Hyperstition and Reified Accelerationism

I hate to do this to Matt because I like him a lot but his is simply the latest example I’ve seen and he does make a point that hasn’t been framed so concisely by others. What is to follow is a counter to the argument and I want to stress that it is nothing personal!

There have been a few tweets like this that I’ve seen lately which dismiss accelerationism not on the grounds of its insanity but its redundancy. Apparently it has all been said before — and with far more conviction and accuracy — by others.

This is undoubtedly true but, as others have argued previously, by Vincent Garton most convincingly, excavating the origins of accelerationism can easily turn into a fool’s errand.

For many this is true given the fact accelerationism has always sought to describe “more a ‘jangling of the nerves’ than a set of doctrines” but it is also true because of the very make-up of this sort of argument that looks for linguistic antecedents to new (or at least recently coined) words and phrases.

To say that hyperstition is just Marxist reification with a new lick of paint is, on the one hand, easily argued but it is also missing the point. A new term is not required because the old one doesn’t work but because of the particular valences it might describe within our present moment. Reification might describe the “making into a thing” that has always been common to capitalist mechanisms of commodification and capture, for instance, but it does not account for the new ways in which this is happening right now, nor does it account for the ways in which we might elude it.

Hyperstition, in probing the outer regions of what presently constitutes our “belief” in a system and its products, goes someway towards undermining the process it is critiquing, linguistically speaking at least, by making the argument more immediately immanent in a way that the present speed of informational dissemination requires. This is to say that we know, intuitively, that superstitions are strangely outmoded cultural beliefs, clinging onto our imaginations despite themselves. As such, hyperstition is better placed to enter into the popular imagination, connecting the dots between our unconscious irrationalities and the cognitive foundations of capitalist realism.

Hyperstition and reification are nonetheless related. As Nietzsche argued, time is a flat circle. The eternal return of the same, under late capitalism, becomes something of a truism, but just as Camus extended this observation to the subject — his happy Sisyphus — we too must consider what effect this return may have on us and what is intimated by the (arguably superficial) differences that permeate our repetitive experiences.

To look backwards and say, “You’re better off reading Marx”, is one thing for the intellectual historian looking for a firmer ground on which to offer up readings of contemporary thought, but we should be careful not to make this recommendation only to do postmodernism’s work for it. This was Jameson’s interjection in attempting to theorise, concretely, the postmodern. “All isolated or discrete cultural analysis always involves a buried or repressed theory of historical periodization”, he wrote, and this was necessary to remember because postmodernism, as the cultural logic of late capitalism, has a tendency to eradicate our sense of history.

This eradication is most visible, I think, in the rejection of newer terminologies in favour of old ones. There is nothing wrong with the old ones but we would do well to investigate why others felt the need for new ones in the first place. Arguably, this was to enter a new moment of periodization. What is it that distinguishes now from then. This is a capacity we increasingly lack as our critiques are homogenised and made wholly analogous with the focus of our critiques. What is it to call “hyperstition” a poor man’s “reification” if not to reify reification in itself? This is not making hyperstition a new thing but entombing it within an already-was, and what is that if not one of the central cultural critiques of accelerationism?

In doing this, we lose our edge of the future of thought. And then what?

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