* Williams, Alex and Srnicek, Nick. 2013. ‘#ACCELERATE MANIFESTO for an Accelerationist Politics’. Critical and Legal Thinking.
‘We believe that the most important division in today’s left is between those who hold to a folk politics of localism, direct action and relentless horizontalism, and those who outline what must become called an accelerationist politics at ease with a modernity of abstraction, complexity, globality and technology. The former remains content with establishing small and temporary spaces of non-capitalist social relations, eschewing the real problems entailed in facing foes that are intrinsically non-local, abstract, and rooted deep in our everyday infrastructure. The failure of such politics has been built-in from the very beginning. By contrast, an accelerationist politics seeks to preserve the gains of late capitalism while going further than its value system, governance structures, and mass pathologies will allow’.
- (Williams and Srnicek, 2013)
1. Robert Jackson:
"Accelerationism is a renewed humanism that seeks to re-master the world. As a “Right-Accelerationist” ... Land wants, accelerating reactionary aristocracy past democratic values (Land’s so-called Dark Enlightenment). As “Left-Accelerationists, Srnicek and Williams declare that only a radical “maximal mastery” of renewed Enlightenment values will secure victory over capital, in an age where modern infrastructure is constituted by complexity and systemic automation." (http://furtherfield.org/features/articles/ordinaryism-alternative-accelerationism-part-1-thanks-nothing)
"Prominent theorists include right-accelerationist Nick Land. The Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (Ccru), an unofficial research unit at the University of Warwick from 1995–2003, of which Land was a member, is considered a key progenitor in both left- and right-accelerationist thought. Prominent contemporary left-accelerationists include Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, authors of the "Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics", and the Laboria Cuboniks collective, who authored the manifesto "Xenofeminism: A Politics for Alienation".
Along accelerationist lines, Paul Mason, in works such as PostCapitalism: A Guide to our Future, has tried to speculate about futures after capitalism. He declares that "[a]s with the end of feudalism 500 years ago, capitalism’s replacement by postcapitalism will be accelerated by external shocks and shaped by the emergence of a new kind of human being. And it has started." He considers that the rise of collaborative production will eventually help capitalism to kill itself." (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accelerationism )
By Robert Jackson:
"The doctrine of accelerationism is accelerating, as it should be (Twitter hashtags and all) making giant leaps in art and cultural theory circles. By no means does it signal anything concrete, (at least not yet) than it provokes the insistent beginnings of a modern political doctrine: one that joins up similar threads of interest across disparate thinkers and topics. Of late, it has enjoyed multiple discussions online, a recent symposium in Berlin, the sole topic for an e-flux journal on aesthetics, a forum held last year, and an expectant anthology from Urbanomic.
Coined by Benjamin Noys in The Persistence of the Negative: A Critique of Contemporary Continental Theory, the acceletrationist doctrine takes many forms, but by and large, its aim is to accelerate, conceive, invert and uproot capitalist infrastructures and abstractions using the abstract epistemic resources of capitalism itself. For Marx and Engels this required the dialectical development of capitalist contraction towards its ‘inevitable’ destruction. Deleuze and Guattari famously mused that the process of capital was to be accelerated, and in its darker, more heightened levels (most famously, the macabre futurist machinic practice of Nick Land), it meant pushing the social deterritorialising force of capitalism into its inevitable post-capitalist future.
In its early stages, accelerationism established a darker, more virulently techno-nihilistic strain of theoretical terror. Land was spellbound by the 90s demonic growth of neoliberalism: for it possessed, not just some freaky quality of being utterly impervious to any resistance of leftist critique, but the singular quality of accelerating unparalleled technological progress. Land’s future was a rumbling techno-capital singularity smuggling itself within collapsing human civilisations until the latter would eventually be creamed off. These views eventually drove Land out of academia but remained a curious alternative to other political responses: a darker alternative to fields of protest, against disruption, antonomist intervention, situationist détournement, hackitivism or a resuscitated dialectical antagonism.
Filtering out the hysteric reactionary stupor of Land’s thought, contemporary thinkers have begun to rethink accelerationism beyond the squalid drive of accelerating capitalist contradiction. Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, who co-authored the widely circulated Accelerationist Manifesto, have clearly articulated this view, rejecting Land’s singularity but endorsing the use of capitalist quantification techniques, engineering, infrastructure, persuasive models, and advanced computational affordances to accelerate the modern left. Whereas leftist thought has sought to question, undermine or even reverse modernity, Srnicek and Williams suggest that radical thought must accelerate the mediums of capitalist production into a post capitalist future. They proudly assert that “if the political left is to have a future it must be one in which it maximally embraces this suppressed accelerationist tendency.”
