There is a pervasive sense today that, politically, little that we do is ever going to have much impact. Increasingly, we, the electorate, are coming to grips with our own impotence. We seem to be entangled in the self-sustaining ‘feedback loops’ of some system whose shape and nature is beyond our immediate apprehension. Like the Nemesis star we feel it completing its elegant turn through eternity back towards us, gliding like an ebon crystal sliding across an astrolabe. As it passes, surely it will spell all our doom, but where it is out there, and what shape it takes, we’re left to eternally speculate. Still, some seem intent on trying, hence Accelerationism, a homebrewed philosophical outlook cooked up in the basement of some decrepit anglo philosophy department somewhere, which envisions capitalism, a predominately Anglo creation and accomplishment, as a delicate and twisted crystal machine, a giant calculator tabulating the cybernetic dimensions of financial Ragnarok.
However ludicrous it may sound, (and I believe sounding ludicrous is a good thing generally), accelerationsists at least attempt to present some historical precedent for their beliefs, or perhaps better put, their preoccupations, usually with a hand wave back to Nietzsche and the presentation of Marxian formulas of Capital accumulation as being entirely self-explanatory in this matter. This is generally the program of most essays on the subject, which are less histories of the idea of Accelerationism, than they are highly truncated narrative anchors being heaved into the 19th century to prevent the whole movement conceptually accelerating into nothingness. A genealogical approach is a natural enough place to begin, but broader historical contextualization is perhaps needed, less a history of Accelerationism than a history of Nihilism itself is probably really required.
Nick Land remains a central figure in the ongoing history of Accelerationism, which is currently locked in battle with itself to shed its own baggage and push towards some new form, Unconditional Accelerationism, which will escape the tired and sterile aesthetics of classical Marxism (Left Accelerationism (L/ACC)) while at the same time salvaging Accelerationism from dubious associations its picked up with unsavory Neoreactionary characters (Right Accelerationism (R/ACC)) that might tarnish its professional legitimacy and viability as an academy-friendly interest within theory departments.
Modern Philosophy begins with what’s called Classical Metaphysics, this is the period from Descartes to Kant, where Metaphysics was understood as a specific intellectual and academic discipline. It was divided into two cases, General and Special metaphysics. General Metaphysics being Ontology and Special Metaphysics consisting in Rational Psychology, Cosmology and Rational Theology, that is, the logical explication of the immortality of the soul, the providential structure of nature/reality, and the existence and nature of God, respectively. The method employed was one of deductive, rational syllogistics. Alongside this a counter tradition developed, through Hume, Rousseau and German skeptics Hamann, Herder and Jacobi. This current of the Enlightenment was marked not only for its critical posture towards the accomplishments of modern philosophy, but for its self-conscious approach to philosophical style, where textbooks of metaphysics were placed aside in favor of popularization and polished essays in which rhetoric was central rather than strict logic.
It’s from this latter tradition that ‘postmodern’ philosophy develops, and in the figure of Georg Hamann, begins to grows into its most radical form, where the literary and poetic dimensions of human reason through history are emphasized, and an obscure style meant to confound and deter rational analysis is adopted as an intentional philosophical posture. This is carried through the Romantics to Nietzsche and the existentialists, and to Nick Land and so-called post-modern philosophy generally. This whole tradition defines itself around a recognition of the inherent nihilism of the Enlightenment program of rationalistic humanitarianism, seeing at its heart an inescapable black hole of nihilism threatening constantly to implode the whole structure of modern science and philosophy.
In the modern era we have removed the supports of history, tradition and faith, and these can no longer serve as universal justification for any religious, cultural or political institution or practice. Instead Reason was to become the universal measure, and this entailed, proceduraly, the assumption of higher perspective of ‘pure reason’.
From the perspective of ‘consciousness in general’ one could look down and out across the universe and comprehend its intellectual structure. The idea itself of Creation, for instance, contains the rational structure of the cosmos, and this structure can be grasped from the viewpoint of the mega-mind of Pure Reason, which is capable of returning objective knowledge of conceptual (formal) abstractions as independent objects of thought. One could, under this scheme, take the idea of politics or governance, and through rational analysis of it as a pure abstraction, excavate an ‘ideal’ political structure or form of government.
