The Year in Review

This year has been preserved in amber for me since about March. Spring feels like yesterday. I wonder if that’s because it was the one-year anniversary of the first lockdown. Time seems to have stalled since then.

All that aside, 2021 has still been strangely busy. It began with the physical publication of Postcapitalist Desire — the success of which has repeatedly surpassed all expectations. (I still can’t believe it was just going to be an ebook because we weren’t sure there was any demand for it; now it is on its fourth or fifth printing.) And yet, despite that first lockdown project going on to have this wild life of its own, I’ve continued to watch it all unfold from home.

The year has ended with the Spanish translation of my book Egress arriving from Caja Negra Editora, and I am looking forward to the New Year, when I’ll properly begin discussing the book in earnest with a new audience.

In the midst of all this, I spent time working on a few different book projects. One on psychoanalysis and adoption, one on accelerationism and another on narcissism. The first two are substantial projects that are going to require a lot more research, but I have spent the winter applying the finishing touches to Narcissus in Bloom, a politically charged counter-history of the selfie. I hope that will come out sometime next year. In the meantime, I’m also applying to PhDs to start late next year. (It’s about time — I keep putting it off with “independent research”, but I think it will make me very happy to have that time and not have to make research and writing a struggle to fit around day jobs.)

Beyond the finished projects and those still to come, there are some other pieces of writing I’m particularly proud of from this year: my introduction to the Spanish translation of K-punk, Vol. 3 and my post “Bad Queer” were particularly important for me, as well as various posts orbiting questions of “the new”, difference and repetition in popular culture, and also Deleuze’s approach to Stoicism have helped contextualise more meaty projects behind the scenes. Also, it’s almost time for the next edition of For k-punk, but can we all reflect on how insane the lineup for the 2021 For k-punk event was?!

But onwards we go…

I’m somewhat terrified about 2022. I turn 30 just before the new years and, standing on the cusp of a new decade, I think a lot is going to change. It is going to be difficult, but I think it is also needed. I’m probably going to move again and branch out on my own. Having clung to (and otherwise struggled to sustain) a small support network throughout my 20s, I’m going to start out my 30s somewhat isolated as I work through some stuff. I’ve never really had a plan in life, but I think I assumed I’d be more self-sufficient and settled by now. The realisation that I’m not is hitting me different. Though I’ve achieved things I never thought I would, as far as my daily existence goes, I’m not sure where I want to be. 2022 is going to be the year that I make some overdue decisions about what I want, I think.

I hope I can figure things out next year. For all the continuing creative endeavours, I feel like I’m going to have to build myself back from the ground up. Wish me luck.

Mark Fisher

The Post-Capitalist Realism Generation: Notes on Students, BreadTube and Digital Psychedelia [04/02/21]
The Spectre of Acid Communism [14/03/21]
The Post-Vampire Castle Generation: Notes on Neo-Anarchy in the UK [17/03/21]
Introduction to K-Punk, Vol. 3: English Language Version [12/06/21]
Is There (Still) No Alternative: XG in Ljubljana [30/08/21]
Capitalist Realism and the Eviction of Culture: Notes from Ljubljana [15/09/21]
Total Recoil: Notes on the Body in Mark Fisher’s Feminism [15/12/21]
T+U ACID: Launch at Trafó, Budapest (22/12/2021) [20/12/21]

For k-punk

For k-punk 2021 [20/01/21]
Test Dept: Mark Fisher Memorial Lecture 2021 [22/01/21]]
“Why we started a club night for our teacher, Mark Fisher”: For k-punk in Huck Magazine [30/01/21]
“A teacher ‘who really gave a shit’”: For k-punk in The Art Newspaper [23/02/21]
“The critical legacy of theorist Mark Fisher is a creative springboard for a new wave of musicians and thinkers”: For k-punk reviewed in The Wire [11/03/21]
“Countercultural Bohemia as Prefiguration”: Time is Away on NTS Radio [24/03/21]
Repeater Radio present: K-Punk Marathon [07/06/21]
Solidarity at the Rave: For k-punk on Acid Horizon [23/08/21]

Postcapitalist Desire

Postcapitalist Desire: The Final Lectures of Mark Fisher — Hardback Out Now [12/01/21]
Postcapitalist Desire, Melancholy, Psychedelia and Mark Fisher: XG on Interdependence with Mat Dryhurst and Holly Herndon [13/01/21]
Post-Work with Will Stronge [18/01/21]
Psychedelia with JD Taylor [19/01/21]
Consciousness Raising with Hari Kunzru [23/01/21]
Desire with Dr Isabel Millar [25/01/21]
Postcapitalist Desire: XG in Conversation with James Butler — Now on YouTube! [17/02/21]
“Giving Up the Ghost”: Postcapitalist Desire in the LA Review of Books [21/03/21]
Postcapitalist Desire: XG on Hermitix [06/05/21]


Badiou’s Platonic Exit: Egress Turns One [10/03/21]
Communities of Loss: A Brief Reflection [14/04/21]
Egress: Live on the Hermitix Podcast [05/08/21]
Egress and Immanence: Hermitix Debrief [07/08/21]
Egreso: Sobre Comunidad, Duelo y Mark Fisher — Out Now! [01/12/21]
Diálogo con Matt Colquhoun: Discussing Egreso with Pepe Tesoro for the IECCS [13/12/21]
A Note on “Egreso” [14/12/21]

Narcissus in Bloom

Unconditional Love: A Note on Acid Narcissism [20/08/21]
Narcissus in Bloom: Talk at Newcastle University [08/11/21]
Observatory Crest: On Narcissus in Bloom [29/11/21]

Translations and Essays Elsewhere

一个无条件加速主义Primer I: Chinese Translation of the U/Acc Primer [08/01/21]
The Geology of Malls: XG for Plaza Protocol [19/02/21]

Hauntology and Accelerationism

The Philosophy of Salvagepunk: XG at the Association for the Design of History [07/01/21]
Hauntology: Where Were You Before ’92? [15/01/21]
Un-Popping the Bubbles of Pop: A Brief History of Anti-Hauntology [06/02/21]
Anti-Hauntology: Where are the New Forms of New? [06/02/21]
Anti-Hauntology: Further Notes on Temporal Specificities [09/02/21]
A Moment of Renewal: Notes on Badiou/Acc [16/02/21]
Badiou/Acc: A Response to Ed Berger [16/02/21]
Badiou/Acc: Further Responses from Vince Garton and Ed Berger [17/02/21]
Anti-Hauntology: Notes on Acid Horizon [18/02/21]
Badiou/Acc: Terror and Parody with Ed Berger [20/02/21]
The End of History 2: Stagnant Boogaloo (Snyder Cut) [02/03/21]
Notes on Lenin and Accelerationist Meta-Terrorism [08/03/21]
A Brief History of the new: Guest Lecture with Ctrl Network [17/03/21]
The Slow Cancellation of… Sorry, What Were We Talking About? [29/03/21]
The Slow Cancellation of… Sorry, What Were We Talking About?: Some Concessions and Further Notes [30/03/21]
Next Week’s New [15/04/21]
Third Actors: XG at the rA/Upture_2 conference, OFF-Biennálé Budapest [26/04/21]
Children of /Acc: Waiting for a Post-Pandemic Politics [14/07/21]
Orgies of Stupidity Fuck the Painful Present Away [23/07/21]
Parameters of Change: Notes on Queer Accelerationism and Libidinal Materialism [13/08/21]
A Brief History of the New: Recording Now Online! [22/11/21]
“What was needed was accelerationism…”: A Note on Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities [30/11/21]
Accelerationism and Ideological Breakdown: Notes on Recent Developments [23/12/21]
Accelerationism and Ideological Breakdown: Further Comments from Ed Berger and Other [24/12/21]


Covid Libertarianism and Molecular Freedom [05/01/21]
Covid Libertarianism and Capitalist Realism [06/01/21]
Hype(rstition) and Unbelief: On GameStop and Coronavirus [27/01/21]
Covid Libertarianism: Notes on Althusser and a Spanner in the Works of Ideological Reproduction [18/02/21]
The Inertial Endogamy of Covid Capitalism [28/03/21]
Regarding the Pain of Royals [18/04/21]
Post-Covid Horizons [22/07/21]


A Deleuzian View of Palestine (Contra Israel) [13/05/21]
Zionist Realism: What If We Had a Strike for Palestine and Everyone Came? [17/05/21]
Zionist Realism: Is There No Alternative? [18/05/21]


The End of Trump or the End of History [09/01/21]
Cutting the Knot of Incompetence [11/01/21]
National-Identity Politics: On the Contradictions of New New Labour [03/02/21]
What is an Institution?: On the Thoughts of the Police [15/03/21]
Kill the Bill: More on the Thoughts of the Police [23/03/21]
Ecologies of Class: Prince Philip’s Conservationist Politics [09/04/21]
Our Zany Ministers: On Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson, the Personal and the Political [30/06/21]
Olympic Refusal: Simone Biles and Herbert Marcuse [29/07/21]
Communism Within, Communism Without: The Paranoia of Capitalist Realism [12/08/21]
Reflective Centrism [04/10/21]
Toothless Critique: Free Speech in the Vampire Castle [28/10/21]
Elections on Acid: Notes on Boric and the Left for T+U [23/12/21]


Junk Capital: On the Anti-Burrovian Trajectory of Nick Land [04/01/21]
AI is Good Actually: Notes on Commie Grimes and Intelligence & Spirit [03/06/21]
AI is Good Actually: A Further Note from Hypnosifl [27/06/21]
Learning and Trauma: The Sharp Object of Ideology [07/07/21]
Postmodernism and Gender Realism [21/07/21]
RIP Jean-Luc Nancy [24/08/21]
Actual/Virtual [11/09/21]
Discipline is a Double-Edged Sword: Notes on the Misuse and Abuse of Foucault [19/11/21]

Personal Reflections

Richard Humble (1925-2021) [05/03/21]
Bad Queer [16/04/21]
Nine [09/05/21]
Under the Blood Moon [31/05/21]
Rest in Power, Dawn Foster [16/07/21]
Notes on Adoption [02/12/21]
A Note on Cold Rationalism [13/12/21]
An Adoptee’s Anchor [20/12/21]
30 [26/12/21]


DOOMscrolling [01/01/21]
They do not live nature as nature, but as a process of production: On Lenz and Lorde’s Desiring-Productions [21/08/21]
DONDA [30/08/21]
Still Sucks: Transitory Music in the 2020s [02/11/21]
Merry Xmas Everybody [25/12/21]
2021 Playback: Selected Earworms [28/12/21]


Long Live The New Flesh: Notes on Madame Bovary [28/05/21]
Stronger Than Death: A Note on Poetry and Grief [17/06/21]
Interiority (After Sebald) [20/10/21]