Against what Srnicek and Williams term “folk politics” (the title for their forthcoming publication) - defined as “localism, direct action, and relentless horizontalism” - an accelerationist politics preserves neoliberal infrastructure, but intends to push its affordances faster than neoliberalism would allow: in particular a basic universal income and the reduction of work (through automation). For them, folk politics has no big picture, nor any infrastructural plan beyond a ‘the party’ or a ‘horizontal network’: no method of effectivity or material advancement. In a separate article they condemn the conservative left for reducing themselves into “trafficking in the politics of fear, rather than the politics of freedom and the project for a more just society”.
Technology is to be used as method of “furthering leftist goals”, that is, building a material platform for a genuine post-capitalist societal framework. The emphasis is on accelerating modernity and progress, not accelerating contradictory speed (the latter evident in, say, high frequency trading), investing an understanding of post-capitalist infrastructure through new economic models and repurposed machinery. There is no wiggle-room here for Srnicek and Williams: either build a post-capitalist future or don’t. Either establish or experiment towards a broad ideological vision for accelerating the future or repeatedly fail. Failure, in their eyes, is not a thing of beauty, but a path towards an alternative future. Instead of leftist faith, Srnicek and Williams advocate alternative means of building an infrastructure of the future.
And there’s a lot here to agree for the most part. The left has instigated a lot of its own irrelevancy by ignoring or rejecting the often affective affordances of technology - rather than changing its use, or learning how to build a more just society. Yet, accelerationism’s major problem concerns itself with peddling a systematic theory to explain the practice of doing all the stuff the left failed to realise. What happens to the ordinary?") (http://furtherfield.org/features/articles/ordinaryism-alternative-accelerationism-part-1-thanks-nothing
"What gives the Left accelerationists an injection of substance is not merely repeating Marxist demands that capitalism is an unjust, unequal system which promotes corpulent wealth, but that it primarily holds back the progressive and explanatory capacities of inhuman reasoning and technological progress (or at least that Voice, under this view, can only ever be the immediate starting point for an inhuman ascension).
Simply put, Left-accelerationism recognises both the lack of freedom and rationality and seeks to restore both in a more contemporary guise: the normative aim of constructing political freedom in ever greater inhuman measures. Thus the additional impulsion of Srnicek and Williams’ project stresses that the only method of overcoming capitalism is to self-master our epistemological knowledge of it , in order to apply methods that structure leverage towards rational self-determination. Here one almost tastes the accelerationist contempt for Leftist skepticism, and all of its appeals to doubt that have become complicit in contemporary forms of political action undermining progressive futurist thought. Skepticism for them, only bestows reason with a staggering lack of imagination and of lives that entirely accept the limits of neo-liberal stupor wrought by epistemic immediacy and affirmationist philosophies (distancing itself from the vitalist aspects of Deleuze and Guattari plays a key developmental role here).
The philosophical appeal toward a universal rationalist epistemology supports accelerationism’s desire to reengage with the Enlightenment project, where freedom becomes the binding of oneself to a universal rational rule (that must include and surpass capitalist and economic development) together with an adherence to that rule. More importantly the universalisation required must be a movement of Promethean ascension which promotes, as Williams puts it alongside Srnicek in an interview with Mohammed Salemy: “the idea that through our knowledge of the world and through political struggle, too, we can open new ways of being free that were unavailable to us before.” Inhuman Exit is rescued from the libertarian darkness of the NR-x hand, and into the clutches of unending rigorous collective reasoning. Inhuman freedom is repurposed away from compulsive slavery of alien market forces, to an alien rationality of a free rational subject that might exit from capital. The only alien demand is an inhuman demand to self-master our own possibilities towards rejecting capitalism (towards a post-capitalist future)." (http://www.furtherfield.org/features/articles/ordinaryism-alternative-accelerationism-part-2-exit-versus-voice-freedom-reasoning)
The Accelerationist Manifesto
Excerpted from Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek:
"If the political left is to have a future it must be one in which it maximally embraces this suppressed accelerationist tendency.
1. We believe the most important division in today’s left is between those that hold to a folk politics of localism, direct action, and relentless horizontalism, and those that outline what must become called an accelerationist politics at ease with a modernity of abstraction, complexity, globality, and technology. The former remains content with establishing small and temporary spaces of non-capitalist social relations, eschewing the real problems entailed in facing foes which are intrinsically non-local, abstract, and rooted deep in our everyday infrastructure. The failure of such politics has been built-in from the very beginning. By contrast, an accelerationist politics seeks to preserve the gains of late capitalism while going further than its value system, governance structures, and mass pathologies will allow.
2. All of us want to work less. It is an intriguing question as to why it was that the world’s leading economist of the post-war era believed that an enlightened capitalism inevitably progressed towards a radical reduction of working hours. In The Economic Prospects for Our Grandchildren (written in 1930), Keynes forecast a capitalist future where individuals would have their work reduced to three hours a day. What has instead occurred is the progressive elimination of the work-life distinction, with work coming to permeate every aspect of the emerging social factory.
