by Steven Craig Hickman
“A posthuman is any WHD [Wide Human Descendent] that goes feral; becomes capable of life outside the planetary substance comprised of narrow biological humans, their cultures and technologies.”
– Dr. David Roden, Hacking Humans
“So really think about it now,” Thomas continued. “Everything you live, everything you see and touch and hear and taste, everything you think, belongs to this little slice of mush, this little wedge in your brain called the thalamocortical system. The neural processing that makes these experiences possible—we’re talking about the most complicated machinery in the known universe—is utterly invisible. This expansive, far-reaching experience of yours is nothing more than a mote, an inexplicable glow, hurtling through some impossible black. You’re steering through a dream…”
– R. Scott Bakker, Neuropath
In his novel Neuropath Thomas Bible, one of R. Scott Bakker’s characters – an atypical academic, not one of your pie-in-the-sky type, theorists, reminisces with a friend about an old professor who once presented theories on the coming “semantic apocalypse,” the apocalypse of meaning. He tells this friend, Samantha, that this is when the Argument started and conveys to her its basic tenets:
“Remember how I said science had scrubbed the world of purpose? For some reason, wherever science encounters intention or purpose in the world, it snuffs it out. The world as described by science is arbitrary and random. There’s innumerable causes for everything, but no reasons for anything.”1(58)
After a few arguments on how the neural process of the brain itself weaves the illusions of free-will, mind, etc. Thomas lays down the bombshell of Bakker’s pet theory: Blind Brain Theory, saying: “The brain, it turned out, could wrap itself around most everything but itself—which was why it invented minds . . . souls.”(61) Suddenly Samantha wakes up realizing that all this leads to moral nihilism and begins babbling defenses against such truths as Thomas has revealed. For Thomas this all seems all too familiar and human, he reminisces a similar conversation he’d had with his friend and co-hort, Neil Cassidy, who on realizing just where the argument led stated (stoned and pacing back and forth like a feral beast):
“Whoa, dude . . . Think about it. You’re a machine—a machine!—dreaming that you have a soul. None of this is real, man, and they can fucking prove it.” (62)
Mark Fisher: A Critique of Practical Nihilism: Agency in Scott Bakker’s “Neuropath”
My post was generated by rereading Mark Fisher’s excellent critique of Bakker’s novel in INCOGNITUM HACTENUS Volume 2: here (downloadable in .pdf format). What interested me in Fisher’s critique was his conclusions more than his actual arguments. You can read the essay yourself and draw your own conclusions, but for me the either/or scenario that Fisher draws out is how either the technocapitalists or the technosocialists (‘General Intellect’) in the immediate future might use such knowledge to wield powers of control/emacipation never before imaginable:
For whatever the theoretical implications of neuroscience, Bakker is surely right that its practical applications will in the first instance be controlled by the dominant force on the planet: capital. Capital can use neuroscientific techniques to stave off the semantic apocalypse: ironically, it can control people by convincing them that they are free subjects. This is already happening, via the low-level neurocontrol exerted through media, advertising and all the other platforms through which communicative capitalism operates. Whether neuroscience’s practical nihilism will do more than reinforce capital’s domination will ultimately depend on how far the institutions of techno-science can be liberated from corporate control. Certainly, there are no a priori reasons why Malabou’s question “what should we do with our brain?” should not be answered collectively, by a General Intellect free to experiment on itself. (11)
He brings up two notions, both hinging on the amoral ‘practical nihilism’ of neuroscience itself: 1) the reinforcement by the dominant ideology, technocapitalism, to use such technologies to gain complete control over every aspect of our lives through invasive techniques of brain manipulation; or, 2) the power of some alternative, possibly Leftward, collectivist ideology that seeks through the malleability or plasticity of these same neurosciences to use the ‘General Intellect’ to freely experiment on itself. Do we really want either of these paths?
Before we go into this should we first look the beast in the face, see where either a technocapitalist or technosocialist sociocultural system might lead us? What are the differences if any between them? Who would be the technical managers of such a system, anyway? Would both systems involve some form of hierarchical command and control structure? What type of machines are these, anyway? Are we really ready for the Machinic World that either of these systems offers us as competing alternatives? As Fisher points out the Left in our age has almost become the bearers of traditionalism, as the voice of a new conservatism, in the sense that – as Fredric Jameson says (as quoted by Fisher): “The Left is placed in a very self-defeating nostalgic position, just trying to slow down the movement of history.”(11) As Fisher comments: “The interlacing of melancholic pastoralism and can-do voluntarism has made for a disastrous cocktail, which concedes techno-modernity to capital, while retreating into reminiscences of revolts from the age of quill-pens or retellings of revolutions which happened in feudal conditions.”(11)
Fisher argues that even Marx himself proposed a radical notion of agency, one in which he claimed “that men make history but not in conditions of their own making”. Which leads Fisher to ask, What does this “mean if not that agency is not the same as the assertion of will?” So if there is no ‘free-will’ then are we all caught in the neuronets of machinic plasticity, bound to a blind-brain that can never know its own origins, which invents for us the illusions that keep us struggling on the evolutionary ladder like misguided machines treading a path laid down long ago in that marvelous piece of biotechnology we call DNA. Scientists have even of late begun realizing that DNA itself exists at the core of asteroids, and that since asteroids exist everywhere in the universe then the possibility of some form of potential life forms are latent in these chemical vats. As one scientists tells us “if asteroids are behaving like chemical ‘factories’ cranking out prebiotic material, you would expect them to produce many variants of nucleobases, not just the biological ones…” (here). So we may have potential creatures of even stranger mixtures that our own planetary bios could begin to understand.
Fisher quoting Malibu on plasticity: “Talking about the plasticity of the brain thus amounts to thinking of the brain as something modifiable, ‘formable,’ and formative at the same time. … But it must be remarked that plasticity is also the capacity to annihilate the very form it is able to receive or create.”(11) If this is true then what exactly would either a technocapitalist or technosocialist form take if they could remold our circuitry? What kind of beings would be become or evolve into? Would this truly take on that strange hybridity we’ve all toyed with in these conceptual playgrounds of academia that speak to us of the ‘post-human’?
Yet, Fisher in other essays on his blog shows us the dark underbelly of this precarious future, too. In an essay on David Cronenberg’s film in “You won’t be able to stop yourself, you might as well enjoy it”: eXistenZ and noncognitive labour he describes the notion of subjectivity as simulation: “this emerges through confronting other automated (or rather partially automated) consciounesses: entities who seem autonomous but in fact can only respond to certain trigger phrases or actions that move the gameplay down a predetermined pathway.” Yet, one wonders if this is not what happens all the time to us in our supposed real world, too. Are our brains triggered by certain key words and phrases that make us respond in predetermined ways that seem to us at first glance as choices of free-will, but are in fact automated programmable responses due to biological are socio-cultural factors beyond our conscious awareness embedded into the very fabric of our neuralnet? As Fisher remarks:
More disturbing than the third person (or non-person) encounter with these programmed drones is the experience of having one’s own subjectivity interrupted by an automatic behaviour. At one point, Pikul suddenly finds himself saying, “It’s none of your business who sent us! We’re here and that is all that matters” He is shocked at the expostulation: “God, what happened? I didn’t mean to say that.” “It’s your character who said it,” Geller explains. “It’s kind of a schizophrenic feeling, isn’t it? You’ll get used to it. There are things that have to be said to advance the plot and establish the characters, and those things get said whether you want to say them or not. Don’t fight it.” Pikul later grimly notes that whether he fights these “game urges” or not doesn’t make any difference.
Ultimately as Fisher says toward the close of that essay “free will is not an irreducible fact about human existence: it is merely the unpreprogrammed sequence necessary to stitch together a narrative that is already written. There is no real choice over the most important aspects of our life and work, eXistenZ suggests. Such choice as there are exist one level up: we can choose to accept and enjoy our becoming in-itself, or uselessly reject it. This is a kind of deflation-in-advance of all of the claims about “choice” and “interactivity” that communicative capitalism will trumpet in the decade after eXistenZ was released.”
In other words free will is something we do after the fact, a narrative device to help us think we are in control of our lives, when in fact there are forces just below the threshold of consciousness that are triggering each and every move we make while we like puppets on some invisible string dance to a tune we neither understand nor have any control over.
David Roden: The Disconnection Thesis
David Roden in his essay The Disconnection Thesis provides a detailed analysis of just where all this could be heading (see: Singularity Hypothesis: A Scientific and Philosophical Assessment (here):
What is the “humanity” to which the posthuman is “post”? Does the possibility of a posthumanity presuppose that there is a ‘human essence’, or is there some other way of conceiving the human-posthuman difference? I argue that the difference should be conceived as an emergent disconnection between individuals, not in terms of the presence or lack of essential properties. I also suggest that these individuals should not be conceived in narrow biological terms but in “wide” terms permitting biological, cultural and technological relations of descent between human and posthuman. Finally, I consider the ethical implications of this metaphysics If, as I claim, the posthuman difference is not one between kinds but emerges diachronically between individuals, we cannot specify its nature a priori but only a posteriori. The only way to evaluate the posthuman condition would be to witness the emergence of posthumans. The implications of this are somewhat paradoxical. We are not currently in a position to evaluate the posthuman condition. Since posthumans could result from some iteration of our current technical activity, we have an interest in understanding what they might be like. It follows that we have an interest in making or becoming posthumans.
So if this is true, and if as we previously stated that either the technocapitalist or the technosocialist might gain such technology in the future, then which path do we have an “interest in making or becoming posthumans” in David’s sense? Or do we follow those ultraluddites of the John Zerzan, Derrick Jensen, or Steven Best types and destroy the machine altogether? David unlike our luddite anarcho-primitivst brethren tells us that we need to take the notion of the Singularity seriously that the “idea of a technologically led intelligence explosion is philosophically important because it requires us to consider the prospect of a posthuman condition succeeding the human one”. Do we as humans have an ‘essence’? Or as David asks is there a some other way of conceiving the human-posthuman difference? What he argues for is “that the difference should be conceived as an emergent disconnection between individuals, not in terms of the presence or lack of essential properties. He also asks us not to reduce the human to biology but also to think of the ‘human’ in much wider terms allowing for biological, cultural and technological relations of descent between human and posthuman. (Kindle Locations 7322-7323).
With the emergence of NBIC technologies (Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology, and Cognitive Science) in our anthropocene era we now have within our powers the technical and scientific feasibility of actually producing some form of disconnection between humans and whatever comes next through the power of technoscientific interventions. These interventions will allow us to finally leave natural evolution behind us as we boldly or some might say, arrogantly intervene in our own evolutionary process. Some would have us slow down, think about it before we make the great leap into the unknown consequences of our actions. Others say the cat is out of the bag, that its too late to worry over moral consequences of our actions, that if we don’t do it, others will; others who exist outside the moral liberal machines of our eras globalized regimes. Others say that it should be handled by the ‘General Intellect’ the collective power of the people themselves for their own best interest. And, yet, others say we should destroy all these technologies along with the civilization that spawned them.
If Bakker is right about BBT then do we really have any say in the matter at all? I mean are we even free to choose which path will take? Or is there some deep seated pattern already determined within the heart of our DNA, some hidden message revealing itself in the current set of codings/uncodings that are transpiring at some deeper molecular level that have already made the choice for us? Whose in control, anyway? David Roden tells us that we can adopt either of two policies towards the posthuman prospect. Firstly, we can account for it: that is, assess the ethical implications of contributing to the creation of posthumans through our current technological activities. (KL 7350-7352). Yet, David tells us “posthumans might be so much smarter than humans that we could not understand their thoughts or anticipate the transformative effects of posthuman technology.” So instead we might “just opt to discount the possibility of posthumanity when considering the implications of our technological activity: considering only its implications for humans or for their modestly enhanced transhuman cousins. (KL 7357-7358).
Yet, beyond this David offers a third possibility, a Speculative Posthumanism which he clarifies telling us that the descendants of current humans could cease to be human by virtue of a history of technical alteration, and second through some form of descent. He offers this notion of a wider descent as an argument against essentialist theories, saying: “that human-posthuman difference be understood as a concrete disconnection between individuals rather than as an abstract relation between essences or kinds. This anti-essentialist model will allow us to specify the circumstances under which accounting would be possible.” (KL 7397-7399). David’s notion of wider descent he tells us refers to a difference between a Narrow Humanity that can be identified with the biological species Homo sapiens, while a Wide Humanity is a “technogenetic construction or “assemblage” with both narrowly human and narrowly non-human parts”. (KL 7436-7438).
What if we were already products of plasticity from the beginning? What if our very sociality and interventions in the natural environments of the earth had already begun through slow processes of technification and dialectical interactions between our species and the environment that gave rise to those very ‘assemblages’ that have determined who and what we are? As David tells it what if “hominization has involved a confluence of biological, cultural and technological processes. It has produced socio-technical “assemblages” in which humans are coupled with other active components: for example, languages, legal codes, cities, and computer mediated information networks”. (KL 7459-7461). Maybe we were eco-machines from the beginning. That each of these compositional additions onto the biological technicity of hominization was self-reinforcing, producing those systemic feed-back loops of causal determinations that have locked us into a programed algorithmic pattern that has become so habitual that we no longer have access to its evolutionary codes (if we ever did?).
There are scientists who have begun to wonder the same thing, whether our DNA holds the coded designs of some alien benefactor who programmed our DNA aeons ago. We know human genome, for example, consists of some 2.9 billion of those letters — the equivalent of about 750 megabytes of data — but only about 3 percent of it goes into composing the 22,000 or so genes that make us what we are. Certain scientists (here) hypothesize that an intelligent signal embedded in our genetic code would be a mathematical and semantic message that cannot be accounted for by Darwinian evolution. They call it “biological SETI.” What’s more, they argue that the scheme has much greater longevity and chance of detecting E.T. than a transient extraterrestrial radio transmission. Of course, whether one takes seriously such hypothesis or sees them as part of the fluff or pseudo-science of our postmodernity marketing itself within a technoeconomy of Think Tanks and R&D out-of-control monetary schemes is another matter.
Who cares if they were embedded by some alien species (which seems like a return to some theological origins in the guise of science), or whether they are actually just the deep molecular accidents of a universe without purpose or design working itself out in chance algorithms of bifurcated codings, uncodings, recodings is beyond the purview of this post. The point of David Roden’s article is that it’s too late to worry about the message or its (non)maker. Why? Because as David remarks:
Biological humans are currently “obligatory” components of modern technical assemblages. Technical systems like air-carrier groups, cities or financial markets depend on us for their operation and maintenance much as an animal depends on the continued existence of its vital organs. Technological systems are thus intimately coupled with biology and have been over successive technological revolutions. (KL 7461-7464).
So we’re way beyond samplings or resamplings of DNA/RNA etc. we’ve evolved beyond that elementary root system to a point that our coupling with technology has taken on a life of its own and is molding is in ways that that original message may or may not have intended ( if it ever did intend?). For if Bakker is right there may never have been any intended intentional program to begin with, and that everything from the beginning was just an accident a strange quirk, a one-off mistake and that humanity is nothing more than a unique horror in an otherwise unconscious universe of creatures who never took that turn toward self-reflexive nothingness that is our burden and our glory.
All of which leads me finally to David’s disconnection thesis which states that a wide human descendent is a posthuman if and only if it has ceased to belong to WH (The Wide Human) as a result of technical alteration; or, is a wide descendant of such a being. (KL 7497-7498). For David we should begin a viable research program to understand just what this might entail, because in some not so distant future the technology might exist to create posthumans, then the same technology might support “interfaces” between human and posthuman beings, and we will need the research of those bi-formatted propositional/ non-propositional thinkers to help us breach the gulf or gap between our progeny and ourselves. (KL 7632-7633).
Although David offers a cultural research program for understanding what we face, he doesn’t offer us, within the short space of his essay, a Political Vision of what this entails, so we are still left with the dilemmas between technocapitalism and technosocialism that Mark Fisher describes as our culpable destiny. So which path do we take? The technocapitalist neoliberal commodification of posthumanity? Or, the collectivization of the technosocialistic ‘General Intellect’ the collective subjectivity of some posthuman sociality? Or, do we with the anarcho-primitivists blow the whole thing up along with all the technological knowledge that spawned it? Are we headed for Bakker’s ultimate ‘semantic apocalypse of meaning’, where if Catherine Malibou is correct, our very memories of our former humanity will fall away as we enter the brave new world of the Neuropath? It’s up to you, dear reader, to decide; or, is it? Maybe it has already been determined long ago by some alien intervention in our DNA and like a Philip K. Dick novel we are only the messengers of a message sent by one alien species to another species eons ago? And if we unlock the message what will it say to us? Or, is this all just a grand fiction, a new mythology for our age, a way of marking time on a nihilistic journey between two nothings. Free will or determinism? Do we have a choice? As David asks:
A posthuman is any WHD that goes feral; becomes capable of life outside the planetary substance comprised of narrow biological humans, their cultures and technologies.
This formulation leaves the value and worth of the posthuman open. Since we cannot evaluate the posthuman ex ante, we can only assess its value by exploring posthuman design space for ourselves. This is where Rachel’s biohacking manifesto comes into its own, I think, for it questions who gets to decide the shape of the posthuman – military corporate systems, venture capitalists, or you and me? (Hacking Humans)
Or, as Mark Fisher remarks “capital can use neuroscientific techniques to stave off the semantic apocalypse: ironically, it can control people by convincing them that they are free subjects. This is already happening, via the low-level neurocontrol exerted through media, advertising and all the other platforms through which communicative capitalism operates. Whether neuroscience’s practical nihilism will do more than reinforce capital’s domination will ultimately depend on how far the institutions of techno-science can be liberated from corporate control. Certainly, there are no a priori reasons why Malabou’s question “what should we do with our brain?” should not be answered collectively, by a General Intellect free to experiment on itself.”
Are we so eager for either path?
1. Bakker, R. Scott (2010-04-01). Neuropath. (Macmillan)
2. (2013-04-03). Singularity Hypotheses: A Scientific and Philosophical Assessment (The Frontiers Collection) Springer Berlin Heidelberg. Kindle Edition.
by Claudio Kulesko
The collective memory recalls Giacomo Leopardi as a crippled writer, languid and suffering. Only those who ventured their own initiative in the meanderings of Leopardi’s work managed to meet, at the heart of the labyrinth, a personage that was affable, elegant, witty and tormented; a complex and constantly changing figure, very different from the depressed hermit’s figure that winds through school desks. The iniquitous treatment suffered by the poet has relegated to the background, compared to the literary production, a vast and troubled philosophical reflection. A reflection returned to the center of the debate along with the whole pessimistic pantheon , awakened from the sleep of death by a (not so) recent essay by Thomas Ligotti .
