History, Myth and the Time of Struggle

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In our times, the idea of development, of evolution, has almost completely penetrated social consciousness, only in other ways, and not through Hegelian philosophy. Still, this idea, as formulated by Marx and Engels on the basis of Hegel’s philosophy, is far more comprehensive and far richer in content than the current idea of evolution is. A development that repeats, as it were, stages that have already been passed, but repeats them in a different way, on a higher basis (“the negation of the negation”), a development, so to speak, that proceeds in spirals, not in a straight line; a development by leaps, catastrophes, and revolutions; “breaks in continuity”; the transformation of quantity into quality; inner impulses towards development, imparted by the contradiction and conflict of the various forces and tendencies acting on a given body, or within a given phenomenon, or within a given society; the interdependence and the closest and indissoluble connection between all aspects of any phenomenon (history constantly revealing ever new aspects), a connection that provides a uniform, and universal process of motion, one that follows definite laws — these are some of the features of dialectics as a doctrine of development that is richer than the conventional one. (Lenin, “The Marxist Doctrine”)

I.

In the second chapter of Difference and Repetition, Deleuze breaks the flow of his argument to deliver something of a digression. Titled ‘Note on the Three Repetitions’, the digression tracks a tripartite model of historical repetition occurring across a range of different philosophical and theoretical approaches to the phenomenon of historical development. Deleuze’s goal, which he ultimately finds to be tenuous and problematic, is to uncover a commonality in the figures, so scattered and dispersed across time and place he offers up: the medieval millenarian Joachim of Fiore, Enlightenment philosopher Giambattista Vico, and Pierre-Simon Ballanche, a largely forgotten French philosopher who managed, intriguingly enough, to settle himself in the double-pincer of both the progressive and counterrevolutionary camps in the wake of the French revolution. The primary anchor for these three figures, however, is Marx, and most specifically the Marx of the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), with his formula—one that, Deleuze says, has yet to be properly understood by historians—that “all great world-historical facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice… the first time as tragedy, the second as farce”.

Also Deleuze summarizes, Marx here draws forth two forms of historical repetition that run in different directions, but are yet aligned in the sense that they appear as distinction moments in the series (or, more properly, the circuit) that composes historical evolution. The tragic moment is a tragic metamorphosis: a repeating occurs that unleashes something new into history, producing a jagged fracture between the emergent time and what came before. The farcical or comic moment, however, is a repetition that “falls short” and fails to offer any sort of “authentic creation” (D&R, 114). In Marx’s schema, itself a dynamic confrontation of Hegel’s own insights concerning historical repetition with Aristotle’s distinction between the tragic and the comic (which ultimately pivoted on whether or not the characters were a ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ type, respectively), the tragic precedes the comic, thus providing the provocative diagram of the comic as a repetition of the tragic, a repetition of the repetition, which can only ever fail…

In Deleuze’s hands, this order is reversed, and he presents the tragic as succeeding the comic in the most generalized, abstracted form of the series. In the matrix of historical production, the comic does easily follow the tragic, but in the abstract form the ultimate metamorphosis comes in the aftermath of the failure of attempted transformation. From here, we close in on Deleuze’s ultimate goal, the revelation of the third moment in the series, which is the Eternal Return, difference-in-itself, which comes clashing through the spiroform of the comic-tragic to open the very possibility of the future (understood, in the case of Vico and others, the resetting of the cycle in order for it to advance, itself a distinctly spirodynamic formulation). This curious temporal architecture, however, is not the chief concern here, though its ghost continues to hover close, just out of sight. Its mention here is only to install it in the back of the mind. Instead, it is Marx’s own treatment of the tragic-comic cycling in the context of historical evolution, as well as the commentary offered by Harold Rosenberg—American Trotskyite and art critic (known for his early commentaries on what would later be called abstract expressionism) and Deleuze’s primary interlocutor when discussing the Eighteenth Brumaire—that should be stressed at the current juncture.

As Deleuze notes, Rosenberg foregrounds the importance of myth in his discussion of the tragic-comic repetition (this discussion, incidentally, is to be found in his essay ‘The Resurrected Romans’, though it can also be found in the volume of collected writings called The Tradition of the New (highly recommended)). It is the myth that loops together the strange dynamism of historical repetition with what is perhaps the most famous insight from the Eighteenth Brumaire: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past”. The present, and the possibilities of the future contained in the present, are colonized by the past. Historical lock-in reigns supreme and the “tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living”. In the grip of possession, the revolution that is capable of creating the new—by which we mean a temporal order distinct from the present—itself “conjure[s] up the spirits of the past to their service”.

In his restaging of Marx’s argument, Rosenberg describes how “In the act of creating new social forms men had ceased to behave ‘realistically’. They lost touch with the time and place they occupied as living men—they became, more or less automatically, actors playing a part” (The Tradition of the New, 154). The revolutionaries were thrown out of joint with their time, not out individual volition or collective choice, but because of the historico-temporal wall that conditioned their range of actions—and, as a result, their very identities melted away, precisely in order to gain new ones as mythic characters. “Social reality”, wrote Rosenberg, “gave way to mimesis because history did not allow humans to pursue their own ends… It was the pressure of the past that took revolutions out of the ‘naturalistic’ prose of the everyday and gave them the form of a special kind of dramatic poetry” (The Tradition of the New, 154-155). Or, as Marx himself put it:

Luther put on the mask of the Apostle Paul, the Revolution of 1789-1814 draped itself alternately in the guise of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and the Revolution of 1848 knew nothing better to do than to parody, now 1789, now the revolutionary tradition of 1793-95. In like manner, the beginner who has learned a new language always translates it back into his mother tongue, but he assimilates the spirit of the new language and expresses himself freely in it only when he moves in it without recalling the old and when he forgets his native tongue.

When we think about this conjuring up of the dead of world history, a salient difference reveals itself. Camille Desmoulins, Danton, Robespierre, St. Just, Napoleon, the heroes as well as the parties and the masses of the old French Revolution, performed the task of their time – that of unchaining and establishing modern bourgeois society – in Roman costumes and with Roman phrases. The first one destroyed the feudal foundation and cut off the feudal heads that had grown on it. The other created inside France the only conditions under which free competition could be developed, parceled-out land properly used, and the unfettered productive power of the nation employed; and beyond the French borders it swept away feudal institutions everywhere, to provide, as far as necessary, bourgeois society in France with an appropriate up-to-date environment on the European continent.

Revolution, then—and it is important that what Marx is describing here are the bourgeois revolutions, which set in motion the historical mission of capital—blows across the desert of history in the form of a mythic wind that bears within itself a complex and knotted time structure. The future is obstructed by the domination of the present by the past, but it is exactly through a return to the past, the resurrection of something in the past in the form of some weird simulation, that breaks these temporal bindings. Once these loops have been followed, the time of the myth melts away and history restabilizes; what was previously out of joint is recoded, and the dramatic character masks are discarded for those of the everyday. As for Marx, his pen betrays a sense of a restlessness in the face of this transference into the epoch of bourgeois harmony:

Once the new social formation was established, the antediluvian colossi disappeared and with them also the resurrected Romanism – the Brutuses, the Gracchi, the publicolas, the tribunes, the senators, and Caesar himself. Bourgeois society in its sober reality bred its own true interpreters and spokesmen in the Says, Cousins, Royer-Collards, Benjamin Constants, and Guizots; its real military leaders sat behind the office desk and the hog-headed Louis XVIII was its political chief. Entirely absorbed in the production of wealth and in peaceful competitive struggle, it no longer remembered that the ghosts of the Roman period had watched over its cradle.