3. Capitalism has begun to constrain the productive forces of technology, or at least, direct them towards needlessly narrow ends. Patent wars and idea monopolisation are contemporary phenomena that point to both capital’s need to move beyond competition, and capital’s increasingly retrograde approach to technology. The properly accelerative gains of neoliberalism have not led to less work or less stress. And rather than a world of space travel, future shock, and revolutionary technological potential, we exist in a time where the only thing which develops is marginally better consumer gadgetry. Relentless iterations of the same basic product sustain marginal consumer demand at the expense of human acceleration.
4. We do not want to return to Fordism. There can be no return to Fordism. The capitalist “golden era” was premised on the production paradigm of the orderly factory environment, where (male) workers received security and a basic standard of living in return for a lifetime of stultifying boredom and social repression. Such a system relied upon an international hierarchy of colonies, empires, and an underdeveloped periphery; a national hierarchy of racism and sexism; and a rigid family hierarchy of female subjugation. For all the nostalgia many may feel, this régime is both undesirable and practically impossible to return to.
5. Accelerationists want to unleash latent productive forces. In this project, the material platform of neoliberalism does not need to be destroyed. It needs to be repurposed towards common ends. The existing infrastructure is not a capitalist stage to be smashed, but a springboard to launch towards post-capitalism.
6. Given the enslavement of technoscience to capitalist objectives (especially since the late 1970s) we surely do not yet know what a modern technosocial body can do. Who amongst us fully recognizes what untapped potentials await in the technology which has already been developed? Our wager is that the true transformative potentials of much of our technological and scientific research remain unexploited, filled with presently redundant features (or pre-adaptations) that, following a shift beyond the short-sighted capitalist socius, can become decisive.
7. We want to accelerate the process of technological evolution. But what we are arguing for is not techno-utopianism. Never believe that technology will be sufficient to save us. Necessary, yes, but never sufficient without socio-political action. Technology and the social are intimately bound up with one another, and changes in either potentiate and reinforce changes in the other. Whereas the techno-utopians argue for acceleration on the basis that it will automatically overcome social conflict, our position is that technology should be accelerated precisely because it is needed in order to win social conflicts.
8. We believe that any post-capitalism will require post-capitalist planning. The faith placed in the idea that, after a revolution, the people will spontaneously constitute a novel socioeconomic system that isn’t simply a return to capitalism is naïve at best, and ignorant at worst. To further this, we must develop both a cognitive map of the existing system and a speculative image of the future economic system.
9. To do so, the left must take advantage of every technological and scientific advance made possible by capitalist society. We declare that quantification is not an evil to be eliminated, but a tool to be used in the most effective manner possible. Economic modelling is — simply put — a necessity for making intelligible a complex world. The 2008 financial crisis reveals the risks of blindly accepting mathematical models on faith, yet this is a problem of illegitimate authority not of mathematics itself. The tools to be found in social network analysis, agent-based modelling, big data analytics, and non-equilibrium economic models, are necessary cognitive mediators for understanding complex systems like the modern economy. The accelerationist left must become literate in these technical fields.
10. Any transformation of society must involve economic and social experimentation. The Chilean Project Cybersyn is emblematic of this experimental attitude — fusing advanced cybernetic technologies, with sophisticated economic modelling, and a democratic platform instantiated in the technological infrastructure itself. Similar experiments were conducted in 1950s – 1960s Soviet economics as well, employing cybernetics and linear programming in an attempt to overcome the new problems faced by the first communist economy. That both of these were ultimately unsuccessful can be traced to the political and technological constraints these early cyberneticians operated under.
11. The left must develop sociotechnical hegemony: both in the sphere of ideas, and in the sphere of material platforms. Platforms are the infrastructure of global society. They establish the basic parameters of what is possible, both behaviourally and ideologically. In this sense, they embody the material transcendental of society: they are what make possible particular sets of actions, relationships, and powers. While much of the current global platform is biased towards capitalist social relations, this is not an inevitable necessity. These material platforms of production, finance, logistics, and consumption can and will be reprogrammed and reformatted towards post-capitalist ends.
12. We do not believe that direct action is sufficient to achieve any of this. The habitual tactics of marching, holding signs, and establishing temporary autonomous zones risk becoming comforting substitutes for effective success. “At least we have done something” is the rallying cry of those who privilege self-esteem rather than effective action. The only criterion of a good tactic is whether it enables significant success or not. We must be done with fetishising particular modes of action. Politics must be treated as a set of dynamic systems, riven with conflict, adaptations and counter-adaptations, and strategic arms races. This means that each individual type of political action becomes blunted and ineffective over time as the other sides adapt. No given mode of political action is historically inviolable. Indeed, over time, there is an increasing need to discard familiar tactics as the forces and entities they are marshalled against learn to defend and counter-attack them effectively. It is in part the contemporary left’s inability to do so which lies close to the heart of the contemporary malaise.
