Moving Day / Mail Art

Right. I’m off. Bye London.

I’ve been trying to write about leaving this place a lot over the past two weeks but the post I’d wanted to write for today isn’t ready yet.

The main reason for this is that I’ve been having a tough time with my mental health in the run-up to moving day. I’ve realised that this isn’t an unprecedented thing for me. Most periods before or after a big move — of which there have been three in the last decade — coincide with a very low and very fragile state for me.

Saying goodbye to New Cross, where so much has happened over the last four years, is making it extra difficult. I don’t think any other place has had such an impact on who I am as a person.

I’m also sad about how bad I am at staying in touch with people. It’s one of those things that I really don’t like about myself. I nonetheless put down emotional roots everywhere and catastrophise the pain of pulling them out. But I also have a tendency to uproot myself a little too absolutely.

Note to self: People are very important. It’s good to stay in touch with them.

So, I have something of a proposition for London friends and other recent movers: please feel free to get in touch if I haven’t seen you recently or before I made the move (or even if I have). I’d intended to try and gather people together in some park somewhere before I slipped away but new lockdown measures have scuppered that and I am quietly distraught about not seeing a lot of people before I go. But that is all the more reason to stay in touch, so there’s no need for a goodbye.

What I’d like to do is start sending letters and mix CDs and mail art to the UK network that I am otherwise shite at staying plugged into. I don’t do online communication well but I’d like to make and swap things with people — things that are nice and heartfelt. Less paranoid London internet bullshit and more ephemeral nationwide (or global!) material culture please.

Let’s swap postal addresses and get freaky.

Also, here’s a load of photographs from the last four years I managed to scrape off the blog. My hard drives are already in some storage facility up north so most of these might be familiar. Nevertheless, I think they capture something of the vibe I am so, so sad to be saying goodbye to.

I have a longer post talking about these people and my feelings currently in the blog oven (as well as two rolls of 35mm film I need developed that were taken over the last month) — a sequel to the recent “Unspeakably Familiar” post — but, until then, some rehashed pictorial representations of friends and loved ones will have to do.

The biggest shout-out, as ever, must go to Natasha Eves, who I first met the Monday after Mark died and who has been a constant and inspiring presence over the last four years.

We organised the for k-punk nights together and I hope we will do them again once Covid-19 properly slings its hook.

Over the last few years, I’ve been a bit all over the place. At times, my mental health has fallen off and I’ve closed myself off from the world and my friends or gotten too embroiled in Twitter drama or just had my capacity for sociality sapped by London’s bullshit, but Nat has always been the one to carry the torch forwards for what matters. I wouldn’t have written Egress without her friendship or done much of anything else either. She’s the real deal; an idol and an icon.

You’d think she’d died but I’m just going to miss her very much. I look forward to the next 5am tube ride home when we’re just sat in awe at the kind of shit we can pull off when we get on that wavelength. It’s been a pleasure.

Below, some pub guffawing from 2017 and the posters she designed for all the k-punk nights since 2018. I’m going to be hanging them on the wall of the new office space and remembering the good times. Maybe we can do a Northern edition one day…

More soon, when I have internet again and I’m not so miserable…

Solidarity Without Similarity (Judith Butler Remix)

My point in the recent book is to suggest that we rethink equality in terms of interdependency. We tend to say that one person should be treated the same as another, and we measure whether or not equality has been achieved by comparing individual cases. But what if the individual — and individualism — is part of the problem? It makes a difference to understand ourselves as living in a world in which we are fundamentally dependent on others, on institutions, on the Earth, and to see that this life depends on a sustaining organisation for various forms of life. If no one escapes that interdependency, then we are equal in a different sense. We are equally dependent, that is, equally social and ecological, and that means we cease to understand ourselves only as demarcated individuals. If trans-exclusionary radical feminists understood themselves as sharing a world with trans people, in a common struggle for equality, freedom from violence, and for social recognition, there would be no more trans-exclusionary radical feminists. But feminism would surely survive as a coalitional practice and vision of solidarity. 

I’m sure everyone has seen this Judith Butler interview by now but I want to pin it here too regardless. For all the interviewer’s harping on about JK Rowling and the culture wars, Butler cuts through to what matters so effortlessly.

“If no one escapes that interdependency, then we are equal in a different sense.” That’s the vibe — almost Lyotardian. There is no uncorrupted space for us to escape into. Better to acknowledge that and act accordingly than draw up lines in a paranoid and distracting panic.

Last time this was discuss here, it was around the pathetic fallacy of a “principle of charity”. Anyone reading this will see how Butler perfectly demonstrates that principle as it should be embraced. She is exceedingly charitable to the questions being asked — in terms of her tone and the time taken to respond — but that does not mean she has to entertain the questions as having any foothold within social reality. She demonstrates perfectly how to be charitable without betraying a truth, and how to retain a certain intellectual tenderness in the face of her interviewer’s hardened ideological delusions.

It is a masterclass.

XG on Acid Horizon (Part 2)

Back in July, I had a really excellent time chatting with Craig, Matt and Will of the Acid Horizon podcast about my book Egress.

Just a few months later and I’m back with Craig, Matt, Will and Adam to talk about Postcapitalist Desire, the collection of Mark Fisher’s final lectures I edited during lockdown.

You can listen to the first 40 minutes of our discussion above and, if you want to hear the rest, check out their Patreon here.

“The Last Monday On Earth”: Enrico Monacelli on Mark Fisher

Enrico Monacelli has written the first review of Mark Fisher’s Postcapitalist Desire: The Final Lectures for The Quietus. It’s a really lovely piece of writing that is, by turns, a personal reflection on coming into contact with Fisher’s work, the world he created through his writings, and that other world we should still be encouraged to yearned for.

You can read the full review here and find an excerpt below.

At the tail end of [the k-punk] anthology stands a fragment that disquiets the vision of a straightforwardly melancholic Fisher, a remainder of a work yet to come and of the complexities yet to be discussed. The fragment, bearing the sun stricken title Acid Communism, revolved around the constant resurrection, under various guises — be it in 1968 in Paris, in Bologna 1977, or throughout the various baroque sunbursts of the psychedelic counterculture — of the idea of an unbound abundance beyond the drudgery of late stage capitalism, an idea which felt, more than once, not only probable, but even imminent. Nonetheless, this brief piece remained, even within the comprehensive anthology, a kind of pre-Socratic fragment, the unclear trace of a project which could have been but never was, providing, also, an alibi for even more simplified rehashes of Fisher’s unfinished business.

Precisely because of this open wound, these sunken difficulties and this unexhausted potential, the recent publication of Mark Fisher’s Postcapitalist Desire, his final lectures at Goldsmiths College, edited and curated by Matt Colquhoun for Repeater Books, is immensely precious. Fisher’s last lessons are so vital because they feel familiarly alien and complex within Fisher’s own body of work, extending the ever-present rupture within his posterity.

The bleeding heart of this project is the yearning for a better life, the joys and failures such yearning brings. Contrary to the emaciated ravers and McDonalds outlets that dotted the drowned London which we have accustomed ourselves to while digesting the dirges of Capitalist Realism’s lost futures, Postcapitalist Desire is inhabited by the dim, and sometimes fading, aura of the generations of workers, students, and pop superstars who dreamt of an abundance which looks at once hopelessly impossible and painfully near. It stems from a form of fun and desire which have little to do with our present umbilical turn-ons and resentments, one that speaks to us through (quoting Herbert Marcuse), “the spectre of a world which could be free”. Postcapitalist Desire is a brief and experimental reconstruction of the march of our own consciousness towards a more thorough and sincere form of enjoyment.

The Thames Path

We went on the most magnificently long walk along the Thames path last night. I think it’s the furthest I’ve been along that route. We walked from Deptford to the Greenwich Ecology Park. It reminded me of walking to Tower Bridge with Robin the other way just before New Year’s.

I reckon if you combined those two walks and went from Tower Bridge to Greenwich Ecology Park, you’d hit 90% of my fav places in this city. I’m gonna miss the Thames a lot.

We had it confirmed today that our new landlord accepted our letting application. Just over a week and we’ll be back in the north. It’s starting to feel very real and I am an emotional mess about all of it. Excuse an excess of cross-platform sentimentality over the next week or so as I crumble.

Passing Paradoxes: A Quick Response to Some Quibbles With Anti-Praxis

Cybertrop(h)ic has written a response to my recent post on anti-praxis. After a less than interesting response to it on Twitter, it is nice to see some thought going into a critique from someone self-identifying as “post-libertarian/post-right”. The rest of the Twitter right largely seemed upset at something they’d barely read. I’ll happily take an argument built on good faith than that paranoid rubbish any day.

And so, Cybertrop(h)ic’s time taken to respond deserves a thoughtful response in kind.

Primarily, there are a few assumptions made in Cybertrop(h)ic’s response that I’d like to address in the hope that I can further clarify some things left open to misinterpretation. These misinterpretations are mostly my own fault. The points that Cybertrop(h)ic raises in their post are consistently comments I knew I could have spent a lot more time on but simply brushed passed for brevity.

I left a version of this post in the comments of the original post but you know me — any excuse to collect more blog fodder. Below are quotes followed by my responses.

On the Twitter conversation that followed the previous post, Cybertrop(h)ic writes:

One intriguing divergence is that identified by Cyborg Nomade, when he argues that “antipraxis isn’t “do nothing” – but rather do what you want, i.e., follow desire”. To which Matt retorts that capitalism has monopolised desire, and so simply following one’s own desire within capitalism leads to “boomerism”, presumably of the “I just want to grill, watch Netflix and drink Coca Cola. What are you all so fussed about? Enjoy capitalism!” variety.