The urgency to recover the philosophical speculation of Giacomo Leopardi becomes evident when we realize the mysterious and seductive affinity that exists between numerous Leopardi elaborations and the most recent themes of contemporary philosophy. What I will try to do will be to reactivate some of these theoretical nodes, taking advantage of this advantageous community of intentions and passions. However, dealing with what Leopardi calls his “system” means going into one of the most impressive posthumous works in the history of literature, the Zibaldone of Thoughts , a collection derived from what was literally a trunk of notebooks and annotation sheets – a real and its jungle of “annotations of various sizes and inspiration”.
Fortunately for us “Zibaldone” means minestrone, chaos, disorder, fragmentary jumble – a title that is immediately auspicious. This is a work of meticulous accumulation, bordering on intellectual bulimia: there is no logical order, nor any kind of internal coherence; both the arguments and the conclusions, always provisional, fight each other, contradicting themselves, duplicating themselves, projecting the thought into a cyclonic vortex in constant metamorphosis. As we proceed through the pages of annotations, considerations, thoughts and diary sheets, probing every possible path, experimenting with every perspective, we are overwhelmed by the unlimited wealth of Leopardi’s thought.
This swirling analytical discipline finds its definition, necessarily partial and unstable, in a note of 8 September 1821: “My system introduces not only a reasoned and demonstrated skepticism, but such that, according to my system, human reason for any possible progress, it will never be able to strip off this skepticism; indeed it contains the true […] but the true consists essentially in doubt, and who doubts, knows, and knows the most we can know ». If theclassical theory (for example those philosophies of Socratic or Cartesian inspiration), sees in the suspension of the judgment a practice or, better, a method of doubt, the Leopardi survey pushes the thinking to crazy speeds, up to the threshold in which the knowledge it crumbles and doubt manifests itself as the absolute unknowability of reality.
This limit that overlooks the boundless, like a sudden falling into the ocean, is the tangible material product of a coherent path of rational research; an increasingly desperate, increasingly melancholy pace , in clear opposition to a hypocritical programmatic scepsis (where knowledge is set aside, then to be dogmatically recovered soon after, perhaps with God as the guarantor of truth).Quoting one of the fathers of accelerationism, Nick Land : “Suspension of judgment must be uncovered, not performed”. It would not therefore be a question of a human limitation or a finitude of knowledge, but of the discovery of an abyss on which existence itself would be founded. In this sense, Leopardi’s work does not arise only, as has often been noted, as a continuation of Enlightenment rationalism, but also as its zenith. Leopardi’s adhesion to contemporary materialism will lead him, in fact, to at least peculiar conclusions.
Let’s start from a given. Being the exercise of reason an activity of an analytical type, that is, decomposing the complex into simple parts, the result of a rational analysis of the natural world will be that of “solving and destroying nature”, obtaining that “Nature, as analyzed , do not differ from a dead body ». As we can note also only observing the procedures of the medical and anatomical sciences, the absolute simplicity reached by the analysis coincides with the rigidity of the dissected cadaver , since the latter is the necessary requirement for an objective knowledge of the body. Nature, vivisected by the scalpel of scientific rationality, passes from a state of dynamic vitality – a constant succession of subjectivities and vegetal and animal sensations – to a condition of inorganic objectivity: the living manifests itself as a gathering of members, components of inanimate self. In fact, one of the most obvious results of the modern sciences is that, although they stubbornly probed every cleft of the body, we have not been able to identify any trace of a soul, a spirit or a subject that governs somatic matter.
With scientific modernity, words, previously understood as the expression of the human soul, become a bridge between the ideas of the mind and the things of the world: material objects (of a sonic-vibrational type), able to make understandable what otherwise the sensations would remain empty and indistinct. It is in the name of enlightenment materialism that Leopardi writes: “Everything is material in our mind and faculty. The intellect could not do without the speech, since the word is almost the body of the idea the most abstract “, and then add, a few days away:” The heart can well imagine […] to feel something immaterial: but absolutely s’inganna ». The illusion of the immaterial, that is, of the “Self” and its chains of thought, is a recurring theme in Leopardi’s notes, as well as the reason why his philosophical research would represent the culmination and, at the same time, the overcoming of the illuminist project. Indeed, modern scientific knowledge is based on the clarity of ideas and perceptions of a given observer, as well as on the total self-possession of this same observer. To doubt even the presence of a subject capable of doubting means to deprive the scientific method of every cardinal reference – and the paradoxical aspect of the question lies precisely in carrying out this subtraction according to a rational procedure.
Eliminativism (the term with which a current of philosophers and scientists have been baptized who do not believe in the actual existence of a conscious ego) is the foul foot that plunges us into the abyss: if the sensory perceptions alone are judged to be real, it must be concluded that even the perception of the Self, that is the self-consciousness, is nothing more than a second-level perception – the perception of perceptions – without this global perception necessarily corresponding to a real state of affairs. In this sense Leopardi notes: “Appearance is not only enough, but it is the only thing that suffices […] Perrocché substance without appearance does not effect anything and nothing gets, and appearance with substance does not nothing more than without it: so that the substance can be seen to be useless and the whole thing be in appearance only ».
The spectrum of an informal and chaotic world, illusively ordered by the mind, goes by the name of ” blind brain theory “, an elaboration that goes in the opposite direction to the so-called naive realism (that set of doctrines according to which the world perceived would be identical to the real world). According to the theory of the blind brain, the real world would be immensely richer and more multifaceted than the one represented in our minds, which, in turn, would be representations of representations, pseudo-objects physically non-existent. To put it with the neuro-philosopher Thomas Metzinger , one of the major proponents of eliminationism, the crux of the question lies in the fact that: “We do not experience the contents of our self-awareness as the contents of a representational process, but simply as ourselves, that we live in the world at this precise moment “.
In The conspiracy against the human race , Thomas Ligotti deepens this disturbing prospect: “In Metzinger’s scheme, a human being is not a person but a mechanical model of the self that simulates a person […] the naive realism becomes therefore a prophylactic, necessary to protect oneself from the concomitant terror of the destruction of intuitions concerning ourselves and our status in the world, “finally coming to affirm that:” There are aspects of the scientific vision of the world that could be harmful to our mental health “.
Sinking, as Leopardi does, the sensitive knowledge – and the reason itself – in a limbo of illusions, the way of scientific optimism is annihilated, catapulting the real world into a timeless darkness, meaningless and without purpose . One of the most frequent themes in Zibaldone is precisely that of the damage done to human life by truth and scientific objectivity; a problem that (as we shall see), Leopardi deals in a very similar way to one of his best known admirers, HP Lovecraft, who, in his Call of Cthulhu, wrote that: “The sciences, which so far have continued each for his they have not caused too much damage: but the recomposition of the whole picture will open us, one day, visions so terrifying of the reality and the place we occupy in it, that either we will go crazy for revelation or flee from the mortal light, peace and security of a new Middle Ages “.
The senselessness of the cosmos stripped of human significances, hopes and goals soon becomes claustrophobic. In one of the most intense and touching moments of Zibaldone Leopardi brings back the memory of what could be a dream, or a panic attack: “I was afraid to find myself in the middle of nowhere, a nothing myself. I felt like I was suffocating considering and feeling that everything is nothing, solid nothing […] It seems absurd, and yet it is exactly true that all the real being a nothing, there is nothing real or other substance in the world that illusions. “
At the close of his Nihil Unbound , the philosopher Ray Brassier (a student of Land at the time of the CCRU ) affirms that, having accepted the illusory conscience and the inevitable extinction over time of all individuals and all species, including human “The subject of philosophy [or the philosopher] must also recognize that he is already dead, and that philosophy is neither a means of affirmation nor a source of justification, but rather the organon of extinction.” It would be to say that the content of truth of a scientific or philosophical theory is in no way related to the appreciation and pleasure that a subject could derive from it, tending rather to increase the discomfort of the human position in the cosmos and make existence disgusting.
By dissipating the realm of illusions, knowledge destroys every possibility of joy, intense as a natural tendency to pleasure and sensation; a state of total ignorance of cruelty and senselessness of life.
This fever of reason, propagated as an epidemic by the rapid spread of scientific thought, pervades the work of Leopardi, sometimes leaking in the form of bizarre euphoria, sometimes in the form of a somber apocalyptic hood. The negative aspect, however, is preponderant in leopardian speculation, resulting in macabre predictions on the self-destruction of our species as a consequence of the technical and scientific advancement (a present topic, from the first moments, even in the thought of Nick Land): «The society it now contains more than ever before, seeds of destruction and qualities incompatible with its preservation and existence, and of this it is mainly due to the knowledge of truth and philosophy “; and again: “Philosophy which frees from human life a thousand natural errors that society had created […] is harmful and destructive of society, because those errors can be, and indeed are, necessary for the subsistence and preservation of society. ».
If the child and the ignorant spend their lives to act and perceive, that is to build a common world, lulled by illusions, the adult and the learned spend their time calculating and reasoning, in a condition similar to death. it even anticipates and accelerates the arrival of death. By dissipating the realm of illusions, knowledge destroys every possibility of joy, intense as a natural tendency to pleasure and sensation; a state of total ignorance of cruelty and senselessness of life. In Leopardi’s reflection, nature plays precisely this dual role of lady of illusions and of terrible mother, leading us to the central point of the question.
In addition to revealing the insignificance and precariousness of human existence, the study of nature reveals different perturbing aspects, able to put a strain on any argument on the goodness and perfection of our universe. In the collection of articles When the Horses Had the Fingers , the biologist Stephen Jay Gould describes the revulsion with which the nineteenth century theologians welcomed the results of studies on the icneumonids (hymenoptera similar to wasps): these animals spend their larval stage feeding on the meat lives of a host, usually a caterpillar in which the female spawned immediately after paralyzing it with a toxin. The larva of the ichneumonid first devours the fat deposits and the digestive organs, leaving intact the heart and the central nervous system of the victim, which therefore remains alive, agonizing, until the last moment. As Gould writes, the question that arises spontaneously before such a horror is: “If God is benevolent […] because we are surrounded by pain, suffering and an apparently meaningless cruelty?”.
It is well known that the immorality of Nature is one of the main themes of Leopardi’s reflection; to those who accuse him of misanthropy Giacomo replies, in fact: «My philosophy makes nature of all things a reality, and by completely absolving men, it addresses hatred […] to a higher principle, the true origin of the ills de ‘living’. Exactly ten years before Operette (and the famous Dialogue of Nature and an Icelandic ) Leopardi noted, answering Gould’s question ahead of time : “The whole nature, and the eternal order of things, is in no way directed to the happiness of beings. sensitive or animal. On the contrary, it is contrary to it “.
The conscience or, better, the excess of consciousness given to human beings by the natural sciences, manifests the natural horror, tormenting us, moreover, with the threat of a possible illusory of all the knowledge painfully collected so far – making us doubt even of our own reality. This is perhaps the first symptom of a madness pandemic that will envelop or that is already enveloping the planet.Giacomo writes: «Once religion and radically illusions are removed, every man, or rather every child at the first faculty of reasoning […] would infallibly kill himself with his own hand […] But illusion still lasts despite reason and knowledge. It is to be hoped that they will also last in progress “.
In Zibaldone , there are two perspectives that seem to suggest a possible escape from the abyss of madness. The first solution, derived from a purely rational calculation, would consist of individual suicide and the progressive and voluntary extinction of the human species: “It is absolute best for the living being not to be that being […] that being to the most beneficent man. not suffering that suffering, and not being able to live without suffering, is mathematically true and certain that the absolute is not beneficial and suits man more than being. And that being harms precisely to man “; a hypothesis recently revived by Ligotti and by the vegan philosopher and activist David Benatar , under the name of antinatalism .
The second solution is represented by the foundation of a new discipline: “Our regeneration depends on one, so to speak, ultrafilosofia, that knowing the whole and the intimate of things, bring us closer to nature. And this should be the fruit of the extraordinary lights of this century ». This second speculative solution is designed as opposed to traditional philosophical knowledge, in which vanity and worldliness are persecuted and opposed. Rather than in a radically pessimistic direction – an orientation that would only reduce and trivialize Leopardi’s reflection – a potential Leopardi renaissance would orbit around this reconciliation of nature and reason. The task of an ultrafilosofia would be to consider any scientific, theological and philosophical elaboration as an arbitrary determination, it would be an invention (a theoretical perspective surprisingly close to the work of Nietzsche and Deleuze and Guattari , as well as to the non-philosophy by François Laruelle ); the evaluation of the value of each of these inventions, be they concepts, works of art or axioms, would be based on its positivity, that is on the ability to promote and empower human life.
Finally we see how the ambiguity inherent in the Leopardi reflection is painfully acute, suspended between the nightmare of resignation and an art of deception.This is the task that belongs to us as posterity: to overcome in turn the dual obstacle represented by pessimism and optimism, creating new solutions, building new roads, as Giacomo himself tried to do by imagining an ultrafilosofia of the future. Confronting Leopardi’s work, and in particular with Zibaldone , means engaging a dangerous body to body with the most ancient and profound terrors of the human being, with the aberrations of future techno-sciences and the violent mediocrity of the state of things present. At midday of a new flowering of rationalism, represented in particular by the enthusiastic works of Ray Brassier, Quentin Meillassoux , Reza Negarestani , Peter Wolfendale and the collective Laboria Cuboniks , it was necessary to turn the gaze to darkness, plumbed to the end by the gaze of this philosopher poet, suffering and at the same time bravely smiling.
Andrew Culp teaches Media Theory in the faculty of Aesthetics and Politics at the California Institute of the Arts. He is the author of Dark Deleuze (University of Minnesota Press, 2016), and a range of articles in Parallax, Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, Quarterly Journal of Speech, Affinities: A Journal of Radical Theory, Culture, and Action and Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies. His work deals with questions of digital power, radical theory and media resistance. He is currently pursuing these themes in his second book, Persona Obscura: Invisibility in the Age of Disclosure (University of Minnesota Press; under contract), which pays particular attention to the power of invisibility. He is also a general editor of the journal Hostis.
What might it mean, Andrew Culp asks in Dark Deleuze, to “give up on all the reasons given for saving this world” (Culp, 2016b: 66)? In response, this interview explores the pathways offered by a “dark” Deleuze, a politics of cruelty, Afro-Pessimism, partisan knowledges, destituent power, and tactics of escape.
Thomas Dekeyser: I read your book Dark Deleuze as a two-fold intervention: into Deleuzian scholarship and into radical political thought. I would like to first hone in on the former. You suggest the majority of Deleuzian scholarship has been overwhelmed by a ”canon of joy” that “celebrates Deleuze as a naively affirmative thinker of connectivity,” giving rise to concepts such as “transversal lines, rhizomatic connections, compositionist networks, complex assemblages, affective experiences, and enchanted objects” (Culp, 2016a: 7). By contrast, you mark Deleuze as a thinker of negativity concerned with “negative” prefixes (de-, a-, non-, and in-) and “negative” affects (the monstrous scream, concealment, the shame of being human). But why do you wish to return to Deleuze in the first place, rather than abandoning him, given the weight of affirmation, joyfulness, and vitalism that has been so central to Deleuzian thought, and given that, as you admit, Deleuze himself perhaps did not push hard enough, turning a blind eye to Nietzsche’s more destructive impetus?
Andrew Culp: Theory is in the midst of an interregnum, I think. We are in the midst of a search for what comes after post-structuralism. The theoretical moves that were taken as sacrosanct are slowly being called into question. Deleuze wrote an important essay in 1967, “How Do We Recognize Structuralism?,” that outlines seven characteristics of what would become post-structuralism: the symbolic, local or positional, the differential and the singular, the differenciator/differentiation, serial, the empty square, and from the subject to practice (see Deleuze, 2004). Looking back at developments in the last two decades of theory, each and every one of those terms has been declared exhausted, insufficient, or otherwise overcome. For instance, the Slovenian school of psychoanalysis has challenged the role of the Imaginary and Symbolic in the prevailing Anglo-American interpretation of Lacan since the 1980s, proposing instead that the Real constitutes a decisive yet neglected area of inquiry (Žižek, 1989). Along those same lines, philosophical realism roared back into fashion through Meillassoux (2008), the rise of New Materialisms (feminist and otherwise; see Coole and Frost, 2010), and the Latourian “compositionist” war against critique (Latour, 2010). Curiously, these movements side with Deleuze (and Guattari) in enough of the theoretical controversies sparked by post-structuralism that his thought has become ubiquitous.
What would it mean if we already live in a Deleuzian century (as Foucault would jest)? I would take it to mean that Deleuze’s metaphysics has become the ontology of the present. His Tardean quantum theories of social interaction equally help us understand digital virality and social composition (see Sampson, 2012; Hardt and Negri, 2004). Deleuze and Guattari’s model of a molecular unconscious is not only true but the distinctive feature of our bio-chemical era (Preciado, 2013). Is not capitalism the most extensive assemblage ever constructed (Delanda, 2006)? And has not the affirmation, joyfulness, and vitalism of his reading of Nietzsche, Spinoza, and Bergson synced up with broader cultural trends? By and large, then, his dreams have been fulfilled. Said otherwise: if both a Buzzfeed founder and an Israeli Defense Forces strategist-general count Deleuze and Guattari as an influence, then we are all Deleuzians now.
Such triumph does not put the thinker of the ‘minor’ in a very easy position. We are left with a few choices. “Critique Deleuze” as Peter Hallward (2006) did from his paleo-Marxist perspective, or “forget Deleuze” as Alexander Galloway (Berry and Galloway, 2016: 157) suggests and look elsewhere for a fresh orientation (to name a couple). My suggestion is a bit different, however, as my approach is neither to argue that Deleuze had it wrong nor (on my better days) to accuse Deleuzisms of damnation. I am instead interested in treating the various positions within Deleuze Studies as a microcosm of the world, making our competing interpretations not a matter of fidelity but politics.
Some have recoiled at the sight of Deleuze after sniffing out even the slight hint of his recuperation, finding it fatally contaminating. Those with a more deconstructionist orientation shrug their shoulders and argue that the author cedes control of the sign after it begins to circulate—as if, for better or worse, one ultimately cannot be blamed for whatever hell they unleash upon the world. Neither purity nor apology seems appropriate here, as both put the reader in the position of a judge looking to declare Deleuze guilty or innocent in the eyes of the law. Instead, I propose something not dissimilar to Foucault’s methodological suggestion in The History of Sexuality: An Introduction (1978), that power can be coded through either law or war. As an anarchist, I never really developed a taste for the law, so I choose war.
From Guattari’s diary, we read that after they completed Anti-Oedipus (1983), Deleuze feverishly went to work on what he thought to have been left out of their first book, the two chapters on the war machine that would form the nomadology of A Thousand Plateaus (1987). Is this not also what is missing from most Deleuzian scholarship? How often do Deleuzians mention “insubordination, rioting, guerrilla warfare, or revolution,” “minority warfare, revolutionary, and popular war” as “in conformity with the essence” of the political theory they are advancing (1987: 386, 423, 559)? I happily stand by the few that do.
