Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The oddity of accelerationism

Steven Shaviro has a really interesting piece on his blog on accelerationism.

I'm alternately puzzled and appalled by the whole accelerationist thing.  I'd like to think that it's the death throes of something old rather than the birth pangs of something new but I'm not sure.  Despite its sexy, fashionable, fast talking conceptual garb there's something oddly outdated about.  It seems to presuppose a very pre-Gaian kind of Nature (this is ironic since the people pushing these ideas often justify themselves in relation to the anthropocene, etc.) that is quite untenable in our contemporary ecological situation.

It comes down to this: can we accelerate capitalism to the point that it breaks down, mutates and becomes something else before Gaia boils us to death?  I can't imagine how.  We may have already passed the point of no return in that regard.

The only way out of this for the accelerationists would seem to be to assume that either late-late capitalism or that-which-follows-capitalism would be sufficiently technologically advanced that it could engineer the climate and master Gaia.

In other words, the accelerationists must have precisely the same long term goals as the most idealistic, technophilic neoliberals.  I can only imagine that there are some twenty-something CEOs in Silicon Valley reading this stuff and thinking to themselves 'yes! that's exactly it!'  It's a young man's discourse with some seriously old school presuppositions.

It's quite possible that I'm being ignorant and unfairly simplifying in all of this but that's my impression.


  1. http://www.publicseminar.org/2013/11/accelerationism/#.UotqGOIQe7o

  2. Thanks, dmf. There's definitely something zeitgeisty about this thing! Clearly there are more nuances to the concept than my above caricature but it still concerns me.

    I've never quite understood why people think that Deleuze and Guattari are so undeniably uber-radical in the present moment. In 1972, maybe, but there's been a whole heck of a lot of 'becoming timely' of their once untimely ideas since then. Radicalism is no more timeless than anything else. What was once provocation can today be apologism.

    I don't want to throw the rather lovely baby of D&G out with the bathwater of neoliberalism - far from it - but there's no doubt in my mind that there's too much complacent hagiography where they're concerned. Their parallels with Hayek et al. are just too profound to ignore.

    I think we need to read Hayek like we read Carl Schmitt - some profound insights wedded to a fundamentally terrible politics. And perhaps we're reaching a point where we need to read D&G like most people read Marx these days - that is earnestly but critically. As a resource, yes, but not one that should be followed to the letter (although, of course, many do just this).

    Marx was 'of his time' and must be read as such. Given that the year is now 2013 I think we're now at the point when the likes of D&G need to be seen as being 'of their time' and read accordingly. Too many people still read them as though they were 'of the present.' A great deal of critical work needs to be done to keep *any* set of ideas 'untimely.'

  3. while there are parts of Guatarri's liberation-minded spirit that I resonate with I've never had much use for D&G so can't help you out there, I think coming from a science background much of
    speculative-metaphysics doesn't crystallize my understandings the way it might for more traditional humanities folks.