Matt sees something questionable in this boomerism, and so do I, although from a somewhat different angle. I’m reminded of a line Nick Land wrote in his piece “Romantic Delusion”, in response to the typical “capitalism turns us into mindless consuming zombies” line of anti-capitalist critique:

“We contemptuously mock the trash that it offers the masses, and then think we have understood something about capitalism, rather than about what capitalism has learnt to think of the apes it arose among”

In this framing, mindless consumerism is not the fault of capitalism but of human nature, or more specifically the nature of the majority of the herd. Overly-elitist and essentialist as this take is, ignoring the ways in which capitalism assists in the construction (and constriction) of consuming subjects, Land does have a point: capitalism will give you what you want, but it isn’t capitalism’s fault if you’re not a connoisseur of fine things.

This is a point I agree with. It may not be explicit in the previous post, or the following Twitter discussion, but this is an accelerationist argument shared by both (early) Land and Fisher that can be found in Lyotard’s Libidinal Economy. And so, unfortunately, the assumption being made that my questioning of desire is based on some sort of middle-class snobbery is mistaken. What I am calling “boomerism” is precisely the lack of imagination that broadly defines the “boomer” meme in my mind — an unimaginative response from the 20th century’s most spoilt generation, who essentially conflate anti-capitalism with anarcho-primitivism, an argument made by anti-Occupy boomers incessantly following the financial crash of the late 2000s.

In this sense, what is meant by capitalism “monopolising” desire is that capitalism encourages our belief in the false equivalence of a desire for fast food and other mod-cons constituting a desire for capitalism overall. (See Louise Mensch’s infamously bad take below.)

This is an example, arguably made famous by Fisher in recent years, of the ways that capitalist realism limits desire to a desire for material goods, and material goods are understood solely as commodities that only capitalism can produce. Before we can even get to a place of discussing an increasingly commonplace desire for a wealth beyond capitalism, the conversation is shutdown as being a hatred of desire itself rather than a desire for other options or simply a better and less oppressive way of life.

Cybertrop(h)ic, of course, writes that they “happen to think that capitalism actually does pretty well at [fulfilling desires]. It could do a lot better, but it is pretty good at it already.” That’s certainly true, at a very basic level of an itch scratched, but I would argue that capitalism isn’t exactly efficient at this. Surely there are other and better ways of fulfilling needs and desires than the currently dull and dysfunctional system that works by breaking down. Here again the concept of “desire” is further complicated.

Fisher tackles this explicitly and at length in his Postcapitalist Desire lectures — indeed, it’s the entire negative inspiration for the course. He quotes Lyotard at length on it in the final lecture, for instance, specifically drawing on the evil Libidinal Economy‘s veiled swings of contempt at the Marxist academics of the 1960s who carried forth a kind of libidinal snobbery that Cybertrop(h)ic is mistakenly assuming I share. As Lyotard writes:

Why, political intellectuals, do you incline towards the proletariat? In commiseration for what? I realize that a proletarian would hate you, you have no hatred because you are bourgeois, privileged smooth-skinned types, but also because you dare not say the only important thing there is to say, that one can enjoy swallowing the shit of capital, its materials, its metal bars, its polystyrene, its books, its sausage pâtés, swallowing tonnes of it till you burst — and because instead of saying this, which is also what happens in the desire of those who work with their hands, arses and heads, ah, you become a leader of men, what a leader of pimps, you lean forward and divulge: ah, but that’s alienation, it isn’t pretty, hang on, we’ll save you from it, we will work to liberate you from this wicked affection for servitude, we will give you dignity. And in this way you situate yourselves on the most despicable side, the moralistic side where you desire that our capitalized’s desire be totally ignored, forbidden, brought to a standstill, you are like priests with sinners, our servile intensities frighten you, you have to tell yourselves: how they must suffer to endure that! And of course we suffer, we the capitalized, but this does not mean that we do not enjoy, nor that what you think you can offer us as a remedy — for what? — does not disgust us, even more. We abhor therapeutics and its Vaseline, we prefer to burst under the quantitative excesses that you judge the most stupid. And don’t wait for our spontaneity to rise up in revolt either.

That the modern Right doesn’t think the Left is wholly aware of this decades-old critique is a mistake. In fact, they ignore the Left’s critiques of it entirely to encourage the persistent existence of a reactionary working-class. Again, Fisher talks about this far more expertly than I could.

If my stab at a contemporary anti-praxis in relation to desire holds anything within its heart, it is Lyotard’s negativity in this regard; his fury. (I am writing something else on this fury’s place within an anti-praxis at the moment because there is plenty more here worthy of unpacking, so more on this another time.)

Matt seems very insistent on hanging onto the signifier “socialism”, for reasons that I’m failing to ascribe to much beyond a general leftist sentimentality. Sure, “socialism” can charitably be interpreted as meaning nothing more than “post-capitalism”, but then why not just say “post-capitalism”? Matt claims that socialism “[has] long been the stepping stone towards something other than this mess”, to which I respond: really? Since when?! I would say that, historically, socialism has served as a stepping stone to either (1) a worse mess, (2) slightly watered down dirigiste capitalism or (2) nothing of note at all.

The point about socialism being the stepping stone out of capitalism, which I admittedly only nod to in passing, is from Marx’s comments on the negation of the negation. (See here.)

Cliff Notes: Capitalism’s negation of feudalism is defined, in part, for Marx, by the opening up of the potential for individual ownership. However, if individual ownership is universalised, then it’s just social ownership. Ergo, in the most basic and reductive of senses: feudalism > capitalism > socialism.

Whilst capitalism speeds forth ever faster towards its own mutation, it is the capitalists themselves who cause drag on and attempt to decelerate the system so that they can hold onto their private rents (and, as is increasingly the case, proliferate rent as a solution to cultural access and therefore negating capitalism’s initial negation of feudalism and the concept of individual property. We increasingly live in a world twisted towards the negation of Marx’s negation of the negation. It is this negative feedback loop of capitalist drag that has led some to call capitalism’s present “frenzied stasis” a kind of “neofeudalism“. I prefer Peter Frase’s term “rentism” personally.)

No other point being made in the previous post other than that — and, even then, only in passing. I explicitly made the point that “we can argue about the finer points of whether socialism (as an ideological institution) is the best successor to capitalism.” Socialism is, in this sense, just shorthand for postcapitalism minus that term’s “capitalocentrism”.

There is an irony here, however, and this seems to be the very same fallacy that underwrote the previous right-wing responses to the previous post. Cybertrop(h)ic’s word-count unfortunately doesn’t mean they sidestep the same mistake.

If the whole post is repeatedly making the case for a kind of de-institutionalised practice, why would I be hanging onto socialism as a signifier? That’s why I am emphasising it as a general concept. It is a right-wing response that demonstrates the very incapability of thinking outside of institutionalised — that is, in this sense, overtly-defined and reified — categories that the post is trying to critique. Granted, our expectations regarding political language makes this difficult — and this is why there’s a further irony in others thinking a lack of familiar talking points reduced the post to word salad — but, again, this is the whole point of drawing on Deleuze’s essay “Instincts and Institutions”, which arguably implicates our use of language more than anything.

I’ll return to the relevance of that essay after the next point made…

No doubt Matt’s attachment to socialism also contributes to his view of anti-praxis (as de-instutionalised practice) in a narrowly political form. He dismisses bureaucratic, institutionalised party politics in favour of decentralised activism and grassroots mass movements. This is a step in a good-ish direction, (I like the idea of anti-praxis as a destratified, decoded mirror image of praxis) but also misses the bigger picture: this anti-praxis doesn’t need to mean politics in the sensu stricto at all.

There are a lot of things one can do that aren’t politics. Anti-praxis could mean art or business or science or sport or…anything. Sure, a lot of these things are less “impactful” than politics, but then how impactful is politics, really?

Same issue here. I don’t see how this can be the conclusion drawn other than from a woeful misreading of the overarching point. That anti-praxis slips out of the vector of pure politics into other spaces is precisely the point being made, albeit less reductively.

Matt’s suggestion (pace Deleuze) that we fall back on our instincts, live those instincts beyond the institutions that constrain and deny them — “follow our instincts and allow our institutions to adapt accordingly” — while pleasingly aligned with libidinal materialism, seems also a tad misguided. I think the major problem is the word “instinct”, which implies not only some kind of authentic desire that lies repressed beneath the surface (very Freudian, too Freudian) but even a quasi-conservative essentialism and anti-intellectualism.

“Instinct” is used in my previous post simply because Deleuze uses it in his essay on “Instincts and Institutions”. I think what is interesting about this usage (or at least in how that essay is translated) is that it shows how “instinct” and “institution” share a peculiar etymological root whilst supposedly being disparate concepts.

To focus on “instinct” as an inappropriate word to use misses the point being made about its conceptual relation to “institution”. Indeed, in critiquing it as “too Freudian”, isn’t Cybertrop(h)ic conflating the two and erasing the critique being made? What is Freud’s “Trieb” — more readily translated as “drive” these days, anyway — if not an institutionalised form of instinct? A Freudian instinct is precisely an instinct understood within the institution of Freudianism… Precisely the kind of poor logical short-curcuiting being discouraged. I didn’t think I’d need to spell it out.

That Deleuze is implicitly questioning this is important, and it is a point that returns in his work with Guattari — that is, the anti-Freudianism of Anti-Oedipus and their praxes of institutional critique and schizoanalysis, which are two ways of navigating our instinctual baggage.

Again, I want to write more on the relevance of schizoanalysis here in a forthcoming post. The relevance of this was not discussed in my previous post but I had hoped it would linger overhead.

Suffice it to say (for now) that my view of the world is not so black and white that I think we can’t hold multiple views (and critiques) of our situation at once — in fact, that was precisely the point of the post: we can and should do this and I think accelerationism implores us to.

