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

Beginnings

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.



Ends

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.

3000

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 Dictionary.com

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 Dictionary.com 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?

Thomas Murphy Is On Fire

Thomas Murphy has been on top form on Twitter this past week in all sorts of ways. I felt like capturing some of these threads for posterity.


@owenhatherley took bizarre aim at the Ccru the other day, writing a truly banal tweet as some sort of takedown:

so many people who went to the University of Warwick who decided that various things (words! capitalism! jungle!) were ‘viruses’, when clearly the University of Warwick was the ‘virus’ and a pretty malignant one

Thomas was on hand to fill him in:

EVIL forces of malignancy OWNED by the acerbic wit of the nation’s premier soviet nostalgia tourguide and milquetoast psychogeographer. You see they talked positively about ‘viruses’,, but it was they who were the virus… how will the CCRU ever recover from this? [1]

“Kid you really think haunted computers are exciting?” he croaked in the guildlight, “check out this moodboard composed of the finest examples of post-war brutalist social housing…” [2]


Here he is with a truly blistering thread on the performative contradictions internal to leftist politics, particularly in this little corner of the internet. Here TM condenses what this blog has spent 1000s of words vaguely exploring into 9 incredibly precise tweets. Grumpy grad student “marxists” take note.

No surprise the exploding brain “Deleuze and Lyotard created neoliberalism” take comes from legacy tankies who think neoliberal statecraft was purely about deregulation, ignoring massive expansion of state spending on the military and police under Reagan/Thatcher and monetaryism [1]

The irony remains that the 90s control societ was the culmination of the post-war experiments in aping the fascist command economy (state as a macroeconomic relay station) amongst the Western bloc. That’s the kind of society the kiddies bandying around the term “neoliberal” want. [2]

If you identity as a communist or Marxist and support soft-socialist Keynesian dynamic stochastic equilibria, your political subjectivity is a performative contraction. [3]

The function of the academy is to produce generations of elites who support the current economic regime, be it under the guise of radicalism or conservatism. Critical theorists hate texts like Libidinal Economy and Capitalism and Schizophrenia because they illustrate this. [4]

“Desire is a part of the infrastructure.” [5]

These thinkers claim Marx as an idol but then treat him like a classical economist. The whole purpose of the critique of political economy was the abolition of economic abstracta (equilibria, price idealism etc.) and regrounding of the discipline on concreta. [6]

Marx: *cites mostly economists, engages with empirical data, constantly updates theories in accordance with the emergence of new financial instruments*

Critical theorists: Money—evil, like Satan, and also fake and lame. I h8 maths. Here are quotes from my favourite philosophers [7]

Characteristic that thinkers who are essentially one form of philosophical civil servant or another find this kind of thinking appalling—they’re simply protecting their self-interest. But it is the height of dishonesty for them to suggest their modus operandi is morally virtuous [8]

The sad truth is there are entire ideologies designed around criticism of the current MOP, which also prohibit and police any empirical or transcendental grasp of that process. One flails about, complaining about oppression, while enjoying a bourgeois life of scholasticism. [9]

I’ve got a few posts brewing on some topics featured here but I doubt they’ll be manage to skewer anything as resolutely as this.


Last but definitely not least, TM weighs in on the recent UBI debates, following on from the strangely memetic Andrew Yang and his desire to run for POTUS in 2020. (Sidenote: Nyx has also published a great post on this recently.)

Firstly, he quotes a tweet from @Outsideness:

Adam Smith on UBI: “… like him who perverts the revenues of some pious foundation to profane purposes, he pays the wages of idleness with those funds which the frugality of his forefathers had, as it were, consecrated to the maintenance of industry.”

TM:

“the democratic petty bourgeois want better wages and security for the workers, and hope to achieve this by an extension of state employment and by welfare measures; in short, they hope to bribe the workers with a more or less disguised form of alms” —Marx on #YangGang [1]

It takes mindblowing degrees of stupidity to encourage any model of governance where general livelihood depends on the mere charity of the state. As the populous becomes increasingly deskilled, dependent and uselss, their destiny will be left to the whims of technocrats. [2]

It’s reminiscent of the disgraceful dishonesty of the left acceleration crowd who are “Marxist” yet disregard his sustained, foundational criticism of Proudhonian socialism, in whose equalitarian model of distribution he rightly spots a tyrannical control principle. [3]

“The proletariat would lose all its hard-won independent position and be reduced once more to a mere appendage of official bourgeois democracy.” [4]

Do U (Even) /Acc, Bro?