Film & TV

Framing Adam Curtis [23/02/21]
How to Gener8 a Movement [29/04/21]
Mare of Easttown: 2021’s One True Cop Show [09/06/21]
Cruella [10/06/21]
The Tomorrow War [10/07/21]
Pierrot le Fou [06/09/21]
Happy Hallowe’en [31/10/21]
What Was Forgotten: Notes on The Shining, Doctor Sleep and Hauntological Stoicism [08/12/21]


Peak Boring Dystopia: On the Legacy of FarmVille [02/01/21]

The Blogosphere

Knowing the Unknown Knower [13/04/21]
Blogging as Infinite Conversation: Preamble [26/06/21]
Blogging as Infinite Conversation: Lately I’ve Been Feeling Like Arthur Rimbaud [04/07/21]
In Defence of Pop Philosophy: Notes on Philosophistry [09/11/21]
A Further Defence of Pop Philosophy: Comments from Terence Blake [11/11/21]


Solidarity and Cryptocurrency: Notes on NFTs [19/02/21]
Are NFTs Frigid Stars? [07/10/21]


Memeing History [30/06/21]
Memeing Politics [01/07/21]
Imagine You Have Two Memes…: On Memetic Negativity [23/07/21]
The Met Gala [14/09/21]
(Funko) Pop Modernism? [23/10/21]

Repeater and Zer0

Repeater Takes Over [24/10/21]
Against Individualizing: Personal Beef or Group Critique? [01/11/21]
Perpetual Yawn: More from the Ex-Zer0 Set [10/11/21]
Spiked: Notes on Psychedelic Fascism in the UK Media Landscape [13/11/21]
Repeater Takes Over… Tariq Weighs In… [27/11/21]
A Pure War?: Late Dispatches from the Authenticity Olympics [07/12/21]
What’s Next From Zer0 Books?: A New Series from Buddies Without Organs [10/12/21]
An Inexplicable Reference… [11/12/21]
Accessibility and Post-Punk: Thoughts on the Difficulty of Pop Philosophy [12/12/21]
New Missives from the Cranks [17/12/21]


Hull and the Bomb [25/02/21]
Hull and the Rise of Neoliberalism [14/06/21]


Buddies Without Organs — Episode #03 [19/01/21]
An Introduction to Eerie Aesthetics: Now on Mixcloud! [14/02/21]
Buddies Without Organs — Episode #04 [22/02/21]
Extinction, Apocalypse and Desire: XG with Thomas Moynihan on the MIT Press Podcast [09/03/21]
Buddies Without Organs — Episode #05 [22/03/21]
Buddies Without Organs — Episode #06 [12/05/21]
Literary Ley Lines: XG in the Liminal Lounge [19/06/21]
After the Maestro [23/06/21]
Buddies Without Organs — Episode #07 [02/07/21]
Buddies Without Organs — Episode #08 [13/09/21]
In Conversation with Liara Roux: Live on Instagram [28/09/21]
Buddies Without Organs — Episode #9 [27/12/21]


Brontë Country IV [06/02/21]
Winter Walks VI [13/02/21]
Winter Walks VII [20/02/21]
Winter Walks VIII [27/02/21]
Winter Walks IX [06/03/21]
Winter (Acid) Walks X [13/03/21]
Winter Walks XI [20/03/21]
Winter Walks XII [27/03/21]
First Lambs [29/03/21]
Winter Walks XIII [02/04/21]
Burning Heather [06/04/21]
Winter Walks XIV [10/04/21]
Encounters with Photography and Community: Alumni Talk at the University of South Wales [21/04/21]
Untilted #23 (With Notes on a Migrated Archive) [28/04/21]
Untitled #24 [04/05/21]
Untitled #25 [20/05/21]
Untitled #26 [16/06/21]
Untitled #27 [03/07/21]
Untitled #28 [17/07/21]
Untitled #29 [31/07/21]
Untitled #30 [14/08/21]
Untitled #31 [28/08/21]
Untitled #32 [04/09/21]
Untitled #33 [25/09/21]
Untitled #34 [09/10/21]
Untitled #35 [23/10/21]
Untitled #36 [06/11/21]
Untitled #37 [20/11/21]
Untitled #38 [04/12/21]
Untitled #39 [05/12/21]
Untitled #40 [11/12/21]
Untitled #41 [12/12/21]
Untitled #42 [18/12/21]
Untitled #43 [19/12/21]
A Persistent Stitch: Winter Walks 2021 [29/12/21]

Patreon Posts

XG Reading Group 2.0: Without Further Badiou [10/01/21]
Blogger’s Digest #5 (01/02/2021) [01/02/21]
XG Reading Group 2.1: Much Badiou About Nothing [12/02/21]
XG Reading Group 2.2: Brassier’s Critique of Transcendental Materialism [26/02/21]
Blogger’s Digest #06 (01/03/2021) [01/03/21]
XG Reading Group 2.3: Situationist NFTs and the Intensification of the Commodity Form [12/03/21]
Blogger’s Digest #07 (01/04/2021) [01/04/21]
XG Reading Group 2.4: A Grift in Space-Time [03/04/21]
XG Reading Group 2.5: Narcissist Realism [16/04/21]
XG Reading Group 2.6: Capitalism’s Transcendental Mirror Factory [30/04/21]
Blogger’s Digest #08 (01/05/2021) [01/05/21]
XG Reading Group 2.7: Bad Actors [27/05/21]
Blogger’s Digest #09 (01/06/2021) [01/06/21]
XG Reading Group 2.8: Interlude [11/06/21]
XG Reading Group 2.9: The Social [18/06/21]
Blogger’s Digest #10 (01/07/2021) [01/07/21]
XG Reading Group 3.0: Revenge of the Real [30/07/21]
Blogger’s Digest #11 (01/08/2021) [01/08/21]
XG Reading Group 3.1: Post-Pandemic Patchwork [15/08/21]
XG Reading Group 3.2: Trust is Key [25/08/21]
Blogger’s Digest #12 (01/09/2021) [01/09/21]
Blogger’s Digest #13 (01/10/2021) [01/10/21]
XG Reading Group 3.4: The Sensing Layer [22/10/21]
Blogger’s Digest #14 (01/11/2021) [01/11/21]
XG Reading Group 3.5: Positive Objectification [05/11/21]
Blogger’s Digest #15 (01/12/2021) [01/12/21]
XG Reading Group 3.6: Agamben and Neo-Anarchy [03/12/21]

2021 Playback:
Selected Earworms

MF DOOM — Mm.. Food

As we planned the 2021 edition of For k-punk back in January, it was announced that MF DOOM had passed away. Passing mixes back and forth, my ears turned to his back catalogue, as they did for many.

“Deep Fried Frenz” became a fixation, both scathing and joyful, with DOOM’s production cutting Ronnie Laws’ vibrant jazz-fusion with the cold hip-hop minimalism of Whodini. It’s schizo sentiment of friendship and suspicion felt appropriate to weeks spent organising a Covid party to be attended alone and held entirely online.

aya — im hole

When we moved to Huddersfield in late 2020, I started my usual habit of exploring the local area’s cultural history. There was a real thrill in reading Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath or Wuthering Heights or Ben Myers’ The Gallows Pole in the environments in which they were set. At the same time, I was kind of missing the experience of this kind of transhistorical exploration in London, wandering around listening to jungle and reading Virginia Woolf. The psychogeographic tension of different cultural moments existing on top of each other was something I really missed. But Aya came to the rescue.

The cover of her 2019 EP, and departt from mono games, would greet me every time I looked out the bedroom window in the morning, as the Emley Moor Mast towered over the city. When her debut album im hole was released in 2021, her Yorkshire poetics connected this poetic region (and Plath especially) to now. For an album recorded entirely in the area of London I’d just left, im hole felt like it constantly evoked a linguistic landscape that I was now getting to know intimately. A tongued cartography for West Yorkshire rambles.

Proc Fiskal — Siren Spine Sysex

Proc Fiskal’s second album was another perfect soundtrack to a year of post-London decompression and viral mutations. It is a sonic palette that blurs city and country, folk and modernity, with an impish ease. Coming off the back of an obsession with Mark Leckey’s O’ Magic Power of Bleaknesswhich I’d transcribed in late 2020 for the vinyl record release, telling the story of some kids on the Wirral finding a fairyland under an underpass — Siren Spine Sysex feels like the sort of music those kids went and made after the fact, still buzzing, back in their bedrooms, city life stalked and infringed upon by an occulted wilderness. That’s the vibe of my 2021 in a nutshell.

Clairo — Sling

Clairo’s Sling was a revelation earlier this year. She’s surely the underdog of a generation of female singer-songwriters who have been lumped together for their collaborations with Jack Antonoff — think Lorde and Taylot Swift. But just as the attention paid to their producers earlier this year only serves to dilute their own voices, it has to be affirmed that Clairo’s second album sounds like nothing else. She has carved out a sound all her own on this record. Following her rise as a viral bedroom pop queen, Sling embraces a kind of Steely Dan decadence, with some of the catchiest and ornate instrumentation you’ll hear on any pop record this year.

But amidst the Seventies soft-prog studio layering, we’re invited into the same confessional songwriting that deals frankly with interpersonal problems for the 21st century, with “Blouse”, in particular, feeling like a scathing analysis of performative male friends and allies in the #MeToo era, all of its power coming from the understated disappointment of catching yourself in a friend’s gaze. It feels like Clairo has inaugurated a new subgenre all of her own on this record. This sort of deeply intelligent songwriting upends and adds significant weight to the cool studio decadence of your average Adult Contemporary record. There’s a fury here and a youthful dissatisfaction that makes it more of an Adolescent Contemporary outing. And I’m into it.

Space Afrika — Honest Labour

Blackhaine’s drawl got on “B£E” gets under the skin. It’s the centerpiece of an album that bounds back from the criticism often thrown at more “ambient” records in recent years. It’s usually Twitter’s grumpy techno boys who go on about this predilection for quietude and ambience in an age of social dissolution and injustice. But Honest Labour undermines their tautology between peace and quiet. On the contrary, it violently simmers. At a time when the most vocal protests are organised by mindless anti-vaxxers, with the heat of eruptive Black Lives Matter protests dying down, there is no sense our discontent has gone away. It’s music for the skeleton crew. “There’s a grave inside your mouth I press against.” There’s something about leaning against the void that disturbs in its absence, affirming the negativity of negative space.

Low — Hey What

Low have consistently been one of my favourite bands over this last decade. With a sound entirely their own, which is always serene, they nonetheless know just how to shake up their sound in really exciting ways. The degraded grunge of Double Negative felt like the defining album of the Trump years, which was both a beautifully orchestrated and punishing listen. (Seeing them at the Barbican just before the pandemic made the album all the more astounding, at it was clear they had purposefully destroyed some of the most beautiful songs of their career to date — but this destruction was no less of a pleasure to listen to.)