But ultimately without support from history and faith, the entire edifice of Rational Humanity is in a very perilous position, as Reason now must become it’s own measure as well. Whether it is possible for Reason to self-justify in this way is unlikely, and the philosophes and skeptics experimented with various arguments as to why this was the case, the impossibility of a perspective of Pure Reason being an often sung refrain by the likes of Hamann in particular. Land, for his part, engages in a similar strategy in After the Law, where he connects death and this perspective of an absolute thinking subject, the existence and primacy of which being the starting point of all philosophy, through the trial of Socrates, and then uses the figure of the infamous criminal Gilles de Rais to convict the tribunal of Pure Reason.
Following Jacobi ‘postmodern’ philosophy is the recognition of the impossibility of Reason to justify itself as a universal standard of judgement when tradition and faith are cast away. This is the ultimate terminus of Enlightenment, accretion into the singularity of nothingness, an accelerating orbit around the black hole. Here is a point which Reason cannot assimilate, a gap, something outside itself, infinity, the inherent blind spot of our whole cognitive architecture, at once everything, and nothing. This nothingness eternally eludes us, and the seeking of it is the thing that fuels all scientific and philosophical progress, as Kant ultimately concludes in the Prolegomena. But what Kant offers is a compromise, a mitigation, not an overcoming of this nothingness, ‘the unconditioned,’ but only its containment. The Critical Philosophy is, in this way, a cyclopean, lead sarcophagus, constructed around the radioactive core of cognition as it powers the whole modern intellectual enterprise of Humanity. For Kant’s critics, for the so-called ‘post’ moderns, however, this is not a sustainable solution, and alternative eco-psychological possibilities must be cultivated.
Socially this situation manifests as the phenomenon of alienation. The modern man is divided internally between his particular self, the individual consciousness situated at a particular nexus of time and space, and the universal self, the perspective of consciousness in general, the social-intellectual mega-mind. This perspective, this higher being, becomes the medium through which inter-subjectivity is possible, it is what allows minds to communicate and individuals to physically harmonize within an objective moral order. But this perspective takes on a life of its own against which we find ourselves in opposition, and the illusion itself, in the end, grows to frustrate and render impossible any sense of social belonging and communal psychic existence. The internal division becomes intractable, and thus, the modern condition is born.
Externally the form of this alienation is what has become known as Capitalism, the heart of which is the Kantian compromise, not a winning game state, but rather a Nash equilibrium dancing around the abyss. For Marx the solution to this physical, techno-economic problem, was intimately intertwined with the reconciliation of man to himself, the overcoming of his inner tension of alienation. Luxury Gay Space Communism would only be the external symptom of the resolution of the internal division which Reason had previously wrought. Accelerationism is the belief that the process of techno-capitalism must be sped up, that the only way out is through, but this process is, on a more fundamental level, a spiritual one.
The Unconditional Accelerationists call for a complete abandonment of man to this process of infinite capital accumulation, which they argue is independent of humanity. They argue that the Human Project of Rational Enlightenment is over, that the problem of nihilism is truly irreconcilable, and that the entire enterprise should be abandoned in favor of autonomous capital, which will lead man to a deeper post-human solution to the inner spiritual tension of humanity, by completely obviating it. The ‘solution’ here will take the form of some kind of AI++, a literal mega-mind, capable of coordinating the entire material infrastructure of society with algorithmic precision. This outcome would, it would seem, render the entire problematic of Humanity obsolete, but is the process which is to generate this conclusion really autonomous? Is it really one completely outside the general parameters of the Human Project?
To speak of a process, an end is presumed which must, in some primoridal but unrealized thought-form, already exist, and this is necessary transcendentally for anything at all to come into existence. It is the end which determines the form of activity, and through this very process the end expresses itself, and speaks itself into actuality, the process becoming its own self-creating voice. For a process to carry on to an end, the subjective germ of that end must already be encoded within us as the vehicle for the acting out of that process. Here, the end of Accelerationism, the mega-mind, is nothing short of the perspective of ‘consciousness in general,’ its a self-augmentation, a formalization of intersubjectivity, a mind containing all other minds possible,one which perhaps will simulate the individual consciousnesses of every possible member of society through algorithmic extrapolation.