We should be familiar with this kind of argument. For instance, take Deleuze and Guattari asking the question “Who does the earth think it is?”, as in “what is the earth for-itself?”, and how are we implicated and shaped by its disinterested processes? They straddle an apparent paradox where nature is seen as this totality we are but a part of and have no control over, and yet they also explore how we have a capacity (in xenofeminist and promethean terms) to change our own nature. That Alex Williams (via Ray Brassier) would carry forth this sort of question, implicitly following this line of enquiry in their respective bodies of work (asking “what is capital for-itself?”), demonstrates the foundational accelerationist move.

For me, whilst it may break with what Vincent Garton had in mind, I hope this rough and ready unpacking nonetheless resonates much more with Edmund Berger’s original essay on the topic, in which he writes that

U/ACC manifests an anti-praxis line when a very specific sort is proposed, that is, the political-territorial subordination and navigation of the forces in motion by a mass subject – the politics of striation. For this reason, perhaps it is best to view U/ACC not as anti-praxis, but as anti-collective means of intervention.

Again, this is not so controversial unless we consider a collective means of intervention to be the be-all-and-end-all of political action. And I don’t see how such a view abjures any alliance to another mode of praxis in another circumstance. If anything, this argument is an attempt to separate the measurements and diagnoses of accelerationism from other forms of political action. (See “You Are Not An Accelerationist”). This point has constantly been missed by Twitter orbiters, defining themselves as “unconditional accelerationists” and thereby making U/Acc a condition for their own mode of acting. It’s a paradox. It is precisely confusing praxis with anti-praxis.

This is why Berger later writes that

To accelerate the process, and to throw oneself into those flows, leaves behind the (already impossible) specter of collective intervention. This grander anti-praxis opens, in turn, the space for examining forms of praxis that break from the baggage of the past. We could count agorism and exit as forms impeccable to furthering the process, and cypherpolitics and related configurations arise on the far end of the development, as the arc bends towards molecularization of economic and social relations. It is in these horizons that conversation and application must unfold.

No more reterritorializing reactions. No more retroprogressivism.

Isn’t this precisely Steven Shaviro’s proto-accelerationist critique that the whole of the last post sought to draw attention to? Shaviro says no to “Zizek’s hyper-voluntarism”, “Adorno’s ultra-pessimism”, J.K. Gibson-Graham’s positive affirmations and Hardt & Negri’s arguably misguided belief in “a universal, creative, and spontaneously collective class, ready to step in and take control of a world that has already been prepared for them.” So what’s left?

For Williams and Srnicek, at least initially, they see a kind of Leftist anti-praxis that we might say resonantes with Berger’s calls to embrace the anti-collective and my own suggestion that we should make ourselves worthy of the process. As they write in “On Cunning Automata”, discussed briefly the other day:

The opening up of the contingency of the universal, made possible by navigating beyond the suffocating politico-conceptual space of capital, does not entail the achievement of some ludicrous and properly impossible endpoint of ‘full communism’. A genuinely universal accelerative post-capitalism would be distinct from (and distinctly more interesting than) predictable Marxist utopias, given the necessary and indeed increased alienation of the human from the world in which they exist. This new world is not the end of history, but the beginning of a new and very different universal kind.

What is the result of increased alienation if not the nehationThis isn’t socialism as we know it, or communism as we know it either. It is a mode of acting wholly other to the political institutions we continue to use as life rafts in our present chaos. This is not an argument to abandon knowledge but at least organisational baggage. In this sense, it is most similar to the sorts of schizoanalytic praxis explored by Deleuze and Guattari but it is also a praxis which takes into account the latest developments within the capitalist model and its accompanying economic theories.

For me, then, anti-praxis is a kind of double articulation. It’s not purely a negation that hopes to disavow all leftist standpoints, but rather recast them in a new light. It is, in this sense, an attempt to be a nihilist with principles. This is not, as Cybertrop(h)ic believes, “bogging u/acc down in activism”. This is explicitly not the point of that post. It’s an attempt to get over both the left and right’s attempts to overcome the kind of “double articulation” so important to D+G’s original project — the double articulation of human potentiality with an awareness of the nature of the cosmos in which we are situated. (“Geology of Morals”, etc.) Such was D+G’s project of schizoanalysis too.

This has long been obscured from an accelerationist discourse and I don’t really understand why. Isn’t it D+G’s call to “accelerate the process” we’re paying heed to? Then why are we allergic to the contexts in which they made that statement?

I’ll have something clearer and more expansive on why I think this “double articulation” is important soon. Watch this space.

A Matter of Style: Further Notes on Commie Shit

When I suggested in a previous post that Vincent Garton’s original anti-praxis position “resonates with more positions than many are willing to generously conceded — a more hubristic brand of environmentalism, for one”, I had Gary Snyder in mind, specifically the following anecdote from Jim Dodge’s forward to The Gary Snyder Reader:

After a full day of scholarly panels and speakers on various aspects of the poem [Mountains and Rivers Without End], Gary concluded the day’s discussion with some general responses and comments, then took a few questions from the audience. The last came from a young man who wanted to know what Gary had meant by the paradoxical statement that ends the seminal Four Changes: “Knowing that nothing need be done is the place from which we begin to move.” Gary replied — and here I’m working from memory — that Nature bats last, is eminently capable of caring for herself against destructive human foolishness, and no doubt will remain long after our demise. Nature doesn’t need us to save her.

I could feel the audience sag, then bristle. Someone called out, “Then why work to stop the destruction?”

Gary grinned hugely, leaned slightly forward, and replied without a quiver of hesitation, “Because it is a matter of character.” Then, with an absolutely wild glitter of delight in his eyes, added, “And it’s a matter of style.”

TL;DR? This, tbh — but about capital.

Below, a few more thoughts on the minor drama that that same post inaugurated on Twitter…

Capitalism ends in heat death. That is something that all “accelerationists” can surely agree on. That the right-accelerationist crowd suggest that we can’t have different responses to that statement (intellectually, practically, politically) seems to undermine their position that we should just kick back and welcome the Singularity. If it doesn’t matter, why do you care?

The retort to this is predictable: We don’t care; it’s just annoying that you do Stop complicating my worldview and let me go back to reading Atlas Shrugged in peace…

@Insurrealist tagged @cyborg_nomade in the resulting thread, supposedly to undermine the argument made in my previous post about anti-praxis, but I found myself broadly in agreement with @cyborg_nomade’s response:

… acceleration is something for capital to do. accelerationism is basically measuring that and staying out of the way (which can be hard because, you know, monkey business) [1]

that said, I think my view differs considerably from @xenogothic’s (about as much as Land’s differed from Fisher’s). the thing I can agree with is that antipraxis isn’t “do nothing” – but rather do what you want, i.e., follow desire. [2]

“Staying out of the way” is, again, open to interpretation. No desire to tinker with capitalism here. (Might we make a case for “non-reformist reforms” being a kind of antipraxis?) Plus, following a desire for postcapitalism — no matter how seemingly contradictory; contradictions don’t stop anything else from appearing in this system — is surely one vector of travel. It’s for that reason that I replied:

No disagreement here at least, but the so-called pretzel logic is necessary if we’re going to address the fact that to “follow desire” is a non-argument in a system that monopolises desire so effectively. [1]

In those terms, “anti-praxis” does just feel like another way of saying “do nothing” but, for me at least and following Deleuze more closely than is perhaps fashionable in acc twitter discourse, I think there is (or should be) more to it than that. [2]

@cyborg_nomade responded to this by suggesting that it is also a question of whether you think capitalism’s monopolisation of desire is a bad thing — I think maybe yes — and this similarly raises questions around agency (ours and capitalism’s), which further complicates things a bit…

All of this is addressed, to some extent, in the previous two posts on anti-praxis and The Social Dilemma. Regarding social media, we can see how it is ever more difficult to ascertain if we really want what we say we want. It similarly demonstrates how capitalist agency constantly undermines what we think should be done. In this sense, questions of desire and agency — ours and capitalism’s — cannot be disentangled. That is why these questions should be at the centre of accelerationist discourse. Responding with “Do nothing” is still an answer to the question being asked; I don’t think it is an answer that negates the relevance of the question. The point is, perhaps, that it is far from the only answer available. In fact, it’s a pretty old and consistently challenged one within the early accelerationist blogosphere, as the post on anti-praxis hoped to highlight. This sort of disagreement is old, not new.

With that in mind, you have to wonder how the old r/acc crowd aren’t exhausted by now. They are very easily triggered by any attempt to decentre Nick Land from an accelerationist genealogy — emphasis on decentre rather than ahistorically remove. @ParallaxOptics, for instance, was disproportionately upset that I placed the beginning of accelerationism after most of its twentieth-century influences. Whilst paying heed to Vincent Garton’s warnings about unearthing the genealogy of accelerationism, I don’t see where the controversy is in deciding to straw a line between the word’s first usage and all that came before and influenced it. It is simply true that Benjamin Noys, in christening “accelerationism”, wasn’t talking about Land — in the context of the blogosphere, he was talking about Alex Williams. If that somehow decentres Land from the narrative, it does so pretty harmlessly.

But this is relevant here because it constitutes an obscured bridge between Land’s position and Fisher’s position — two figures always central to accelerationist discourse, and generally assumed to be the central pillars around which right- and left-accelerationisms revolve respectively. I previously thought this too but, having looking back through all the deleted blog posts, I don’t think it’s a very accurate framing of accelerationism’s initial battlegrounds.

For instance, as @cyborg_nomade adds to the hellthread:

I think the endgame is mostly succumbing to your own whatever (the real edgy part of Land’s position is the inevitability of doing precisely that). you do you. [1]

I believe (from the little I’ve read) that Fisher’s position is exactly towards *not* succumbing, about mastering the beast of instinct and following what’s rational no matter what. [2]

This is broadly accurate but, again, this limited perspective on how accelerationism emerged as a discourse obscures the fact that Fisher’s position was not contrary to Land’s but rather an extension of it. And, again, it wasn’t originally Fisher’s position anyway but rather Alex Williams’s — one which he seemed to convince Fisher to join him in exploring.