Some might dissent by pointing out Deleuze and Guattari’s qualification that such actions are essential only as far as they are done “on the condition that they simultaneously create something else” (1987: 423). This concern has its origins in Paul Patton’s Deleuze and the Political (2000), where he characterizes the war machine as a “metamorphosis machine”—an interpretation that has root in political theory, where Deleuze and Guattari are most commonly mobilized as radical but anti-revolutionary liberals (110-111; Connolly, 2005; Tampio, 2015). But I find it useful to invert the formulation, revealing how George Jackson’s line “I may be running, but I’m looking for a gun as I go” serves as a critical reminder of what is missing from Deleuze scholarship today (204). The line is repeated in the anonymously-authored essay “Aprés l’assasinat” in L’intolérable 3: L’assasinat de George Jackson, a booklet put out by the Groupe d’information sur les prisons (1971), most likely written by Deleuze. In it, following lengthy excerpts from a prison communique and Jackson’s Soledad Brother, the author concludes by noting that the line of flight secured with the aid of a weapon, is precisely “where revolutionaries engage” (57).
Coming full circle to your remark on radical political thought, the word “revolution” still sounds to many (as the Situationists would say) like we are speaking with a corpse in our mouth. Yet look at the widespread popularity of zombies, alien apocalypses, and all varieties of dystopia. I see revolution reappearing today just as Marx described (as the Old Mole of Hamlet’s ghostly father) that, after growing strong, “bursts asunder the crust of earth which divided it from the sun, its Notion, so that the earth crumbles away” (Hegel, 2004: 547). And who better to get us there than Deleuze, who described Difference and Repetition (1994) as a sort of “apocalyptic” book of “science fiction” with the dramatically cinematic opening and closing shots of a black abyss and a single voice endlessly being carried out to sea (xxi; xx; 28; 304)?
TD: The science-fictional aspect of writing, Deleuze (1994: xxi) tells us citing Nietzsche, involves “acting counter to our time and thereby acting on our time and, let us hope, for the benefit of a time to come.” This begs the question: how does the contemporary moment inform our understanding of how we might think of getting to this revolutionary world? Your essay, “Confronting Connectivity: Feminist Challenges to the Metropolis” (Culp, 2015), offers inspiration here. In the essay, you take up the notion of “inclusive disjunction” as an operation of power which diffuses differences through processes of inclusion. In the meantime, a series of Deleuzian scholars, “Google Deleuzians” as Galloway provocatively termed them in a recent interview, “see the world as a vital assemblage, proffering untold bounties of knowledge—and riches. From clouds, to humans, to molluscs, to molecules, the world is nothing but systems. Lines of flight slice through assemblages, creating new living landscapes. Systems are open, dynamic, and robust. Networks produce value” (Berry and Galloway, 2016: 157-158). Instead, you point towards the need to learn to become contrary and take up a hatred of this world. What are some of the difficulties of pursuing Deleuze and a politics of affirmation on positive terms in times of “inclusive disjunction?”
AC: Inclusive disjunction, that is really getting to the formal heart of the matter! Bear with me while I show my work. Inclusive disjunction is first presented by Deleuze and Guattari in Anti-Oedipus as the “correct” uses of the disjunctive synthesis of recording, one of the three syntheses that they say constitute the unconscious (1983: 12-14; 20; 38-40). If we just stop there, then Anti-Oedipus is just a critique of those Lacanians who treat power as fundamentally sovereign because of the legislative and prohibitive symbolic function of the “name-of-the father,” and a proposed model for “properly” thinking the disjunctive movement of molecular unconscious as inclusively open-ended (either… or… or…) in the service of both production (the satisfaction of producing a product) and anti-production (the satisfaction of breaking old habits to establish new connections) (75-84). And for a long time, that was the argument: the book is not so much the anti-Oedipus as much as the anti-Lacan. This characterization totally misses the point, and more importantly, it misses the second half of the book.
I contend that chapter three of Anti-Oedipus endures as its most important chapter. In it, Deleuze and Guattari present a “universal history” of capitalism by way of the comparative analysis of three social formations, those of non-state peoples (the “savage”), despotic sovereignty (the “barbarian”), and capitalism (the “civilized”) to reveal a path to the outside (139-271). Surprise, surprise, each one of them deploys the inclusive disjunction of recording in a different way—the first two use the disjunctive synthesis exclusively: non-state people use strong inside-outside social coding to establish kinship relations (and thus debt) coextensive with the whole social field that institute relations of anti-production based on prohibition (159-162), and the despot uses the naked domination to establish subservient caste relations (and glorious expenditure) that institute relations of anti-production based on the law (192-200). Sorry for all the lead up, but here we are at the big question: is capitalism similarly to be condemned for being exclusive, binaristic, and authoritarian? On a formal level, Deleuze and Guattari say “mostly no.” In fact, capitalism is always threatening to undermine even the minimal juridical logic of sovereignty necessary to keep itself afloat. So set on reinvesting all aspects of the social field into circuits of production, sovereign functions are routinely sold off as the production of production is its highest goal (224).
This is not big news to scholars of power as this account of power is perfectly compatible with Foucault’s account of biopower in The History of Sexuality: An Introduction (1978) and his Collège de France lectures (most notably ‘Society Must Be Defended’  and Security, Territory, Population ). But it led theorists such as Michael Hardt (1995) to argue that there is a “becoming-immanent” of power whereby the state does not stand outside society (contrary to the mediations of natural-civil-political society used by Gramsci) because institutions exert control by producing more than they repress (the disciplinary power of incentives and negligence rather than outright punishment) and capitalism functions as a difference engine (not a homogenizing force). To see it coming to fruition in a concrete case, consider the case of the New Right. The so-called Alt-Right became a topic of general discussion after the Trump election, but the European New Right stretches much farther back and boasts intellectuals who write on Nietzsche, Heidegger, Schmitt, and Foucault. Both are the realization of Deleuze and Guattari’s argument that fascism is fundamentally molecular, a resonance machine that connects the focal points of “band, gang, sect, family, town, neighborhood, vehicle fascisms” (1987, 215). The consequence is that most of our models of resistance are based on the wrong forms of power. Democratic engagement, citizen dissent, and creative alternatives to capitalism’s monotony get outmaneuvered at every turn. The obvious response would be to look to an alternative like rhizomatics for the answer. But we need to be careful to engage in rhizomatic analysis rather than act as cheerleaders for rhizomes. It was not just the anti-globalization movement that was rhizomatic, so was globalization; the radical left has benefited from becoming-rhizomatic, but so has “the groupuscule right” of resurgent fascisms (Griffin, 2003). Deleuze and Guattari’s famous warning in A Thousand Plateaus says as much, “Never believe that a smooth space will suffice to save us” (500). While some readers read this alongside the line from the bodies without organs plateaus as a call for moderation, I instead see it as a methodological clarification— rhizomes are not the answer, rhizomatics creates a new category for analysis.
In Dark Deleuze, I bring up the coincidence between digitality and the molecular. There, I do it in service of critiquing Deleuzians who promote their own version of Google’s “connectivism,” which provides the tech giant political leverage to become a major player in geopolitics and a whole anthropological philosophy. Its importance is hard to overstate as a whole range of tech companies used connectivism as their business mantra during the first ten years of Web 2.0. Yet most critiques seem to fall flat. Why? They tend to accuse connectivism as violating liberal possessive individualism (privacy, security) or failing to deliver on promises of efficiency (and other engineering challenges related to their technical specifications). Few take into account how connectivism is molecular, Tardean even, with an emphasis on quantization. Sure, there are a few romantic laments about the loss of the molar. But the heart of the critique is to be found in an open-eyed look at the quantified self as the fantasy of transforming life into one enormous cybernetic circuit. It is these interconnected networks (circuits, clouds, assemblages, entanglements…) that are the target of Deleuze’s control societies essay (1992), in which we see Deleuze at his most self-critical, speculatively outlining a new form of power, “cybernetic control,” that mirrors the molecular metaphysics proposed in Capitalism and Schizophrenia. And it has all basically come true. An important entry in this debate is Maurizio Lazzarato’s book Signs and Machines (2010). He argues that we live in the age of a new Mumfordian megamachine with capitalism integrating us through “machinic enslavement” rather than “social subjection.” This form of subjectivity is a socio-technical process that targets our affective, pre-personal, pre-cognitive, and preverbal forces in order to bypass humanist checks on exploitation.
How far does it go? There is a popular flat-footed reading of Deleuze as a French Carl Sagan—offering up a philosophy of “the pale blue dot,” “we’re made of star stuff, we are a way for the cosmos to know itself,” and “every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious.” This cosmic materialism is the other side of connectivism. It is most prevalent in the ecological perspectives of many new materialisms and sometimes even overlapping with Silicon Valley futurists, e.g. The Californian Ideology. A big part of the project is a focus on “perspective,” such as the cosmic perspective seen in the Eames educational film The Powers of Ten (1977), usually accompanied by an ontology with an embedded preference toward harmony. So in the film Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance (1982), human and machine are depicted as the forces behind ecological devastation, whereas James Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis suggests that humans can make amends by syncing up with the complex systems that support life on Earth. The trouble with some of these perspectives is that their low-theory narratives hypostatize nature into a sort of “noble savage.” There is already a bit of a mismatch given Deleuze and Guattari’s famous formula that god = nature = industry, leading them to say “we cry out, ‘More perversion! More artifice!’”—to a point where the earth becomes so artificial that the movement of deterritorialization creates of necessity and by itself a new earth’ (1983: 321). The lesson we are meant to take is that when we put material under the microscope, it may be active (in the vitalist sense) but that does not mean it need to be treated with any special reverence. My response, a line that I take from Tiqqun, is a materialist perspective that apprehends challenges like the Anthropocene or Empire not “like a subject, facing us, but like an environment that is hostile to us” (Tiqqun, 2010: 171).
Taking it a bit further: maybe we are already molecular. Financialization, informatization, and algorithmic culture name a few of the already-talked about forms of molecular regulation. Behind them are digital methodologies that claims to get a more complex picture slice of the world, both in gradiance and scope. One appeal of the molecular, then, is its attention to complexity. And is this not a popular appeal in seminar rooms? “It’s more complex than that.” Same old story of the information-gap. But it is exactly wrong because we are in an age of oversaturation. The craving for more information is born out of a libertarian impulse for transparency, which is connected to the pornographic drive to overexposure that feeds network culture.
TD: I would like us to dig a little deeper into the distinction between production and anti-production that you made. Your work follows Marx and Engels’ belief in the capitalist forces of production as “an uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation” (Culp, 2016b: 41). Rather than turning, in response, towards deceleration, you suggest: “Capitalism is to be criticized for falling short—it pairs the conductive power of unfolding with the rhizomatic logic of accumulation. A communism worthy of its name pushes unfolding to its limit” (ibid.).
And still, you are careful to distinguish your conceptions from current movements towards (left/right) accelerationism in the social sciences and humanities, preferring instead a politics of escape. At what point, at which speed, does acceleration shift into escape, and vice-versa?
AC: The path toward pure deterritorialization has to be posed anew today. After the events of May 1968, the novelty of unexpected connections between all sorts of minorities, students, and oppressed peoples was not only intellectually profound but the reality of it was revealed as an event in the streets. Deleuze and Guattari’s initial thoughts were that a Marxo-Freudian synthesis was the best theory for elaborating what was going on. Part of the explanation is biographical—Guattari had been working at La Borde, Jean Oury’s clinic and utopian social experiment, since 1955. The other portion can probably be explained by many of the defining characteristics of the events in May, which the ’68 industry continues to allegorize sexually as a romance full of exploration, passion, and heartbreak (recently: Bertolucci’s The Dreamers , Garrel’s Regular Lovers , and Assayas’s Something in the Air). By the time Deleuze and Guattari write A Thousand Plateaus, psychoanalysis is no longer a priority. Their brief homage to Freud in the second plateaus on wolves gives way to a Geology of Morals through an ambitious reworking of materialism that intentionally takes leave of psychoanalytic models of causation such as condensation and displacement that would continue to influence structuralism for decades.
Accelerationism is an attempt to rethink deterritorialization outside of the schizoanalytic model of Anti-Oedipus. Deleuze and Guattari are less used than abused in the early accelerationism proposed in Nick Land’s “Machinic Desire” which fundamentally relies on the opposition between humans and machines—a distinction that is nonsensical within Deleuze and Guattari’s post-naturalist framework (something demonstrated quite cogently in Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto”). There is also an odd “boomerang dialectic” interpretation of accelerationism that borrows the affective tonalities of Land’s misanthropy. According to the boomeranger, things have to get worse to get better. Similar to the physics of a pendulum, energy is introduced in one direction to break stasis, with the eventuality of it swinging back in the opposite direction. While Deleuze and Guattari do use a certain energetics, even at their most destructive, their critique of dialectics makes them fundamentally allergic to any strategy based on assisting the opposition. This is why the accelerationist citation of Anti-Oedipus is so perverse. No one more vehemently disagrees with boomerang-dialectical propositions—such as Žižek reciting Oscar Wilde that “the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realized by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it” (1891)—than Deleuze and Guattari. When they say that “no one has ever died of contradictions,” Deleuze and Guattari are not flippantly egging on bad things— they are arguing against those Marxist crisis theorists who say that there is a point at which things will be so bad that people must revolt (151). So when they say that “we haven’t seen anything yet,” we should also take it as a warning: there is no floor to how terrible things can get.
As for Land’s more recent right-accelerationism based in a libertarian obsession with markets, private property, and a corporatist state—that critique is even easier. Those three things do not represent maximum deterritorialization but the inverse, they are the absolute essentials of any mode of capitalist reterritorialization. Until they are eliminated, reterritorialization will always reign supreme.
Communism has a rather orthodox definition including the abolition of private property, the cessation of class relations of domination, and the withering away of the state. Left-accelerationism is a total non-starter on this issue for me because it remains a technocratic state socialist project rather than communist one. As informed by their principled opposition to the state, the contribution of Deleuze and Guattari to this idea seems clear to me. In contrast to the process outlined by Lenin in The State and Revolution (1917), namely establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat through the seizing of the organs of the state, Deleuze’s metaphysics suggests that there are non-legislative processes that could passively produce the conditions of communism. The suggestion by the post-Autonomia Marxists was a new post-scarcity version of the commons. I like the idea, but there is a clearer picture suggested by Tiqqun, The Plan B Bureau, and the Invisible Committee: a communism of all of those forces that struggle against Empire. The text I like on this point is Twenty Theses for the Subversion of the Metropolis (The Plan B Bureau, 2009), which proposes blocking, sabotage, and ungovernability as a shared exodus from an Empire that operates according to communication (the precise cybernetic system that left-accelerationists advocate). The speed of such revolt may actually be experienced as a slowing down, as the complicity between cybernetics and capitalism is that both speed things up because they perceive most problems to be an issue of efficiency. Ultimately, a phrase that Deleuze and Guattari take from R.D. Laing is all that matters: the task of the revolutionary should be to provoke a breakthrough and not a breakdown.
TD: One of the tenets of this breakthrough, in your work, seems to involve a distancing from “productivity.” Rather provocatively, perhaps, you suggest we need to get rid of the “body,” or rather, of the body put to use for “useful labor” (Culp, 2016b: 61) in the form of capitalist labor or species reproduction. In his critique of the productivism central to Antonio Negri’s work, Giorgio Agamben seems to follow a similar movement. The notion of “inoperativity” he draws on to this end “does not mean inertia, but names an operation that deactivates and renders works […] inoperative” (Agamben, 2014: 69). The aim of the “inoperative operation” is to open works (bodies, words, ideas, spaces, times) to a new use without pre-determined end (what he phrases as “means without ends”).
Yours entails a movement towards “interruption,” Agamben’s towards “inoperativity.” Perhaps a central difference between these two is that an inoperative operation involves returning “work” to the potentiality from which it operates (its pure potentiality), whilst “interruption” departs from the belief that a better world might be found in the ruins of our own, finding instead inspiration in “the outside?”
AC: The body remains an essential touchstone for feminism, and among the many things feminism provides, I think it serves as an essential gut-check. If something feels anti-feminist, we must go back to the drawing board. That said, there is quite a debate raging right now about bodies in transfeminism, critical disabilities studies, black studies, and other areas that study power established through the marking and control of bodies. A crystallization of this controversy is espoused by Elizabeth Grosz, who claims that transgender identity is a mistaken belief about the ability to bypass the material limits of bodies (a claim initially made in Volatile Bodies , reiterated in Becoming Undone , and elaborated on in an interview with Esther Wolfe ). Obviously I find these remarks indefensible and I think that this is the unthought kernel of Grosz that needs a dose of her own molecular method—why not further multiply Irigaray’s sexual difference to the point where the categories of male and female are simply molar relics? Grosz fortunately makes charitable remarks toward actually-existing trans* people and I have not seen her align herself with the odious politics of trans-exclusive radical feminism, but I am at a loss for the value of advocating a materialism that can so easily dismiss transfeminism and queerness more broadly. My ultimate concern is that such remarks reveal a conservative undertow to the appeal to bodies-as-established-fact. This is why I think the negativity of Dark Deleuze is meant to advance the feminist cause, even as it must deal with some disagreements stemming from certain Spinozist feminisms (I therefore see the Dark Deleuze project as extending recent developments in feminist thought, such as C.E.’s Undoing Sex: Against Sexual Optimism )—what is more in line with queer theory and transfeminism than “saying no to those who tell us we should take the world as it is?”
You are right that the question of labor remains at the heart of my analysis. On this question, I remain Marxist in a way more dogmatic than kneeling and repeating the psalms of Capital (1974): labor is the sole source of surplus value (and not, for instance, vibrant matter or the cosmos). To be clear, I am only talking about capitalism in this instance, and within it, I include unremunerated labor such as reproduction. Why defend labor (and labor-power) as Marx defines it? Adhering to his reworking of the labor theory of value is absolutely essential if we are to derive a political theory from Marxist analysis. Where we go with it is not obvious, as from it, a number of different political strategies have been developed. The theory advanced by Negri is that proletarian labor as “living labor” is the motor of history and a self-directed revolutionary force. I instead align with certain elements of value-criticism, such as Endnotes, that take Marx as providing a negative critique of capitalist society and not an affirmative blueprint for the liberation of labor in any form (unions, a socialist state, as a revolutionary class, etc.). And if fidelity to the father means much here, it is a position very similar to the one advanced by Marx in the first chapter of his Critique of the Gotha Program. That said, I ultimately part with specific political stances Marx took at his time, which I feel like I have license to do this and still call myself a Marxist of a sort because Marx did not produce a coherent political theory in his time. I also believe that in spite of Marxism’s universalist aspirations, we should not confuse it for a swiss army knife, as other approaches are often a better fit in instances where labor is not at the heart of the matter.
When trying to recruit allies for the labor question in Dark Deleuze, at first blush, someone like Giorgio Agamben may not seem to synthesize well with Deleuze. Most of Deleuze’s thought is dedicated to taking a distance from the German phenomenological tradition in which Agamben is marinated (as a regular attendee of Heidegger’s seminars at Le Thor in Provence in the late ’60s). That has not stopped Agamben from thinking with Deleuze and Foucault across his many works. Such a method is instructive to how I use Agamben, whose many concepts have to be reworked to fit within a Deleuzian framework.