Rosenberg suggests that because of this, the subversiveness of history, with its ruses and capacity for sudden reversals, is to be understood as ironical. One is transformed into oneself by being transformed into something else—and it is in this sense that history defeats the actors that seek to break from it. For this reason, he continues, the myth itself is denigrated: “Marx, having admitted the myth into history, refuses to concede to it the power to affect history’s direction” (The Tradition of the New, 161). It’s hard to see, however, how Roseneberg stands to make this claim, given precisely the function of the myth that he draws out from the pages of the Eighteenth Brumaire. In the case of the bourgeois revolutions the myth appears as the vital component in engendering a direction to history; primary to their enrapturing by its templex machinery, the revolutionaries were paralyzed. Men might not make history as they choose, but history proceeds immanently through their actors, perhaps precisely because of the twists, reversals, catastrophic breaks and bizarre surprises that constantly dog the smooth expectations of how events will play out. The myth, for the revolutionaries, was the fuel needed for combustion, for the cascade of cruel ironies that propel pre-history towards its conclusion.

The dissipation of the myth and the advent of the ‘new normal’ of the bourgeoisie is what sets the stage for the comic repetition. Marx saw this shambolic ghost appearing in history in his own moment, as the radical spirits attempted to recreate the events of the French Revolution during the course of the revolution of 1848. The repetition of the repetition:

From 1848 to 1851, only the ghost of the old revolution circulated – from Marrast, the républicain en gants jaunes [Republican in yellow gloves], who disguised himself as old Bailly, down to the adventurer who hides his trivial and repulsive features behind the iron death mask of Napoleon. A whole nation, which thought it had acquired an accelerated power of motion by means of a revolution, suddenly finds itself set back into a defunct epoch, and to remove any doubt about the relapse, the old dates arise again – the old chronology, the old names, the old edicts, which had long since become a subject of antiquarian scholarship, and the old minions of the law who had seemed long dead. The nation feels like the mad Englishman in Bedlam who thinks he is living in the time of the old Pharaohs and daily bewails the hard labor he must perform in the Ethiopian gold mines, immured in this subterranean prison, a pale lamp fastened to his head, the overseer of the slaves behind him with a long whip, and at the exits a confused welter of barbarian war slaves who understand neither the forced laborers nor each other, since they speak no common language. “And all this,” sighs the mad Englishman, “is expected of me, a freeborn Briton, in order to make gold for the Pharaohs.” “In order to pay the debts of the Bonaparte family,” sighs the French nation. The Englishman, so long as he was not in his right mind, could not get rid of his idée fixé of mining gold. The French, so long as they were engaged in revolution, could not get rid of the memory of Napoleon, as the election of December 10 [1848, when Louis Bonaparte was elected President of the French Republic by plebiscite.] was proved. They longed to return from the perils of revolution to the fleshpots of Egypt, and December 2, 1851 [The date of the coup d’état by Louis Bonaparte], was the answer. Now they have not only a caricature of the old Napoleon, but the old Napoleon himself, caricatured as he would have to be in the middle of the nineteenth century.

It is at this point that Deleuze’s third repetition—which he identifies not only with Nietzsche’s Eternal Return, but also (with varying degrees of asymmetry) the turning of Vico’s ricorso and Ballanche’s third age, characterized by regicide, the late-stage voyage of Oedipus and the reign of the “Man without a Name”—hovers closer. For Marx, comic repetition is doomed to failure because what is not needed is a repetition of the repetition, but something that angles beyond the historical space-time of bourgeois society: proletarian (the class without a name?) revolution, not a bourgeois one.

In Rosenberg’s reading, the proletarian revolution is viewed at this point as proceeding through a repudiation of the myth’s essential role. “The social revolution of the nineteenth century cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the future”, wrote Marx. “The former revolutions required recollections of past world history to in order to smother their own content”. To this, Rosenberg adds that “[d]eprived of the myth the proletarian revolution would have to take place without passion, or with a kind of passion altogether different from the ecstasy of the doubled time which ‘drugged’ the revolutionary middle class” (The Tradition of the New, 163). This reading, however, seems to run into two problems. In the first case, it’s not clear that myth itself vanishes from Marx’s account, as for Marx the term ‘poetry’ acts as a cipher for what Rosenberg identifies as the myth. In the Eighteenth Brumaire, the poetry which flavors the proletarian revolution—which is to say, of course, what lends it its passions—flows not from the past from the future: the future-myth. This leads us, quite naturally, to the second case, which is that the temporality of proletarian revolution is still seen by Marx as a time doubled, one that is out of joint. It’s a restaging of the incredible temporal schizzing that opens the preamble of the Communist Manifesto: “A specter is haunting Europe—the specter of communism”.

II.

Dickering over this sort of minutia in Rosenberg’s reading of Marx is ultimately immaterial, particularly when we contextualize these multi-faceted mechanisms into the present moment. When Marx described the poetry or myth of communist futurity igniting the passion of revolution in the present, comic repetition was viewed as occurring within a historical trajectory that still maintained a telic structure, albeit one that, as Etienne Balibar describes in The Philosophy of Marx, forced him back to his drawing boards and notebooks. But even as he was plunging himself into the white-hot maelstrom of churning industrialization and the delirious loops of commodity circulation, he could glimpse the ghost of the possible futures radiating backwards into the darkness of bourgeois society. It was, in fact, the maelstrom and the loops themselves that allowed this light to pierce the vale, drawing the class war towards itself…

This situation is, of course, not reflective of current postmodern conditions. Much more of this is to be said in a series of in-progress posts, but what is worth remarking on is that the present, while shut off from the radiance of the future, does not appear as being colonized by the past. Instead, past, present and future all appear as if smeared across a singular, infinite field, in turn effectively obliterating the time-structure of history by cancelling out all three. One might reach for Zizek’s handy quote about imagining the end of the world being easier than imagining the end of capitalism, but this seems radically insufficient in grappling with the endless scroll of postmodernity. Imagining isn’t enough, for it already conjures a faint outline of the necessary time-structure—one must push through from imagining to believing. It’s readily apparent that belief in the end of capitalism, despite the rapid cooling of its revolutionary flames, isn’t accessible in any meaningful sense. By the same token, it’s hard to see that people truly believe in the end of the world—at best, there is a great pretending to believe in the end of the world, which is something entirely different from believing that one believes in the end of the world, much less the end of capitalism.† If one finds exaggeration in these words, a quick assessment of the relationship between climate discourse and action is recommended (going in a somewhat but intimately related direction, see the splintering conversations unfolding here, here and here—to which some posts in the immediate future will be dedicated).

At this seemingly intractable impasse, another strange twist presents itself: the mythic loop that was unique to the bourgeois revolution, which the proletarian revolution was meant to eschew, appears as the potential ground for an exit from postmodernity (which is to say that it appears as the precondition for the proletarian revolution). After the repeat failures of the postmodern politics of the occupation and the multitude, which for Fredric Jameson entailed the replacement of the “politics of duration” with the “politics of the instant” (An American Utopia, 13), a falling backwards in time is required in order to actualize the future—and once this formula is in play, so too is the specter of the myth.