Hey What is an appropriate follow-up for the Biden years. No less nihilistic, no less furious, no less beautiful, no less serene… No less of a paradox. The songs are able to breathe a little bit more here, but for what? The negativity of the present has never been rendered so poignantly.

Graham Dunning — Mindscape from the 7th Level

So much of what got stuck in my head this year was a reflection of the stuckness all around us. Everything is a little woozy, haunted, long-drawn. Not this. Dunning has seemingly done the impossible by making a set of “bedroom recordings”, presumably the product of lockdown, that are, despite everything else, utterly propulsive.

This was my go-to driving album this year. It’s perfect for taking country roads a little too fast…

THE ANXIETY — Meet Me At Our Spot

That TikTok song… “When I go to sleep / I can’t even fall asleep / Something’s got a hold of me / Feel it taking over me.” For many nights this year, it was often this song’s chorus for me. A sleeper hit, first released in 2020, it became inescapable in 2021. It’s rapid-fire staccato syllables are like a woodpecker against that part of your brain that loves a musical hook. It’s a song that most people have heard seconds of, but which only lasts two and a half minutes as it is. It begs repeated listening.

What’s strange about it, and all the more enthralling to me, is the paradox of the vibe its talking about. The live rendition above presents the song with all this strange set dressing. It’s underpasses and nu-metal trouser chains and grunge rips. It’s a 90s vibe that the kids singing weren’t alive to see. But the song’s theme seems to know it runs in reverse, talking about being excited to be younger. There’s a weird death drive to the whole thing, knowingly striving for a cultural moment that was only ever, for them at least, in utero.

The set dressing is what makes it for me. The ubiquitous underpass. Is this a Mark Leckey set? Once again his O’ Magic Power of Bleakness haunts, catching the vibe, the zeitgeist.

But this is a vibe about disconnection, surely? A song that begins with a drunk text and then dreams of disappearing into a suburban wilderness and getting high off the grid. An attractive sentiment these days, and one that has the magic of a pre-online adolescence scrawled all over it. But it’s still a song catapulted into the hit parade by the libidinal trap of TikTok loops and endless scrolling. It’s as if the kids want out but can’t be heard. Their complaints are smothered, emerging as sleeper hits through the algorithm, which doesn’t care what the vibe is, so long as it circulates.

But the vibe is a desire to get out. Meet me at our spot.

Emma DJ — Godrime

It’s hard to imagine any album sinking deeper into the urban depths than Space Afrika’s siren call, gliding over the surface of Manchester’s canals like the river Styx, but Emma DJ’s Godrime comes up behind it like a drowned beat cassette dredged from the very bottom of the Seine. I drown in it.

Still — { }

I tend to have a hard time keeping up with Hull’s music scene when I’m not living there, but I try to. There are probably few things the city itself is prouder of than its bands, but few make it to the ears of non-residents if they haven’t moved to London and adopted it as their point of origin in their band bio. (Lots of bands do this, but Hull bands have long had an aversion to it, ever since the release of the Housemartins’ debut.) I see this not to temper my own compliments, as if to let you know they’re probably down to hometown pride. On the contrary, Hull’s music scene, as much as I love it, is frustrating for how rarely it impresses me. For that reason, it fills me with a special kind of joy to be able to say that Still’s { } is easily one of the best albums of this year. A black metal post-hardcore power house record that is probably one of the best albums from that genre I’ve heard in many years, never mind just the last one.

It’s still winter. Crank it loud.

Klein — Harmatten

Gentle with a twist. This is an utterly enchanting record. There’s something about the kind of percussive piano playing here that I’ve always adored. It’s like you start off thinking you’re listening to a Dollar Brand / Abdullah Ibrahim performance, and then someone tells you he’s dead and what you’ve got there is some haunted piano and it won’t let you leave, but you sort of don’t mind about all that because it’s pretty good company. And before you know it, he’s got his mates round. Vangelis is coming too, and he’s promised to do his Blade Runner routine…

Of course, at some point, playing sonic allegories with a record this singular starts to become insulting. This is a Klein record. ‘Nuff said.

Les Mouches — You’re Worth More to me than 1000 Christians

Owen Pallett’s oddball project Les Mouches was a peculiar Limewire discovery for me, back in the 2000s. First released in 2004, it was past around internet forums like this scrappy, rarified object. The MP3s I had at the time were all out of order and incorrectly labelled, but I was obsessed with it regardless. I have a distinct memory of getting the train from Hull to Bridlington with friends one winter weekend, for a pointless day in the rain and an ill-advised sprint into the sea. Then it faded away into the depths of an old hard drive.

I rediscovered it this year, some 15 years later, and have listened to it constantly. It has been a special aural experience this year, becoming reacquainted with an album that might be one of my favourites of all time, lost to memory for so long. It is rare to rediscover an album after that long and to find it has lost none of its shine. A real treat.

SOPHIE — Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides

When SOPHIE passed away at the start of this year, Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides was back on rotation for months on end. Her death was announced the same day as our For k-punk night, and the Discord chat was filled with memories and love for her. But with all the sets pre-recorded and planned weeks in advance, there was no sonic presence to be had.

As if to make up for it, she soundtracked lots of long drives in the aftermath. In the spring and early summer, as lockdown began to ease slightly, we visited Oxford and now, every time I hear “Immaterial”, I’m back behind the wheel of our car, flying down the motorway, going on something resembling a holiday. A lot of pop records want to convey a sense of abandon and liberation, but few songs manage it and embody it as completely as “Immaterial” does. That’s the sound of unbridled and unrestrained joy.

Lee Gamble — Flush Real Pharynx

Lee’s EPs have felt like a constant presence throughout this whole pandemic, with the first being released in 2019. But the culmination of this trilogy gave the entire suite a new lease of life. It’s an incredibly ambitious project and one that is feels sprawling in its final form.

Lee’s music has always been amazing driving music for me, with KOCH staying in my first car for about two years. It felt like it was made to be listened to that way. The album’s quieter moments would merge with the hum of my car’s battered old engine and I wasn’t sure what was Lee’s sound design or the spatial soundscape of the rust bucket I was hurtling along within. At first, it annoyed me. It was clearly too dynamic a listen for the car. But I grew to love it.

Flush Real Pharynx feels made for that experience. It acts as a counterpoint to the noise surrounding it. It interrupts the urban semioblitz but also complements it, engendering a kind of sonic red-shift to the sounds around it. Everything sounds displaced through Lee’s aural prism, denaturalising our denaturalised world. It might just be his best work yet.

Bo Burnham — Inside

In a defiant embrace of my own whiteness, I must admit that Bo Burnham’s Inside brought me a lot of joy this year as well. The comedy album released alongside his Netflix special has been a go-to when I just want to lift my mood. At times, it’s an oddly disjointed listen. It’s neurotic self-awareness occasionally trips up the sense of escapism it simultaneously provides, but for a show about being stuck inside during the pandemic, it’s hard to be too mad at the album’s conceptually consistent, if internally inconsistent, Covid pathologies.

More often than not, the track “Comedy” has proven to be the most insistent earworm, to the point I’ve tried to completely wipe the album from memory, driven to near-madness by its ever presence. This is less hyperbole that a genuine concern at one point. In peak lockdown mania, I would wake up with the song in my head, like an alarm clock I couldn’t turn off. It had imprinted itself on some short-circuiting part of my lockdown brain. But it was the album’s more morose “That Funny Feeling” that has felt like a genuinely affecting lockdown anthem, speaking to the hole in your chest where some now-mythical old life used to be and giving it a tickle.

David Kauffman and Eric Caboor — Songs from the Suicide Bridge

Burnham aside, David Kauffman and Eric Caboor are responsible for this year’s most melodramatic lockdown earworm. The sluggish delivery of “Kiss Another Day Goodbye” feels like an almost phenomenological peon to depression, written and recorded in the depths of things. Mumbled to myself throughout a year-long plunge into Foucault’s oeuvre, I thought repeatedly about his insistence that madness has to be understood from within. It cannot be comprehended through a scientific objectivity, that others and removes it. You have to enter into it. Songs from Suicide Bridge is a tribute to this. Every song feels like a postmodern bard’s tale of inner city pressure. For better or worse, it’s the perfect album for urban lockdowns.

Buddies Without Organs — Episode #9

ICYMI, the ninth episode of our Buddies Without Organs podcast was released just before Christmas. It’s about the event. We branched out from The Fold after it left us pretty defeated, but picked up what is arguably its central concept and explored what Deleuze had to say about it in a few other places, including Logic of Sense and his final essay on immanence.

Listen above via YouTube, wherever you get your podcasts, or head over to our website.

And don’t forget: there’s going to be a lot more coming from us in 2022, as we’re teaming up with the relaunched Zer0 Books YouTube channel to present The K-Files. More on that in January…

Merry Xmas Everybody

I can’t listen to Christmas music at home. When family come round, they’re totally up for it, but the shop playlists are enough for me. You can’t escape them outside, so I’d prefer not to hear them inside.

Bah humbug, and all that.

But I enjoyed reading this interview with Noddy Holder in the Guardian the other day, if only for how depressingly revealing it is.

He talks about Slade’s perrenial hit, “Merry Xmas Everybody”, and how it came to be — a story he must tell every year, in one form or another. But what’s interesting about this interview is that it focuses on its resurgent popularity and the money it makes him. In the process, we find that the song seems to have gotten more popular. A great demonstration of how present nostalgia is an exaggeration of the past, and contrary to the illusion that the song has defined every Christmas since it was first released in 1973, Rich Pelley reports that the song “charted eight times in the 80s, twice in the 90s and every year since 2006.”

Noddy himself thinks he knows why it’s still so popular, although they never dreamed it would be. He says:

I came up with the line “Look to the future now, it’s only just begun,” because the country at the time was in a terrible state with electricians, bakers, miners and gravediggers all on strike. It’s just as valid today because of the state the country. Look to the future, it really has only just begun.

The irony is lost on Noddy, presumably — a 50-year-old song, which continuously insists we look to the future, now defining the repetitious nature of Christmas music.

It reminds me of Grafton Tanner’s really amazing book, published earlier this year, The Hours Have Lost Their Clocka pertinent extract from which was published on Real Life a few months ago. Grafton opens by explaining that the apparent lack of progression and difference in pop aesthetics isn’t just something Dads go on about, it’s a scientifically proven fact:

In 2012, Joan Serrà and a team of scientists at the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute of the Spanish National Research Council confirmed something that many had come to suspect: that music was becoming increasingly the same. Timbral variety in pop music had been decreasing since the 1960s, the team found, after using computer analytics to break down nearly half a million recorded songs by loudness, pitch, and timbre, among other variables. This convergence suggested that there was an underlying quality of consumability that pop music was gravitating toward: a formula for musical virality.

