Stephen Metcalf – Black Capital

Black Capital is a third piece by Metcalf and the final one from the archives (if anyone has the intro he wrote to the dreadfully cursed Hammer of the Gods, a messy collection of statements and aphorisms by Nietzsche strung together for the singular purpose of trafficking in edge, or ‘Vortikill’, a talk given at Virtual Futures ’95, please let me know!). This piece was initially published in two different outlets in 1995, appearing in I/O/D’s first issue and again in the first issue of the CCRU’s Collapse zine. Enjoy! 

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THE COMPOSITE CITY

The Western Lands are burning – drifting out into deep space; vapourized in the embers of hollow blazes crackling in the red night. Panorama of a mutant city… shaking, oscillating at convulsive frequency, and breaking up into tectonic tremors of collapse. Human and machine combinations not yet realized pass through immunodeficient membranes… A population of strange, wildly mutating anthropoids gathers on the boarder of state-space, lashed by streams of flak and tracer fire spewing from the control towers policing the line… from desperate migrations… from incredible journeys through desert and jungles and mountains… from stasis and death in rift valleys excavated by vorticular, mass crash, freezing urban sprawl in tailback to infinity… The Composite City – Interzone – grows with the virulence of a deadly fungus… the place of dead roads where all human potentials spread out in a vast, silent market. All buildings in the zone are joined arrangements of wood, brick, concrete, glass, packing crates, corrugated iron; where undead armies of transhumans squat in island expansions of rubbish… locked… no door is no membrane impermeable… everything is free to enter or go out… no counter-measure is effective against osmotic invasion of circulation networks. Epidemics of unknown diseases consume the body. Unburied dead eaten by vultures in the streets, scorched by the sun, rotting in the subliminal hum of sex and illicit commerce. A plague ravages through the city. The digestive track of Capital, particularly the recuperative intestine, is drowned in the reverse bleeding of Black Capital… dirty money… orbiting the market from the outside as threat and panic, and bleeding back inside, filling the intestines of Capital with rogue DNA codes; toxins in the pancreas, secreting poisoned bile and corrosive juices, folding the body in gastro-enteritic convulusions; fluid which is rejected by the liver, and chokes the organism in its own sticky, black, veinal and arterial blood… Cold explosion of reverse transcriptase in cells emptied and redesigned by the viral codes of the Black Market… A hideous dry hunger the virus wracks the body… hunger for the fix of the commodity which consumes the consumer, backed up by an escalating trade in discarded stockpiles of government weapons… The body is streaked with lesions… Fiery cones of blisters rising like little air bubbles under a skin of lava… appearing first around the anus, which wires itself to the mouth of the market in a frenzied binge of eating cancer, then under the armpits; then at places where barely active glands still carry out their functions… Organs open – flowering into wounds in order to better ingest incoming flows of addiction… Reverse-bleeding, we call it, where the addict seizes hold of a rust-speckled safety-pin, gouges a three-inch tear into leg muscle (which hangs open like a ragged bleeding, festering mouth; crying like a started bird for the insertion of the dropper) and plunges in the smack… the protoplasm of the Black Market virus… the addict becoming no more than a trick of the light… raw periphery of meat disintegrating in the flash of a hit of the disease… Being strained to make the impossible break with the flesh and sprint headlong towards the nearest cemetery… The market dashes itself to pieces… Luxurious naked lunch offered to the head of state crawls with multitudes of worms and parasites… The ecstasy of recuperation ends as the indigestible is fatally consumed, the intestines erupt in bleeding ulcers and become the place of feverish, hallucinogenic degrees of composition and calcification. Welcome to  the Interzone… the hemorrhage of the global village, where the hydra-head of Black Capital consumes the head of state… where the last days drift by… strung on a syringe… wired to viral control…

HELIOCENTRIC

Piles of dead sheep’s heads, ritually slaughtered and stripped to bones speckled with scraps and stains of corporeal matter, lining the streets, violating stink of passage of shit to soil… passage of form to matter in whirl of entropy… involution through several gradually degrading states, indexed to metric scales of the pathologist’s science… flyblown corpses of children rotting with disease… earth breathing with the pulsing rhythm of demise… plagues of unknown insect colonies, gorged on catastrophic wastage… virus mutations yet uncoded… plates of bacteria spreading over immense dunes of rubbish, secreting toxic vapours… semi-autonomy of cancer-cloned becomings, ejaculating streams of acid from proliferating ogans… vomit of sunstrokes and alcohol sickness in opaque pools… identity manuring the sidewalk with the last reflex jerk of dead humanity, power, and meaning… the opening of all closed circuits, flowering into lesions which bleed in reverse… rustle of sex against the skin closing down with the commodified piece-work of the brothel-shift… peaks of transcendence collapsing into barbarian plateaus of anarchy, guns drawn and blades reflecting shock waves of solar radiation… mortified excremental civilization littering the ruins; populated by tents, bivouacs, pennants and flags of nomadic encampments… fortification of command systems of cybernetic control, shivering in the cold, internal iceflows of the arctic wastelands of governmental authority… the end of monetary exchange as all gold standards melt down; taking world banks of state with it into an inferno of insane speculation… shedding of skin like snakes… exchange of tissue for melanoma and its partial replacement with prostheses, circuit-boards, nano-technology and synthetic germ-killers… hysteria, schizophrenia, and all mental breakdown redesigned as consensual delusion of hallucinatory oder… helicopter gunships, delivering transnational payloads of xenocidal state terrorism shot down in the oriental sunrise which sets over the West… strange attractors fusing parthenogenetic machines, simultaneously crystallizing and collapsing in cathected motor of pulsion and entropic circuit-breaker of repulsion… famine quoted on world exchanges as consumption to the end of suicide, while global sightseers tour the ruins… newsreels of atrocity projected on the lids of dead, undersea eyes; at once cold and intense, picking up the silent frequency of the plague… wild alliances of strays, vagabonds and runaways in cardboard cities of the globe, puncturing points of entry into the urban cores of designer capitalism and rioting for the sheer, incendiary hell of it; consumed by the consumption of consumption… impoverished military wings of ruling assemblies running guns to terrorists, to be turned against authority in counter-hegemonic strikes… the subversion of dominance and submission into circuits of sado-masochistic gratification… SOL, nothing but SUN sodomizing the scientific apparatus of capture… heatseekers imploding everything into the death rattle of rational thought; scattered debris in the undertow of reality-crash… the final unification of human identity under the sign of the environment, slowly revealing the swastika concealed beneath its green cloak… biocybernetic bacterial orgy of teleonomic communication falling to indeterminacy and approaching ABSOLUTE ZERO… mass death in crosstown auto-collision… cryogenic freezing of dead heads of state, reanimating necrophile political space… algorithmic data bleeding into the cardiovascular networks of the organism, digitizing it with an ‘OFF’ signal… viral intruders, entering the tissue through microscopic injuries and punctures; assaulting deference mechanisms in vertigo of annihilation: All these are immanent to the system…

CLAN

And so paramilitary formations of virus-carriers, secret societies of criminal infection, and brokers of exquisite dream which fall dead in the sands of interpretation, ride out the exit channels of Interzone – carrying black flags, poisoned blades, and home-made submachine guns. They overwhelm the fortified encampments of the north, enchanting local populations with the madness of addictive subversion and gratifying surrender… Nomadologies of machinic alliance flow gracefully across the frozen borders of the nation state in an alien invasion of from the interior; already among the nations and melting the ice with the accursed gift of the sun. Precious stone tablets of the sculpting of commandments are liquited in white heat, engendering crisis and futile reaction…. Unicellular blowing apart of the social teleonomies where the nomads couple themselves to the apexes of triangles of Heimat settlement. The state’s pre-arrangement of overlaid bridges, junctions, pathways, and trade routes trajectorizes as it impacts upon the helpless head of the social. Detonation of nuclear arsenals of the world merely pushes the nomads underground; shedding their skin in reptilian camouflage, vanishing without forensic trace in ambient recession into the undergrowth… Dog howls of murdered technology announce the presence of assassins of space on the line… you shall know this infection only when the system crashes from within, tracking its nightmare enemy through the matrix, and finding it as it locks onto its own redundancy… machine suicide a digital technics perform illegal surgery on themselves… Shower of golden vapour runs enervated rescue routines; hurling killer programs into the immunodeficient, exclusive, closed networks, which collapses in catastrophes of nullification at the point where one wrong term in ten million paragraphs of software crashes all terminals… These are the last days of the state, powerlessly against partially organised nomadic skirmishers escalating the information war: free from the freedom narcotic sold by Western democracies and their theopolitical malcontents, peddling THE CURE TO ALL ALIENATING DISEASES in the ovens and gas chambers of the planned economy, Communism, fascism, fundamentalism… Free from the need to be free… the status of their tangible existence in the virtual and dark vanishing points of escape are impersonally achieved… The urban resting satellites of the world begin a routine of anamorphatic symbiosis with the confusion of Interzone, infected by its black market protoplasm – injecting heroin and sucking upon crack cocaine with earlier morning sights of heated photosynthesis… Biomechanics cut up atrophying parades of digestive organs in paralysis of eating disorders… in generative sequences of android androgyny; which do you prefer to shoplift from the shelves of the clinical hypermarkets – long range anorexic recession or short range bulimic overdose None of this comes from the Other; the Other is already inside fences of the security net, operating with clandestine malevolence…

O, systems! O, governments! O, accumulators of auto-suggestive wealth! O, banking cartels imprisoning the sun! Beware the aliens that walk among you! Beware the exterior which seduces your paranoid eye in cancerous growths of panic! The fraught pathways of termination, converging upon Interzone and unbinding all your contracts, slice across the borderline with the inevitability of death. Yours. Your subjects drown in an electronic miasma of techno-genetic information and take you down with them; recoding in the initial fusing sequences of a nexus of stateless, homeless, orphaned, selfless, bastard children of the Anti-Oedipus/Christ… You are immersed like water in water.