13. The overwhelming privileging of democracy-as-process needs to be left behind. The fetishisation of openness, horizontality, and inclusion of much of today’s ‘radical’ left set the stage for ineffectiveness. Secrecy, verticality, and exclusion all have their place as well in effective political action (though not, of course, an exclusive one).
14. Democracy cannot be defined simply by its means — not via voting, discussion, or general assemblies. Real democracy must be defined by its goal — collective self-mastery. This is a project which must align politics with the legacy of the Enlightenment, to the extent that it is only through harnessing our ability to understand ourselves and our world better (our social, technical, economic, psychological world) that we can come to rule ourselves. We need to posit a collectively controlled legitimate vertical authority in addition to distributed horizontal forms of sociality, to avoid becoming the slaves of either a tyrannical totalitarian centralism or a capricious emergent order beyond our control. The command of The Plan must be married to the improvised order of The Network.
15. We do not present any particular organisation as the ideal means to embody these vectors. What is needed — what has always been needed — is an ecology of organisations, a pluralism of forces, resonating and feeding back on their comparative strengths. Sectarianism is the death knell of the left as much as centralization is, and in this regard we continue to welcome experimentation with different tactics (even those we disagree with).
16. We have three medium term concrete goals. First, we need to build an intellectual infrastructure. Mimicking the Mont Pelerin Society of the neoliberal revolution, this is to be tasked with creating a new ideology, economic and social models, and a vision of the good to replace and surpass the emaciated ideals that rule our world today. This is an infrastructure in the sense of requiring the construction not just of ideas, but institutions and material paths to inculcate, embody and spread them.
17. We need to construct wide-scale media reform. In spite of the seeming democratisation offered by the internet and social media, traditional media outlets remain crucial in the selection and framing of narratives, along with possessing the funds to prosecute investigative journalism. Bringing these bodies as close as possible to popular control is crucial to undoing the current presentation of the state of things.
18. Finally, we need to reconstitute various forms of class power. Such a reconstitution must move beyond the notion that an organically generated global proletariat already exists. Instead it must seek to knit together a disparate array of partial proletarian identities, often embodied in post-Fordist forms of precarious labour.
19. Groups and individuals are already at work on each of these, but each is on their own insufficient. What is required is all three feeding back into one another, with each modifying the contemporary conjunction in such a way that the others become more and more effective. A positive feedback loop of infrastructural, ideological, social and economic transformation, generating a new complex hegemony, a new post-capitalist technosocial platform. History demonstrates it has always been a broad assemblage of tactics and organisations which has brought about systematic change; these lessons must be learned.
20. To achieve each of these goals, on the most practical level we hold that the accelerationist left must think more seriously about the flows of resources and money required to build an effective new political infrastructure. Beyond the ‘people power’ of bodies in the street, we require funding, whether from governments, institutions, think tanks, unions, or individual benefactors. We consider the location and conduction of such funding flows essential to begin reconstructing an ecology of effective accelerationist left organizations.
21. We declare that only a Promethean politics of maximal mastery over society and its environment is capable of either dealing with global problems or achieving victory over capital. This mastery must be distinguished from that beloved of thinkers of the original Enlightenment. The clockwork universe of Laplace, so easily mastered given sufficient information, is long gone from the agenda of serious scientific understanding. But this is not to align ourselves with the tired residue of postmodernity, decrying mastery as proto-fascistic or authority as innately illegitimate. Instead we propose that the problems besetting our planet and our species oblige us to refurbish mastery in a newly complex guise; whilst we cannot predict the precise result of our actions, we can determine probabilistically likely ranges of outcomes. What must be coupled to such complex systems analysis is a new form of action: improvisatory and capable of executing a design through a practice which works with the contingencies it discovers only in the course of its acting, in a politics of geosocial artistry and cunning rationality. A form of abductive experimentation that seeks the best means to act in a complex world.
22. We need to revive the argument that was traditionally made for post-capitalism: not only is capitalism an unjust and perverted system, but it is also a system that holds back progress. Our technological development is being suppressed by capitalism, as much as it has been unleashed. Accelerationism is the basic belief that these capacities can and should be let loose by moving beyond the limitations imposed by capitalist society. The movement towards a surpassing of our current constraints must include more than simply a struggle for a more rational global society. We believe it must also include recovering the dreams which transfixed many from the middle of the Nineteenth Century until the dawn of the neoliberal era, of the quest of Homo Sapiens towards expansion beyond the limitations of the earth and our immediate bodily forms. These visions are today viewed as relics of a more innocent moment. Yet they both diagnose the staggering lack of imagination in our own time, and offer the promise of a future that is affectively invigorating, as well as intellectually energising. After all, it is only a post-capitalist society, made possible by an accelerationist politics, which will ever be capable of delivering on the promissory note of the mid-Twentieth Century’s space programmes, to shift beyond a world of minimal technical upgrades towards all-encompassing change. Towards a time of collective self-mastery, and the properly alien future that entails and enables. Towards a completion of the Enlightenment project of self-criticism and self-mastery, rather than its elimination.