I think it is important to go back to that moment. Williams, in what I’d argue is the inaugural accelerationist blogpost — because it was his argument there that Noys first (publicly) described with use of that term — and irrespective of whether he or anyone else agrees with it anymore — puts forth a fundamentally Deleuzo-Guattarian, Lyotardian but also Landian position: “what is necessary is to think the in-itself of capitalism outside of any correlation to the human.” However, Williams complicates this with references to the Speculative Realism blogosphere, and particularly Alain Badiou and Ray Brassier. If accelerationism was anything in its first instance, then, it was “post-Landian”. It was dealing with his Nineties claims in the context of 2000s political philosophy. I’m fairly certain saying that won’t hurt Land’s feelings… After all, he was there on the periphery when it happened before taking more of an active role in the conversation, and even absorbing a number of Williams’ critiques into his own writing (much like capitalism itself likes to do).

Still, Williams’s initial provocations remain open to exploration. What he seemed to want to do was create a new foundation for working with the paradoxes of Landian / Badiouian thought. (An odd pair perhaps but both, in their own ways, have had dialogues with Lyotard.) As he put it on his blog: “Outside either a vitalist ethology of ‘natural’ auto-self-maximisation, or some kind of Marxist-Hegelian dialectical drive towards the elimination of contradiction in the same, how might we be able to ground … an inhumanising desubjectivation …?”

That’s an interesting question that has not yet been sufficiently answered.

Whether Williams and Srnicek will be happy to hear it or not, unearthing this from the web archive has resulted in some interesting discussions in private channels lately and I’m excited to see what fruit this bears in other people’s work. In fact, just last night there was a discussion around their essay “On Cunning Automata”, in which the pair’s initial questions come to some interesting conclusions. (It was a huge influence on me in 2017 when working and writing with the @_geopoetics bot.) Aly pulled out the following passage, for example, which shows where a lot of that early accelerationist chat was opening out onto. Unfortunately for some, it remains some of the most interesting application of this theory out there and, no, it doesn’t just come down to a load of “commie shit”:

Post-capitalism would unshackle the cunning automata of metic systems towards a universal accumulative strategy encompassing the entirety of the planetary, and eventually universal, system. Finance already has pretences towards becoming a universal system capable of correctly pricing and rendering interoperable all manner of things. However only the tacit, improvisatory, competitive, and above all cunning nature of technical entities could ever resolve the seemingly intractable problems associated with wide-scale social calculus. The opening up of the contingency of the universal, made possible by navigating beyond the suffocating politico-conceptual space of capital, does not entail the achievement of some ludicrous and properly impossible endpoint of ‘full communism’. A genuinely universal accelerative post-capitalism would be distinct from (and distinctly more interesting than) predictable Marxist utopias, given the necessary and indeed increased alienation of the human from the world in which they exist. This new world is not the end of history, but the beginning of a new and very different universal kind.

Our Social Dilemma Has Plenty of Names: Notes Towards a New Social(ist) Media

The Social Dilemma, a new documentary from Netflix, is a pretty fascinating watch, not least because it shows how well the tech industry understands what it is doing to us, and even how full of regret it is at its own impact. But, on the whole, this Netflix-hosted self-flagellation makes for a weird and somewhat confused watch.

On the one hand, there is a great deal of honesty from those who have run various social media platforms and who have found themselves getting high on their supply. Even those who have personally implemented various design choices that are intended to support the development of addictive relationships to technology find themselves falling victim to them. It is that realisation from within the tech industry itself that leads to the documentary’s most interesting conclusion: we are not in control of this thing we’ve given life to; it controls us, its creators, as much as it controls you.

On the other hand, there is this strangely decontextualized ignorance that lingers under the surface. This conclusion above, for starters, ends up obscured — even outright ignored and contradicted — by the end. They can’t quite maintain the critical distance they say is necessary. At one point, for instance, someone compares the invention of social media technologies to the bicycle, as a way to point out we’ve moved out of this innocuous “tools-based” stage in our technological development as a civilisation and we are instead in a place that is far more nefarious, where truth is a football for power to bend to its will. The bicycle never hurt anyone! But now our tools hurt people all the time, even when created with good intentions. The analogy serves its purpose but I’m pretty sure the printing press is about 400 years older than the bicycle… Surely there’s no technology more used and abused than that? I realy don’t think we can draw a clear line between innocuous and nefarious based on just the last 200-300 years alone.

What is taken for history, in this context, seems to be limited to the history of industrial capitalism, and it is precisely a compartmentalised analysis of this particular period of history that the documentary struggles with. I was left thinking that, if those the documentary features had a wider perspective, they might understand themselves better. There’s no doubt a further irony to this — I’m sure their limited perspectives are encouraged by their own search engine algorithms too. Indeed, throughout the documentary, we hear familiar lines from Marxist theory regurgitates and generalised for the (dis)information age. Time and again, there is a feeling that these people who implore us to better understand the dynamics of our present moment refuse to consider how these dynamics are the continuation of much of what has been discussed and predicted before — even up to hundred years ago.

Another example: at one point, one of the talking heads references The Truman Show and the fact that, as Ed Harris says in the movie, “”We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented. It’s as simple as that.” Lukács would call this the problem of immediacy. We might argue that Lukács’s argument against this in response still holds.

If the entire point is that we are being blinkered by the narcissism of social media — in a literal sense rather than a moralising sense; we are captured in reflections of our algorithmic selves that we think are reflections but are instead capitalist dynamics trying to keep us entranced with our touchscreens — then we have to take a step back and see the bigger picture beyond what the tech industry chooses to tell itself about itself.

If we are to stick with the Truman Show analogy, the tech industry is in that frightening and disorientating phase of questioning its very existence and sense of reality. But as far as this documentary is concerned, it shows a tech industry that hasn’t yet sailed to the edges of its world and hit the wall of the dome that it too is contained within — capitalism.

Suffice it to say, all of these things need to be addressed in their proper context, otherwise the argument will just fall back on a moral panic around the dissolution of social institutions.

Because this is what the documentary seems to really care about — the way that social media impacts social life. But not just any kind of social life — a neoliberal society that was, for a brief ideological moment, politically centrist and stable and unchanging. I don’t think that feedback loop is helpful, however. As the documentary makes clear from the start, social media is dangerous because it exacerbates and intensifies those emotions and dopamine hits that we get from our everyday social interactions. It’s not that social media makes social life better or worse, it just heightens it. It exacerbates the best and worse of us, and it does so in a specific context. It exacerbates social competition, for instance, and our own selection mechanisms.

This is something that’s bugging me more and more at the moment regarding how we relate to one another online. Call it “cancel culture” if you want, but isn’t what we’re experiencing more intensely just the implementation of a kind of horizontalism within the attention economy? I’m sure celebrities and those in the public eye would tell you that they’ve been treated in these same ways for much of the last century. Now, truly, everyone can be hated for fifteen minutes.

The segment on the mental health of Gen Z is pretty harrowing in this regard, where it explains that, since the ascendance of social media to social dominance in around 2009, suicides amongst teens and pre-teens has risen by hundreds of percent, but the response is that we need to regulate and reform and restrict. Children shouldn’t see certain types of advertising, they say, rather than questioning how that advertising affects adults in much the same way (but they’re fair game). This is to say that those who are supposedly the most concerned focus on moral panics rather than the flaws endemic to the actual system in which they are operating.

Why the impact is so intense for Gen Z is perhaps demonstrated inadvertently in a little dramatized subplot where a young man bets his Mom that he can go without his phone for a week. We see him in his bedroom, which is almost totally bare except for a display of his collection of sneakers, going bored out of his mind. I thought to myself, whilst watching this, I’d probably just go and read a book or watch a DVD or something but, of course, the platforms that make his phone so central in his life have already begun to monopolise the delivery systems for these kinds of product. Without a phone, I’m sure plenty of kids can’t even engage in other generally wholesome cultural activities. It’s a segment that says, “How sad, this boy can’t keep himself entertained without his phone”, but when your entire life has been streamlined by these companies to revolve around a phone, who can honestly expect a teenager to keep themselves entertained in other ways? Again, this isn’t an issue that children need protecting from — this is a side effect of the changes made to culture by Silicon Valley as a whole. And so, the issue here really isn’t limiting access to phones, but rather addressing the primary driver behind the development of how they are used — not by consumers but by the companies that sell them and sell our attention once it is captured by them.

Again, the documentary gets so very close to addressing the elephant in the room, but it always pulls back. There is another very telling segment that is downright accelerationist, where Tristan Harris mentions how, as a species, we are wholly unprepared to deal with the ever-accelerating consequences of Moore’s law on an increasingly technologised subjectivity. In a confused moment of soft-Landianism, he explains:

Human beings, at a mind and body and sort of physical level, are not going to fundamentally change. We can do genetic engineering and develop new kinds of human beings in the future but, realistically speaking, you’re living inside of hardware — a brain — that was, like, millions of years old, and then there’s this screen, and then on the opposite side of the screen there’s these thousands of engineers and supercomputers that have goals that are different to your goals, and so who’s gonna win in that game? Who’s gonna win?

The thing that warrants questioning — and which this documentary occasionally shines a light on before oddly stopping at or obscuring the seemingly obvious conclusion — is the system underlying it. Capitalism.

For instance, The Social Dilemma repeatedly makes the mistake, I think, of humanising the problem. There are scenes that dramatize the thinking of an AI that is trying to continuously lure in a consumer, demonstrated by three identical dudes stood in front of a data-driven representation of this kid we’re following around in short vignettes, revealing him to be on the verge of radicalisation-by-algorithm as he devours conspiracy theories and the violent responses to them. (Pizzagate is the obvious real-world example pointed out here.) But, as we’ve seen, and as the documentary has told us itself, there aren’t benevolent programmers watching over our every move. They’re victims of it too! The documentary is mistaken to make the algorithm seem nefarious. It’s not — it is simply indifferent about what it is pushing onto us, to capture and then sell our attention. That’s all it cares about — selling.