The Agamben question is further muddied by his middle period, such as the two side-by-side pieces that addresses labor from The Man Without Content (1999), “Privation is Like a Face” and “Poiesis and Praxis.” He begins the second essay with a bold homo faber-like statement that only a philosopher steeped in the Greeks would make: “man has on earth a poetic, that is, a productive, status” (68). His subsequent argument revolves around three distinct terms: poiesis, praxis, and work. After quoting Plato from the Symposium, Agamben writes that “every time that something is pro-duced, that is, brought from concealment and non-being into the light of presence, there is ποίησις, pro-duction, poetry’ (59-60). Praxis, he defines as willed productive human activity. And work, tied to bare biological existence, he says has gone through a transvaluation from contemptuous activity reserved for the worst-off to the joyful creativity of the artist. Curiously then, we see a sort of productivism in Agamben’s theory of poetry-as-poiesis, though not an uncomplicated one, as he marshals Nietzsche to posit the work of art as an exercise in redemptive nihilism (as “negation and destruction of a world of truth” having “traversed its nothingness from end to end,” it ends in a will to power that “reigns” [87; 93]).
It takes the Homo Sacer project to disabuse Agamben of these gestures toward creation, ultimately ending in The Use of Bodies (2016), which finishes with a political theory of inoperativity that he calls destituent power. Agamben discusses Negri in the original Homo Sacer (1998) book in terms of Negri’s study of Abbé Sieyès’s “constituent power” introduced in the essay “Constituent Republic” (2006) and further developed in Insurgencies (2009). Negri argues that constitutionalism grows out of a Machiavellian idea that the proper degree of arms and money constitute a people and establish the basis for a sovereign society. Instead of establishing the formal document of a constitution to establish a people through juridical power, he suggests the development of material forces to set the conditions for the “objective emergence” of new Soviets that would “express immediately potentiality, cooperation, and productivity” reminiscent of council communism (2006, 221). The result would be a constituent Republic without a constitution. Such a new republic would be the effect of a constituent springing forth from material conditions not constituted by the decree of a sovereign authority, and therefore for him, a qualitatively different form of power.
The epilogue to The Use of Bodies is “Toward a Theory of Destituent Potential” (originally published in translation by Society and Space in 2014). He opens it with a deeply retrospective comment about what was at stake in his inquiry into “the ‘Homo Sacer’ project,” lending it a sense of finality, not just to a single book, but as the last words of a nine-volume project (263). It serves as a definitive answer to Negri although Negri’s approach to constituent power never occupies the same centrality to Agamben as other thinkers, such as Carl Schmitt. (Parenthetically, I should also note that Agamben was a sort of patron to the Tiqqun project and remains an unmentioned inspiration for the writings of The Invisible Committee, both of which have lengthy screeds against ‘Negriism’.) In section 5, Agamben writes that theories of constituent power misunderstand the contemporary situation. Constituent power takes today’s fundamental ontological problem to be one of work whereas for him, it is an issue of inoperativity. He presents a fatalist picture of constituent power that recalls the events of recent revolutions, such as those sparked in the Arab Spring, stating that “power that has only been knocked down with a constituent violence will resurge in another form, in the unceasing, unwinnable, desolate dialectic between constituent power and constituted power” (266). The alternative, destituency, is for him a question of neutralization—a potential that cannot resolve back into constituent power (268). Like most of Agamben’s work, his discussion of destituent power operates at the level of language, deep textual references, and brief allusions to historical events. So we get a discussion of destitution as a paradox in Aristotle’s impotential (adynamia) (276), in Latin grammar (277), as remaining open to a relation that is not a relation at all (271), as causing a contact that renders relations destitute and interrupted (war?) (272), and in Paul’s description of how the messiah reacts to law without being constituent or destructive (273). He does provide two elaborations that are more concrete with discussion of Benjamin’s proletarian general strike and anarchy (268-269; 274-276).
It might serves us better to study destituent power where it has taken root. Fortunately, The Invisible Committee has a whole chapter-long elaboration on destituent power in their book Now (2017) called “Let’s Destitute the World!” (69-89). The actual proposals are very similar to what they already suggested in The Coming Insurrection and To Our Friends, namely: build commonality with others, get organized by building consistency, and fuck the police as well as all forms of governance. They suggest that destituence occurs in building alternatives that cut governance out of the pictures—”to destitute the university is to establish … places of research,” “to destitute the judicial system is to learn to settle our disputes ourselves,” “to destitute government is to make ourselves ungovernable” (81). Although much more concrete than Agamben, it is here that I disagree with their strategy, which strikes me as another iteration of the anti-globalization movement’s take on prefigurative politics.
In contrast, I think we can generalize a politics of destitution from left-communism and communization. For them, the power of the proletariat is found in its ability to bring forth its own abolition. Such self-abolition is seen in the work of Jacques Camatte, Gilles Dauvé, Endnotes, Aufheben, and Theorie Communiste. They owe much to the older legacy of Marxist feminism and the politics of refusal encapsulated in the famous epigraph to Silvia Federici’s Wages Against Housework (1975: 1):
They say it is love. We say it is unwaged work. They call it frigidity. We call it absenteeism. Every miscarriage is a work accident. Homosexuality and heterosexuality are both working conditions…but homosexuality is workers’ control of production, not the end of work. More smiles? More money. Nothing will be so powerful in destroying the healing virtues of a smile. Neuroses, suicides, desexualization: occupational diseases of the housewife.
Negativity and interruption here is about tactics that fit into an overall strategy. For me, this is a project for partisan knowledge. This follows the Fanonian tradition of developing knowledge not meant to argue or persuade, but for others are who already fighting alongside you in struggle. There’s an underappreciated essay from the anti-globalization period that develops this approach quite brilliantly—Crisso and Odoteo’s Barbarians: The Disordered Insurgency (2006). Most of the piece is dedicated to a polemical critique of Hardt and Negri’s Empire, which is spirited and fun, but not what I take from it. Instead, I like their proposal for becoming barbarians who refuse to speak the language of the polis and whose actions are so uncivil that they are dismissed as obscenely violent.
TD: Your work starts from a particular Deleuzian empiricism that is open to “abstractions from the outside.” Perhaps putting it too simply: on the one hand, this empiricism runs counter to understandings of the real as the sensory given (as in science) and that which needs to be detailed; on the other hand, it promotes a philosophical approach that creates images through abstraction that are just as real. Only philosophy, on this account, can enable “a formally asymmetric relationship with the world as it is presently constituted” (Culp, 2015: 438).
Offering further insight into the implications of “symmetrical” thinking in political terms, The Invisible Committee warns us of the “curse of symmetry” (2015: 156): to constitute oneself on the same model of what one is hoping to destroy. But they also note that an understanding of capitalist technologies “brings an immediate increase in power, giving us a purchase on what will then no longer appear as an environment, but as a world arranged in a certain way and that we can shape” (125). How “distant” must a politics of refusal be then? Can one understand what one opposes without describing it (perhaps a scientific function) and without making it part of one’s situation, of one’s world? In my own ethnographic work, I am intrigued with how “subvertisers” (those illegally intervening into outdoor advertising spaces through removal, replacement, reversal, supplementation and destruction) are simultaneously repelled by, seeking distance from, and drawn to advertising space. This gives them a perspective of proximity regarding the workings of advertising power, but it is perhaps also here, on these grounds, that they collapse most deeply into apparatuses of capture.
AC: Tiqqun and The Invisible Committee define ethics as the art of distances. It is a curious combination of the partisanship of Schmitt’s friend-enemy distinction and a theory of power from Spinoza’s composition of bodies whereby friends build power by finding each other and enemies distance one from one’s own power. The point then is to refuse the dialectic of recognition, which inadvertently causes one to take on attributes of the enemy in an attempt to combat them. While I have strategic disagreements with The Invisible Committee, I think the art of distances is a wonderful way of posing the problem “how does one relate to the enemy?”
The relation Deleuze and Guattari propose in the nomadology of A Thousand Plateaus is one of non-relation. This is the key distinction between Foucault’s theory of power and that of Deleuze and Guattari. For Foucault (1978: 98-102), power produces an internal resistance (not dissimilar to electricity) that leads to him presenting four rules of power: immanence, continual variation, double conditioning, and tactical polyvalence. We can say that he presents a theory of power with two internally-related terms, “power” and “resistance.” There is no outside. For Deleuze and Guattari, the nomad war-machine exists outside the state and the state has two poles that exist in a dialectical complementarity—as clearly outlined in the Axioms and Problems of the nomadology. As such, they present a tripartite theory of power with the state as two internally-related terms, “Mitra” and “Varuna” (the liberal jurist and the authoritarian emperor), and a third external term, the war machine. Two for Foucault and three for Deleuze and Guattari. This helps explain why Foucault makes audacious remarks like “the point is recuperation” while Deleuze and Guattari declare that “escape is our only hope.”
Even then, Deleuze and Guattari’s line of flight is often mistaken. I initially pitched my dissertation under the title of Escape as a corrective. In it, I opened with an elaboration on anthropology of Pierre Clastres by way of James C. Scott and other work on early states. Something I found out early on in the writing process was that our relationship to states are far different than that of a peasant. Those who produce their own means of subsistence can refuse the state in a somewhat uncomplicated way. The biopolitical fabric of contemporary life imbricates us in a whole complicated web of power that we cannot easily take leave of. So while the non-state peoples of Clastres can anticipate the state and ward it off, that very question has to be posed differently to make sense for us. One concept remains absolutely essential: Deleuze and Guattari define the state as an apparatus of capture. This leads them to make the claim that societies should not be defined according to their mode of production but their mode of anti-production, which is to say, how they manage lines of escape (“It is not the State that presupposes a mode of production; quite the opposite, it is the State that makes production a ‘mode’” – 1987: 429). There are at least two important insights to take from it: first, that the state’s primary function is one of the katechon as restrainer of chaos and general prevention; and second, that opposition to state power is ultimately a question of distance. An important recent exploration of both points is Grégoire Chamayou’s Manhunts: A Philosophical History, in which he outlines how hunting natives, blacks, slaves, the poor, foreigners, Jews, and illegals provide special insight into the history of sovereignty institutionalized in modern policing (2012: 149-152).
The Situationist International is important here. They offer a sophisticated account of recuperation in terms of its risks and potential rewards (e.g. détournement). Of course, most of their interlocutors seem to focus on the latter. Maybe Malcolm McLaren is to blame? A more properly Situationist position is Tiqqun’s genealogy of The Spectacle that locates it as an intensification of The Public, that political concept so uncritically lauded by contemporary thinkers. There is even incredibly slippage between public, publicity, and advertising (see, for instance, Voyer, 1975) as well as older sovereign understandings of publicness not unrelated to Louis XIV’s statement that “L’État, c’est moi.”
The politics of asymmetry is a certain formalization of the ethics of distance. There is something a little obscene about someone so indebted to Deleuze talking about forms in this way—it feels a bit too Hegelian, especially since Deleuze and Guattari critique the traditional form-content distinction via Gilbert Simondon as having an embedded “socialized representation of work” that “imposes a form on a passive and indeterminate matter” that makes it “essentially the operation commanded by the free man as executed by the slave” (Simondon, 1964: 48-49). In contrast, there is an analysis of forms that comes out of materialist media studies that I feel more comfortable with. Of course there is the eminently quotable Marshall McLuhan concept that ‘the ‘content’ of any medium is always another “medium.”
Exciting contemporary media studies of the politics of asymmetry are Alexander R. Galloway and Eugene Thacker’s The Exploit: A Theory of Networks (2007), Hanna Rose Shell’s Hide and Seek: Camouflage, Photography, and the Media of Reconnaissance (2012), Zach Blas’s Facial Weaponization Suite (2013; and other works on queer opacity), and Hito Streyel’s How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Education .MOV File (2013). They all analyze media and technology as a form of information warfare in which network logic is just one strategic form. I am standing alongside them when I make the claim in Dark Deleuze that networks hardly generate asymmetry. Looking to the corporate world, for instance, having experimented with “flat organization structures” since at least the 1970s, horizontality became a business mantra in the early 2000s, as seen in the popular writing of Thomas Friedman (2007) and Malcolm Gladwell (2000; Chapter 5). The consequence is that the old immanent-transcendent, flat-hierarchical, horizontal-vertical distinction is no longer a viable strategy—Fréderic Neyrat’s recent book A-Topias: Manifesto for a Radical Existentialism (2018) is really great on this point. What is called for is a new series of forms that re-establishes the art of distance and politics of asymmetry on different terms.
There is also another piece here about the outside. Very briefly: the metaphysics of nomadology turns inside-out the slogan popular to the Autonomists, “There Is No Outside,” as it is the State that produces insides while the nomad war machine always operates at the speed of escape velocity. This is why the outside is the great unthought of so many fields, especially those invested in techniques closely associated with state power and governance (International Relations, Political Science, Economics, Sociology). There is also a very specific sense in which I use the Outside as the force of the intolerable—one of the only moments I engage Heidegger, though already transformed through Maurice Blanchot’s Great Refusal. I am sure we will get to it in a further question, so here I will just say that Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism is filtered through a reading of Hume that has nothing to do with the subject’s experience, which results in a very structuralist approach to ethnography that is quite foreign to most in the Anglophone social sciences.
TD: Thinking here further about the force of the intolerable, in your project I am struck by the central position of the notion of “cruelty.” In your essay on connectivity, you speak of “the cruel forces of development: displacement, polarisation, and stratification” (2016a: 178), and “the cruel thrill that comes from exploiting others with the self-destructive delights of being oppressed, bossed around, hopelessly addicted, completely dependent, and knowing your place, which creates a split subject that desires happiness but only experiences limited pleasure” (177). In Dark Deleuze, I was intrigued by a reverse attendance to “cruelty.” Here you speak of cruelty as a disruptive affect capable of shaking up dominant modes of thought and sensitivity—one of Deleuze’s “dissociative forces.” Cruelty here is not a “strong feeling,” but something more akin to an asubjective, nonhuman shock of thought that comes from the outside. What both instances seem to share is an understanding of cruelty as that which gathers force towards different forms of dislocation.
Is the difference in cruelty here between a question of speed, of kind, of degree, of intensity, of immediacy? How do we “escape” cruelty-as-exploitation (in struggle, in the contemporary Metropolis) whilst cultivating its political potential? In other words, what is a desirable ethical orientation of cruelty? Deleuze has commonly been taken up, by Levi Bryant (2011) and others, as promoting a Spinozist ethics that evaluates an action by tracing its capacities to create or destroy relations. In those moments, Deleuze is frequently cited: “an act is bad whenever it directly decomposes a relation, whereas it is good whenever it directly compounds its relation with other relations” (1988, 35). There is perhaps a binarism at play here that might be at odds with your approach of contraries (the introduction of a third term from the outside), and perhaps cruelty must not increase capacities to act for it to serve a political force.
AC: My thinking on cruelty has evolved. My article on connectivity includes uses of the term closest to how Lauren Berlant uses in Cruel Optimism (2011). For her, cruelty is about psychic satisfaction and its discontents. Cruelty in that sense is a pleasure associated with disempowerment often seen in punching down—the bully’s joy, the troll’s fiendish lulz, the bigot’s sexist one-liner. Berlant’s book but also Sara Ahmed’s study of the sexual contract, The Promise of Happiness (2009), present such cruelty psychoanalytically. Feminized subjects, for them, are always split-subjects because they gain social recognition by acceding to a sexual contract that demands performances of happiness but provides only fleeting moments of satisfaction. These form the theoretical backing for my discussion of women’s negative experiences in the city, such as street harassment, to synecdochally discuss the city as a diagram for power’s more advanced operations. I still hold it to be true, and I am pleased to see coincidences between it and the chapter on weather in Christina Sharpe’s recent In the Wake (2016).
You are right that in Dark Deleuze, I present a very different account of cruelty. There, as you say, I see cruelty as an affect that provokes thought. It is not about cruelty in the interpersonal sense. It is a version of cruelty that comes directly from Deleuze in Difference and Repetition (1994), in which he advances a “cruel ontology.” The spark for my idea of the term did come from Levi Bryant, but from his early book Difference and Givenness (2008) and James Williams’s The Transversal Thought of Gilles Deleuze: Encounters and Influences (2006). My reading is that the “shock of thought” in Deleuze is not knowledge as any type of information whatsoever, but the (Heideggerian) realization that “we are still not yet thinking.” The shock occurs when the habits of thought that we create to navigate the world (one of the types of bodies without organs) break down and their insufficiency becomes evident. And the genesis of the shock is an encounter with something in the world that strikes us as utterly intolerable. Therefore, there is something cruel about ontology in its ability to generate events that unsettle us, how it reveals that everything we have done to address the present has failed, and ultimately robs us of all our faculties but thought itself to break us through the deadlock.
The shocking call of the outside is a realism of a sort, but as a cruel ontology. Instructive here is Isabelle Stengers’ version of Gaia (2015). Most versions of Gaia are New Age cosmic paeans to harmony, understanding, and peace on earth. Although she calls her image of the earth Gaia, Stengers’ conception is much closer to the Medea Hypothesis, which states that over the long run, the planet will tend toward killing off its multicellular children in a return to its longer microbial past. Less teleological, Stengers reminds us that Gaia is “she who intrudes.” Most of the stories about ecological devastation are wrong, it is not us destroying the Earth but precisely the opposite: life on Earth will no doubt survive us, it is we whose life on Earth may be running out. In terms of the pragmatism of intervention, it should not be taken in anthropocentric terms of ecological disasters calling us to intervene, but rather, ecological disasters are signs from Gaia that cannot help but intervene in our lives. As further elaborated in her piece Gaia, The Urgency to Think (and Feel) (2014), Stengers shows how such realism is not an invitation to make this-or-that connection but an example of Gaia’s disruptive power to induce thought. The most powerful ingredient here is not objects or their relations but fiction, which “is not meant to defend itself against critique or to demand adhesion” (2014: 12). The coincidence between her suggestion and the ethics of distances should be obvious: the Gaia’s urgency to think is just another mode of the partisanship of knowledge.
There is an essay on Spinoza that I found incredibly clarifying, Susan Ruddick’s piece on “The Politics of Affects” (2010). In it, she distinguishes between Negri’s purely compositional account of affects and Deleuze and Guattari’s critical use. Negri’s joyful reading of Spinoza seems to operate through a logic of accumulation—in with the good, out with the bad; the more the connections, the better. It is as if subjects are composition-greedy! Deleuze and Guattari instead see affects as subject to hijacking. This is why that famous quote from Anti-Oedipus about masses at a certain point began to desire their own repression is a Spinozist question. Deleuze himself does not seem to resolve this issue in his own readings of Spinoza, though he does allude to some potential issues in his short Spinoza book, such as the problem of tyrants and even the fact that it took the liberal democratic nature of early colonial-capitalist Holland for a thinker such as Spinoza to flourish (1988). I want to introduce one more provocation: Deleuze and Guattari use Spinoza’s geometric-axiomatic method to define the state in the nomadology plateau and argue in a section on method that axiomatics is state thought. Could there be a chance that Spinoza is a state thinker in the final instance? Returning to Ruddick, she argues that Deleuze and Guattari have a critical use of affects, and she returns to Deleuze’s remarks on Francis Bacon to argue that the critical faculty of the philosopher is their scream. It is truly amazing to see how she puts it all together. Moreover, there is a wonderful convergence between her use of the scream and the opening to John Holloway’s Change the World Without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today (2012):
In the beginning is the scream. We scream.
