Rest in Power, Dawn Foster

Very sad to hear about the death of Dawn Foster yesterday. I did not know Dawn but genuinely loved her on Twitter. She was one of the most consistently entertaining and insightful people on the platform. It was fitting, then, that she was trending well into the evening. It was a bittersweet moment, and very reminiscent of when we lost both Mark Fisher and David Graeber. It is always wonderful to see how much impact a person’s work can have on people’s sense of the world and, particularly in Dawn’s case, their class consciousness.

I was actually just revisiting Dawn’s book Lean Out the other day. After Repeater Books published its 100th book, The Melancholia of Class by Cynthia Cruz, I was remined that Dawn’s book was the first. I ended up pointing to it in a footnote for a book chapter I’m working on, wondering about the contentious history of the book’s sentiment. Everyone from Jacques Lacan and Luce Irigaray to Sadie Plant as made some argument about the radicality of a feminist leaning-out. It’s a miracle, in some ways, that someone like Dawn was able to make her case so poignantly and, indeed, make it go mainstream when you consider how abstruse many of those other names are… (There is a great interview with her on Novara Media about the book too, for the curious.)

I have nothing more to say that others haven’t already said on Twitter, but I did want to clip a few things that I came across over there, for posterity and for the unfamiliar if nothing else.

Phil BC shared this excellent video on his blog:

…Which led me down a bit of a rabbit hole, where I came across this clip for Good Morning Britain, in which Dawn calls Piers Morgan “morally reprehensible” without so much as blinking. (Unfortunately, the audio is broken from about 4 minutes onwards.)

That fearlessness seems to be the most prominent thing Dawn will be remembered for — and that really is something to be remember for. The best example, Twitter seemed to unanimously agree, was an article for the Guardian she wrote in 2019 around the UK general election, arguing that “If Tom Watson had guts, he would quit Labour. Instead he is weakening the party”. (Apparently, Dawn was let go as a columnist not long after publishing it.)

Bask in the glory of her utter demolition of the UK’s hegemonic centrism:

In 1911 in Prague, the writer Jaroslav Hašek formed the satirical group The Party of Moderate Progress Within the Bounds of the Law, mocking the overtly accommodating tendencies of the Czech Social Democrats. Centrists might balk at Hašek’s manifesto promises, including mandatory alcoholism and the institutionalisation of feeble-minded MPs, but the tendency he mocked remains: proposing political reform, but ever so slowly; refusing to grapple with the speed with which the world is changing, or the fact the economy has for four decades been working for few but the wealthiest.

Centrist thinking is focused on two false premises. The first is that the 2012 London Olympic ceremony represented an idyllic high-point of culture and unity in the UK, rather than occurring amid the brutal onslaught of austerity, with food bank use growing and the bedroom tax ruining lives. The second is that the UK became divided by Brexit and the 2016 vote, rather than it being a symptom of long-term problems: the decline of industry and the public sector begun by Margaret Thatcher and continued by Tony Blair and David Cameron; vast inequality of opportunity, wealth and health; and the number of people being routinely ignored in a system with a huge democratic and electoral deficit.

The 2017 manifesto helped Labour to increase its vote share because it addressed so many of the problems faced by people and communities across the country. Labour won more seats, in spite of people like Tom Watson and his ideological bedfellows. Many centrist Labour MPs desperately wanted the party to lose heavily so they could depose Jeremy Corbyn. They still do. A Labour government with Corbyn in charge is less preferable to them than an indefinite Tory government.

If Tom Watson – the MP who said he “lost sleep” after Phil Woolas was found guilty of lying in racially inflammatory leaflets and stripped of his seat – had guts, he would quit the party and try to prove that his ideas have electoral traction. Yet, as he has probably discovered, it is hard to come up with bold and original ideas that benefit the electorate and prove popular with voters: it is far easier to stay in a party, wrecking it week by week, hoping to terminally undermine the leader and then inherit the ruins.

But the end result of Watson et al’s constant attacks will not be electoral success under another Labour leader, but a Tory victory. And the people who need a Labour government to change their lives and communities are unlikely to forgive people like him.

Rest in power, Dawn Foster!

AI is Good Actually:
Notes on Commie Grimes and Intelligence & Spirit

A tweet was doing the rounds today, laughing at a TikTok made by Grimes in which she argues that the development of artificial intelligence is “the fastest path to communism”. That it instantaneously became a meme was somewhat depressing. Ignoring the fact that it is Grimes, partner of Elon Musk, making the argument, it is telling that so many people think she’s crazy just for saying automation is good actually.

This unthinking reaction reminded me of the communist thread running through Reza Negarestani’s Intelligence & Spirit, particularly his reading of Plato’s concept of the Good alongside Hegel and Marx. That many who otherwise identify themselves as communists would ridicule her assertion that AI can radically change the present state of things shows how far we still have to go if we are to escape the bounds of capitalist realism.

Yes, even communists — especially communists — are ideologically affected by capitalist realism — something made obvious when you ask them what it would take to escape the bounds of capitalism. That a communist defines their political beliefs by what they know ought to be done means little if they cannot imagine the full spectrum of what possibly can be done. Any communism that is held up as an ideal, but has little material relation to present circumstances, isn’t a political project — that’s just cope.