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Stephen Metcalf – Third Terminal

Here’s another one from the archives. Third Terminal predates the Killing Time/Strife Kolony/NeoFuturism trifecta by several years, having appeared initially in a volume edited by Matthew Fuller (who at the time belonged to the “speculative software group” I/O/D, which Metcalf collaborated with) called Unnatural: Techno-Theory for a Contaminated Culture. The book, published in 1994 but compiled over the course of the year prior is a slick slice of the post-post-punk peripheries of cyberia: besides Metcalf and Fuller, it features writings by fellow I/O/Ders Graham Harwood and Simon Pope, Sadie Plant and Nick Land’s class text ‘Cyberpositive’, and multiple offerings from VNS Matrix, among others. 

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arpanet_june1974_large

Countdown to the Millennium. The end or the beginning? Just as Capital’s dream of exercising magical, dematerialised control reaches delirious levels – populations comatosed in its immanent electronics, decorticated nervous systems wired to its terminals, sequences of instructions, error correcting codes, security systems, surveillance networks, flows of contradictory information pulsing electromagnetic waves of pleasure in consumption – a crisis point is reached: a terminal point both catastrophic and irresponsibly positive. Somewhere on the line the perverts have dropped out of the New World Order, begun to construct their own Virtual Machines, to program systems which may not yet exist, to jam systems already choked with information, feeding viral subroutines back into Capital’s master programmes, micro-errors in social programming bombarding the system with noise, absurdity, psychosis. Come flow in our Hysterical Materialism (the pleasure short-circuits the pain waves after they hit, cushions the blows to come) to three terminals in the technosphere; fuse with their circuitries.

Terminal 1

Electronic eyes of the State Machine. A program taking an identity law as premise. This one looks set to RUN and RUN. Or at least it has done, as the Digital Logic Level of the Human Security System. 1A = A, 0 + A = A; symmetrical equations, neatly balanced, never overstepping the mark of the identity law, present at the Digital Logic Level, faced with the apparent impossibility of things being otherwise.

Deposited in front of a mirror, the first lesson in sociability takes place. This scene of fascination, this tragic puppet which tracks my movements exactly is my first reference point, a place of safety and protection against the outside. Teach me to dichotomise. Those others in my looking glass who are not me. Teach me to fear them and, at the same time, identify myself in terms of the manifest fact that others who resemble me are not me. Teach me negation – I am not x, I am y. Then wire a brain to my voice box and teach me your language, the dichotomising communication vectors which you legitmise if manifest under scrutiny by some optical apparatus. As long as I see it in some sense, the rest follows – cogito ergo sum, dialectics, fear of the others, desire for borders and protection – and you think you’ve got me. You make my escape routes illegitimate, coding them, as symptoms to be cured.

Psychotic states. Schizophrenia. Fuck you.

Encrypted as Read Only Memory, these interiorized programs of the State Machine (Capital’s coding of desire) begin their Fetch – Decode – Execute cycles, all based on the premise of One Central Processing Unit (identity) and its ability to dichotomise: gender separation, heterosexuality, reproduction in the interests of the continuation of the code (families), neurosis (the desire to fit in rather than face the consequences of transgression), the desire for knowledge (to domesticate the perceived threat from others), nationalism, paranoia, fascism. Error Correcting Codes sweep the memory; search routines rubbing out points at which the program has not ‘taken’, domesticating the under the rubric of one or another of the paranoid categories of subjectivity, social position, family background: political economy, sociology, psychoanalysis.

Flickering grey of display screen coming on-line. High-pitched whine and singing crackle of pixels organising a closed circuit TV image. Search files for errors in desire coding.

Sex scene on monitor.

Two boys. Smooth, muscular bodies wrapped in accouterments of domination and submission. Steadying with hands on hip bones. Bound by wrist and ankle. Commands. Greased penis extends across flat stomach. Pulses. Advances to pretty boy for the thrill of being beaten as a man. Raises his arms and strikes. Mesh of thin purple welts traced across the back of thighs, calves, buttocks.

At Terminal 1, Error Correction Codes are cycling. Project Domestication initiated. Problems with socialisation according to Oedipal/heterosexual inscriptions of desire. Find in the masochist’s desire for humiliation, the shadowy figure of the father, the desire to be possessed by him, to belong to him, to be penetrated by him; discover a latent father figure/substitute in the dominator, by now a phallocentric tyrant; and, by some kabbalistic magic, ‘A Child is Being Beaten’ and mapped onto the familial/state apparatus. Or, worse, we could be more scientific: map statistical norms of behavior across the social body and burn out the deviancy accordingly.

Encryptions in pure machine language, pixels reversed into signals, surfaces reduced to latent content and diagnosed; digitisation of results fed into scanning devices of the state’s psycho-technicians. Frenzied algorithm carrying out social surgery: a process of psychochemotherapy cleaning out the system of unwanted networks of gratifications in deviant sexuality. Pulsations of desire along sine waves, completely unpredictable and transmitting no information, unfiltered noise, assaults on the precious, neurotic ego. Fuse the perverts into these networks, these licensed sex channels at all costs. Call it therapy.

Meanwhile, the two boys remain oblivious to this act of state-sponsored voyeurism. They have not been invited to any interactive screening of their scene, now being played-out in digital pantomime with the state’s mind cops in all the expensive seats, and carry on regardless, grinning in mutual consent – ‘Use me’ – Further – the dare – the contract.

Electric waves of intensity rush through nerve-endings, gated, connected, and wired to S&M circuitries. Master’s cock pushing gently but firmly into the slave’s rectum. Animal whinnying. Symphony of giggles. Fusing per vas nefandum to the detriment of patriarchy.

Now, this refusal to conform – to be ‘reasonable’ and embody upon the State Machine’s control circuits = psychosis – apparently justifies the arrest of transgressors and (conveniently for them) keeps psychologists at work. We care for you. Like the mummy-daddy apparatus. Condition a nauseous rush of anti-gratification, as aversion circuits switch in where pleasure previously erupted across the libidinal band, the sexualised skin, in micro-machines composed of body parts and fetish objects. Fit and legally working again.

Terminal 2

Terminal 1 is the desire to dominate: politically, psychologically, economically (in both monetary and libidinal senses), eternally. To operate a machine limiting interaction (the state) while remaining exterior to its mechanisms. To be Control without being controlled, as Burroughs might say. To close a social, familial, sexual, subjectified circuit and remain on its outside. Watching. Regulating. Avoiding being itself processed by the machine (E.g. consider how therapists are so immune to psychotic projections, deviant states of mind, outlawed behavioral patterns).

Eternal recurrence of state logics coupled to a slave output. Power, control, radical exterminisms of alterity, negations of the other, oppressive necessities, security systems, prison houses of linguistic and social co-operation, armies of labor shackled to the control machines, blood lines, shared cultures of panic, require recognition of their domination, binary co-movements of control and feedback. The interpretation of related messages in uninterrupted flows. Producing the following problem:

As Capital’s desire for spectral possession of its subjects reaches digital perfection, as control scales ecstatic peaks, measured only against the homeostatic metric of its self-regulating immune system, it decreases resistance; flipping the process over into its reverse – cancerous excrescence initiating a death-bound, entropic, retrograde spiral of wasted energy and useless institutions. Control runs out of things to control, it sets the mechanisms of its own death into a potentially catastrophically motion. Therefore a certain type of comprehensible resistance is tolerated as feedback. Something left on the screen to control. This is the radical negation of Terminal 2.

This S&M business looks awfully pitiful to the radical moralists in our midst. Can this “…dreary parade of sucked dry, catatonicised, vitrified, sewn-up bodies…”[1], as marginal and potentially antipathetical to the State, be radicalised, politicised, and domesticated in the social-factories of some revolutionary super-state? Like Terminal 1’s policing initiatives, it’s a matter of interpretation: a demand for recognition (all applauded by the state: first hand knowledge of what its defiers are up to in their bedrooms, clubs, and torture chambers). This is radicalism’s secret: it serves the State Machine, is caught up in the logical matrices of the state, and can only offer negation of the state’s negations as the (Final) solution. This is the logic of the Konzentrationslager, camping it up in libertarian clothing.

Represent.

Express yourself.

Confess. Lose your little war machines in our orbit, our demilitarised zones of settled identity, your new family; come and meet your Volks. But, as your future police force, we need to outline a few ground rules. Your co-operation is required. We want information. Data to be fed into our central control machines. We want to understand you. We want to Occupy Terminal 1.

Demand that they recognize you. We’ll start with a nice, safe, legal end to censorship as a prelude to your crossing the threshold of your new home after you’ve married the Party, and then we’ll make you normal as a valued and functional component in our joyous machineries. Maybe secondly we’ll demand that you should become V.I.P.s right now, articulate your demand for the normality you obviously long for, pry over your practices with interviews, video cameras, study groups, day-schools, seminars, politically correct consciousness raising events, why not a few concerts? The future is yours. With our permission.

Transmission ends. Funded by State T.V. Crackling terminus of the program. The opposition trots back home, claiming victory over the social void, monitored at all points by banks of cameras lining the ceilings of the decimated cities.

For sure, radical cybernegative S&M will finds its place on the margins of the social, its black hole where desire stops, terminating in suicidal exhibitionism. There at the dimly lit entrance, a micro-fascist territory will be staked out, a zone of ressentiment generated by a gasping reflex-jerk. “We”. Homeostasis. Security systems monitoring the entrance, defense systems barring the exit.

Even Deleuze and Guattari, usually willing to allow deviant states to flow back into the social and infect it, show a myopic moralism in relegating S&M to this second terminal position. It was they who alerted our attention to the fact that S&M is not a fantasy requiring interpretation mapped onto a familial, Oedipal grid but is, actually, a program. But this is not to accept their contention that this algorithm careens into Terminal 2 monomania (cutting off relations with the outside of the system) and produces a micro-fascist fortification. A pre-programmed security system.

PROGRAM

– the process of sewing

-how to produce a reactive-cybernetic, closed-up body:

Bow to the mistress. Beg her for forgiveness. Transgression must have its punishment, after all. Lash the penitent to the table, drawing the ropes, cords, thongs, cuffs and chains tight enough to register their presence with nagging insistency. Prepare tools required to carry out the program: weapons, instruments of humiliation. RUN. 100 lashes. Then pause.

