platforms, and the antihumanism of the cyberculture era is transformed, through its synthesis with the Promethean humanism found in the likes of Marx and Fedorov, into a rationalist inhumanism.
Once again this apparent rupture can be understood through consideration of the intervening period, which had seen the wholesale digestion by the capitalist spectacle of the yearning for extracapitalistic spaces, from ‘creativity’ to ethical consumerism to political horizontalism, all of which capitalism had cheerfully supplied. In a strange reversal of cyberculture’s prognostications, technology and the new modes of monetization now inseparable from it ushered in a banal resocialisation process, a reinstalling of the most confining and identitarian ‘neo-archaisms’ of the human operating system. Even as they do the integrative work of Skynet, the very brand names of this ascendent regime—iPod, Myspace, Facebook—ridicule cyberculture’s aspiration to vicariously participate in a dehumanising adventure: instead, we (indistinguishably) work for and consume it as a new breed of autospectacularized all-too-human being. At the same time as these social neo-archaisms lock in, the depredations of capital pose an existential risk to humanity, while finance capital itself is in crisis, unable to bank on the future yet continuing to colonise it through instruments whose operations far outstrip human cognition. All the while, an apparently irreversible market cannibalization of what is left of the public sector and the absorption of the state into a corporate form continues worldwide, to the troubling absence of any coherent alternative. In short, it is not that the decoding and deterritoralization processes envisioned in the 70s, and the digital subsumption relished in the 90s, did not take place: only that the promise of enjoyment, the rise of an ‘unserviceable’ youth, new fields of dehumanised experience, ‘more dancing and less piety’, were efficiently rerouted back into the very identitarian attractors of repetition-without-difference they were supposed to disperse and abolish, in sole favour of capital’s investment in a stable future for its major beneficiaries.
When Mark Fisher, former member of ccru, returned in 2012 to the questions of accelerationism, outlining the current inconsistency and disarray in left political thought, the notion of a ‘left accelerationism’ seemed an absurdity. And yet, as Fisher asks, who wants or truly believes in some kind of return to a past that can only be an artefact of the imaginary of capitalism itself? As Plant and Land had asked: ‘To what could we wish to return?’ The intensification of sociotechnological integration has gone hand in hand with a negative theology of an outside of capital; as Fisher remarks, the escapist nostalgia for a precapitalist world that mars political protest is also embedded in popular culture’s simulations of the past. The accelerationist dystopia of Terminator has been replaced by the primitivist yearnings of Avatar. Fisher therefore states that, in so far as we seek egress from the immiseration of capitalist realism, ‘we are all accelerationists’; and yet, he challenges, ‘accelerationism has never happened’ as a real political force. That is, insofar as we do not fall into a number of downright inconsistent and impossible positions, we must indeed, be ‘all accelerationists’, and this heresy must form part of any anticapitalist strategy.
A renewed accelerationism, then, would have to work through the fact that the energumen capital stirred up by Lyotard and co. ultimately delivered what Fisher has famously called ‘capitalist realism’.4 And that, if one were to maintain the accelerationist gambit à la cyberculture at this point, it would simply amount to taking up arms for capitalist realism itself, rebuffing the complaint that capitalism did not deliver as sheer miserablism (Compared to what? And after all, what is the alternative?) and retracting the promises of jouissance and ‘inconceivable alienations’ as narcissistic demands that have no place in an inhuman process (Isn’t it enough that you’re working for the Terminator, you want to enjoy it too?)—a dilemma that opens up a wider debate regarding the relation between aesthetic enjoyment and theoretical purchase in earlier accelerationism.
Alex Williams + Nick Srnicek’s ‘#Accelerate: Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics’ can be read as an attempt to honour Fisher’s demand for a contemporary left accelerationist position. In provocation of the contemporary Left’s often endemic technological illiteracy, Srnicek and Williams insist on the necessity of precise cognitive mapping, and thus epistemic acceleration, for any progressive political theory and action today. With full confidence that alternatives are thinkable, they state the obvious, namely that neoliberal capitalism is not just unfair or unjust as a system, but is no longer a guarantor of dynamism or progress.
Intended as a first draft of a longer theoretical and political project, map found immediate notoriety (being translated into numerous languages within months of appearing online) but was also criticised for not yet offering new solutions beyond focussing on three general demands: firstly for the creation of a new intellectual infrastructure, secondly for far-reaching media reform, and thirdly for the reconstitution of new forms of class power. Following the example of Marx— according to them a ‘paradigmatic accelerationist thinker’—Wiliams and Srnicek attempt to overcome the mistrust of technology on the left in the last decades. And closely affiliated to the rationalist wing of current speculative philosophy, they adopt the topos of ‘folk psychology’ for their polemic against a folk politics, opposing a politics based on inherited and intuitively ready-to-hand categories with an accelerationist politics that conceives its program on the basis of ‘a modernity of abstraction, complexity, globality, and technology’ that outstrips such categories.
