Right now I’m feeling a bit embarrassed about the argumentative tone of that last post.
It’s far too easy for me to jump to a defensively polemic position here — I’m used to being challenged on patchwork and I’m becoming a bit hardened to and bitter about it.
I’m particularly embarrassed about this instance because snow.ghost, who wrote the original comment, has written a further — very gracious and good natured — response on their blog. Evidently, assumptions were made on my part in my response, and I greatly appreciate being able to hear more about snow.ghost’s own position. However, assumptions are still being made on their part, particularly with regards to the extent that Land’s view of patchwork is central to my own.
His view of patchwork is no more influential than Moldbug’s on my thought– i.e. only by proxy. As I said last time, I’m more interested in updating Deleuzian patchwork to now. To conflate my vision with Nick’s, as happens repeatedly throughout this response, betrays a complete ignorance of the position they are arguing against.
The blame for this, of course, lies with myself.
What must be repeated here is that any “glib rhetoric” on my part is due to topical burnout rather than laziness. I have written 1000s of words on these points over the last six months. The list of key posts remains over here, and many of these are currently under revision as I try to turn them into a bigger, more coherent, more rigorous and less polemic project — because pointing people to two dozen posts when wanting to explain my position really isn’t a practical solution.
So I’m going to retread some ground here but avoid it when possible.
This is a long one…
The first point to made here is that snow.ghost refers to themselves a recovering “leftist-purist” and, to be clear, I’d call myself something similar.
I’ve written here before about past frustrations with the left and it is perhaps a bad habit of this blog to treat my “fellow leftists” as irritant Others. This only seems to be an issue for those already on the left — my followers on the right seem to be under no illusion that I am one of them. Patchwork, as a case in point, was, for a long time, something I was wary of. As a Goldsmiths student, during the Great Paranoia of 2017, I was all too aware of everything touched by Land being immediately dismissed as fascist and there was plenty of thought I ignored on this basis.
Secretly, I’ve long been the sort of masochist who likes to engage deeply with things I don’t (or am not supposed) like or agree with, never wanting to take anything at face value. Patchwork, in particular, is something that I found to have much more depth than the stereotypical Moldbuggian-Landian viewpoint suggested, especially when considered via Deleuze (and Guattari) — there are references to patchwork all over the last few sections of A Thousand Plateaus and Deleuze’s solo writings on American literature likewise contain many references, which have been explored on this blog on a number of occasions.
The unfortunate irony here is that I’ve developed a tendency to assume a narrow viewpoint when my own is challenged, which is a recursively narrow and hypocritically defensive position to take, giving the impression, as snow.ghost phrases it, of having little more in my arsenal than “a theoretical bandaid preventing anyone from noticing the wound where there should be thought.”
This is a fair assessment of my previous post in isolation, but I’d have to excuse myself and say that this is due to my reluctance to overly retread previous arguments. I nonetheless always do appreciate the opportunity to reartriculate my position but, evidently, with my last post, I haven’t done this very successfully.
Nonetheless, I do take issue with the suggestion my tone is
a dismissive rhetorical tactic meant to shield people from having to slog through the unsexy parts of philosophy and politics, do the hard labor of working on the aporias that haunt this field, addressing with critical doubt the difficult and inhumane problematics of race, gender, economic class, geography, sovereignty, and so forth that would make anyone, me included, throw their hands up and retreat to shiny, bright, accelerationism and speculative realism, because these latter-day salvific philosophical sets suggest, fundamentally, that we don’t need to care about such trivial things as where a person is born, their identity, their ability to articulate and defend themselves, and how they may be structurally limited by a hegemonic and violent global system in ways we are not.
If I was previously dismissive, it was at the expense of doing this repetitively rather than not at all.
There is certainly far more to be said on these points on this blog in general but my interest in patchwork is, in part, already fuelled by what it has to offer disparate regions and demographics around the world — which is to say, the benefits it has to offer various social minorities and other particular perspectives. The assumption that patchwork is a Randian utopia only is a foundation that this blog has repeatedly rejected. This blog seeks a vision of patchwork that is as diverse as its design necessitates.