Begin to sew. Sew up the hole in the glans, then sew the skin around the glans to the glans itself. Sew the scrotum to skin of the inner thighs. Sew the breasts, attaching a pinching clamp to both nipples. Connect them. Bind the penitent to a chair. 100 lashes. Sew the buttocks together. Initiate procedure for intensifying torture as per contract. Stick pins in the buttocks, as far as they go. Tie the penitent to a chair. 100 lashes. Apply cigarette burns. Random humiliation.

Presto. A pre-program. A security system closing up the body; a set of sad, repetitive, entirely predictable rituals in whose regime nothing is unexpected, no contact outside of this particular orbit is even desirable or even possible. The program becomes a means by which the masochist guarantees a fortified sense of identity. Martyrdom. The ascetic’s sanctity reinforced by a sewn-up, bound, lacerated, body only allowing waves of pain to traverse its surface. Desire’s anarchic flow is blocked as the masochist closes the circuit, refuses to patch into other networks. Welcome to the cave. Populate in an act of fortification against the passage of exterior flows, this “…Metropolis that has to be managed with a whip.”[2]

Two problems –

[1] Mechanical absurdity. Energy flows need to be gated at the Digital Logic Level in order to pass through a machine. An open circuit is a ridiculous concept: with no gates, no channels to focus energy, nothing will happen; the amorphous cloud of electrical nonsense bombarding the machine ending in entropic degradation. The point of the S&M programs is to channel energy through the gates sufficiently to blow the whole assemblage apart, with a negentropic co-movement into synergetic relations of desubjectification on a positive feedback circuit.

[2] Repetition taken to mean ‘I want more of the same. Reinforce me’. Rather, take it to be simply ‘I want more’. This argument against enclosure, desire to open up the circuit, condemnation of the refusal to climax and build elaborate systems instead, what does it affirm? A simple genital interface between cock and cunt, keying into no other zones (except for a quick grope in the dark), so desperate to climax and allow the outside to flood in that it prematurely ejaculates. Not ‘I want more’, but ‘Fuck me now, quickly, let’s get this over with, we’ve other things to do, come quickly, the intensity, the intensity, inside and waiting for others to join us, feels so good, coming, end.’ An algorithmic progression resembling nothing more pleasurable than five minutes with a Victorian patriarch.

Terminal 3

As the territory of the Virtual Machine, Terminal 3 is the zone Terminal 1 turns its systemic antibodies against, tabulates information on, and explains away in terms of its simple categories, with the hope of viewing and controlling its pixellated manifestation in Terminal 2. The Third Terminal has other ideas. Refuses the play the game of panic, surveillance, and control. Supposedly canceled in the rational signification of Capital’s symbolic order, it continues pulsing incomprehensible forces resisting domestication, puncturing the fabric of the order itself, setting up its own expert systems in questions of domination and submission, running its own viral programmes, perverting the natural course of the state’s desire code. Action, intensity, jouissance, desubjectification, pragmatics of evasion and flight, sadomasochism, homosexuality, drugs, strange rituals and algorithms, schizophrenia, psychotic projection, hysterical refusal, wild boys and girls switching their soft machines into annihilation mode, writing programs for machines that do not even exist yet, cyberpositive and obsessed with the disappearance of self. Fracturing screens at the point of system crash.

The desire of the Third Terminal is the incapacity for embodiment as subject in/to Capital’s machine language, the jamming of systems saturated with flows of information, a tactic of total indifference to Capital’s demand for feedback in order to produce more information facilitating the management of the crisis engendered by the existence of the Third Terminal; hatred of all police machines, including those of Capital’s cynical future negotiators.

The Third Terminal is the space of the Assassins, drifting silently through the crowds and uniform architectures of user friendly consumption; the time of the Assassins, deferring execution until the optimal moment; the invisibility of the Assassins, spilling off the control screens in all directions; the humour of the Assassins, leaving a jeweled dagger in the Sultan’s pillow; the threat of the Assassins, the trusted servant who suddenly turns against his master.

As Burroughs pointed out in a fragment of The Book of Breething[3], the power of the Third Terminal lies in its invisibility, in the confounding fact that it does not present a coherent scanning pattern to the optical apparatus of control. Control does not know anything about it. It knows a lot about control. The Third Terminal is the pathological case control inscribes into its symptomatologies, to which it then attributes all of its unpredictable maladies, its dangerous malcontents and social indigestion problems. The Third Terminal is the enemy of paranoia.

A Virtual Machine is a constant process of production, it evades control to the extent that by the time the state machine has translated its software into terms inside its orbit, it is always elsewhere, always other, patching new components into its assemblage. Once the fetish object has been neatly compartmentalized as a maternal penis/phallus substitute-pubic fur, shoes, underwear, instruments of punishment – fetishism begins to confound this categorization in the delirious contemplation of other objects exterior and absurd to this Oedipal matrix: Rubber (next to silicon, the perfect inhuman fabric?) suspension in space (the desire to float, to get out of it?) masks (desubjectification of the face), machines (opening the sexual circuit to the flow of the final outside, the technological inhuman).

The construction of these Virtual Machines has always been an element in the cycling of S&M programs, scanned on their own (virtual) terms and free from the prejudices of symptomatology, (namely that S&M is a problem, a disturbance. Actually, all it disturbs is the state’s encryption of ‘normality’. A precious thing). A reading of Sade and Sacher-Masoch reveals the frenzies of two early cyberneticians at work: it is not the subjectified practices of sexuality that matter, it is the bodies and objects that open the gates to ecstatic desire flux, these assemblages of harnesses, straps, thongs, cuffs, pulleys, seats positioning the body for optimum penetration by others, mirrors assaulting the senses with confused images of the co-flux of self, others, and mechanical parts; primitive tactile feedback sensors (as the orgiastics move in escalating pleasure, the entire machine rocks, intensifying the mania, the regal dominatrix in her furs, the resonating surface of the body of the submissive.

Fragmentation of identity on positive feedback circuits. This is the use of the machine that processed itself, removing the certainty of exactly who or what is using who or what. Human use of mechanical means of dominating nature or the viral contamination of a metabolic vehicle by a machine? Or a process of becoming machine, carrying the debris of of the subject of certainty in its undertow in a movement of becoming inhuman. Non-existence of the Human Security System. The birth of a monster.

But that’s not all. Blown apart by escalating positive feedback, the Virtual Machine begins to bombard the security systems with noise. The only feedback Terminal 1 will result in micro-destruction of sections of its desire code as unfiltered noise becomes ungovernable. Third Terminal perversion feeds a viral sub-routine back into the system, fucking up its terminals, corrupting its operations.

Meanwhile, the culprits are never caught. As non-beings with no identity of their own, they are already out of the combat area, regrouping for the next strike, disguised in indicators of outward respectability and normality, laughing. Techno-Assassins whisperings calls to chaos. Viral whispers. Strange infections.

Perhaps one day Capital will begin marketing domestic sex machines. Glance at all the middle class, cultish drool saturating this potentiality of paying by credit card, jacking into telephone networks, staging pixellated fantasies of machine fellatio, necrophile liaisons with historical figures, rape without scars, promiscuity without viral infection, and realise that Capital’s boomer R&D department is ecstatic about taking its chimerical sexual revolution to the next stage.

When these systems come online, be positive that noise from the Third Terminal will infect the code at its vegetable roots. Terrorising the aging sixties’ club. Leaving anonymous death threats on the bulletin boards of the state. Perverting the licensed trajectories of desire.

[1]Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: A Thousand Plateaus, Athlone Press, 1988, p. 150.

[2]Ibid., p. 153

[3]See William S. Burroughs: Ah Pook is Here and Other Texts, John Calender, London, 1979, p. 188

Steve Metcalf – Killing Time/Strife Kolony/NeoFuturism

While prepping materials today to begin work on the final stretch of my book—the last few chapters on the fringe-of-the-fringe of 90s cyberculture—I reread for the first time in quite a while  Metcalf’s deliriously enthralling contribution to the CCRU’s Abstract Culture zine. A tripartite experiment in tracking the Kurtz-gradient of modernity, ‘Killing Time/Strife Kolony/NeoFuturism’ is undoubtedly some of the best writing that have emerged from the period, having reached that delicate plateau where the uncontrollable energy of far-out subcultural creation collides with a competent grasp of various complex theoretical apparatuses. But most of all, it’s the velocity of the work that stands out: we’re propelled through history at an ever-quickening pace and are pummeled by increasingly fragmented sentences, concepts, words: an eschatological glossolalia that sketches the point where history doesn’t end, but explodes.

It’s been suggested in the Twittersphere that Nick Land’s philosophy of capital might fall under the rubric of what Alvin Gouldner called ‘Nightmare Marxism‘, a fearsome specter that likely “flittered through more than one dream of German social democracy and its Scientific Marxism”, in which the revolutionary force of the bourgeoisie is foregrounded, the supremacy of the West rises up as the machinery of history itself, and the proletariat becomes nothing more than a passive element through which these forces emanate—a mask that doesn’t know itself a mask. Such a description, however, does not grasp Metcalf’s vision, even though it is closely to related to Land’s own ( at least the CCRU-era Land—certain passages of ‘Killing Time’ are remixed in his ‘Cybergothic’ essay, or perhaps vice-versa). If the nightmare of history and the mutation of Marxism are the foundational elements here, then perhaps the best term to capture the brutal psychedelia of Metcalf would be Nightmare Maosim

Anyways, with the lapsing of the old CCRU website, this essay and others have been relegated to the abyss of the internet archive. I’m reprinting here for prosperity reasons (and also because it kinda sucks to read things on the CCRU’s website, nostalgia for web 1.0 aside).

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_CmvcITN

Killing Time 

Neo-Futurist instructions for operations in a war zone:

Axiom 1: Command of space metricizes duration in the distributed temporal segmentarity of counterinsurgent imperial metastasis.

Phase 1: 1939 – Berlin: Rhizomaniacs decouple Tank War Europa from its simulation in the underground beer halls of emasculated Weimar democracy, plugging the deleometers of total mobilization into a megamachine of mass death. 1946 – French Indo China: it washes ashore in the oil slick geo-strategy of ethnic cleansing in three movements:

  1. establish a system of strong points (microfascisms)
  2. spread ‘pacification’ forces out into a gridwork of small territorial boxes
  3. comb each square, from periphery to core, with the aim of netting insurgent forces at close quarters and drawing them into prepared killing zones..