A key element of any left Promethean politics must be a conviction in a transformative potential of technology, including the ‘transformative anthropology’ it entails, and an eagerness to further accelerate technological evolution. Thus this new accelerationism is largely dependent on maturing our understanding of the current regime of technology and value. Even though Antonio Negri’s response is critical of what he calls the ‘technological determinism’ of the Manifesto, he agrees that the most crucial passage of the manifesto—concerning the relation between machinic surplus value and social cooperation—cannot really be understood independently of the technological dimension implied. Clearly it is not enough to valorize the ‘real’ human force of labour over the perversions of technocapital or to attempt to recover it: if ‘the surplus added in production is derived primarily from socially productive cooperation’, as Negri says, and if it must be admitted that this cooperation is technically mediated, then the project of reappropriation cannot circumvent the necessity to deal with the specific ‘material and technical qualities’ that characterise this fixed capital today.
With Negri’s response, the first of several contributions by Italian authors linked to ‘post-operaismo’ who address precisely this point, we are dealing with a tradition that is already heretical to official Marxism. Both in theory and in political practice the ‘operaismo’ (workerism) of the 1960s and 70s was opposed to official party politics and its focus on the state. Operaism’s molecular politics, focused on concrete activities in factories, is also the background for recent (post-operaistic) investigations of immaterial labour and biopower. In the present context this tradition contributes towards a greater insight into the nature of technological change (an insight which also owes something to the bitter experience following early optimism with regard to the Internet’s liberatory possibilities). This allows a much subtler reading of the relation between technology and acceleration than cyberculture’s championing of positive feedback and networks, which in certain ways reiterates the horizontalism of Lyotard’s metaphysics of the flat ‘libidinal band’. Not only has this horizontalism (as map indicates) been an ineffective paradigm for political intervention, it also significantly misrepresents the mode of operation of ‘network technology’ in general. For the latter’s technological and subjectivizing power (as substantially anticipated in Veblen) resides in the progressive and hierarchical ‘locking in’ of standardized hardware and software protocols each of which cannot be understood as means to a particular end, but rather present an open set of possibilities.
Tiziana Terranova suggests a reappropriation of this logic in the form of a ‘red stack’ bringing together the types of autonomous electronic currencies that are currently emerging outside the bounds of nation-state or corporate governance, social media technology, and the ‘bio-hypermedia’ that is thriving in the interference zone between digital and bodily identities. This vision of a digital infrastructure of the common enacts map’s shift from abstract political theory (‘this is not a utopia’) to an experimental collaboration with design, engineering, and programming so as to activate the latent potential of these technologies in the direction of another socius.
In ‘finally grasp[ing] the shift from the hegemony of material labour to the hegemony of immaterial labour’ (Negri), a particular focus is the increased importance of the algorithm as the general machine regime in the information economy, which takes the baton from Marx and Veblen’s ‘machine system’ in continually accumulating, integrating, linking and synergizing ‘informational fixed capital’ at every level of collective production, commercial circulation and consumption. As has been widely discussed, the rise of the algorithm runs parallel to the visible absorption into the integrated machine system of human cognitive and affective capacities, which are also now (in Marx’s words) ‘set in motion by an automaton’—or rather a global swarm of abstract automata. The algorithms at work in social media technologies and beyond present an acute test case for reappropriation. Unlike heavy metal machines, algorithms do not themselves embody a value, but rather are valuable in so far as they allow value to be extracted from social interaction: the real fixed capital today, as Negri suggests, is the value produced through intensive technically coordinated cooperation, producing a ‘surplus beyond the sum’ of its parts (the ‘network externalities’ which economists agree are the source of value in a ‘connected economy’).
To reduce of the value of software to its capacity for monetization, as Terranova suggests, leaves unspoken the enthusiasm and creativity in evidence in open source software movements. Perhaps the latter are better thought of as a collective practice of supererogation seizing on the wealth of opportunities already produced by capitalism as a historical product, in the form of hardware and software platforms, and which breaks the loop whereby this wealth is reabsorbed into the cycles of exchange value. This invocation of the open-source movement is a powerful reminder that there are indeed other motivating value systems that may provide the ‘libidinizing impulse’ that Fisher calls for in the search for alternative constructions; it also recalls Firestone’s call for a cultural revolution in which the distinction between aesthetic imagination and technical construction is effaced.
