It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything on patchwork. Years, in fact. But I still occasionally get messages or tweets that ask for an updated missive on the topic.
I’ve generally got no interest in ever supplying one. At this point, I feel much the same way about patchwork as I do about accelerationism. It was such a complicated moment in the recent history of the blogosphere, with so many possible offshoots and points of interest, that in the end, for my own sanity, I have just stopped caring about its latest mutations, and for the last few years have instead made attempts to boil the whole thing back and cut off the chaff to return to a long-obscured essence.
As such, the only way to think about patchwork or accelerationism these days is reductively. On the face of it, that doesn’t sound that great or intellectually adventurous or whatever, but I have seen too many minds lost to the sheer abundance of possible adaptations over the years. The multiplication of resonances helped no-one, and too many people seemed to catch brainworms by proxy with Nick Land. (I nearly did myself, and I’m grateful to my friends who consistently challenged some of my more manic bullshit in 2018.)
In the end, this persistent fragmentation only assisted with the (re)entry of reactionary alternatives to a thought that was being actively fought over in the years leading up to Trump’s election.
In many ways, it was like Brexit. Prior to Brexit becoming a reality, there were plenty of discussions on the left that were openly critical of the European Union and even advocated for a kind of “Lexit”. But once it was clear that this major change in our political landscape would be the responsibility of conservatives and reactionaries alone, there was no possible “lexit” worth fighting for. It became something to resist, if only to maintain a prior space of possibility that was rapidly being shuttered by an establishment that insisted it was the new punk.
If patchwork politics continued to interest me personally post-Brexit, it was because I felt (and, to be honest, still do feel) there are dormant potentials lying in wait in any future geopolitical fragmentation. In the UK especially, Scottish independence, Welsh independence, Northern independence are still movements that I find interesting, and patchwork itself (as a product of a Silicon Valley blogosphere) remained relevant because it was a thought that was attuned to the cutting edge of technological innovation and which sought to intervene in such spaces that have long been the preserve of Randians and the like. The purpose was always to enter into this conversation and try to inject (or otherwise uncover) some genuinely progressive ideas into their neoreactionary foundations.
But at a certain point, when the undecidability of these movements and moments was eventually closed off by a hardening of right-wing power and neoliberal priorities — with a few significant contributors to the discourse even shamelessly trading in their intellectual explorations in order to grift for the enemy — it no longer seemed productive to make arguments in that space specifically. So I stopped.
But that has not stopped the cycle of diminishing returns from continuing anyway.
To return to accelerationism, we can see the fallout of this trajectory continuing apace even now. Take the recent manifesto for an “effective accelerationism”, which has been doing the rounds of Twitter — a supposedly “accelerationist” retooling of “effective altruism” (a bold move considering how its source material has been so widely ridiculed lately).
After everyone had fun laughing at it a few weeks back, Nick Land endorsed it. But all the more reason, for me at least, to go back to the moment “accelerationism” was born — not the 1990s but in 2008 — in order to take heed of and reaffirm Alex Williams’ warning: capital is not the accelerant; “in its present form [it] is incapable of delivering anything but inertia”. Having too much faith in the process, even if we can make it sound cool and Lovecraftian, leads to little but a “dark/banal fall into mere neo-liberalism”. If the theoretical petri dish of the Nineties was to have any continuing relevance for the problem of a postcapitalist desire, which should be at the very core of any accelerationism worth its salt, then it remains necessary we think as follows:
Though we might wish to create a system which has had done with judgement, to ground the praxis (and here we return to the “sticky” issue of agency) necessary to arrive at this state requires the illegitimate use of the very devices the praxis seeks to erase.
An “effective accelerationism” will, ironically, be deeply ineffective in this regard, since it forgets this core tenet altogether, making it an “Emperor’s New Clothes” manifesto for a movement long since twisted beyond all theoretical recognition (even if it retains some Landian aesthetic markers and stylisations.)