Clearly, the elephant in the room here is capitalism. Clearly. But it is never discussed. In fact, what is seen as being under threat is a kind of stable neoliberal centrism. As the documentary draws to a close, the repeated point made is that social media is eroding social norms. Joe Toscano, former Experience Design Consultant at Google and author of the book Automating Humanity, at one point says: “You have this [unrest] in Germany, Spain, France, Brazil, Australia. Some of the most ‘developed nations’ in the world are now imploding on each other, and what do they have in common?” The question is rhetorical but the answer is seemingly social media. It’s not — it’s capitalism. It is capitalism that selects for these things. Social media is a by-product of capitalism and runs according to capitalist logics. It’s capitalism capitalism capitalism capitalism.

The documentary repeatedly makes the case for this itself but it just never joins the dots. It starts off by demonstrating that the reason for all of this control and manipulation is that these companies are selling our attention. There’s no other reason for encouraging this kind of behaviour in us other than to make sure we’re looking and then looking at the things it wants us to look at. But then it moves so far away from this point, towards a kind of humanistic moralism, that the primary driver behind this panic — algorithmically-driven capitalism — is let completely off the hook.

That being said, it is a point that comes up in passing multiple times. The best analogy made comes from Jaron Lanier, who says:

One of the ways I try to get people to understand just how wrong feeds from places like Facebook are is to think about Wikipedia. When you go to a page, you’re seeing the same thing as other people. So, it’s one of the few things online that we at least hold in common. Now, just imagine for a second that Wikipedia said, “We’re gonna give each person a different customized definition [of a word or concept], and we’re gonna get paid for that!” So, Wikipedia would be spying on you, Wikipedia would calculate, “What’s the thing I can do to get this person to change a little bit on behalf of some commercial interest?” Right? And then it would change the entry. Can you imagine that? Well, you should be able to, ’cause that’s exactly what’s happening on Facebook.

The irony of this is powerful. When I was at school, Wikipedia was blacklisted not because it was a lazy source to draw on but because it could be changed by anyone and so couldn’t be trusted. How strange to think that, now, it might be one of the few trustworthy sites left. However, that is only if we ignore the influence of social media disinformation on Wikipedia itself. (Anyone with any sense of the vast changes made to the “accelerationism” Wikipedia page over the course of its history will be able to document that process in real time.)

In Lanier’s analogy, capitalism is implicated in all but name. So why is the punch not allowed to land? What is in the way other than the kind of ideological blinkeredness that the whole enterprise is supposed to be critiquing?

Any reader of this blog would no doubt see this capitalist-realist blind spot coming from a mile off. From the very beginning of the documentary, many of those who are initially interviewed begin discussing their discomfort with their own inventions and designs in the world of social media and they make a point that gives the documentary its title. They argue, “We have a problem but we don’t really know what to call it”, as if to say they appreciate that something has gone wrong but they don’t have all the pieces to complete the pictures, so they simply call it our “social dilemma”.

It is telling that this dilemma as a multitude of names, offered up by many critics of contemporary capitalism. Jodi Dean called it “communicative capitalism”, for instance; Mark Fisher had about half a dozen names for the intersecting problems that give communicative capitalism its seemingly amorphous form — “touchscreen capture”, “libidinal engineering”, “semioblitz”, et al.

For each and every one, capitalism is central to the discussion at hand. But not here. When our attention is turned to Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election, one talking head makes the point that Russia didn’t hack Facebook, it simply used the tools provided by it for its own aims. But this talking head makes the point that this is immoral in a weird sort of way — those tools were put in place for “legitimate advertisers and legitimate users”, he says. What does that even mean? Isn’t it precisely that kind of arrogance that leads to these other nations to so easily humiliate the West? The arrogance that what is “legitimate” is a Western (and increasingly American) brand of communicative capitalism and it is a given that this should be the only game in town. The results of this naivety have been catastrophic, but you’d hope it had been at least a usefully Copernican humiliation: you (the tech industry and the US) are not the centre of the system you have built. It seems it hasn’t quite hit that button for some of these old tech bros. The lesson they demonstrate but can’t see is that their continued cultural imperialism creates new vectors for your enemies to get inside your head. (It brings to mind a version of Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia, updated for the social media age — instead of the petropolitics of oil, try the libidinal engineering of Facebook.)

I think the most telling image in the whole documentary in this regard comes not long after this shamelessly blinkered comment. We see news footage, supposedly filmed from a helicopter, showing protestors and counter-protestors in what I think is Berkeley, aimlessly pushing around a big wheelie bin. The documentary might be making a similar sort of visual point here — social media has left us fighting impotently over our own deeply-polarised trash — but the documentary itself is just another victim of its own critique. It’s not looking at the issue from far enough out.

As was discussed earlier today, capitalism works by breaking itself down. If you want to fix things, you have to get to the root of the problem, not stay lingering on the level of the social, which is precisely where we are presently at our most impotent and vulnerable.

But, instead, the documentary concludes that we must reform capitalism. We need to redirect the “financial incentives” that have driven us towards this “like” culture of conspiracy theory proliferation. A tree or a whale is worth more dead than alive, someone argues, and so too are we worth more mental unwell and addicted to our devices. If we want to save the world and our own sanity, we need to bend capitalism to the will of our positive humanisms or environmentalisms or technologisms. It is a pipe dream. This is always how capitalism has worked. Capitalism and capitalists have never cared about the wellbeing of the “proletariat”, working in factories. Not really. Reforms might be made to improve safety and incentivise work and absorb critiques into the system itself but that is because capitalism has always been an attention economy, shifting from one that disciplines to one that controls.

Suggesting we need to reform the attention economy within the bounds of capitalism is a ridiculous utopian variant on capitalist realism. This is how capitalism operates and always has. But that’s not to say what is being argued for isn’t worth pursuing. We just need to update the language we are comfortable with using to make explicit that it is that we say we want. For instance, what these tech folks are really arguing for, I’d argue, although I’m sure they’d never admit it to themselves, is a kind of socialist media: a social media that is decentralised and not shaped by corporations and is instead shaped by the people who use it, as the internet arguably was in its initial moment of emergence. There is a glimmer of that argument here but it is repeatedly ignored. At some point you just have to say the obvious:

Whether online or offline, the choice is socialism or extinction.

Update #1: Shouts to @YNGLegionnaire for sharing the following thread, which confronts “the fake genuflecting that techbros and ‘surveillance capitalists’ are hiding behind” in The Social Dilemma:

NB: I was going to save this post for tomorrow, but my earlier post from today set off a load of the usual whining suspects, either upset about apparently disrespecting Daddy Land or being too philosophical.

The former is to be expected at this point — the only reason I can imagine half the old right-accelerationist crowd can’t wait for heat death is to put them out of their own pathetic misery — whilst the latter shows the myopia of the other side. When Marx said we had to change the world instead of just interpreting it, he wasn’t advocating for some kind of anti-intellectualism. All your politics, no matter how “material”, are based on someone’s hard-to-parse prose. Dumbing shit down for a working class you assume can’t read it is the worst take. The goal should be to offer everyone the chance to educate themselves about issues that affect them, as well as the histories of those issues. Prose isn’t the problem, it’s access to education.

Anyway, if the shot hit you a little too hard, here’s a chaser without delay. This post works as a stand-alone glorified review of a new Netflix documentary but I think it is worth highlighting how today’s earlier philosophizing is directly relevant to this confused critique of social media.

This post indirectly demonstrates the “crisis of negation” (and of praxis) at the heart of accelerationism in 2020. Silicon Valley isn’t driving acceleration, it’s stunting it, because it — like most — can’t see the woods for the trees.

A Further Fragment on Unconditional Accelerationism: What is Anti-Praxis?

It is clear that the concept of anti-praxis within unconditional accelerationism remains woefully misunderstood. Regularly confused with Nick Land’s brand of horrorism — “Do nothing” — many still believe that “anti-praxis” is some pretentious way of expressing the same sentiment. I doubt even the most insufferable of accelerationists would think such a position warranted a term so pretentiously over-specific to describe something as basic as inactivity.

My own attempt to rectify this, by emphasising Deleuze’s call to “make yourself worthy of the process” in a previous post from 2018, had caught on more than I was aware but, given that old post’s fragmentary nature, it is a clear that it hasn’t done a great deal to unmuddy the waters.

Recently discussing this in a Discord server, I thought I’d turn back to this old post and attach some more recent research to it, in order to (finally) articulate with some more clarity just how this Deleuzian adage works in practice (if not in praxis).

What we call an instinct and what we call an institution essentially designate procedures of satisfaction. On the one hand, an organism reacts instinctively to external stimuli, extracting from the external world the elements which will satisfy its tendencies and needs; these elements comprise worlds that are specific to different animals. On the other hand, the subject institutes an original world between its tendencies and the external milieu, developing artificial means of satisfaction. […] There is no doubt that tendencies find satisfaction in the institution: sexuality finds it in marriage, and avarice in property. The example of an institution like the State … does not have a tendency to which it corresponds. But it is clear that such institutions are secondary: they already presuppose institutionalized behaviors, recalling a derived utility that is properly social. In the end, this utility locates the principle from which it is derived in the relation of tendencies to the social. The institution is always given as an organized system of means.

— Gilles Deleuze, “Instincts and Institutions”

What we talk about “praxis”, in the context of unconditional accelerationism, it is a term perhaps best understood as designating an institutionalised practice. We might call anti-praxis, then, a kind of de-institutionalised practice.

