by Steven Craig Hickman
Capitalist production seeks continually to overcome these immanent barriers, but overcomes them only by means which again place these barriers in its way and on a more formidable scale. The real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself.
– Karl Marx, Capital
THE CIVILIZED CAPITALIST MACHINE
“The only universal history is the history of contingency.”1
In developing their theory and the practice of decoded and deterritorialized flows Deleuze and Guattari will surmise that capitalism in its present form may be the exterior limit of all societies (p. 230). They’ll go on to tell us following Marx that “capitalism for its part has no exterior limit, but only an interior limit that is capital itself and that it does not encounter, but reproduces by always displacing it” (p. 231). So that this continuous cycle of schiz and flow from break to barrier and return through the movement of displacement “belongs essentially to the deterritorialization of capitalism” (p.231).
In this same section they will remark that the banking systems control the investment of desire in this cycle of breaks and flows, that it was Keynes himself that contributed a reintroduction of desire into the “problem of money,” and that Marxism must revise and include a more thorough understanding of banking practices in regard to financial operations and the circulation of credit money (i.e., Marxism needs a new theory of money). (p. 230)
If you read their work carefully what you see in our time is that actual process of schizophrenization they describe being enacted across the world. The notion of this cycle circling between center and periphery, the pauperization of the First World with the slow rise of the periphery, the dismantling of Industrial Capitalism from the center to periphery, the rise of capital investment from the periphery back into the First World along with the migration of workers into that same space is developed in their notions of the passage of the flux as a deterritorialization and decoding that is enacting a new displacement of the limits of capital. The adjacency of humans to the influx of machines in the production cycle, the enslavement of humans to a lower and lower tier of adjacency in this cycle all serve the function of the continuous displacement of code and flows as part of the circular breaching of the barriers through decoding and flux. The point here is explicit:
…it is not machines that have created capitalism, but capitalism that creates machines, and that is constantly introducing breaks and cleavages through which it revolutionizes its technical modes of production (p. 233).
We’ve been serving as appendages for a machinic civilization for quite some time now, and yet we continue believing that the machines serve us rather than the other way round. In this sense capitalism’s basic principle is machinic: it’s sole purpose is to evolve its own machinic civilization, which includes slowly divesting itself of its organic systems as a part of this ongoing project. We are slowly being excluded from this vast machinic civilization that we once thought served our desires, instead it has its own desires and needs; and, these desires and needs are not human ones, never were. We’ve been giving birth to our own Frankenstein. And as in that parable the prognosis is not good for humanity.
We are all part of a social machine, and its axiomatic is simple and complex: it is organizing all the decoded flows, including the flows of scientific and technical code, for the benefit of the capitalist machine and in the service of its ends. (p. 233) Of course this is nothing new, Nick Land among others has been broadcasting this fact for years. Corporations are Profit-Machines and nothing more; their sole purpose is to produce flows that decode technical and scientific innovations in a regulated mode that reintegrates both human and machine surplus as capital. Yet, what the corporations produce in the process of decoding must be absorbed through the “politico-military-economic” complex, which is why there is such a need of antiproductive forces that form the bureaucracies of State, Military, Police, etc. In fact as they suggest this whole antiproduction system is firmly “wedded to it in order to regulate its productivity and realize surplus value…” (p. 236).
This introduces another aspect of this eternal return of capital schiz and flows through the limits and round again: the production of lack and stupidity. Capitalism’s supreme goal is to produce lack in large aggregates – “to introduce lack where there is always too much” (p. 235). Along with this flow of capital and knowledge comes an equivalent flow of stupidity “that effects an absorption and a realization, and that ensures that integration of groups and individuals into the system” (p. 236). The point here is that the most technical and scientific individual is also in many ways the most stupid, and they provide various examples all leading to the individual carrier of knowledge and know-how outside the flow of corporate machinc processes become the site not of innovation and creativity but rather a “refuge of bad conscience” and the “forced destroyer of his own creativity” (p. 236).
It’s at this point in their discourse that D & G turn cynical and satirical to the point of observing just how mad this whole system of capital has become in its endless breaching of barriers and reintegration’s, its decoding and recodings, all leading to an amoral system in which the worker and the industrialist are both locked into a self-policing system of idiocy in which “money and the market” have become the “true police” (p. 239). Which will lead them to ask:
…it is at a generalized theory of flows that one is able to reply to the question: how does one come to desire strength while also desiring one’s own impotence? How was such a social field able to be invested by desire? And how far does desire go beyond so-called objective interests, when it is a question of flows to set in motion and to break?
So what to do? “What is the revolutionary path forward?” They’ll ask. Not psychoanalysis, they’ll say: it’s part of the absorption mechanism of surplus value. Not withdrawal or exit: this, too, is just another fascist “economic solution” (Samir Amin) (p. 239). Of course this is where they’ll reintroduce Nietzsche’s notion of “accelerating the process” – letting it escape the barriers, the limits; but with a twist: no return, just an accelerating circle of profit without return or limits in a time of no time.