Ultimately, no new accelerationism has been worth engaging with for years. The “dark/banal fall into mere neo-liberalism” has been as dark and banal as predicted. Indeed, this was already understood to be Land’s trajectory almost 15 years ago, and he has followed it oh so predictably. His approval today is no badge of honour. It only confirms the most obvious critiques of e/acc: it is the most pointless manifesto going; a hip bill in praise of the status quo.
(My take on this, restricted to Twitter, was grumpy and wholly uninterested in any sort of debate. That same day, however, I happened to bump into Pete Wolfendale in the pub — who has long been one of the best commentators on accelerationism — and he later sent over his review of William MacAskill’s What We Owe the Future, which can easily be extended to the half-baked Twitter aestheticization of this same approach in e/acc.)
Suffice it to say, it’s hard to stay interested in accelerationism these days. I still have half a book draft chronicling its rise and fall, from 2008 to 2019, that I might get finished one day. (I was also interviewed for a TV documentary about accelerationism earlier this year, along with a host of other very interesting people who’ve written about it at length and genuinely extended its proposals, but I’m not allowed to talk about that yet.) But as far as I’m concerned, there is no active movement worth investing in today. All that is left to do with accelerationism is argue in favour of a better historiographic approach and a proper archiving of the debate to date. But even then, I doubt it will stop the persistently diminishing returns.
If that’s how I feel about accelerationism at present, patchwork is even less present on my mind. Though it grew out of accelerationist debates, it was always a needlessly difficult uphill climb. I’m aware that I failed to convince many people of its potentials, outside a constant stream of impressionable blog spelunkers, and that is because, on reflection, the approach was all wrong from the start. In taking its lead from a neoreactionary obsession with “exit” and trying to change course, the patchwork discourse was doomed to fail, because it could never fully separate itself from and make something positive of its own critique.
It was an approach that failed because it did not contend with the myriad other debates in twentieth-century political philosopher (and more recently) that were having a far more developed version of this conversation than anyone in orbit of Mencius Moldbug was remotely capable of.
It is the same problem with accelerationism today. Though I can (and do) try to affirm Alex Williams’ always initially post-Landian reading, the problem of the post- is that it always remains tied to the thing it hopes to get beyond. And so accelerationism, as a contemporary and much-needed challenge to Land, has always ended up deferring back to his thoughts on the topic, despite the fact accelerationism, in its first instance, no longer saw him as particularly useful in the present.
Patchwork, on this blog, suffered from similar problems. It was always post-Moldbuggian, but as a result, it never shook off its Moldbuggian baggage. It was a conversation that would have been better served starting from another entry point entirely.
It is also worth mentioning the other dramas that were going on at that time, which were never sufficiently recorded in the online record. The death knell of patchwork discourse was undoubtedly rung by Justin Murphy, with his contribution to what was otherwise a really interesting series of events run in Prague doing little but piss people off and undermine the positive investment in another way of approaching patchwork as a twenty-first problem. Indeed, it derailed much of the discussion on the day in question, prefiguring a lot of “effective altruism” debates had more recently and setting a cat among the pigeons that proved to me more of an unnecessary distraction than anything productively provocative.
I’m not sure how well the video linked above records the discontent in hindsight, but on the ground in Prague it was reported that many people walked out, and objections to Murphy’s reactionary talk smothered any potential for a productive panel at the end of the event and wholly overshadowed the more interesting presentations given by others. It was a truly decisive moment, turning a lot of people off the topic, as well as making Murphy’s reactionary turn obvious to a lot more people, who decided they had no time for debating something he was involved with.
Essentially, the very thing that many were trying to intervene within and challenge was welcomed back by Murphy via his increasing platform, and what followed was a load of entryism that made a lot of interesting interventions up to that point seem moot. The challenges and heterodox thinking around patchwork and its more radical political potentials were driven out by an influx of people that no one had any sort of time for.
The discourse died a death soon after, and the ripple effect left a real gouge in the blogosphere as a whole thereafter. Cave Twitter — a Slack group that effectively revitalised the blogosphere, although it was later taken up as a generalised hashtag that a lot of random people put in their Twitter bios — was fragmented and basically disbanded. It was a real shame. The Slack only existed as a secretive enclave following a similar breakdown in relations amongst what was then known as #RhettTwitter, which was similarly overrun by reactionaries, and Murphy’s turn towards an NRx grift seemed to suggest history was about to repeat itself.