These findings marked a watershed moment for the music discovery industry, a billion-dollar endeavor to generate descriptive metadata of songs using artificial intelligence so that algorithms can recommend them to listeners. In the early 2010s, the leading music-intelligence company was the Echo Nest, which Spotify acquired in 2014. Founded in the MIT Media Lab in 2005, the Echo Nest developed algorithms that could measure recorded music using a set of parameters similar to Serrà’s, including ones with clunky names like acousticness, danceability, instrumentalness, and speechiness. To round out their models, the algorithms could also scour the internet for and semantically analyze anything written about a given piece of music. The goal was to design a complete fingerprint of a song: to reduce music to data to better guide consumers to songs they would enjoy.

This process has impacted far more than just music, as Grafton goes on to argue in the book. Similar processes have been used in elections and, personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if every “fan service” TV show wasn’t driven by similar analytics. The result is more of what Mark Fisher called our “frenzied stasis”. Grafton puts it like this:

If you want to freeze culture, the first step is to reduce it to data. And if you want to maintain the frozen status quo, algorithms trained on people’s past behaviors and tastes would be the best tools.

Of course, these days, you arguably don’t need any new Christmas songs. The palette is so predictable and limited that the already-mades always rise back to the top. (As for what’s left, Tariq Goddard recently reviewed all of Western civilisation’s Christmas music for the Quietus, which I can’t recommend enough.)

The continued success of “Merry Xmas Everybody” in the 21st century is surely the perfect example of this process. Its renewed popularity even fits the cultural timeline. Compounded by the fact that the battle for Christmas No. 1 was put to rest (in the UK at least) by the decade-long cultural hegemony of TV talent shows, which have since devolved into novelty songs written for good causes, it is surely no coincidence that Noddy Holder’s pension plan really kicked in the year that Spotify was founded. Remember what Pelley said: it has charted every year since 2006

Spotify’s algorithms run Christmas now, and Noddy’s frozen advice to look to the future only becomes more woefully ironic, its winter radio ubiquity evoking Groundhog Day a little too closely. As Grafton argues:

Those who worship the power of digital technology may believe that we are on track to a utopia where people can escape from the future we’ve made. But if we let algorithms predict the future for us all, we will find there is nowhere to go but back.

Accelerationism and Ideological Breakdown:
Further Comments from Ed Berger and Others

A lengthy comment on the last post, left by Ed Berger, that I cannot bear to leave languishing out of sight below the line, as usual:

Another great post, Matt, and another in the long tradition of spurring an overly-long reply on my part that is probably better suited for a blog post…

There’s probably many places to begin, but maybe with a small digression. Ganz, as you point out, describes a process of transition on the part of the “American right”—one from a ‘Gramscian moment’ to a ‘Sorelian moment’. This is a movement from a politics of hegemony to a politics of myth and violence, which can be decomposed further into the passage from a ‘rational’ (though misguided) politics of strategy to an ‘irrational’ politics of abandon, even an anti-politics. Setting aside the question of the rational and irrational, there’s a kind of irony here embedded within the intellectual history binding Sorel and Gramsci that begins to problematize certain aspects of what is being formulated here. Simply put: Gramsci’s notion of hegemony is intimately bound to his concept of the ‘historical bloc’, which—as far as I can tell lol—is the matrix of historically-bound social, cultural, economic, and psychological conditions through which hegemonic politics are instantiated.

Fascinatingly, when Gramsci first began writing of the historical bloc, he attributed it to Sorel. This is despite the fact that the term “historical bloc” does not appear in Sorel! This interjection of Sorel occurs in the context of a discussion of Marx’s base and superstructure and the way that their relationship is productive of historical reality, which has led some intellectual historians to read the “historical bloc” as Gramsci taking up the Sorelian myth in the context of this older Marxian schema. Here, the motivating myth has a historical existence and a historical ground, overriding conditions that act as the soil bed from which these swirling, phantasmic images sprout. Since the myth is motivational, generative of social forces that push back against the great weight of the conditions that produce them, it can thus be read as the first inklings of particular modes of consciousness—and by extension, the first scaffolding towards hegemony. The Ganz scenario runs backwards: we begin in the world of myth, and climb towards hegemony…

This sort of brings us to my main point, which is that the fate suffered by Sorel and the fate being suffered by Accelerationism—the transformation into a discursive scapegoat, the sign under which all things wrong can be stacked—are the same and have operated by a similar logic. Just as there are self-proclaimed Accelerationists who carry out extreme and horrifying acts of violence, there were self-appointed Sorelians of the right who re-worked the myth into a national image through which violence and consolidation of class hierarchies could be justified (few have taken the time to consider that Sorel’s proletarian politics draws the sharpest of lines between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and scorns the class collaboration of parliamentary reformers—how can this be a proto-fascist politics of class consolidation?). In both cases, the analysis of fundamental principles is collapsed into the more specific political imperatives. In the case of Sorel, there is his assessment that political movements contained a myth(opoetic) dimension or substrate, and his alignment with the proletarian myth of the general strike. For the self-declared Sorelians and their critics, that proletarian evaporates and we’re left with the floating myth. Likewise, in the case of Accelerationism, one can make an Accelerationist analysis without being an ‘Accelerationist’ in politics, or one can be an Accelerationist in the sense of seeking particular intensifications. But these nuances, for the self-declared Accelerationists and their critics, all falls away.

There might even be parallels between the ‘critics’. Vince G. has talked before about how the narrative of Sorel as irrationalist and enthusiast for redemptive violence comes from what he has called the “Cold War liberal reading”. This reading was advanced by a Cold War intelligentsia that tended to be center-left, though militantly anti-communist, cosmopolitan, culturally sophisticated and inclined towards what we could call (with allusions to Daniel Bell) the “end of ideology thesis”. Simply put, with the end of the Second World War, with the defeat of fascism, and the rise of market democracies anchored by global trade abroad and social safety nets at home, the rational organization of society had been discovered. Ideology was rendered obsolete, and communism in the east appeared merely as a retrograde phenomena that needed to be overcome.

The Cold War liberal intelligentsia incubated within academia and within networks of interlacing think-tanks received funding from well-oiled capitalist philanthropies with curious alignments to Western security services, and hung about in international conferences free-thinking, spontaneous culture against the rigidities of life and art in the socialist world. These are the direct forerunners of today’s odd webs of think-tanks and NGOs, a subsector of which is this strange cottage industry of cultural analysts and ‘radicalization trackers’ that have, among other things, have spread the vulgar accelerationism memeplex far and wide.

Like you point out, “The usual problem with these sorts of think tanks is that their generalizations often betray a liberalist moral crusade”. I would suggest their moral outlook is analogous to their Cold War predecessors, resulting from their shared class position.

There are, of course, limits to these comparisons. The world of today certainly is not the world of the postwar era. The historical bloc has shifted its gears. But despite this, what’s interesting to me is the relationship between the intellectual critical-critics and their opposition. The people who promoted the end of ideology were themselves ideologues, partisans in the simmering conflict between the capitalist West and communist East. Just as America and Western Europe’s nuclear armaments established an apocalyptic firewall between the two zones and things like the Marshall Plan carried out an economic partioning of the world, the intellectuals sought to engender an ideological barrier. The end of ideology, in other words, presupposed the existence of multiple, alternative historical-ideological formations locked in dire competition with one another.

But today it’s different, isn’t it? Political and ideological differentiation has despatialized underneath a regime of economic homogenization, and the stakes are no longer locked in the realm of “great politics”. They are diffused into everyday life with a new kind of immediacy.

One of the things that has interested me a great deal since the start of the pandemic is paranoia, and I ended up writing a couple of posts on the topic on the blog (this was the first of them.). Without digressing too much, it seems to me that paranoia is a natural response to the present society, and is not something that we should necessarily disregard outright (this isn’t to say that paranoia is a ‘good’, it’s something more generalized…). But the spread of paranoia is one of the great bugaboos of this NGO cottage industry, perceiving (in some cases accurately) the internal linkage between paranoia and violent extremism. It’s clear why: when articulated, paranoia becomes a suspicion of dominant social narratives and codes. It is the shoring up of these very narratives and codes that is the imperative of these new anti-radicalization NGOs.

So by stripping beyond the particulars (the now-free float of Sorel, Accelerationism, post-left, new right, radical ecologies, so on and so forth), it seems to me that we reach a particularly virulent image of the current historical moment: the heady, chaotic and confused disintegration of the socius, giving rise to both incredible lines of flight and the most nihilistic of reactions, and the new class of experts, managers, social scientists and intellectuals to diagnose and cure society’s ills.

As a caveat, I do want to add that a few members and affiliates of the Accelerationist Research Consortium have reached out to myself and others in recent days (as well as a few people affiliated with other groups who research extremism in our current landscape). They are very aware of the differences between a “vulgar accelerationism” and the accelerationism of the 2000s blogosphere, and seem to have as disparaging a view of Beauchamp’s original Vox article from 2019 as many of us do.

There are still a few things to clear up, probably. I did see one comment, shared by someone apparently affiliated with the ARC, that suggested the entanglement is just a matter of circumstance; it is out of anyone’s control that a bunch of white supremacists have seized Benjamin Noys’ term for Nick Land’s philosophy. The point is rather that Noys didn’t use it for that — at least not exclusively and not at first. In his first book, The Persistence of the Negative — which is much better than the one for Zer0 Books, Malign Velocities, that everyone always gravitates towards — he discusses accelerationism with regards to Derrida, Deleuze, Latour, Negri and Badiou — in that order! — along with a few mentions of other familiar faces, like Baudrillard.

It’s still a vulgar conception of “the negative” in philosophy, I think, which interprets their thought as being underlined by “an exotic variant of la politique du pire“, arguing that “if capitalist generates its own forces of dissolution then the necessity is to radicalise capitalism itself: the worse the better.” But it is important to note that Noys identifies this as a tendency within contemporary Continental philosophy in general. (One that he still disagrees with, of course.)

I’d also like to add that Brian Hughes, the co-author of the Lawfare article referred to in my post, reached out on Twiiter:

By way of clarifying my position, I should say we don’t consider every tendency we discussed to be accelerationist. By the same token, I kind of think we’re ALL accelerationists these days, whether we like it or not. (And that take is just too esoteric for a Lawfare article).

I want to avoid the “vulgar accelerationism” mistake, if that shoe indeed does fit. It’s a critique I take seriously. Fwiw I think philosophical accelerationists are, in general, diagnostically correct, but prescriptively mistaken.

For a more nuanced example of my views on these issues, my piece on Pine Tree Twitter gets a bit more into my argument for a political-economy understanding of acceleration and its various -isms.

Originally tweeted by Brian Hughes (@MrBrianHughes) on December 24, 2021.

