Accelerationism in One Country


The difference between the experimentalism of ‘folk politics’ and the trial and error of Srnicek and Williams boils down to a question of scale. The most biting elements of their critique of current radical practices, such as direct democracy, is that they are difficult to ‘scale up’ beyond local and parochial zones of action, and it is this limitation which prevents the contemporary left from presenting a real threat to capitalism. Surprisingly, then, Inventing the Future implicitly conjures a distinctly national politics, geared towards achieving parliamentary dominance in North/Western democratic states. Their legislative wish-list – investment in automation, the provision of basic income, shortening the working week and so on – remain tied to national politics in an era of ever-more global and mobile capital. To be sure, the threat of capital upping sticks and investing elsewhere at the mere mention of greater concessions to labour are overstated, but without a global compact in which common labour standards are adhered to around the world, the reality of a post-work regime in one country would either be capital flight or the out-sourcing of exploitation to poorer countries (in other words, further exacerbating the current global division of labour). Not for nothing are the authors forced to rely on a vague hope that the rest of the world will take care of itself … (Emphasis in original.)

Capital interprets Left Accelerationism as damage and routes around it.

7 thoughts on “Accelerationism in One Country

  1. Not to downplay the coup de grace you’ve quoted here, but that article does does a good job of showing Williams and Srnircek’s one achievement – in breaking the leftist taboo on hegemonic ambition, they reveal how the structural weaknesses of the modern left appear from a leftist perspective. The author’s hysterical reaction to W&S’s heresy is perfect proof. If one wanted to sum up the ‘horizontalism’ W&S reject, it’d be as follows: “providing jobs to the widest possible spread of mediocrities, at the expense of the movement’s ability to achieve its goals”.

    (And yet, of course, in valorizing ‘consent’ as their preferred tool of hegemonic control, W&S are trying to build a strong left with the tools of a weak one – psycharchy is incompatible with acceleration)

    Leftism loves self-criticism, but only criticism of inconsistency in applying existing principles. So W&S fall in a no-man’s land – too brave for the left, and not enough for the right – in that they can only break one taboo, on a question of tactics, They can’t bring themselves to consider acceleration’s consequences for strategic goals. Socially and professionally, their goals must stay yoked to leftist shibboleths, so that they have a fig-leaf when horizontalists attack them as insufficiently leftist.

  2. Srnicek & Williams respond:

    ‘We must now raise one unfortunate issue, which is the consistent misreading within Aggie and Tom’s response. According to them, our ideas are “outdated, odious and even obscene”. The work is “scandalous” and “would suffice to make most recoil in dread”. The project would lead to a “potential horror”. Ultimately, the book is “an unrepentant revival of techno-fetishist vanguardism, complete with a preference for hierarchical, clandestine strategising inspired by neoliberal institutions and practices.” And that’s just the introduction. Despite the promise of horrors within, we worry readers will be disappointed when the book doesn’t live up to these lofty expectations. Needless to say, we think the authors have misunderstood the project. As such, a proper response is called for in the hope that it will prevent future readers from making the same mistakes.’

    • How is that addressing the basic point at all?

      Capital doesn’t have a substantial socio-cultural constituency, all it has is escape. If a left politics has no strategy for shutting down escape routes, it hasn’t even begun to address its real problem. “But the people are with us, and we control the universities, and government is our friend!” — It’s always had that stuff, at least tacitly. What it doesn’t have — or even have serious plans for — is global control (capture). Without that, it will always be broken from the Outside.

      Not that there’s any point trying to persuade anyone who isn’t already convinced. Repeating this same mistake endlessly, and as luridly as possible — thus producing the only capital-positive promotions that have ever existed — is the most creative thing the Left is capable of doing. The harder and faster they do it, the better.

      (A marginally less obnoxious phrasing would have been: “the most creative thing the Left is capable of doing qua advocates of socialism“.)

        • If your skepticism on this is correct, why does the democratic right — a few eccentric libertarians aside — have an almost exclusively culture-based political platform (social conservatism) while only the left has an economic one (egalitarian redistribution and business regulation)?

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