Forever stubborn, I kept writing about these things for sometime afterwards, until it became clear that the meatspaces my writing had gotten me invited to were increasingly populated by neoreactionaries and, at one pub meet in North London, a card-carrying Nazi. Online disagreements seeped into real life and I began to largely keep to myself because Twitter had started to have a negative impact on my mental heath anyway and I didn’t want it to take over my life offline either. (Nina Power remains a cautionary tale for what happens when the line blurs.) I drew a much harder line in the sand for myself not long after; I probably should have drawn it a lot sooner.
Fast forward a few years, however, and I can’t say I’ve fully stopped thinking about patchwork and the politics of exit/egress. In fact, their real life significance has actually become more pronounced post-Covid. After moving to Newcastle and more openly identifying as queer, changing my wardrobe to something that makes me feel more comfortable in a non-binary gender identity, I’ve come to realise the importance of a decisive exit from certain spaces.
I’ve discussed this with a lot of queer friends. A few months back, I had a strange night out in Newcastle that saw me traversing an eclectic number of spaces. I attended a noise gig at the Lubber Fiend, emitting big dyke energy in a hard-shouldered suit jacket and pleated skirt. It’s a mode of dress that I find personally very affirming. There is no getting away from the fact I’m 6″4′ in boots and look like a giant goth, but adding a softer edge to my wardrobe signals an inner truth that has long been discounted by myself and others. And nowhere is that sort of fashion statement more at home than a noise gig.
But afterwards, the night was young. A few friends and I headed out into the centre of Newcastle, but in navigating the crowds of regular drinkers, I have never felt more vulnerable. Waiting outside a takeaway with a cigarette as friends bought chips, I found myself been looked at and openly gestured towards and felt genuinely afraid for my safety after realising I was no longer in a safe space where I could express myself without qualm or question.
Talking to friends about this later, who were far more used to this kind of experience, the remedy to calm my nerves was obvious. Don’t go back. Restrict yourself to spaces where you can be yourself. Exit the normalised “club” environment, rife as it already is with sexual harassment and lairy lads. There’s no need to go there. Curate a new environment that is decidedly queer and where the risk of any encounter with someone not sympathetic to those experiences and forms of life is reduced to an absolute minimum. It turns out it is quite an easy thing to do. But it is a conscious reorientation of one’s relationship to public space.
This realisation was new to be only given its context. After all, many of the original patchwork debates were explicitly concerned with an exit not just from an established political landscape but also a tech-bro arena. In 2018, I wrote two posts on this, one of which is still regularly shared and cited: “Patchwork from the Left” and “The Ethics of Exit”.
In the former, I wrote the following in response to a critique from a fellow blogger who (understandably) could not see past patchwork’s reactionary beginnings and saw “unconditional accelerationism” as retaining too many Landian propositions:
… calling patchwork, as this blog has been formulating it, a “Landian unconditional accelerationist utopianism” betrays an ignorance of U/Acc contentions with (present day) Land and its distinct lack of any kind of end-game utopianism. Granted, this is a criticism of U/Acc more generally and one that has yet to be sufficiently addressed. In my view, what patchwork shares with the “unconditional” is that it is not preloaded with any particular rigid utopianism. It is a flinging open of all doors, allowing the outside — as multiplicity; as alternative(s) — in. For Land, yes, that “outside” is capital. For others, it’s “blackness” or “queer temporalities”. This language is not exclusively Landian and this blog does not treat it as such.
