Here We Go Again

I spent today on the beach in Cornwall with a book of short stories by Daphne Du Maurier. The first one in the collection was a story about an island of peaceful inbreds off the Cornish coast who batten down the hatches to avoid a deadly easterly wind. When they wake the next day, they find the wind has blown a ship full of exotic men into their harbour and, with them, a thalassic libido that infects the island’s inhabitants — with horrific results.

It’s a story that feels almost proto-Landian. Desire, cigarettes and brandy blown in on horny noumena, interrupting an incestuous status quo.

The wind was blowing pretty strongly whilst I was reading this story and, later, as we tucked ourselves into our Cornish cabin with the fire on, out from the east, another familiar wind blew in…

Zack Beauchamp has written a long article for Vox about what Accelerationism is and how it’s fuelling violence across America. It’s been about six months since the last so we were due another one.

There’s nothing new here. It suffers from the same irony of all the other mainstream media guides to Accelerationism in 2019. It is the journalistic misreading of philosophical Accelerationism that people have been trying to correct for six years but which has perpetuate nonetheless in a journalistic echo chamber that has done far more to inspire the alt-right than Deleuze and Guattari. They’re certainly not getting these readings from us. A lot of these edgelords are looking for Cliff Notes and finding articles just like this one instead.

Credit where due, Vox has done something a little bit different here. They’ve interviewed Land himself to get some clarification… But then not understood what he’s said and joined up all the same dots as the tabloids:

The earliest version of “accelerationism” was, ironically enough, in some ways a celebration of the status quo.

The mainstream ethos of the 1990s was thoroughly capitalist, the collapse of the Soviet Union creating a sense that the spread of the American economic and political model was inevitable and irresistible. This coincided with a technological revolution — the rise of widespread internet access and the birth of mass internet culture, a sense of a world defined by and connected through technology in previously incomprehensible ways.

At the University of Warwick, a relatively new but well-regarded English university, a young philosophy professor named Nick Land argued that the triumph of capitalism and the rise of technoculture were inextricably intertwined. Drawing on the work of famously dense continental theorists like Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, and Jean-Francois Lyotard, Land argued that capitalist technological advancement was transforming not just our societies, but our very selves. The self, he believed, was being dissolved by the increasing speed and pace of modern life — the individual was becoming less important than the techno-capitalist system it found itself in.

“Modernity has Capitalism (the self-escalating techno-commercial complex) as its motor,” Land wrote in an email to Vox, in characteristically cryptic style. “Our question was what ‘the process’ wants (i.e. spontaneously promotes) and what resistances it provokes.”

There’s something weird going on here. This section is completely glossed over but all the answers are here?

This talk about a self that is “being dissolved by the increasing speed and pace of modern life” remains the central interest of Accelerationism. When U/ACC balks at the violence of these alt-right nut jobs, that’s why! How many times have others said that these individuals are precisely the subjects that Accelerationism hopes to critique? These violent acts are responses to the sensation Accelerationism predicted!

@qdnoktsqfr has this comment locked down once again:

To reiterate something I tweeted at the time of the NZ shootings—ultra-violent contemporary white supremacist ‘accelerationism’ is a macho-humanist *reaction* to what Ccru presciently referred to as accelerationism in the 1990s. [1]

Historically speaking, the first thing accelerationism critiques—in a hard way (i.e. procedurally not semiotically)—is this subject position. [2]

As Deleuze and Guattari say, we haven’t seen anything yet. [3]

She continues in a separate thread:

Accelerationism is a transcendental philosophy. Horrific monkey-plane reactions to the reality of a material process that determines the conditions of possibility for monkeys is not accelerationism. [1]

Apprehending the relationship of the monkey-plane to the material process is all accelerationism as a philosophy does. [2]

I don’t intend to just repeat myself here and get all blue in the face. Robin has articulated the general feeling well on Twitter:

‘And it’s important to realise that there are many accelerationisms’.

Really really hard I know. but try [1]

Have no interest in playing at moral exoneration, still less denying that words have their own destiny.. just, if you’re gonna insist on doing it, then make a minimal effort [2]

Robin is quoting himself here, from an old interview about acceleration he did back in 2014. He’s right now as he was then.

There are many Accelerationisms.

To say this new alt-right Accelerationism isn’t Accelerationism at all is wrong. It’s not ours, but that in itself isn’t an argument against theirs. It’s as “valid” an offshoot as any other that the philosophical accelerationists around these parts continue to perpetuate for themselves. It might be the dumbest of them all but that doesn’t invalidate its usage of the term. I’m not sure anything can do that at this point.

The main thing I’m left thinking tonight is that Accelerationism is taking a similar (albeit suitably digital and accelerated) route into the ideological swamp as communism.

Who today can call themselves a communist without having to answer the “What about the murderous totalitarianism of Stalin?” question at some point? I know I’ve done it.

(Try wearing an Acid Communism badge in a city like London and explain what it’s all about after a few beers to someone from a post-Soviet country at a house party. It’s hard to do without looking like an edgelord cunt but I’d still say I’m a communist.)

The trouble is that you can’t deny that Stalinism is a kind of Communism. People can go on about “Actually Existing Communism” but at the end of the day it also comes down to a shitty instantiation of some nice ideas. And that’s a hard thing to argue unless you know about the consistency and virulence of those ideas for yourself.

You can try but drawing on footnotes to Capital isn’t all that convincing. The best argument you can make is that communism lost its way when it progressed as an ideology that decided to cling onto that which it was originally designed to critique — the (capitalist) state.

Accelerationism is the same. It has lost its way by clinging onto that which it was initially meant to critique — the subject — but, unfortunately, that doesn’t make the alt-right’s upset not Accelerationism.

It does, however, still make shitty journalists shitty journalists. Maybe one day these sorts of articles will be as ridiculous as the current equations being made between Jeremy Corbyn and Stalin in the press. That acknowledgement won’t make them go away though. Best to get used to it and carry on anyway.

The main thing to remember is this: no matter what Accelerationism gets called or denounced as, the sensation it describes will still haunt modernity.


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