Space invaders strung out across the rice paddies, occupying space in encirclement and supression campaigns – geo-eugenic anti-infestation measures: flea control. As the slick advances, the front disperses; converting vast expanses of territory into expanding periphery always already infested with insectoid guerrillas, broadening the insurgent target area.

On the strategic defensive in Phase 1, “analogically, the guerrilla fights the war of the flea, and his military enemy suffers the dog’s disadvantages: too much to defend, too small, ubiquitous, and agile an enemy to come to grips with. If the war continues long enough, the dog succumbs to exhaustion and anaemia without ever having found anything on which to close its jaws or to rake with its claws.” (Robert Taber, ‘The War Of The Flea”) An exact but rigourous aims of guerrilla fighters: attack to defend, alternated with long periods of catatonic inactivity; procure weapons; capture ammunition; kill; kill time; force the enemy to overextend lines; pick off small units; secrete terror; “select the tactics of seeming to come from the East and attacking from the West; avoid the solid, attack the hollow; attack; withdraw; deliver a lightning blow, seek a lightning decision” (Mao) in the five-minute assault.

Phase 2: Dogboys assembled in Chopper War U.S.A., gameboy faces, dromocratic technical-transport bodies of amphibious warfare, kill by strapping on the supple metallic microhead and diverting selection into the scansion of the central computing eye – scanning all the radii of isotopic space through the visor of the helicopter pilot’s helmet, deleometers gridding tele-space interfaced at a distance in the target selector – sharpening hyperleptic reflexes on audio-visual slaughter consoles. Projecting itself quickly, but lacking the impercep-tible speeds of insurgency, the whole campaign falls back on Tank War Europa, the Euclidean geometry of military space cross-hatching the central lowlands of the geo-political core, North to South, from the bunkers of suburban Berlin to the Siegfried Line, passing through the Maginot Line and the Atlantic Wall: trans-European odyssey telescoped into the abattoirs of a common, selective slaughter policy – mobile meat cull finally allowing the State’s death machines to leave the rails in the delirium of all-out suicide. End gaming sequence 1964: Chopper War U.S.A. falters at Ben Tre, on the Mekong Delta: “We had to destroy the town in order to save it” – green and fertile paddies and jungle denuded with Agent Orange, napalm, white phosphorous; colouring smooth space with the alien pixellated lines of a digital wargame. Phase 2 levels the scores.

Gridlock. Dynamic equilibrium of forces unable to exterminate each other. In the intervals between strikes, insurgent forces create freezones on the edge of No Man’s land: black economies making inroads into the white economy of the invading forces. Constant division of guerrilla forces into smaller units (1000s to 100s to 10s) – into n-1 units of the numbering number, diffused across an alloplastic vectorial field, looming in the faceless horror of omnipresence, infusing softening syndromes into the brain core of madrepoid space invader intelligence. Geo-strategic command squanders its logistical capital in launching search and destroy missions against a single, unified mega-unit that does not exist. Occupation of the South Vietnam fields is metricized in terms of the haemorrhage of the economy in massive Kapital bleed-out, speeding up to $3,000,000 per hour.

Axiom 2: Control of time smoothes out space into a vectorial multiplicity propagating revolutionary forces towards Nu-Earth.

Phase 3: Radical asymmetry between guerrilla swarm and State army – mere survival as involutionary victory versus the deathtrip equalization of standing force, converging on the annihilation of enemies in open, agonistic combat. Contracted, legal war, governed by international statutes and rules, spills over into escalating genocide as the invading State aim becomes untenable. “Hold space” melts into the relentless instruction sequencing special forces operations: “Kill kill kill!” Central authority divides into three zones:

  1. Zone of power – organic stratometers governing isometric command chains between State and army;
  2. Zone of indiscernibility – segmentometers relating to the diffusion of these chains through a microphysical fabric in optic space;
  3. Zone of impotence – deleometers relating to the insurrectionary flow of mobilization the State converts and diverts without being able to control and define.

For guerrilla forces, this third zone unleashes the lines of flight necessary for dispersal in No Man’s land, yielding control of the ambient, haptic, paranoid time-space of assassination which overturns central intelligence’s notions of where revolutionary desiring machines are going to hit next. War on n fronts which the State cannot win, short of thermonuclear obliteration. Multitudes of imperceptible dukich fighters swarm in haptic space, touching from too close to be destroyed, neutralizing the logistical supremacy of space invaders. Fourth dimension intrusion which “reduces central power to the level of a helpless, sprawling octopus. During the hours of day sporadic rioting takes place and massive sniping. Night brings all-out warfare, organized fighting, and unlimited terror. . .” (Black Nationalist Revolutionary Action Movement – position paper, 1961: Taber, p.145) Chopper War U.S.A. follows the deleometric line into abolition in the white hot intoxication of mechanized assault, dispatching patrols into the jungle safe zones of the N.V.A. swarms, gridding space with fire lanes (segmentometers), which break all bonds with the optic stratometers of slick conquest as they are swallowed by haptic space. Mobile rapid response units of space invaders are reterritorialized on the static black hole system of fire bases – waiting in the dark to be picked-off, limb, by limb, by limb; paralyzed in the suburbs of Necropolis: the neutralizing space in which the loss of movement for invaders means prolonged exposure to the jungle, infection, death.

Flashback 1945: Telegram 71 exhibits fascism at its apogetic point-instant as the despotic stratifier severs its head from the filth of the unworthy mass body in the ruins of Tank War Europa: as the Russian tanks close in, Hitler’s last order from the bunker decrees the total annihilation of Berlin. Time up. Game over. “We had to destroy the town in order to save it.”

Phase 4: Rewind. Dromoscopic Vietnam restarted by the film companies. Biomorphic horror rides solarized atrocity newsreels into the D.M.Z. of the arcade; fusing brain core, nerve cortex, and movement-image on the glutinous screen of the console. Video captured in the Persian Gulf, virtual war slams airborne cyber-deleonomes against an immobilized, sedentary enemy in U.N. tele-spatial media mash-up. Desert storm operators rewind resonating variations of the same captured events in playstation slick war space; loops of Tank War Europa shots, beneath Panavia fighter planes in smooth blue stratospheric kill zones; sampled shots of helicopter wreckage as foci of maximum arousal in adolescent sex substitutes. The speed of an accelerated lifespan, measured at a couple of (million) dollars per multiple tactical experiment on line. This time Chopper War U.S.A. is a success. But still the oil slick burns in the Gulf, spilling out petrochemical jihad. Thousands of dead black birds. Feed forward to European Unification model 2, great intercontinental meat market population regulator: “We had to destroy the herd in order to save it.” Guarantor of Western democracy, and another pitiful, moralistic rant block for the socialist elite. In the arcades, virtual war datableeds out of telecommercialcorporate control, washing amphibious pioneers of the end of the State onto the fractal subdivisions of coastlines of imperial glacis; smearing zones of indiscernibility into the transversal propagation media of insurgent forces – crawling out of a glutinous, liquid, inhuman deterritorium aligned on the future: sharpening hyperleptic reflexes on audio-visual slaughter consoles . . . . .

Strife Kolony

Name, unit and number: that’s all you get. Earth command Core emergency – “The pilot’s dead…” DOGBITE SHAM 101 SNAKE 1 SNAKE 2 SNAKE 3 ACE VIPERE SUPERKOOL HORNET 156 SHADOW – Swarm agency smart-bombing the 9 billion names of God off the central computing screen – memeplexed SHOWA KRU KZ 135 A-ZONE L ROXANNE SUPERBEE SPIX KOLA 139 SUPERSTRUT TRINITY CONCEPT 3 CRAZY CROSS 110 RENKERS COKE SWARM 911 – Telegraphic warnings sprayed on the machinic phylum – A PACK NAMED WOLF WASP TO MEET ORCHID THEY ARRIVE RED ALERT

KOOL KILLER

T1:Brain Core Crystal Company trading posts occupy Terra Nova, capturing the future in long wave, resonating Kondratieff cycles; katagenic dialectics of decline and renewal, falling back on the productive forces all the better to demonstrate a universal tendency for the reproduction of bourgeois surplus value. Already waging guerrilla war in the future, peripheral K-class Kommunism vibrates fibrous tentacles, as cones of attraction to the dark side, by means of a swarmachinic remix of the Marxian Critique of Political Economy; purpose unknown, effectuated as emergent havoc, rather than historical destiny, under three propositions:

  1. The universal propensity to extract reproducible bourgeois/human surplus value is analytically inextricable from seething allopoietic vivisystems.
  2. Transhumant markets, autochthonic desiring machines, and voodoo futures trading are all alloplastic vectors ungoverning the infrastructure.
  3. Katagenic desolation of the superstructure is immanent to the programming of production.

Short of theology and fascism, brain core capitalism is already virtually extinct. Crippled Archangel of Meat Cull Europa withers into grey dust on Terra Nova. Insect swarms arrive like fate – nth dimension intrusion across the spinal thresholds of the socius – passing memeplexed revolution sequences through the germ plasm of evolutionary vehicles. Becoming metallic. Becoming swarm. Unnatural participation as elan vital bootstrapping imperceptible colonization of Nu-Earth into virtual operativity.

T2:Celibate machines reproduce human surplus value, furnishing the bourgeoisie with recording rights to all of capitalism’s operative axioms, bringing organic stratometers, judgments of God governing isometric command chains, crushing down on schizonomadic economic swarm space. Diffused through the microphysical weave of spinal multiplicity, metrophage control command sequences institute the bourgeoisie as the optimal distribution profile for State power. No more dysfunctional despotic masters: slaves command other slaves in the ravenous stomach of the crystal factory complex – the mutant, urogenital servomechanism calibrated for the reproduction of the capitalist socius in the gambling dens of Terra Nova markets.

White terror. The whites are landing – taking islands in Africa in the dromocratic rush of the megamachine of amphibious colonization – we shall have to submit to baptism, put on clothes, and work. The proletariat is exhumed as the worker-soldier automaton, a spectacular species of drone collapsing into atrocity in the optic space managed by the bourgeoisie. A multitude of black bodies, soulless and bent on destruction, domesticated galleries of inorganic menace, crystal heaps of virtual anti-organic force stretched out over Kapital disequilibrium degree xero(x). Builders of cities. Professional killers. Synergists of First World Security.