Next Luciana Parisi turns to computational design to ask what we can learn from the new cutting-edge modes of production that are developing today. Carefully paring apart the computational processes from their ideological representations, Parisi suggests that these new computational processes do indeed present a significant break from a model of rationality that seeks command and control through the top-down imposition of universal laws, aiming to symbolically condense and circumscribe a system’s behaviour and organization. And yet computation driven by material organization cannot be regarded as simply entering into a dynamic immanence with the ‘intelligence of matter’. Rather, these algorithmic operations have their own logic, and open up an artificial space of functions, a ‘second nature’. For Parisi these developments in design figure the more general movement toward systems whose accelerated and extended search and evaluation capabilities (for example in ‘big data’ applications) suggest a profound shift within the conception of computation itself.
It is often claimed that through such advanced methods accelerated technocapital invests the entire field of material nature, completely beyond the human field of perception. Such a strict dichotomy, Parisi argues, loses sight of the reality of abstraction in the order of algorithmic reason itself, moving too quickly from the Laplacean universe of mechanism governed by absolute laws to a vitalist universe of emergent materiality. Instead, as Parisi argues, the action of algorithms opens up a space of speculative reason as a Whiteheadian ‘adventure of ideas’ in which the counter-agency of reason is present as a motor for experimentation and the extraction of novelty.
Reza Negarestani addresses a related dichotomy to the one Parisi critiques, and which lies behind contemporary political defeatism and inertia—namely, the choice between either equating rationality with a discredited and malign notion of absolute mastery, or abandoning all claim for the special status of human sapience and rationality. In the grip of this dichotomy, any possible platform for political claims is nullified. Rather than an abdication of politics, for Negarestani accelerationism must be understood precisely as the making possible of politics through the refusal of such a false alternative. In ‘The Labor of the Inhuman’, he sets out a precise argument to counter the general trend to identify the overcoming of anthropomorphism and human arrogance with a negation of the special status of the human and the capacities of reason.
The predicament of a politics after the death of god and in the face of real subsumption—and the temptation either to destitute subjectivity, leaving the human as a mere cybernetic relay, or to cling to obsolete political prescriptions made on the basis of obsolete folk models of agency—is stripped down by Negarestani to its epistemic and functional kernel. Drawing on the normative functionalism of Wilfrid Sellars and Robert Brandom, he criticizes the antihumanism of earlier accelerationisms as an overreaction no less nihilistically impotent than a yearning for substantial definitions of the human. In their place Negarestani proposes an ‘inhumanism’ that emerges once the question of what it means to be human is correctly posed, ‘in the context of uses and practices’.
What is specific to the human is its access to the symbolic and sociotechnological means to participate in the construction and revision of norms; the task of exploring what ‘we’ are is therefore an ongoing labour whose iterative loops of concept and action yield ‘nonmonotonic’ outcomes. In this sense, understanding and committing to the human is synonymous with revising and constructing the human. Far from involving a voluntaristic impulse to ‘freedom’, this labour entails the navigation of a constraining field of collateral commitments and ramifications, through which the human responds to the demands of an agency (reason) that has no interest in preserving the initial self-image of the human, but whose unforeseeable ramifications are unfolded through the human—‘a future that writes its own past’ in so far as one views present commitments from the perspective of their future ramifications, yielding each time a new understanding of past actions.
In other words, whereas the human cannot ‘accelerate’ within the strictures of its inherited image, in merely rejecting reason it abdicates the possibility of revising this image at all. Acceleration takes place when and in so far as the human repeatedly affirms its commitment to being impersonally piloted, not by capital, but by a program which demands that it cede control to collective revision, and which draws it towards an inhuman future that will prove to have ‘always’ been the meaning of the human. ‘A commitment works its way back from the future’, and inconceivable vistas of intelligence open up through the ‘common task’ or duty of the labour of the inhuman.
In the absence of this indispensable platform of commitment and revision, Negarestani insists, no politics, however shrill its protestations and however severe its prescriptions, has the necessary motor with which to carry a project forward—indeed it is this inability to ‘cope with the consequences of committing to the real content of humanity’ that is according to him at the root of today’s political inertia. In effect, then, Negarestani re-places the infinite will-without-finality within reason rather than capital, and rethinks the inhuman futural feedback process through which it conducts human history not as a thanatropic compulsion but as social participation in the progressive and self-cultivating anastrophism of in/humanity.
