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Escape Velocities


In the early years of the twenty-first century there emerged a renewed interest in theoretical ideas of acceleration. The key figure in these discussions has been the British philosopher Nick Land. The term “accelerationism,” itself coined by Benjamin Noys (in a characteristically critical register), bares some explanation. As Noys defines it, accelerationism describes certain libertarian post-Marxist positions (Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, Lyotard’s Libidinal Economy, and the Baudrillard of the mid-1970s). According to Noys,

[Such thinkers] reply to Marx’s contention that “the real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself,” by arguing that we must crash through this barrier by turning capitalism against itself. They are an exotic variant of la politique du pire: if capitalism generates its own forces of dissolution then the necessity is to radicalise capitalism itself: the worse the better. We can call this tendency accelerationism.

It is Land who exemplified, and indeed exacerbated, this strategy of “the worse the better” to new heights of sick perversity in the 1990s. But what is of interest to us is not so much questions of conceptual genealogy but the resurgence of the idea: What is accelerationism today?

At present we find a swarm of new ideas operating under this rubric, ranging from post-capitalist techno-political theory, to sci-fi speculative cosmist design, to universal rationalist epistemologies. It is to be suggested that this return to ideas of acceleration must be indexed to our present condition of political, economic, and cultural decay. And though Land’s own ideas of what is to be accelerated, and in what acceleration consists, have been superseded, such references, now existing at multiple levels (epistemic, ontological, political, cosmological) might now come to be marshaled more directly against the spectre of a greying, obese, and yet still hegemonically rictus-tight neoliberal order.

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