A new twist in this recently cropped up. Happened on Nick Land’s Time Spiral Press blog post “Accelerate the Process“: “This might be the first piece of accelerationist scholarship I’ve ever seen. (It’s good.)” It leads to a post on Obsolete Capitalism that states the obvious that many who have read this last statement in Anti-Oedipus have not followed it up by commenting on the actual passage D & G used from Nietzsche’s Will to Power. He breaks down the various translations of this passage in Nietzsche’s text “The strong of the future” which is where the notion of acceleration is engendered. So what is it Nietzsche says here (quoting the complete text which is part of the Fourth Book: Discipline and Breeding):
898. The strong of the future.—To what extent necessity on the one hand and accident on the other have attained to conditions from which a stronger species may be reared: this we are now able to understand and to bring about consciously; we can now create those conditions under which such an elevation is possible.
Hitherto education has always aimed at the utility of society: not the greatest possible utility for the future, but the utility of the society actually extant. What people required were “instruments” for this purpose. Provided the wealth of forces were greater, it would be possible to think of a draft being made upon them, the aim of which would not be the utility of society, but some future utility.
The more people grasped to what extent the present form of society was in such a state of transition as sooner or later to be no longer able to exist for its own sake, but only as a means in the hands of a stronger race, the more this task would have to be brought forward.
The increasing belittlement of man is precisely the impelling power which leads one to think of the cultivation of a stronger race: a race which would have a surplus precisely there where the dwarfed species was weak and growing weaker (will, responsibility, self-reliance, the ability to postulate aims for one’s self).
The means would be those which history teaches: isolation by means of preservative interests which would be the reverse of those generally accepted; exercise in transvalued valuations; distance as pathos; a clean conscience in what to-day is most despised and most prohibited.
The leveling of the mankind of Europe is the great process which should not be arrested; it should even be accelerated. The necessity of cleaving gulfs, of distance, of the order of rank, is therefore imperative; but not the necessity of retarding the process above mentioned.
This leveled-down species requires justification as soon as it is attained: its justification is that it exists for the service of a higher and sovereign race which stands upon it and can only be elevated upon its shoulders to the task which it is destined to perform. Not only a ruling race whose task would be consummated in ruling alone: but a race with vital spheres of its own, with an overflow of energy for beauty, bravery, culture, and manners, even for the most abstract thought; a yea-saying race which would be able to allow itself every kind of great luxury—strong enough to be able to dispense with the tyranny of the imperatives of virtue, rich enough to be in no need of economy or pedantry; beyond good and evil; a forcing-house for rare and exceptional plants.2
The pertinent passage is here: “The leveling of the mankind of Europe is the great process which should not be arrested; it should even be accelerated. The necessity of cleaving gulfs, of distance, of the order of rank, is therefore imperative; but not the necessity of retarding the process above mentioned.” As a reactionary Nietzsche was seeking to overcome what he perceived as the decadent and dying embers of bourgeoisie society which he felt was falling into collectivist and democratic socialist forms. He didn’t see any need to fight this, but rather what he sought was to accelerate this process of the leveling and homogenization of the masses while at the same time allowing for a distancing and revaluation of all values to take place that would in the end allow for a new type of species to emerge out of this world. One that would be based on a vitalistic and warrior based elitism of the strong, brave, cultured, and mannered men of tomorrow – the amoral or beyond good and evil beings who like man today would espouse forms of posthuman and transhuman H++ ideologies seeking such a “forcing-house for rare and exceptional plants”.
One must ask: What do we actually see happening in the West right now? Is Nietzsche so far off? Don’t we see the elite financiers, politicians, and entrepreneurs (CEO’s etc.) distancing themselves from their home countries by way of Cosmopolitan lifestyles of globetrotting and isolated gated luxury Cities and paradisial enclaves, while at the same time forcing their own homelands of the First World to become pauperized and slowly brought low through economic, educational, and political servitude, stupidity, and policing? Are we not already living in such a dystopian landscape? Do we not pretend otherwise? Pretend that politics can change things, when nothing has changed for forty years? Everything has actually gotten worse and most of the social nets once set up have slowly but surely been dismantled. Our so to speak leaders no longer listening to their constituents. Lipservice that smiles and says the right words, but in the end does what its corporate cronies tell it to do? Are we not the Last Men that Nietzsche spoke of?
Is not the transhuman adventure espoused by the singularists etc. nothing more than a rich man’s game of ranking, of a quest for immortality for the elite and powerful, a part of this Nietzschean adventure of overcoming man through genetic and machinic manipulation and transformation? Are we not fooling ourselves that this is not happening?