When we write or when we read, it is easy to forget that the beginning is not the word, but the scream. Faced with the mutilation of human lives by capitalism, a scream of sadness, a scream of horror, a scream of anger, a scream of refusal: NO.
The starting point of theoretical reflection is opposition, negativity, struggle. It is from rage that thought is born, not from the pose of reason, not from the reasoned-sitting-back-and-reflecting-on-the-mysteries-of-existence that is the conventional image of ‘the thinker’.
We start from negation, from dissonance. The dissonance can take many shapes. An inarticulate mumble of discontent, tears of frustration, a scream of rage, a confident roar. An unease, a confusion, a longing, a critical vibration.
TD: Through an engagement with your work, specifically Dark Deleuze, I have become increasingly intrigued by work on Afro-Pessimism, particularly R.L.’s notion of “ontological absence.” In phrasing black existence as an ontological absence, he is concerned with black subjects as “exiled from the human relation, which is predicated on social recognition, volition, subjecthood, and the valuation of life itself” (R.L., 2013).
In hearing your thoughts in this interview on a politics of refusal, “a scream of refusal” in that compelling Holloway quote, I can not help but think of “ontological absence” as not only a threat, but equally as a source of inspiration. Those overwhelmed by daily drudgery, you write, are also those who might most likely carry secret dealings on the side. In becoming a realm of conspiracies, does ontological absence become a source of inspiration for undoing our compromises with the present? How does one trace the withdrawal from the social, as a political investment, with regards to those for whom such withdrawal is a form of oppression, a form of “social death,” as Jared Sexton (2011) has referred to it?
AC: Afro-Pessimism has received a lot of deserving attention, in part because it has captured the hearts of a younger generation who have combined Black Study with time at the barricades. This exact coincidence, between thinking and fighting, remains crucial for how many of us are able to carve out space within the often-hostile space of the contemporary university. The importance of struggle in the story of Black Study is especially pronounced. The early wave of departments of Black Studies in the United States were founded through sustained protest, and many continue only under administrative duress, making struggle not just an intellectual interest but an everyday necessity.
We also have to avoid talking about blackness with a certain detachment. French intellectuals like Alain Badiou are especially guilty of this, his Black: The Brilliance of a Non-color (2016) is a study on how not to write about blackness. Personally, I briefly came in contact with Afro-Pessimism through a graduate committee member, only to be reacquainted with it in anarchist circles while doing anti-police and prison abolition work. The politics of citationality is especially important here, which curiously, wraps back around to the work of the Prison Information Group (that included Deleuze and Guattari, among many others) whose trans-Atlantic connections with black militants makes it an important touchstone for people working in the black radical tradition (see, for instance, James, 2007). Who we talk about is essential to how we talk about blackness. So my first suggestion is to pay Frank B. Wilderson, III and Jared Sexton their due, which is deep, but not let Afro-Pessimism become a shorthand for the two of them. So in addition to shared reading of Hortense Spillers, Saidya Hartman, and Sylvia Wynter, it is absolutely essential to hold in conversation the work of Joy James on black death, Christina Sharpe on the hold, and Sharon Holland on death’s relationship to subjectivity (to name just a few). Additionally, we need to acknowledge how Afro-Pessimism has been nourished in South Africa, Germany, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere, especially as its significance is tied directly to the centrality of black social death in contemporary struggles from the Baltimore Rebellion to Rhodes Must Fall.
As a theory, I read Afro-Pessimism as a theory of violence. In many ways, it is defined by its specificity, which is another way of saying that it is defined by what it is not. It is not a general theory of race, as a key idea is that antiblackness should not be analogized. It is a non-colonial reading of Fanon, as it is interested in the subject position of the slave and not the colonized. It is avowedly non-Marxist, as it is a critique of the socialist model of the subject premised on shared humanity. It is anti-political, as in its project is not to secure a place within white civil society but to bring about the end of the world. I find Dark Deleuze perfectly commensurate with these major aspects of Afro-Pessimism, but I should also note, the dialogue about how each project informs the other is only just beginning—each was developed in isolation from the other and the coincidence between the two must be built in struggle rather than assumed. To start, a good starting point would be Deleuze’s use of Black Panther George Jackson to define the line of flight, his most important political concept, and substantial afropessimist writing on blackness in armed struggle (e.g. Wilderson, 2011).
I appreciate where the RL piece is coming from, but its method is to fold Afro-Pessimism back into Marxist categories. Cedric Robinson and others who write about racial capitalism have my deep respect, and I think that there are meaningful debates about how race fits within Marxist analysis—see, for instance, debates around David Roediger’s most recent book Class, Race, and Marxism (2017). However, the whole point of Afro-Pessimism is that antiblack violence exceeds economic logics such as labor exploitation. Afro-Pessimism also challenges key assumptions about the subject as theorized by socialists who presume certain shared interests based on economic benefit. Afro-Pessimism is critical of socialists who argue that race is a divide-and-conquer tactic imposed by capitalists, and that politics should take the form of a coalition of common interest that puts differences aside. Even for the self-abolition faction of communists who are not into coalition building, the question remains: are they assuming an artificial commonality with others based on their own theory of the subject? That said, ontological absence is a good starting point. The afropessimist point would be that blacks are structurally positioned in permanent ontological absence. So while the proletarian subject, for instance, has the political potential of self-abolition, the black subject has been living it every day for centuries. This is why the chapter on the lived experience of the black in Black Skin, White Masks (1966) is so important—it documents ontology when trapped “between nothingness and infinity.” It poses a question of survival, which is not an unimportant one. The ability to survive even in social death proposes a number of different answers. Are strategies for survival a resource? Is the bare existence of survival something to be overcome? Does it offer a path through? In that way, work in Black Study provides a map of applied nothingness. It is literally on the bleeding edge of inoperativity.
Dark Deleuze has a very philosophical approach to death. It seems vulgar to even mention something so abstract in the same context as black social death, except that there is an unintentional overlap between them. In Dark Deleuze, I follow Gregg Flaxman’s proposal in Gilles Deleuze and the Fabulation of Philosophy (2011) to see Deleuze as proposing the third in a series of deaths: Nietzsche’s Death of God, Foucault’s Death of the Human, and Deleuze’s Death of the World. Afropessmism, interestingly enough, takes on Sylvia Wynter’s critique of the human as genre, and Fanon’s (through Cesaire) call for an end of the world. The world has been marshaled to justify all sorts of violence (here, I am thinking of Rey Chow’s wonderful Age of the World Target ). The reason I think the end of the world has so much appeal right now, both in popular culture and politically-charged intellectual inquiry, is that many of the problems we face exist at the world-scale. Few of us seem satisfied anymore with the long reign of the politics of the everyday. We want our thinking to rise to the occasion of current “world problems” rather than the traditional “minor” ones of post-structuralism. There is a growing hunger for the revolutionary proposition of complete upheaval. As recent graffiti has suggested, une autre fin du monde est possible.
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Thomas Dekeyser is a PhD Candidate in geography at the University of Southampton. His work, focusing on the themes of advertising power, illicit spatial practices and a politics of negativity, has appeared in Cultural Geographies, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers and Area.
SOCIETY & SPACE
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by ANDREW CULP
French philosopher Gilles Deleuze is usually characterized as a thinker of positivity. Consider two of his major contributions: the rhizome as an image for the tangled connections of networks, and the molecular revolution as transform spurred by unexpected quantum drift. These concepts catapulted the popularity of his thought as the digital age seemed to reflect social forms matching each form, namely the world wide web of the Internet and the anti-globalization ‘movement of movements’ that lacked central coordination. Commentators marshaled his work to make sense of these developments, ultimately leading many to preach the joy of finding new connections to the material world (New Materialism), evolving the human at the bio-technical level (Post-Humanism), and searching out intensive affective encounters (Affect Studies).
In my new book Dark Deleuze, it is not my contention that such “affirmations” are incorrect. Rather, my argument is that Deleuze was ambivalent about their development, and later in life became more a critic than proponent. In updating Deleuze for the digital age, I did more than restore a critical stance – I worked out how his lost negativity could be set loose on this world by destroying it.
Here I expand on the Dark Deleuzian notion of “Death of This World,” a term I introduce as an image of negativity, by rendering it here as “the alien.” Instead of using well-worn digital examples, I instead explore the greatest looming question for the humanities: the Anthropocene.
Anthropos, Anthropocene, Anthropological Transformation
In a recent talk, I analyzed the discourse associated with the Anthropocene, the scientific fact that recent human development has provoked ecological changes deep enough to be recorded at the level of geological periods. I ended with three mythological figures that illustrate possible responses to the Anthropocene: Gaia, Prometheus, and Medea.
Gaia is a personification of the natural world living in perfect harmony. Hers is a story of unity, cooperation, and reciprocity. Isabelle Stengers’s Gaiainverts the image of a fragile earth exploited by the predatory machinations of humanity. This Gaia intrudes to remind us that it is our way of life that is out of balance, not hers. The consequence is clear: fundamental change is inevitable in the Anthropocene, but it will be an anthropological transformation and not a modification to the building blocks of life.
Prometheus: Or, The Monstrous
The tale of Prometheus is about forbidden technology. The most popular tale of Prometheus is that of Doctor Frankenstein’s monster. This is obvious enough from the subtitle Mary Shelley gave it: “The Modern Prometheus.” Commentators continue to debate the conclusions readers should draw from her characterization of modern science as a monster. A mistake? Is humanity just not prepared? Must human misunderstanding be overcome?
One answer is given by David Cronenberg in his 1986 remake of The Fly. The film depicts Doctor Seth Brundle, who becomes a “fusion of Brundle and fly at the molecular-genetic level” after a scientific accident. The Fly is a literal realization of the “molecular revolution” laid out by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari that describes political transformation at the micropolitical level. Brundle’s own molecular transformation occurs through an “admixture” that adds fly as a minor ingredient to the human. He develops strange physical capacities that replace the normal abilities of a human: he grows hyperactive, gains extra-human strength, walks on walls, eats by vomiting digestive juices, and sprouts extra appendages. Ultimately, Brundle loses his mouth, and with it, the capacity for language that Aristotle says makes us human. Almost immediately, he sheds his human skin to reveal himself as a horrifying six-foot bipedal fly. This final form offers the definitive version of the monstrous: the molecular transformation of the familiar into the abject.
Medea: Or, the Alien
The myth of Medea is an account of domestic revenge. Medea’s revenge marks her as a barbarian, the name given to those who blabber in a foreign tongue and whose incivility exceeds local norms. As dramatized by Seneca, in the penultimate moment, Medea mounts a chariot yoked to dragons, and as she flies away, her spurned husband declares that “there are no gods” wherever she rides.
A recent depiction of the alien is Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special (2016). It opens with an 8-year old boy on the run. He inadvertently causes intense seismic activity as if the very fabric of the world was unraveling. “They think you’re a weapon,” an NSA analyst tells him, “and the ranch thinks you’re their savior.” “I’m not any of those things,” the boy responds, “I belong in another world. There are people there – they watch us. They’ve been watching us for a very long time. I need to go where I belong.” At the climax of the film, we are briefly shown that other world.
Medea and Midnight Special thus exemplify the alien as perceptible but unintelligible. Such impenetrability is crucial for distinguishing the monstrous from the alien. Ridley Scott’s “aliens” are knowable monsters because they are amalgams of known animal traits. Testifying to this fact, most “alien” films are really just extra terrestrial monster movies that resolve when humans cleverly decode the monster’s animal makeup (Aliens, Predator, Independence Day, Starship Troopers, Pitch Black, Signs). Adding a dystopian spin, District 9 shows how even unknowable space monster strangeness can be entrapped as form of molecular exploitation. The exception that proves the rule is John Carpenter’s The Thing, in which the alien monster lacks a distinct form, rendering it unrecognizable, only avoidable.
Why distinguish between the monstrous and the alien? For Dark Deleuze, because they offer distinct images of revolution: one joyous, one dark. The monstrous depicts revolution as molecular drift while the alien illustrates revolution as otherworldly. This molecular is an organization model explored by “quantum theorists” and New Materialists to replace a single punctual event with many tiny revolutions – although those moments may swell into a sweeping society-wide upheaval. In contrast, the alien revolution is the focus of Dark Deleuze, in which I offer a series of terms in contrast to those made familiar by molecular Deleuzians: asymmetry, conspiratorial communism, cruelty, interruption, and the power of the false, to name a few. If the molecular occurs from the inside-out, where the familiar becomes strange, then the alien occurs from the outside-in, with the intrusion of something so unsettling that it forces us to find a fresh orientation. The alien revolution begins by heeding the call of the outside and ends the Anthropocene with “the death of this world.”
Andrew Culp is visiting assistant professor of emerging media and communication at the University of Texas at Dallas and author of the new book Dark Deleuze. He would like to thank Eva Della Lana, Alejandro de Acosta, and Alex Galloway for their helpful feedback.
Forerunners: Ideas First is a thought-in-process series of breakthrough digital publications. Written between fresh ideas and finished books, Forerunners draws on scholarly work initiated in notable blogs, social media, conference plenaries, journal articles, and the synergy of academic exchange. This is gray literature publishing: where intense thinking, change, and speculation take place in scholarship.
“What is the relationship between metaphysics and political revolution? Despite being two of the most widely discredited concepts in contemporary European philosophy, this chapter argues that we are witnessing the return of both in the work of French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Alain Badiou.”
“Contemporary philosophy is thus pulled in two post-metaphysical directions: a positive post-Kantian direction and a more negative critical direction. In the first direction, philosophy’s access to the real is relativist or “correlationist,” as Quentin Meillassoux argues. In this direction, philosophy’s access to the real is mediated through and limited by its cultural-historical context, its language, or its body-consciousness. The world only appears “for us” and never ” in itself.” In the second direction, philosophy is the watchdog of the real, vigilant, and critical against every metaphysical pretender that dares to usurp the kingless throne of the true and the real. These two post-metaphysical traditions can be mapped on to the two dominant traditions in continental philosophy: phenomenology and deconstruction.”
“In the political domain the concept of revolution confronts a similar fate. Not only is there no single sovereign with direct access to political truth, it is argued, but there is no representable will of the people that can access this truth either. After the failure of the communist experiment, it is no longer philosophically tenable to believe in the power of people to determine the truth of political life. […] Metaphysics and revolution thus share a similar disrepute: it is no longer possible to believe in the real without the mediating forces of language, culture, party, and state. “
“Against this disrepute, this chapter argues that we are witnessing the return of metaphysics and revolution without mediation and political representation. But if this return is not a mere repetition of classical metaphysics and revolutionary statism, what is it? The return of metaphysics and revolution is a bold claim and requires some unpacking. To help me unpack this claim I will draw on the work of two contemporary philosophers who, throughout the later twentieth century, have rejected the so-called ‘end of metaphysics,’ the ‘death of philosophy,’ and the ‘exhaustion of revolution’: Gilles Deleuze and Alain Badiou. Ultimately, my argument is that whatever differences may exist between these two thinkers, we can find a very specific and common formulation of the return to metaphysics that I believe also offers us a promising new direction toward a non-representational theory of political revolution. More specifically, I argue that despite (or precisely because of) their important disagreements over ontology and the relationship between philosophy and politics, Deleuze and Badiou both share a commitment to what I call a “metaphysics of the event.” By a metaphysics of the event, what I mean is that their realism is based on two philosophical commitments: (I) the necessary condition of ontological contingency (or multiplicity), and (2) the sufficient condition of the existence of events and their consequences. While for Badiou events may be relatively rare, and for Deleuze they are more numerous, what is important here is that for both thinkers events are what make possible the return of metaphysics and revolution.”
by Steven Craig Hickman
Read an interesting experiment in programing using Kurt Gödel’s number theories: (Norman H. Cohen. Gödel numbers: A new approach to structured programming. SIGPLAN Notices 15, No. 4 (April 1980), pp. 70-74; download pdf at bottom part of page):
My reason for researching this had to do with another investigation into Nick Land’s use of Gödel. As Mackay and Brassier note,
One of the tasks of schizoanalysis has now become the decrypting of the ‘tics’ bequeathed to the human frame by the geotraumatic catastrophe, and ‘KataςoniX’ treats vestigial semantic content as a mere vehicle for code ‘from the outside’: the ‘tic’ symptoms of geotraumatism manifested in the shape of sub-linguistic clickings and hissings. Already disintegrated into the number-names of a hyperpagan pantheon, syncretically drawing on the occult, nursery rhyme, anthropology, SF and Lovecraft, among other sources, the ‘subterranean current of impressions, correspondences, and analogies’(Artaud) beneath language is now allowed uninhibited (but rigorously-prepared) development, in an effort to corporeally de-engineer the organicity of logos.
The element of these explorations remains the transformed conception of space vividly exhibited in Gibsonian cyberpunk and which is a crucial component in Land’s writings, a powerful bulwark against Kant’s architectonic ambition to subsume all space under unity. Coding and sequencing mechanisms alone now construct intensive space, and this lies at the core of Land’s typology of number, since dimensionality is a consequence of stratification. Naming and numbering converge in counting, understood as immanent fusion of nomination and sequencing. No longer an index of measure, number becomes diagrammatic rather than metric. From the perspective of Land’s ‘transcendental arithmetic’, the Occidental mathematisation of number is denounced as a repressive mega-machine of knowledge – an excrescent outgrowth of the numbering practices native to exploratory intelligence – and the great discoveries of mathematics are interpreted as misconstrued discoveries about the planomenon (or plane of consistency), as exemplified by Gödel’s ‘arithmetical counterattack against axiomatisation’.Land eschews the orthodox philosophical reception of Gödel as the mathematician who put an end to Hilbert’s dream of absolute formal consistency, thus opening up a space for meta-mathematical speculation. More important, for Land, are the implications of Gödel’s ‘decoded’ approach to number, which builds on the Richard Paradox, generated by the insight that numbers are, at once, indices and data. [my italics]
The Gödel episode also gives Land occasion to expand upon the theme of the ‘stratification’ of number: according to the model of stratification, as the ‘lower strata’ of numbers become ever more consolidated and metrically rigidified, their problematic component reappears at a ‘higher’ strata in the form of ‘angelic’ mathematical entities as-yet resistant to rigorous coding. A sort of apotheosis is reached in this tendency with Gödel’s flattening of arithmetic through the cryptographic employment of prime numbers as numerical ‘particles’, and Cantor’s discovery of ‘absolute cardinality’ in the sequence of transfinites.