This is something that Reza explores in a really fascinating way in Intelligence & Spirit. For Reza, the creation of actually existing artificial intelligence — that is, as a form of computational intelligence — is a viable technological project because it expands our notion of what intelligence is, and anything that separates humanity from its own arrogant exceptionalism is worthwhile. This is useful for political projects like communism precisely because it pokes holes in capitalist realism, or, as Reza might call it, capitalist intelligence. He writes:

Intelligence posits the objective reality of that which is, and in doing so retroactively recognizes its conditions of realization. The first operation is a leap from the atemporal domain of ideas into the realm of the sensible… the second [operation is] a leap… that retroactively recognizes how the ideas are linked to the sensible… But as the leaps from the simple reality of the sensory flux to the formal reality of ideas grow proportionally larger, as the positing of a more cohesive reality requires a greater leap over the sectors of the line, as the expanse of what is intelligible broadens, the risks become greater, and there is much more to lose by a misjudged leap. What is at stake now is not the body of intelligence but its very idea. Yet it is only through these leaps (positing the measures of all reality and the retroactive recognition of its realization as such) that intelligence can bind together and cohere the divided parts — an operation without which there would be no intelligible reality and no realization of intelligence.

This is undoubtedly the point at which Reza’s project gets the most Badiouian. One of the most strikingly simple and intriguing points made by Badiou in his work, which he borrows from Althusser, is that scientific and technological developments have been largely disconnected from developments in philosophical and political thinking. Throughout the history of philosophy, new ideas have helped midwife new worlds teased by scientific discoveries. Kant did not exist in a vacuum — he helped bring about a philosophical world that understood Newtonian physics. The same is true of Nietzsche, Bergson and Deleuze, who brought about a philosophical world that understood the developments in our understanding of biology across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Badiou asks the same question of now. Where is the new philosophy to help midwife a new understanding of the world, already upon us thanks to technological developments, such as the Internet, and scientific advancements in the realm of, say, quantum physics? It doesn’t seem to exist, or has yet to penetrate the popular imagination in any meaningful and revolutionary way. (Though everyone likes to talk about how irrelevant he is these days, Žižek has tellingly taken this project very seriously, with his last book attempting to philosophically think through quantum mechanics very explicitly.)

The truth is that, today, these areas of thought are incoherent. Philosophy and politics are largely disconnected from technology and science in the popular imagination. If anyone does attempt to think about politics and AI or philosophy and the blockchain, the immediate assumption is that it is some bad-news, reactionary, capitalistic project trying to bridge incompatible worlds. This is understood as the smart and sensible approach. It is not.

Reza makes this point by arguing that the reconnection of these segments of thought is what Plato calls the Good:

For Plato, the Good makes intelligible all of reality, as well as acting on the intelligible. Absent the Good… the line can never be divided and the divided segment can never be integrated, and therefore both the intelligible and intelligence must succumb to impossibility. Intelligence is that which acts on the intelligible, and the intelligible is that which is differentiated and integrated by intelligence. The underlying principle that warrants both is the Good as the principal mutuality of intelligence and the intelligible according to which the conception of intelligence, at every juncture of its history, is simultaneously a craftsman, the exercise of the craft or production of mixtures or intelligibilities, an ingredient of its craft, and the product of this ongoing craft. In so far as the Good is not just one transcendental idea or form but is their transcendental or formal unity (the form of forms), neither intelligence nor the intelligible can ever be taken as a fulfilled ideal or completed totality. Once either of the two is seen as concluded or continued in the absence of the other, the irruption of pathologies and tragedies is certain.

Though knotted, what we have here is an elucidation of those first two operations described by Reza in the first paragraph. The Good is a form of becoming — the form of forms, yes, but also the forming of forms? How different modes of knowledge factor into the Good simultaneously is something we struggle to ascertain today, given how sprawling our total knowledge is. But knowledge can never be and has never been held in a totality. Our brains don’t work like that. And even if we were able to learn everything by rote, rote learning isn’t a factor in intelligence — intelligence, as Reza makes clear, is acting on the intelligible.

Take the relationship between Newton and Kant. Newton sees the apple fall, and from that observation the concept of gravity becomes intelligible to him. Kant’s further elucidation of Newton’s discovery that there is a world of forces unseen and unknowable (at least directly) to us is a demonstration of Kant’s intelligence. Kant takes the knowledge of philosophy he already has and he combines it with this new intelligible world revealed by Newton. This is, essentially, the relationship Hegel and Marx expand upon, further strengthening the feedback loop between idealism and materialism. That neither is ever fully complete, in being dependent upon events like the falling apple, is important because it leaves us with a certain responsibility when it comes to responding to contingency and combining otherwise distinct strands of knowledge.

This is what Althusser calls “aleatory materialism”. The real movement of history — and, yes, the “real movement” of communism, in the words of Marx and Engels — must be open to chance and contingency. In fact, that is all that the real movement is. To hold every new technology or innovation up against a pre-existing ideal of what communism is and see how it fits into our dreams is to always be disappointed, and it is to effectively fall back on a kind of transcendental miserablism, denying yourself a role in shaping the future because you think you already know what it will look like.

For further clarity, this PhD thesis seems like good further reading on this topic. The abstract defines Althusser’s conception of history in a way immediately relevant to the topic at hand:

Aleatory materialism is an attempt to conceptualise history as open-ended but nevertheless amenable to scientific inquiry. Althusser argued that theories of history which supposed their object had a fixed direction or telos rested on unscientific premises. Such theories were premised on circular reasoning. By taking particular patterns of events to be universal and timeless, those particular patterns could only be explained by pre-existing themselves. […]

The way out of this impasse, Althusser argued, was to treat all social forms as contingent, rather than necessary, outcomes. Social structures included strategies and institutions to secure their continued reproduction. They were, however, unable to totally suppress the contingency that initially gave rise to them. It is because of contingency that the laws governing human behaviour can change. Social systems can transition into new systems comprised of new sets of laws. No particular configuration is destined to arise or persist indefinitely. Althusser showed that it is possible to accept both that history is amenable to scientific inquiry and that it is an open system, with a future that is not preordained but over which the actions of agents have a genuine influence. In doing so, this theory demonstrates how teleological theories are mechanisms of justification for prevailing forms of social power, by which they portray themselves as inevitable and natural outcomes, not accurate accounts of history.

