back to

e-flux conversations

Abysmal Plan: Waiting Until We Die and Radically Accelerated Repetitionism

A car crash harnesses elements of eroticism, aggression, desire, speed, drama, kinesthetic factors, the stylizing of motion, consumer goods, status—all these in one event. I myself see the car crash as a tremendous sexual event really: a liberation of human and machine libido (if there is such a thing).
—J.G. Ballard, interview in Penthouse (September 1970)

The already-dead term “accelerationism” is productive as a way of thinking and negotiating the register of stupidity—or brutal idiocy—where “meaning” is less important than force. That is, the language of ideology which is neither complex nor beautiful but forceful, articulating “meaning” on the level of flesh as surplus labor, television, academic discourse, and electrocution. Spiraling out of the writing of Deleuze and Guattari, Jean-François Lyotard, and Nick Land, among others, accelerationism is a quasi-Marxist strategy where “the cure is posed as more of the disease,” or more of the disease than capitalism can stand. The immanent radicalization of capital’s own dynamic of deterritorialization and decoding. A machinic revolution pressing in the opposite direction to “socialistic regulation,” embracing the demonic forces of the market as these rip apart the petty bureaucracies of the State. Played out as either a dehumanizing radicality which (paradoxically) clears the field for a post-capitalist humanism, like the end of Total Recall when the dome cracks open and idealized Life pours out into the regenerating landscape. Or as an inversion of Hegelian-Marxist historical materialism, in which capitalism will not be ultimately unmasked as exploited labor power but rather humans unmasked as “the meat puppets of Capital,” and their “identities and self-understandings” as simulations skinned off—so we can get on “with the business of fully inhabiting inhuman capitalist jouissance.” After the Apocalypse the accelerationist either reprograms him or herself back into a “good hippy” or embraces the dark joys of Oblivion like the Nazgûl or Nero in Star Trek 2009. But obviously accelerationism doesn’t actually do any of this. A criticism of it is that by strategically endorsing the impersonal processes of neoliberalism, with the alibi of “instrumental distance,” there is no way to dissociate praxis from identifiable ends anymore. But this is hypothetical; there is no praxis and capitalism doesn’t need/know/care about any of this. It is like waving a flag as a juggernaut surges past.

Perhaps then, as Mark Fisher suggests, accelerationism should be considered as a provocation: the kind of provocation the Left needs. Institutional critique—its racy delights pitched strategically and institutionally against the constrained traditions of criticality and (more precisely) the academic Left, or the “embourgeoisified state-subsidized grumbling that so often calls itself academic Marxism.” A menagerie of “careerist sandbaggers,” “guffawing Guardianistas” and “academic trolls” engaged in “quibbling critique” and “the ruthless protection of petit bourgeois interests dressed up as politics.” And all this coagulating around the Kurtz-like figure (and writing) of Nick Land—the dark-brain, enfant-terrible of British philosophy, lurking like a spider in the caves of Mordor (or China). In contrast to the hypocrites described above, Land was on the “outside”—he was earnest, man!—“to the point of psychosis and auto-induced schizophrenia” in his pursuit of “the Spinozist-Nietzschean-Marxist injunction that a theory should not be taken seriously if it remains at the level of representation.” Predictably, Land’s anti-careerism is now used by his disciples as cultural capital, with stakeholders and beneficiaries pegged out and lineages coiffured.Business as usual.

In part, this is laid out in relation to the same old pseudo-oppositions of philosophical binaries. Nietzsche’s “YES” opposed to the dialectical “NO”; affirmation to dialectical negation; difference to dialectical contradiction; joy, enjoyment, the ecstasy of the event to dialectical labor; lightness, dance to dialectical responsibilities. Life to Death and so on. But there is another way of thinking about all this—key here is the idea of production.

Read the full article here.