So I’m hoping more of a dialogue will open up here, with regards to the influence (or lack thereof) of one on the other — and, indeed, that a more critical approach to “extremism studies” itself is emerging, that is more aware of the history Ed provides above. But as much as I clearly share Ed’s suspicions regarding the context and background of this sort of think-tank, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that many people seem to have heard our protests and want to do things differently.

But I think it is worth noting that the point of our various protests — or at least mine — has never been to throw repetitive knee-jerk dismissals at any link between “our” accelerationism and the one that has blackened our door in recent years. If there are questions to answer, I know I’m not shy about addressing them in good faith and as accurately as possible. But to do that, we nonetheless require a proper history of this term’s emergence. Ed has done a lot of work on this himself, tracing these currents through the 20th century, and I’ve spent a long time excavating the development of accelerationism from this side of the 21st century, reconstructing the debate as it occurred in the blogosphere in the late 2000s and navigating all of the broken links and dead ends that have made such a history so obscure for so long. (Some of that material might come out somewhere in the New Year — we’ll see).

If we can bring together the research that many have been doing into these violent groups and the research many of us have been doing, I think we’ll be able to provide a much clearer picture of things, as Ed suggests. Maybe 2022 is the year that finally happens.

Accelerationism and Ideological Breakdown:
Notes on Recent Developments

We are excited to announce the formation of the Accelerationism Research Consortium, a brand-new collaborative initiative to bring empirical, in-depth research and creative solutions to the study of insurrectionary accelerationism.

Originally tweeted by Accelerationism Research Consortium (@TheARConsortium) on December 22, 2021.

Yesterday, Dylan recently pointed out the founding of a new research centre dedicated to accelerationism, and my initial reaction was the same one I’ve been having since 2018. Are we due yet another Vox article? But in reading an essay shared by the new research group, I found — for the first time! — that the vague or otherwise implicit connections they were making between the accelerationist blogosphere and a more recent “vulgar accelerationism” weren’t actually as tenuous as one might expect…

In an article for Lawfare on “blurry ideologies and strange coalitions”, Cynthia Miller-Idriss and Brian Hughes note how various (often fatally online) political groups have found themselves in a new proximity during the pandemic. That’s true enough; just the other week we saw the Proud Boys openly embrace Black Hammer in a very peculiar form of “red-brown alliance”. As Miller-Idriss and Hughes explain:

The new coalitions became especially visible as the coronavirus pandemic began, when protests against shutdown orders and mask mandates drew thousands to state capitol buildings. These protests brought together groups whose interests are not typically aligned — heavily-armed unlawful militia members, conspiracy theorists waving QAnon signs, and anti-vaxxers whose traditional base draws primarily from leftist and alternative medicine spaces. They were mobilized by their single common denominator: anti-government sentiment about management of the pandemic. 

So far, so predictable. But it doesn’t stop there…

This breakdown in previous ideological boundaries has continued. Boundaries have melded between those who believe in radical ecology and the preservation of natural ecosystems and those who believe that environmental sustainability is linked to racial entitlement to the land and requires extreme immigration control or deportation. Some “boogaloo” adherents who advocate a new civil war marched alongside racial injustice protesters because of shared anger at law enforcement. Small but highly vocal contingents such as the “post-left” and “national Bolshevik” tendencies have come together to form a cross-ideological anti-capitalist column, which expresses itself in social media churn through disparate fragments of culture war talking points, Stalinism and fascism all tossed together.

In many ways, the phenomenon is nothing new. Extremist scenes and movements have experienced internal fissures, infighting and fragmentation for years due to differences in beliefs about tactics (such as the use of violence), conflicting views on particular parts of their ideology (such as about Jews and whiteness) or restrictions on who can be members (such as women). Increasingly, this conflict is occurring not just across relatively bounded groups but also among a broad muddling of ideological beliefs within domestic and international extremist scenes, movements and individuals. These trends are different from previous iterations of extremist fracture and reformation.

What’s striking about this to me is that, for the first time, and much to my own surprise, I feel a little seen… At least after doing some further digging through their references…

The usual problem with these sorts of think tanks is that their generalizations often betray a liberalist moral crusade. Taking the appropriation of the term “accelerationism” at face value, they inadvertently contribute to its mythologization, but the myth-function of “accelerationism” as a novel signifier has long been an interest in original accelerationist circles.

As Mark Fisher suggests in his 2013 essay on an “aesthetic accelerationism”, the movement was a consciousness response to the “rise of the Right’s ‘realism'” — that is, what he famously called “capitalist realism”; the imposition of capitalist ideology as a kind of “common sense”, to which there is no alternative. It was the rise of that realism that “entailed not only the destruction of particular kinds of dreaming, but the very suppression of the dreaming function of popular culture itself”. It was with this in mind that Alex Williams later insisted that

a reconstituted Left [cannot] simply operate inside the hegemonic coordinates of the possible as established by our current socioeconomic setup. To do so requires the ability to direct preexisting and at present inchoate desires for post-capitalism towards coherent visions of the future. Necessarily, given the experimental nature of such a reconstitution, much of the initial labor must be around the composition of powerful visions able to reorient populist desire away from the libidinal dead end which seeks to identify modernity as such with neoliberalism, and modernizing measures as intrinsically synonymous with neoliberalizing ones (for example, privatization, marketization, and outsourcing). This is to invoke the idea, initially coined [the] Cybernetic Cultural Research Unit, of hyperstition – narratives able to effectuate their own reality through the workings of feedback loops, generating new sociopolitical attractors. This is the aesthetic side of the task of constructing a new sociotechnical hegemony.

But the leftist origins of this kind of gesture — related to the “cultural Marxism” of the Frankfurt School as well as Gramscian call for a new cultural hegemony — were seemingly undone by the alt-right in the lead-up to Trump’s election as President of the United States. At that time, a new flank on the right was embracing its own surrealism, arguing that, through “meme magick”, it had effectively “hyperstitioned” President Trump into existence.

This was the left’s first major loss of the new culture war. A new right, native to the internet, seized upon a sort of Gramscian model of political action that began dreaming a new future — a Trumpian future — through myth-functions that the left had long presumed belonged to it alone.

Though it sounds naive now, there was a sense that the war had only just begun. The left was caught off-guard and left reeling. Rather than initially striving to defend its own history, uncertainty and melancholy was seeded everywhere. In London at that time, where I had just moved to do my Masters’ degree, the art scene was afflicted by a potent paranoia, with LD50 Gallery becoming a focal point.

The response wasn’t great. Though the gallery was shut down, some art critics seemed to suggest that art was a neutral zone, where messages and meanings can and should proliferate, no matter how offensive or extreme, as if art is fundamentally a marketplace of ideas and will sort itself out (foregoing the importance of our own agency in establishing a cultural hegemony). As such, this war of words became about whether certain ideas were just right or wrong, and a cultural Darwinism would sort out the chaff. In reality, the right had fought for a renewed sense of ownership over certain ideas and the left had, in its shock, begun to concede its ground. In response to the right’s new seizure of a postmodern surrealism, the left doubled down on its own sense of reason, arguably vacating even further their capacity to dream.

In hindsight, it is hard to know how the left could have responded any differently. Reeling from the successes of Trump and Brexit, it stumbled just long enough for a new right to further establish itself. In the UK, some of this ground was recovered during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, but it wasn’t enough. Cultural forces from the other side — particularly the media establishment — proved too great.

All was not lost, of course. The fight against TERFs has, I think, been the perfect avenue for the left to re-assert a certain capacity to dream. Still, it has been a tough slog to get here. Though the alt-right might have embraced surrealism, the old right was still stuck and stubbornly insisting upon a capitalist (as well other forms of) realism. Fighting a war on two fronts, the left struggled to make advances.

It is arguably this situation that led to the confusing developments of the following years, which I was a vocal part of. On the one hand, attempts to stay true to an older form of accelerationism led to an occasional fidelity with the new right. In the face of capitalist realism and a new capitalist surrealism, the response in these parts was one of fragmentation. Post-Brexit, the idea of the further breakdown of the UK became an interesting notion, and just as the right had poached certain ideas from the left, so a few leftist bloggers, like myself, began provocatively trying to poach ideas from the right. The Moldbuggian idea of “patchwork” was seized upon and reverted back to an older deleuzoguattarian model, for example, emboldened by various emerging independence movements around the world. I genuinely think this led to some interesting developments at the time, even if the left at large was far from convinced. The general idea was: If the myth of an independent Britain had so resonated with the British people at large, with a slim majority coming to believe neoliberalism at home was better than neoliberalism abroad, then why not advance alternatives that were emerging from within our borders, alongside projects in favour of an an independence Scotland or Northumbria or Wales or Cornwall? Why not continue to embolden that sense of “taking back control” to diminish the authority of a capitalist-realist Westminster elite?

Again, with the benefit of hindsight, this all sounds very naive. Though these sentiments have not yet gone away, the manner in which they were discussed did not prove sustainable or useful for too long. The battleground shifted once again. The very idea of an aesthetic or cultural accelerationism was increasingly left by the wayside.

Today, I am less likely to defend the weapons picked up as we fled from what was perceived to be our contemporary impotency. Different things were tried, they had various affects, but the times changed. And that’s fine. But I still think it is important to insist that a battle did take place. even if that battle was not won. It is only by glossing over the problems and questions raised that these extremism research groups end up with a view of accelerationism that is so vulgar.

To return to the article quoted above, we can perhaps see how their definition of “accelerationism” as “a goal and a tactic drawn on by a variety of movements that are united around the objective of overthrowing the country’s prevailing political and social order” is, on the one hand, broadly accurate but, on the other, so generic as to be useless. It is a definition that could arguably apply as readily to Black Lives Matter as it does to a white supremacist organisation; a equivalence that most culture war pundits, centrists and “capitalist realists” would probably be happy with anyway.

But what’s still interesting about this article is that there are a few links here that are nonetheless pertinent. Someone here is clearly doing their research, even if the end results are a bit flat and unenlightening.

Consider the identification of an accelerationist sentiment with a “post-left” contingent, for instance, as in the quote above. This too is accurate, if you ask me, at least when considering the accelerationist blogosphere of the last few years. It was a term uttered often back in 2018 — “post-left is the most left” was a phrase I heard repeatedly. But this has since been coloured by a lot of the splits that were happening at that same time. For example, a number of Justin Murphy’s old hang-outs had a vague “post-left” ethos. The one event I went to in London — his leaving doo after being fired from his university job for calling a student a “retard”, amongst other things — was politically promiscuous. It was populated with people who remain friends today, and who are avowed leftists, albeit with an interest in the more contentious areas of contemporary thought, as well as Tories, TERFs, neo-reactionaries and an actual Nazi who wouldn’t shut up about Heidegger. I certainly didn’t go to another meeting after that one and later got utterly fed up with Justin when he threw our patchwork project under the bus, presenting an unambiguously fascist version of this concept at an event that was ostensibly about leftist approaches to geopolitcal fragmentation. Later, I got in trouble for talking publicly about how some people present at his leaving doo went onto organise a lame series of “salon” events, with invitations extended to the likes of Brendan O’Neill and Toby Young… By then, it was very clear that this was no longer a push beyond the business-as-usual of parliamentary leftism, looking to see what was on the far side of Corbynism — if it ever had been — and was instead nothing more than an edgelord’s approach to culture and politics that was unequivocally reactionary.