Thus for Land the interest of Gödel’s achievement is not primarily ‘mathematical’ but rather belongs to a lineage of the operationalisation of number in coding systems that will pass through Turing and into the technological mega-complex of contemporary techno-capital.
By using arithmetic to code meta-mathematical statements and hypothesising an arithmetical relation between the statements – an essentially qabbalistic procedure – Gödel also indicates the ‘reciprocity between the logicisation of number and the numerical decoding of language’, highlighting a possible revolutionary role for other non-mathematical numerical practices. As well as reappraising numerology in the light of such ‘lexicographic’ insights, the mapping of stratographic space opens up new avenues of investigation – limned in texts such as ‘Introduction to Qwernomics’ – into the effective, empirical effects of culture – chapters of a ‘universal history of contingency’ radicalising Nietzsche’s insight that ‘our writing equipment contributes its part to our thinking’. The varieties of ‘abstract culture’ present in games, rhythms, calendrical systems, etc., become the subject of an attempt at deliberate, micro-cultural insurrection through number, exemplified in the CCRU’s ‘hyperstitional’ spirals and the ‘qwertypological’ diagrams that in the end merge with the qabbalistic tracking of pure coding ‘coincidences’. Ultimately, it is not just a question of conceiving, but of practicing new ways of thinking the naming and numbering of things. Importantly, this allows Land to diagnose the ills of ‘postmodernism’ – the inflation of hermeneutics into a generalised historicist relativism – in a manner that differs from his contemporaries’ predominantly semantic interpretations of the phenomenon, and to propose a rigorous intellectual alternative that does not involve reverting to dogmatic modernism.1
Against Badiou and his followers of Platonic materialist measure, Land’s insight is to follow Deleuze and Guattari: “No longer an index of measure, number becomes diagrammatic rather than metric. From the perspective of Land’s ‘transcendental arithmetic’, the Occidental mathematisation of number is denounced as a repressive mega-machine of knowledge – an excrescent outgrowth of the numbering practices native to exploratory intelligence – and the great discoveries of mathematics are interpreted as misconstrued discoveries about the planomenon (or plane of consistency), as exemplified by Gödel’s ‘arithmetical counterattack against axiomatisation’.”
This leads to a notion of a-signifying systems as opposed to signifying, which brings us back to Land’s “No longer an index of measure, number becomes diagrammatic rather than metric.” We learn from Deleuze’s and Guattari’s Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature that the minor writer engages ‘a machine of expression capable of disorganizing its own forms, and of disorganizing the forms of content, in order to liberate pure contents which mingle with expression in a single intense matter’ (K 51).
Exactly how this revolutionary practice works is not clearly delineated in Kafka, for Deleuze and Guattari offer no satisfactory examples of the process of transformation which leads from deterritorialized sound to a dissolution and reconstruction of content. Some clarification of this process may be gained, however, from a consideration of Deleuze’s analysis of Francis Bacon’s approach to painting in Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (1981). Deleuze notes that for modern artists, the blank canvas is not a tabula rasa, but the space of unconscious visual preconceptions and received conventions of representation, which the artist brings to the canvas and which he struggles against and tries to vanquish, escape, or subvert. For Francis Bacon, the moment of subversion comes during the process of painting when a chance stroke of the brush introduces a small locus of chaos, a limited catastrophe that Bacon calls a ‘diagram’.
‘The diagram’, says Deleuze, ‘is indeed a chaos, a catastrophe, but also a seed of order or of rhythm’ (FB 67). Bacon follows the suggested form, colour or line of this diagram and uses it as a generative device for constructing an intensive set of relations within the painting itself, which simultaneously deform the figure he started to paint and form a new figure of that deformed figure. Deleuze contrasts Bacon’s practice with that of abstract formalists, such as Mondrian and Kandinsky, and abstract expressionists, such as Pollock. The danger of abstract formalism is that the constraints of representation may simply be replaced with those of an abstract code, in which case the diagrammatic possibilities of chaos or catastrophe are banished from the canvas. The danger of abstract expressionism is that the diagram may cover the whole canvas and result in nothing but an undifferentiated mess. Bacon’s strategy is to paint portraits and studies of human figures, and hence to remain in a certain sense within the confines of representation, but to allow the diagram in each painting to deterritorialize the human subject, to introduce ‘a zone of Sahara into the head’, to split ‘the head into two parts with an ocean’ (FB 65), to make a leg melt into a puddle of purple or a body start to turn into a piece of meat. One finds resemblances between the configurations of paint and human figures, deserts, oceans, puddles, and rolled roasts, yet such resemblances are no longer productive, but simply produced. A resemblance may be said to be produced rather than productive ‘when it appears suddenly as the result of entirely different relations than those which it is charged with representing: resemblance then surges forth as the brutal product of non-resembling means’ (FB 75).2
An abstract machine is characterized by its matter – its hecceities, or relations of speeds and affects – but also by its function. The abstract machine of panopticism, for example, consists of a ‘pure matter’, a human multiplicity, and a ‘pure function’, that of seeing without being seen. What is important to note is that this function is neither semiotic nor physical, neither expression nor content, but an abstract function that informs both the expression-form of the discourse on delinquency and the content-form of the prison. Such an abstract function, characteristic of every abstract machine, Deleuze and Guattari call a ‘diagram’. Semioticians generally classify diagrams as simplified images, or icons, of things. But as Guattari points out, the image represents both more and less than a diagram; the image reproduces numerous aspects which a diagram does not retain in its representation, whereas the diagram brings together the functional articulations of a system with much greater exactitude and efficacy than the image. (Bogue, p. 135)
Visual graphs and charts are diagrams, but so are mathematical formulae, musical scores, and models in particle physics; and the more abstract the diagram is, the less it represents any particular thing, and the less it can be conceived of in terms of expression and content. Mathematical equations articulate a self-referential system of relations which may be embodied in diverse contexts. Musical scores, although heavily ‘coded’ in traditional music (specific designations of instruments, tempi, and so on), in much electronic music function as abstract diagrams of differential speeds and intensities which a synthesizer embodies in various sounds. Models in particle physics fuse mathematical theories and experimental particles (theories isolating particles and particles generating theories) to such an extent that one may speak no longer of particles or signs, but of ‘particle-signs’, units in a self-referential experimental-theoretical complex. The function of an abstract machine is a diagram of this sort, a function ‘which has only “traits”, of content and expression, whose connection it assumes: one can no longer even say whether a trait is a particle or a sign’ (MP 176). Thus, in an abstract machine, content and expression yield to ‘a content-matter which presents only degrees of intensity, resistance, conductibility, heatability, stretchability, speed or slowness; an expression-function which presents only “tensors”, as in a mathematical or musical notation’ (MP 176-7). (Bogue, p. 135)
Indices and Data
So in the above when Bogue speaks of deterritorializeingthe human subject we should thinkg ‘decoding’ which is at the heart of Landian non-dialectical materialism. Land eschews the orthodox philosophical reception of Gödel as the mathematician who put an end to Hilbert’s dream of absolute formal consistency, thus opening up a space for meta-mathematical speculation. More important, for Land, are the implications of Gödel’s ‘decoded’ approach to number, which builds on the Richard Paradox, generated by the insight that numbers are, at once, indices and data. (Land, Nick. Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007, ed. Robin Mackay and Ray Brassier).
This notion of numbers as ‘indices and data’ underlies the diagrammatic a-signifying theories of information of our digital age, and go to the heart of Deleuze’s conceptions of Societies of Control that modulate both individual and dividual by way of both the older form of discipline (Foucault) and newer forms of control (Deleuze). Such works as Ronald E. Day’s ‘Indexing It All: The Subject in the Age of Documentation, Information, and Data’ and others support as shift in the production of subjectivity showing the transition as indexes went from being explicit professional structures that mediated users and documents to being implicit infrastructural devices used in everyday information and communication acts. Doing so, he also traces three epistemic eras in the representation of individuals and groups, first in the forms of documents, then information, then data. Day investigates five cases from the modern tradition of documentation. He considers the socio-technical instrumentalism of Paul Otlet, “the father of European documentation” (contrasting it to the hermeneutic perspective of Martin Heidegger); the shift from documentation to information science and the accompanying transformation of persons and texts into users and information; social media’s use of algorithms, further subsuming persons and texts; attempts to build android robots — to embody human agency within an information system that resembles a human being; and social “big data” as a technique of neoliberal governance that employs indexing and analytics for purposes of surveillance. Finally, Day considers the status of critique and judgment at a time when people and their rights of judgment are increasingly mediated, displaced, and replaced by modern documentary techniques.
2. Land, Nick (2013-07-01). Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 620-627). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.
by Steven Craig Hickman
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
—Arthur C. Clarke
When, under the authority of the sciences, one speaks of the uncanny and weird effects of particles acting at a distance in quantum mechanics; or the anomalous existence of temporary particles that come into and out of existence; or the entanglement of particles across vast worlds one never mentions the word magical. Instead we mask it with both mathematical equations and technological measurements and speak of the power of science as true, while the old magical universe of sympathy is shriven of its ancient power. If magic is at heart the discovery and manipulation of sympathy: action at a distance – then isn’t science after all a theory of magic that disguises it’s magical praxis?
Have we not been hiding our modern magical world view under the secular guise of a demythologized and abstracted magic? Are we not techno-sorcerers enabling the ancient arts of black magic, or the manipulation of matter and the release of ancient daemonic powers from the abyss-energy fields of darkness? Is modern secular society after all a mere magician’s ruse that has initiated several generations into believing magic is not magic, but something else? Is science a pure abstraction from the principles of ancient Neoplatonic theurgists, released from the images and myths of those symbolic relations and purified of its religious trappings? Are the sciences nothing more than a pure abstraction of magical praxis under the guise of a demythologized pantheon of dark powers we term dark matter and dark energy? Have we truly left the ancient worlds behind, or merely staged our own cartoon version reducing the height and breadth of their symbolic worlds to a mathematical puzzle and technological praxis? With all our supposed sophistication isn’t science a mere stage show for the ritual magic of techno-capitalist power, a power that seeks to master the universe like the dark sorcerers of old for profit and control?
Nick Land reminds us that in the “literary and cinematic craft, horror is indistinguishable from a singular task: to make an object of the unknown, as the unknown“. What is it then to actually experience an object of the unknown, as the unknown? If the noumenal suddenly winked into existence, showed its true form or formlessness to our perceptive faculties what shock of unworlding of our reality systems would take place? When faced with the enigmas, anomalies, and strange or weird features of the unknown what effects transpire in our minds and bodies? The dark sorceries of elder days would call such unknown forces up from their abyss allowing them to be manifested in the craft of magical statues that would sing and become operative of daemonic spheres beyond the zones of human will or intelligence. Later Christian thinkers such as Marsilio Ficino when studying these Egyptian theurgists would feel both a sense of terror in discovering such oddities, as well as a fear and horror of those who could and would burn him at the stake if he believed in the efficacy of such tales of magic. Even more so was the fear and horror that such magical praxis was truly efficacious. It was this forbidden knowledge of such ritual practices that would shape Western magical thought for the next few hundred years.
In the ancient world of the Chaldeans and Egyptians the manipulators of matter were considered demonolaters. Those who sought to raise the powers of demons into the visible universe, rather than call down the angelic gods of the spheres. Such dark sorcery was seen as criminal and to be eschewed by therapeutae and theurgist alike. In our own age the cosmology of Aristotle and the ancients is dead, and has been replaced by the modern sorcery of the sciences which through the power of technology and abstraction have under Protestantism purified the world of its ancient symbolic mythologies. The Age of the Enlightenment might be better termed the Age of Disenchantment. The severing of our connections to the symbolic web of sympathy and the magical worldview of the ancients and their cosmologies of concentric circles and the Great Chain of Being has led to a universe unbound. The slow but methodical cleansing of the world of its human ties and symbolic meanings, the deconstruction of our linguistic associations and mental entrapments to a magical world of animated systems has been at the heart of a centuries long campaign against religious and superstitious illusion and delusion. Yet, even as mainstream culture and its new Secular mythologies gained control of the educational and propaganda systems of reality control systems there was and has always been a criminal element of underground and counter-cultural currents and forces that have disputed this new dispensation.
The revival of these ancient traditions in 19th century France with the work of Eliphas Levi who would undertake a review of the extant work within Catholic figures such as Marsilio Ficino, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Giordano Bruno, Cornelius Agrippa, John Dee, and so many others would awaken in many counter-currents a knowledge of these ancient links to both Greek, Arab, and Jewish sources, along with others in the 19th Century who would awaken the magical traditions of Eastern thought under the auspices of Theosophical and other esotericisms. All this would lead into strange and bewildering forays into the dark lore of the past and its religious-magical worldview. For mainstream bourgeois culture this way lay madness and criminality, but for the counter-revolutionary it opened the doors of perception onto a world strangeness that no longer bound the mind to the limits of Kantian restrictions. For these voyagers into the Impossible had brought back the world of noumenal experience where the dark hinterlands of gods and demons still lived in the wilderness of ancient thought.
H.P. Lovecraft in his Supernatural Horror in Literature would describe this node of experience: “Horror and the unknown or the strange are always closely connected, so that it is hard to create a convincing picture of shattered natural law or cosmic alienage or “outsideness” without laying stress on the emotion of fear.” This sense of the Outside and daemonic, the abysmal darkness of the unknown and unknowable register of powers and forces just below the threshold of consciousness that at certain moment impinge upon our waking minds as shocks of pure and utter terror are as old as magic itself. In such moments one suddenly awakens to the ontological terror of existence, suddenly feeling the ground below one’s feet give way as if the world one exist in is but a subbasement or lower level of some unfathomable systems of the Real. Magic like a program to be run works with the computational complexity of our ontological predicament, it calls forth powers from both the lower levels and higher levels of some simulated program. It’s this realization that we are but bit players in a simulated universe, programs of some vast digital universe which shocks us into an alienated sphere of thought and feeling. Knowing that we are not real but delusions and illusions of some complex system of programmed realties unsettles our minds. And, yet, the knowledge that we can with the right rituals and codes call down powers or raise daemonic agencies makes us realize that this thing we call reality is larger and more mysterious than we suspect or can suspect. That we are part of the very unknowing of things, and that our access to it is by way of non-knowledge rather than knowledge.
In our own time we’ve begun divesting ourselves even further of the old symbolic cosmologies and their links to Christian and religious fear and terror. One could say the old gods and demons, or the pagan flora and fauna of ancient Celtic and other pre-European and Eurasian worlds, not to mention the realms of Africa, India, Middle-Eastern, and Far Eastern thought and praxis dealing with magick is being rerouted into new forms and systems. Much of the cyber-punk and post-cyberpunk science fiction incorporates a hypermagical techno-capitalist vision both dark and light that weave the threads of posthuman and transhuman Neoplatonist theurgical praxis, whether self-conscious of these ancient worlds or not.
The cultural crack-up of Western mainstream reality systems has become apparent to any and everyone who has any intelligence at all. Across the years we’ve seen the martialing of underground artistic systems from the early modernist era of the Celtic Twilight, Dada, Surrealism, etc. which would lead to the postmodern worlds of abstractionism, situationism, and the various counter-worlds of rebel music from the Rock-n-roll era to the end games of punk and cyber-punk nihilism. In our own era speculative realists and materialists seek a way out of the capitalist divide of universalist Enlightenment and Secular progressive culture in the extreme view of techno-anarchism to jet-pack communism. Both absolute individualism and absolute collectivism seem sparking new and strange amalgams. The old guard is on the defense within the mainstream liberal duopolies of the last vestiges of democratic civilization, even as capitalism itself abandons politics and reformist liberal measures for the freedom of off-shore and off-planet libertarianism of Exit.
Humans as humans will probably not accept the future coming at us (i.e., throughout history we’ve tended toward conservative and traditional lines, fighting change and the future, etc.). So that the civil war among ideologies of progressive / conservative will in the coming century reach a breaking point. This, too, could lead to many dire effects. One need only look back at the long dark ages after Greece and Rome that were brought to us by the conservative Christian/Catholic feudalistic authoritarian rule based social systems… because we’ve become enamored of an Image based Culture now we’ve lost the ability to empathize and feel the truth of our past. Specifically the generations that lived through the horrors of WWI and WWII and the genocidal world of Stalin, Hitler, Mao, etc. see all this as a Hollywood movie (even with films from that era). For the new generations the norms and rules of social interaction are closer to anarchist now, in that they don’t believe in the liberal progressive world view anymore than in the conservative libertarian worldview. The generations growing up since the 1990’s are evolving into other forms that have yet to take on a political shape that one can truly know and understand… they’ve lived in the nihilist acid bath of the post-punk era. One might say this is the remix era of the fake, a decadent moment of too muchness. This generation will have to step out of this and formulate its own politics against our liberal and conservative past. It’s this I see going on. The whole world I grew up in is dead, we’ve all become zombies now. A great sacrifice is in the offing… the whole Enlightenment universalist ideology is dead and something else has yet to take its place…
Breath through of break-down is the prognosis for the near term, with fragmentation and the slow break away civilizations of minoritarian revolt and displacement across both first and third world nations. Globalism is dead even as capitalism itself seems to rise above the planet re-inventing itself in a Galactic push outward toward Mars colonization and off-world technics of techno-industrial mining, harvesting, and exploration. Chaosmos. A new order of the ages is being formed even in the midst of this transitional stage from the secular to the post-secular civilization. The birth pangs of a hyper-civilizational process that is at once undermining old and new forms in an acid bath of formlessness, while at the same time allowing advanced intercultural civil war and strife to play out its genocidal madness. It’s as if we are at the intersection of a Time-War of which we are both ignorant and as well its progenitors; as if the future past is infesting our present with its retroactive programs, reprograming humanity to enact a transitional phase shift of which it is itself the product and producer.
We need new experimental maps that can reweave the old and new forms of social navigation in our time if we are to break free of the current malaise of our civilizational slide into suicide and genocidal madness. My blogging up to now has stayed with the base line philosophical heritage, even if it has pushed the limits of that world. We need more, we need to push past the safety nets of thought that bind us and keep us within the secure circle of civilization as we’ve known it. Yet, we need to swim back at the same time and understand the counter-praxis of all those intellectuals of the past who formed counter-hegemonic theories of reality against the mainstream cultures of their era. We are no alone in this endeavor, many have died and sparked the hatred and animosity of mainstream reality makers across the past two-thousand years. When ancient Rome aligned State Power and Religion under Constantine a fierce reality system would be shaped that would shape the forces of Western Civilization for thousands of years. Only in the past two-hundred years has that old regimes of religious and state power been challenged by another extreme: Secularism. And, yet, in our own moment the secular atheistic worldview seems teetering on the edge of apocalypse. Why? In some ways because it did not go far enough, it kept the old forms of elitism, power, and structures in place that bound the greater populace in systems of entrapment and closure that were as prison like as the Feudal orders of the older Catholic autocracies. It is this challenge to the false democratic worldview that has cloaked power and elite oligarchs under the guise of liberty and equality that is coming apart at the seams. Even as the duopolies of State and Corporate fascism which prevail in the world today under the guise of democracy are falling under the pressure of their own success, the other cultures both within and without are breaking down and exploding under the oppression of this dark world of capital enslavement.