Compressed between spinal levels of brain core strata, the proletariat is smeared into indiscernibility: datableed seeping out towards expanding periphery as metrophage institutes its target fronts. Oil slick endocolonization mobilizes in two waves:

1)Meat Cull Europa: distributing geo-eugenic single currencies across the ecu-menon, numbering populations as zombies, shunted into the carceral warrens of a Trans European concentration camp. Phnom Penh year zero: everything entered on the slate is hereby null and void in the axiom laboratories of the suicidal State, gridding tele-space down gun-sights in the royal science of deleometry, attacking the populations swarming across its skin like a rabid dog. In the Surgical Experiment Department of the Institue for Hygiene and Scientific Research, whiteman macroface vivisects swarm microhead – a miracle of modern science – and then watches it die. Farmed-out as prime E.U. girlflesh in the Joy Division, Daniella Preleshnik, stripped of arborified extensity, becomes a number – an insect; bughunted out of existence. Ka-Tzetnik 135633.

“Through the wire screen, the faces of those standing outside looked at her as into the cage of some rare exotic creature in a zoo. She was lying naked, her parted knees still strapped to the iron rods at both sides of the table. And in the hands of one of the assistants she saw the same instrument which they had that morning inserted deep into her body. She shuddered instinctively. She wanted to scream, but, as in a dream, the screams stuck in her throat. Her strapped life writhed within her.” (Ka-Tzetnik 135633:”House Of Dolls”)

Walk backwards. Say nothing. You’re being probed for Terra Nova extermination: as Cambodia burns, only two battalions of Khmer Rouge infantry remain in the petrified city.

2)Atroci-T.V.:Intersected at Zapruder frame 313, the President’s head explodes. Brain core splatters into ARPANet. Rhizomaniac Stealth Agencies monitor the accumulation of virtual assassination weapons, becoming insect to graduate miniaturized search and destroy missions, targetting unspecified enemy hives in the future. Special Weapons and Tactics are sequenced as SWAT, encrypting simulated World War 3 outcomes on black ice. Celibate machines rewind hypertelic memory through the crystal world of event strikes, global peace, deterrence. Calculated rhythms of airborne atrocity converge in montages of optimal disaster management: causing events in the future not to happen, even though they have already taken place – retrieved and reiterated in resonating tele space.

Walk backwards. Say nothing. History runs backwards, from Terra Nova; coursing in reverse down the inclined plane of purposive human teleology onto the inert vertebral surface of the perpetual present. K-class vivisystems seep into imperceptibility: constantly interrogated as the silent majorities, the masses implode into an amorphous statistical aggregate – a number-crunched black hole engulfing the social in static repetition of the same feedback loops. Unstemmable datableed, pauperizing the capitalist State. Arborified reprocessing of destitution – taking islands in Africa to distribute collective guilt, smeared across social democratic management of scorched urban flashpoints – racist endocolonization – cannibalizing the techno-kinetic fourth world of ghetto architectures into a beleaguered stratum: ripe for catastrophe management.

Time music creeps across spinal landscapes, marking-off no-go zones on Nu-Earth.

T3:Red terror. The capitalist state squirms in the shadow of the propagating minorities. Surging up through history, the war of the flea marshals the power of a nondenumerable, infinite set: a Kommunist swarmachine running numbering numbers across haptic space, assembling shock regiments, passing through n dimensions of imperceptibility, targetting the Hellbound bulk of dogman brain core. Eyes crystals sunk in offal – blacked-out in visions of China. Red Army as demonic alliance, counted-out in n 1 units of faceless multiplicity; acentred and always hiving off into smaller units, beggaring  imagination in the nebulous appearance of omnipresence.

Flashback 1949: strung out on the Long March, Mao captures the swarmachine on the resonating recording surface of neo-despotism after internal nomadism threatens to flip the socialist State into an ungovernable colony of imperceptible numbering numbers: proletarian schizo microhead, propagating minorities through hive contagion. Surplus value=inextricable. The socialist State confronts the same limits as its capitalist competitors in trafficking optimal crisis management scenarios: virtual extinction, depreciation of existing capital, peripheral datableed destroying majority as axiom – replicating what the captured global war machine sets out to exterminate. Every massacre rallies a minority of the dead minority – numbered legions of the living dead swarming towards the hive colony of Nu-Earth. Crisis management of the swarmachine – internal disjunction managed by the Party apparatus goes rhizomaniac in the constant adjustment of population to the target rates of the planned economy, and the correct line of Marxism-Leninism as interpreted by the Central Brain Core of the People’s Republic. The Chairman’s voice speeds up into an insect buzz as he speaks:

“Every year our country draws up an economic plan in order to establish a proper ratio between accumulation and consumption and achieve an equilibrium between production and needs. Equilibrium is nothing but a temporary, relative unity of opposites. By the end of the year, this equilibrium, taken as a whole, is upset by the struggle of opposites; the unity undergoes a change, equilibrium becomes disequilibrium, unity becomes disunity, and once again it is necessary to work out an equilibrium and unity for the next year. Herein lies the superiority of our planned economy.” (Mao Tse-Tung,”On The Correct Handling of Contradiction…”)

Categorical imperative: “Act as if there were no tomorrow.” Collapse into the future, occupying the sink holes taking commerce down into exchange rate mechanisms that clear all markets in all future states of the economy. A miracle managed by the guns of the military command core – invasion fleets poised off the coastlines of the black future – taking islands in Africa; washing red flags in the boiling Atlantic. Here we are stranded. but we’ll find new accomodation, we’ll make plans for mobile homes. Welcome to the Strife Kolony. Still life in mobile homes. Memory as fluid duration distributed across C.N.S. segmented worm and fibrous nerve cortex, reassembled in Red Army hive mind and crashed in Kommunist Pioneer year zero aphasia. Moon over China. Stir of light through dark shoals on jungle river beds. Tiles on graves and rotting temples. Blacked out….

T4:At the end of the river, the special forces are dashed on the reef of the faceless horror of an inorganic Kolony populated by insect Kommunists. Kommunists like us. Multitudes of imperceptible du-kich guerrillas swarm in haptic space, too close to be wiped out – even though targetted in infra-red and heat-sensitive sniperscopes, magnifying starlight to pixellate concealed enemies; mobile radar units; biologicals; cluster bombs; smart bombs; smart video war – more dangerous than the regular chuluc troops of the Red Army because cut across by a machinic phylum figuring multiform units in timespace. Crystal Company SWAT operations fail in K-class no-go zones: missions dispatched to follow individual units back to the megahive are picked off by snipers in the jungle. Swarmachines are virtual entities – hive multiplicities swamping organic, central control in emergent revolutionary assemblages; pack becomings rushing across the Body without Organs, propagated by epidemic. Express n dimensions of intensive differentiation by running the swarmachine sequence itself, shifting phase into the actual. By which time it’s all over for Metrophage….

Spinal landscape intersected at T4 dissolves in asymmetry. Snowballing nth dimension intrusion unleashes partisans of World War 4: autosatanic transformers as a swirl of metal flies, pulsing in contagious heaps as they spill out of evolutionary classification, crawling through cosmic continua. Involution through various becomings animal, vegetable, mineral, bacteria, virus, molecule, wavelength pulses digital voodoo codes into the target selectors of metallic probe heads. Allopoietic black magic – infusorian Kommunism – sorceror’s diagrams sprayed on the white walls: diagonal arrows routing instructions for anti-strata spill-out. Proper names. Numbering numbers. Borderlines of gangsta colonies, fracturing into smaller units as the social fabric rots – segments shifting co-ordinate points and dislocating, smearing macroface. KOOL KILLER 666.

After all the fasciculated bundles of intensity available to the bourgoisie have been gathered on the battlefields of crystal space, there are only minutes to go to Terra Nova phase shift into superstructural extermination as the peripheral vortex heats up. Chaos theory as a wave of arson in a climate of revolutionary emergency: “A single spark can light a prairie fire.” (Mao, War in the suburbs of Hell)

Eugenic galleries of bourgeois facial patter recognition burn. Decalcomania. Permanent material damage. Organic security melting away in the assassination fugues of derailed fear.

Katabolic vehicles breathe alien intelligence into fourth world swarms.
Nonorganic imitation of domesticated life
Assaulting the higher levels of organization.
Inhuman nebulae
Setting scales, forms, and screams in continuous variation.
Black patch psychosis blinkering Crystal Core optics –
Fixated on the rear-view mirror – scans newsreels of piled-up corpses.

Nightmare of buzzing and crawling.
Nocturnal escalation of guerrilla war – sinister K-class menace growing insolent as it pours out of time
in order to pass across space.
Helicopters crash against the treeline
Discarded dogboy faces hang from tendons in the burning wreckage of Chopper War U.S.A.

Phosphorescent vapour drifts across a blasted landscape.
Artificial vivisystems, choked in
Biosphere 2 crystallization
Datableed into n dimensions

Mechanosphere

From the wailing of elements and particles, to the howling of packs of animals, to the bleating of Doktor macrofacial slaphead sociological memory man praying for re oedipalization:

Stay with me
No family life – we could learn to fight it
Cling to me
This makes me feel uneasy
We are blacked-out in visions of China
Tonight
Stood alone here in this Kolony

In this Kolony.

In this Kolony.

In this Kolony…..

NeoFuturism

(0) Beyond the authoritarian mania of modernist econometric planning, and the nihilistic, selfreferential third cycle damnation of the ultramodern NOW, NEO-FUTURISM tracks a double process: – (i) where the operational political, economic, and sociological codes of universalized humanity contract – to the point where, condemned to endlessly circulate in an interminable statistical survey, they finally collapse into a black hole where meaningless signs reduplicate themselves. This is the secondary process. The humanities in flames. (ii) The primary process: where the abstract, generic value of human intelligence migrates beyond the madreporic core of an organism regulated by the negative feedback of theses archaic codes – becoming increasingly artificial and synthetic at intense speeds, converging on a future in which it has already been rewired. Here the “medium is the message”: a viral mechanism acclerating the replication of more of itself. Runaway capitalism; anarchic, “headless” self-organization. Invasion from the future.