The time-structure was recognized, perhaps inadvertently, by Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek in their 2013 #Accelerate Manifesto, where they wrote of the “need to revive the argument that was traditionally made for post-capitalism: not only is capitalism an unjust and perverted system, but it is also a system that holds back progress” (it’s telling that this manifesto was penned in part as a direct reaction to the politics of the occupation and multitude). While there’s much to quibble about concerning the distinction between Williams and Srnicek’s mode of analysis and conclusions and that of Marx—and this blog certainly veers hard to the latter—this is far less important than the signal that is covertly bleeding through their words. It’s a signal that is picked up by Nick Land, who sees in their retroprogressivism a left-wing mirror-image to the temporalities of Neoreaction, which itself conforms quite well to time-tangledness captured by Marx in the Eighteenth Brumaire. Citing the same quote as above, Land points out that

it’s a revival, it’s a return to tradition, it’s an invocation of postcapitalism, it’s absolutely templex in this sense of being deeply ambiguous or schizoid in terms of its temporal structure. And I think this goes deep into their project. The project of left accelerationism as outlined in the MAP is retroprogressivist, and actually has exactly the same retroprogressivist time structure as right accelerationism in the sense that it is both kind of hyper-futurist and drawn back particularly to something like the 1920s. It’s like art deco, it’s a return to this point at which modernization was lost. Obviously from the right it’s lost because of the New Deal and the destruction of classical liberalism. From the left it’s lost by the disappointments of Soviet Communism and the betrayal from that point of view of these socialist dreams contemporary with the Bolshevik revolution.

Elsewhere we can find the instructive identification of Williams and Srnicek’s marriage of the “command of The Plan” to the “improvised order of The Network” with an abstracted view of the developmentalist moment in the evolution of modernity—and here, too, the signal holds (indeed, the sort of socialist dreams identified by Land above flood through the developmentalist imperative as much as capital itself).

Left accelerationism never elevated itself to the level capable of breaking postmodernity. Even as they actively identified their project as hyperstitional, a tool to bootstrap a future-oriented movement into existence, the escalation via self-excitation never same: its function as myth was not realized. Two reasons that bear immediately on matters here. The first of these is movement from mythopoesis to myth construction,† † which can be traced along a line running from the engagement with the time-structure to its subsequent abandoning in later iterations of the program. The second is the issue of an evolving technocratic orientation, which follows in parallel to the two previous transition. While it is indeed present in the Manifesto—developmentalism, it seems, is always shot through with technocratic impulses of varying degrees—its appearance in the guise of The Plan is mitigated by The Network. The Manifesto proposes their marriage, but perhaps a more interesting and instructive way of viewing it would be as two elements in constant tension, not unlike the Maoist dialectical formula of the Two proceeding from the One (it’s not by coincidence that the formula originates not with Mao, but in Lenin’s Philosophical Notebooks). This tension ultimately falls away, and with it dissipates the very thing that the myth is supposed to infuse itself with: the class war.

In a post on ‘left hyperstition’ Mark Fisher took up Badiou’s demand for “great fictions” capable of engendering “great politics” with the following “intensely compressed suggestions”:

The first hypothesis we might hazard is that, counter-intuitively, only fictions are capable of generating belief. ‘The final belief must be in a fiction,’ Badiou quoted Wallace Stevens as writing. The belief at stake is clearly not a propositional but an attitudinal belief; which is to say, not a belief that a particular factual state of affairs obtains but belief as a set of commitments.

Secondly, since capitalism is itself inherently fictional, it is essential that counter-capitalist fictions be produced. Fiction here would not mean an ‘imaginary’ (in a Lacanian or any other sense) alternative but an already-operative generator of possibilities.

Fiction ensures that things are not only themselves. Capital is the most effective sorcery operative on the planet at the moment because it is adept at transforming banal objects into a sublimely mysterious commodities. Trans-substantiation. The allure of the commodity arises from the non-coincidence of the object with itself. (cf Zizek’s famous analysis of the ‘nothingness’ of Coke.) Anti-capitalism needs to take the form not only of a demystifying, depressive desublimation but of the production of alternative modes of sublimation.

If class struggle is to be re-ignited—and make no mistake, this conflagration is necessary to end postmodern decadence—this line appears as a fertile zero for its emergence. And that, as we have seen, is a question of time.

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† After some though, it occurs to me that the distinction drawn here, between an ineffective pretending-to-believe versus an effective believing-to-believe, is in need of further elucidation and clarification, as what is common to each is unbeliefIn his discussion of the film The Skeleton Key (link above), Fisher draws out how the main character is forced into a situation in which they must act as if they believe (in this case, old hoodoo rituals), which in proper Pascalian form leads them to real belief (correspondent with the realization of a ‘truth’ wholly distinct from that offered by cool postmodern skepticism). In this case, it is indeed the pretending to believe that makes it possible believe—behavior, even if one is acting under the auspices of a fiction, allows for actualization. From this position, my distinction between the two becomes untenable. Perhaps we should look instead to an active-passive axis, as opposed to the hard distinction between pretending and faith-before-faith.

† †  Another way the distinction between mythopoeisis and myth-construction (which no doubt bears on the complicated relationship between unbelief and belief touched on above) can be worked through is by looking at the following comments by Xenogoth in his post ‘Comrades’:

As with Mark and Jodi, I don’t agree that we need to change the word “communism” at all, not least because of its past associations. To call it something else is to desire something else, as Dean pointed out. It makes sense in the most rudimentary of ways and its structure, even at the level of its etymology, is perfect for encapsulating what is desired.

This was a big deal for me during my postgraduate studies — a new awareness of the importance of the “com-” prefix to the etymology of leftist discourses. A basic and simple point perhaps but one which, through its very simplicity, was very powerful to me. It’s everywhere. Communism, community, communication, commune, comrade, complement, complete, compassion, commemoration. It means “with”, “together”, “in association” whilst likewise denoting an intensity and a fulfilment, and an awareness of this has enriched my understanding of all of these words above. So the word “communism” doesn’t need changing one bit. It is “the communist myth” that must be challenged.

What is being described here as the “communist myth”, which XG analyzes in Barthesian terms, would correspond here to myth-construction. This is because the naturalistic sense that the ‘myth of communism’ is imbued with must be assessed from a temporal view. Simply put, it is always inscribed retrospectively, a tradition cobbled together from the (un)ground of postmodernism itself. This is not unlike the diagnosis of the various fundamentalisms as postmodern projects, as offered by Hardt and Negri: “visions of a return to the past are generally based on historical illusions… It is a fictional image projected onto the past, like Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland, constructed retrospectively through the lenses of contemporary anxieties and fears” (Empire, 148). They will, of course, ultimately affirm the postmodern condition, leading them to precisely the faulty politics outlined above—and it is exactly the dialectic of myth construction and mythopoiesis that allows us to deepen and complicate their astute analysis.

