Accelerationism

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Definition

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)


2. Wikipedia;

"

"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 )


Description

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

Discussion

Robert Jackson:

"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

Robert Jackson:

"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 on P2P and Accelerationism

Michel Bauwens, Chiang Mai, January 10, 2016

Regarding the book:


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

Baruch Gottlieb:

"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

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/)

More Information

  • the series on 'True Accelerationism' at the P2P Foundation blog, exemplifies the particular critique and approach at the P2P Foundation:
  1. Michel Bauwens on P2P and Accelerationism (1) [1]
  2. True Accelerationism (2): How Soil-Based Carbon Capture Can Reverse Climate Change [2]
  3. True Accelerationism (3): Abundance is the basis of civilization, on the scale economics of renewable energy [3]
  4. True Accelerationism (4): The LM3D, the first system of sustainable distributed manufacturing may be ready by 2017 [4]
  5. True Accelerationism (5): John D. Liu on Large-Scale Ecosystem Restoration Projects [5]
  6. True Accelerationism (6): Rehabiliting the importance of change at the local level [6]2016/01/27]