Hopefully the relevance of this brief definition is immediately apparent. Though associated with Althusser’s late thought, when he was mentally unwell, in hindsight we take this insight for granted today. Aleatory materialism is a critique of capitalist realism ahead of time, and demonstrates how Reza and other post-Ccru acolytes moved towards accelerationism, which, as I’ve recently argued, was always quietly influenced by Badiou. The accelerationist argument is the same as Althusser’s, albeit updated to now — when we forego the political potentials offered by scientific and technological innovations, we find ourselves immediately engaged in reactionary thinking. Just look at the mind-numbing cynicism projected onto NFTs for a recent example — that we judge NFTs by how similar they are to already-existing forms of social power, or how quickly the new is seized upon by those same forms, rather than what is precisely new about them, tells you everything you need to know about where we’re at. Capitalist realism isn’t ending — it is alive and well in our knee-jerk social media cynicism and our reluctance to counter emergent forms of capitalist capture.

Reza argues that the one way to overcome this cynicism is to embrace the “transcendental excess” of the Good, which resembles a kind of Bergsonian divide between matter and memory. Though the two are intrinsically related, one cannot hope to fully contain its other. We cannot remember all matter, and matter cannot hope to capture the entirety of memory. There is a similar line between what Reza called intelligence and the intelligible. What is immediately intelligible to us does not and cannot define the limits of intelligence as such. Reza puts it like this:

This excess is precisely what demands that intelligence must never rest, but must expand the scope of the intelligible and thus the realization of itself… Driven by the transcendental excess of the form of ideas — the Good — intelligence is compelled to extend its retroactive power of knowing (the intelligibility of its conditions of realization) and to readjust its realization to new intelligibilities… It is the transcendental excess of the Good that deepens the abyss of the intelligible through which intelligence conceives and reshapes itself. Accordingly, transcendental excess (the Good) is what points to the excess of reality. It is because of this transcendental excess that the excess of reality in respect to thinking can be postulated and uncovered. Scientific knowledge of reality is a Good-in-itself, but it is only knowledge to the extent that it is an idea afforded by this transcendental excess, unbound and set in motion by the Good as the idea of ideas, the form of forms.

This is to say that scientific knowledge is often new, but when we fold it back into our view of the world as defined by capitalist realism, we hollow it out. And that’s not the Good… That’s the Bad.

Already, I think we see the relationship between artificial intelligence and communism starting to emerge here, as well as the cynicism immediately afforded to Grimes. The point here is not, of course, to argue that Intelligence & Spirit says we should take Grimes seriously, but the reaction to her otherwise basic comment on how technology and communism are related shows that her argument is less a product of billionaire-grade weed than it is currently unintelligible to us. That’s capitalism’s fault, not hers.

Similarly, though we associate AI more generally with sci-fi depictions of the horrors of capitalism, as if the machines embody capitalism absolutely, capitalism (and capitalist realism) is instead in here with us. If there is no “outside” to capitalism, it is because there is no outside to our own sensory cognition. Capitalism determines our entire world view in a false totality and tells us what is and is not a given. It adjudicates our expectations and our sense of what is rational and possible. Actually-existing AI, on the contrary, explodes that capture. It eliminates the myth of the given as a foundation for capitalist realism. It transforms what can be done, by establishing new forms of intelligence.

If this sounds idealistic, and wholly contrary to what we have been told about AI and its potentials under capitalism, we should put more effort into questioning what we have been told rather than denouncing anyone who entertains other possibilities. Because the truth is, when we see horrible and dystopic visions of AI in the media, we aren’t seeing a new world but a reflection of the worst of ourselves. Whether Google Deep Dream or the Terminator films, we’re not seeing psychedelic futures or sociopathic machinery, we’re seeing the limits of our own imaginations.

[I have a short text on Google DeepDream coming out in an essay collection later this year, and so I don’t want to rehash the argument too much ahead of time, but it is a good example of these limits.]

When we understand how Google Deep Dream works, for example, we can see that it isn’t imaginative or innovative or “intelligent”. It is effectively an interesting failure. What we think of as “hallucinations” are in fact a computer’s inability to process the new. We give it an image it has likely never seen before, and in attempting to make that image intelligible, it transforms it into what it already knows in abundance — pictures of dogs. That’s not “artificial intelligence”, that’s artificial dementia. Reza’s view of AI is radically different to this anemic pop-culture understanding. He continues:

In so far as intelligence is only intelligence in virtue of recognizing what is intelligible and acting upon it in light of the transcendental excess of the Good, which perpetually dissolves the limits of what is intelligible, if intelligence were to stop at any particular stage and accept it as the totality of what there is, it would retroactively abort its own reality as intelligence. Simply put, an intelligence that takes what is currently intelligible for the totality of reality can never have been intelligence to begin with.

Here’s looking at you, Google DeepDream.

The continuity of the line cannot be mistaken for the manifest totality of its segments. The Good, as the expression of this continuity, demands that intelligence dissolve all manifest totalities, suspend itself in ever more bottomless chasms of the intelligible, and, in doing so, transform itself into an intelligence more accustomed to wider domains of intelligibilities and more capable of acting upon what is intelligible. It is only by assimilating itself to the abyss of intelligibilities — ontological, epistemological, and axiological — that intelligence can be realized as intelligence. In the end, it is Plato who stares into the abyss by breaking apart one firmament after another, while Nietzsche rests supine on the ground staring blankly at the given sky above.

Reza’s Platonism is here a kind of Marxian real movement, and he quotes Marx and Engels in a footnote, clarifying this point succintly:

Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.