Design strategist Benedict Singleton, in a contemporary return to Fedorov’s project, rethinks the question of the mastery of nature through the question of perhaps humankind’s most Promethean project: space exploration. Continuing Negarestani’s examination of the pragmatic momentum that drives a continual opening up of new frontiers of action, he finds in the logic of design a way to think this ‘escape’ otherwise than in the form of a creative ‘leap of faith’: as an ‘escapology not an escapism’, a twisted path in which the stabilisation of new invariants provides the basis for new modes of action, and, reciprocally, new modes of action and new instruments for cognition enable new perspectives on where we have come from and where we are going: design is a dense and ramified leveraging of the environment that makes possible the startling clarity of new observables, as well as enabling the transformation of apparently natural constants into manipulable variables required for constructing new worlds.
Drawing out a language of scheming, crafting, and plotting that declares itself quite clearly in the vocabulary surrounding design, but which has been studiously ignored by a design theory rather too keen to ingratiate itself with humanist circles, Singleton elaborates a counter-history of design that affirms this plotting or manipulative mode of thought, and even its connotations of deception, drawing on Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant’s unearthing of the Greek notion of mêtis—‘cunning intelligence’. As Singleton suggests, mêtis is exemplified in the trap, which sees the predator adopting the point of view of the prey so that its own behaviour is harnessed to ensure its extinction. Mêtis thus equates to a practice in which, in the absence of complete information, the adoption of hypothetical perspectives enables a transformation of the environment—which in turn provides opportunities for further ruses, seeking to power its advance by craftily harnessing the factors of the environment and its expected behaviours to its own advantage.
Important here is the distinguishing of this ‘platform logic’ from a means-end ‘planning’ model of design. In altering the parameters of the environment in order to create new spaces upon which yet more invention can be brought to bear, cunning intelligence gradually twists free of the conditions in which it finds itself ‘naturally’ ensnared, generating paths to an outside that does not conform to the infinite homothetism of ‘more of the same’ but instead opens up onto a series of convoluted plot twists—precisely the ramifying paths of the ‘labour of the inhuman’ described by Negarestani. Ultimately this escapology, Singleton insists, requires an abduction of ourselves by perspectives that relativize our spontaneous phenomenal grasp of the environment. Echoing Fedorov, he calls for a return to an audacity that, far from seeking to ‘live in harmony with nature’, seeks to spring man out of his proper place in the natural order so as to accelerate toward ever more alien spaces.
Taking up this Promethean theme, Ray Brassier launches a swingeing critique of some of the absurd consequences entailed by the countervailing call to humility, and uncovers their ultimately theological justification. Whence the antipathy toward any project of remaking the world, the hostility to the normative claim that not only ought things to be different but that they ought to be made different? Examining Jean-Pierre Dupuy’s critique of human enhancement, Brassier shows how the inflation of human difference into ontological difference necessitates the same transcendental policing that Iain Hamilton Grant explores in his reading of Bladerunner: what is given— the inherited image of the human and human society assumed as transcendental bond—shall by no means be made or indeed remade. Certain limits must be placed on the ability of the human to revise its own definition, on pain of disturbing a certain ‘fragile equilibrium’. As Brassier remarks, since the conception of what a human can be and should tolerate is demonstrably historical, it is only possible to understand this invocation of a proper balance or limit as a theological sentiment. This reservation of an unconceptualisable transcendence beyond the limits of manipulation devolves into a farcical discourse on the ‘reasonableness’ of the suffering inflicted by nature’s indifference to the human—a suffering, subjection, and finitude which is understood to provide a precious resource of meaning for human life. However Prometheanism consists precisely both in the refusal of this incoherency and in the affirmation that the core of the human project consists in generating new orientations and ends—as in Negarestani’s account of the production and consumption of norms, echoed here in the ‘subjectivism without selfhood […] autonomy without voluntarism’ that Brassier intimates must lie at the core of Prometheanism. The productivism of Marx, too, as Brassier reminds us, holds mankind capable of forging its own truth, of knowing and controlling that which is given to it, and of remaking it. Like Negarestani, Brassier holds that the essential project here is one of integrating a descriptive account of the objective (not transcendental) constitution of rational subjectivation with an advocacy of the rational subject’s accession to self-mastery.
