How Green Was My Velocity

A new essay on the Diffractions Collective blog is stoking the embers of the Twittersphere’s fiery /acc debates — we haven’t had a proper one in a while.

In the essay, Celia Sphinxter has thrown two new L/Acc variants into the mix, in lieu of a new publication from Litteraria Pragensia (that I’m very excited to also be a part of) called Speculative Ecologies: Plotting Through The Mesh.

Sphinxter argues that accelerationism has “a tenuous relationship with ecology and green politics” and so they draw together some new extensions that attempt to make the climate crisis more of an explicit focus for accelerationist thought. The responses, so far, have been mixed.

@Outsideness comments that

Accelerationism was meant to raze all of this moral exhortation IMHO, but whatever. Increasingly dewy-eyed Virtue Accelerationisms are probably inevitable.

@Metanomad adds that their argument “has the same anthropocentric bias as L/ACC; if you can ’embrace’ the process as a form of conscious agent then it isn’t the process of Acceleration, only an ideological offshoot.”

I think my favourite thing about these sorts of threads is that they proliferate even more concise definitions of what accelerationism actually speaks to, with @bognamk writing:

[Accelerationism] is a description of system complexification both alligned with and separate from human (political) interest. To use it as a political program for positive human-system alliance exclusively misses something crucial.

But it was @LilyPatchwork came out with the best tweet of the entire discussion:

I don’t much care what letters panicked crypto-leftists put in front of “/acc” in their Twitter bios, but I do have to wonder what the fuck accelerationism is doing in the realm of post-capitalist community projects instead of measuring teleoplexy. What’s the point even?

However, @vit_van_camp responded this by writing:

A lot of these posts in the thread would prefer to keep ACC theory as a done deal, a fait accompli. Well if one accepts the dromological drive of ACC, such an approach is suspect. Have your cake and eat it too kinda thing… more appropriation (app) necessary here.

This is an argument often levelled at those who try to defend accelerationism from woeful appropriations and whilst, on the one hand, it is a fair point — after all, haven’t so many of us argued that fragmentation is good? — on the other hand it has also undoubtedly led to a misfortunate watering down of what accelerationism was initially concerned with, leading to echoes of the same sorts of argument again and again. Indeed, with every new disavowal based on a misunderstanding, the infrequent building out the /acc umbrella, more often than not, leads to drag.

If we want to talk about the ecological implications of accelerationism, we need not look further than Thomas Moynihan’s work, whether his writings on existential risk or, even more recently, his book on Urbanomic: Spinal Catastrophism. What Tom gets right, where others fall short, is he has a rigorous grasp of the effects of the dynamics accelerationism concerns itself with on the human subject.

The place of the human subject within accelerationism has been — and we really need to stop forgetting this — the foundational tension since the original publication of the Urbanomic reader — a tension first explored by Simon O’Sullivan in his own essay on accelerationism’s (then too implicit) speculative recalibrations of subjectivity.

Today, at least as far as I see it, and following Simon’s insights, the contemporary subject of late capitalism, shaped by a mandatory individualism, amongst other things, finds itself torn in two directions — towards the collective (communist) subject of L/Acc and the inhumanism of R/Acc.

U/Acc, in my (biased) opinion, combines these two projects together and attempts to observe these sensibilities as libidinal instantiations of accelerationism’s life and death drives. And I mean this quite literally, rather than obfuscating an argument behind Freudian pretensions. (This is, in many respects, what my forthcoming Egress book deals with — and it has a whole chapter on the climate crisis too.)

Alexander Irwin in his book Saints of the Impossible, particularly a chapter where he writes about Bataille’s novella Blue of Noon, summarises this dynamic well, paying particular attention to the biases of competing ideologies that attempt to grapple with such complex systems. Foreshadowing the all too familiar argument that has played out repeatedly between the old spheres of L/Acc and R/Acc, Georges Bataille and Simone Weil would frequently come to blows over Bataille’s dismissal of her Christian virtue-signalling and Weil’s dismissal of Bataille’s ontopolitical morbidity. Irwin writes that, for Bataille (and also, I think, for U/Acc):

The point is to recognize that to genuinely love life, one must have “signed a contract with death.” The love of life — to the extent that it is something other than naiveté, delusion, or cynical manipulation — will (ambiguously) emerge from, nourish, and incorporate necrophilia. A “love of life” that seeks to exclude or refuse death is not, in fact, a love of life at all, but the worship of an idealistic myth whose inevitable effect will be a devaluing of life in its real and tragic fullness.

L/Acc — and the left more generally — has repeatedly embarrassed itself with its virtue-signalling in this respect whilst R/Acc’s preoccupation with death too often slips into fascist sympathies by defining itself in opposition to L/Acc’s initially warm-hearted humanist sensibility. (A dual tension Land already preempted in his essay “Making It With Death”.)

This epiphany of the life and death drives of politics, as a sort of collective instantiation of the life and death drives of the subject, led Bataille to his formulation of a theory of general economy, but even that consideration of the subject at the scale of the planetary isn’t new, by any means, and it is this that Robin Mackay and, now, Thomas Moynihan have explored at length in their writings on geophilosophy.

Tom’s book, in particular, is a mind-bogglingly rigorous and philosophical account of how we, as humans, in our thought and in our very morphology, are related to the planet on which we presently live, and we are as much in crisis as the climate itself.

He writes, early on, “that Homo sapiens‘ ability to exert cognizance and control on a planetary scale results from the same species-specific peculiarity as its susceptibility to back pain.” The more explicitly accelerationist version of the argument is not all that different, but what is to be considered is our species susceptibility to technological whiplash. And if that isn’t intrinsic to our understanding of the contemporary climate crisis, I don’t know what is.


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