The latter post makes a similar point, albeit more pointedly:
The message of this blog has consistently been: other options are available. Solidarity without similarity. What the vision of patchwork explored on this blog emphasises is its inherent multiplicity and the example of a queer exit … is a perfect one. To socially exit into enclosed queer spaces is something that many people do for various reasons. Experiencing violence and abuse is one such reason; simply seeking a previously elusive sense of solidarity is another. It is also, we must acknowledge here, not a social isolationism. To enter a queer space is not to exit society at large. It is an attempt to find autonomy from within a larger structure. What if that larger structure, rather than being violently consolidatory and hostile to exits (of all kinds), was rather predicated on the possibilities of such fragmentations? The structure we’re apparently stuck with is so often “unjust” and all too often the intention of exit is separate from attempts to change that wider system. Activism is a large part of queer politics, for instance, but the central consideration is, generally speaking, survival. (But survival alone is, of course, not enough.)
I wrote each of these posts as a tellingly vocal ally. I have since found myself having a lot more skin in the game. And so, in this regard, my thought remains unchanged. But I also better appreciate today how pointless it is to tie such a political orientation (even critically) to the likes of Moldbug and Land.
All of this came back to my mind this week, as I’ve been reading Enrico Monacelli’s new book, The Great Psychic Outdoors, in the run-up to Christmas. It’s forthcoming on Repeater Books next year and is essentially a politically and philosophically astute history of lo-fi music. Indeed, it is sending me off down as many philosophical rabbit holes as it is sonic ones. What more can you ask for?
One particular reference that has struck me early on is to Paolo Virno’s work, and particularly his own understanding of social revolution as an “exodus”. Virno’s ideas on this topic can be most readily found in his 2015 book, The Idea of World: Public Intellect and Use of Life. (On picking it up, I have been kicking myself that I had not read it sooner, but it was only translated into English this year — coincidently, by my second PhD supervisor, Lorenzo Chiesa.)
It is a book that threads together many points of interest for the u/acc sphere. Each section of the book is concerned, in one way or another, with ethics and with our sense of our own agency. Part one explores the possibility of any ethics (and action) in relation to a cosmological view of our world, exploring the “unconditional principle” at the heart of our modern understanding of the world-without-us. Part three takes a biopolitical ethics (at once echoing Levinas, Agamben, Foucault) and gives it a more distinctly Promethean bent. Two central concerns of any worthwhile accelerationist politics, right there. Part two, however, is the most relevant here, in that is puts forward a “political theory of exodus”.
Here Virno begins from a familiar u/acc-esque position — one which routinely causes people to reject u/acc outright — antipraxis.
“Today, nothing seems so enigmatic — and unattainable — as acting”, he begins.
[T]he paralysis of acting is connected with some essential aspects of contemporary existence. It is there, close to these essential aspects, that we need to delve into — knowing that they do not amount to an unfortunate conjuncture, but to an inescapable background. In order to break the spell, it is necessary to elaborate a model of action that will enable it to feed on precisely what is now blocking it. The interdiction itself is to be transformed into a laissez-passer.
It is precisely an exit, an egress, an exodus that is to be affirmed here. Indeed, we can understand Laissez-passer as a “pass”, a “permit”… We might think of it as a kind of “hall pass”, in this regard. Playing the system to attain a period of leave, which is then exploited to play truant indefinitely. (As an aside, can we not see how this paragraph echoes perfectly Alex Williams’ post-Landian politics of a speculative realism? A “praxis [that] requires the illegitimate use of the very devices the praxis seeks to erase”?)
This truancy — particularly its seizing of a more absolute flouting of rule and law — can be directly correlated to Virno’s exodus. He writes: “I call Exodus the mass defection from the State, the alliance between general intellect and political action, and the transit towards the public sphere of the Intellect.” Indeed, Virno has a particular conception of public intellectual life — that is, a kind of common sense or shared “intellect-in-general“. He affirms the bugbear of many an activist, the separation of theory and praxis, in order to emphasise the ways that political action and its strategies can be inherently confined to the logics of the state in general.
Pure theory and pure intellect may at times feel far removed from everyday life, but such is the point of theory. It allows us to go further out, to think more radically than the playing field of political action — which so often reduced to a “political labour”, Virno argues — often allows us to. This is not to create a hierarchy between one and the other, however, as if political action is therefore lesser. Not at all. Instead, the boldness of our intellect, untethered from its “general” application, can make our actions even more radical. The two exist at a necessary distance from each other, in the sense that each goads the other out of any space of comfort, tucked alongside the modus operandi of the State and its laws.