I heard on the grapevine there was some very cursed accelerationist chat on the latest episode of Parallax Views — specifically some chat about U/Acc — and, against all better judgement, I decided to check it out.

It was disappointing but not all that surprising to hear the usual misconceptions and not a lot else. I’d really love to hear what people’s sources are for a lot of this stuff. I don’t mind that people don’t like U/Acc writing or ideas or whatever — to each their own — but it is irritating when people trot out the same straw men again and again, as if these are things which aren’t addressed in the earliest U/Acc (and more broadly accelerationist) writings already.

It seems like someone who hasn’t read anything makes a comment and then that comment is parroted by other people who haven’t read anything either. It feels like a bizarre psyop implemented by people who just don’t know any better. The blind leading the blind. It’s boring. It’d be great to have a better class of opponent.

This happens a lot, obviously, but I take particular umbrage with this instance because JG Michael and Michael James have been around for some time. Heck, they’ve been hanging around these parts longer than I have, probably. They’re well-known interlocutors. So what’s the excuse? Have they inadvertently betrayed their own laziness? Their own superficial readings? As fellow chroniclers of a lot of online debates, I’m really struggling to understand how this episode is peppered with so many basic errors. It’s embarrassing.

That said, I have no intention of writing some waste-of-time point-by-point deconstruction of anything here — I’ll be keeping this short — but it does feel like these things haven’t been reiterated in a while. And since the weird takes from nowhere continue to proliferate ad nauseum, it can’t hurt if we all take a minute to revise the basics, right?

So, without further ado…


In the written intro to the episode, podcast host JG Michael points to our little corner of the internet and describes us as “the meme-loving denizens of U/Acc ‘Cave Twitter’ who advocate for accelerating capitalism to it’s endpoint regardless of it’s outcome.” You hear this all the time but I don’t know when anyone has ever said this?

I mean, okay, it’s The Guardian‘s view of accelerationism… But everyone knows that article is utterly reductive and flawed… right? Are we really using that as our theoretical touchstone here?

It’s the summary that has been thrown at accelerationism — no matter the substrate — for over a decade but who knows how it has managed to stick in the minds of so many supposedly educated people.

Mark Fisher said it most clearly in his essay “Postcapitalist Desire” back in 2014. This is — and always has been — Accelerationism 101:

Capitalism is a necessarily failed escape from feudalism, which, instead of destroying encastement, reconstitutes social stratification in the class structure. It is only given this model that Deleuze and Guattari’s call to “accelerate the process” makes sense. It does not mean accelerating any or everything in capitalism willy-nilly, in the hope that capitalism will thereby collapse. Rather, it means accelerating the processes of destratification that capitalism cannot but obstruct.

In this sense, U/Acc isn’t a new mutation. It’s the original idea brought back to the fore after the woeful distractions of its left and right divergences — which led to its explicit dumbing down and dilution rather than being understood simply as “capitalist” and “anti-capitalist” variants. If U/Acc attempts to separate itself from these discussions, that’s only to shift focus to the further work done to exacerbate and rigorise the ‘Philosophy of Time’ elements that were buried in the writings of the Ccru and glossed over far too quickly by the subsequent L/R discussions.

The further critique explored on PV, particularly by Michael James, is that U/Acc supposedly rejects agency and instead believes in capitalism as a theological entity to be worshipped, as if its all a big Cthulhu Club LARP. This, again, is common and the result of people seeing the dramatised and poeticised experiments with Accelerationist ideas and taking them to be all too literal, failing to understand the distinct merits of (but nonetheless close relationship between) poetics and philosophy. (This has been discussed in orbit of the work of JG Ballard and Simon Sellars on this blog here.)