Mythopoiesis, in contrast to myth-construction, can be rendered as thus: abandoning the retroactive myth that cements the tradition as timeless block, fixed in place, a spatialized time (which itself is the very core of the postmodern condition), and a return to a living, mutable tradition, the sort that exists where space is annihilated by time. Or, more simply: not going back to find bits and pieces for recombination, but going back in order to make possible the truly new.

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Alien Capital Redux

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There’s some fascinating comments by Louis Armand in an essay featured in Alienist #4 that deal with Primož Krašovec’s ‘Alien Capital’:

This Alien metaphor can be taken a step further, in that it exceeds the notion of simply an economic or social prosthesis – an addition to the world of human activity – & speaks rather of a condition. Like Power, capital isn’t abstract: it is abstraction itself. It isn’t  concept born in relation to a subject: it is the very operation of subjectivisation. In its “post-human” iteration, Power is precisely not wielded: like the old Soviet joke, Power wields you. This leads Krašovec to argue that “the two anthropocentric perspectives of capital” – corresponding to the “elemental class positions”: the capitalist & the proletarian – diff er from the perspective of capital itself, which is defined by the production of value for the purpose solely of “infinite technological self-improvement,” on the assumption that technology defines the exclusion of the social. Krašovec thereby identifies competition, or the classical idea of class antagonism, as the technological dynamics of capitalism.

But just as Marx indicated that alienation isn’t in fact an anthropological process (it is instead the condition of the anthropological), so too we must move here beyond the simple description of capital as technological, to the supposition that capital itself is indistinguishable from technology-as such. That capital is in fact a system of technology, just as the commodity  is the thought of capital. It should be evident that the Anthropocene can’t be acquitted by the convenient appeal to a malevolent doppelganger or rogue AIs, & neither can humanism mask the alienation that constitutes subjectivity. Technology isn’t, as Marcuse argued, the invasion of “man’s” inner-freedom. In the final analysis, the subjective is technological; the human is alien capital. And if the dream of humanity is to outlive itself by “alien” sublimation, the dream of capital is no less than to transcend History by becoming the future. Accelerating towards the limit of its own representability, it radiates in the illusion of a totality suspended over its own void – as if making possible the very thing it makes impossible.

The last point—that we ourselves are alien capital (another route to this conclusion, one which would be my own preferable pathway, is the by tracing the constitution of the subject through matrices conditioned by mediation of the value-form)—here at the converges in a curious way with a comments made by Xenogoth in his Note on Eerie Capital. Using  the alien environs explored by Conrad in Hearts of Darkness and Ballard’s The Drowned World (accounts of fateful voyages down the Kurtz-gradient) he writes:

Once this architecture — understood most generally as space-time but we can draw things into a sociopolitical infrastructure — is dissolved into the chaos of the jungle, you can only keep attributing your actions to a self for so long. Eventually, the familiar sociopolitical architecture of habit and understanding is no longer in place so that you cannot distinguish your agency from the agency of your own environment… This fictive realisation that our agency is indistinguishable from capital’s own is precisely the point made by countless theorists and fiction writers. The solution to this is not to double-down on one conspiratorial agency or our individuality, but rather hold both as influencing their other in tandem.

Is it not at this point, in the realization and appraisal of the situation, that the recursive loop of reason is capable of kicking in—and with it, the real struggle over futurity begins?

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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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.

Nick Land’s Philosophy of Capital is Anti-Capitalist (2)

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This morning I stumbled across a very short post by Jehu on the topic of Nick Land and the left. While the post itself is an extract from an interview given to Land, a remark left by Jehu in the comments caught my eye, as it sums up succinctly (in one sentence, that is) what I tried to articulate in my own post on Land’s anti-capitalist philosophy of capital. Jehu says:

I don’t know if he would agree with my characterization here, but as I read Land (through the lens of Marx’s labor theory of value), for Land accelerationism is a description of the trajectory of capital toward its self-negation.

This ‘self-negation of capital’ is elaborated further in a later post titled “Schrödinger’s Capital: How Marxists erased Marx’s prediction of capitalist collapse”. Here, Jehu draws out what he considers to be one of the most misunderstood—or perhaps maligned—aspect of Marx’s theory: that the ‘higher’ stages of the development of the capitalist mode of production is characterized by the productive forces coming into conflict with the more ‘simple’ intent of this system, itself characterized by the anarchic mode of distribution that we call the capitalist marketplace. This is, of course, the same position that I’ve taken up on the course of this blog, and what in my opinions binds certain salvageable insights from accelerationism to a reinvigorated Marxist tradition. It is that essential passage from the third volume of Capital that most clearly drives this home:

The real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself. It is that capital and its self-expansion appear as the starting and the closing point, the motive and the purpose of production; that production is only production for capital and not vice versa, the means of production are not mere means for a constant expansion of the living process of the society of producers. The limits within which the preservation and self-expansion of the value of capital resting on the expropriation and pauperisation of the great mass of producers can alone move — these limits come continually into conflict with the methods of production employed by capital for its purposes, which drive towards unlimited extension of production, towards production as an end in itself, towards unconditional development of the social productivity of labour. The means — unconditional development of the productive forces of society — comes continually into conflict with the limited purpose, the self-expansion of the existing capital. The capitalist mode of production is, for this reason, a historical means of developing the material forces of production and creating an appropriate world-market and is, at the same time, a continual conflict between this its historical task and its own corresponding relations of social production.

One small quibble with Jehu, and a semantic one at that: I’m hesitant to describe the breakdown of the capitalist mode of production through this contradiction less in terms of a collapse and more in terms of an explosion upwards. The idea of collapse brings with it the imagery of the the theorists of stagnation, decadence, and progressive decline, and in a time when so many Marxists mistake stagnationist or decadence theories with the effects of the rate of tendency to fall (which, as emphasized in the chapter quoted above, is an accelerative process typified by the oscillation of crisis and subsequent expanded accumulation) such things should be avoided. This isn’t to say Jehu holds this position or makes this mistake—quite the opposite, in fact—as much as there is a need to choke off the rhetorical possibility space that the contemporary gloomerist ideology feeds upon.

Something tangentially related: over at the Urban Future blog Land has begun to churn out his long-awaited book on bitcoin and philosophy in the form of a series of blog posts. In the third ‘chapter’ of the work, he suggests the following:

Critique is anti-Archimedean philosophy, and in this strict sense an intrinsic anti-rationalism. It is directed against the pretensions to super-ordinate theoretical leverage which define metaphysics. Every claim to exception from immanence falls prey to it. Its sole empirically exorbitant proposition is that the whole permits no oversight. No ‘view from above’ can be true. Critique thus supplies the schema for that flat epistemology which empiricism requires and fails, itself, to produce. Its historical mission is to make the world safe for empiricism (i.e. techno-science). It can therefore be understood as modernity’s watchdog. Liberal civilization knows no higher principle of security. Its enemies are ‘churches’ with global ambitions, which is to say universalizing abstract-ecclesiastical authorities. When all relevant terms are stripped of encrustation with maximum rigor, critique is accurately characterized as anarchism in philosophy. It is that, alone, which cannot know any higher law. Whatever tries to transcend it can only repeat it, or less. We call this time, which can never be anticipated or out-lasted. Above Temporalization there is nothing. To engage in critique is to think in the name of time.

