(Presented at the Accelerationism symposium, Goldsmiths: 14:09:2010)
In the introduction to his 1993 translation of Lyotard’s Libidinal Economy, from which the above extraordinary outburst comes, Iain Hamilton Grant refers to a certain “maturity of contemporary wisdom.” According to this “maturity,” Grant observes, Economie Libidinale was “a minor and short-lived explosion of a somewhat naive anti-philosophical expressionism, an aestheticizing trend hung over from a renewed interest in Nietzsche prevalent in the late 1960s.” (LE xvii). Grant groups Lyotard’s book with three others: Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, Luce Irigaray’s Speculum: Of the Other Woman and Baudrillard’s Symbolic Exchange and Death. “Libidinal Economy has in general drawn little critical response,” Grant continues, “save losing Lyotard many Marxist friends. Indeed, with a few exceptions it is now only Lyotard himself who occasionally refers to the book, to pour new scorn on it, calling it his ‘evil book, the book that everyone writing and thinking is tempted to do.’” (LE xviii; Lyotard quote Peregrinations, 13) This remained the case until Ben Noys’s The Persistence of the Negative, in which Noys positions Libidinal Economy and Anti-Oedipus as part of what he calls an ‘accelerationist’ moment. A couple of quotes from these two texts immediately give the flavour of the accelerationist gambit.
"But which is the revolutionary path? Is there one? – To withdraw from the world market, as Samir Amin advises Third World Countries to do, in a curious revival of the fascist ‘economic solution’? Or might it be to go in the opposite direction? To go further still, that is, in the movement of the market, of decoding and deterritorialization? For perhaps the flows are not yet deterritorialized enough, not decoded enough, from the viewpoint of a theory and practice of a highly schizophrenic character. Not to withdraw from the process, but to go further, to ‘accelerate the process,’ as Nietzsche put it: in this matter, the truth is that we haven’t seen anything yet. (239-40)"
And from Libidinal Economy – the one passage from the text that is remembered, if only in notoriety:
"The English unemployed did not have to become workers to survive, they – hang on tight and spit on me – enjoyed the hysterical, masochistic, whatever exhaustion it was of hanging on in the mines, in the foundries, in the factories, in hell, they enjoyed it, enjoyed the mad destruction of their organic body which was indeed imposed upon them, they enjoyed the decomposition of their personal identity, the identity that the peasant tradition had constructed for them, enjoyed the dissolutions of their families and villages, and enjoyed the new monstrous anonymity of the suburbs and the pubs in morning and evening. (LE 111"
Spit on Lyotard they certainly did. But in what does the alleged scandalous nature of this passage reside? Hands up who wants to give up their anonymous suburbs and pubs and return to the organic mud of the peasantry. Hands up, that is to say, all those who really want to return to pre-capitalist territorialities, families and villages. Hands up, furthermore, those who really believe that these desires for a restored organic wholeness are extrinsic to late capitalist culture, rather than in fully incorporated components of the capitalist libidinal infrastructure. Hollywood itself tells us that we may appear to be always-on techno-addicts, hooked on cyberspace, but inside, in our true selves, we are primitives organically linked to the mother/planet, and victimised by the military-industrial complex. James Cameron’s Avatar is significant because it highlights the disavowal that is constitutive of late capitalist subjectivity, even as it shows how this disavowal is undercut. We can only play at being inner primitives by virtue of the very cinematic proto-VR technology whose very existence presupposes the destruction of the organic idyll of Pandora.
And if there is no desire to go back except as a cheap Hollywood holiday in other People’s misery – if, as Lyotard argues, there are no primitive societies, (yes, the Terminator was there from the start, distributing microchips to accelerate its advent); isn’t, then, the only direction forward? Through the shit of capital, metal bars, its polystyrene, its books, its sausage pâtés, its cyberspace matrix?