This end of Accelerationism then, where Capitalism is actualized as an AI mega-mind, though it can be seen as an ‘end’ to the human project, at the same time does not realize an end independent of the parameters of that project, and in this sense would simultaneously represent a completion and a fulfillment. Here the individual, particular consciousness would be presented with ‘consciousness in general’ as object in the ‘real world.’ The universal standard of measure would be instantiated and immanentized, and its illusory impossibility would be decisively resolved for once and all.
Along with this notion, of the independence and autonomy of the cybernetic process of techno-capitalism, comes also the idea of ‘Anti-Praxis,’ which is reminiscent of Neoreaction’s failed doctrine of ‘Passivism’. Here any explicit, external program of political action or activism is rejected in favor of a kind of ‘dreaming,’ where Accelerationism opens up a frontier space for hallucinating the post-Human possibilities of hyper-modernity.
Praxis, though, may also be understood in a higher sense, as it was by Lukács, as a revolutionary act of self-consciousness. We change history by understanding history, and our understanding of history is a part of history. The dialectic is not a Jacobin revolution, at least not necessarily, but moment of self-awareness in which the universal class of the alienated (the proletariat) seizes the understanding of its own role in history and thereby transforms humanity on a spiritual and cognitive level. The ‘dreaming’ then is not anti-praxis, but is, in point of fact, the essence of praxis, as the dream-end determines the form of the process itself.
Unconditional Accelerationism, which postures as simply embracing the process as something generating outcomes beyond good and evil, begins to crack in light of these observations. Perhaps even more basically, Capitalism cannot be understood as a purely utilitarian mechanism in which human concerns of morality play no part, as the economic concept of utility incorporates too the moral preferences and aesthetics of economic actors.
Capitalism is a way to mitigate things as they are and things as we desire them to be, supply and demand. Capitalism, as they say, slides continuously from is to ought. We may be drones within this process, mechanically enacting it as nodes through which Capital actualizes itself, but Capitalism simultaneously reflects back human desires, while also transforming them. The ‘process’ is not autonomous, its end, of a post-human perspective is inherent to the modern human project of rational enlightenment, and anti-praxis, as so conceived, is not a resignation to the future, but the activity of dreaming it into existence.
Following this it is clear that Unconditional Accelerationism is, at bottom, a duplicitous and deceitful position, one that attempts to hide behind the process its identity as an ideological party vanguard of lecturers at Anglo Universities. At best the Unconditional position amounts to an abrogation of responsibility, a denial by the dreamers of their own active role in mysteriously enacting the dream.
Unconditional Accelerationism envisions itself as an overcoming of what they see as an archaic political division between Left and Right variations, but an overcoming of opposition through rejection of either alternatives is never possible, only synthesis can yield such a result, one which, in one sense may amount to rejection, but at the same time, is really the mutual negation and fusion of possibilities into a higher one that contains them both. The explicit and over-hasty move to outright rejection is, rather than theoretically motivated, inspired primarily by professional and political concerns as to the role of Accelerationism in the wake of Mark Fisher’s death, the attempted unpersoning of Nick Land, and the LD50 debacle.
The real danger here is the manner in which every party wants to extrapolate the details of the futures they see coming, and it’s here they discover most of their differences. What will the political order look like precisely when the machine god enters reality? Will it have HBD pdfs downloaded into his database? What will its aesthetic preferences be? This is all incidental, as the more fundamental distinction we may draw revolves around the way in which the accelerationist dreaming is understood. For Left Acceleration, it is all science and emancipation. The dream isn’t a dream, but a scientific fact, which will free humanity to pursue its own further ‘development’. For Unconditional Acceleration the dream is moot, and subordinate as anti-praxis to an autonomous process occurring independently of their own beliefs about it. For Right Accelerationism, history gives way to poetic narrative, and the dreaming assumes a Nietzschean quality of existential mythmaking. Here Humanity will not be emancipated, but sharpened.
Unconditional Accelerationism, rather than representing a stable synthesis of Left and Right, is of the three positions, really the most unstable and untenable one. And whether it can or will forge a lasting transcendence of the, mostly hypothetical division, is to my mind doubtful. L/ACC and R/ACC remain, and the question before the blogger is still how to reconcile their dreams.