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Alexander R. Galloway on the "brometheanism" of left accelerationists


In the debates about accelerationism that have raged during the past few years, we have heard little from Alexander R. Galloway, whose background as a programmer and insightful writing on technology would seem to make him a natural contributor. Well, Galloway has weighed in at last, and his assessment is not positive. In a piece called “Brometheanism” published at the boundary 2 blog, Galloway eviscerates Srnicek and Williams’s Inventing the Future, arguing that it is elitist, paternalistic, and oddly pro-capitalist. Here’s a slice of Galloway’s damning piece:

What’s good about accelerationism? And what’s bad? I love the ambition and scope. Certainly the accelerationists’ willingness to challenge leftist orthodoxies is refreshing. I also like how the accelerationists demand that we take technology and science seriously. And I also agree that there are important tactical uses of accelerationist or otherwise hypertrophic interventions (Eugene Thacker and I have referred to them as exploits). Still I see accelerationism essentially as a tactic mistaken for a strategy. At the same time this kind of accelerationism is precisely what dot-com entrepreneurs want to see from the left. Further, and ultimately most important, accelerationism is paternalistic and thus suffers from the problems of elitism and ultimately reactionary politics…

To summarize, accelerationism presents a rich spectrum of problems. The first stems from the notion that technology/automation will save us, replete with vague references to “the latest technological developments” unencumbered by any real details. Second is the question of capitalism itself. Despite Srnicek and Williams’s Marxist tendencies, it’s not at all clear that accelerationism is anti-capitalist. In fact accelerationism would be better described as a form of post-capitalism, what Zizek likes to mock as “capitalism with a friendly face.” What is post-capitalism exactly? More capitalism? A modified form of capitalism? For this reason it becomes difficult to untangle accelerationism from the most visionary dreams of the business elite. Isn’t this exactly what dot-com entrepreneurs are calling for? Isn’t the avant-garde of acceleration taking place right now in Silicon Valley? This leads to a third point: accelerationism is a tactic mistaken for a strategy. Certainly accelerationist or otherwise hypertrophic methods are useful in a provisional, local, which is to say tactical way. But accelerationism is, in my view, naïve about how capitalism works at a strategic level. Capitalism wants nothing more than to accelerate. Adding to the acceleration will help capitalism not hinder it. Capitalism is this accelerating force, from primitive accumulation on up to today. (Accelerationists don’t dispute this; they just simply disagree on the moral status of capitalism.) Fourth and finally is the most important problem revealed by accelerationism, the problem of elitism and reactionary politics. Given unequal technological development, those who accelerate will necessarily do so on the backs of others who are forced to proletarianize. Thus accelerationists are faced with a kind of “internal colonialism” problem, meaning there must be a distinction made between those who accelerate and those who facilitate acceleration through their very bodies. We already know who suffers most under unequal technological acceleration, and it’s not young white male academics living in England. Thus their skepticism toward the “folk” is all too often a paternalistic skepticism toward the wants and needs of the generic population. Hence the need for accelerationists to talk glowingly about things like “engineering consent.” It’s hard to see where this actually leads. Or more to the point who leads: if not Leninists then who, technocrats? Philosopher kings?

Image via Forbes.