A critique of institutions was always baked into the meaning of the “unconditional” in unconditional accelerationism (u/acc), as far as I’m aware. The splintering of accelerationism into left and right variants in the mid-2010s had, at that point, done nothing but put different coloured carts before the same horse. Institutionalising accelerationism was a mistake; this philosophy was always an attempt to untangle and critique the institutions that passed themselves off as the rightful home for certain instincts under capitalist realism, whether they be political institutions or — as later became a focus for many — even ontological categories like (clock) time. To feed accelerationism back into the institutions it sought to short-circuit only short-circuited accelerationism itself.

It is a point that always bears repeating: accelerationism was first of all a call to rethink the political landscape of the late 2000s, already defined by leftist melancholy, now-familiar parliamentarian deadlocks and a woeful “democratic” impotence. This was most true following the financial crash, when it was clear that those in power, no matter their political affiliation, would have bailed out the bankers no matter what; it remains true following the last two US presidential elections — or, I should say, the previous one and the current one — where the choice, to many on the left, has been one of backing the lesser of two evils.

Because of this, any attempt to shoehorn accelerationism back into our increasingly inadequate political demarcations is a confused step backwards that ignores the questions this mode of thought initially posed — specifically, what defines the political “left” and “right” following the (supposed) ultimate victory of capitalism? This isn’t to say that accelerationism is wholly incompatible with a left- or right-wing politics, but folding it into our present understandings of either wing is to ignore the critiques at its heart. Perhaps the most pressing critique can be framed as the following question: With many of the arguments central to the left’s existence apparently cast into the trash fire of history by capitalism’s final hegemonic ascendancy, then what is left for the left to do? What is required of us to update our understanding of capitalism — arguably, Marxism itself — so that it can account for and reflect the complexities of our postmodern moment? Whilst the accelerationist response has been derailed for many years, u/acc was an attempt to reassert it. In attempting to hook our understanding up to old measures of progress and comprehension, we ignore the extent to which subjectivity has already been changed. The response to this from u/acc sounds simple enough but, in reality, it is anything but. It is a response that might go something like this:

Institutionally speaking, political thought is in the gutter. We might do well to trust our instincts.

This no doubt sounds naive. For one, we do not live in 2008 anymore and there are plenty of interesting political thinkers involved at the party political level. Whilst we may despair at the state of political bureaucracy in the twenty-first century, do we really need to eject bureaucracy outright as a way to get things done? Is the answer really something so vague and empty as “follow your little leftist hearts”? The point is, rather, to consider how our desires are vetoed from the very start by the institutions of capitalist realism. This was a difficult task in 2008; it remains one in 2020.

For example, whilst we might think confidently that the impotence of Occupy is far behind us at the level of popular leftist thought, just last week on Twitter Extinction Rebellion — as spokespeople for what they (rightfully) call the most important sociopolitical issue of our times — tweeted this:

David Graeber — who it has just been announced passed away on the day I am writing this (RIP) — put it best:

Clearly, as far as mass movements go — and that is the scale we all want to be organising at, surely? — the left still has a lot of work to do regarding not just how it acts but how it thinks and responds to current events. In this sense, capitalist realism is alive and well, even at the top of our most celebrated and presently iconic activist movements. For the accelerationists of the late 2000s, there was a similar frustration.

Extinction Rebellion’s tweet, at its worst, represents a kind of capitalist apologism. The point of a statement like “socialism or extinction”, for anyone who knows their anti-capitalist / Marxist history / theory, is surely to say “postcapitalism or bust”. Sure, we can argue about the finer points of whether socialism (as an ideological institution) is the best successor to capitalism but, generically speaking, it’s long been the stepping stone towards something other than this mess. The issue, of course, is that this mess has been pulling harder and harder away from the left and towards what Mark Fisher called a “frenzied stasis” for a number of decades now. For many, this is a bad sign because capitalism has clearly passed its best. Whilst its continued dominance will allow those it benefits to continue lining their pockets, for the rest of us — and, indeed, for the planet — the persistence of business as usual, and the forestalling of progress whereby capitalism is not allowed to morph into something else (as it seems to be yearning to do — for better or worse) isn’t going to work out well for anybody.

Following the financial crash, it was clear that this issue wasn’t simply down to a totalitarian bourgeoisie enforcing capitalism upon us. It was an issue of ideology. The planet, in essence, is beholden to capitalism through a kind of Stockholm Syndrome. Whilst our instincts show us to be a species in peril, pacing back and forth like zoo animals, we are institutionally blinded to any sort of alternative, instead relishing our own oppression and loving our habitual consumption of the shit of capital. That doesn’t mean we’re not having fun but it raises questions about what we might be straining to become, and what the impact of the stunting of our growth by panicking capitalists might be.

This isn’t necessarily a nod to some sort of posthuman utopia. Even at a more mundane level of society as it is now, we know the relation between instinct and institution can change quite radically over the course of a lifetime. Consider Deleuze’s examples quoted above. How might we think the unfurling of human sexual desire out of the institution of marriage? I’d have to agree with the Bible bashers on that one — marriage ain’t what it used to be, and thank goodness. Various forms of sexual relation have flourished over the last century but we still find other ideals through which to institute our own satisfaction — through the family, for instance — which seem less likely to crumble under a collective willpower. It raises interesting questions though. Considering how complex the social development of sexual relations has been over the last few centuries, how might we consider the constant flux of capitalism in the same way? (Mark Fisher made much the same point in an essay for eflux, notably about accelerationism as well.) Indeed, when we look at the history of sexuality — a relevant example, no doubt, considering the centrality of desire to both love and money — can we find a set of praxes here to emulate?

Not really… Surely, the lesson to be learned is that we must follow our instincts and allow our institutions to adapt accordingly. Indeed, that we must preserve some room for adaptation. Capitalism may adapt along with us, but it might also “adapt” into something else in the process. We should also be prepared for the realisation that we do not want exactly what we say we want, and that the best way to satisfy our needs and desires may not look how we imagine it to in our minds.

Deleuze takes up this problem explicitly in his essay on “Instincts and Institutions”. He writes:

The problem common to instinct and to institution is still this: how does the synthesis of tendencies and the object that satisfies them come about? Indeed, the water that I drink does not resemble at all the hydrates my organism lacks. The more perfect an instinct is in its domain, the more it belongs to the species, and the more it seems to constitute an original, irreducible power of synthesis.

We might argue that the implicit point being made here, following Herbert Marcuse, is that, whilst capitalism implores us to see it through a series of biological foundations, these are but institutions it has attempted to subsume into the deepest levels of the organism.

Deleuze continues:

But the more perfectible instinct is, and thus imperfect, the more it is subjected to variation, to indecision, and the more it allows itself to be reduced to the mere play of internal individual factors and exterior circumstances — the more it gives way to intelligence. However, if we take this line of argument to its limit, how could such a synthesis, offering to a tendency a suitable object, be intelligent when such a synthesis, to be realized, implies a period of time too long for the individual to live, and experiments which it would not survive?

We are forced back on the idea that intelligence is something more social than individual, and that intelligence finds in the social its intermediate milieu, the third term that makes intelligence possible. What does the social mean with respect to tendencies? It means integrating circumstances into a system of anticipation, and internal factors into a system that regulates their appearance, thus replacing the species.

Understood in relation to some sort of utopia, we might see this intelligence as a relation to come, yet to be fully realised. We might also understand it as already being here, with the age of social media inaugurating capitalism’s ultimate integration of technological circumstances with the anticipation of its continued survival. Somewhat ironically, with regards to the climate crisis, we lack this level of social intelligence. Capitalism has the monopoly on smart.

This is where the accelerationist version of “what is to be done?” enters into consideration. The classic version of this question is one that U/Acc blogs have often poked fun at — largely because the handwringing of the twenty-first left, at its most melancholic, is symptomatic of its constant looking for something to do, to the extent that it starts to resemble a widow trying to keep themselves busy — but it is a question that persists regardless.

Considering the circumstances described above, however, another set of questions emerge to complicate this Leninist call to action.

Praxis is, of course, not just the other side of the political coin from theory; it is also an accepted mode of action — instituted by the Party, for instance, in a Marxist-Leninist sense. It is action backed up by theory. But when the party as a political entity has fallen into such disrepute, what remains of praxis today? How are we supposed to talk about rectifying our institutions when they are in such a dire state of disrepair? Without top-down recommendations, do these forms of political action default to popular opinion? What is popular opinion when social intelligence is rotten with capitalist realism? Is horizontalism an effective alternative? Many would argue that simply negating our institutions doesn’t solve anything but is affirming them anything more than masochism at this point? What is to be done about the question of what is to be done?

I’m persistently playing devil’s advocate in asking these questions but, for what it’s worth, I think Jodi Dean’s writings on a new sense of the “party” are very illuminating. We need to rethink a lot of what we take for granted. This is not to abandon all that came before but nor is deferring to some sort of theoretical canon going to solve anything. Marx is still useful and so are many other theorists. But this does not solve our problem — the problem of a new thought and politics that can respond to our present crisis in negation.

Ultimately, this is the point at which accelerationism enters the fray. It was a mode of thought explicitly concerned with the failure of praxis in 2008 and the left’s inability to think of alternatives — alternative futures (theoretical ideals), on the one hand, and alternative forms of action on the other. Anti-praxis becomes relevant here as a way to think praxis and the crisis of negation together, whilst also acting against the institutions that would typically define these terms. It is also, arguably, a way of playing the so-called “long game.” Whilst praxis, particularly at present, means giving yourself over to the weather-vane of contemporary (party) politics, anti-praxis becomes a way of halting our inane flailing and looking beyond to another form of action altogether. Again, this isn’t necessarily a rejection of party politics, but it is an attempt to think at a different scale. It is a form of action that looks to the bigger picture, beyond the localism of party politics and personal grievance and instead towards an almost cosmic perspective — a perspective all the rage in the era of the “Anthropocene”, but one which most humanities departments are ill-equipped to actually respond to. (Mark Fisher’s joke that he wanted to set up a ‘Centre for the Inhumanities’ comes to mind here.) It is a way of taking the personal (which capitalism loves to amplify) and making it impersonal.