I want to make three claims here –
1. Everyone is an accelerationist
2. Accelerationism has never happened.
3. Marxism is nothing if it is not accelerationist
Of the 70s texts that Grant mentions in his round-up, Libidinal Economy was in some respects the most crucial link with the 90s UK cyber-theory. It isn’t just the content, but the intemperate tone of Libidinal Economy that is significant. Here we might recall Zizek’s remarks on Nietzsche: at the level of content, Nietzsche’s philosophy is now eminently assimilable, but it is the style, the invective, of which we cannot imagine a contemporary equivalent, at least not one that is solemnly debated in the academy. Both Iain Grant and Ben Noys follow Lyotard himself in describing Libidinal Economy as a work of affirmation, but, rather like Nietzsche’s texts, Libidinal Economy habitually defers its affirmation, engaging for much of the text in a series of (ostensibly parenthetical) hatreds. While Anti-Oedipus remains in many ways a text of the late 60s, Libidinal Economy anticipates the punk 70s, and draws upon the 60s that punk retrospectively projects. Not far beneath Lyotard’s “desire-drunk yes,” lies the No of hatred, anger and frustration: no satisfaction, no fun, no future. These are the resources of negativity that I believe the left must make contact with again. But it’s now necessary to reverse the Deleuze-Guattari/Libidinal Economy emphasis on politics as a means to greater libidinal intensification: rather, it’s a question of instrumentalising libido for political purposes.
If Libidinal Economy was repudiated, but more often ignored, the 90s theoretical moment to which Grant’s own translation contributed has fared even worse. Despite his current reputation as a founder of speculative realism, Grant’s incendiary 90s texts—sublime cyborg surgeries suturing Blade Runner into Kant, Marx and Freud— have all but disappeared from circulation. The work of Grant’s one-time mentor Nick Land does not even draw derisive comment. Like Libidinal Economy, his work, too, has drawn little critical response – and Land, to say the least, had no Marxist friends to lose. Hatred for the academic left was in fact one of the libidinal motors of Land’s work. Land writes in “Machinic Desire”:
"Machinic revolution must therefore go in the opposite direction to socialistic regulation pressing towards ever more uninhibited marketization of the processes that are tearing down the social field, “still further” with “the movement of the market, of decoding and deterritorialization” and “one can never go far enough in the direction of deterritorialization: you haven’t seen anything yet.” (Fanged Noumena, 341-342; embedded quotations from Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, 239, 321)
Land was our Nietzsche – with the same baiting of the so-called progressive tendencies, the same bizarre mixture of the reactionary and the futuristic, and a writing style that updates nineteenth century aphorisms into what Kodwo Eshun called “text at sample velocity.” Speed— in the abstract and the chemical sense— was crucial here: telegraphic tech-punk provocations replacing the conspicuous cogitation of so much post-structuralist continentalism, with its implication that the more laborious and agonised the writing, the more thought must be going on.
Whatever the merits of Land’s other theoretical provocations (and I’ll suggest some serious problems with them presently), Land’s withering assaults on the academic left - or the embourgeoisified state-subsidised grumbling that so often calls itself academic Marxism – remain trenchant. The unwritten rule of these “careerist sandbaggers” is that no one seriously expects any renunciation of bourgeois subjectivity to ever happen. Pass the Merlot, I’ve got a career’s worth of quibbling critique to get through. So we see a ruthless protection of petit bourgeois interests dressed up as politics. Papers about antagonism, then all off to the pub afterwards. Instead of this, Land took earnestly—to the point of psychosis and auto-induced schizophrenia—the Spinozist-Nietzschean-Marxist injunction that a theory should not be taken seriously if it remains at the level of representation.
What, then, is Land’s philosophy about?
In a nutshell: Deleuze and Guattari’s machinic desire remorselessly stripped of all Bergsonian vitalism, and made backwards-compatiblewith Freud’s death drive and Schopenhauer’s Will. The Hegelian-Marxist motor of history is then transplanted into this pulsional nihilism: the idiotic autonomic Will no longer circulating idiotically on the spot, but upgraded into a drive, and guided by a quasi-teleological artificial intelligence attractor that draws terrestrial history over a series of intensive thresholds that have no eschatological point of consummation, and that reach empirical termination only contingently if and when its material substrate burns out. This is Hegelian-Marxist historical materialism inverted: Capital will not be ultimately unmasked as exploited labour power; rather, humans are the meat puppet of Capital, their identities and self-understandings are simulations that can and will be ultimately be sloughed off.
