Annotated #Accelerate (#1)

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]

7 thoughts on “Annotated #Accelerate (#1)

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