This is not to denounce institutional critique either, of course, which is a very important and productive praxis in specific contexts, but it is rather to try and consider how this differs and relates to spheres outside our workplaces or local modes of political organising. What kind of thought speaks to a scale beyond that? What kind of thought speaks to capitalism as a whole? Not to alternatives within capitalism, but postcapitalist discourses? Is such a thought even possible anymore? What does it look like now and what might it look like in the future?

Vincent Garton’s anti-praxis takes this kind of perspective broadly in its sights and, whilst his position sounds woefully nihilistic (in the worse sense of that word), it also speaks to a new kind of freedom that emerges from feeling our size amidst capitalism’s great totality — a kind of productive nihilism that may emerge following the realisation that, whilst our local actions make us feel good, they are unimportant before the “colossal horror” of the capitalist system at large. As he writes on his old blog:

On its very terms, human agency has already been elevated to become the guide and measure of the world, and this, conceptually, is intolerable. It is precisely against this view that accelerationism defines itself as ‘antihuman(ist)’, and against the fundamental question of praxis that it offers ‘antipraxis’. This can hardly mean ‘Do nothing’, of course: that would mean not just to return to the fundamental question of praxis, but to offer perhaps the most numbly tedious answer of all. The unconditional accelerationist, instead, referring to the colossal horrors presented to the human agent all the way from the processes of capital accumulation and social complexification to the underlying structure, or seeming absence of structure, of reality itself, points to the basic unimportance of unidirectional human agency. We ‘hurl defiance to the stars’, but in their silence — when we see them at all — the stars return only crushing contempt. To the question ‘What is to be done?’, then, she can legitimately answer only, ‘Do what thou wilt’ — and ‘Let go.’

Personally, I have reason to differ with Garton’s old position somewhat. Whilst it resonates with more positions than many are willing to generously conceded — a more hubristic brand of environmentalism, for one — his argument here is an explicit reaction against the so-called “managerialism” of Srnicek and Williams; the impotence of their “left-accelerationism”, which arguably turns its back on their initially revolutionary proposals once the opportunity of institutional influence asserts itself. Their Inventing the Future certainly seems to be something of a retreat (at least on Williams’ part) from the initially inhumanist provocations described as “accelerationist” by Benjamin Noys. (For those unaware, in a now-deleted blogpost, it was Williams who first asked perhaps the foundational accelerationist questions that Garton expands upon here, specifically: “What is capital-in-itself?” and “What is capital-for-itself?”)

If I have reason for quibbling the hostility against Srnicek and Williams, it is because this seems to be a narrative that has long been spun in their absence. I’m personally quite interested in talking to either/or about how they view their old writings and political actions since, and whether they felt they necessarily climbed down from prior provocations or whether it was the runaway train of glib accelerationist thought that has betrayed their positions since.

What has been of great interest to me in recent months is my personal realisation that the ground from which accelerationism first emerged (prior to the apparent climb-down of Inventing the Future) still retains a shade of anti-praxis. Alex Williams’ writings in particular — although his deletion of his blog suggests he no longer agrees with his former self — is a long-neglected starting point for accelerationist thought. It is with him, not Land, that accelerationism proper should look to for its foundation. This is to say that accelerationism wasn’t just a continuation of Landian thought but an attempt to complicate its implications with the circumstances of a new decade that veered considerably from where Land himself had predicted it would go. Unconditional accelerationism, in this sense, is not just Landian accelerationism before all the factionalism; I think it makes a lot more sense when seen as an extension of Williams’ “post-Landianism” — his articulation of Land’s machinic desires alongside a critique of Badiou’s post-Marxist-Leninism and aligned with Brassier’s unbound nihilism.

It is the (negative) influence of Badiou especially that makes the question of what is to be done so central for the early accelerationists. But I don’t want to talk about Williams’ old blog here. Instead, I think the best person to turn to to understand this foundation is probably Steven Shaviro.

Shaviro’s books on accelerationism are certainly worth reading but I also find — as is often the case with too many of those initial forays into post-blog publishing (Noys’ book on accelerationism for Zero is similar) — that they lose some contextual foundation in being removed from the blogosphere. This is to say that, in an oddly backwards process, the books are often more reductive than the blogs.

For instance, the questions first asked by the “accelerationists” in 2008 seem to emerge almost from nowhere but Shaviro’s blog does well to ground their answers within the original crises of the financial crash and an already frequently critiqued impotence in philosophy (discussed and dissected by the likes of Zizek and Badiou). Whilst there is a great deal of value in mapping out how these questions are related to previous countercultural movements, it is nonetheless true that this original galvanising moment, which articulates the acute relevance of accelerationism to the twenty-first century, has long been overlooked, and it is with Shaviro, moreso than anyone else, who was seemingly asking all of the right questions at that moment.

What I find particularly interesting about this, having spent a great deal of time blog-spelunking in recent months, is that I think Shaviro’s position still contains a great deal of mileage, and even describes an approach to the financial crash in 2008 that seems wholly resonant with the U/Acc blogosphere of 2016-18. Before we explore Shaviro’s foundation, however, it is necessary to provide a sort of caveat.

Shaviro’s position — when we come to it — may sound more humanist than some accelerationists are used to, but what is worthy of note, I think, is that this position is not incompatible with an inhumanist view of capital that has come to dominate — indeed, a view that many accelerationists have since fetishized and reified into a kind of edgy idiocy, before which they are left agog, mouths agape, before their new techo(g)nomic deity. In this sense, despite first appearances, Shaviro’s position resonates nicely with Ray Brassier’s “post-Landian” nihilism, which acknowledges the scientific truth about our existence — that we live in an indifferent universe — and, perhaps, a tandem economic truth as well — we live in an indifferent economy. Acknowledging this indifference is not an argument for inactivity either; it is an acknowledgement that frees us to consider possibilities we may have never considered before, subsumed, as we are and have long been, under the God-fearing auspices of an apparently God-given universe — the theological equivalent of capitalist realism.

It is important to linger over the full implications of capital’s indifference to us and why this is another foundational accelerationist position. Its critics denounce accelerationism through this suggestion as nothing more than a reheated catastrophism, but accelerationism is instead the observation that capitalism itself is catastrophist — to conflate this obversation with what humans should do is to misunderstand how capitalism functions and how we relate to it (at least according to Deleuze and Guattari — arguably the last wholesale critique of capitalism to still matter since Marx). As Brassier writes:

Integrated global capitalism is constitutively dysfunctional: it works by breaking down. It is fuelled by the random undecidabilities, excessive inconsistencies, aleatory interruptions, which it continuously reappropriates, axiomatizing empirical contingency. It turns catastrophe into a resource, ruin into opportunity, harnessing the uncomputable.

Capitalism, then, is a confounding foe precisely because of its algorithmic indifference to human activity. Indeed, to place it under human condition is a fallacy. We do not control it; if anything, it controls us. However, again, this is not to assign capitalism with some sort of benevolent agency. We are simply caught up in its currents and flows.

Most notably, this is to acknowledge that not even the capitalists have control over capital. They accumulate it and hoard it but they are not in control of the system itself. Economists are, as Mark Fisher has remarked, little more than weather forecasters. In his Postcapitalist Desire lectures, he explains:

From the point of view of capital, then — capital is certainly an ideological construction, but it’s less ideological than you are — the human bourgeoisie are just a means of its being produced. The big Hegelian story, in this respect, is of human potentiality, of human production being split off… The products of human activity are being split off from the humans who produced them, and coming back as a quasi-autonomous force. It might sound complicated, but it’s fairly simple, isn’t it? What is the economy if not that? […] Nobody — including and especially capitalists — can will the financial crisis of 2008 away, and yet, absent human beings from the picture, there is no financial crisis. It is entirely an affair of human consciousness, the economy, in that sense, and yet humans have no power to effect it. It’s like weather — the economy is like weather. There are people who can be experts in what the weather is going to be and profit from it, but they can’t change the weather. Not on a fundamental level. This is part of what’s being pointed to: it’s fundamental.

But what is capitalism? Capitalism, then, would be this system whereby this alienation — to use that term — of human capacities is taken to its absolute limit. It’s a monstrously, prodigiously productive system, yet it’s also one which seems to — and does — exploit and oppress the majority of the population, and which even the minority have limited capacity to alter.

In the heat-fucked nihilism of Brassierese, that sounds like this:

If capitalism is the name for that curiously pathological social formation in which ‘everything that is bound testifies that it is unbound in its being, that the reign of the multiple is the groundless ground of what is presented, without exception’, it is because it liquidates everything substantial through the law of universal exchangeability, simultaneously exposing and staving off the inconsistent void underlying every consistent presentation through apparatuses of ‘statist’ regularization. ‘Capital’ names what Deleuze and Guattari call the monstrous ‘Thing’, the cancerous, anti-social anomaly, the catastrophic overevent through which the inconsistent void underlying every consistent presentation becomes unbound and the ontological fabric from which every social bond is woven is exposed as constitutively empty.

For Fisher and Brassier both, understanding capitalism in this way does not abjure our capacity to act. This is not declaring “the economy works in mysterious ways” and then being done with it; this is not deferring to theoretical thoughts and economic prayers. And yet, acknowledging this truth — that much of the universe (and the economy) swirls in a chaos beyond our own disinterestedness — does allow us to dismiss certain modes of action outright. Boiled down to its essence, we can regain our understanding of a foundational striving that flows underneath the ideological chaos of bourgeois posturing. We can retain a fidelity to this indifference and to the revolutionary principles that persist underneath the compartmentalising of neoliberal party politics.