And so, in this respect, Grimes is right. Whether it is a point best expressed on TikTok is another matter — and its virality across a cynical social media landscape tells us a great deal about contemporary limits rather than contemporary possibilities — but nothing she says is inaccurate at face value. And that is true whether we are thinking historically, in that it aligns with the thought of Marx and Engels, or whether we are thinking about the possibilities of now. Again, that this is a point even tangentially associated with Elon Musk doesn’t bode well, but again, this shows how the limits of the present are so often entangled with present possibilities — a point Reza’s discussion of the Good ends on. He writes:

[The limit] makes intelligible the abyss of reality, bringing new sectors of it into focus by introducing measures, and thus enabling intelligence to answer the question of what ought to be thought and done. [The unlimited], meanwhile, expands the horizon of what can be made intelligible. And finally, the interplay of both is what dissolves any manifest totality that lays claim to reality, thereby enabling intelligence to explore what can be thought and done. The relation between the two is one of mutual reinforcement. In this context, we can speak of a maximal communism of the Good as that which dissipates all seeming totalities of history. But this is the Good as an expression of the transcendental excess through which intelligence at once makes itself intelligible to itself in ever broader domains, and reworks itself by comporting itself with what is intelligible. The transcendental excess of the Good is neither that of the transcendent nor that of nature.

When we conflate Grimes and Musk, we conflate what he, as a dodgy billionaire, ought to do with her creative thinking regarding what can be done. Indeed, their relationship may well epitomize the conditions of our age in that regard, but it does not represent those conditions in their totality. That Twitter fails to realise that shows just how unintelligent that platform truly is.

Le Voyageur

Shout out to Simon Sellars for posting this on Twitter the other day, I’ve been bumping it all week: Richard Pinhas’ short-lived band Schizo, with guest vocals from Gilles Deleuze reading aloud from Nietzsche’s The Wanderer.

Pinhas has an incredible back catalogue of music and he seems to have single-handedly kept the Continental philosophy publishing industry afloat. Whilst he is best known in philosophy circles for his recordings of Deleuze’s lectures, available at webdeleuze, I was reading about him just the other day in another context… And I can’t now remember whereabouts this was… It was either in an intro to one of Lacan’s seminars or one of Badiou’s seminars. I wouldn’t be surprised if, at some point in time, he’d had a hand in both.

Cyberfeminist Beginnings, Cyberfeminist Ends


My mind is elsewhere as of late, but it would be remiss of this blog to witness some accelerationist drama on Twitter and then let it go unacknowledged.

Aly recently posted an accelerationist reader that controversially, as Ed Berger explains on his blog, “skips all the usual suspects (Marx, Deleuze, Guattari, Land, Fisher…).”

The reading list is great. By (almost) exclusively citing women, it provocatively provides accelerationism with an alternate history — or rather, it provides an alternative to what has since become understood as acc “canon”.

It’s a shame that this is how accelerationism is now approached, through claims of canon and non-canon. We were discussing this in the XG reading group on Sunday — the extent to which Reza Negarestani is now retconned as a card-carrying member of the Ccru. He never was, but that’s not to delegitimise Reza. It’s important.

The Ccru, in themselves, were not “canon”. They were a Thing that emerged from a combination of all this cross-cultural pulp; a veritable Swamp Thing. But they found a certain amount of fame nonetheless. Reza was someone who kept their momentum going along a new vector. He wasn’t a part of Ccru but he was successful in inserting himself into that demoralised post-Warwick trajectory, lighting up the blogosphere. He was an outsider who wrote himself inside the fiction. It says a lot about how successful he was — but also how short people’s memories are — when the Ccru and Reza and the rest of the blogosphere started to lose their defining outsider status. It’s a process whereby narratives get calcified, fossilized. For Reza, that acephalous oily mouth, that’s effectively theory-death — although a death he later welcomed. But an essence is lost in the process. The original fault is filled in like grout between tiles.

When Robin addresses Reza’s strange history in his Brief History of Geotrauma, he writes that “Trauma belongs to a time beyond personal memory”. What is being investigated there is something prehistoric; prewriting; prenarrative. I think that’s an important consideration here.

A narrative is something that we build on top. Extending a narrative has its uses but, at a certain point, all we are doing is repressing that which we were first trying to describe. This is, arguably, why Deleuze and Guattari and the Ccru and Reza all try to describe and enact what they are describing simultaneously. It’s a kind of writing in your own blood. It is a kind of traumatic writing that triggers and is triggered. It drives stakes down beneath texts to those things we dress up in philosophy only to later forget them. It’s a practice of holding wounds open rather than than stitching them with so many words.

This is why Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos grew beyond him so successfully. His personal traumas were obscured by the sharing of a cosmic perspective and the truth was unearthed from beneath one man’s sexually repressed and racist neuroses. The wounds were opened so wide as to swallow the world in them.

For better and for worse, since the days of the Ccru, accelerationism and its adjacent weird theories have been given the status of a Cthulhu mythos, always adding strings to the bow. Of course, acc thought is nowhere near as internally cohesive as the Ccru’s brand of fictioning. Perhaps because it arrived too late (and this is perhaps why we must repeatedly go back to the Nineties, skipping over the actual moment of accelerationism’s Noughties emergence). Today, accelerationism, as a political philosophy that hopes to deal with the impasses of postmodern capitalism, is crawling with PoMo rot. We should be careful what we attached it to, in case you lose control of its spread.

This is why repeated attempts have been made to try and re-situate accelerationism’s original concerns. Aly’s list is perhaps the most important recent example. (You wouldn’t think it to look at it — no shade, of course; it is just minimal as far as acc primers go — but the response to it speaks volumes.) It is a list that does well to add an obscured dimension back into accelerationist thinking and Ed’s follow-up post goes a step further towards situating the list in a context that those people mad about it have conveniently forgotten about, having become too caught up in an ahistorical narrative. It is necessary that we drag “accelerationism — now more a splinter of cyberfeminism than vice-versa — back to the (un)ground that gave rise to it in the first place”.