23. The choice facing us is severe: either a globalised post-capitalism or a slow fragmentation towards primitivism, perpetual crisis, and planetary ecological collapse.
24. The future needs to be constructed. It has been demolished by neoliberal capitalism and reduced to a cut-price promise of greater inequality, conflict, and chaos. This collapse in the idea of the future is symptomatic of the regressive historical status of our age, rather than, as cynics across the political spectrum would have us believe, a sign of sceptical maturity. What accelerationism pushes towards is a future that is more modern — an alternative modernity that neoliberalism is inherently unable to generate. The future must be cracked open once again, unfastening our horizons towards the universal possibilities of the Outside." (http://criticallegalthinking.com/2013/05/14/accelerate-manifesto-for-an-accelerationist-politics/)
Accelerationism as a new enlightenment
"Accelerationism then, is not just a new doctrine for the left whom have failed to reignite the dream for a better future, endlessly squabbling over moralistic games of trumpery, but a renewed praxis (and only that) of enlightened self-knowledge. Accelerationism is a renewed humanism that seeks to re-master the world. As a “Right-Accelerationist” this is as much as Land wants, accelerating reactionary aristocracy past democratic values (Land’s so-called Dark Enlightenment). As “Left-Accelerationists, Srnicek and Williams declare that only a radical “maximal mastery” of renewed Enlightenment values will secure victory over capital, in an age where modern infrastructure is constituted by complexity and systemic automation. “This mastery must be distinguished from that beloved of thinkers of the original Enlightenment. […] But this is not to align ourselves with the tired residue of postmodernity, decrying mastery as proto-fascistic or authority as innately illegitimate. Instead we propose that the problems besetting our planet and our species oblige us to refurbish mastery in a newly complex guise; whilst we cannot predict the precise result of our actions, we can determine probabilistically likely ranges of outcomes. What must be coupled to such complex systems analysis is a new form of action: improvisatory and capable of executing a design through a practice which works with the contingencies it discovers only in the course of its acting, in a politics of geosocial artistry and cunning rationality. A form of abductive experimentation that seeks the best means to act in a complex world.”
In this guise (as well as Land's), accelerationism resumes the Enlightenment’s dictum of ‘dare to know’ - to pursue moral knowledge under the name of rational universalism, to which the ‘daring’ or ‘cunning’ part isn’t limited to empirically tracking or modelling post-capital infrastructures, nor of resuscitating the modern ethos (quite why Enlightenment thinkers are assumed to be beloved isn’t addressed, but hey ho). Instead, their task consists in expanding human rationality beyond its current epistemic state and limit, to test the critical faculties of human knowledge, and extend them without apologising, without any dint of skepticism. That it really could demonstrate the “best means” of acting in a post-industrial society. It aims to accelerate the human mastery of the concepts as well as the technical infrastructures to which it cohabits. The human ‘we’ must be self-constructed, such that - in their words - we “collectively come to grasp our world such that we might change it.”
Such a grasping or understanding wants to, at the bottom of everything, reduce or eliminate the ordinary. Thus capitalist infrastructure isn’t just an infrastructure but also a manifest limit of what it means to be familiar in a community: within that it must be universally unified into a rational community of self-knowledge. It is our concepts and rational freedom, our everyday experience which is to be extended, sustained, accelerated, even beyond the pale vagaries of our solar system. The ordinary is inherently set to be eliminated in accelerationism: and this becomes a problem." (http://furtherfield.org/features/articles/ordinaryism-alternative-accelerationism-part-1-thanks-nothing)
Michel Bauwens, Chiang Mai, January 10, 2016
Regarding the book:
- Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work. by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams. Verso, 2015
I must confess, I have not read the book yet, but I am familiar with various ‘accelerationist’ manifestos, with reviews and discussions on the book, etc .. There is probably not a single book that has been recommended to me so many times by p2p friends, usually in the context of the book that has to be read in conjunction with Paul Mason’s PostCapitalism, which I am in the process of reading, and appreciating.
Is believe though that it is fair to say that the authors criticise the dominant ‘left’ on two points
- that the left has become localist , and that his is wrong
- that the left has become negative in its vision of the future, and must positively re-embrace technology and its emancipatory potential
It proposes that two demands should become a priority for change agents: full automation and the universal basic income.
Here then is my commentary on how I believe the p2p/commons movement should position themselves regarding ‘accelerationism’.