Most speculative forays have, admittedly, been limited to my immediate environment — particularly this post and this post on a possible Patchwork Yorkshire — as I haven’t wanted to wildly speculate on other countries and continents I don’t know enough about. I’ve preferred to start with my own backyard — an unavoidably white, male, English backyard but never have I tried to make light of or generalise that position as somehow being broadly representative. However, the conversations had previously on this blog with other people — those based in South America in particular, and their offering of similarities with postcolonial politics there — has already shown that there is potential for a broader consideration of this concept and its geopolitical application. It is not alien to leftism.
It is this assumption that I hoped to guard against.
These globally disparate conversations are ongoing and inchoate but they are there. My issue is less with the limitations of leftist discourse in itself but more its view of the limitations of other kinds of thought. The assumption that this position has no interest in other sorts of experience and perspectives is most frustrating. Patchwork, by design, demands that kind of broad consideration, and this has largely been absent in most right-wing versions of the concept — or, rather, included as “Race Realism” rather than taking into consideration the thought of actual postcolonial geopolitical thinkers.
This blog has taken a break from explicitly new patchwork posts in recent months — they’re too often written reactively to criticisms at the moment, without being developed any further — but there are long-term plans on this blog to read patchwork via the works of Frantz Fanon in particular, as well as the South American thinkers recommended to me by my readers.
As expressed towards the end of the previous post, this blog takes seriously the politics of subjection and subjectivity, and patchwork is taken as a system that embraces fragmentation of both self and state for the opening-up of new alternatives. This must necessarily include considerations of the psychologies of colonial subjection and subjugation, and the resulting psychologies that inform processes of decolonisation.
As such, patchwork is not a global system. It is attractive (to me) because it necessitates a nuanced thinking of difference (again, admittedly absent in the last post). By design — and this is already in Land and Moldbug — with patchwork it is best to start small and scale outwards. So yes, this sort of blog talk is all well and good to dismiss as a First World privilege but I think it is patronising to suggest this kind of thinking doesn’t have a broader precedent precisely because other peoples are limited by the violent global system. Patchwork can provide an exit for all peoples. The contention of this blog has explicitly been that these potentials are far too interesting to abandon just because of their rhetorical prevalence through the expression of a desire for sovereign “Special Economic Zones” of a Randian persuasion.
Again, in the last post, I mentioned the Zapatistas. My vision of patchwork takes Deleuzian nomadism, Landian analyses of capitalism and cybernetics, and passes them through a filter of decolonial theory. As I’ve said previously elsewhere, patchwork is itself a patchwork.
Instead, snow.ghost requests a sort of “murder your teacher” approach here. We’re way beyond that now. The central caveat of this blog — which I should probably put in big, bold letters somewhere — is: “Open your mind to a non-Moldbuggian patchwork.” Land has developed his own offshoot from Moldbug’s theories, a post-Moldbuggian approach (ew), and I have likewise sought to develop my own position apart from this, which is more explicitly Deleuzian, whilst nonetheless taking its developments into consideration. (And, it should be reiterated, this blog is more explicitly influenced by Land’s NCRAP course ‘Outer Edges‘ than his blogged writings on neocameralism.)
Furthermore, calling patchwork, as this blog has been formulating it, a “Landian unconditional accelerationist utopianism” betrays an ignorance of U/Acc contentions with (present day) Land and its distinct lack of any kind of end-game utopianism. Granted, this is a criticism of U/Acc more generally and one that has yet to be sufficiently addressed. In my view, what patchwork shares with the “unconditional” is that it is not preloaded with any particular rigid utopianism. It is a flinging open of all doors, allowing the outside — as multiplicity; as alternative(s) — in. For Land, yes, that “outside” is capital. For others, it’s “blackness” or “queer temporalities”. This language is not exclusively Landian and this blog does not treat it as such.
More specifically, the politics of “outside in” discussed on this blog, in this way, has far more in common with the late writings of Mark Fisher than the polemicist blog takes of Land (although the two are, of course, closely related.) It is predicated, like Fisher’s unfinished Acid Communism, on a Deleuzian conception of desire as that which “is always seeking more connections.”