It’s been quite exciting to see — even the backlash. The squabbling has reminded me of that exciting time online in 2018 when U/Acc and G/Acc were first being developed in the blogosphere and in the bowels of Cave Twitter. Amy Ireland and Nyx Land were doing so much valuable work to re-centre this trajectory via a kind of feminist horrorism, drawn quite explicitly from Land’s often ignored tendency to give voice to a feminine Nietzscheanism — and going further still, building on those members / affiliates of the Ccru so often lost under Land’s shadow — many of whom are mentioned in Ed’s post.

Whilst Land remained the central vector and influence, emphasising his (proto-)xenofeminist tendencies was an attempt to uncover this same trajectory, re-contaminating his thinking, and making it something impossible for his more uncritical acolytes to ignore.

It was later Mother Hellcrypt, an elusive avatar occasionally invoked by Land himself, that became a icon for those of us thinking these things through. She was the vector through which this history was allowed to flow.

I’d like to think this blog has always had a place for this lineage — although, admittedly, it’s not my main area of expertise. Amidst the blogosphere’s patchwork of ideological perspectives, these threads were best explored by others, but a defence of accelerationism’s feminist valences has nonetheless been a regular feature here. (The last time was notably in response to another of Aly’s excellent blog posts, attempting to reconnect XF to the insights provided by accelerationism’s central ur-text, Lyotard’s Libidinal Economy — a connection squeamishly ignored by XF’s critics, even though it holds the answers to many of their concerns.)

But the question still remains: Why has this disarticulation between XF and accelerationism occurred in the first place? XF was arguably an attempt to intensify a vector that seemed to lead to an amputation. An acc-fearing feminism and a feminism-fearing acc found themselves firmly gripping two sides of the same saw. (Never mind Twitter spitting its dummy out the other night, it was clear that we were having a bit of a crisis when XF, and accelerationism’s feminist beginnings more broadly, had to be defended against other feminists rather than from any other explicitly acc contingent.) As ever, accelerationism is caught unproductively in the middle as all sides of the political compass try and use it as a vessel for vague, paranoid concerns.

Again, Ed’s excellent post drives home the fact that things are not as they used to be. But still: why? Aly’s reading list raises a number of valuable questions in this regard, some that should give everyone pause for thought.

Accelerationist thinking has long been a boy’s club — that’s undeniable. The assumption of ownership by male interlocutors has always been a point of contention, with some of the most important contributors to acc thought being chased off platforms not with pitchforks but through creepy replyguy tendencies. Theorybros are a scourge that many thinkers have struggled against and found the battle not worth fighting for, going quiet / private or disappearing altogether rather than masochistically fighting for a seat at the table, the other occupants of which having previously looked up to them for guidance. (I probably wouldn’t be blogging here still without early support and encouragement from Amy Ireland in 2017, who introduced me to the rest of Cave Twitter — I think the same is true for many people around these parts.)

Suffice it to say, if accelerationism’s feminist foundations are shocking to you, perhaps ask yourself why. What has led to this ground being obscured from your vision of this unruly thought? It’s long had a presence on every acc blog that matters, so why is a list that only lists its feminist (or at least female) influences the source of so much outrage?

The answers will be obvious to most. If they’re not to you, maybe take a look at yourself and ask why.


Following the recent release of the acc course written by Meta-Nomad and myself, I’ve been continuing to flesh out my side of the project in the hope of turning my material into a book draft. (Don’t hold your breath, it’ll take me a while yet.)

This version of acc’s genealogy that I’m newly sketching out for myself — contrary to Vincent Garton’s perennial wisdom — doesn’t (presently) include any explicitly feminist material, to my shame, but — following the recent Twitter drama around acc’s cyberfeminist beginnings — I’m now wondering about how this project is still relevant to that cyberfeminist trajectory, and how I might make space for it in my otherwise heavily localised considerations.

This is to say that my focus might be somewhat controversial in its own right. It isn’t much concerned with Land, or Deleuze and Guattari either, except in passing. Instead, it situates accelerationism within the immediate circumstances of its blogospheric emergence: the financial crash of 2007/08 and the critical impasse that left-wing thought seemed to be faced with at that time.

Alain Badiou called this impasse our “crisis of negation”. His argument, succinctly put, is no doubt familiar: we are capable of destroying the old but we are incapable of producing the new. Today I’m wondering to what extent xenofeminism and cyberfeminism are concerned with this same crisis in negation, albeit within feminist thought, that acc first sought to rectify more generally…

This argument regarding the crisis in negation has long been doing the rounds culturally — Mark Fisher and Simon Reynolds’ writings on hauntology made much the same claim. However it was Badiou (and, to a lesser extent, Žižek) who led the charge politically in the late 2000s.

With this long ignored Badiouian basis in mind, we might argue that accelerationism and hauntology are concerned with the same problems. Accelerationism, however, placed itself distinctly in opposition to its theoretical neighbour.

Alex Williams, on his long dead blog Splintering Bone Ashes, rejected hauntology as a “form of good postmodernism, as set against the bad PoMo of a rampaging retroism.” It is, he writes, “a cowardly move, lusting after utopias that never were, or which are now unreachable, a retreat into childhood/youth, just as trapped in the endless re-iterative mechanistics of the postmodern as the lowest form of retroism, merely in a hyper-self-aware form.” As a result, hauntology is too liable to falling on its own sword — and, in its melancholy, it would probably be happy if it did so — because it “cedes too much ground to what it attempts to oppose”.

