The Story Is We’re Stuck: Notes on Accelerationism and the Climate Emergency

A contradictory tension that has defined the last couple of decades of life on earth is one between the accelerative nature of technological progress and the encroaching stagnation that defines life for the rest of us. Something has got to give. How can we catch up and get a piece of the progress? Because speed isn’t just for the owners of the means of production — it’s clear they can’t handle it on their own.

The rest of us have surely proved, by now, that we can keep up. We have adapted better and more quickly to new ways of life in 2020 than many ever thought possible. But the capitalists can’t. They don’t like change and so they scramble to get things back to “normality” for the sake of their own interests.

This is what fat cats do best. They fortify their own interests, even at the expense of life itself, gorging on accumulated wealth until there is none left for anyone else.

Fat cats are fat, lest we forget. The chub of accumulated capital deprives them of their otherwise spritely nature. It’s about time they were put out of their (nonetheless contented) misery.

When we say accelerate the process, what do we mean? Accelerate what? What process?

The process. There is, arguably, only one. Nature itself is a speed freak. It is always moving but we’re choking it. Nature and capitalism, in this regard, share much in common. We are both separate from and a part of them. We affect them but can’t control them; just as they affect but cannot control us. Our relationships to both seem fundamental but fraught; always-already entangled but unruly and disagreeable. Things only get more complicated the further down we dig.

When we find ourselves beholden to things at the level of desire, where does nature and the natural end and begin? “No nature”, Gary Snyder says. It’s all one big house.

Extinction Rebellion recently blockaded roads around print works for all the major right-wing newspaper in the country — specifically those owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

The blockage itself is not the story, they insisted. The blockage they represent is pervasive. We ourselves are blocked — by Murdoch and those like him. Those who have accumulated wealth and power and used it to constipate society.

It is interesting to see XR take the battle to the pockets of the rich and powerful in this way. After muddled tactics pre-lockdown showed protesters disrupting the lives of commuters and, in one widely publicised incident, London’s working classes just trying to put food on the table, it seemed to many that the movement — whilst undoubtedly well-meaning — remained bogged down in the sort of middle-class ineptitude that had come to define (in my mind at least) the UK’s Green Party.

That kind of action did not shine a light through the cracks in the firmament, but this one might.

However, it is one thing for the proletariat, who we know can be freed from the mire of immediacy, to answer the call of the climate crisis, it is another thing entirely for the bourgeoisie to grasp the need for speed and action, (s)trapped as they are in a capitalist-realist death drive of their own devising. Nevertheless, disrupting the world of the latter might make new worlds visible to the former.

Either way, we find a unicorn in our midst here: XR messaging that is on point.

The story certainly is that we’re stuck, and in more ways than one. The climate emergency is the most pressing example but our apparent impotence before a black wall of capitalists mirrors our impotence at large. If XR can break the deadlock, there’s hope for us yet. Accelerationism, in this sense, does not need a green variant. It is instead — and has always been — the observation that the more things stagnate, the worse they’re gonna get. (Not speeding things up for the same result.)

Accelerationism is stopping the slow cancellation of the future by giving it a jolt. A jolt in the pocket of Rupert Murdoch might not solve anything, but it’s a shock that might ripple into unexpected places.


  1. What I find interesting is that while many on the Left characterize neoliberals as bring obsessed with geoengineering and carbon taxes to solve global warming, there are precious few neoliberals actually trying to make it happen. Coordination traps!

  2. not sure if I buy into accelerationism but it is criminally negligent that mainstream outlets or politicians don’t at least attempt to synthesize an alternative, let alone take the problem seriously

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