In this way, I don’t see how my view of patchwork is incompatible with the framing of leftism that snow.ghost provides here:
It is a commitment to a kind of self-mastery. That commitment isn’t loyal to thinkers or to ideas in-and-of themselves. It is the commitment to the labor, the project, of the alleviation of suffering. To modes of aid and affiliation. It tends to be utilitarian over deontological, materialist over idealist, libertarian over authoritarian, collective over individual, and queer over cis.
This is a definition of leftism that I wholly believe in and my cynicism is based on generally only seeing it paid lip service to in some of the more reactive leftist circles I have found myself involved with over the years. (Not to fall into tokenism but many Cave Twitter posters do identify as queer and are likewise “patchwoke”.)
The later suggestion of what form leftism has to take, however, I do not agree with. Patchwork likewise “places a premium on rationality and consensus” — perhaps more realistically limiting consensus to reduce spatial areas so as to improve minority representation, which is undeniably in crisis in many of our bloated nation-states — but giving leftism the form of “holism over atomism, and justice over precarity and chance” is far too loaded a framing for me to accept.
Justice is not antithetical to precarity and chance. It seems to me that justice — of the “neoliberal” variety, anyway — is wholly dependent on those two things. It is precisely the pursuit of justice devoid of precarity and chance that leads to justice so often eluding the left — also a topic already explored on this blog.
Likewise, holism and atomism may be issues the left is principled on but holism needn’t look like a naive one-world post-imperial utopianism. If that’s a presumptuous leap on my part, so is the assumption that patchwork must be a dystopian atomism.
I’m reminded here of Justin Murphy’s fantastic post on Vast Abrupt:
The problem with human atomization — the accelerating tendency of traditional social aggregates to disintegrate — is only that the process remains arrested at the level of the individual. The modern political Left, as an intrinsically aggregative tendency, bemoans individualism but functions as a machine for conserving it against already active forces that would otherwise disintegrate it. One of the only empirically mature pathways to collective liberation is through human atomization becoming autonomous: accepting the absolute foreclosure of anthropolitical agency is a causal trigger activating novel, dividuated, affective capacities, which become capable of recomposing as intensive, nonlinear, collective excitations (Cyberpositive AI-aligned Communism, or the CAIC protocol).
The further irony here is invoking Amy Ireland. Amy is a friend of this blog and has been hugely influential on my view of patchwork. Her (as yet unpublished?) writings on patchwork share — I think — much in common with this blog, particularly my post on Wuthering Heights (iirc).
[O]ne of the more frustrating things about contemporary accelerationism, xenopoetics, neorationalism, etc (groups with which, again, I’ll happily identify) is the reaction formation to left absolutism: sometimes we mistake a desire, a need, really, for systems and systems thinking for ideological purity.
I like this and I can appreciate this point about a desire for systems thinking, but that’s not what is happening here. That is an area I think fellow patchwork poster Ed Berger is far more clued-up on than I, and I will rather point towards Ed’s blog rather than address this here unsatisfactorily.
In fact, I think a number of the points raised here are addressed better by others elsewhere. Patchwork is a topic that much of Cave Twitter is invested in but not uniformly. Each person has their own specific interests and areas of research. Systems theory is an explicit consideration for some, but not for me, and that’s only because my focus is elsewhere.
I would likewise be interested to hear what others think of this shift from high connectivity / low integration to “high connectivity, high autonomy.” At first glance, I’m unsure how this is different in any way other than semantically to what I have proposed here previously.
snow.ghost goes on to take me to task over my argument against his use of the “marketplace of ideas” analogy:
The metaphor of the marketplace of ideas really isn’t used to talk about freedom of press or expression, as Xenogothic suggests. It’s the idea that competition will reveal truthfulness. That history ends. This is, as far as I can tell, precisely what you’re suggesting about experimentation in a patchwork world. Xenogothic mentioned Milton, and go on to say the marketplace of ideas is “not only an analogy but a myth.” I agree. That’s my point. It is a myth. It doesn’t work. It is itself predicated on the myth of barter. All ‘free’ markets require constant intervention.