Accelerationism emerges as a kind of political response to hauntology’s cultural ascendancy in this regard — the overbearing nature of its melancholic “end of history” stasis. Accelerationism, then, challenges Badiou, at the height of his (recently acquired) powers in the Anglosphere, with the same critique — he also cedes too much ground to what he attempts to oppose. Williams nonetheless draws on Badiou’s thought and then, notably, pushes it further. He writes:

Perhaps what [the financial crash] offers … is a chink in the armour of late capital, a Badiouian event, evading the usual in-situational structural determinations. In a sense Badiou would not recognise (economic) it really does give an opportunity (as did the crash of 1929) to recalibrate both the state-market relation and the type of economic theory deployed by governments. But this will be merely to retrench, to stabilise, to maintain the present system, in a new form, by whatever means necessary and available. Politically it is less clear, for in order that the potential this event offers to be fully exploited, we need a politics capable of fully evading even the kind of generic humanism Badiou’s politics (for example) proffers. For the impasse of the end of history can only be properly surmounted by a final nihilistic overcoming of humanism — in a sense even Badiou fails this test, his minimal-communist humanism not going far enough. What perhaps this might entail is a rethinking of a revolutionary position, built on the basis of a rethinking of the very notion of value itself.

Now, I don’t want to just regurgitate my research from my half of the acc course here, but suffice it to say that a renewed focus on Williams’ initial accelerationist texts has proved hugely informative for me as of late. (It was following this post quoted above that Noys responded: “that’s the sort of kakocratic thinking I’ve been calling accelerationism” and Williams (followed closely by Fisher) went “yoink!”)

I feel like a new sense of acc’s beginnings has given me a new appreciation of just how shit the conversation around it has become. Indeed, all the squabbling about what is and isn’t acc is not only futile but damaging when we fail to realise that what we are witnessing is accelerationism falling victim to the very forces to hoped to critique. This was articulated after the Christchurch shooting — Brenton Tarrant is the very subject that accelerationism first sought to critique — but accelerationism’s problems started long before he pulled a trigger.

What we failed to see, in the years prior, was how Accelerationism was similarly sliding from the “good” PoMo deterritorialising political heresy of the 2000s to a bad PoMo horroristic conservatism in the 2010s. It is the equivalent of Burial releasing an album of Arctic Monkeys covers and we run with it for the sheer “mad lad” cahones of it. Or perhaps the other way round — Alex Turner releases an “Archangel” cover for Record Store Day. The line between blessed and cursed runs thin and whilst we might get caught up in the lulz and the spectacle of it all, we should remain vigilant to the fact that this could be the system’s way of ironing out the dialectical movement that exists (with difficulty) between diagnosis and symptom. Before you know it, the world has moved on, and someone picks up that release and sees Burial and Alex Turner as natural bedfellows. Where there was, initially, a critical tension, there is now a flatness as a postmodern cultural consciousness eats its outliers.

Are we still able to affirm, after everything that has happened, Williams’ attempts to play chicken with these tensions in the hope they might break the system? I’m not so sure. He obviously no longer thinks so. But it remains relevant because this problem that Williams and others sought to address has still yet to be resolved. There is the additional irony that this problem is most relevant to accelerationism itself today. It has become entangled in the forces of PoMo it hoped to accelerate out from. Clearly some acc theorising had done nothing but place drag on that attempt.

(As an aside, it is worth noting, I think, that although Land’s influence looms large over accelerationism — the fury around Aly’s recent reading list seemed to come primarily from Land’s sidelining — many of the early accelerationists were critical of his fidelity to capitalism. Whilst his Nineties analysis of capitalism is DeleuzoGuattarian, it seems he later came to prefer its reterritorialising tendencies rather than call for a vigilance against them. This is to say that Land seems to absorb ideological extremes and others’ attempts to move past his thought in order to retain his own relevance, just like capital. Perhaps such a tactic is not to be rebuked in and of itself — we could just call to “learning” or “changing your mind” — but it certainly complicated his affinity with the neoconservative right in the present moment, which begs the question: To what extent does Land’s aping of capital through a cultural conservatism similarly cause drag on the system rather than lubricating it?)

(As an aside to this aside, this problematic becomes most apparent in the ways that Land absorbs and neutralises many critiques made against him by the early blogosphere; in the ways he adopts tendencies that were invoked by others to move beyond his Nineties work in order to furnish his new Noughties neoreaction for himself. Horrorism, for instance, is wholly associated with Land today, but it was Alex Williams who first used that term, borrowing it cynically from Martin Amis to describe “a non-dialectical amassing of negativity … a horror piled upon horror, a critical mass capable of pulling the subjectivity attached to the organic human substrate through to some nether-zone of dissolution, a Deleuzean becoming crucially without affirmation.” This was a dark Deleuzeanism proper — far darker than anything Andrew Culp could pull out of the blogosphere — which called for a political praxis of terroristic communism able to “destabilise the current state-capital bond … a kind of meta-terrorism, operating on the plane of capital itself … a capitalist surrealism [seeking] the exploitation of credit-based financial systems for their primary destructive potential … not merely to be thought on the ability to trigger vast crashes, which is readily apparent, but further their capacity to destabilise the consistency of value itself.” That horrorism is today associated with the worst kind of right-wing online edgelording shows just how successful Land’s reterritorialisation of the term has been.)

Where does accelerationism’s cyberfeminist foundation fit into all of this? I’d argue that G/Acc, most explicitly, was the first successful attempt to answer Badiou’s melancholy call. Feminism itself has been caught within its own crisis of negation, happy to destroy old gender norms but reluctant to build new ones (outside the purview of capitalist orthodoxy). Accelerationism’s adjacency to trans discourses is obviously relevant here. There’s no more accessible way to hack the matrix of subjectivity in the present than fucking with gender. G/acc recentred the cyberfeminist lineage and added to this the horrorism that trans discourse injects into a liberal establishment.

