My marginal scrawls are added in bold. For the sake of clarity, therefore, I have subtracted the bolding used in the Williams and Srnicek text. In every other respect, the source text has been fully respected. Most of the annotations made are placeholders for future engagement. It has been broken into three posts, in conformity with the organization of the original.
#ACCELERATE MANIFESTO for an Accelerationist Politics
by Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek • 14 May 2013
Accelerationism pushes towards a future that is more modern, an alternative modernity that neoliberalism is inherently unable to generate.
Since this is a slug, the quite incredible number of problems it manages to compress into nineteen words are being set aside, as effects of compression.
01. INTRODUCTION: On the Conjuncture
1. At the beginning of the second decade of the Twenty-First Century, global civilization faces a new breed of cataclysm. These coming apocalypses ridicule the norms and organisational structures of the politics which were forged in the birth of the nation-state, the rise of capitalism, and a Twentieth Century of unprecedented wars.
2. Most significant is the breakdown of the planetary climatic system. In time, this threatens the continued existence of the present global human population. [So the analysis cascades downwards from institutional climatology? How did this hypothetical forecast achieve such extraordinary prestige?] Though this is the most critical of the threats which face humanity, a series of lesser but potentially equally destabilising problems exist alongside and intersect with it. Terminal resource depletion, especially in water and energy reserves, offers the prospect of mass starvation, collapsing economic paradigms, and new hot and cold wars. [Yes, politically-inhibited price discovery has this effect.] Continued financial crisis has led governments to embrace the paralyzing death spiral policies of austerity, privatisation of social welfare services, mass unemployment, and stagnating wages. [Yet no sign of state-shrinkage is to be found anywhere.] Increasing automation in production processes including ‘intellectual labour’ is evidence of the secular crisis of capitalism, soon to render it incapable of maintaining current standards of living for even the former middle classes of the global north. [If automation is a symptom of crisis, this ‘crisis’ has coincided perfectly with capital production since its inception.]
From the Right, the single and comprehensive social disaster underway is the uncompensated expansion of the state, in both absolute and proportional terms. (This is a system-theoretical prognosis, before it is any kind of moral objection.) It is notable that Left Accelerationism does not seem to find this development at all morbid, despite the fact that its trend-line is manifestly unsustainable, and thus starkly predicts catastrophe. On the contrary, those very minimal attempts to moderate the trend towards total political administration are decried as “paralyzing death spiral policies of austerity, privatisation of social welfare services, mass unemployment, and stagnating wages.” In this respect, the manifesto faithfully echoes the wider socio-cultural process through which catastrophe is necessitated. It is the voice of deliberate (politically super-invested) disaster.
3. In contrast to these ever-accelerating catastrophes, today’s politics is beset by an inability to generate the new ideas and modes of organisation necessary to transform our societies to confront and resolve the coming annihilations. While crisis gathers force and speed, politics withers and retreats. In this paralysis of the political imaginary, the future has been cancelled.
The “crisis [that] gathers force and speed” is politics. Any future other than the one politics commands has been cancelled by proclamation. Only insofar as reality is politically soluble, however, can this proclamation be decisive. On that question, there is much more to come.
4. Since 1979, the hegemonic global political ideology has been neoliberalism, found in some variant throughout the leading economic powers. In spite of the deep structural challenges the new global problems present to it, most immediately the credit, financial, and fiscal crises since 2007 – 8, neoliberal programmes have only evolved in the sense of deepening. This continuation of the neoliberal project, or neoliberalism 2.0, has begun to apply another round of structural adjustments, most significantly in the form of encouraging new and aggressive incursions by the private sector into what remains of social democratic institutions and services. This is in spite of the immediately negative economic and social effects of such policies, and the longer term fundamental barriers posed by the new global crises.
Within Anglophone democracies, 1979 marked a limited transition from the reigning Keynesian consensus, one that was never resolutely pursued, and quickly reversed (within roughly a decade). The principle of economic politicization (macroeconomics) has not been dethroned. ‘Neoliberalism’ is not a serious concept. Within China (and later, less boldly, in other ’emerging markets’) a far more substantial transformation occurred, but in none of these cases does the description ‘neoliberal’ provide illumination — unless its meaning is reducible to a repudiation of crude command-economy methods of social subordination to the state.
5. That the forces of right wing governmental, non-governmental, and corporate power have been able to press forth with neoliberalisation is at least in part a result of the continued paralysis and ineffectual nature of much what remains of the left. Thirty years of neoliberalism have rendered most left-leaning political parties bereft of radical thought, hollowed out, and without a popular mandate. At best they have responded to our present crises with calls for a return to a Keynesian economics, in spite of the evidence that the very conditions which enabled post-war social democracy to occur no longer exist. We cannot return to mass industrial-Fordist labour by fiat, if at all. Even the neosocialist regimes of South America’s Bolivarian Revolution, whilst heartening in their ability to resist the dogmas of contemporary capitalism, remain disappointingly unable to advance an alternative beyond mid-Twentieth Century socialism. Organised labour, being systematically weakened by the changes wrought in the neoliberal project, is sclerotic at an institutional level and — at best — capable only of mildly mitigating the new structural adjustments. But with no systematic approach to building a new economy, or the structural solidarity to push such changes through, for now labour remains relatively impotent. The new social movements which emerged since the end of the Cold War, experiencing a resurgence in the years after 2008, have been similarly unable to devise a new political ideological vision. Instead they expend considerable energy on internal direct-democratic process and affective self-valorisation over strategic efficacy, and frequently propound a variant of neo-primitivist localism, as if to oppose the abstract violence of globalised capital with the flimsy and ephemeral “authenticity” of communal immediacy.
The right was destroyed, almost comprehensively, in the 1930s. Since then it has existed only as a token voice of impotent dissent, grumbling distractingly, as the juggernaut of Leviathan has rolled forwards. Neither the New Deal or Great Society programs have been reversed. Instead, the vector to total politicization has been pursued into the final redoubts of a broken civil society. The Left faces no serious political constraints at all, but only those ‘ontological’ restraints imposed by an intractable, politically-indifferent reality — exemplified by the Mises ‘Calculation Problem’. It is these that are now bringing down Bolivarian Socialism. ‘Globalized Capital’ is primarily denominated in the politicized currency issued by the US Federal Reserve. Its subservience is radical and explicit.
6. In the absence of a radically new social, political, organisational, and economic vision the hegemonic powers of the right will continue to be able to push forward their narrow-minded imaginary, in the face of any and all evidence. At best, the left may be able for a time to partially resist some of the worst incursions. But this is to be Canute against an ultimately irresistible tide. To generate a new left global hegemony entails a recovery of lost possible futures, and indeed the recovery of the future as such.
So it’s clear by now that the Right and the Left at least agree on one thing — the other guys have near-total hegemony, and are running the world into disaster. Can an even-lefter Left accelerate the process?
Exploring that idea requires a look at the idea of acceleration … [next]