This is to say: yes, various accelerationist texts have used the style and language of occulted knowledges and theological beliefs, precisely to lampoon and refer to those (effectively hyperstitional) properties of human civilisation and thought when faced with something that we don’t (and, perhaps, can’t) fully understand.

Further to this is an investigation of the limits of a philosophical humanism when talking about climate change politics, the very things that James says he’s all about.

I quoted Vincent Garton on this in a post published just yesterday. In one of the initial texts which birthed U/Acc into the blogosphere, Vince writes in his essay “Unconditional Accelerationism as Anti-Praxis“:

The problem has been muddied by its own continual posing in humanist terms, which have provoked a refusal to understand the enormity of the issues at stake. From this perspective of humanism, thought is assimilated entirely to the objective of negotiating the problems that are held to confront humanity. Philosophically, it is concerned with epistemological understanding founded implicitly or not on the centrality of a coherent human subject; critically, it reduces the world to the relations of power practiced by humans towards humans; politically, it immerses itself in defining and putting into motion a better human society. Thought is rendered finally as a series of technical questions that constitute the tactical mapping of a topography whose ultimate form is placed beyond dispute.

This insistent backwater parochialism has eclipsed the intellectually interesting content of accelerationism. In colloquial usage on the left, for instance, ‘accelerationism’ has come to denote merely the idea that the situation of humanity must get worse before it gets better. At the heart of this definition lies the insistent, obsessional humanist question, ‘What is to be done?’, the fundamental question of praxis. The answer is rendered: ‘We must make things worse, so that they get better.’ This uninteresting idea has provoked an avalanche of furious critique of a commensurate intellectual scale. It is the doctrine, we are told, of ‘a dim child, trapped in a train about to crash, pretending he’s the driver’. Quite right, yet the critics protest too much: this is a feeling that has been characteristic of modern radicalism for centuries.

Frankly, I think it says it all how far below this point James’ ideas are when you consider how he has gone on a podcast and introduced his own blog as being built out of an “exhaustion with the theoretical limits of philosophy” and then all he does is demonstrate the limits of his comprehension, as if to say “If I can’t think it, no one can”, betraying the identitarian foundations of a politics he likes to pretend are far more radical.

In truth, it is an individualism that dresses itself up as a humanism. Through and through, his thoughts are always a factor of 10 below the scale he thinks he’s addressing. It’s the ingrown logic of a coveted individualist who LARPs being all about collective action. (In the next few minutes of the podcast, without a lick of irony, U/Acc is accused of being an “anhedonic mindset” but please show me anything more depressing than James’ logic.)

Likewise, the points made about U/Acc wanting to decimate the “human subject” — where is this coming from? The human subject, as we currently understand it, is riven through with the conservative logics of capitalism. It’s the argument of capitalist realism. The human subject is limited by present state infrastructures. It’s the argument of and a further challenge to Foucault’s biopolitics, more than anything.

But James instead goes on about how “there are still people who make decisions”.

Yes, there are. Well done. But anyone who’s powerful enough to make decisions about the future of our planet is a capitalist. They are most likely a capitalist subject par excellence. And so the beast eats its tale. Which comes first? Or, better yet: what ends first? Capitalism or the capitalist? James’ argument is, well, when the world ends and we all die out, they’ll both be gone…

The man’s a genius. Please, tell us again how wanting to radicalise and find exits from present infrastructures and subjectivities whilst we still can is depressive and all about giving up.

(Sidenote: @mutual_ayyde makes the point that it’s not just about capitalists: “modern complexity means that any intentional change period is difficult”. I agree: This is “more to challenge the point made in the podcast but any intentional change being difficult is why u/acc splits with both L and R wishful thinking.”)


My favourite line of this segment must go to James, again. It’s a doozy.

People don’t see a way out, right? It’s almost a giving up. It’s almost like a depression that’s set in. It’s like, “Okay, if we can’t be human, or if we can’t find a way out of this system, let’s just be complicit with becoming something new.”

Michael James’ Twitter has been a frequent source of tradical logic in recent months and here it is encapsulated beautifully. The depressive complicity of becoming something new.