G/acc’s relationship to u/acc in this regard is wholly positive. U/acc flattened the playing field, attempting to destroy the build-up of misconceptions and divergences that obscured accelerationism’s striving for the new over the destruction of the old. Without ceding too much ground to the destructive tendency it hoped to critique, g/acc emerged as a product of that striving; the phoenix from the ashes.

Cyberfeminism has arguably always played that role in this thought. The outrage triggered by a reading list — a fucking reading list — that recentres this shows just how rotten and fatally ingrown (broadly speaking) accelerationism’s attempts to produce the new have become.

Front Window #7: Extremely Online Mode

At some point, about two weeks ago, I dropped off normal quarantine time and entered extremely online mode. I am not sure I have achieved much of anything. I have primarily been tweeting a lot and working from home in a bubble of writer’s inertia — constantly writing nothing.

Below are some highlights salvaged from extremely online mode — dreams, shitposts, bot murmurings — not because I am particularly proud of them, but because this fragmentary onlineness is far more representative of how the days have been spent than any lacklustre diaristic drawl I could muster at this point.

Monday 6 April 2020

Tuesday 7 April 2020

Wednesday 8 April 2020

Thursday 9 April 2020

Friday 10 April 2020

For the first time in my life, I went for a jog.

At the time of writing, I have been on a jog every other day for a week. This is where it began. I have somehow put weight back on during this time.

Saturday 11 April 2020

Emptiness. Listening to missed episodes of the PlaguePod and staring at the ceiling.

Sunday 12 April 2020

Chocolate won heals wounds. Resurrection. Plans start to form and we return to our regular cognitive programming…

A Note on Twitter and the Academic Job Market

Sometimes, when skirting the edges of hellthreads on Twitter, I wonder about the hyperactivity and extreme online-ness of some of our better known para-academics and marginal online activists.

You know the type — the sort best known for having a commie (read: edgelord) podcast and a twitter account littered with aggressively bad takes that take no prisoners.

I feel like the irony that no one ever mentions is that all these overly aggressive young Marxists aren’t that way because they really care about the class struggle — despite what they might say, over and over and over again. Instead, it seems to me that they’ve been made that way by spending too long under the Damoclean sword of the US academia job market.

One of my guiltiest pleasures as a postgraduate student in London was witnessing many an evil-eyed (not-so-)young American go through something of a culture shock upon landing in the more relaxed environs of a UK university.

With course fees so much cheaper here than there — which is really saying something… WTF, America? — many initially arrive with a few years of college under their belt and immediately go hard in class trying to carve out a space for themselves; making themselves known and seen.

Every year, without fail, someone would cause a scene by doing this and there would always be a moment where everyone else in the room, from all over the rest of world, would look over at them with a face that said: “Jeez… Chill out, dude. Let’s get to know each other before we start measuring dicks. Who you trying to impress?”

Loitering around the halls of Goldsmiths long past my own graduation — gotta keep feeding the @_geopoetics bot somehow… — I’ve seen a few years worth of students go through this, with there always being one or two students who end up dropping or changing modules after having had a silent sand thrown on their aggressive approach to studenteering, disappearing as soon as they realise that they’ve come on too strong too soon.

And they are almost always North Americans…

For the first year or two of seeing this sort of thing happen repeatedly, I always wondered what was so specific about Americans that made the transition from US to UK academia so jarring for them.

I eventually asked someone about it — a lecturer originally from the US themselves — what is it was about this brand of American student that makes them so counterproductively intense during the first week of term?

Without a second’s thought, they replied: “It’s the academic job market.”

In the US, the job market for academics is so cut throat, they said, that being an asshole becomes an essential aspect of any (even half-hearted) careerism.

Adding insult to injury, this careerism is intensified by a person’s lack of awareness regarding the way it undermines the collective pedagogic practices they otherwise pay lip service to. Thankfully, it’s the sort of attitude that suffocates when no one is willing to give oxygen to it.

I wish I could say the same about its prevalence on Twitter…

Just say no to the Camile Paglia brand of self-undermining capitalistic radicalism.


Last week, I promised that when I hit 3000 Twitter followers I would show you all my Minecraft world to celebrate.

I thought that would take a few weeks but the recent viral tweet led to an extra 100+ followers overnight so here we are. Kicking off at 1600.

Capital as Noun, Capital as Entity

Heard joke once:

Entity goes to doctor. Says it’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says it feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain.

Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. Great economic system Capitalism is in town tonight. Go and see it. That should pick you up.”

Entity bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor…I am Capitalism.”

It’s been a while since we’ve had a blog post chronicling a Twitter hellthread but this was a good one.

After S.C. Hickman tweeted (and I retweeted) a quote from Mark Fisher’s The Weird and the Eerie in which he writes that capital “is at every level an eerie entity: conjured out of nothing, capital nevertheless exerts more influence than any allegedly substantial entity”, an all too familiar argument started.

@brightabyss weighed in:

Gigantic yawn. Reification turned subconscious glorification does absolutely nothing for an ontography of power and influence. [1]

Skipping over the Twitter vitriol, I argued that “Fisher, throughout that whole book, is implicitly pointing to the ways in which the human subject’s struggle with Marxist reification can be seen as emerging through cultural production”, but this isn’t what has got Michael’s goat. It’s that age-old annoyance over people saying capital is a thing. He says later:

Capital is not an entity. Capital exists as a relation between valuating agents & normative systems of distinction. Reifying those systems & relations is poor ontology. [1]

Many around the Twittersphere may be aware of @brightabyss and his frequent dismissal of a tendency some people apparently have to give too much agency to capitalism. This is a pet peeve shared by many others also. Making capital a “thing” — a concrete, reified object — or, worse still, a subject with its own agency — is a misstep brought about by too much exposure to Lovecraftian sci-fi and a tendency towards the theological.

