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Re: <nettime> Accelerationism, Prometheanism, and Posthumans
Brian Holmes on Thu, 5 May 2016 19:21:12 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Accelerationism, Prometheanism, and Posthumans


On 05/04/2016 11:13 PM, Frederic Neyrat wrote:

Excerpts from the Accelerationist Manifesto:

    "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."

    "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 are definitely the worst parts of the Accelerationist Manifesto and they're influenced in particular by the theory-fiction guru Nick Land. Although the term itself seems to have been coined by Benjamin Noys, Land is at the origin of accelerationism, via a reference to the Anti-Oedipus on the subversive potential of speeded-up capitalism ('going even further with deterritorialization" etc). Land must be a fascinating and charismatic figure as paens to him and his Cybernetic Cultures Research Unit abounded - until recently, when he bacame a self-professed neo-reactionary:

http://www.thedarkenlightenment.com/the-dark-enlightenment-by-nick-land

Srnicek and Williams tried to turn the science-fiction energy in a different direction, toward a lucid version of renewed communist progress, with an updated analysis of 21st-century productive and governing technologies. To their credit they got rid of the word "accelerationism" after the manifesto, although the populist motif of space travel and a few other naive things remain in the book. Steven Shaviro has a good recap of the story here:

https://thedisorderofthings.com/2015/11/03/accelerationism-without-accelerationism

Tor me the whole phenomenon is paradoxical, or just ambiguous, like most politics. A large number of young and not-so-young people have found in the book a way to reorganize themselves politically and to start engaging concretely with the possibility of restructuring society, which is positive. They call themselves "Left Accelerationists" beause it's now obvious that Land is a detestable libertarian nut-job (or as he says, "neoreactionaries are libertarians mugged by reality," ha ha, very funny). I really don't know where the fascination with Nick Land came from, or why Srnicek and Williams felt compelled to draw on him: probably they saw the need for a strategic intervention in cultural trends, which is fair enough in my view.

It may well be that the book's materialism and its attempt to come to grips with contemporary conditions will prove fruitful. It's a lot better than plunging back into archaic Marxist cults or going into the let's-just-riot-in-the-street mode. Obviously I have nothing against Marx, or rioting in the street for that matter, but sectarianism is boring and useless. In the same way that Srnicek and Williams dropped the term "accelerationist," probably their acolytes will realize the arrogance of the blanket critique of so-called "folk politics" and focus instead on how to work constructively with the many forms of resistance and utopian longing that are out there in society. That's the pathway I was trying to indicate in my text.

best, Brian

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