Given the correlative relationship between, on the one side, capital as a self-expanding substance and the historical epoch of modernity, and on the other between the development of productive forces and the development of techno-science (such as the case with the general intellect), the notion reading the above from the point of view of the horizon of explosive negation becomes a tantalizing suggestion.

Ideology and Real(ism)

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“Isn’t the emphasis on the systemic character of capitalism what separates Marx’s analysis from moralizing socialism?) The idea that the misleadingly-named ‘ruling class’ do anything more than manage and adminster Capital is an idle fantasy. Capitalists can decide on which groups are exploited, but they cannot legislate away exploitation itself. (How long would a CEO with such ambitions last?) It is not exculpatory but simply realistic to acknowledge that Capital, not capitalists, runs the show. However, realism about capitalism is not the same as Capitalist Realism. Neo-liberalism is defined not by the idea that Capital is a remorseless machine but by the claim that there is no viable alternative to its rule.” – Mark Fisher, Left Hyperstition 2: Be Unrealistic, Change What’s Possible

One of the repeated accusations that arose in the great /Acc wars of 2017 was that the understanding of capital that was being posited—as something operated at a higher level than everyday life, political management, and even ideological fixation—was itself an unfortunate expression of capitalist ideology, one tantamount to the infamous Thatcherite slogan that there is indeed no alternative to its strange, infernal logic. Seen from this point of view, the so-called accelerationist take on capital (a jargon-laced analytic stance I’ve personally progressively moved away from, opting for a return to a more ‘classically’ Marxist approach—something that nonetheless was a great influence on acceleration, particularly in the ‘U’ variety) is conflated with Fisher’s ‘capitalist realism’. This, in turn, produce a solution by way of inverting the accelerationist counterpoint: if accelerationist theory is garbage-can ideology, and the accelerationist theory suggests that capital is a self-moving substance unto itself, then the ‘revolutionary path’—or whatever equivalent to this one may pose—is to configure capital as something always already subordinated to human intentionality. Political capacity is thus restored.

The problem with this picture, at least from a Marxist—as well as an accelerationist—ground, is where the ideological configuration is positioned. It has to be asked what form of capitalist ideology promotes capital as an inhuman force that ensnares the proletariat and bourgeoisie alike in its logic, robbing them of their agency and pushing them towards alien ends? In the great spectrum of political economy and liberal polity, the answer simply is none. Capitalist ideology promotes capitalism not only as an ism (we should be avoiding this term as much as possible and opt instead for either addressing capital directly or by reference to the capitalist mode of production), but more specifically as a humanism. The material class relations that constitute the proletariat and bourgeoisie are eliminated for the ideal of a flexible atomized subject who stands free from the weight of history; the vital dialectical image of the capitalist mode of production containing both progressive and regressive elements that will eventually come to a historical loggerhead is smeared into obscurity by a vibrant image of non-historical progress (non-historical because the relations and mechanisms unique to the bourgeois epoch are presented as transhistorical, coupled to a sense of progress that finds capital first and foremost agential empowerment).

The breakage of the liberal ideology into left and right wings (relatively speaking, of course) never manages to undermine this core of capitalist-humanism, and only turns it around under the differing filters of positive and negative freedoms. Even under virulent neoliberalism does it persist: nowhere in the pages of libertarian journals and the halls of Beltway think-tanks does the image of alien capital gain traction. The Adam Smith Institute doesn’t promote the entrepreneur of the self as some sort of Snidely Whiplash conspiratorial shenanigan; it promotes it because it earnestly believes what it preaches.

In his ideological critique, Marx was taking to task the capitalist-humanism of the ‘classical liberals’ (a retroactively-assembled, ideological formation if there ever was one!); this is why we get the picture, so curious at first blush, of a book bearing the subtitle of A Critique of Political Economy that presents capital as functioning like the Hegelian geist by its fourth chapter. Capital as inhuman force, as a historical machine that takes a hold of the bourgeoisie and proletariat as if by possession—to reach towards this is to pierce the ideological veil to find the tracing of something swirling below it. Hence Fisher’s point in the quote that opened this post: capitalist realism is a reflection of the ideological fantasy of the neoliberal phase of capitalist development and is wholly distinct from the sort of picture drawn by the accelerationists—which is really an elaboration and restaging of the analysis offered by Marx. Thus to flip the script and return capital to something under the sway of human intentionality, and more specifically under the command of the powerful capitalist, is to avoid the Real by staying within the foundational assumptions of capitalist realism.

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As far back as The Sublime Object of Ideology, Zizek had already deepened and advanced this line of inquiry, fundamentally problematizing both sides of the debate along the way. He convincingly points out that the structure of Marx’s account of commodity fetishism contains a kind of doubled illusion, a two-layered process that encompasses the ideological side of capitalism and the non-human logic of commodities. He writes:

…the illusion is not on the side of knowledge, it is already on the side of reality itself, of what people are doing. What they do not know is that their social reality itself, their activity, is guided by an illusion, by a fetishistic inversion. What they overlook, what they misrecognize, is not the reality but the illusion which is structuring their reality, their real social activity. They know very well how things really are, but they are still doing it as if they did not know. The illusion is therefore double: it consists in overlooking the illusion which is structuring our real, effective relationship to reality. And this overlooked, unconscious illusion is what may be called ideological fantasy. (29-30)

The twisting structure of Zizek’s argument here is that while commodity fetishism makes the relationship between people appear as commodities whilst imbuing commodities with the appearance life-like power, it is in actuality being overlooked. The logic of the commodity, while beginning as illusion, comes to operate on a real, material level in the sense that it imparts itself as the universal mediator of social relations. What’s more is that this can be mapped to a process of historical passage that is itself reflected in a shift in Marx’s own theory of abstraction, or what Alberto Toscano calls a “break with a generic, humanist, or anthropological concept of abstraction” for a “notion of real abstraction—abstraction not as mere mask, fantasy or diversion, but as a force operative in the world”. This first theory, Toscano argues, is inherited from Feuerbach and carries from him the assumption of “the genus ‘humanity'”. Abstractions of all sorts—political and religious, but particularly (for Marx) economic—are but “fictitious hypostases of [this] positive, underlying generic essence that is not itself prey to historical or logic becoming”. The second, however, provides an understanding of abstraction that undermines this humanist portrait:

The crucial theoretical revolution would then be the one that passes from this fundamentally intellectualist notion of abstraction—which presumes liberation as a ‘recovery’ of the presupposed genus (putting Man where God, qua distorted humanity, had once stood)—to a vision of abstraction that, rather than depicting it as a structure of illusion, recognizes it as a social, historical, and ‘transindividual’ phenomenon… Society is above all a relation: the role of these univocal simple abstractions—such as value, labor, private property—in the formation of the concrete must be carefully gauged so that they do not mutate back into those powerless and separate, not to mention mystifying, intellectual abstractions that had occupied the earlier theory of ideology. But these abstractions are not mental categories that ideally precede the concrete; they are real abstractions that are truly caught up in the social whole, the social relation.