First of all, though we do share the critique of localism, it is perhaps not from the same perspective.
it is very important, in a conjuncture of global and national ‘blockage’, that local re-organizing of life and livelihoods take place. It is very necessary to re-organize the supply chains of the basic stuffs needed for life, even as we no that we will never be able to do it ‘just locally’. It is in other words, necessary but not sufficient. What is also necessary, and vital, is to combine the local with the global, not just naturally, because the local is now in any case ‘glocal’, through the networks, but consciously. It is important to organize knowledge, even as it is locally embodied, in global and open productive communities which can share knowledge, expertise and experience. It is just as important to create global phyles, i.e. ethical livelihood organisations that are organized our commons and create power and scale for the alternatives. And it is just as necessary to connect his with social and political movements that are able to scale to any level of governance. In other words, it is entirely counter-productive to see localism and localists as misguided or even as enemies. On the contrary, they are taking the first important steps in a reorganizing of our mode of production.
A second important remark is about the role of technology and automation. In my opinion, most of the debates are very misguided. Of course, it is useless to deny that there is a new push towards automation, especially as it targets the more routine aspects of knowledge and service work, and risks displacing millions of people. But that has happened before and each time, a new economic wave replaced the old one creating new jobs in new sectors. And the reason is simple, automation does not just destroy, it liberates human energy and resources to do entirely different things. Hence the problem is never just automation, but the economic structure in which this automation is embedded. And under neoliberal capitalism, the gains are not re-invested in any new productive economy. The problem therefore is the economic system and the prevailing social contract, not the ongoing automation. But does that mean that we should just embrace automation. This seems to me a very dubious proposition. Technology and technological systems are areas of contention and conflict, and serve material interests. In my opinion, the shift towards sustainable and organic agriculture, which is absolutely vital to feed the world population (it is more productive that extractive industrial agriculture), and is also vital for soil restoration , carbon sequestration and hence reversing climate change. It is highly doubtful that such a transformation requires anything as simplistic as full automation. It does require automation, if that is what farmers desire, that is entirely subsumed to the goals of the organic farmer. What they need is ‘appropriate technology’, with human participation in its design and deployment. So the ‘p2p’ approach is one that combines technological development by open productive communities who share their knowledge, freely appropriate by local communities and entities which embody these technologies in their context. refusing them if necessary. I am far from certain that in truly democratic societies, there will be the same push for full automation than under contemporary capitalism, where it is motivated by the desire to obtain more productivity for gain. Can the dream of the commoners, really be the same as the dream of capital, which is to free itself from labor entirely ? In peer production, where work is driven by intrinsic motivation and passion, work may precisely not be seen as a drudgery to be liberated from.
Finally, we must briefly discuss the basic income. I am in favour of the basic income, but also see grave difficulties. First, there is the danger of considering it as a magic mantra, that will solve everything, while concretely, we do not have and it may be unlikely to achieve it. Secondly, the basic income leaves untouched the remaining logic of the commercial and extractive economy, but precisely because it takes away labor as a commodity, it may be unpalatable as a reform measure. Let us not be misled by the current basic income experiments slated in the Netherlands and Finland, which appear first and foremost as projects to eliminate the welfare state. 800 Euro does not even cover rental needs in a country like Finland.
What is seems to be in the end, is that the combined demand for full automation and the basic income, functions as an utopia, and while utopias are very useful to free the mind and the desires and show possibilities, they are also dangerous. They appear to be a political program to unite a variety of forces, who win power and then, afterwards, can start changing things. But what if we do not gain power this way ?
At the P2P Foundation, we see that a bit differently. The first task is to create prefigurative livelihoods which actually embody different post-capitalist logics, and to build social and political forces around this concrete transformative change. The Commons Transition Plan outlines some of the proposals we see emerging for a transition program for future political majorities. This is something that Paul Mason, who does not follow the emergence of these productive communities and their ethical entrepreneurial coalitions as closely as we do, nevertheless clearly sees in his book.
Readers of Inventing the Future are welcome to tell us what part of peer to peer dynamics and commons development are part of their story. And of course, I promise to read the book soon-ish and not to have misinterpreted too many things in this critique.
It is of course not a question to seek to place ourselves in opposition to Accelerationism, but simply to clarify some of the differences in the underlying approach. Technology obviously plays a big role in our approach. We believe that the technological basis of commons-based peer production, the capacity to share knowledge universally and globally, to create a knowledge-intensive mode of production with the knowledge embodied in the machines (as the designs are in 3D printing), around global platforms for sustainable living and production, will be a key to a free, fair and sustainable world. In that sense to productively marry technological possibilities with new forms of social and productive organisation, we may well be aligned with the accelerationists."
A critique by the Telekommunisten
"The bold demands on the cover of Inventing the Future by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams generated much popular discussion on the Left. Sadly, none of these demands will serve to provide better auspices for the great majority of humanity. These demands are worthy of attention because of the apparent sincerity with which they are declared, not because they are ambitious, but because they are not nearly ambitious enough.