As ever, the 2021 version of this contingent looks like various podcast audiences — the Justin Murphy’s of the world sit alongside the Red Scare podcast and Doug Lain’s various hangers-on. But this isn’t another dig at supposedly innocuous differences, as some like to insist when confronted by souring friendships and online call-outs. In fact, the Lawfare article, in mentioning the “post-left”, links directly to an article written by John Ganz which places the podcast-industrial complex of left-right debate bros and contrarian e-girls into a very interesting context.

It is a context that goes a long way to make sense of not only LD50 Gallery but everything that has emerged from the fallout of that moment.

Discussing the contemporary “political economy of reaction”, Ganz begins by admitting he got got by Red Scare’s recent baity photo-op with Alex Jones, before twirling seamlessly into a fascinating essay about “journalism, theatricality, and cultural politics”. I found so much of it resonating with complex feelings I’ve had over the last few years, related specifically to shifting relationships with a lot of quite well-known — to some extent, even “famous” — podcasters, writers and other internet celebrities who’ve made a name for themselves writing about philosophy and politics, often through a performative contrarianism. (Again, once upon a time, that probably included myself also; 2018 was a weird year).

On this point, Ganz recommends Philip Nord’s 2005 book, The Politics of ResentmentShopkeeper Protest in Nineteenth-Century Paris, for its “description of the dynamics of the literary culture of the Third Republic”. Summarising, he writes:

Many of the cultural figures Nord describes tried at careers in the theater, took up political writing and activism, [and] many of them began on the radical or socialist left, [before becoming] right-populists of some sort [or] another, Nationalists, and anti-Dreyfusards. Part of the reason was just the declining prospects on the cultural scene: the boulevard life of writing, cafes, and theaters that once offered career opportunities and the chance for recognition was fading. This gave them an intrinsic cultural conservatism and nostalgia for better days.

He goes on to quote Nord himself, making reference to a moment within French culture that may be vaguely familiar to some readers of this blog. (He describes a left-to-right-wing trajectory that was common at the time, which I have explored in the past via Maurice Blanchot, who is notable because he reversed it, starting as a “Nationalist man of letters” and ending up as a full-blown communist.) Nord writes:

One line of argument views the Nationalist man of letters as a frustrated failure, another as a besieged establishmentarian. The two interpretations, however, can be reconciled. The green-clad Academic and the demimondain journalist represented the twin poles of boulevard life…The eclipse of the boulevard culture brought disappointment to journalists and littérateurs whatever their position in the old hierarchy of success. The marginals could never hope to rise in a world of shrinking opportunities. As for the successful, the emergence of new cultural hierarchies devalued their achievement. They were equally victims of a profound cultural change…

This is certainly how I felt around this time, rocked by Trump, Brexit and the various losses, both personal and political, that defined 2017. Emerging from my postgraduate degree, which was defined by grief and imposter syndrome (socioeconomically if not intellectually speaking), and feeling jilted by various friends who had seemingly all burnt out on each other’s company, I found myself in a dark place where I didn’t really care about the fact I was being increasingly perceived as an edgelord by real-life friends and online interlocutors alike. I was angry and resentful and it came out in a lot of my writing. (Egress was a way out of that, though some of that version of me is probably sprinkled in there in some places, and I barely recognise the man who started that book these days.) I think many of us active in the blogosphere at that time felt a similar way. Eventually, how, it became clear that some people — particularly those who went too far and lost their jobs — felt it a lot more than others did.

Ganz implicitly (and I think rightly) suggests that this same resentment has fueled the rise of many a podcasting reactionary. Various writers and thinkers, once comfortable, if probably underappreciated, in an older world of academic research and blogging, have adapted to profound cultural changes by giving themselves fully over to clickbait content-farm conservatism, whilst nonetheless holding onto outdated ideals acquired in the very space they felt unfairly ejected from. This is evidenced by many people’s attempts to develop a proper para-academy of online courses on various topics. (Again, Murphy and Nina Power led the way here.) It is, of course, not the case that anyone looking for a way to make money teaching outside of the academy is a reactionary, but the contradictory approach of many of the “cancelled” who go down this route is clear to see. Many of them, as Ganz notes, are “now involved with an attempt to create a kind of avant-garde academia, a contradiction in terms that reveals the paradoxical type of recognition a lot of these figures seek: at once old-school, establishmentarian, hide-bound, and respectable and radical, outré, and daring.” (Case in point: I’m always amused when Murphy and Power start some new online para-academic venture, proudly outside of any suffocating institution, but continue to trade on their PhDs and other institutional credentials all the same; “I am traditionally qualified to teach my non-traditional courses.”)

The disillusionment at the heart of these shifts isn’t restricted to academics who’ve been given the boot for their bigotry, of course. It is just as applicable to disillusioned artists and other cultural workers. Ganz pays continued attention to Red Scare, for instance:

Red Scare is the product of a fading downtown scene that no longer provides either a sense of exciting place and zeitgeist, viable artistic careers, or much cultural relevance, despite desperate attempts to keep it going. (Funnily enough, one person who I know who loved their provocation [the picture with Alex Jones] is an aging habitué of this downtown bohemia.) Their idol is Camille Paglia and their highest aspiration seems to be to be guests on Bill Maher, figures that belong to the 1990s cultural pantheon.

This sort of contradictory comportment is an easy trap to fall into as a writer or academic who feels at the mercy of a precarious marketplace long bled dry by the long-term comfortable, and Ganz sympathetically distills this experience in his post as well. He writes:

It is possible to make a living, even to be quite successful and gain a degree of fame or intellectual legitimacy and recognition in mediums like podcasts and newsletters, but the threat of irrelevance and obscurity hangs over the cultural producer and the need to publicize, to reach new publics and markets is ever-present. We are sort of cultural small-owners or shopkeepers, and a kind of proletarianization can be the result of a failure to distinguish ourselves: either in the form of real destitution or, just as likely, being swallowed up in the indifferent Grub Street crowd of scribblers, bloggers, podcasters, the relative losers in the struggle for recognition. So it’s imperative to constantly beat home the point that “we” are the really interesting, radical dissenting voices, and “they” are the conformists and cowards. Or that “we” are among the wits and “they” among the pedants, etc.

It is telling, for me at least, that in burning a few bridges over the last few years, this is precisely the line that has been expressed to me. Over the last two years, I’ve had many people declare their disappointment in me, having thought I was a more “original thinker”, more “heterodox”, more “open-minded”. I have outed myself as a cowardly conformist, apparently, in publicly rejecting the online edgelord crowd, who used to be friends or casual interlocutors, instead affirming my left-wing politics with a new militancy.

I don’t mean to make this all about me and the wars I’ve waged, however. I am simply struck by this post, linked on an article about the vulgar definition of accelerationism, that actually resonates deeply with my experiences online in the accelerationist blogosphere over the last four or five years. From this vantage point, there is a clear cross-over between a new breed of online reactionary and the sort of para-academic space that the original accelerationist blogosphere grew out of. But that’s not to suggest that there is, all of a sudden, nothing worth fighting for. On the contrary, for many of us who retain an interest in “accelerationism” and its history, what we despise as much as this flattened, vulgar accelerationism is the vulgar politics and content production of many people who used to be considered allies in the blogosphere. That the two are related is something of a belated epiphany, and unsurprising in hindsight, but it is interesting to see that someone is at least sketching out this cultural shift rather than tarring everyone and every usage with the same uselessly broad brush.

This is exciting and also quite unnerving. It opens up the possibility of finally having a real conversation about what happened to accelerationism and the way that political thought, outside the mainstream, has sought to address the issues we all face. But it also brings certain issues, like the Christchurch shooting of 2019, terrifyingly closer to home.

Indeed, the Christchurch shooting remains the event that changed everything. The blogosphere was never the same after that. It was an act that felt so utterly alien to our principles. This was not a kind of Gramscian revolution of cultural acceleration but instead an explosion of terroristic violence. That had nothing to do with us. But Ganz, most troublingly, makes some connections here as well.

In describing the various factions of edgelords and contrarians who have driven a (neo)reactionary “post-left” tendency online in recent years, Ganz suggests that

Some of these people are roughly associated with what I … call the Sorelian Left, or anti-dreyfusard left, and [what I have] at [other] times called Bohemian criticism.

Here, Ganz links to an earlier post of his entitled “Gramscians vs. Sorelians”, in which he quotes Jacob Siegel — citation needed; I’d be interested to the source — who has apparently asserted that “The American Right has left its Gramscian period and entered its Sorelian Period.” Ganz interprets this to mean “that the Right is no longer seeking hegemony over cultural and political institutions, like it pursued during most of the history of the conservative movement, but has now shifted to a model of political action centered on myth and the redemptive power of violence.” But this right-wing nonetheless often finds itself aligned to what he calls the “Sorelian left”.

This is a reference to the French theory Georges Sorel, who wrote, in his controversial work Reflections on Violence, that violence was itself an act of creation. It is a thought that is common to many leftist and, indeed, explicitly Marxist philosophies — Maoism most infamously. On the surface, it is an obvious point. You can’t create the new without first destroying the old. But beyond that, Sorel is also addressing the general disassociation of violence from political struggle. It is a sentiment we are familiar with every time violence does erupt in the streets, often with wildly divergent results and subject to wildly different responses. Violence employed by the state or its “representatives”, for instance — both actual and symbolic; I’m thinking here of the thin line between Derek Chauvin and Kyle Rittenhouse — is excused and legitimated at every turn, whereas violence employed against the state is always utterly unconscionable.

Sorel considered how “an ethics of violence” was still integral to any future revolution and also how this violence had to be buoyed by a certain “myth”; a story that led people to their goals. Though we’ve already referenced Simon O’Sullivan’s research into myth0functions — which, I should add, just to be clear, has no violent orientation — I’m further reminded of Schelling, for whom “mythological representations have been generated not with the intent to assert or teach something, but rather only in order to satisfy a (of course, at first incomprehensible) poetic drive for invention.” Myths are the kind of grand speculations that inspire and drive us to act. They are generative myths, rather than restrictive myths — for example, like a parable.

For Sorel, the galvanising myth of the proletariat was the idea of a “general strike”. As Ganz explains:

The Sorelian left has as its “myth” the notion of a spontaneous revolt against the system by the alienated mass of American workers. Anything suggestive of that revolt is potentially or actually legitimate. This Sorelian left can’t accept the official, liberal account of the riots as something deplorable or dangerous; it has to find within it some kernel of virtuous behavior and just regrets that the energy was not directed in a slightly different direction.

