Interesting article by Andy Beckett, though there are some points of confusion emerging in the haste to mythologise.
“Accelerationists argue that technology, particularly computer technology, and capitalism, particularly the most aggressive, global variety, should be massively sped up and intensified – either because this is the best way forward for humanity, or because there is no alternative.”
“Britain in the 90s felt cramped, grey, dilapidated,” says Mackay, “We saw capitalism and technology as these intense forces that were trying to take over a decrepit body.” To observe the process, and help hasten it, in 1995 Plant, Fisher, Land, Mackay and two dozen other Warwick students and academics created a radical new institution: the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (CCRU).” Andy Beckett.
The author equates the CCRU with accelerationism from the beginning and though both Fisher and Land did embrace cyber culture, videotechnology, electronica, techno, dance , graphics etc there were nonetheless differences in their subjective reading of the need to embrace techno culture.
Land’s hopes for accelerationism careered to right wing neoreactionary politics whilst Fisher developed his ideas in a critique of the political stasis of the left in his ‘Capitalist Realism’.
I think Land is correct in criticising left accelerationism.
‘Left populism’ too should be understood as reactive, a symptom of capital rather than a way out. Accelerationism in my opinion assumes that technological innovation is driven by some kind of libidinal drive, an inhuman automaton, death drive outside or beyond desire which misses the materialist historical moment wherein in fact technological innovation and automation etc is fueled by capitalist profit making, by the all too human desire to extract maximum surplus value from productive processes. If e.g. the workers in India, Brazil, South east Asia etc can produce at lower costs than automation then technological innovation need not be introduced etc…
Srnicek and Williams’ post_capital’s hope that the embrace of technology will deliver a utopian world of fully released libidinal desire is a symptom of neoliberalism attached to individualistic ‘enjoyment’, jouissance and not related to a conception of the collective, class antagonism so no beyond of capital whose elasticity loves to embrace wet diaper Deleuzian anti-athoritarianism, and anarchistic autonomous zones and art practises such as jake and dino chapmen’s apocalyptic becomings etc.
Agency and collectivism are both lost when we try to conceive of a beyond of capital without taking class antagonism into account.
Srnicek’s latest lectures on ‘post capitalism’ seems to lack a theory of labour value and abstracts a progressive route for a post capitalist world that can forge ahead without material relstion of dependency on tbe new proleteriats of India , Asia etc.being accounted for. The presumption is made that once luxury is embraced by the west in a fully automated post labour utopian future that this utopia will then be exported to the developing economies. Pretty idealist stuff.
It seems to me just as likely that the west will develop and already are developing more authoritarian modes of capitalist production now that neo liberalism and more importantly democracy can and is being eroded (Trump Putin Erdogan Brexit May etc) and with positive outcomes for surplus value production.
Fisher believed very much in agency, maybe idealistically at times, but also in terms of it’s socially necessary collective labour form and was very aware of class domination and the need of capital to silence the working class. He understood the authentic working class cry of ‘no future’ of punk as a legitimate (if rendered impotent by liberalist appropriation) expression of class war.
Fisher also understood the damage that capitalist modes of production and it’s class relation inflicts on what we understand as mental health or the further commodification of misery. The melancholy postponement of the future of the left is the mirror counterpoint to the jubilant mania of accelerationist capitalist futurist embrace but one which falls into the same ideoligical splitting.
Post capital…post work,
I think these terms are still immersed in what Fisher prescribed as capitalist realism.
I’m always suspicious of philosophical or political movements which use prefixes such as post-capital. There is a reluctance or hesitancy to break which renders them impotent and reactive. Is post modernism not just accelerated modernism, post feminism a rehashing of radical feminism etc..
The Capitalist elite have always tolerated a surplus idle population, not only tolerated but this surplus army was neccessarily produced in order to extract further exploitative value (supply and demand of labour) from the working class of production. How will capitalism deal with a surplus army who have become redundant even as a threat to workers?
The problem of dreaming of post work utopia for the west is that it misses the dependency on class exploitatiin of outsourced labour and also misses the moment of historical global authoritarian capitalism as it develops (without the need of democracy or of fantasised individualistic freedoms) and no longer needs to tolerate a positive vision of emancipated humanity, even as an ideological dream.
Left and right wing populism will not be able to deal with a postlabour capitalism. Populism has to be understood in it’s real manifestatiins that is as America first, Britain first etc. It is accelerated natiinalism whether embraced by left or rigjt. Again this is why I agree with Land on Left acceleratiinism though for entirely different political outcomes.
Only a new iternationalism can respond to global capital and it’s new forms of control, which far from relinquishing are about to be revved up under more and more global authoritatian state sanctioned modes of production.
There remains a hangover of a false security blanket which underpins the dreams of academia.( I say hangover as these middleclass posts of privilege can be very readily eroded as university’s are subsumed by global authoritarian capital to embrace skills,managerial rhetoric etc). This fantasy of security is very much like,and is related, to the fantasies of security of right and left populism and their neccessary alignment to intensifications of nationalism. Not that academics are nationalists but that they often respond to material conditions from an idealised space, as nationalists do, taking for granted a state sovereignity fully independent of global Capital, and so completely missing the reality of class war, missing the brutalism of the intensification of exploitative capitalist development.
In reality we are winessing the erosion of social welfare. Why then would we expect the elite to pay a surplus population to not work even if we can imagine a sovereign state who are not controlled by global capital?
We need a new internationalism, a transnational solidarity that does not fall for this fantasy of sovereign state nations.