- Demand full automation:
As long as the automation is monopolized by capital it will first and foremost serve to precaritize and exploit labourers and their class.
Capitalism will not automate itself out of existence. It will not eliminate the workforce, and it will not even try. What it will do is create a deskilled workforce, ever more dependent on capital for the ability to produce, and create a divided workforce, that does not share a common proletarian consciousness, thus diffusing its class power. And, for when and where discontent does bubble up, it will automate the deadly force required to repress uprisings. The brutal Enforcement Droid is much more viable than the pleasant robot servant.
- Demand Universal Basic Income: This is a neo-liberal ruse to side-track more fundamental demands for socially provisioned basic needs, such as health care, housing, and education.
UBI is increasingly advocated by the Silicon Valley elite precisely because it enables more of the neoliberal withdrawal of state provisioning of social necessities. If you ‘choose’ to spend your UBI on fast food and gambling and then end up unable to pay your rent, have a pension, or have health care, its your problem, because there are no more social services to provide for you. UBI will have made it politically tenable to do away with them.
- Demand the Future:
The Future can only ever emerge from the present. Left concern for the Future requires the thoroughest concern with the conditions of the vast majority of humanity on earth right now. When Full Automation is advocated with only a vague reckoning of the destruction automation has historically wrought for humanity up to this day, S&W are clearly not with us here today on the ground but off in high concept.
The left imagination, it is claimed, has been invigorated by S&W’s provocations. Such vigor would be well channeled then towards elaborating practices and politics which can fundamentally improve the lot of the great majority of people on the earth right now. Part of this will require us to look soberly at the kinds of technologies we are told are inevitable and evaluate their applicability towards the general emancipation we demand." (http://telekommunisten.net/2016/04/01/inventing-the-present/)
Why Left Accelerationism makes no sense
1. Park Macdougald:
" for all the good intentions of the Left-Accels, Land’s “right” version of Accelerationism is the only authentic and logically consistent form of Accelerationism, as well as the only one that helps us understand anything about the dynamics of capitalism. For Landian Accelerationism, capitalism is a machinic, ‘techonomic’ (technological-economic) explosion, whose self-reinforcing, self-excitatory mechanism is best modelled as a runaway cybernetic feedback loop (it should be said that if you’re a cyberneticist, everything is best modelled as a feedback loop). This just means that the immanent dynamics of capital push necessarily towards the ever-greater expansion of capital – Marx’s M-C-M’ circuit is cybernetic runaway par excellence – and immanent within that expansion is a necessary co-dependence of technological and economic advance, including ever-increasing powers of abstraction and computation. As ‘capital’ expands in both space and time (imperialism, futures’ markets), the market, understood in its Misesian sense as catallactic, itself becomes a sort of distributed computer for the calculation of prices, spontaneously generating collective intelligence far in excess of what humans are consciously capable of mastering. Thus, the market an sich is a form of ‘artificial superintelligence’ long before the computer is even invented. This is, in part, what Land means by the “teleological identity of capitalism and artificial intelligence.”
There is a certain perversity inherent in this runaway which animates Marx and much subsequent critique of capitalism: exchange is ‘supposed’ to serve human ends by allowing us to trade useful items, yet capitalism makes exchange an end in itself, to which humans are then subjected; the abstraction makes itself real, supplanting the ‘real thing’ itself. As a beneficial side-effect, we’ve gotten richer, and our science, medicine, and diet have advanced to the point that we’re smarter, healthier, and live longer, but we are no longer masters of our own destiny in any meaningful sense (whether we ever where is another question altogether). This critique of capital in the name of human self-control tends to split into (at least) two political tendencies: the ‘machine-breakers,’ who want to simply abort capitalism/industrial society for some previous social arrangement (this can be a form either of nostalgist leftism or conservatism), and the futurists, such as orthodox Marxists and the Left-Accelerationists, who think that we can overcome (sublate/aufheben) alienated industrial society and build a non-alienated utopia that nonetheless retains the myriad benefits of industrial society.
Machine-breaking might be a viable, though dangerous political program. The left-futurism is, in my view, a delusion, that can itself only end in another form of machine-breaking. For Land, as for Marx, as for Weber, the entire point of capitalism is that it is not amenable to human aims. ‘Capital’ is in a sense an abstraction, as there is no such thing existing in the world, and Marxists are quick to point out that capitalism, as a mode of production, is a totality of social relations between humans that nevertheless imposes itself upon us as if it were a real thing – it is ‘reified,’ it is, a ‘social construct.’ Yet it is not any less real for being a construct, and its constructedness does not imply an ability to de- or re-construct it in accordance with our intentions. A sandcastle is a social construct, but there are ways you can build them, and ways you can’t, no matter how much solidarity you are able to mobilize on behalf of better sandcastles.