I agree with this, and it was not my intention to suggest that this is how the phrase is predominantly invoked. I was rather attempting to argue that if patchwork is anything like the “marketplace of ideas”, it is in its original sense, rather than as a blind faith in the adage that “competition will reveal truthfulness.” I don’t think this and I believe I suggested as much when I wrote that “the market runs on a system of mythical meritocracy towards consolidation, patchwork is instead a fragmentation engine.”
Many in the U/Acc blogosphere have explored this in more depth than I have — I’m thinking of Uri here (the tweet following this paragraph is offered as a more concise example of his position) — but it must explicitly be said that this is not a conflation that I am wholly comfortable with and remains something for me to figure out.
As such, either I’ve failed to articulate my position effectively or snow.ghost has continued to make the assumptions I was criticising in my initial response. Much of what follows puts words in my mouth, articulating positions I have never entertained. Perhaps, what has happened, is I have fallen into the trap of the initial market analogy. Continuing to translate my position into more explicit terms of “deregulation” and the like is, I think, doing much of the work on this blog a disservice.
I mean, come on: “Xenogothic’s model takes the current capitalist mode and literalizes it: there is but one subjectivity and it is economic. Everything else is mere aesthetics.” This is a gross misrepresentation. I think you are making me a straw man for Landianism here which is wholly misrepresentative of this blog’s project. It don’t think this holds any water with anything I’ve previously written.
Whilst I rejected the Land conflation, I still also disagree with snow-ghost’s formulation of patchwork more generally:
The patchwork model exacerbates some of the worst tendencies of the neoliberal order and eradicates some of the few I would imagine remain included in emancipatory future imaginaries. Not only that, but the patchwork model is techno-determinist and libidinal in character.
The suggestion here being that techno-determinism and libido are somehow antithetical to a leftist project? Following D&G, Lyotard, Fisher and others, I think this is wholly the character that the left must get better at exploring.
My interest is this area of patchwork thought, in terms of economics, is limited to Land’s own call for a better use of left’s imagination on his Xenosystems blog:
“But … but .. the whole point of the Left is that we don’t think government is a business!” — Then call it a ‘co-op’ or some equivalent bullshit. Jesus, use some imagination.
The potentials I see here are more related to Mark Fisher’s late thinking, in which he advocated a harnessing of capitalism’s various mechanisms in order to instantiate effective difference; for its transitory potentials rather than as an end-game. Take, for example, his essay “Postcapitalist Desire”. Placing Land back in his original Deleuzo-Guattarian context, he writes:
Land’s texts are important [because] they expose an uncomfortable contradiction between the radical left’s official commitment to revolution, and its actual tendency towards political and formal-aesthetic conservatism. In Land’s writings, a quasi-hydraulic force of desire is set against a leftist-Canutist impulse towards preserving, protecting and defending. […] Where is the left that can speak … confidently in the name of an alien future, that can openly celebrate, rather than mourn, the disintegration of existing socialites and territorialities?
I won’t analyse this essay at depth because this post will never end but Fisher concludes, very much in his own voice:
The Soviet system could not achieve [its] vision, but perhaps its realisation still lies ahead of us, provided we accept that what we are fighting for is not a “return” to the essentially reactionary conditions of face-to-face interaction, “a line of racially pure peasants digging the same patch of earth for eternity”, or what Marx and Engels called “the idiocy of rural life”, but rather the construction of an alternative modernity, in which technology, mass production and impersonal systems of management are deployed as part of a refurbished public sphere. Here, public does not mean state, and the challenge is to imagine a model of public ownership beyond 20th century-style state centralisation.
Patchwork, for me, offers a radically other way of addressing these issues, as a system that is disintegrative and technologically-minded, demanding a renewed thinking about the state, the public and the subject, all the way down. Again: this is not a Landian patchwork.
I read Land but I wouldn’t describe myself as a Landian. My indebtedness to him is via Mark Fisher. I can’t and don’t want to speak for Land. Likewise, Land does not speak for me.
I’ve never spoken to Land about the work on this blog — though I’m fairly sure he’s read some of it — but I don’t think mine is a vision that he will agree with. He doesn’t need to. The speculative project of this blog is to take the general idea — informed by Deleuze, Guattari, Land and Moldbug most obviously, but also others — and see what could practically be done with it so that it might aid other projects: projects very similar to the ones that snow.ghost is advocating.