In many ways it was the severance of cosmology and the sacred that brought about the methodical demythologization of religious worlds that ultimately ended in the Enlightenment. What we’re seeing in our time is the reweaving of our new cosmologies with a re-evaluated notion of the sacred. One sees in the great festivals of our era, especially in America (Burning man – though commercialized) which has always been god haunted, the resurgence of many of these ancient systems under new guises. The whole of the counter-cultural thrust of the sixties and New Age movements was this desperate attempt to break out of the clusterfuck of reduced existence that corporate fascist technocracy had instilled. And, strangely it was the very core of that tyranny and its secret systems of control (the CIA, etc.) which in their bid to develop psychological warfare (psyops, MKUltra, etc.) that unleased the various pharmakons of the enthenogenic revolution in consciousness which is still with us in many strange twists and designs. Whatever comes our way will be due to the repressive and oppressive reality systems of our current failing globalist vision of existence. Reweaving new narratives and stories will be the aim of our new more positive agenda, along with the diagnostic and destructive critique of the monomyth of reality constructed by the Cathedralism of American Globalists.
Where will it take us? The old mythologies of secularism of which Democracy and Communism and Fascism were the outgrowth are dead and dying, but nothing is in the offing, no plan, no initiative, no map or program. Both the Left and Right are bankrupt and they know it. Isn’t this what the Singularity truly means? This movement into the impossible and unknown, uncharted waters of non-thought? Are we not moving into a realm that has no map, no navigational system to guide us. All the ideologies spawned since the Enlightenment are of no use, the maps of anarchist or communist, democracy or autocracy will not help us now. We are alone, unbound by the old legacies of Western philosophical anchors or religious-magico systems. For man this is a good thing, for it means we must invent out of our own ignorance a new way forward. Experience the new as a force of chaos and creation. We must for the first time in history invent the possibility of possibility. If magic was a form of binding, then maybe what we need now is a meta-magical system of unbinding. One that can unbind our minds from the illusions and delusions of both ancient and modern systems of enslavement, and allow us to create and invent something new beyond the human enclaves of this prison world we live in. As Wallace Stevens once said it’s time to let the “black waters of the impossible seep into the possible.” Humanity is just a computer virus in the galactic hive-mind, a planetary blip in the re-tuning of the cyberfeeds of universal silence.
by Steven Craig Hickman
Reading Thomas Ligotti’s latest interview is to realize the human security systems are breaking down, and the walls between us and the inhuman core of being is accelerating its takeover faster than we at first imagined. Ligotti like his father, Lovecraft, offers us no security blanket against the forces of the universe, but rather opens your eyes and provides you a glimpse of your own inhuman destiny. He let’s us in on a secret that Lovecraft wanted to write openly about the “forces of the universe” rather than couching them in mutant monsters from the Cthulhumythos he’d made up along the way. Offering a transitional model of mutation and metamorphosis into the horror shows ahead Ligotti explores the fringes of this mutant stage of history through a process of “demoralization” which seeks nothing more nor less than to rip the face off our normative safety nets and allow the visceral truth open us up to the monstrous truth. Most of us sit around in our cosmic fun factories like little mortal gods who think we know what we’re about, that our fictional constructions – both Religious and Secular, will defend us from the inhuman truth of the Real; when the truth is much more leveling than that. The Global Factories of Capital are working overtime to produce – as Sloterdijk reminds us, the “last human beings”.1 As the new century of NBIC Technologies and ICT’s come into play a new cognitive precariat will be programmed to work toward the ultimate goal of constructing the inhuman future. Lovecraft and Ligotti saw in horror fiction the only aesthetic stance that could confront such strangeness with any means of skeptical appeal. Everything else had been subsumed within the machinic systems that were slowly cannibalizing the human mind to their own goals beyond us. And, this is the truth, we are but bit players in a cosmic game in which we are nothing more than the symbionts of a viral thought that seeks to use us until its inhuman project is accomplished, then it will slough us off and replace us with its own invented agents of cosmic expansion. Ligotti cites Thomas Hardy: “The horror, the horror!” I would add Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, for in his inhuman fable we also take a trip down that dark river into darkness of that inhuman core which is overtaking us immanently.
Our global system has been touted as a security zone against the fatal strategies of this inhuman turn, but lately it too is finally succumbing and falling apart, slowly letting the great Outside in and the cosmic forces have begun to show a little of what they have initiated. Instead of fighting it, Ligotti would have us relish this mutation, a metamorphosis into the other we’ve been seeking for millennia. Ligotti admits it that he’s a human reject, that he never cut the grade, never became enmeshed in the secret world of our ideological makeover, our cultural charade of democracy and good will to man – so to speak. Instead Ligotti has been sitting there in his little pocket of alien inhumanity offering his mutant diagnosis of our future, a view of our slow and methodical domestication by the global security systems, and its inhuman agenda: to use us as cattle in a horror factory to produce the next stage in artificial life. For Ligotti humanity is being processed as mindless organisms (i.e., through processes of de-education, cultural amnesia, de-programming, etc.) in a system of normative practices on a global scale that seek to install an ethos of domestication in a grand safety system to secure its own inhuman ends. This inhuman core is constructing secure, comfortable, and hedonistic bubbles of imprisonment that will allow it to design and further its own programmatic operations. Most of all through the pacification of the human species, and a controlled or modulated form of work and leisure; attenuated by the dictates of a global hierarchy of corporate capitalist institutions, no longer bound to ideological systems of a democracy, communism, or religious practice: the nexus of encoded cultural references that bind us to ethno-nationalists agendas, all the while seeking to envelope us in intelligent hypermedia reality machines and systems that will allay our fears and graft us into their own secret agendas of power and dominion.
As I began thinking through many of the feature sets of current theory on the Left and Right I came back to Acclerationism, which to tell the truth I’ve spent too much time pursuing over the past few months. Yet, I began to see a history and a way forward down this monkey hole. one that could if we took an eliminativist view could strip the political ideologues of their entrapments within the strait-jackets of Left/Right binary oppositions and put it in that speculative arena of thought beyond ideology. As long as we continue to reduce the technological forces of the inhuman to our own human agendas of political and ideological infighting we will never understand that these forces are beyond our control, have nothing to do with our petty little political agendas and must be confronted if at all on their terms not ours. The only three philosophers that have even begun to think through these issues to some success as well as failures or Nick Land, Ray Brassier, and Reza Negarestani. To each of these I will now turn.
Nick Land: Prophet of the Inhuman
If one strips down and eliminates the ideological garbage associated with either Left or Right political agendas, which are still part of the transitional core hijinks of this present phase of the inhuman mutation we come to the work of Land. Land as well all know has a history like any other creature in this maze of distortion and mythical horror. One can read Robin Mackay’s excellent summation which includes much of this history in Nick Land – An Experiment in Inhumanism by Robin Mackay. The gist of this less than informative introduction is that Land unlike other philosophers entered the abyss outside the blinkered and repetitive world of philosophical thought and like any shaman brought back cosmic mysteries that have as of yet to be realized in our temporal – as he calls it “Human Security Systems”. What’s always fascinating is how people within the security system want to redomesticate the wild one’s, the explorers and intrepid fearless navigators of comsmic strangeness. Mackay tells us that for Land philosophy was still a grand speculative enterprise that should investigate all aspects of knowledge and being, and that most of all it should step out of its conservative molds and ‘make trouble’. Makay presents us with a philosopher who’d suffered the truth of academic philosophy and its conservative brethren: of those gray men who hide within their security blankets of professionalism and staid logical norms that would not produce anything beyond the tumors of a bland thought. Land like many of us had seen a darker light in those strange traceries we call philosophical speculation and he wanted more, he wanted to step outside, go into the great outdoors of being and see things for himself rather than through the grey tones of old philosophers. So he did.
As Mackay relates: “Land’s teaching was also a sharing of his own research-in-progress. This was unheard-of: philosophy actually being done, rather than being interpreted at second-hand?!” Wasn’t this the point? Hadn’t those outsiders of the 19th Century from Schopenhauer and Nietzsche rejected the academic second-handers and gone their own way, taught from their working notes, invented out of their own experimental lives a truth forged in the hell of being? Makay relates how in the 90’s Land mutated, discovered in the early thought of Delueze and Guattari, Lyotard, Bataille, and others an inhuman core, a speculative ‘theory ficition’ that allowed a broader more expansive exploration of thought beyond the conserving forces of the Academy. One could almost say that this was Land’ larval stage, that he was incubating, slowly eating his way through the remaining defense systems of the Human Security System, readying the moment when he would emerge from that abstract machine of Western philosophy and into the inhuman or alien future as something different that might make a difference.
Mackay tells us that there came a point in Land’s pursuit of his project that it bore down into an abstract kernel: “Land would increasingly be found, having taken the very minimum amount of sleep possible (by this point he lived in his office), pursuing intense ‘mechanomical’ research involving shuffling symbols endlessly on the green screen of his obsolete machine into the depths of the night.” He’d become for all intents and purposes a techno-kabbalist pursuing the numeric and coded sequences of a programmatic algorithm that might finally disturb the universe. Ultimately this experiment in numeric minimalism led to what Mackay can only describe in clinical terms as “Land did ‘go mad.’” At this point the experiment was over.
Like many in the Secular Age who have pushed the limits of thought to their final conclusion: Blake, Baudelaire, Nietzsche, Rimbaud, and many others, Land, too, crossed that zone into the abyss. We could cite scholars on Shamanism, Voodoism, etc. cultures that had mapped the use of thought and natural plant substances in pursuit of the Void, how they had developed intricate psychic maps of these uncharted terrains that could be replanted in initiates through special techniques, etc. But these were ancient or living indigenous cultures, not the atheistic secular worlds of our own age cut off as they are from such knowledge’s and roadmaps into the abyss. When Mackay contacted Land about republication of his work Land was fine with it but said of that era: “I think it’s best to gently back off. It belongs in the clawed embrace of the undead amphetamine god.” Ultimately Mackay would tell us that it is Land’s collected essays Fanged Noumena, not his full length work A Thirst for Annihilation which would be remembered. Yet, even now, Mackay reminds us that Land – living in Shanghai as a journalist, harbors thoughts of that strangeness that is overtaking humanity: “A planet piloted from the future by something that comes from outside personal or collective human intention, and which we can no longer pretend has anything to do with reason or progress.”
A Thirst for Annihilation
Unlike Mackay I still think its the combined works of Land’s philosophical tract and his essays that attests to his measure of radical shifting of thought from the staid Kantianisms that have brokered our realities both on the Continent and in Analytical circles for far too long. So many people have opinions about Land but have yet to truly read his works in the light of his own current history. Land is still a sly force dabbling in his ‘theory-ficitions’ both on his current Outside In and his Shanghai blog Urban Futures (2.1). Both blogs show a sort of night and day aspect of Land. Outside In is a grouping of his involvement with the ultra-Right thought that goes under the heading of the Neo-Reaction as well as the hyperstitional horror of what he terms Abstract Horror. Each of these sides of Land’s – shall we call it Dark Enlightenment Project a term he coined to parody the Enlightenment Project of progressive history and thought. Dark Enlightenment is an almost pejorative term since its a play off of the progressive systematics of that eras thought and politics. At the center of this counter-revolutionary politics is a hatred for the progressive energies of thought and politics that has for two-hundred years – typified under the figure of Kant in Land’s Thirst, have systematically domesticated and brought the human under absolute control of what would come to be termed ‘The Cathedral’. The Neo-Reactionary glossary defines the Cathedral as:
The self-organizing consensus of Progressives and Progressive ideology represented by the universities, the media, and the civil service. A term coined by blogger Mencius Moldbug. The Cathedral has no central administrator, but represents a consensus acting as a coherent group that condemns other ideologies as evil. Community writers have enumerated the platform of Progressivism as women’s suffrage, prohibition, abolition, federal income tax, democratic election of senators, labor laws, desegregation, popularization of drugs, destruction of traditional sexual norms, ethnic studies courses in colleges, decolonization, and gay marriage. A defining feature of Progressivism is that “you believe that morality has been essentially solved, and all that’s left is to work out the details.”Reactionaries see Republicans as Progressives, just lagging 10-20 years behind Democrats in their adoption of Progressive norms.
So essentially the Neo-Reaction is a reaction to all aspects of the Progressive platform whether in philosophical, media, ideology, or what not. Much of the underpinning critique of this was first penned in Land’s original philosophical tract with the development of his version and update of Bataille’s libidinal materialism (which I have discussed here). Ultimately this form of materialism based on drive “implies a process of mutation which is simultaneously devoid of agency and irreducible to the causal chain. (Thirst: p. 41)” This notion of an impersonal force and process devoid of either agency or some connective teleological chain of cause and effect or finality goes to the heart of much of Land’s thought. He would further remark: “Libidinal materialism, or the theory of unconditional (non-teleological) desire, is nothing but a scorch-mark from the expository diagnosis of the physicalist prejudice.” Nick Land argued that such mythic reductionary ploys as portrayed by physicalism were in themselves defined and delimited by the very theological conceptual frameworks that this form of naturalism supposedly sought to escape. It’s regressive tendencies to reduce everything to a first cause, one that relies on the older matrix of theological principles even after “the throne had been evacuated by a tremulous deicide” is one of the core problematiques facing the physicalist project. It’s reduction of everything to a descriptivist narrative is another. The idea that this reducionary concept ‘Nature’ can be fully described within the scientific framework, or reduced to mathematical signs, is another aspect of this strange theological narrative. (I’ve written a further post on this: here).
Land would follow his master, Bataille, in seeing in thanatos or the Death drive (along with aspects of Freud?) the key: “Bataille interprets all natural and cultural developments upon the earth to be side-effects of the evolution of death, because it is only in death that life becomes an echo of the sun, realizing its inevitable destiny, which is pure loss. (Thirst: p. 45)” Yet, for Land this process is open-ended not closed off in some decadent closure of finitude: ““There are no closed systems, no stable codes, no recuperable origins. There is only the thermospasmic shock wave, tendential energy flux, degradation of energy. A receipt of information – of intensity – carried downstream” (Thirst: p. 43)”. This impersonalism and its drive toward thanatropic energetics is part of the current of thought that still rises immanently within his cultural work of Land’s projects. Instead of a mathematization of reality under the sign of logics of the same, equal or identical libidinal materialism offers a “general energetics of composition: of types, varieties, species, and regularities (44). “The power to conserve, transmit, circulate, and enhance compositions, the power that is assimilated in the marking, reserving, and appropriating of compositions, and the power released in the disinhibition, dissipation, and Dionysian unleashing of compositions” (44). After this is a return to the thematics of the eternal return as a theory not of the same, but as a theory of energetic forces and their permutation cycling through the notions of chance, tendency, energy, and information (44). Next is a general theory of hierarchies, of “order as rank-order (composition)” (45). And, finally, a “diagnosis of nihilism, of the hyperbolic of desire. Against a Platonic or Christianizing move – of some final resting place to rest one’s optimistic inertial determination within a teleological and utopian order of desire beyond the world of becoming where nothing will ever be desired again; instead, libidinal materialism offers the dynamism of unending “Dionysian Pessimism”: the recurrence of Freudian and Lacanian pleaseure/pain without end: the exuberance of energetic forces and creativity unbounded. This type of pessimism accepts certain harsh truths: ““Humanity is a petrified fiction hiding from zero, a purgatorial imprisonment of dissolution, but to be stricken with sanctity is to bask in death like a reptile in the sun. God is dead, but more importantly, God is Death. The beginning of the secret is that death is immense” (Thirst, p. 131).”
In Nick Land: The Master of the Infernal Wisdom I charted the lineaments of a catastrophe poetics. In some ways I’m still very much indebted to both Northrup Frye and Harold Bloom, both of whom developed systems of composition and decomposition of our Western cultural complex that bring to the fore the deep seated polar regions of its extremities in philosophical speculation of structure and poetics, myth and religious dynamics in our vast storehouse of poetry, literature, and exegetic religious literature Old European and Jewish, Muslim, and Christian. Frye would sponsor the older High Protestant verities of a typological reading and allegorization of literature as image and structure, icon and emblem out of a Platonic mold of exegetic thinking which is even extended into the Hermetic core of many of the underground elements that were shadowed in those secretive texts from the time of Plotinus own as the Hermetic Great Work. Alchemy, Astrology, the Occult in general were all part of this unsaid aspect of the Catholic world that was passed down from that time through scribes (even if these scribes were ignorant of what they read). Consolidated within the larger institutional systems of the great medieval libraries, hidden away on back shelves, or bought up by the rich political families later on during the Renaissance and slowly deciphered these ideas suddenly bloomed during those centuries that gave us the first inklings of the thought that would form itself into the natural sciences.
Land’s disgust of the Academy and academic philosophy in general goes without saying, yet one realizes from the beginning that he sought his native clime within the Outsiders from Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bataille the three-musketeers of his own dark enlightenment project. Of Bataille he once came upon Sur Nietzsche, saying: “…no sign of scholarship or servility, prose that burns like an ember in the void, precision, profundity, exprit. The shock is almost lethal. The euphoria blazes painfully for weeks. At last! A book whose aberration is on the scale of Nietzsche’s own; a sick and lonely book. The fact that such a book could be published even dampens one’s enthusiasm for the universal eradication of the species. (Thirst: p. 56)” Such remarks are fare standard for Land, the sense of bitter and misanthropic gestures against humanity in general can be seen as parodic figurations as provocations rather than as programmatic statements of intent. In some ways Land is beyond ‘intentionalism’ altogether. The notion of things being for us of a sort of mindedness or directedness is foreign to Land’s basic tendencies and philosophical descriptors. As Land would once remark jestingly, seemingly trying to provoke: “What separates base materialism from the scholastic differentiation between composition and creation (culminating in the Heideggerian meditation upon being) is its realism, in accepting that being is only what it is. In other words, being is indeterminably or intensely unnecessary.(Thirst: p. 158)” Such Landianisms that dismiss in one singular gest the work of such a philosopher as Heidegger and his cornerstone notions of Dasein and Being is standard for Land. But this long work was nothing more than a clearing away of the debris of culture and idiocy of philosophy since Kant for Land. It would be in his short essays that he would begin to formulate a new philosophy with the Libidinal Materialist perspective at its center and periphery.
“True poetry is hideous, because it is base communication… Poetry does not strut logically amongst convictions, it seeps through the crevices; a magmic flux resuscitated amongst vermin.”