The capitalist, though himself a human, in order to exist as capitalist must act in accordance with the laws imposed by the logic of the system (i.e. the profit motive). These laws according to which he acts, however, are not the ‘laws’ of e.g. a central bureaucratic state, but the emergent properties of a vastly complex and decentralized system of interactions, whose outward manifestations (like ‘prices’) are the products of distributed calculations that exceed any single agent or group of agents’ capacity to calculate. This is why central planning doesn’t work – elite financiers hardly understand the market, and it would be absurd to expect a government agency to do so. While the conditions, or parameters, for these interactions are not ‘given’ – one can certainly destroy an institutional structure, or design it poorly enough that it ceases to support market mechanisms – that is not the same thing as saying that you can tweak the parameters to make them give you any desired outcome. And as we see with things like Bitcoin and shadow-banking, localized efforts to (re-)direct capital towards consciously-chosen human aims are simply obstacles that Capital routes around. To stop this you would need something like a Hegelian world-state, but even then, its unclear how you dodge the calculation problems.
The intractability of capitalism is something that Marx understood, and was accordingly derisive of voluntaristic attempts to reform the system. However, within the orthodox Marxist schema, the labor theory of value (LTV) provided a built-in theoretical escape hatch from capitalism in the form of the revolutionary proletarian subject. Both Landian Accelerationism and orthodox Marxism acknowledge that the technological drive of the capitalism leads towards the increasing superfluousness of human labor to economic production. Within the LTV frame, however, as living human labor is the ultimate source of all value, the abolition of human labor from the productive process is ultimately the abolition of the law of value itself: a work free, high-tech Eden, the end of mankind’s prehistory, communism. Yet absent the LTV – which has grown increasingly difficult to maintain in the 20th and 21st centuries, and which Left Accelerationism makes no serious attempt to defend – the entire schema falls apart. " (https://pmacdougald.wordpress.com/2016/04/14/accelerationism-left-and-right/)
2. Mat Dryhurst on why it can be useful anyway:
" It is also clear that the game has shifted in accordance with the neoliberal hegemony you describe, but we cannot wince at that, as it is too crucial.
It’s one of the things, I think, that excites us most about the group of characters you could crudely describe as the left accelerationists—this idea of surveying emerging relations and shifting modes of power and attempting to modulate our activities to antagonize or exploit those new channels. We are obsessed with YouTube stars, not always for the quality of the work being made, but for how distant the rules of engagement are with anything that has existed previously in an arts context. I see most contemporary artists now as simply curators of phenomena that they have witnessed existing in the real cultural battlefield—snippets of something happening in Eastern Europe, a font from here, a reference to an obscure YouTube trend from kids with cell phones in Chicago. This is an indeterminate, prostrate state—one that normally ends in a conclusion of “IDK WTF to do. There is just too much, but this looks nice.”
The challenge is to not simply observe this world from the outside, and congratulate ourselves for the conversations we follow, but to participate within that culture and exercise some of the ideas and models we believe in within an arena that has legitimate impact. This is really hard, but ought to be the goal. The great opportunity, as you described, is that this new environment is pretty open to things that traditionally may have been marginalized—Metahaven and others have talked about how comedy, for example, won the web.4—and in a sense this new landscape favors sharp minds with the ability to produce work quickly and pointedly—which is why I find Ben Singleton’s works on Metis5 and the introduction of Francois Jullien’s Treatise on Efficacy6 to be so essential. It’s also part of the motivation behind my Saga project,7 which prioritizes time and context specific expression (a comedic trait) and also the need for us to begin to start dealing with the new era of personalization that has been ushered in by a web driven by advertising and the desire to target us as individuals." (http://www.glass-bead.org/article/reengineering-hegemony/?l)
- original manifesto at http://syntheticedifice.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/accelerate.pdf
- the reader: Accelerate
- The series by Kevin Carson on Techno-Utopianism, discusses Accelerationism, here at # [Techno-Utopianism, Counterfeit and Real 6: Accelerationism https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/techno-utopianism-counterfeit-real-6-accelerationism-non-capitalist-techno-utopianisms/2016/04/02]
- the series on 'True Accelerationism' at the P2P Foundation blog, exemplifies the particular critique and approach at the P2P Foundation:
- Michel Bauwens on P2P and Accelerationism (1) 
- True Accelerationism (2): How Soil-Based Carbon Capture Can Reverse Climate Change 
- True Accelerationism (3): Abundance is the basis of civilization, on the scale economics of renewable energy 
- True Accelerationism (4): The LM3D, the first system of sustainable distributed manufacturing may be ready by 2017 
- True Accelerationism (5): John D. Liu on Large-Scale Ecosystem Restoration Projects 
- True Accelerationism (6): Rehabiliting the importance of change at the local level 2016/01/27]