Thus, the term [Exodus] does not at all point at a miserable existential strategy, exiting on tiptoes from the backdoor, or searching for a sheltering hole. On the contrary, what I mean by ‘exodus’ is a model of thorough action, one that is capable of confronting the ‘ultimate things’ of modern politics … today we need to delimit anew the field of common affairs.
Exodus is the foundation of a Republic. But the very idea of ‘republic’ requires a dismissal of the state system. The political action of exodus therefore consists of a resourceful withdrawal. Only those who open a way out are able to found something; but, vice versa, only those who found something manage to find the crossing that will enable them to leave Egypt.
On this point, Virno shares a common reference with many of patchwork’s reactionary adherents: Albert O. Hirschman’s 1970 work Exit, Voice and Loyalty. Indeed, Hirschman’s conception of “exit” is one of the most promiscuous parts of his theory. Virno, however, moves in a direction similar to those of us who approached patchwork from the left, echoing the “lines of flight” advocated by Deleuze and Guattari:
Nothing is less passive than flight. The ‘exit’ modifies the conditions within which the confrontation takes place, instead of presupposing them as an unmovable horizon — it changes the context in which the problem arose, instead of tackling the problem by choosing one or the other expected alternative. In short, the ‘exit’ consists in an audacious invention that alters the rules of the game and makes our adversary lose his bearings.
Silicon Valley types, like Moldbug, love this perspective. It allows them to fantasise about LARPing Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. The “resourceful withdrawal” is one of withdrawing their capital. Governments hate it when big corporations do that, choosing to operate out of tax havens, for instance, rather than “contributing” to a given state economy more directly. It is an easy way of effectuating policy and no one ever seems to pay it much mind. It’s all just corporate leveraging…
But we need only look everywhere around us right now, in the UK at least, to see how differently a “resourceful withdrawal” from below is treated. Unfairly paid and working in declining conditions, workers can withdraw their labour. But this way of changing the rules of the game is demonised far more often by the establishment, precisely because it comes from below.
Virno affirms this kind of withdrawal, harking back to his intellectual roots with Autonomia. He describes how a young workforce in 1970s Italy
contradict[ed] all expectations, preferr[ing] precariousness and part-time work over permanent jobs in large companies. Albeit only for a short time, occupational mobility functioned as a political resource, causing the eclipse of industrial discipline and permitting a certain degree of self-determination. Even in this case pre-established roles were deserted and a ‘territory’ unknown to official maps was colonized.
Of course, at a time when precariousness has been seized upon and exploited by capitalism and leveraged the other way, Virno updates this sense of exodus accordingly:
Defection is the opposite of the desperate ‘You have nothing to lose but your chains’; instead, it hinges on a latent richness, an exuberance of possibilities, and ultimately the principle of the tertium datur. But, in the post-Fordist age, what is the virtual abundance that elicits the option of flight to the detriment of the option of resistance? Evidently, what is at stake is not a spatial frontier, but an excess of knowledge, communication, and acting in concert implied by the public character of the general intellect. The act of collective imagination I call ‘defection’ gives an autonomous, affirmative, and highlighted expression to this excess, thus preventing its ‘transfer’ into the power of state Administration.
Expanding on this point, Virno takes up the concept of “Intemperance”, which he sets across from a more general “Incontinence”, both discussed in ancient ethics by the likes of Aristotle. He does so to further emphasise the exoduses afforded by a theoretical thinking that far exceeds the bounds of any kind of common sense, or what Deleuze calls “state philosophy”:
While incontinence amounts to vulgar unruliness, disregard for the laws, and giving in to the most immediate whims, Intemperance consists instead of opposing intellectual knowledge to ethical and political norms. We adopt a theoretical premise in place of a practical one as a guiding principle of action, and the consequences that follow may be extravagant and dangerous with regard to the harmony of social life. […]
Exodus finds in Intemperance its main virtue. The preliminary obligation to obedience to the State is not disregarded out of incontinence but in the name of a systematic combination of Intellect and political Action.
