February 19, 2017

Nick Land & Accelerationism

This is Nick Land, one of the most important philosophers of the last 20 years, and one the most innovative thinkers on the subjects of cybernetics and late capitalism. He is also one of the theorists of NRx, and is one of accelerationism’s primary figureheads. Nick Land didn’t always belong to the Right. Initially, he was a Deleuzian Marxist and he formulated most of his original ideas during his involvement with CCRU (Cybernetic Culture Research Unit) at Warwick University.

Land believes that neoliberal capitalism will continue down a path of libidinous growth and its contradictions and inequalities will expand along with technological growth on a vast global scale. The phenomenon is roughly what can be described as “accelerationism.” Capitalism is reaching its limits and the transition is bound to happen. If this tendency goes on unchecked, technological growth will expand to such a degree that humankind’s welfare is just an obstacle to capitalism’s end goal of brutal efficiency. However, there are left and right alignments to accelerationism. The right alignment is consisted of NRx, Vulgar Libertarianism and the Alt-Right. The Trump administration is both a symptom and a catalyst for right accelerationism.

The ideal form of governance for NRx is CEO monarchists running micronations. Its concept of historical progress consists of eugenics augmented by biotechnologyas a result of the expansion of the gap between the very wealthy and the world’s poor. It’s the heads of Exxon and Goldman Sachs with cabinet seats. It’s ignoring the reality of climate change because the world’s underclass, who are most affected by this, are a economically useless class. When we finally automate all labour, the society no longer needs them. NRX utopia is the Wall Street intersecting with Silicon Valley tunneling money via shadow banking through hedge funds. It’s Elon Musk’s Mars terraforming project in the event of the planet earth becoming inhospitable. The wealthiest people in the world are throwing fortunes at a gated world after climate change as opposed to fixing it for everyone. Whether Consciously belonging to the NRx movement or not, these figureheads sit on Trump’s advisory board.

In the words of the late Mark Fisher one of the thinkers of Left Accelerationism who conceived of Right Accelerationism as, “Deleuze and Guattari’s machinic desire remorselessly stripped of all Bergsonian vitalism, and made backwards-compatible with Freud’s death drive and Schopenhauer’s Will. The Hegelian-Marxist motor of history is then transplanted into this pulsional nihilism: the idiotic autonomic Will no longer circulating idiotically on the spot, but upgraded into a drive, and guided by a quasi-teleological artificial intelligence attractor that draws terrestrial history over a series of intensive thresholds that have no eschatological point of consummation, and that reach empirical termination only contingently if and when its material substrate burns out. This is Hegelian-Marxist historical materialism inverted: Capital will not be ultimately unmasked as exploited labour power; rather, humans are the meat puppet of Capital, their identities and self-understandings are simulations that can and will ultimately be sloughed off.”

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Trumpolitics isn’t an aberration, it is politics in our current state of affairs. Trump is the apotheosis of all Alt-Right ideas: gross machismo and alpha male posturing (manosphere), the illusion of blue collar populism/living breathing corporate astroturfing (Tea Party), the idea of whiteness in crisis (Identitarianism), xenophobia (white nationalism), the Klan’s candidate of choice (1488), Making America Great Again (paleoconservatism), vulgarity (Deplorables), capitalism run amok (vulgar libertarianism), Christian radicalism (Evangelical Christianity), societal collapse (NRx).

But politics is not all hopeless. Left Accelerationism is an alternative, and it’s the idea that the only way out of multinational late capitalism is through it. Capitalism has one direction at this point and that’s collapse. Either it collapses into socialism or fascism, but it’ll collapse. Technological growth is a consequence of capitalism and technology. It can and should be repurposed. Left acceleration anticipates this collapse and aims to utilize technology to not only nudge the collapse Leftward, but to seize control via a counter-hegemony symmetrical to right populism. Marxism for the 21st century is nothing if not left Accelelerationism.

Accelerationism in its left alignment acknowledges that capitalism is the common denominator in all global conflicts which all affect one another in a complex schema. Horizontal & local politics can’t contend with this planetary complexity. Capitalism has in the past made socialized concessions to prevent its collapse. Make all the jokes you want about “fully automated space communism” and the implausibility of such a world, but that’s part of why the Left keeps dissaponting itself. Left Accelerationism urges the larger left to reject nostalgia and embrace Bogdanovian “tektology” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tektology) and global systems.

Punching Richard Spencer is satisfying but the left also needs new political infrastructures. In the last five years Left Accelerationist action has mostly amounted to intellectual elite meetings, high-quality publishing, contemporary art projects and academic conferences. Left Accelerationism needs to leave behind its safe theoretical embryo and its current status a new intellectual cult around certain figureheads and a new brand identity for personal career advancement in arts and academia and instead become a real planetary political movement.

Accelerationism in any alignment (Right or Left) isn’t an idea that we just debate. It is a reality that we must confront and grapple with.“Machinic revolution must therefore go in the opposite direction to socialistic regulation pressing towards ever more uninhibited marketization of the pro­cesses that are tearing down the social field, “still further” with “the movement of the market, of decoding and deterritorialization” and ‘one can never go far enough in the direction of deterritori­alization: you haven’t seen anything yet.’” (Nick Land, Fanged Noumena, 341-342; embedded quotations from Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, 239, 321)


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