I’ll skip ahead to a tweet that seems to encapsulate the overall argument:

The word entity denotes a thing. A fucking noun. Calling it eery is just like calling it a hyperobject. But should Capital be considered a noun? I don’t thing so. It’s more of a power relation instantiated by other systems. Real nouns. [1]

Now, I don’t want to recount the argument that took place around all of this in too much details, because it’s not that interesting. @brightabyss’s analysis has always been really lacking in this area as far as I’m concerned and it seems to come from a misunderstanding of what “entity” means, specifically in this context, as an explicit product of Fisher’s Spinozism. This article is a really good summary of this in Spinoza’s thought I think, which quotes Spinoza as saying, in describing his use of the word ‘entity’: “I think it is such a thing, its essence contains existence, or its nature can only be imagined as being.”

Admittedly, this may not be the clearest definition but it is worth pointing to as the implicit context from which Fisher is getting his sense of “entity”.

Capital itself is already a noun of course and even this basic function of language is something that BA has a problem with as well, arguing that Marx’s use of the definitive article, in naming his book Das Kapital, is

where this shit show of a (cognitive) reification party started. Karl started a tendency that had plagued Marxists for decades and truly fucked our ability to create arguments for the augmentation of the function of monetary exchange. [1]

At this point, in wanders @enkiv2 with the clearest exploration of this point, its history and its increasing relevance throughout the process of technological development that I’ve seen on Twitter — and that’s saying something considering just how many times this has been debated — so I felt like it was worth saving here for posterity:

Capital makes sense as a noun, in a marxist context: it’s a system (in the cybernetics sense), and therefore amplifies certain behaviors while damping others by its own internal logic. [1]

Marx, performing arguably the first thoroughly systematic analysis of economics decades before the terminology around cybernetics was invented, needed to take advantage of anthropomorphism to get his point across & avoid individual-centered analysis. [2]

An anthropomorphic view is lossier than a cybernetic one, but it’s way better than an individualistic view (where systemic bias contrary to individual desire is literally unthinkable). [3]

[…] If you come to Marx with a cybernetic POV it becomes a better model for the social-economic complex.

Some Marxists get misled by the absence of typical cybernetic terminology & lean into an anthropomorphism that isn’t justified. [4]

How many marxists do this these days, though? Not so many, because of the popularization of systems thinking. Folks are used to thinking through feedback loops these days, so it becomes more clear that Marx isn’t portraying Capital as an animal but as a self-regulating machine. [5]

Ed Berger also makes a good point on this in the thread too, pointing out:

It’s self-regulating because human social life is structured via the law of value and its reproduction. The analysis of reification presupposes this, not the other way around (material -> consciousness, not the idealist movement consciousness -> material) [1]

“…this fetishism of the world of commodities arises from the peculiar social character of the labour which produces them”. [2]

@enkiv2 continues:

It’s a machine made of people. Like any large-scale persistent system, it contains error-correcting logic to render irrelevant whatever components do not correctly follow its mode of operation. (That is what defines its mode of operation: what direction deviations are pushed.) [1]

“The function of a system is what it does”

The anthropomorphic error is to assume design. Really, even the capitalist class is a victim of capitalism — simply a more comfortable victim. Capital organizes itself because it is a stable spot in possibility space. [2]

Now, sure: capital is not a physical object. It’s a social construct. That makes it no more real than money (something else we refer to as a noun & do a lot of math to understand), or government (something we anthropomorphize all the time). [3]

To bring this full circle:

Something every social construct has in common is that, because its rules are enforced by people instead of physics, how things seem has more influence on behavior than how they are. This means rapid thrashing as illusions appear & disappear. [4]

In other words, social constructs are eldritch (in the sense of ‘pertaining to elves’: all money has the characteristic of faery gold, disappearing suddenly as some representation of value elsewhere in the system changes). [5]

I haven’t read Fischer’s essay here so I’m not sure if this is the same as what he means by eerie, but from that quote it sure sounds like there’s overlap. [6]

I think this is absolutely true and there is considerable overlap. Capital is eerie for Fisher in the sense that it is not “real” (as @enkiv2 describes) but you can see its effects everywhere — it is a “failure of absence” and a “failure of presence”. In seeing those effects but not seeing its “form”, just like in the case of Fisher’s exemplary “eerie cry”, we have a tendency to imagine its “vocalic” — or perhaps, more accurately, in this case, “affective” — body which may only exist in the imagination but nonetheless assists us in thinking this process of “operative abstraction” (to borrow from Ed again) as it unfolds around us.

This thread continued on at length from this point and went in various directions that I ultimately lost track of so I’d rather not excavate those. It’s far too knotted. It was a good chat though if you want to explore it for yourself.

For more of Spinoza’s relevance to The Weird and the Eerie I’d recommend this old post of mine called “Weird Immanence“.

Update: @cyberpyre rightly adds:

I think the Deleuzian concept of virtuality clears most of this up; Capital is not an actual entity, but by means of material (non-virtual) relations, a space of difference is created which produces actuality. [1]

“[…] a nonnumcrical multiplicity […] plunges into another dimension, which is no longer spatial and is purely temporal: lt moves from the virtual to its actualization, it actualizes itself by creating lines of differentiation that correspond to its differences in kind.” [2]

There’s lots of different ways of saying it. The point is that people so rarely get it, it’s great to have an accessible breakdown.

XG on

I’m getting some very strange pingbacks this week, first 4chan and now…

This old tweet on the LGBTQ+ Goldsmiths Twitter account defending the use of gulags is currently being used on to help explain the meaning of the word “edgelord”, specifically in the context of people who are “cringe-inducingly fake, posting or commenting on racy content with the explicit intent of getting into an argument, or just to push someone’s buttons.”

Can’t help but think there’s a slight irony here, having been accused on edgelording on numerous occasions…

Takes one to know one?