Having recently received a high court apology from US entertainment site E! Online after it used his image in a story on the disgraced Lostprophets singer (who shares the same name), Steps singer Ian H Watkins found his picture once again mistakenly appearing on Google news searches instead of the sex offender.
According to the Guardian article a spokesperson for Google UK confirmed that has been a problem with “H“‘s pictures being mistaken for the Lost Prophets singer in a few “specific searches”.
The spokesperson for Google UK goes on:
"For some specific searches Ian H Watkins’ picture is appearing in our results because he is relevant to the story having received a court apology. We are looking into the issue he raises."
So according to the logic of the Google search algorithms, the court apology by E! for mistaking his picture for the sex offender actually strengthened the connection between the two and thereby directly resulted in Google’s mistake.
What this shows is both the amazing self-reflexive complexity of Google (and more generally the networked culture), as well as its inherent weaknesses and stupidity.
A BBC investigation into a UK-based Amazon warehouse has found conditions that a stress expert said could cause “mental and physical illness”. […]
Undercover reporter Adam Littler, 23, got an agency job at Amazon’s Swansea warehouse. He took a hidden camera inside for BBC Panorama to record what happened on his shifts.
He was employed as a “picker”, collecting orders from 800,000 sq ft of storage.
A handset told him what to collect and put on his trolley. It allotted him a set number of seconds to find each product and counted down. If he made a mistake the scanner beeped.
"We are machines, we are robots, we plug our scanner in, we’re holding it, but we might as well be plugging it into ourselves", he said.
"We don’t think for ourselves, maybe they don’t trust us to think for ourselves as human beings, I don’t know."
Prof Marmot, one of Britain’s leading experts on stress at work, said the working conditions at the warehouse are “all the bad stuff at once”.
Animation Masks - Jordan Wolfson (2011)
Raspberry Poser by Jordan Wolfson (Excerpt)
A reading by the artist and writer Katrina Palmer accompanied by Adam Wilson on keyboard. Palmer locates the sculptural object in fictional narratives, live readings and recordings. These stories typically feature artist-protagonists negotiating aspects of materiality and the dynamics of fictional spaces. For more information about the event please visit: http://www.chisenhale.org.uk/archive/events/index.php?id=72
I have wasted literally weeks of my life inserting that fucking accent mark above the ‘c’ in Marina Abramovic’s name. There are some issues in which her name is mentioned 5, 6, 12 times in various contexts, and every time I have to trick InDesign into slipping that fucking accent in the right place, and then right before we’re closing someone will notice that the goddamn accent has scooched a bit to the right, so I’ll have to go in again and tidy them all up. Most other people with annoying fucking accents in their name, we just skip ‘em. But Marina, Crown Princess of Performance Art, nooooo sireeee. I’ll be honest: I have violent thoughts sometimes.
—Cal “Pip” Erkin, creative director of Art in America, 1999-2012. (via stopmarinaabramovic)
Popular Unrest is a multi-episode drama set in a future much like the present. The film explores a world in which the self is reduced to physical biology, directly subject to the needs of capital. Written and Directed by Melanie Gilligan.
Despite the horse race elections, manifestos, and movements, the truth is most of the time for most people, political systems don’t mean much. For all activists and politicians see excitement and power in their bloodsports, most people, and probably the healthier sorts, prefer to get on with their lives regardless of who’s in charge. They spend their time with family and meeting friends for coffee and trying to understand what makes a good life. And it is these people, not the power players, who keep us fed and warm in winter and give us the soft curve of a ceramic cup in hand, who make the memory and fabric of a place. It is details and human labor that give the name of home to the cities and towns that earn that name inside of people. Society is mostly built away from power, by the politically distant and ideologically vague.
John Maus ‘Too Much Money’ (by Jinsie P.)
Epic - Mårten Spångberg (side view)
Robin Mackay - No Core Dump: Pamela Rosenkranz’s Speculative L’Orealism
Epic - Mårten Spångberg