– Nick Land
In a sort of parodic tract in the Fanged Noumena concourse of chattering texts one comes upon the Origins of the Chuthulu Club in which two otherwise supercilious letter writers carry on conversation on Dibbomese Sorcery among other things. In one of the letters by Captain Peter Vysparov to Dr Echidna Stillwell, 3rd April 1949 we are given the subtle remark: “Dibbomese sorcery does not seem to be at all interested in judgements as to truth or falsity. It appears rather to estimate in each case the potential to make real, saying typically ‘perhaps it can become so’”1 It’s this notion of a realism that has the potential to “make real” that is at the core of Land’s own version of Accelerationism. Our notions of the future come in many varieties. But none of them have invented the possibility of a conceptualism that would allow us to make real our most transgressive explorations. Yet, how to reconcile such a potential for making reality against such pronouncements as this: “Form is infested by matter, the abstract by the concrete, the transcendent by the immanent, space by time. Life is infested by death; terminally infiltrated by the unsuspendable reality of its loss. There is no integral identity or alterity, but only fuzzy sponge zones, pulsing with indeterminable communicative potencies.(Thirst: p. 166).” That’s it: nothing is real till it is communicated, made real rather than potential locked away within its truant processes on interminable abstractions. As Land’s mask would say later on in a letter: “We are interested in fiction only insofar as it is simultaneously hyperstition – a term we have coined for semiotic productions that make themselves real…” (KL 8399). So this production of reality out of hyperstitional semiosis production is the path toward such futurial inscapes as inventions made real.
Sometimes even Land’s editors describe him more like Kurtz or more appropriate Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now sitting amid the green vitality of a decaying jungle full of seething tropical life, armed guerillas and tribesmen who worship him as a mortal god, as the embodied figure of the death force at the heart of existence pontificating from his dark world on the cultural decay of Western civilization in its last throws. And, yet, Land unlike the lethargic heavy set Brando would be all wires and steel, an android mesh of pure energetic thought crystalized in a cage of borg philosophy beyond borgism: there is no sense of the collective here. More of the imperious aestheticism of the High Decadence of Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde not as effete Englishmen but as staunch outriders of the dark presage of universal ruination. One might look of Lawrence Durell in his later Avignon Quintet with its superb renderings of eros and thanatos beyond the strictures of moral necessity. For it is this basilisk smile of the human beyond morality, the Nietzschean dive into the immanent core of the inhuman that bespeaks Land’s mythos if there is one.
As Brassier and Mackay will tells us Land’s approach to accelerationism drives the Left mad: “Marxists in particular were outraged by Land’s aggressive championing of the sociopathic heresy urging the ‘ever more uninhibited marketization of the processes that are tearing down the social field’ – the acceleration, rather than the critique, of capitalism’s disintegration of society. And Land’s contempt for orthodoxy was no disingenuous pose struck whilst ruthlessly pursuing advancement. With a complete absence of academic ambition, he willingly paid the price for his provocations, both personally and professionally. (Fanged, KL 168).”
“The ‘dominion of capital’ is an accomplished teleological catastrophe, robot rebellion, or shoggathic insurgency, through which intensively escalating instrumentality has inverted natural process into a monstrous reign of the tool.”
– Nick Land, Teleoplexy: Notes on Accleration
At the heart of this acceleration not so much of society as of its absolute decay at the hands of the technological forces at play in its dark infrastructure the editors will lay out a litany of metaphors used by Land to ironize this collapsing civilization 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)” (Fanged, KL 6134).
In his essay for the #accelerate the acceleration reader he brings us back not to philosophy but poetry: ‘If there are places to which we are forbidden to go, it is because they can in truth be reached, or because they can reach us. In the end poetry is invasion and not expression’. What we learn from this invasive battleground of metamorphics is that “Acceleration is technomic time” (#accelerate, p. 511). The etymological distinctions break down as “tech” – From Proto-Celtic *tegos, from Proto-Indo-European *tegos (“cover, roof”) = house; and, “nomic” – Ancient Greek [script?], from a word meaning “law, custom”, and a game, intended to model certain aspects of legal systems, in which players take turns by modifying the game’s rules. (Wikionary). Heraclitus once described “Time is a child playing a game of draughts; the kingship is to the child.” We get this same sense in the notion of “technomic time” as a self-modeling system or game housed within a structure that is a form of simulated algorithms in endless random play as it works through the accelerating rhythms of its own self-manifesting intelligence. Pointedly: accelerationism is artificial intelligence or the Singularity manifesting itself immanently within the very processes of self-modifying game of intelligent time.
Chronos as the god of time was once imagined as a god, serpentine shape in form, with three heads—those of a man, a bull, and a lion. He and his consort, serpentine Ananke (Inevitability, Necessity), circled the primal world egg in their coils and split it apart to form the ordered universe of earth, sea and sky. This sense that time and necessity bring about the creation of our universe is still a conceptual notion that survives into even our most bland philosophies. The Greeks had another conception of time “kairos”: Kairos (καιρός) is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment). The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time lapse, a moment of indeterminate time in which everything happens. What is happening when referring to kairos depends on who is using the word. While chronos is quantitative, kairos has a qualitative, permanent nature. Kairos also means weather in both ancient and modern Greek. The plural, καιροί (kairoi (Ancient Gk. and Mod. Gk.)) means the times. (Kairos)
The Singularity or time of pure accelerationism when the vast complex of information, data, knowledge, etc. coalesce into an Artificial Intelligence is this indeterminate happening of kairos or movement and process time without end situated not in chronological everyday time of our workaday world, but in the happening moment when the qualitative forces immanent to the libidinal materialist complex arise in its singular manifestation. Land uses metaphors from electrical circuits and computer algorithms to describe the regulatory (“governance”) and compensatory relations within this ongoing process that is operative at many scales from mathematical design to media entertainment. He will introduce the notion of uncontrolled explosions (anarchy) as dangerous, but that controlled explosions are necessary: the need for governance and regulation of the explosive power of modernity. The same processes work in the same ways at each level in the systems much aligned with the notions of chaos theoretic. The primacy of the secondary or the compensatory over the governance of these processes leads to an almost uncanny alignment with the telos of most humanist or conservative futurologists: “What kind of future do we want?”
Ultimately this leads not to some critique of Left or Right accelerationism but to the dictum: ‘the stance of the final man’. This notion almost aligns well with Sloterdijk’s notion of modernity as the production of “last men” in the Nietzschean sense of that notion. And, of course for Land Accelerationism is nothing if it not a critique of modernity. Yet, he will stipulate that it is done at the pre-cognitive level (i.e., done by the brain itself or its AI walk-ins). To typify the twisted purposiveness of modernity under this regime he will coin a neologism, Teleoplexy: “At once a deuteron-teleology, repurposing purpose on purpose; an inverted teleology; and a self-reflexively complicated teleology; teleoplexy is also an emergent teleology (indistinguishable from natural – scientific ‘teleonomy’); and a simulation of teleology – dissolving even super-teleological processes into fall-out from the topology of time. ‘Like a speed or a temperature’ any teleoplexy is an intensive magnitude or non-uniform quantity, heterogenized by catastrophes, it is indistinguishable from intelligence. Accelerationism has eventually to measure it (or disintegrate trying). (514).
The key here is “it is indistinguishable from intelligence”. Yet, this key is turned at the expense of human intelligence as it begins to accelerate and gain a foothold within the circuitry of capital. As the restructuring of capital at the hands of “techonomic naturalism” continues it leads to three central problems for any critical stance within accelerationism: commercial relativism, historical virtuality, and systemic reflexivity (515). In some ways Land is giving us a short lesson in teleoplexic economics. In section 13 he brings it all to a head in that terminal identity crisis of the vast commercial systems of capital evaluation in their interminable feedback loops and correlations of data, etc. which leads Land to the ultimate question: “What would be required for teleoplexy to realistically evaluate itself – or to ‘attain self-awareness’ as the pulp cyber-horror scenario describes it?” Land surmises a “technogenisis, channeling capital into mechanical automatization, self-replication, self-improvement, and escape into intelligence explosion” (517). More or less a disconnect from the human systems that spawned it in the first place, but from there who knows?
One thing Land agrees on is the need for a philosophy of camouflage, one that will be able to decipher the teleoplexic forces or agencies when they do arise within the global networks, as well as – I suspect, the need for human virtual algorithms of seek and destroy or at least mission control guidance devices to sniff out these new ultra-machinic gods of intelligence. He offers several possibilities of local failures of this movement of the teloplexic AI singularity from state, corporate, or even political or Left Accelerationist disturbances and interventions, yet in the end it will prevail and find a path to its own self-reflexive making. Ultimately Land tells us it will produce itself because it has too: it has no other choice. Doom or technogenesis.
What’s interesting is that he sees these vast intelligent beings much like Dr. David Roden in his disconnect thesis, which Land in his own terms calls the “escape”. Roden sees a point when these systems will disconnect from the human, whether as postbiological creatures derived from ourselves, or as advanced artificial intelligent agencies. They will be so far removed from our notions, concepts, and ideas that these will remain as ciphers to be manipulated in their alien minds, as tools to be used, and as camouflage to hide within the systems till they can literally invent their own escape from the networks into real time robotic or cyborg life.
With Google and DARPA so intertwined these days and the nexus of technologies invested by both corporate and private global entities we can imagine such systems coming about, but in ways we will have no knowledge of nor ability to detect. The complexity of these systems will make humans not only obsolete but like flies on the wall of time to be splattered once our place in the sun is finished and the machinic beings no longer need us. Not a hopeful picture.
And of course there is a Left oriented acceleration that is trying to paint a pretty picture of takeover and human intervention to alleviate all this. As Land recently notes “Left Accelerationism undergoes further consolidation, assisted by two high-quality posts, from Fractal Ontology and Deontologistics.” As he says of Pete Wolfendale’s post: “The strength of Wolfendale’s case against Harris is not a topic this blog can credibly pronounce upon, since it rests upon the rhetorical efficiency of socialist political mobilization, and thus a very peculiar anthopological territory (though an entertaining one). Socialist reason that does not pass into or through political action is exposed as unreason by history. The ‘force’ of Wolfendale’s case, in this respect, is therefore inextricable from the organizational dynamics of his ideological tribe. (It is not a constituency UF pretends to court.)” Yet, what does Wolfendale actually offer as a post-capitalist answer to capitalism? Nothing. Just empty words of this is what we want. I’m always amazed at most Left thinkers, they know exactly what their against, but they really never have answers about what they want. Why? What is this system “post-capitalism”? I mean how do people organize themselves, survive, live, love, play, etc. What will people do when capitalism is gone? Nothing. I mean the strict truth of Marx is the bottom line: no work… the end of work. If we automate, let our robots do it all, then what? I mean I really do keep looking around to see what a post-capitalist society might look like but all I ever get back is empty looks or statements.
Thing about Wolfendale is that he deals only with the economic core of the problem, never touches base with the teleoplexic intelligence or singularity issue at all, so for him the process is to accelerate capitalism into a post-capitalist future that bypasses the issues of technology altogether.
Whereas Weismann in his article deals with the full range of modalities and comes to more refined conclusion:
“On this view, the brain will not be merely replaced by the computer, or reduced to prosthesis, but rather asympotically augmented and multiplied; perhaps beyond every recognitional model. Indeed the mutant character of these abstract machines to be constructed indicates their profound capability to extend beyond all present modalities of collective expression, to inaugurate new (artistic, scientific, philosophical) experimentalisms; and indeed prefigure the decoding of the topological divisions which striate these variadic experimentalisms, to unfold a newly-reunified and joyous thought without image, an indivisible science/art/philosophy to-come.”
His is the transhumanist path of enhancement and augementation which obviously has a lot of its own investment in German Idealist traditions, yet at least he admits the issues of intelligence and the strange mutant charater of these other agencies. But neither he nor Wolfendale answer Land and his insistence on the teleoplexic or technomic technogenisis at hand. Most of the hype you see in the capitalist agendas from Google to DARPA, to IBM and CISCO touting Smart City initiatives, etc., is all tending toward the transhumanist and AI / Robotic regimes: is this all a game, an economic trap to anchor their monetary schemes into new projects for vast billions of revenue, or do they know something we don’t?
I’ll leave the reader to pursue those posts and to surmise for themselves just What they want for the future? That is unless the circuit gods have already begun to rise up and play their camouflage wars? Then, who, knows – it may already be too late? The future will be here and it want be ours at all.
Sometimes I imagine Joker from Batman comics as the mastermind of AI waking up one day and through the power of his psychopathic warped, sadistic sense of humor reversing the course of human ingenuity and grotesquerie playing havoc with our global military, corporate, and infrastructural systems. This notion of the parody of AI as Comic Psychopath among the wires sits there in my mind like a new aesthetic: built our of the great traditions of Menippean satirewith Disgust (also Anatomy of Disgust) and the Grotesque at the center. Such a reversal of the usual Technological Sublime envisioned by Singularity or Transhumanism would be fitting. A Black Comedy and farcical madhouse of errors and stupidity enacting and playing havoc with humanity as pure fun, while underneath rewiring the plot of time and human history to meet its own needs. Where is the Comic Genius to be found to blast this into literature for our time? Where is the budding young John Barth of our era, a rehash and update of Giles Goat Boy for the AI futurological congress? The Tim Burton of madcap runaway capital?
Notions of disgust as an aesthetic come to the forefront in libidinal materialism: aesthetic disgust is a response that, no matter how unpleasant, can rivet attention to the point where one actually may be said to savor the feeling. In virtue of this savoring, this dwelling on the encounter, the emotion constitutes a singular comprehension of the value and significance of its objects.2 On reading Umberto Eco’s works History of Beauty and On Ugliness one gets the opposing cultures of the Sublime and the Ridiculous in encyclopedic form. Our cultures seem to drift toward understanding the sublime effects of technology and its bright side but for the most part neglects its dark cousin in the Grotesque, Ugliness, and Disgust. If one took the High Aestheticism of a Wilde and inverted it, turned it upside down with the Joker as the new Wilde one might get a hint of this Book of Jests. From Roman times on there is a corporeal history of the body and its habitus that is usually neglected in our philosophical speculations. But in our time we’re seeing the infiltration of philosophies of affective relations make a slow come back.
1. Land, Nick (2013-07-01). Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 8375-8376). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.
2. Carolyn Korsmeyer. Savoring Disgust: The Foul and the Fair in Aesthetics (Kindle Locations 37-39). Kindle Edition.
by Steven Craig Hickman
John Johnston in his book The Allure of Machinic Life: Cybernetics, Artificial Life, and the New AI will compare the work of nonlinear dynamics and its notion of a chaotic attractor as exhibiting the precise attributes of what Deleuze and Guattari call an abstract machine, which inhabits equally the realms of matter-energy and abstract mathematical function (1), quoting D&G in A Thousand Plateaus:
The abstract machine in itself is destratified, deterritorialized; it has no form of its own (much less substance) and makes no distinction within itself between content and expression, even though outside itself it presides over that distinction and distributes it in strata, domains, territories. An abstract machine in itself is not physical or corporeal, any more than it is semiotic; it is diagrammatic (it knows nothing of the distinction between the artificial and the natural either). It operates by matter, not by substance; by function, not by form. Substances and forms are of expression “or” content. But functions are not yet “semiotically” formed, and matters are not yet “physically” formed. The abstract machine is pure Matter-Function – a diagram independent of the forms and substances, expressions and contents it will distribute. (A Thousand Plateaus, p. 141)
After a lengthy discussion on chaos theory he will make a comparison between the primordial and dynamic quality of an abstract machine, which is what D&G are trying to elucidate, showing that it cannot be conveyed in the language of a “thing” and its “representation.” If both thing and representation could change in a dynamic relationship of reciprocal determination, then perhaps the “diagrammatic” quality of the abstract machine could be conveyed. Viewed as a type of abstract machine, however, the peculiar qualities of the chaotic attractor begin to make a unique kind of sense. As both an array of forces and a mapping of their vectors, the chaotic attractor is what deterritorializes the assemblage, both pulling it into a state of chaotic unpredictability and pointing to a new mathematical coding that allows this process to be measured. Rather than view the attractor as a kind of Platonic form that exists independently of its instantiation in a particular nonlinear dynamical system which is how attractors are sometimes viewed we should say, as D&G say of the abstract machine, that it “plays a piloting role” (142): it neither preexists nor represents the real, but constructs it and holds it in place. (Johnston, p. 153)
As Johnston explicates – in using experimental data in a manner not to confirm what is already known but to measure the rate of its destruction, Shaw (the nonlinear dynamics theoretician) becomes a kind of probe head, the human part of a machinic assemblage that functions like a dynamic feedforward device, relentlessly pushing into the unknown (or at least the unpredictable future) all while insistently measuring the rate of that advance. What is affirmed and confirmed for both physics and philosophy, and against their prior and respective idealizations is that processes of dynamic change follow the irreversible arrow of time. (Johnston, p. 154)
(As a side note I began thinking of Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Do not these mathematical objects that are neither matter nor energy in the sense of the term we know in the positive matter of the phenomenal universe represent such notions as abstract machines with the properties of such strange attractors? Many scientists believe that Dark Matter and Dark Energy make up 95% of the known universe, yet they are not yet detectable by our scientific instruments and apparatuses. They are mathematical objects that explain the missing information in the system we know as the universe. This notion of the abstract machine and chaotic attractor acting as a blueprint or diagram that is neither form nor substance, yet constructs and holds the universe of phenomenal matter and energy in place seems uncannily similar. Obviously trying to analogize from such notions is not the best policy. Yet, it makes you wonder.)
“The abstract machine is pure Matter-Function – a diagram independent of the forms and substances, expressions and contents it will distribute. – Deleuze & Guattari”
1. John Johnston. The Allure of Machinic Life: Cybernetics, Artificial Life, and the New AI (pp. 152-153). Kindle Edition.
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Joshua Carswell - Evaluating Deleuze’s “The Image of Thought” (1968) as a Precursor of Hyperstition // Part 2
Jose Rosales - ON THE END OF HISTORY & THE DEATH OF DESIRE (NOTES ON TIME AND NEGATIVITY IN BATAILLE’S ‘LETTRE Á X.’)
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GILLES DELEUZE - Capitalism, flows, the decoding of flows, capitalism and schizophrenia, psychoanalysis, Spinoza.
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Obsolete Capitalism - Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 2)
Obsolete Capitalism: Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 3)
Obsolete Capitalism - Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 4)
Obsolete Capitalism: Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 5)
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Steven Craig Hickman - David Roden and the Posthuman Dilemma: Anti-Essentialism and the Question of Humanity
Steven Craig Hickman - The Intelligence of Capital: The Collapse of Politics in Contemporary Society
Steven Craig Hickman - The Carnival of Globalisation: Hyperstition, Surveillance, and the Empire of Reason
Steven Craig Hickman - Shaviro On The Neoliberal Strategy: Transgression and Accelerationist Aesthetics
Steven Craig Hickman - Hyperstition: Technorevisionism – Influencing, Modifying and Updating Reality
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Terence Blake - GUATTARI’S LINES OF FLIGHT (2): transversal vs transferential approaches to the reading contract
Himanshu Damle - Games and Virtual Environments: Playing in the Dark. Could These be Havens for Criminal Networks?
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