Toscano later offers the radical conclusion posed by Alfred Sohn-Rethel: real abstraction does not only emerge from a thought becoming a thing—it is also “a relation, or even a thing, which then becomes a thought”. Read back onto Zizek, a portrait is drawn in which the illusion ceases to be illusion but becomes operative, the very thing that structures society by serving as the force that mediates it (if society is a relation, or more properly series or networks of relations, then it indeed will intrinsically maintain some form of mediation—what Sohn-Rethel called the “social synthesis”). Such is the obscured nature of capital (and not to mention to one of the very reasons why capital operates above and beyond the agency of the capitalist or politician)

What then of capitalism as ideology? It should be clear that it not only serves to protect the capitalist mode of production in either conscious or unconscious registers, but to in fact obscure this deeper structure of capitalist reality. The realism, in other words, is the illusion; the thing that appears as illusion is itself closer to an actual realism. Faced with some a dynamic obscuring and domino-effect of reversals it is clear that by taking flight to an understanding of capital as something subjected a priori to human intentionality or command serves only to reinforce the ideological frontier.

State of the Art // Art of the State

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*disjointed ramblings incoming*

1. 

There’s a great new post up from Xenogoth this evening: ABCcru: Applied Ballardianism and Accelerationism. The primary content of the post deals with a recent hellthread on Twitter (whatever the opposite of a hellthread is would actually be the more proper term – healththread? Not sure.) that began with a probing of the connection between the writings of J.G. Ballard (as well as the applied Ballardianism of Simon Sellars) and the various strands of accelerationist thinking. I’m not going to summarize or go into too much detail surrounding this thread – XG has done it wonderfully in his post – but I would like to look at a particular tendril that radiated out from it. At one point Alex Williams (of the #Accelerate Manifesto and Inventing the Future fame) commented:

 I agree with Ballardian acc in aesthetics, but not in politics. Because the aestheticisation of the political = fascism (simplifying a bit)… the asetheticisation of the political ends up somewhere deeply boring, as well as unpleasant. Jordan Peterson, not Ballard.

and at another point:

There’s a distinction between use of aesthetic things, objects, processes… And the subsumption of politics to aesthetic imperatives.

Robin Mackay, in response, noted that

a lot of loose terms rattling around here, art, politics, aesthetics.. it can’t be this simple, it was a virtue of post-68 to insist this, nothing is solely political, merely aesthetic, etc.

and Williams again:

So politics involves signs, symbols, may deploy art in different forms and modes. It might build on cultural currents that are partly recomposed through art works. But its ultimate logic is not to build a nation as an art work

As these little nuggets show, both sides clearly raise important points – for Williams, it is essential to note lose sight of Benjamin’s identification of the aestheticization of politics as a central pillar in the constitution of fascist governance. Mackay, meanwhile, draws us towards the insights offered by the various political and subcultural strands that blended the political with the aesthetic in order to, on the one hand, reveal the difficulty in posing stark divides between the various of spheres of life, and on the other hand to articulate a revolutionary vision. We could sum it up as thus, in terms proper to spirit of Benjamin: Williams sees the dangers in aesthetic politics, Mackay sees the possibilities of political aesthetics. Of course these two points are instantly problematized, and in it hard to draw the line where aesthetic politics and political aesthetics can be properly cleaved apart – if they can at all. And that’s even before we get to the question of how this relates to industrial modernity understood as a temporal acceleration and spatial compression.

For now, I’d like to somewhat take a step away from these questions and use this as a leaping-off point to parse through some things that have been rattling around in the brain lately, which nonetheless I think are relevant here because it cuts straight into the ambiguity that problematizes the aesthetics-politics distinction and how this distinction bears on the activities of each respective ‘sphere’.

In the ‘Refrain’ plateau of A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari present an idiosyncratic account of territory formation that bases itself upon the animal behavior theories of biologist and proto-cybernetician Jakob von Uexküll, the zoology of ethnologist Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, and sociologist Gabriel Tarde’s account of ‘having’. To sum up Deleuze and Guattari’s distillation as much as possible: what we might consider as territorial markings – from “territorial excrement” to bird songs – are not, in fact, a function that flows from an established territory. It is instead the inverse, the marking that establishes the territory. Thus “the territory, and the functions performed within it, are products of territorialization. Territorialization is an act of rhythm that has become expressive, or of a milieu components that have become qualitative” (ATP, 315).

Territorialization itself, then, is a process of becoming, as the “becoming-expressive” of the rhythm. And it is at this point that Deleuze and Guattari turn towards the aesthetic:

Can this emergence, this becoming, be called Art? That would make the territory the result of art. The artist: the first person to set out a boundary stone, or to make a mark. Property, collective or individual, is derived from that even when it is in the service of war and oppression. Property is fundamentally artistic because art is fundamentally poster, placard. As Lorenz says, coral fisher are posters… Take anything and make it a matter of expression. The stagemaker practices art brut. Artists are stagemakers, even when they tear up their own posters. Of course, from this standpoint art is not the privilege of human beings.  (ATP, 316)

This provides, in turn, evidence for that the claim that the political – or at least the way in which our relation to this thing is mediated – has an aesthetic foundation a priori, which the further implication being that both spheres are therefore intertwined on a very fundamental level. What is the formation of the State, for instance, but a great act of territorialization, and what is property, a property emergent from the marking, but something that is managed by the State? To go further: if we recall from Anti-Oedipus, the mark is tied directly to the processes of coding via Nietzsche’s account of the painful marking of the body as the basis for the development of social memory. In the pages of A Thousand Plateaus this is taken up again, where they describe the Urstaat, the archaic megamachine, as an agent of “overcoding” that captures the territorialization process, and imposes markings and regimentations of its own. Even transformation of the body and its activities into a mechanism of labor:

The physiosocial activity of Work pertains to the State apparatus, it is one of its two inventions, and for two reasons. First, because labor appears only with the constitution of a surplus, there is no labor that is not devoted to stockpiling; in fact, labor (in the strict sense) begins only with what is called surplus labor. Second, labor performs a generalized operation of striation of space-time, a subjection of free action, a nullification of smooth spaces, the origin and means of which is in the essential enterprise of the State… (ATP, 490-491)

Earlier, in the “Refrain” plateau:

…a territorialization of function is the condition for their emergence as “occupations” or “trades”… [this] is no reason to conclude that art in itself does not exist here, for it is present in the territorializing factor that is the necessary condition for the emergence of the work-function. (ATP, 321)

2. 

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Deleuze and Guattari’s account of the State in both volumes of the Capitalism and Schizophrenia project is that it arrived ‘like lightening’ in the annals of history (or, more properly, as the beginning of history, as the point in which historical processes were first inaugurated).  This is an account of the State derived from Nietzsche. In his early text “The Greek State”, Nietzsche speaks of the “horrible origin of the State” as “sudden, violent, bloody, and at least at one point, inexplicable usurpations” – yet, by the same token, the conditions are primed for the production of art. This is art pursued in a different direction than that of the art-as-territorialization that sets the stage for the arrival of the State, but there exists a continuity between the two in Deleuze and Guattari’s extensive borrowing from Nietzsche’s reflections.