Open your eyes and look around you. Are not these same elite speaking of replacing us with robots, AI’s, machines? Are they not allowing the Third World into the First World? The Greatest migration in the history of the world? And even using our own Leftward ideologies to support this tactic? The Left was coopted by the neoliberal agenda and their powers ages ago, we just keep on believing otherwise, keep on dreaming that there is a Left. There isn’t. What you call the progressive left in the world today is a lie, a fiction, a corporate sponsored ideological construct that has like a chameleon grafted itself onto the old liberal nexus of ideologies: a parasite that like a viral agent has so ubiquitously infested the host body that we no longer know the truth from lie. While those of the true Left of Right are perceived as the Enemy. The extremes of Left and Right are so close today because they both have the same enemy: the so to speak “neoliberal” order of global capitalism everywhere which like Janus has a two-faced and diachronic vision of time which flows both ways, yet has locked us all in the pure instant. We exist in a false time, a constructed time spinning our wheels in an ever accelerating circle of non-limits that have as one goal: pure surplus profit and the elimination of the human by the inhuman.
Remember Nietzche’s vision of the new type of being: “a race with vital spheres of its own, with an overflow of energy for beauty, bravery, culture, and manners, even for the most abstract thought; a yea-saying race which would be able to allow itself every kind of great luxury—strong enough to be able to dispense with the tyranny of the imperatives of virtue, rich enough to be in no need of economy or pedantry; beyond good and evil; a forcing-house for rare and exceptional plants.”
One wonders what is to become of the rest of us? The weak, the poor, the excluded… not that hard to imagine if you’ve studied your Nietzsche. It will be a pared down world with machines taking over more and more of human work, while humans themselves enter a stage of final competition between native and transhuman forms vying for the remaining organic rights to existence before the great and terrible day of judgement when the machines escape our control and become the new gods of this planetary civilization.
In 866 Nietzsche would unleash the Übermensch:
It is necessary to show that a counter-movement is inevitably associated with any increasingly economical consumption of men and mankind, and with an ever more closely involved “machinery” of interests and services. I call this counter-movement the separation of the luxurious surplus of mankind: by means of it a stronger kind, a higher type, must come to light, which has other conditions for its origin and for its maintenance than the average man. My concept, my metaphor for this type is, as you know, the word “Superman.”Along the first road, which can now be completely surveyed, arose adaptation, stultification, higher Chinese culture, modesty in the instincts, and satisfaction at the sight of the belittlement of man—a kind of stationary level of mankind. If ever we get that inevitable and imminent, general control of the economy of the earth, then mankind can be used as machinery and find its best purpose in the service of this economy—as an enormous piece of clock-work consisting of ever smaller and ever more subtly adapted wheels; then all the dominating and commanding elements will become ever more superfluous; and the whole gains enormous energy, while the individual factors which compose it represent but small modicums of strength and of value. To oppose this dwarfing and adaptation of man to a specialized kind of utility, a reverse movement is needed--the procreation of the synthetic man who embodies everything and justifies it; that man for whom the turning of mankind into a machine is a first condition of existence, for whom the rest of mankind is but soil on which he can devise his higher mode of existence.
Already here we see the future of the cyborgian society, a world where an elite of supposed higher types of transhumans – genetic hybrids, machinic implants – rule above a laboring mass of mediocrity and controlled workers, etc. The notion of the “procreation of the synthetic man who embodies everything and justifies it”, and the masses being dummed (“leveled”) down, exploited, excluded turned into machines like so many automobiles to serve the masters. Such dreams of reason spawning the strange nightmares of our time in posthuman and transhumanist visions. Nietzsche was constructing a dystopian world of superman as vampire/cannibal (“stands on them, he lives on them”) where all the aspects of the ancients he admired would come alive in some new monstrous vision of synthetic humanity atop a subhuman world of enslavement.
(Of course this is only one scenario, the dystopic view… there could be a different story or narrative if we’d do something… anything; but, I’m not holding my breath, that’s unlikely from what little we haven’t done in the past forty years to change things. I seem to oscillate between pessimism and full blown cynicism these days as I watch our world crumbling… sadly. What’s even sadder is that with this vacuum of power and leadership we might very well see the rise of religion again, a global environmentalism, spirituality, etc., which would lead to ever stranger forms of political and social despair, cynicism and corruption; rebellion and tyranny. Remember the repetitions of history: it was during the decadent era of Rome and Greece that many of these political and social movements with their wandering messiahs emerged from the periphery of dying empires. Already many of the ancient monotheisms: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam seek various Messiah figures to return or emerge… Dark days ahead… So many weird scenarios, too many to contemplate. When people feel helpless, when they see no future ahead, when they feel they are prisoners to work, state, life they begin to seek escape in drugs, religion, and political subversion. Let’s hope the subversion of global capital is what will awaken the planet. But watching the reemergence of religious ideologies of late I feel we may be moving into that irrational world where no one will be left standing… )
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