In order to avoid a wholesale book report, suffice it to say that Virno continues wonderfully along these lines, and I only wish I had had this book at my disposal when wading into discussions of patchwork back in 2018. Admittedly, I am fairly certain that many people did raise Virno’s work as being relevant to those discussions years ago, and whilst I certainly found much to admire in his theories of the Multitude (which likewise make an appearance in The Idea of World), I did not appreciate quite how thoroughly his work aligns with the weird leftist blogosphere of the late 2010s and likewise addresses many of the problems that we fumbled with for years in our discussions of “patchwork” and its potentials.
For instance, I came across this interview with Virno on generation online from 2002 earlier today, and I am almost certain I have quoted from it before. At one point, he is asked about the relevance of “exodus” to non-European contexts:
Do you think it’s possible to sustain this point of view of exodus in the regions of the third world such as, for example, Latin America? We ask you this because … there have been very polemical voices over the possibility of extending this thesis to contexts in which the struggles and the resistances must deal with an extreme, corrupt, and decomposed, neoliberal state, that don’t seem like the states of Western Europe. Above all was the critique of the Argentine philosopher Nicolás Casullo, that to maintain exodus, in our country, we should look not to the multitudes, but rather to the state itself.
Virno’s response speaks even more so to the peculiar political developments of the last few years, particularly Brexit and its fallout, never mind the specific state of the “first” and “third” worlds in the early 2000s. Even more interestingly, he suggests we should ignore these tantrums within the state form altogether and turn our attention to the plight of the Palestinians, which is the kind of context I always hoped “patchwork” would be able to more concretely speak to, contrary to Silicon Valley’s dreams of seasteading tax havens, etc.
It is not only an Argentine problem, also Italy or in France there exists the temptation to consider the National State as a refuge, a salvation in the face of globalization. Considering the National State as the place of possible exodus in the face of globalization, its violence, its laws. But this — in Argentina, as in France and Italy — is a complete illusion, a daydream that always run the risk of turning into a nightmare. Exodus is not nostalgic, but to consider the National State as refuge is nostalgic. Exodus is not a step back, but is rather leaving the land of the Pharaoh; the land of the Pharaoh was until one or two generations ago the National State, today it is the Global State, and the National States are like empty shells, like empty boxes and, for that, upon them is made an emotive investment but, naturally, that is very dangerous because it runs the risk of transforming sooner or later into xenophobia or, in every manner, into a rabid and subaltern attitude at the same time: rabies and subalternity together.
I want to be more clear: we shouldn’t speak more of Argentina, France or Italy, we should speak of Palestine. All of us are in Jenin. As much as you hope that the sooner a Palestinian state can be created the sooner it is possible to save lives, but in the conceptual plane I think that the creation of a new state is a disaster that would not have any power, that will have none of the prerogatives of the ancient national states: it would mean solely the fact that the prisoners, if not tortured, would be mistreated in their mother tongue, but it does not seem to me that that would be a grand conquest. The grand occasion that still was given after ten years, in the epoch of the first Intifada, was that of constructing a not necessarily statist or state-centric form of organization. All of the national states today, those that exist or those that are being founded, are the caricature, the parody of what the National State was as bearer of all rights. We all know that most of the economic, scientific research — not to speak of military — functions are in another place. I understand perfectly but it is a new form of ambivalence. Exodus is necessary but can also take a reactionary form.
It is this reactionary form that so many saw looming over us as a new leviathan in the 2010s. There was a protracted and promiscuous attempt, at that time, to retain something of Virno’s radical exodus in light of the “resourceful withdrawals” teased and threatened in the name of MAGA or Brexit, which came to dominate any kind of discussion along these lines.
I’m not sure anyone was particularly successful. I think my book Egress, for instance, attempted to deal with all the themes above, albeit implicitly without evoking the patchwork discourse that had occupied me over the years immediately prior to its publication. But the book’s subtitle and study of Mark Fisher’s work tended to pull focus in this regard. Only one person, to my mind, wrote publicly about how the book’s title gestured towards a more explicitly post-Landian sense of exit and defection, both in terms of political action and a bold theoretical thinking. That was Geoff Schullenberger in his review of Egress.