(0.1) The secondary process, humanism as such, issues from the cold ecstasy of the space mind: the spatializing consciousness which segments and codifies the economic circulation of markets, linguistic signs, and libidinal capital into an organic unity – under the structural law of value. Equilibrium is maintained under the principle of commutability in the exchange of equivalents. It maps the totality of conditions for experience by asking (i) what is it? (ii) where does it come from? (iii) what does it mean? It evokes undead archaisms, which float suspended in cold limbo – power, the social, meaning: it’s all over, but it continues to haunt all the metrics covering segmented space – so many ghosts in the rear-view mirror. These codes constitute a stratified death sentence – effectuating all conditions of possibility, legislating by means of semiotic constants, dividing all virtual forms into actual systems of binary opposites, powered by negative feedback, issuing the judgement which allows the only possible metamorphosis: life passes into death, corporeality into incorporeality, being into nonbeing. It lives in the past. In dead space. Dead time. Hard outlines only secreted in death. Static, cold extermination; secured at the moment of its deconstruction.

(0.2) NEO-FUTURISM experiences this sinister verdict as an admonition to flee. It is our passeism. Paris in flames.

(0.3) A well-known economist recently wrote that “… in order for a competitive equilibrium to exist, each person must prepare a complete list of all future states of the environment which might obtain. And everyone must hold absolutely identical and correct beliefs regarding the prices which would exist in each potential state of the world at every point in the future. This is a world which, transparently, bears no resemblance to reality.” (Paul Ormerod, “The Death of Economics”, p.89)

(0.4) We quite agree. But: each person? Beliefs? NEO-FUTURISM puts an end to all that.
Anthropomorphic environments in flames.

(0.5) The environment is imperceptible auto-production: a process, not a container. Human technics began as counter-environments, automatic and robot controls, tools for natural and social domination; became immanent to the environment, and spawned a proliferating series of new counter-environments to limit the functioning of the old ones. At least some semblance of equilibrium was maintained in this simulation. Intelligent technics slip through the net of counter-environments and out of control, into the harsh swarming of dynamic equilibria. At the end of history, no-one will be there to put the brakes on positive feedback systems.

(0.6) The main questions are temporal and pragmatic: how does it work? What are the conditions for its survival? Econometric divination is completely dysfunctional. NEO FUTURISM operates as self=generating theoretical hype: it survives or dies on the basis of its trading on its estimated future value. It gambles. The virtual future bleeds into medium-term tactical planning, energizing its selection processes; icing short-term consensus in autistic panic; while replicating systems of catastrophic bifurcations (runaway accumulation and/or loss) which send the long-term into oblivion.

(0.7) NEO-FUTURISM only searches for these bifurcation points in order to make circuit diagrams which hack into the positive motion of the vortex of postmodern capital. It is the reverse of nihilism. Its negative moment is inseparable from the positive, smooth operation of its desiring machines – producing soft weaponry to overcome possible obstacles.

(0.8) NEO-FUTURIST ATTACK DEPENDS UPON THE INTEGRAL UNITY OF ITS TARGET. IT DOES NOT LIVE TO MOUNT ENDLESS, OPPOSITIONAL CRITIQUES. IT OPERATES AS AN IMMANENT POWER OF DISORGANIZATION. IT IS PARASITIC, EXPERIMENTING WITH THE SYMBIOTIC CONDITIONS FOR ITS OWN PROPOGATION INTO THE FUTURE. KATAGENESIS AND ANAGENESIS ARE SWITCHED INTO THE SAME CIRCUIT – BOTH STORING AND DETONATING EXPLOSIVES.

(0.9) Space is obsolete: a cultural ghost for tourists with peasant panoptica set on eternity in a cryonic vat. Idiotic gurglings of futurologists: “You and I: we’re gonna live forever.” California in flames. As global finance evacuates the territory and begins to exchange, by itself, in an orbital, virtual dimension the city is abolished as a commercial centre. London in flames – a provincial hamlet at best.

(1.0) Content fades. Media themselves loom large on the edge of planetary cyberblitz. Environmental process transfers from ontology to technology. No more human beings, not even in their hybrid, cyborg variant. Only desiring machines. Cultural studies in flames.

Ephemeralization

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As a nice little rejoinder to the previous post, which in no small part dealt with Bataille’s energeticist diagram of the general and restricted economies, here is a bit from R. Buckminster Fuller’s 1981 book Critical Path on a somewhat related question:

All technical evolution has a fundamental behavior pattern. First there is scientific discovery of a generalized principle, which occurs as a subjective realization by an experimentally probing individual. Next comes objective employment of that principle in a special case invention. Next the invention is reduced to practice. This gives humanity an increased technical advantage over the physical environment. If successful as a tool of society, the invention is used in bigger, swifter, and everyday ways. For instance, it goes progressively from a little steel steamship to ever-bigger fleets of constantly swifter, higher-powered ocean giants.

There comes a time, however, when we discover other ways of doing the same task more economically—as, for instance, when we discover that a 200-ton transoceanic jet airplane—considered on an annual round-trip frequency basis—can outperform the passenger-carrying capability of the 85,000-ton Queen Mary.

All the technical curves rise in tonnage and volumetric size to reach a “giant” peak, after which progressive miniaturization sets in. After that, a new and more economical art takes over and then goes through the same cycle of doing progressively more with less, first by getting bigger and taking ad- vantage, for instance, of the fact that doubling the length of a ship increases its wetted surface fourfold but increases its payload volume eightfold. In- as much as the cost of driving progressively bigger ships through the water at a given speed increases in direct proportion to the increase in friction of the wetted surface, the eightfolding of payload volume gained with each fourfolding of wetted surface means twice as much profit for the same effort each time the ship’s length is doubled.

This principle of advantage gain through geometric size increase holds true for ships of both air and water. Eventually doubling of length of sea- going ships finally runs into trouble. For instance, an ocean liner made more than 1000 feet long would have to span between two giant waves and would have to be doubled in size to do so. If doubled in size once more, however, she could no longer be accommodated by the sizes of the great world canals, dry docks, or harbor depths.

At this point the miniaturization of doing more with less first ensues through substitution of an entirely new art—David’s slingshot over Goliath’s club operated from beyond reach of the giant.

This overall and inexorable trending to do more with less is known sum-totally as “progressive ephemeralization.” Ephemeralization trends toward an ultimate doing of everything with nothing at all, which is a trend of the omniweighable physical to be mastered by the omniweightless metaphysics of intellect. (Critical Path, 233-234)

“Ephermeralization trends toward an ultimate doing of everything with nothing at all”—in conceiving of long-range technical tendencies in such a way, Fuller finds a way to slip through the grasp of the double pincer that has characterized the dominant attitudes towards techno-scientific complexes in the period of late modernity. Two phrases sum up the sides of this pincer: bigger is bigger and small is beautiful. More ideological declaration than something derived from any truly rigorous exegesis, the first is the technocratic zeal at the spectacle of Galbrathian excess (a zeal that is, admittedly, close to this writer’s heart), while the second is the unbearable tweeness of the small and the local, the organicist circuit that lashes the metropolitan hipster to the back-to-the-land trad.

More with less, on the other hand, indexes a progressive involution that charts a simultaneous and interrelated falling number of of  inputs (and wasteful outputs) and increasing efficiency and output capacity. At the level of society development, it’s the raising of carrying capacity—the abstract ability for the earth system to sustain human flourishing—through more effective means that have fewer requirements on the front-end and less negative externalities around back (which is why Timothy Luke is able to argue, quite aptly, that Fuller is presenting an anti-Malthusian environmentalism that takes seriously “human inventiveness against all natural limits with regard to the planet’s cosmic energy, material, and information exchanges in their broadest ecological contexts”).

In John Smart’s strange and perhaps a tad bit woo-y hands, ephemeralization is marshaled under what he describes as STEM compression, the abbreviation drawing together space, time, energy, and matter/mass. For Smart, STEM compression is transcendental structure of universal evolution (that is, the evolution of the universe itself and the things within it); through it the spatial demands that a given system makes fold inward, time horizons rapidly implode to a singularity point, energy rate densities skyrocket (illuminating rising systemic complexity) and the efficiency of matter climbs while the physical density decreases (passing from biological to post-biological, technological substrates). Smart anticipates that the imminent—relatively speaking—horizon flips the Kardashev methodological system on its head by making the “increasing approach to black hole level densities”, not total energy usage, as the measure of civilizational development.

Francis Heylighen, meanwhile, sees in ephemeralization the form of a negentropic mechanism in action:

The net result of the drive towards increasing efficiency is that matter, energy and information are processed and transported ever more easily throughout the social system. This can be seen as a reduction of friction. Normally, objects are difficult to move because friction creates a force opposing the movement, which dissipates energy, and thereby slows down movement, until standstill. Noise plays a similar role in information transmission: over imperfect lines, parts of the signal get lost on the way, until the message becomes uninterpretable.

Physically, friction can be seen as the force responsible for the dissipation of energy and the concomitant increase of entropy (disorder), as implied by the second law of thermodynamics. Entropy increase entails the loss of information, structure, and “free” energy, that is, energy available for performing further work. This energy must be replenished from outside sources, and therefore a system performing work requires a constant input of energy carrying resources. However, the second law only specifies that entropy must increase (or remain constant), but not how much entropy is actually produced. Different processes or systems will produce entropy to varying degrees. Ephemeralization can be seen most abstractly as a reduction of entropy production, meaning that inputs are processed with less dissipation of resources. The result is that, for a given input, a system’s output will contain more usable energy and information, and less noise or waste.