Hugo Drochon, in Nietzsche’s Great Politics, describes Nietzsche’s “two interrelated justifications for the state”, that is, “genius and culture” (Nietzsche’s Great Politics, 57). Because the State arrives to impose order on the Hobbesian state of nature, the war of all against all, it rechannels this ferocious energy in two directions: on the one hand, in the direction of the occasional war as an immense discharge, and on the other the more generalized proliferation of culture. Drochon writes that from Nietzsche the “first work of art is the state itself and its constitution”, for it is the through a state’s organization of political and social life that the groundwork is laid for the proliferation of culture. The pinnacle of this situation was, for Nietzsche, the Greek state, as it was capable of incubating the philosophers, people so essential for the health of the state, and the highest form of dramatic art, the Greek tragedy – but this would not last, with the strange winds of nihilism, understood as a historical situation, beginning to blow across the face of civilization, ratcheting up in intensity through the passage of time. By the time we arrive at the blossoming of modern nation-state, the winds are gale force.

Nihilism, of course, can at this stage be closely linked to capitalism. Marx certainly glimpsed this, as evidenced by the feverish exultation, in the Communist Manifesto, of the tearing asunder of all past relations and the profaning of all that is holy – but there is perhaps no better correlation that the invisible hyperlink set-up by Deleuze and Guattari when they plugged together planetary marketization with Nietzsche’s nihilistic leveling process by way of the specter of acceleration. And here, again, art arises, but it is the promise of a future art, a new art and politics that overcomes the condition of nihilism. I’ve written before about Nietzsche’s future state as a unity of statecraft and commerce, a rupturing of the boundary between public and private, but this is another vital element. From the decay of the modern state and the stagnation of healthy aesthetic impulses, a new society, and with it the founding of great institutions capable of upholding communities dedicated to maintaining this re-invigoration. Drochon writes that

Nietzsche explains that the institution they require would have “quite a different purpose to fulfill.” It would have to be a “firm organization” that prevents them from “being washed away and dispersed by the tremendous crowd,” to “die from premature exhaustion or even become alienated from their great task.” This is to enable the completion of their task—preparing “within themselves and around them for the birth of the genius and the ripening of his work”—through their “continual purification and mutual support,” and their “sense of staying together” (SE 6). Nietzsche insists that “one thing above all is certain: these new duties are not the duties of a solitary; on the contrary, they set one in the midst of a mighty community held together, not by external forms and regulations, but by a fundamental idea. It is the fundamental idea of culture” (SE 5). His insistence on the community— as opposed to the individual—in carrying out the mission of culture seriously challenges the view put forward by Kaufmann, Leiter, and Williams, among others, that Nietzsche’s writings are destined solely for the solitary thinker cut off from the rest of the world. (Nietzsche’s Great Politics, 66)

In fragment #898 of The Will to Power, the source of Klossowski, Deleuze, and Guattari’s famed injunction to ‘accelerate the process’, this community is described as the “strong of the future”, a force swept to the “highest peak of the spirit” (The Will to Power, 478). Elsewhere, in fragment #960, he speaks of the “artist-tyrants [who] will be made to endure for millennia” (The Will to Power, 504), while at various other points they appear as the “aristocracy of the future”.

3. 

This transition, from the leveling of the modern nation-state, the democratic state, to a strange and barely-glimpsed aristocracy, is returned to – unsurprisingly – by Deleuze and Guattari, this time in the pages of their final work, What is Philosophy?:

The creation of concepts in itself calls for a future form, for a new earth and people that do not yet exist. Europeanization does not constitute a becoming but merely the history of capitalism, which prevents the becoming of subjected peoples. Art and philosophy converge at this point: the constitution of an earth and a people that are lacking as the correlate of creation. It is not populist writers but the most aristocratic who lay claim to this future. This people and earth will not be found in our democracies. Democracies are majorities, but a becoming is by its nature that which always eludes the majority… the race summoned forth by art or philosophy is not the one that claims to be pure but rather an oppressed, bastard, lower, anarchical, nomadic, and irremediably minor race the very ones that Kant excluded from the paths of the new Critique. (What is Philosophy, 108-109)

And yet “[t]he artist or the philosopher is quite incapable of creating people, each can only summon it with all his strength. A people can only be created in abominable sufferings, and it cannot be concerned any more with art or philosophy” (What is Philosophy, 110). What is occurring in these passages is the intertwining of the position cultivated in the A Thousand Plateaus – the emergence of the conditions for the state and politics as art, perhaps in its most primordial sense – with the more future-oriented Nietzschean vision of aesthetic restoration.

(I wonder if we can draw a connection between these reflections and Marcuse’s 1970s turn towards a defense of classic aesthetics and the bourgeois ‘high culture’ of the past. Whereas once he had championed modernistic  and antagonistic forms of art, primarily surrealism and then the art of the 60s counterculture, and called for the rupturing of the boundary between art and life, now art had to remain “alienated” from life – a vision of perfection that is out of joint with the real conditions of present capitalist society. At the same time, however, Marcuse stressed in interviews with Douglas Kellner that there was in fact continuity between his earlier aesthetic theories and the views he promoted in the 70s – after all these writings were done in the context of the advent of postmodernism, which as Jameson noted is characterized in part by the elimination of boundaries between high and low art as a means of producing commodities in the situation of late capitalism. This is discussed in Kellner’s book Herbert Marcuse and the Crisis of Marxism, and it’s a topic I hope I can think and write about more in the future. In the meantime, however, it might be interesting to think about Marcuse’s occulted continuity linking together classical aesthetics, modernist aesthetics, and a vision of the future life in regards to Mark Fisher’s suggestion – in one of my all-time favorite K-punk posts, one that has been stuck in my head since I first read it in 2012 – to overcome aesthetics as a matter of style and to make it a blue-print for living:

Like punk, Surrealism is dead as soon as it is reduced to an aesthetic style. It comes unlive again when it is instantiated as a delirial program (just as punk comes unlive when it is effectuated as an anti-authoritarian, acephalic contagion-network). Chtcheglov resists the aestheticization of Surrealism, and treats De Chirico’s paintings, for instance, not as particular aesthetic contrivances, but as architectural blueprints, ideals for living. Let’s not look at a De Chirico painting —- let’s live in one.

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Anyways…)

For Deleuze and Guattari, politics and art are not simultaneous or identical; the people do not emerge as a political subjectivity through their creation of art objects – but it is through artistic processes that a people do emerge, just as artistic processes set the stage for the emergence of the political since the ‘dawn’ of history. In the “Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal…” plateau, they discuss the molar “punctual system”, which is a system of spatio-temporal organization through molecular lines are coordinated along a grid device. The political, the State, history, etc. – these are the punctual systems par excellence. Against this, art – but even art is capable of manifesting in the form of the punctual system:

Opposed to the punctual system are linear, or rather multilinear, systems. Free the line, free the diagonal: every musician or painter has this intention. One elaborates a punctual system or a didactic representation, but with the aim of making it snap, of sending a tremor through it. A punctual system is most interesting when there is a musician, painter, writer, philosopher to oppose it, who even fabricates it in order to oppose it, like a springboard to jump from. History is made only by those who oppose history (not by those who insert themselves into it, or even reshape it). (ATP, 295)