There is, of course, a counter to the “official, liberal account” of not just riots but collective action in general. Consider a phenomenon like Live 8, for example — Bob Geldoff’s vanity festival to end world poverty. Mark Fisher wrote about Live 8’s impotence and its reliance on a neutered version of the general strike myth, transformed into a kind of “libidinal fallacy”, because it removes the “strike” element and any violent connotations that the word might harbour. Fisher writes:

It is not that Live 8 is a ‘degraded’ form of protest. On the contrary, it [is] in Live 8 that the logic of the Protest is revealed in its purest form. The Protest impulse of the 60s posited a Malevolent Father, the harbinger of a Reality Principle that (supposedly) cruelly and arbitrarily denies the ‘right’ to total enjoyment. This Father has unlimited access to resources, but he selfishly — and senselessly — hoards them. Yet it is not capitalism but Protest itself which depends upon this figuration of the Father. It goes without saying that the psychological origins of this imagery lie in the earliest phases of infancy. The hippies’ bucolic imagery and ‘dirty Protest’ — filth as a rejection of adult grooming — both originate in the ‘unlimited demands’ of the infant. A consequence of the infant’s belief in the Father’s omnipotence is the conviction that all suffering could be eliminated if only the Father wished it. (In terms of Live 8: if only those 8 men yield to our demands, all poverty could be eliminated forever!) The demand for total enjoyment is actually pretty indiscriminate: the Protest could just easily be against war (bummer maaaan) or against being charged for going into a festival (hey, breadheadzzzzzzz, don’t be heaveeeee….)

It is important, if provocative, to insert Mark Fisher into things again at this point, as this sort of libidinal fallacy was precisely what he and the original blogosphere wanted to challenge in the 2000s. Protest had been detached from any notion of class struggle or post-capitalist imagination. This was Alain Badiou’s argument also, who argued that any notion of a Sorelian left — although he does not make reference to Sorel, to my knowledge — was dead. This was made readily apparent in the aftermath of Occupy. The left was infatuated with the idea of destroying the old, but was no incapable of generating the new, he argued. This is a point I’ve emphasised repeatedly over the last year, and for multiple reasons — the central one being that, rather than this supposedly Sorelian imperative being a hangover from Nick Land’s once-promiscuous politics, it was directly influenced by Alain Badiou’s increased popularity as his work was widely translated into English during the 2000s. A large part of Badiou’s thought was concerned with the establishment of a new leftist militancy and, indeed, a re-problematizing of our understanding of violence in the midst of the War on Terror.

There is an excellent essay here by Mwenda L. W. Kailemia, which summarises these issues very succinctly. In short, our contemporary understanding of what “terrorism” is comes from the immediate aftermath of 9/11, but we should remain vigilant to how restrictive and ill-fitting this understanding is — because of, for example, how it is broadly racialised and how it is used, particularly in the context of the “War on Terror”, to obfuscate the terroristic violence perpetuated by states themselves. This suggestion was understandably controversial in the mid-2000s, and it remains so today.

Kailemia remarks that, although

there is broad agreement that terrorism involves the use of violence to achieve political ends, what is political — or for that matter, violent — is itself the subject of debate. As Zizek posits: Is ‘structural’ violence, for example the destruction of ecosystems by dumping of toxic waste, or rising child poverty from deliberate shrinkage of the welfare state, any less violent than a gun attack? The point here is: Contextual constraints can make it difficult to analyse, much less to ascribe meanings to terrorism.

Such is the problem with most contemporary analyses of accelerationism. And indeed, if there was a pervasive sense, from the Christchurch shooting onwards (if not before), that the new right has transitioned from a Gramscian to a Sorelian politics, many in the accelerationist blogosphere were busy theorising this for themselves, explicitly from the left.

It is for this reason that Ganz gesturing towards a “Sorelian left” further piqued my interest, as Sorel was a figure that many in the U/Acc blogosphere were researching at one time or another over the last few years as well, particularly Ed Berger and Vincent Garton. When inaugurating his new blog, for instance, Ed announced that Sorel was someone who he wanted to look at further, in terms that are clearly aligned with the non-vulgar definition of accelerationism:

There’s a tendency in Marxism that looks at the nonlinear connection between class struggle and the technological side of economic development. Marx notes this repeatedly, particularly in the first volume of Capital, and it appears later in Georges Sorel’s Reflections on Violence, where he proposes that the cessation of class struggle has led [to[ technological and economic ‘decadence’. A more concrete form appears in the studies of Italian workerists like Raniero Panzieri and Mario Tronti, who theorized a give-and-take between class struggle and the technologies and techniques developed by capital to break and/or route around it. A complimentary analysis comes from world-system theorists like Beverly Silver, who emphasize the connection between organized struggle and the spatial reconfiguration of capital. I hope to dive more into these theories in the coming months, which seem like a natural compliment to work on the tendency for the rate of profit to fall—though I’ve yet to see these two really get put into alignment.

Ed promised and further delivered in a number of posts that I highly recommend to anyone who has made it this far. In a post titled “Repetition, Innovation, Class War”, for example, Ed responds to some of my own burgeoning research on Badiouian accelerationism by discussing in more detail many of the figures mentioned above. In conclusion, he writes that this turn to a Sorelian politics arguably makes sense today for both sides of politics, precisely because the resentment felt by Third Republic reactionaries, who were left resentful in the face of the diminishing opportunities of the cultural sphere, is today (to varying degrees) felt by us all. This is because this resentment has been generalised by the post-Fordist turn, Ed argues, which was constituted by “the destruction of labor, but … also served to undercut the vital driver of development itself.” It is worth emphasising, however, that there is nothing to suggest that post-leftist edgelordism or violent white supremacy are inevitable responses to this situation. In fact, they are abjectly improper responses, that enflame our tendency to destroy the old, but further highlight our inability to generate the new. As Ed continues:

The formless nebula of the eternal now, with its soft technocracy and vicious cycles of modulation and incremental, mostly pointless change, is the poisoned condition created by this trap. To escape it—which is the precondition for the realization of the new—turns about on the re-activation of the impossible class war, and the rekindling of the transvaluation on the horizon.

This “transvaluation” of values is, one could argue, increasingly visible today. But is is also distinctly absent from the post-left and the new right. On the contrary, whether related to gender essentialism or white supremacy, the most visible and vulgar forms of Sorelian politics are fundamentally miserablist and reactionary today, because they are trapped in what Vince Garton calls a kind of “aesthetic desperation: the search for the smallest piece of beautiful scrap, the most vanishing hint of a serious ideology, that has not yet been brutally subsumed, commoditised, disenchanted, and ground to dust.” (Hence my problem with certain interpretations of Mark Fisher that declare him a transcendental miserablist, emphasising his hauntological writings whilst ignoring the psychedelic collorary of his accelerationist turn.)

If there is a future for accelerationism, it remains here. Though we might, with all of the above in mind, argue that there is more of a developed connection between a vulgar and aesthetic accalerationism — a Gramsican-Sorelian accelerationism?; or perhaps just a Gramscian one, since Gramsci himself was inspired by Sorel in the first place — just because some edgelords and racists woke up and chose violence, doesn’t mean the answer to the perennial question of “what is to be done?” remains a foregone conclusion. In fact, from the midst of the pandemic, the problems that arose in the aftermath of the financial crash have only been further compounded by the last two years.

As Alex Williams argued in 2008:

In the bending of all history against that impassable perimeter of the Postmodern terminus even radical leftism is fundamentally a mere shuffling of a pre-existing deck of possibilities, hopeless, haunted, an echo, homeless, nostalgic. It must be feared that for as long as it is thus the left remains incapable of defeating the status quo, or achieving much beyond the establishment of briefly extant semi-autonomous zones, all-too rapidly snuffed out.

Something must be still done. The heinous actions of others must not stop us from considering what that is. As Benjamin Noys wrote on Facebook following the Christchurch shooting: “while trivial in the face of the horror of that act, which is so despicable, not allowing this ‘chaos’ to spread into all our signifiers is something.”

Elections on Acid:
Notes on Boric and the Left for T+U

As was recently reported, I was beamed into Trafó Gallery in Budapest last night, speaking about and riffing on the content of T+U’s latest zine, “ACID”. Due to network connectivity issues, I prerecorded my spiel and was shone out, Videodrome-style, as cathode rays. Below is a transcript of what I said, discussing “acid” in Mark Fisher’s work and the recent victory of Gabriel Boric in Chile’s 2021 presidential election.

A few days ago, on December 19th, left-wing presidential candidate Gabriel Boric was elected as President of Chile, defeating the pro-Pinochet far-right candidate José Antonio Kast. It was a joy to watch, even from afar. But there is a certain melancholy to it too, of course. Over here in Europe, the left have arguably gotten used to cheering on the successes of our comrades in Latin America and a few other progressive pockets around the world, whilst our own political situations continue to stagnate, as the slow and steady rise of the right-wing continues apace.

But I was struck when Caja Negra Editora, the Spanish-language publisher of Mark Fisher’s works, highlighted a tweet on their Instagram posted by Boric in 2018, in which he quotes from Mark Fisher’s 2009 book Capitalist Realism.

This appearance on the timeline of a future president says a great deal about Fisher’s continuing influence and reach, but to see his work travel this far has nonetheless been a strange experience in recent years.

Mark Fisher is arguably one of Britain’s best known socialist exports today, with Capitalist Realism having been translated into a dozen languages. But for a writer so quintessentially British, who often paid closer attention to his own backyard than any explicitly international movement, his international renown is no less surprising. This is not to say that Fisher’s growing international reputation is undeserved, but it nonetheless makes me think: what is it about this writer, from a country that has had very little success advancing a progressive agenda in recent decades, that resonates with so many around the world?

What Boric and countless others find in Fisher isn’t explicit advice or electoral strategy but the confidence and consciousness necessary to seize a moment. This seems to be what resonated with Boric in 2018. In his tweet, he notes how he is “very much in agreement” with Fisher’s comments on the future of the left, written a decade previously. The highlighted passage from Capitalist Realism reads as follows:

The failure of previous forms of anti-capitalist political organization should not be a cause for despair, but what needs to be left behind is a certain romantic attachment to the politics of failure, to the comfortable position of a defeated marginality. The credit crisis is an opportunity — but it needs to be treated as a tremendous speculative challenge, a spur for a renewal that is not a return. As Badiou has forcefully insisted, an effective anti-capitalism must be a rival to Capital, not a reaction to it; there can be no return to pre-capitalist territorialities. Anti-capitalism must oppose Capital’s globalism with its own, authentic, universality.