The “you do you” mentality suggested in my previous post was regretfully very glib, and in saying this I feel like I have misrepresented myself and the care with which (I think) I have previously addressed this issue of identity in the past. It’s a particularly unfortunate slip on my part as I don’t stand by its glibness, now out of polemic defence mode, but it becomes the foundation for much of snow.ghost’s ire.
For me, identity (/difference) is a central contention of patchwork, as explored in my first post on the topic. It is in this way that patchwork is not utopian. It is of interest to this blog because it problematises contemporary issues around state and self that are held onto as rafts rather than tools for change. As Fisher says: we have to get out of our faces again.
A further correction: the invocation of a “rip it up, start again” approach was an explicit nod to Simon Reynolds’ book of the same name. Not as a tabula rasa but as a mindset fit for cultural innovation that Fisher most famously mourned. As I said, “it is not naive enough to think that anyone can truly start from scratch.” In ripping “it” up, the suggestion is not to throw the pieces away. You can hold onto the pieces………
Fuck it. It’s basically just a really bad analogy.
The point was meant to be: patchwork opens up the world for a possible new configuration, but not by throwing away all that came before it, as my use of that phrase may have suggested. Forgive me that slip up.
Then comes the list of questions:
What happens at the beginning? What happens at the end? Does one state shout ‘eureka’ and then dominate the others? Do they export their idea? Do they sell it? Is it a gift? How do you know you have figured out a better model? How do you get literally any fraction of your society to agree it’s a better model? How will you implement it? How will others that don’t wish to be included react? Won’t it just be a patchwork forever? Is a quilt the end of history? Isn’t fragmentation just code for sovereignty? I ask all of those questions with an eye towards the theoretical. I don’t even care about the practicality right now. I just want the theory to make any sense at fucking all.
I won’t answer these here. I’ve answered some of them elsewhere. They’re good questions! Ones I actively think about. What I will say is that this quilt is not “the end of history”. Certainly not in the Deleuzian framing that I’m more beholden to. Perhaps it’s a reinstantiation of the idea of history through the rehabilitation of a productive geopolitical fluidity. It’s a challenge to the straight-line of history; the telos of history. If it’s an end to history, the intention is to kill it with templexity and challenge the linear progressivism with multiplicity. (I’ve written recently about this in relation to American literature and history, but again this is the first post of a new (if tangentially related) research project and already I’ve changed my mind about parts of this.)
As I said in the last post, if patchwork is pro-fragmentation, it is anti-consolidation. This invocation of the “end of history” seems, to me, to be inherently consolidatory.
This isn’t really genuine political optimism. It’s making a virtue of selfishness and greed. It seems like this is a symptom in a lot of accelerationist circles: people can’t stand the idea of having to be part of a society. They only want to answer to themselves and people that look or feel like them, all of this ‘smuggled in’ through an ostensible desire for pluralism without homogeneity.
This is why patchwork is interesting to me within the context of our present political moment. The suggestion that “people can’t stand the idea of having to be part of a society” is the usual way that patchwork gets smuggled into conversations. It’s the basis of my explorations of it. It’s an obvious observation: not just of accelerationists but everyone. It’s the contention that both the populist left and right share around the world and so patchwork is a model that suits both sides of this argument. The leftist utopian vision is that we can get past this and all live happily ever after. The suggestion of patchwork, in whatever mode, as expressed in the previous post, is that perhaps this isn’t the best way to achieve real sociopolitical change. Neocameralist patchwork, specifically, in its thought experiment mode, offers a challenge to the entire spectrum of what their present endgame might look like.
This isn’t speaking out of both sides of my mouth. This is embracing the complexity of the moment that snow.ghost has already highlighted. I don’t like our “business ontology”. It’s antithetical to most of my life. I’m shit with money and managerial corporate talk bores the life out of me. I work in the arts, and even when business nouse is needed in my day job, it’s a struggle to engage with. I’ve never studied economics or business or had anything to do with anything like that. I’m nonetheless still a neoliberal subject and I am happy to recognise that the discourse goes both ways. Patchwork can be expressed in business terms — as Moldbug and Land demonstrate — and if you want to use that to your advantage by building a rhetorical trojan horse, as some people on the left advocate, go wild!