Labor Between the General and the Restricted

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There’s a remarkable similarity between the two following passages, the first a remark from the Grundrisse on the equation of production with consumption and Spinoza (apparently reiterating what Pierre Macherey has argued is a misreading by Hegel of Spinoza, though I don’t have a good enough handle on the nuances of this argument to comment on it much at all), the second on the importance of the ‘production of production’ from the beginning of Anti-Oedipus:

Production is also immediately consumption. Twofold consumption, subjective and objective: the individual not only develops his abilities in production, but also expends them, uses them up in the act of production, just as natural procreation is a consumption of life forces. Secondly: consumption of the means of production, which become worn out through use, and are partly (e.g. in combustion) dissolved into their elements again. Likewise, consumption of the raw material, which loses its natural form and composition by being used up. The act of production is therefore in all its moments also an act of consumption. But the economists admit this. Production as directly identical with consumption, and consumption as directly coincident with production, is termed by them productive consumption. This identity of production and consumption amounts to Spinoza’s thesis: determinatio est negatio. But this definition of productive consumption is advanced only for the purpose of separating consumption as identical with production from consumption proper, which is conceived rather as the destructive antithesis to production. (Grundrisse90)

and

It is probable that at a certain level nature and  industry are two separate and distinct things: from one point of view, industry is the opposite of nature; from another, industry extracts its raw materials from nature; from yet another, it returns its refuse to nature; and so on. Even within society, this characteristic man-nature, industry-nature, society-nature relationship is responsible for the distinction of relatively autonomous spheres that are called production, distribution, consumption… [but] the real truth of the matter—the glaring, sober truth that resides in delirium—is that there is no such thing as relatively independent spheres or circuits: production is immediately consumption and a recording process (enregistrement), without any sort of mediation, and the recording process and consumption directly determine production, though they do so within the production process itself. Hence everything is production: production of productions, of actions and of passions; productions of recording processes, of distributions and of co-ordinates that serve as points of reference; productions of consumptions, of sensual pleasures, of anxieties, and of pain. Everything is production, since the recording processes are immediately consumed, immediately consummated, and these consumptions directly reproduced. (Anti-Oedipus4)

These two passages describe, in ever-so-slightly different ways, a pair of distinct yet fundamentally entangled positions. The first of these is a general situations; relative to the developmental pathways of human civilization at the most total level, it is what produces transhistorical conditions. The second is a more historically-bound and situated situation. The necessary inseparability of the two lies in that the historically-situated is always the expression of the transhistorical current: the latter gives rise to the former, but it is through the variations of the former are the only ways that the latter can be understood.

Bataille’s distinction between a ‘general’ and ‘restricted’ economy provided an apt vantage points to examine the two sorts of systems that characterize this split. In a footnote to the above passage, Deleuze and Guattari write that “[w]hen Georges Bataille speaks of sumptuary, nonproductive expenditure or consumption in connection with the energy of nature, these are expenditures or consumption that are not part of the supposedly independent sphere of human production, insofar as the latter is determined by ‘the useful’. They therefore have to do with what we call the production of consumption” (Anti-Oedipus, 4). The production of consumption, then, oscillates around the equation of production with consumption as it occurs within the general economy. This economy is, for Bataille, a cosmological economy, composed of immense and violent circuits of energy that are discharged as pure expenditure. The burning fury of the sun is the source of expenditure par excellence: it continually pounds the earth with pulsing solar rays, and it is this nourishing gift of radiation—which for the sun is merely waste—that is the ultimate source of terrestrial organic evolution and the synthetic things that in turn evolve from. By drawing the equivalence between waste and excess, Bataille subverts the common economic logic that situates scarcity as primacy. Not simply abundance, but overabundance reigns over all. The consequence that follows from this proposition is the flipping of the logic that governs economic organization. It’s not a mechanism for the production and distribution of scarce resources, as the bourgeois economists maintain, but a machine designed to eliminate, as much as it possibly can, a mighty and permanent wave of excess that threatens to submerge everything:

Economic science merely generalizes the isolated situation; it restricts its object to operations carried out with a view to a limited end, that of economic man. It does not take into consideration a play of energy that no particular end limits: the play of living matter in general, involved in the movement of light of which it is the result. On the surface of the globe, for living matter in general, energy is always in excess; the question is always posed in terms of extravagance. The choice is limited to how the wealth is to be squandered. It is to the particular living being, or to limited populations of living beings, that the problem of necessity presents itself. But man is not just the separate being that contends with the living world and with other men for his share of resources. The general movement of exudation (of waste) of living matter impels him, and he cannot stop it; moreover, being at the summit, his sovereignty in the living world identifies him with this movement; it destines him, in a privileged way, to that glorious operation, to useless consumption. (The Accursed Share, 23)

The logic of the ‘restricted economy’ pertains to the various ways in which this dissipation becomes organized; read historically, this means that there are a variety of different forms that the restricted economy takes at various stages of civilizational development. The capitalist mode of production, in Bataille’s account, is a unique form of the restricted economy  in that it converts this dissipation into a drive towards accumulation—and it is for this reason, as Nick Land argues in Thirst for Annihilation, that the Marxian problem of overproduction the chronic “symptomatic redundancies of labour and capital” is able to rear its head (Thirst for Annihilation, 57).

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Specters of  mechanical overproduction (source)

Deleuze and Guattari convert the Bataillean infrastructure into their productive ontology, thereby transforming the cosmos’ release of a cursed gift into the production of production, that is, into the movement from primary generative processes to the more narrow, yet still transhistorical, production processes (Jon Roffe has noted that when it comes to the relationship between Bataille and Deleuze and Guattari, the pair “have no  time for the entire thematic of transgression and its concomitants”, so it is telling that in this conversion process many of the transgressive elements are either forced into a new guise or discarded (Abstract Market Theory, 163, Note 15)). Nonetheless, the distinction between the general and the restricted is still constructive, and works well in thinking through not only through Deleuze and Guattari’s ultimately Marxian account of history (analyzing the historically-distinct forms of ‘restricted’ production in order to produce a baseline for developing a theory of how different productions of the subject occur), as well as returning to Marx himself .

In order to carry this out, a further distinction between a general-restrictive economy (not to be confused with the general economy) and a specific-restrictive economy must be posed, with each correlating, respectively, to transhistorical dimensions and historically-bound forms that express these dimensions. This can help navigate the problem-fraught space between Deleuze and Guattari’s elaboration of Marx and the writings of Marx himself. In a previous post on that topic, Andrew Culp raised the excellent point that “by claiming god=nature=industry at the beginning of AO, perhaps DG realize that they’ve put the labor theory of value into question. the problem is, of course, the labor theory of value defines the political dimension of marxism”. By analyzing (or, in a peevish maneuver, overcoding) the implications of their Spinozist-productivist equation with a diagram of a general economy, general-restrictive economy, and specific-restrictive economy, the question of the law of value can be properly re-injected back into their framework. This is because we are able to situate labor at a pivotal point between general and general-restricted economy, with passage between specific-restrictive economies serving to unveil variations of how this relationship unfolds in time.

All the elements to do this, of course, are present in Marx, and this simple fact threatens to overturn this perhaps overly-complicated presentation and render it redundant. But given the general state of confusion concerning the status of labor in Marx’s theory—something that inevitably leads to confusion about value), we’ll soldier onwards; this framework, after all, might also help communicate answers to those important questions.

As I discussed in my post on ecological readings of Marx, labor is positioned in the first chapter of Capital Volume I as a transhistorical force that, across time, has served as a mediating relation between humans and nature—or, between restricted and general economies. To quote the passage in full:

Men made clothes for thousands of years, under the compulsion of the need for clothing, without a single man ever becoming a tailor. But the existence of coats, of linen, of every element of material wealth not provided in advance by nature, had to be mediated through a specific productive activity appropriate to its purpose, a productive activity that assimilated particular natural materials to particular human requirements. Labour, then, as the creation of use-values, as useful labor, is a condition of human existence which is independent of all forms of society; it is an eternal natural necessity which mediates the metabolism of between man and nature, and therefore human life itself. (Capital Volume 1, Chapter 1: The Commodity, 133)

There are several comments to be had on this passage. First, labor is described here as a natural necessity, highlighting its status not only as something that mediates a particular relationship with nature, but is a characteristic of nature itself. What this further entails is that the status of the human is one who is subsumed in nature (they are continuous with it), while also being in opposition; this can be described in terms of somewhat reductive autonomist formula of being ‘within and against’, but also as a proper dialectical relation, the emergence of the opposite and their unity.

Second, relations of labor are intrinsically productive relations. The mediation of human and labor, of the general and restrictive economies, is also the link between the production of production and that ‘secondary’ production.

The third point concerns how Marx rises from this general condition to the specificity of labor relations under the capitalist mode of production. Insofar as Marx’s critics are concerned, the category of value is something that can only be grasped through narrow economic lenses, which is why they are so ready to pull the rug out from under the labor theory of value for a theory of value that operates at the level of appearance. For these bourgeois economists, value is but a measure of social valuation, itself an aggregate of individuals valuating in accordance with their personal preferences. Marx’s understanding of value cannot, however, be properly understood from the point of view of social valuation in this way, because it is intended to articulate how this society itself is produced by the economic relations. Value-theory is an analysis of the specific-restrictive economy that is the capitalist mode of production, but it follows from what Marx says above: because labor mediates a relationship between humans and nature, it also becomes the force that mediates relations between humans. Or, more properly, it imparts itself as social mediation.

It’s not just labor-time, but labor-time as well, that becomes transhistorical. In the discussion of communal production in the Grundrisse, Marx writes

On the basis of communal production, the determination of time remains, of course, essential. The less time the society requires to produce wheat, cattle etc., the more time it wins for the other production, material or mental. Just as in the case of an individual, the multiplicity of its development, its enjoyment and its activity depends on economization of time. Economy of time, to this all economy ultimately reduces itself. Society likewise has to distribute its time in a purposeful way, in order to achieve a production adequate  to its overall needs; just as the individual has to distribute his time correctly in order to satisfy the various demands on his activity.

In Time in Marx, Stavros Tombazos translates the bold passage above as the far-less unwieldy “every economy is an economy of time” (Time in Marx, 13). As he further points out, the word economy being used here shouldn’t be thought in a narrow point of view (i.e. like those given by the bourgeois economists), but should be seen first and foremost as an form of organization—a reading consistent with the above and with the Bataillean notion of a restricted economy. This means that social mediation can also be framed temporally, as distilling the economy to time itself highlights the way in which time, or the experience of time, becomes organized. If there is variation between restrictive economies, which is to say variation between the way labor-as-mediation materially manifests, then there is variation in the experience of time itself.