But this review always troubled me for the ways Schullenberger tries to tie my titular concept a little too closely to Hirschman, seeing it as a poor reading of “exit” that cannot do without voice, as if he is the only authority on the matter. “[I]n the end, both [myself] and Fisher seem unable to plausibly link accelerationist exit and collectivist politics”, he writes. But Schullenberger seemed far more ignorant of the lineage I was invoking than I was at that time. Indeed, I only wish I had Virno in my arsenal, as his discussion of the relationship between Exodus and the Multitude is far clearer on this. Such an argument shuts down Schullenberger’s more reactionary (if nonetheless sympathetic) reading of my book with ease. But alas, such is hindsight.
I think my next book, Narcissus in Bloom, likewise retains this thematic… It explores more explicitly the politics of representation and our powers of observation, arguing not for a complete renouncement of our ocular-centricity — if we can count our sense of “appearing” as another kind of “voice” — but rather, following Martin Jay, an “ocular-eccentricity”.
In so doing, the book affirms the tale of Narcissus not as a story of capture by the spectacle, as is suggested by the moral panic surrounding the pathology of narcissism, but rather follows Ovid’s version of the tale to its conclusion, where Narcissus transforms himself into a flower, affirming another form of life.
Narcissus is another tale of exit, in this regard. And here I take up the opportunity to consider how central Narcissus, as a figure used and abused both critically and clinically, is to queer discourses and various post-structuralist attempts to perforated the false unity of liberalism’s individual subject.
There’s no time left to shoehorn Virno into that book, though I can think of a few uses for him. And anyway, I would hate to step on Enrico’s toes. But Enrico’s use of Virno is worth returning to, with all this in mind. It really did excite me no end to see Enrico take him up in his own book on lo-fi, exploring the idea of social revolution as exodus through sonic retreats into bedrooms and home studios.
It is exciting to me if only because it is a book that I think the general reader will gobble up as enthusiastically as I did. And yet, at the same time, it is a book that wonderfully expands on discussions and debates that have occupied this part of the internet for years now. I can see the traces of certain lines of flight, with their roots in the very particular discussions had by “weird theory” Twitter for years, that were no doubt impenetrable for many on the outside. But all of those ideas are still there in Enrico’s book. They are cunningly smuggled into a topic that your average music fan will get a lot out of — in that way that Simon Reynolds and Mark Fisher long since mastered.
I think my own writing still has a tendency to be more opaque. I’m not so good at seamlessly sprinkling my philosophy over more accessible topics. It is something I would generally like to get better at, even if I secretly like the tension and challenge produced… But still, that attempt at smuggling remains and has become more pronounced for many of us who cut our teeth in the blogosphere of the late 2010s. I only wish that whose who remain enamoured with patchwork / accelerationist discussions would see that.
Indeed, for all those people who are probably excited about this post, given its explicit nod to a discourse long dead, I can only suggest you open your minds a little further. I don’t talk about “patchwork” anymore, as a term and discourse that was smothered by its own naive attempts to intervene in a predominantly reactionary discourse from the left. But the implications of exit and voice, intellect and action, theory and praxis, outsideness and capture? I don’t think I write about much else…
My recent report from Malaga, for instance, arguably has all of this and more, as does yesterday’s admittedly dense discussion of the abolition of the family. If these sorts of posts aren’t recognised as fitting into the patchwork discourse, it is arguably because that discourse was always so limited. Its reactionary beginnings were well founded to exclude any perspectives on exodus that might include the sorts of flight long actualised by leftists, queers and all the other things reactionaries hate. But all the more reason to leave that particular enclave of discussion behind.
I chose to exit the patchwork discourse. I defected from the cabal of brainworms that it birthed. I withdrew from an echo chamber of Landian fanfiction. But I think the work I have done since has been all the more interesting for it. I feel a lot better for putting the tools and weapons acquired to other uses. That was always the point of egress/exit/exodus, after all…