Lots of fun waking up to this tweet and its accompanying threads the other morning. Discussions proliferated throughout the day. I thought I’d try chronicle a few of them here for posterity.
An interesting point raised by @Moctezuma_III was that surely an awareness of the existence of a thought like Accelerationism is better than nothing. (I’m personally unconvinced that an ignorant awareness is any better than pure ignorance.)
Maybe as an American, my standards are just low. Compare this MPs writing to the Zuckerberg testimony in the House of Representatives a few weeks ago.— Moctezuma III (@Moctezuma_III) April 24, 2018
However, this does perhaps shine a light on some of the progressive pockets of mainstream British politics. Cruddas is also a part of a Future Of Work commission — I’m unsure if this is the same thinktank that I’ve heard Srnicek and/or Williams take part in to lobby for a post-work society. There are active pockets of UK government who are engaged with speculative politics but you’ll struggle to see any material benefits of this.
The article itself has very little to offer the already initiated and most of its traction on the ?/Acc Twitters was focused on ridiculing it. Nevertheless, it does demonstrate Accelerationism’s pervasive populist image problem.
Like an ?/Acc sommelier, @Moctezuma_III picks out the different notes of the populist hybrid definition well:
Yeah, it's like definitions of L/Acc, NRx and Transhumanism all thrown into a blender.— Moctezuma III (@Moctezuma_III) April 24, 2018
From what I can tell, Cruddas seems to take the populist definition — further popularised by the Guardian in a “long read” from last year — and run with it, albeit writing against the typical l/acc understanding and towards a sort of centrist rebuttal (which is really embarrassing).
The Guardian article was notably written by Andy Beckett whose book on the 1970s I am currently reading and, as great as that book is, perhaps it’s best he sticks to the past than butcher the future.
Accelerationists argue that technology, particularly computer technology, and capitalism, particularly the most aggressive, global variety, should be massively sped up and intensified — either because this is the best way forward for humanity, or because there is no alternative. Accelerationists favour automation. They favour the further merging of the digital and the human. They often favour the deregulation of business, and drastically scaled-back government. They believe that people should stop deluding themselves that economic and technological progress can be controlled. They often believe that social and political upheaval has a value in itself.
Accelerationism, therefore, goes against conservatism, traditional socialism, social democracy, environmentalism, protectionism, populism, nationalism, localism and all the other ideologies that have sought to moderate or reverse the already hugely disruptive, seemingly runaway pace of change in the modern world.
This definition is not wrong but it cuts out many of the points of contention between different Accelerationist positions — perhaps purposefully, perhaps lazily. As @Moctezuma_III points out, this definition is a bizarre melting pot of largely conflicting Accelerationist positions. I have never met anyone who is actively engaged with Accelerationism who would agree with all of the above.
You can argue that the in-fighting is not conducive to a pithy article but the contentions within the various Accelerationist factions are surely its lifeblood and to conflate positions that exist across the political spectrum is actually a surprising tendency in this day and age of firmly patrolled political boundaries.
To Cruddas’s credit, his article is at least more interesting than Beckett’s for its initial self-critical bent (even if this doesn’t last long). He writes:
The character of the left has shifted. It has become obsessed with the belief that politics is an authentic search for the self, rather than a sacrificial contribution to the commons, with its trade-offs and compromises.
This is something I’d agree with, at least for its hinting at a sort of collective subjectivity of the Left but, as the centrist echoes of “trade-offs and compromises” suggests, Cruddas takes this thought down an even duller blind alley than that which he assigns to Accelerationism.
Cruddas’s main criticisms, it soon turns out, lie with Inventing The Future — the text which did for Accelerationism what the Hyperstition movie did for that avenue of thought. (That is, neutered it.) If that book is too radical for you, we’re evidently not going to have much to talk about.
Here’s the real kicker:
Within European left philosophy, the failures of 1968 produced a dramatic reorientation. The superstars of modern cultural studies — Deleuze, Guattari, Lyotard — suggested an accelerationist approach to modern capitalism, rather than a search to overcome it, echoed in today’s fashionable texts.
According to another young academic, Lewis Coyne, postmodernism finishes the job Descartes started. As Descartes stripped the dignity from non-human nature Deleuze reduces humans to mere substance. Being — humanity — is construed as “a plane of immanence” — a continuous movement of matter and time: “there are only relations of movement and rest, speed and slowness between unformed elements, or at least between elements that are relatively unformed, molecules, and particles of all kinds. There are only subjectless individuations that constitute collective assemblages.”
It’s really hard to know where to start with this smeared load of entrails. It’s a proper bloody butchering of so much. There’s no hope of course correction from there on out.
As this article and other Twitter threads nonetheless got the timeline buzzing with disagreements, here’s my own take, boiled down following a couple of recent posts on this blog that have taken the transcendent field of the Self/State of patchwork outwards into more broadly Accelerationist discussions:
Oh, and honourable mention to Comrade Gillis’s terrible thread:
Just when you thought Acc Twitter had been lively enough for one day, @molarplexus inadvertently started a glorious hellthread of various ?/acc factions thrashing out their differences, particularly the difference between Right Accelerationism and Unconditional Acceleration(ism) — I personally prefer to drop the “ism” from U/ACC because it feels like a cul-de-sac for its flows (lest we forget it is a proudly adopted joke made by Benjamin Noys) but you can do what you want.
Max Castle ruled this thread with a whole host of interesting insights which this blog absolutely agrees with:
Ed too also brings back U/Acc’s readings of Deleuze & Guattari into the fray:
The thread continued at length and it was hellish but it’s worth preserving these nuggets at least.