Acceleration/ism

We can compare the thought of Technics and Time to certain strands of what has been termed the ‘accelerationist’ critique in (particularly late C20th) continental philosophy. This seems to chime with Stiegler’s own critique of rapidly accelerating innovation, defined as a continual reduction of the latency between scientific discovery and technical invention (c.f. T&T, 40-43). This is something which I believe is developed, especially in the second, but also the third volumes of the series. It seems fruitful to think economic, technical, social, and aesthetic forms of acceleration separately and together.

Acceleration was, of course, a key symptom of the transformation of capital by credit for Marx (e.g. see here and here), and a call for it might be found in the (somewhat hubristic) prediction of the Manifesto that capitalism exacerbates class antinomy, thereby bringing about its own ‘inevitable’ demise [see also, the claim that ‘the worse the better’].

But this impulse crystallizes in what Alberto Toscano calls la pensée ’73 – i.e. in the gestures towards understanding new economic formations in D&G, Lyotard, and Baudrillard that take the shape of a “Marx-beyond-Marxism”. The most obvious texts here are Capitalism & SchizophreniaLibidinal EconomySymbolic Exchange & Death and The Mirror of Production. To this we might then add (particularly in relation to Technics and Time) Lyotard’s The Inhuman, Foucault’s lecture series on The Birth of Biopolitics and Virilio’s countless works, for example Speed and Politics and Open Sky to pick the two I’m most familiar with.

The tone of this rhetoric was also ripe for acceleration in all the wrong directions. Nick Land and the loose-knit CCRU collective (including Sadie PlantMark Fisher, Kodwo Eshun, Robin Mackay, Iain Hamilton-Grant, Steve Goodman, Luciana Parisi, Matt Fuller, Ray Brassier, amongst others) attached to Warwick’s philosophy department in the mid-1990s plunged deep into internet culture, numerology, conspiracy theory and other aspects of the cybernetic occult – see Simon Reynolds for loose history and Ben Noys for loose analysis. Ben is very good here on different aspects of this ‘cyberpunk phuturism’ – in relation to neoliberalism, intoxication, and the tendency. Many of the key voices in the 90s CCRU formation have been instrumental in developing speculative realist thought, as well as being involved in the Collapse journal, and the ferment of like-mindedness around Goldsmiths College. Land, meanwhile, has gone from writing invigorating post-Kantian critiques of modernity to launching robust post ’73-inflected defenses of ultraconservative political economics – accelerationism concretised in person (see also here: the use of Deleuzo-Guattarian language by the Israeli military). We should, however, rescue some of his work: particularly (I feel) his concept of ‘inhibited synthesis’ – a state of antagonism between two concepts or systems (such as trade and law) brought about by the same conditions that drive them together (see Fanged Noumena, 62-63).

A kind of third-wave manifestation of this tendency is currently being reworked by a group of young academics loosely affiliated with speculative realist thought, and is worth paying attention to – see their manifesto and McKenzie Wark’s response. Primers and further comment can be found herehere, and in this e-Flux special issue. The implications of emphasising metis (craft/craftiness) over (or at least alongside) techne also seem important.

The accelerationist critique constitutes an attempt to think the social, the technological, and the economic beyond the limits of human finitude – but, to the extent to which it aims for a potential politics, it has seen criticism from the left for a perceived replacement of traditional oppositional strategies with an anti-/in-/post-humanist impulse that cozies up too closely with neoliberal discourse – a charge that has been similarly levelled at Stiegler (see John Hutnyk in New Formations for instance, as well as several conversations that have arisen in the T&T reading group); though whether Stiegler himself would appreciate the association is doubtful. For their part, accelerationists would probably characterise the debate between neoliberalism and Marxist orthodoxy as locked in a moribund conservative narrative to which they seek an escape.

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