Actually, you know what, I take that back. That’s perfect. That’s exactly what U/Acc is. In fact, it’s an Accelerationism laid out in precisely the same terms as Fisher, previously quoted — “accelerating the processes of destratification that capitalism cannot but obstruct.” It’s a complicity with capitalism’s self-destructive tendencies, the exacerbating of our desires for the new — which capitalism encourages materialistically — short-circuited towards a new system beyond itself. Because that’s the trick, right? Capitalism already contains its own demise. Playing chicken with its own redundancy is how it keeps its edge. U/Acc recognises this and says, “What can we do for ourselves that encourages it a little bit further over the edge?” We can’t give it the final push but we can sure throw our weight behind its own momentum. This is what it means to “accelerate the process”.

Ultimately, that’s how accelerationism has always seen us transitioning out. (“Transitioning” being something of a double entendre here, of course, with the beautiful shitposting of U/Acc’s transgender community persistently striking the cloistered limits of the real anhedonic logic of a cisgendered realism in stark relief — oh, the fragility of the (truly) complicit trad.)

Furthermore, as Fisher once said, capitalism can’t be voted out. It takes a libidinal usurping — a change of mind; a fundamental change of the subject hardwired into maintaining the status quo — to change the system. Politics alone won’t change anything…

Same with climate change, right, Michael?

In Capitalist Realism, remember, Fisher demands a new collective subject, which does not exist but has long been promised. Michael James seems to argue for this himself elsewhere, but repeatedly betrays a squeamishness as to its real implications. It’s all hot air and bitterness and tweeting about not caring about twitter. The holier-than-thou piety of a deluded egoist, hiding under the very nihilism he denounces in others.

Oh, and please forgive U/Acc for heading for the exits and having fun with the most radical subjects that popular culture has to offer. They are the seeds for a new realism, after all.

Whatever.

That Parallax Views segment is just a load of waffle between two people who evidently don’t have a clue what they’re on about.


Update: I see Max Castle has taken on many of the same issues with the podcast on Twitter:

One of the more difficult things about staking a position and defending it against criticism is the way interlocutors feint stupidity as a defense for a particular bad point. [1]

For example, look at a recent episode of @ViewsParallax with Michael James (@brightabyss). The host, J.G. Michael, asked James about accelerationism and we got the sort of criticism one has come to expect. [2]

The host’s criticism was especially galaxy brain level stuff: “Accelerationists love the Blade Runner aesthetic but if there aren’t humans, you can’t have Blade Runner.” I’m going to treat this ‘critique’ with more seriousness than it deserves. [3]

Accelerationism is NOT an aesthetic theory nor does it have a favored aesthetic. It is a theory of Capital. Cyberpunk/BR is a way to imagine a DIY response to obstacles in the flow of capital. It is not the official aesthetic ACC. [4]

That all being said, “All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify.” [5]

How can this point be so consistently missed? Obvious BA will come back with some sort of point about idol worshipping Marx, but shit the guy got Capital. Maybe the Marxists should pay attention. [6]

BA’s critique is only slightly better. Here they are:

(1) Accelerationism makes him have the bad feels.

(2) Corporation and CEOs make decisions.

(3) He doesn’t see accelerationists living the accelerationist life. [7]

So, in order:

(1) Who cares if you get the feels? Why must we assume that a theory of Capital must also include a political plan? This is not assumed of any other theory and points to a clear misunderstanding of the purposes of thought. [8]

(2) Yes, humans make decisions but the point is that these decisions are driven by a logic existing at a higher level. This logic is not the product of simple CEO desires but is the mechanism that drives their desires. [9]

(3) What part of beyond individual control is BA struggling with? [10]

On the point about “accelerationists not living the accelerationist life”, I’ll point — once again — to my old post on this: “U/ACC … argues that what is open to ‘us’ is perhaps only the possibility of, as Deleuze writes in Logic of Sense, a ‘becoming the quasi-cause of what is produced within us’.” 


Further Update:

Reader: he never did post it. You can, however, now read my U/Acc Primer which is filled with lots more evidence proving MJ is clueless. Is that a further tantrum? Or is it an attempt to actually inform people instead of parroting under-researched misgivings? You decide.