That’s something Mark Fisher wrote and spoke about on occasion — see below — but the project of this blog has explicitly been to go in one direction and see what happens, explicitly indebted to his thought: to move from business to something else. I did not make this clear — and even that post on “business ontology” which I linked to previously is a post I am still largely unsatisfied with due to its muddled expression of a complex idea. My excuse for this is: it’s a blog. Some of what I write here isn’t as polished as it could be and it’s not consistently rigorous. That’s my cop-out excuse on that one.
Much focus is then given to “irrespective of subjective political desirability”, a phrase adrift out of context and, as such, misinterpreted. I explicitly wrote that neocameralism is useful for thought, irrespective of subjective political desirability, which is to say, neocameralism as a model of governance is useful as a thought experiment for both left and right in our present, particularly with Donald Trump being elected as president largely — apparently — on his business acumen. This is not indicative of a lack of compassion, it’s saying: “Hey, you’ve got a business magnate as your president, maybe take a look at this concept and see what else might be in store.”
Whether you’re on the left or the right, I think neocameralism is, at the very least, an idea worth paying attention to, all things considered. Nothing more was meant by this than that.
Here, as we are supposedly wrapping up, things get very interesting and meaty again. snow.ghost writes:
A market is a market, where goods or services, including politics and ideas, are exchanged, where economic reason of whatever flavor obtains to the exclusion or near exclusion of all other rationalities; it doesn’t matter if it’s corporations or individuals or tiny states that are practicing a bizarre more of neo-mercantilism, it will never be configured along the lines of rational, non-contradictory modes of production, nor an ethics of mutual aid. What it has is the illusion of those things, and the illusion of a non-coercive system of governance. But absolute choice, this concept of freedom, is never real, and the closest models we have of a society of voluntary individuals, requires a specific kind of politics. Not a temporary, optional, meta-politics that secretly governs as the hyper-sovereign even after a subject has chosen their ‘phyle.’ That’s the thing, history is what hurts, and absolute, total, free choice of political epistemology has been tried, and it has failed. Spectacularly. Some ideas are cordoned off.
I feel like I could dedicate a whole post to this paragraph alone and, in fact, I’m also interested to hear what Ed and Uri would make of your analysis. I’ll leave the gauntlet to them if they get this far and would like to take it up.
For me, I don’t see this as being any different to the left melancholic point that Mark often addresses. These things have been tried before and sometimes they have failed — other times they’ve been unceremoniously killed off, but let’s not go down that road. The main point is that some things have not been tried within our contemporary circumstances.
As Uri makes clear, if the market is admired at all, it is for its damned resilience as an adaptive form. It’s a kind of perverse admiration for its resilience as a large-scale global system. Yes, it does require “planning and flexibility and hybridization” and yes, it does require “queer bodies and identities, a multiplicity of subjectivities, not simply ideas.”
Patchwork is a model for the proliferation of multiplicity — multiplicities of spaces and selves. I don’t think it is controversial to say that these things cannot be separated. Patchwork is a theory that offers a combined view of the two which the left has, for far too long, been completely devoid of.
I guess it really comes down to whether you view the illusion that is the human in politically … pessimistic or optimistic terms. Are left political projects because of our intrinsic desire for mutual aid or are they attempts to counteract an organic system that resists such things?
I agree. That is what it comes down to. After finishing reading snow.ghost’s post, I’m left feeling that we do, in fact, have much in common. The main difference remains the outlook central to my first post. Perhaps I’m just more optimistic.
Leftism is the responsibility of worldbuilding together. It is also something that has stages that can, in the global analysis, look contradictory, when they are in fact not. Who’s to say the patchwork problem isn’t one of those stages.
All you’ve done here is reframe this blog’s own position. Mine just includes patchwork — speculatively, sure, but I take it seriously. I see it as aiding much of what you’ve called for — more than anything else currently on the table.