For Shaviro, this is what it means to “make yourself worthy of the process” (although he doesn’t use this phrase himself); to retain a fidelity to human action in the face of fanged noumena. To return to Deleuze on instincts and institutions, this means that our relationship to capitalism becomes similar to the current relation between animals and humans. As Deleuze writes:

In the end, the problem of instinct and institutions will be grasped most acutely … when the demands of men come to bear on the animal by integrating it into institutions (totemism and domestication), when the urgent needs of the animal encounters the human, either fleeing or attacking us, or patiently waiting for nourishment and protection.

Isn’t this how we find ourselves acting before capitalism? Can nothing more be done?

Whilst capital might begin selecting for vegan options on the menu in response to our own shifting attitudes, that doesn’t mean capitalism itself is showing any less of a thirst for human flesh. For Deleuze, perhaps the issue is that we can seldom differentiate between demanding a seat at the table and demanding a place on the plate. (Perhaps an analogy a little too close to home given the UK’s recent “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme and the second lockdown expected to follow it.) In light of this, we must implore each other to think differently and beyond the institutions that cannot and will not ever satisfy our needs, and which are arguably set up to use us to fuel something else. This is to say that institutions are power stations run on instinct, but we’ve got a problem when they start to look like slaughterhouses for new ways of being.

Before I tied myself up in even more awkward analogies, we should turn to Shaviro, who translates this problem into more general terms (whilst still drawing on Deleuze’s theory of the institution). Indeed, he writes on this at length. The resulting essay is, I think, one of the best blogposts to emerge from the proto-accelerationist blogosphere, expressing a sentiment that many of the first accelerationists would pick up on and run with. Here, he skewers the impotence of an overly humanist Marxism which attempts to transform Marx into Christ, building up a church through which to defer to the human body of the messenger rather than the inhuman forces he channelled and described. It is this post that I would like to end on. I’m still digesting much of this but, as far as I am concerned, this is the thought that later gives rise, through a complex process of osmosis and distillation, to u/acc’s anti-praxis. (I hope to write on this more soon.)

Drawing back the skin of “what is to be done?” to get to the problem of the subject that is doing the “doing”, Shaviro writes:

… there is a good reason why recent Marxist theory is so concerned with the problem of the subject. It is a way of raising the question of agency. What is to be done? How might capitalism be altered or abolished? It’s hard to give credence any longer to the old-fashioned Marxist narrative, according to which the “negation of the negation,” or the “expropriation of the expropriators,” would inevitably take place, sooner or later. Neither the worldwide economic collapse of the 1930s, nor the uprisings and radical confrontations of the 1960s, led to anything like the “final conflict” of which generations of revolutionaries dreamed. Today we are no longer able to believe that the capitalist order is fated to collapse from its own contradictions. It is true that these contradictions lead to turmoil, and to misery for many. Yet the overall process of capital accumulation is not necessarily harmed by these convulsions. If Capital could speak, it might well say, in the manner of Nietzsche’s Overman, that “whatever does not kill me, makes me stronger.” The genius of capitalism lies in its ability to turn to its own account whatever destabilizes it, and whatever is raised against it. In the absence of that old militant optimism, we are left with the sinking feeling that nothing works, that nothing we can do will make any difference. This sense of paralysis is precisely the flip side of our “empowerment” as consumers. The more brutal the neoliberal “reforms” of the last thirty years have been, and the more they have taken away from us, the more they have forced upon us the conviction that there is No Alternative.

This crushing demoralization is itself a testimony to Marx’s prescience. How else but with a sense of utter helplessness could we respond to a world in which Marx’s insights into the tendencies and structures of capitalism have been so powerfully verified? From primitive accumulation to capital accumulation, from globalization to technological innovation, from exploitation in sweatshops to the delirium of ungrounded financial circulation: all the processes that Marx analyzed and theorized in the three volumes of Capital are far more prevalent today, and operate on a far more massive scale, than was ever the case in Marx’s own time. By the late 1990s, all this had become so evident that Marx’s analytical acumen was admired, and even celebrated, on Wall Street. As the business journalist John Cassidy wrote in a widely-noticed and frequently-cited article in The New Yorker (1997): Marx “wrote riveting passages about globalization, inequality, political corruption, monopolization, technical progress, the decline of high culture, and the enervating nature of modern existence — issues that economists are now confronting anew. . . Marx predicted most of [globalization’s] ramifications a hundred and fifty years ago. . . [Marx’s] books will be worth reading as long as capitalism endures.”

From this point of view, the problem with Marx’s analysis is that it is just too successful. His account of the inner logic of capitalism is so insightful, so powerful, and so all-embracing, that it seems to offer no point of escape. The more we see the world in the grim terms of capital logic, the less we are able to imagine things ever being different. Marx dissected the inner workings of capitalism for the purpose of finding a way to overthrow it; but the very success of his analysis makes capitalism seem like a fatality. For the power of capital pervades all aspects of human life, and subsumes all impulses and all actions. Its contingent origins notwithstanding, capitalism consumes everything, digests whatever it encounters, transforms the most alien customs and ways of life into more of itself. “Markets will seep like gas through any boundary that gives them the slightest opening” (Dibbell 2006, 43). Adorno’s gloomy vision of a totally administered and thoroughly commodified society is merely a rational assessment of what it means to live in a world of ubiquitous, unregulated financial flows. For that matter, what is Althusser’s Spinozism, his view of history as a “process without a subject,” but a contemplation of the social world sub specie aeternitatis, and thereby a kind of fatalism, presenting capitalism as an ineluctable structure of interlinked overdeterminations whose necessity we must learn to dispassionately accept?

From here, we shift gear, and find accelerationism’s forebears in two of the most widely-cited Marxists of the twentieth-century, as if denouncing accelerationism today is prostrating the sacrificial lamb before a normative politics that does not truck with any of the political analyses of the previous century but is incapable of registering why and what should replace them. It is a sentiment most wittily captured by Zizek in The Ticklish Subject: “A spectre is haunting Western academia, the spectre of the Cartesian subject.” (A haunting that, according to Shaviro, Zizek has arguably since lost sight of.) Shaviro continues:

All this explains why cultural Marxism turns away from Marx’s own “economism” and back to the subject. It seeks after some voluntary principle: some instance that is not just passively determined, that is capable of willing and effecting change, and that escapes being caught up in the redundancy of capitalist circulation. By rehabilitating agency, and by foregrounding particular practices of resistance, cultural Marxism hopes to find some sort of potential for overcoming capitalism. This reinvention of the subjective element takes many forms. At one extreme, there is Zizek’s hyper-voluntarism, his fantasy of enforcing a rupture with capitalism, and imposing communism, by dint of a sheer, wilful imposition of “ruthless terror.” At the other extreme, Adorno’s ultra-pessimism, his hopelessness about all possibilities for action, is really an alibi for a retreat into the remnants of a shattered interiority: a subjectivity that remains pure and uncontaminated by capitalism precisely to the extent that it is impotent, and defined entirely by the extremity of its negations. Despite their differences, both of these positions can be defined by their invocation of the spirit of the negative. Adorno’s and Zizek’s negations alike work to clear out a space for the cultivation of a subjectivity that supposedly would not be entirely determined by, and would not entirely subordinated to, capital. For my part, I cannot see anything creative, or pragmatically productive, in such proposals. Neither Zizek’s manic voluntarism nor Adorno’s melancholia is anything more than a dramatic, and self-dramatizing, gesture. That is to say, in spite of themselves they both restore subjectivity in the form of a spectacle that is, precisely, a negotiable commodity. In the world of aesthetic capitalism, critical negativity is little more than a consoling and compensatory fiction.

On the other hand, it is hard to say that those variants of cultural Marxism that present agency and subjectivity affirmatively, and without recourse to negation, do much better. J. K. Gibson-Graham tell us that the Marxist image of capitalism as a closed, voracious, and totalizing system is an error. They offer us the cheerful sense that a plethora of inventive, non-capitalist economic and social practices [that] already exist in the world today. This means that we have already, without quite realizing it, reached “the end of capitalism (as we know it).” Indeed, Gibson-Graham come perilously close to saying that the only thing keeping capitalism alive today is the inveterate prejudice on the part of Marxists that it really exists. Apparently, if we were just a bit more optimistic, we could simply think all the oppression away.

For their part, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri are by no means so obstinately cheerful. Nonetheless, I am a bit taken aback by their insistence that globalized, affective capitalism has already established, not only the “objective conditions” for communism, but also the “subjective conditions” as well. The latter come in the form of the multitude as a universal, creative, and spontaneously collective class, ready to step in and take control of a world that has already been prepared for them. This is really a twenty-first century update of the messianic side of Marx’s vision: “The centralization of the means of production and the socialization of labor reach a point at which they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.” Thus we have come full circle, back to the position that we initially rejected: one according to which the restoration of agency is not needed, for the internal dynamics of capitalism themselves lead inexorably to its ultimate abolition.

These are the crises in negation that feel wholly unsuited to the present. Enter accelerationism, which takes these blockages as dead ends and looks for a third way. What is most striking to me, however, in reading Shaviro’s appraisal, is that accelerationist discourse today, through its own impotence and amnesia, has fallen back on these same coordinates.

This new thought, that was seen to be a new vector, beyond the Adorno’s and Zizek’s and Negri’s and Gibson-Graham’s, falls back on variations of their own positions. When we speak of anti-praxis we speak of a series of negations, of anti-affirmations, where wishful thinking and self-assurance becomes the foundation for any kind of praxis. Psychologically speaking, hope — and even confidence — is a powerful thing. But this should not give way to misplaced faith in an otherwise indifferent process. It is a process we should make ourselves worthy of, in the sense that it isn’t going to make itself worthy of us.

There are serious theoretical questions buried here, in what otherwise still sounds like an all too subjectivist handwringing, but once we get past this, then we can really start getting down to business…