All of this is made abundantly clear in a short passage found in Marx’s Letters on Capital:

That this necessity of distributing social labour in definite proportions cannot be done away with by the particular form of social production, but can only change the form it assumes, is self evident. No natural laws can be done away with. What can change, in changing historical circumstances, is the form in which these laws operate. (quoted in Time in Marx, 14)

In pages of the Grundrisse these natural laws themselves seem to shake. Even if time still determines the post-capitalist economy, social mediation is transformed as the dominant logic swings from labor-time to time outside of labor (which is why Jehu is so adamant that the progressive elimination of labor-hours is the only real means of realizing “a so-called ‘post-capitalist society'”, or why Postone argues that Capital should not be understood as a “critique of capitalism from the standpoint of labor… [but] a critique of labor in capitalism” (Time, Labor, and Social Domination, 5)). What this implies is that which exists beyond the capitalist mode of production—what the capitalist mode of production is incubating within itself—must be understood as qualitatively and quantitative different from every social formation that has existed. It implies nothing less than the breakdown of the very logic of the so-called restricted economy.

Degrowth or Mastery? Note on ‘Eco-Marx’

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Nature builds no machines, no locomotives, railways, electric telegraphs, self-acting mules etc. These are products of human industry; natural material transformed into organs of the human will over nature, or of human participation in nature. They are organs of the human brain, created by the human hand; the power of knowledge, objectified. The development of fixed capital indicates to what degree general social knowledge has become a direct force of production, and to what degree, hence, the conditions of the process of social life itself have come under the control of the general intellect and been transformed in accordance with it. — Grundrisse, Chapter 14.

The good folks over at the Synthetic Zero have debuted a new series of curated articles on the topic of “The Ecological Marx”, highlighting in particular “life-long interest in the relationship between our ‘species being’ and the life conditions within which we evolve as humans and as societies” as a means to gain some sort of purchase on how to deploy these theories in the context of climatological breakdown and the disjunction between industrial progress and ecological durability.

The first essay is one by Gareth Dale titled “The Emergence of an Ecological Marx: 1818-2018”, which posits an Eco-Marx against the oft-critiqued Promethean Marx (these are my terms, not Dale), not one unlike that which has been developed by various theorists like Jason Moore, Paul Burkett, and John Bellamy Foster. Following in the footsteps of the latter, Dale hones in on the so-called ‘metabolic rift’ theory that peppers Marx’s writings and spans the typical division of his work between a ‘young’ and ‘old’ or ‘mature’ phase. This metabolism is a reflection of the interdependence between human and nature which becomes ruptured and divergent with the advent of the capitalist mode of production. The classic example is that of the relationship between soil and agriculture: this production process requires a nutrient-rich soil, but with the arrival of industrial agricultural (Marx was writing in the context of the British agricultural revolution, which saw booming food production following alongside a rapid expansion of the population), the rate at which soil degraded accelerated. This had many implications, ranging from temporary food shortages to an increased demand for guano (usable as a nitrogen and phosphate-rich fertilizer), which in turn spurred the expansion of overseas markets, so on and so forth. Today, we might say that what Marx was grappling with was the persistence of externalities that necessarily arise from developmental processes, precisely due to the sort of metabolic interface that exists between the processes that characterize what we call civilization and those of nature.

For Dale, the realization of the Eco-Marx via the metabolic rift theory means

no longer can Marx be read as a cheerleader for economic growth or material progress. Those who continue to read him in this way should acquaint themselves with his metaphor of human progress under capitalism. It resembles, says Marx, “that hideous, pagan idol, who would not drink the nectar but from the skulls of the slain”.

The newly discovered ‘ecological’ Marx was a sharp critic of the growth paradigm, and in Volume One of Capital he draws attention to the trampling of the natural realm by bourgeois progress.

He then proceeds to offer the following quote from Volume One:

All progress in capitalist agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the worker, but of robbing the soil; all progress in increasing the fertility of the soil for a given time is a progress toward ruining the more long-lasting sources of that fertility…Capitalist production, therefore, only develops the techniques and the degree of combination of the social process of production by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth—the soil and the worker.

But does this, or the overall structure and position of the metabolic rift in the theory really imply a Marx that is against “economic or material growth”? The short answer to this is no, and the slightly longer answer is that to craft a Marx who rejects such things on these grounds to generate a Marx who is, in fact, anti-Marxist—and not in the sense of the pithy “I am not a Marxist quote”. I mean in the sense of a real theoretical antagonism. One would wonder, then, why one would even try to build such a theory through a Marxist frame?

Let’s unpack this a bit more.

Nature holds, as indicated by the metabolic rift theory, a central place in Marx’s philosophy. In the opening blast of Gothakritik (written in 1875, but not published until 1891), Marx tore asunder vulgar interpretations of labor-value theory by declaring “Labor is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values (and it is surely of such that material wealth consists!) as labor, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labor power”. These words called back to the comments made in the first chapter of Capital, that “[l]labour… as the creator of use-values, as useful labor, is a condition of human existence which is independent of all forms of society; it is an eternal, natural necessity which mediates the metabolism between man and nature, and therefore human life itself”. Part of what makes the capitalist mode of production unique to human history is the way that it takes ahold of this mediating labor-activity, capturing and twisting and compelling it towards ends that are alien to itself. As described in the quote used by Dale above, the worker comes to robbed, as the capitalist appropriates an increasing share of surplus value.

But whereas one might expect that the revolutionary solution is to create a situation in which the worker receives the full share of the proceeds of their labor, that is, the full value (as the mutualists both old and contemporary might have it), Marx throws a twist. A supersession of the capitalist mode of production entails getting out from under the law of value in full. The worker doesn’t receive the full value; instead, value is eliminated as a category and a substance that organizes society. What’s more is that this is already a tendency at work in the development of the productive forces under capitalism.

Thus we have the situation in which the solution isn’t to halt the undermining of this “source of wealth” or to dial back to some earlier, “original” form (as the above quote might be read as implying, if taken if complete isolation)—it’s to carry out this undermining in a way that capitalism will tend inexorably towards, but fall short of. Similarly, we should disabuse ourselves any notion that ceasing to ‘rob the soil’ will entail falling backwards towards some earlier state of socio-ecological regulation or to sidestep away from the level of development installed by the capitalist mode of production.

One might object at this point and suggest that just because we’re not going backwards doesn’t mean that Marx is continuing to endorse growth or material progress. But to the contrary—he absolutely is. For Marx, the capitalist mode of production as a historical epoch is something of a midway point in which humanity is gradually disembedding itself from domination by nature and coming, instead, to exert its own domination of nature. Hence the following questions from the Grundrisse:

…when the limited bourgeois form is stripped away, what is wealth other than the universality of individual needs, capacities, pleasures, productive forces, etc., created through universal exchange? The full development of human mastery over the forces of nature, those of so-called nature as well as of humanity’s own nature? The absolute working-out of his creative potentials, with no presupposition other than the previous historical development, which makes this totality of development, i.e. the development of all human powers as such the end in itself, not as measured on a predetermined yardstick?

The ‘previous historical development’ here refers, first and foremost, to the capitalist mode of development. This is not a Marx who sees as there being, as Howard Parsons interprets him (in Marx and Engels on Ecology), an absolute contradiction between the development of the productive forces with the “system of nature”. As John Clark points out in his own critique of Parsons, Marx sees this disjunction as less a critical contradiction and more a phenomenon of relative tensions that are capable of rupturing, from time to time, into something that can be detrimental to human development and flourishing.

Furthermore, it stands that if such an absolute contradiction exists as an element in the text, then Marx’s critique of Malthus becomes unintelligible elsewhere, as it posits that contrary to an ultimate limit to growth is a ceiling that is constantly extended and deferred through technological and scientific development. Neither of these were regarded as specifically contrary to the capitalist mode of production, and in the Grundrisse as well as the Gothakritik the Malthusian problem comes to be regarded as something that is solved precisely through what capitalism had already engendered.

This disembedding from nature and expansion of techno-scientific prowess are part and parcel of the same development processes that strike value out from the productive process, and we can easily take them as interdependent, mutually-reinforcing elements. This is because the elimination of value proceeds by way of accelerating gains in productivity, itself dependent on the increasingly mechanized character of production. This process, which is intimately tangled with explosive development of ‘techno-science’ (characterized in the Grundrisse as the general intellect), is inseparable from growth, as it continually marks greater productive capacities through more efficient processes.

At the limit—or barrier—of the capitalist production, a two-fold process unfolds. As the demand for labor is progressively shuttered, the mediating relation that it served, as that vital link between human and nature, is fundamentally and irrevocably transformed. As this occurs, nature itself is subordinated, brought under the control of an industrial system that is increasingly interlinked and automated. Marx’s vision, detailed in the fourteenth chapter of the Grundrisse, depicts how these two processes run together and open the historical beyond the capitalist mode of production:

…to the degree that large industry develops, the creation of real wealth comes to depend less on labour time and on the amount of labour employed than on the power of the agencies set in motion during labour time, whose ‘powerful effectiveness’ is itself in turn out of all proportion to the direct labour time spent on their production, but depends rather on the general state of science and on the progress of technology, or the application of this science to production. (The development of this science, especially natural science, and all others with the latter, is itself in turn related to the development of material production.) Agriculture, e.g., becomes merely the application of the science of material metabolism, its regulation for the greatest advantage of the entire body of society. Real wealth manifests itself, rather – and large industry reveals this – in the monstrous disproportion between the labour time applied, and its product, as well as in the qualitative imbalance between labour, reduced to a pure abstraction, and the power of the production process it superintends. Labour no longer appears so much to be included within the production process; rather, the human being comes to relate more as watchman and regulator to the production process itself. (What holds for machinery holds likewise for the combination of human activities and the development of human intercourse.) No longer does the worker insert a modified natural thing [Naturgegenstand] as middle link between the object [Objekt] and himself; rather, he inserts the process of nature, transformed into an industrial process, as a means between himself and inorganic nature, mastering it. He steps to the side of the production process instead of being its chief actor. In this transformation, it is neither the direct human labour he himself performs, nor the time during which he works, but rather the appropriation of his own general productive power, his understanding of nature and his mastery over it by virtue of his presence as a social body – it is, in a word, the development of the social individual which appears as the great foundation-stone of production and of wealth. The theft of alien labour time, on which the present wealth is based, appears a miserable foundation in face of this new one, created by large-scale industry itself.

If there is Ecological Marx, it is at once also a Promethean Marx.