Against these new approaches, Nick Land, in ‘Teleoplexy’, insists that it is the practice of forward-looking capitalization alone that can produce the futural dynamic of acceleration. Against Williams and Srnicek, for whom ‘capitalism cannot be identified as the agent of true acceleration’, and Negarestani, for whom the space of reasons is the future source from which intelligence assembles itself, Land argues that the complex positive feedback instantiated in market pricing mechanisms is the only possible referent for acceleration. And since it is capitalization alone that gives onto the future, the very question What do we want—the very conception of a conditional accelerationism and the concomitant assertion, made by both map and Negri, that ‘planning is necessary’ in order to instrumentalise knowledge into action—for Land amounts to nothing but a call for a compensatory movement to counteract acceleration. For him it is the state and politics per se that constitute constraints, not ‘capital’; and therefore the claim that ‘capitalism has begun to constrain the productive forces of technology’ is senseless. Land’s ‘right accelerationism’ appears here as an inverted counterpart to the communitarian retreat in the face of real subsumption: like the latter, it accepts that the historical genesis of technology in capitalism precludes the latter from any role in a postcapitalist future. If at its most radical accelerationism claims, in Camatte’s words, that ‘there can be a revolution that is not for the human’ and draws the consequences of this, then one can either take the side of an inherited image of the human against the universal history of capital and dream of ‘leaving this world’, or one can accept that ‘the means of production are going for a revolution on their own’. This reappearance of accelerationism in its form as a foil for the Left (even left-accelerationism), with Land still fulfilling his role as ‘the kind of antagonist that the left needs’ (Fisher), rightly places the onus on the new accelerationisms to show how, between a prescription for nothing but despair and a excitable description that, at most, contributes infinitesimally to Skynet’s burgeoning selfawareness, a space for action can be constructed.
If ‘left accelerationism’ is to succeed in ‘unleashing latent productive forces’, and if its putative use of ‘existing infrastructure as a springboard to launch towards postcapitalism’ is to issue (even speculatively) in anything but a centralized bureaucracy administering the decaying empty shell of the historical product of capitalism, then the question of incentives and of an alternative feedback loop to that of capitalization will be central. This is one of the ‘prescriptions’ that Patricia Reed makes in her review of the potentials and lacunae of the Manifesto that concludes our volume. Among her other interventions is the suggestion that a corrective may be in order to address the more unpalatable undertones of its relaunch of the modern—a new, less violent model of universalisation. It also does not pass unnoticed by Reed that the map’s rhetoric is
It also does not pass unnoticed by Reed that the map’s rhetoric is rather modest in comparison to earlier accelerationism’s enthusiastic invocations and exhortations (‘maximum slogan density’). A tacit aim in the work of Plant, Land, Grant and ccru is an attempt to find a place for human agency once the motor of transformation that drives modernity is understood to be inhuman and indeed indifferent to the human. The attempt to participate vicariously in its positive feedback loop by fictioning or even mimicking it can be understood as an answer to this dilemma. The conspicuous fact that, shunned by the mainstream of both the ‘continental philosophy’ and cultural studies disciplines which it hybridized, the Cyberculture material had more subterranean influence on musicians, artists and fiction writers than on traditional forms of political theory or action, indicates how its stance proved more appropriable as an aesthetic than effective as a political force. The new accelerationisms instead concentrate primarily on constructing a conceptual space in which we can once again ask what to do with the tendencies and machines identified by the analysis; and yet Fisher’s initial return to accelerationism turned upon the importance of an ‘instrumentalisation of the libido’ for a future accelerationist politics. Reed accordingly takes map to task in its failure to minister to the positive ‘production of desire’, limiting itself to diagnostics and prognostics too vague to immediately impel participation. She rightly raises the question of the power of belief and of motivation: Whatever happened to jouissance? Where is the motor that will drive commitment to eccentric acceleration? Where is the ‘libidinal dispositif’ that will recircuit the compelling incentives of consumer capitalism, so deeply embedded in popular imagination, and the bewildered enjoyment of the collective fantasies of temporary autonomous zones? As Negri says, ‘rational imagination must be accompanied by the collective fantasy of new worlds’. Certainly however much one might ‘rationalise’ the logic of speculation, it still maintains a certain bond with fiction; yet earlier accelerationisms had attempted to mobilize the force of imaginative fictions so as to adjust the human perspective to otherwise dizzying speculative vistas.
In addition, as Reed notes, Accelerationism, far from entailing a short-termism, involves taking a long view on history that traditional politics is unable to encompass in its ‘procedures…based on finitude, and the timescale of the individual human’; and equally needs to engage with algorithmic processes that happen beneath the perceptual thresholds of human cognition (Terranova, Parisi). Therefore a part of the anthropological transformation at stake here involves the appropriation and development of a conceptual and affective apparatus that allows human perception and action some kind of purchase upon this ‘Promethean scale’—new science-fictional practices, if not necessarily in literary form; and once again, Firestone’s ‘merging of the aesthetic with the technological culture’.
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