I have been told that Chileans themselves have a complex relationship to this tweet. They say that, at the time, Boric’s actions did not necessarily reflect the sentiment expressed in this passage. Regardless, that this argument might resonate with Chilean leftists in general is hardly surprising. What Fisher describes is a reality that Britain has barely known, but Chile has. The spectre of Allende lingers not as a symbol of past failure but of a repression to be defied in the here and now.

By way of another example, here in the UK the “failure” of Jeremy Corbyn cannot be explained without reference to a fierce media campaign and persistent undermining from the right of his own party. However, this was also not a coup facilitated by the US military. And yet, Chilean politics does not seem to have been defined by a sense of return to the Seventies or the lionising of Allende as a martyr at the expense of all contemporary progress, as some could argue has been a tendency in some corners of the UK. From the outside, it seems there is a sense of renewal — renewed resistance and renewed confidence that seems very much of this moment.

This sentiment is important when we talk about the politics of “acid”. In fact, I think it is arguably the most important association to excavate from Fisher’s “Acid Communism”. When we think about the cultural associations of this word, particularly those related to hallucinogenic drugs, we need to bear in mind what constitutes an acid trip, a psychedelic experience, even in the most generic terms. For example, what does it mean to do something “on acid” (even as a joke)? We might answer this question with reference to Vice’s recurring gonzo video series where they send reporters to events whilst high on LSD. The appeal for us as viewers is that we get to watch someone experience an event that is, in the grand scheme of things, mundane and inconsequential. But to participate “on acid” is to hack the mundane, experiencing it with a new intensity, a new joy, to intentionally see it through a new perspective, to experience the mundane with a new curiosity and a new sensitivity.

This was Fisher’s argument in Capitalist Realism as well. A few lines down from the section quoted by Boric in his tweet, we find Fisher insisting that

Nothing is inherently political; politicization requires a political agent which can transform the taken-for-granted into the up-for-grabs. If neoliberalism triumphed by incorporating the desires of the post 68 working class, a new left could begin by building on the desires which neoliberalism has generated but which it has been unable to satisfy.

This is the attraction of doing things on acid. It affectively transforms the taken-for-granted, fulfilling desires that reality as usual gets nowhere near to quenching — a desire for joy and for the new.

This sort of psychedelic experience can be found in lots of places. In fact, we might argue that Boric deployed it in his own presidential campaign. In a viral video encouraging people to vote from earlier this year, the president-elect is rendered along with various farmhouse animals, as if in the Unreal Engine, combining traditional Chilean music in the Andes mountains and postmodern YouTube poop.

The surreality is abundant, and we might describe it as psychedelic at a stretch, but what defines this video is not just its weirdness but the joy that oozes out of every manic CGI frame. It is surreality deployed to bring joy to the idea of a new political reality.

This is a sentiment that Mark had been exploring for years. But he rarely did so with any explicit reference to drugs, because drugs are all too temporary. In fact, momentary escapes, chemically instantiated, are something we already have in abundance. We need something more than that. We need the wholesale rejuvenation of consciousness, based on joy and reasoning that, like the acid trip, may appear wholly other to our prevailing pessimistic reality, to capitalist realism. But unlike acid, this transformation is based on the negation of the world around us, not simply an aesthetic or affective escape from its clutches.

This is an important point because, if anything, it is capitalist realism that is the hallucination — a bad trip that never ends. As the Vice journalist notes from the back of a cab, driving through the streets of New York, doing acid in the city isn’t that fun. What you become more attuned to is the semioblitz of capitalist realism. But you also don’t need acid to experience that intensity. It is woven into the fabric of every day life. Under capitalist realism, Fisher wrote that

Work and life become inseparable. Capital follows you when you dream. Time ceases to be linear, becomes chaotic, broken down into punctiform divisions. As production and distribution are restructured, so are nervous systems.

But the paradox is that, just as our waking lives and dreams have been colonised, we still possess the ability to live and dream differently.

As wishy-washy as this adage might sound, there are various programs at work here with a lot of precedence. Jeremy Gilbert, for instance, also quoted in the Acid zine, writes about meditation and mindfulness as a way to retrain the mind and step outside of capitalist realism. The “fundamental ‘fetter’ from which the practice of meditation is supposed to free us”, he writes, “is ‘self-view’: the mistaken belief in the permanence and consistency of our individual selves.” He appeals to Eastern mysticism as one way through it, but we must also heed this tendency towards New Age Orientalism. In truth, there are practices for generating similar ends made available throughout culture. That the hippies have the monopoly on overcoming the self is a misnomer, not least because the atomised self figures so large in their practices.

Fisher also wrote against Romantic appraisals that placed too much emphasis on interiority. For example, in 2004 he wrote:

What is important, Romantics convince themselves, is what we feel (with feeling explicitly opposed to thought and action). The true reality of ourselves lies ‘inside’, in the interior, the phenomenological. Somehow, this alleged interior is to be thought of as absolutely independent of its material substrate. […] This faith is alive today in what passes for Philosophy in university depts in the deeply anti-rational ‘qualia cult’ that deifies human consciousness as some ineffable mystery which, it is said, neurology will never be able to explain. This is mysticism, not philosophy.

What’s interesting about Fisher’s approach to psychedelia is that it grounds itself in already accessible practices, that needn’t rely on some quasi-appropriative journey outwards into other cultures but rather grounds itself on practices common to us all. He turns not to mysticism but philosophy and psychoanalysis for the material substrate to place front and centre. And key to this practice is writing itself. Writing, more than any drug, was Fisher’s method of escape and contemplation.

He once argued as much in an old blogpost entitled “Psychedelic Reason”:

Folks have asked me recently how I am able to write so much.

The answer is that it isn’t me who’s writing.

Modesty? Metaphor? Or (lol) post-structuralism?

No. A strictly technical desciption of how this body has been used as a meat puppet for channeling uttunul signal.

It’s only when the writing is bad that ‘I’ have produced it. When it’s good ‘I’ am just a space through which Lemuria speaks.

The writing is already assembled on the plane and all ‘I’ can do is bodge it by introducing subjectivist fuzz.

It is writing that provides a way out of his own head. It is writing that allows him to dream awake. It is writing that unsettles the illusionary bounds of the self.

It reminds me of Jean-Paul Sartre writing about Jean Genet. Fisher thought Sartre was a bit of a joke. He couldn’t rely on writing alone, which was too often supplemented by amphetamines, allowing him to write such enormous and often quite impotent books. But Sartre nonetheless recognises the power of writing out of yourself in others.

He describes Genet as a narcissistic writer at first, who writes through his navel and out of a preoccupation with himself and his own strange life, so often derailed by mischief and crime. But this is precisely what makes Genet’s writing so hallucinatory. Sartre writes how he

writes in the state of a dream and, in order to consolidate his dreams, dreams that he writes, then writes that he dreams, and then the act of writing awakens him. The consciousness of the world is a local awakening within the fantasy; he awakes without ceasing to dream. Let us follow him in these various phases of his metamorphoses.

Genet writes his way out of the underworld. His writing, quite literally, transforms him. If he is like Narcissus, it is not just as a narcissist but also a kind of narcotic. As the Acid zine makes clear, the stigma of using narcotics doesn’t really come from its impact on society but its impact on the individual. Genet, and countless other writers like him, find themselves in tension in this way. They are intoxicated by the self as much as their writing is a detox from the self. This sort of two-pronged gesture is essential.

But writing is not some sort of supreme medium in this regard. We might turn to any other creative endeavour. The point is perhaps that culture is key. Culture is how we dream awake. But culture is not somehow separate from politics.

In recent days, the backlash against Boric has already begun. Now in the public eye, he has been teased in many innocuous but telling ways. Because he is young, because he has tattoos, because he has a clear interest in popular culture, he has be ridiculed as the “podcast president”. But as Fisher wrote, pop culture is

a terrain of struggle rather than a dominion of capital. The relationship between aesthetic forms and politics was unstable and inchoate — culture [doesn’t] just “express” already existing political positions, it also anticipate[s] a politics-to-come…

At this point, Fisher is speaking in the past tense. He is talking about the counterculture of the Sixties and Seventies, but there is also a melancholy aside, as he suggests that, “too often”, a poltiics-to-come is “a politics that never actually arrived”.

But in Chile, something has arrived. Is it, in Fisher’s words, a successful and psychedelic “attempt to converge with, intensify, and politicize the most challenging and exploratory dimensions of popular culture”? We shall have to wait and see, but Boric’s intent is clear nonetheless. He is ringing the death knell of neoliberalism. If Chile was where neoliberalism was born, it is where it will also die, he has said. That declaration, to move Chile out of this political stagnancy, into a post-neoliberal world that is radically other, is a clear gesture towards an acid politics, a psychedelic Chile, that experiences itself with a new joy and a new intensity.

An Adoptee’s Anchor

I’m 30 on Sunday and struggling with the thought of it.

Birthdays are awful as an adoptee — at least, they are for me. I dread them every year and, even when I’m not consciously thinking about it, I feel my mood grow dark and my desire to hide away grow stronger.

I’ve been talking about grief a lot in the lead up to it, not least the ways I’ve explore grief intellectually these last few years. Why I’m so interested in it, so fixated on it? What was it about Mark Fisher’s death that became such an intense experience to immerse myself in and try to understand? It was as if, in feeling so deeply for Mark, I came closer than ever to some otherwise ineffable thing I’d never been able to touch or articulate.

To be an adoptee often feels like being born in grief, or even born of grief. But it is a grief that is detached from memory or experience or knowledge. It is felt but never really “known”. Not consciously, except until you’re older.

I was thinking about this really vivid memory I have from childhood: lying in bed, utterly distraught, wailing like a widow, thinking about the death of my adoptive parents. They came into my room and we had the conversation that many children have had with their parents when they try to wrestle with the concept of death. It’s dramatized in films and TV shows all the time.

“Are you going to die, mummy?”

“Yes, probably, but not for a very, very long time.”

And for most children, that’s the end of it. There is a quizzical acceptance that this abstract notion is not something for them to worry about right now. Some notion of an experience that cannot touch parents in their godlike stature within your tiny life. But I think my distress came from an intuitive sense of the gravity of death. I already knew what it would be like for them to be gone, to never see them again. I somehow knew that feeling already and, as a result, the thought of going through it again was too much to bear.

I think they were puzzled. Why was I this upset about some hypothetical that I had never experienced? I’d never lost a pet or known someone who had died. But I had lost a mother, in those first few weeks of life, and though I had no memory or knowledge of that experience, I nonetheless felt it immensely.

An adoptee’s birthday feels like that. It’s a voided anniversary. Birthdays are anchors for all of us, giving us a sense of ourselves as we revolve around the sun. But for an adoptee, a birthday is a horrific anchor that hangs around your neck. You feel the weight of it and feel all too keenly the abyss it has been dropped into. To tug at it, once a year, is to feel how dark and cold it is down there, in the depths, at the origin, where nothing is known and loss is all there is.