This enters into the territory that I began sketching in the first two installments of my Synthetic Fabrication series (1 and 2) (I promise I’ll finish these someday soon!), which is Deleuze’s account of fabulation. Fabulation takes roughly the same role as the ‘fabrication’ alluded to in the quote above; the goal of this process is the creation of a people, a minoritarian political community capable of acting contrary to the conditions of the world. By giving it this term, Deleuze short-circuits the connection between myth, understood politically, and the aesthetic. Politics (especially of the divergent, revolutionary type) is, then, apprehended primarily through aestheticized myth-making. In an essay titled “Literature and Life”, for example, he writes that “There is no literature without fabulation, but as Bergson was able to see, fabulation-the fabulating function does not consist in imagining or projecting an ego. Rather, it attains these visions, it raises itself to these becomings and powers” (Essays Clinical and Critical, 3), before continuing in a distinctively Nietzschean vein:

Health as literature, as writing, consists in inventing a people who are missing. It is the task of the fabulating function to invent a people. We do not write with memories, unless it is to make them the origin and collective destination of a people to come still ensconced in its betrayals and repudiations. American literature has an exceptional power to produce writers who can recount their own memories, but as those of a universal people composed of immigrants from all countries. Thomas Wolfe “inscribes all of America in writing insofar as it can be found in the experience of a single man. ” This is not exactly a people called upon to dominate the world. It is a minor people, eternally minor, taken up in a becoming-revolutionary. (Essays Clinical and Critical, 4)

(Through the invocations of American and the ‘universal people composed of immigrants’, the account of fabulation is plugged neatly his considerations on American patchwork elsewhere, which is considered by Xenogoth in his inaugural post on the latest season of Westworld. I have some scribblings on the topic here.)

And again, in an essay of T.E. Lawrence, Deleuze writes of a

profound desire, a tendency to project-into things, into reality, into the future, and even into the sky-an image of himself and others so intense that it has a life of its own: an image that is always stitched together, patched up, continually growing along the way, to the point where it becomes fabulous. It is a machine for manufacturing giants, what Bergson called a fabulatory function. (Essays Clinical and Critical, 117-118)

I’m going to avoid going too far down this rabbit-hole, as we’re in the territories I want to continue to cover in the SynthFab series, but to reiterate a key point from there: Deleuze’s account of fabulation puts him squarely in the same province as Georges Sorel in his theory of the myth (and indeed, both share a common ancestor in Bergson). In both fabulation and the generative myth, the political is something that is approached through this mediator, which is operating beyond the conscious control of the agents who rally beneath it. As Deleuze puts it, fabulation is bound up with a profound “profound desire”, which is never unidirectional or mobilized by a powerful agent. It is related to conditions of history – of being “an oppressed, bastard, lower, anarchical, nomadic, and irremediably minor race” that becomes the aristocracy. Likewise, for Sorel, the generative myth is connected to a horizon of deliverance, of exodus – nomadism! – from the desert of now-ness, deliverance to the promise land.

This fundamentally problematizes all attempts to disconnect the political from the aesthetic, as well as the subordination of these forces to political imperative. The traditional sequence is reversed, just as it was – if Deleuze and Guattari are correct in their primordial account of art and territorialization – in the beginning. From this perspective, the great promise of positivist politics, that of a fully rationalized, technocratic governance, is not only a stark impossibility – it is itself a mythic form, erected on a foundation of sequential givens, yet it is one that is closed from itself. It is in this sense that it acts not as that which is capable of overcoming nihilism, the postmodern condition or whatever – it is, in actuality, the very ideal of its historical perfection.

In lieu of a real conclusion to this overly-wordy and disjointed poast, here’s a weirdo garage track from the 60s psychedelic scene in Austin, Texas. It has nothing to do with the above, but I’m quite taken by the perfect marriage of the teenage populism of the garage instrumentals and the acid millenarianism of its lyrical content. Soz for the retro-mania

ACC vs DEC

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Modernity is in trouble. That’s the line, at least that is emerging from a particular sector of the twitterverse. It’s not a new line, of course: it’s the common call of the environmentalist movement writ large. What makes these new voices significant, however, is that their position is not only cybernetic, but transcendental. To declare oneself a decelerationist – and this applies to both those who seek a decelerationist praxis (as in, annihilating industrial civilization) or see deceleration as a given (leaving room only for mitigation and reaction when the SHTF) – is the engendering of an inverted mirror of the accelerationist. Whereas acceleration is the diagram of modernity, understood as the tragic loop of techno-capital undergoing amplificatory self-excitation, decelerationism throws the unconditional back upon the body of the earth, rife with its own loops and pressure points.

Between each there is a glimpse of a future political terrain to be caught. As anticipated with remarkable foresight by FM-2030, this terrain will be battleground where the “upwing” and the “downwing” collide. The latter looks to the earth, and thus would be like the extensive articulation of deceleration in the realm of politics, with the former being that of acceleration, gazing skyward. To those returning to the earth, the color green, and to those taking flight, black:

FM-2030 was an inveterate up-winger whose vitrified corpse awaits resurrection at the Arizona cryonics mecca, Alcor. However, even as the ecology movement was gathering steam, FM-2030 failed to see that the down-wing tendency could generate at least as much passion as his own political faith. Nowadays, down-wingers proudly self-identify as ‘Greens’. As for the up-wingers, they have begun to be colour-coded as ‘Blacks’ — and not simply because of their 1980s dress sense. The phrase ‘Black Sky Thinking’ was coined in a 2004 study by the centre-left UK think-thank Demos, and over the past decade it has increasingly been used to refer to schemes to make the whole inky expanse of the universe fit for human habitation.

As the political binary of left and right collapse into noise and nonsense (understood in the most unproductive sense), green and black stand to be serious contenders for their replacement – implying, by extension, a host of strange mixtures and hybrids, third positions, odd ghosts, and diagonalizations, but we’re running far ahead of ourselves…

The tragic loop of acceleration is that of positive feedback. This image is convergent with the thesis of John Michael Greer, Arch-Druid and decelerationist avant la lettre: civilization, particularly in its industrial phase, unfolds through phases of explosive positive feedback, thrusting creative forces to ever-higher heights. Yet this comes at an immense cost: for Greer, positive feedback is ultimately aberrant in nature. It breaks with the higher order feedback process that dominates nature and lends to it the capacity for auto-correction – that is, negative feedback, the return to homeostasis. Stripping themselves of the ability to correct their runaway trajectories, civilizations become suicide machines. The skyward flight becomes a terrifying fall back to the earth, culminating in green pastures littered with burning wreckage.

Greer’s bloody war between positive and negative feedback is thus a rigorous cybernetic account for cyclical theories of history. Read through the lenses of Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition, one could even say that Greer’s history is a theater where repetition of the same carries out its staccato dance; after all, it is under the repetition of the same that the abstract cycle is carried out, always bringing a system back to its initial condition. A society or civilization will always be born into the world, grow, engage creatively with nature, peak, curdle with corruption, stagnate, and collapse. Trace this pattern upwards beyond individual civilizations, to the swath of human civilization understood as a whole, or up even higher, to the great movement of nature itself, or the movement of the cosmos, and you’ll arrive at the position of Greer. There’s no better way to articulate the horizon of the decelerationist thesis.

On one hand, the conflict becomes one of competing motors governing development in itself: is it the knowing homeostat with gently violent negative feedback pressure, or is the homeostat missing, with the heat of cyberpositive runaway taking precedence (there is no easy answer to this question yet, but it is worth noting that both ultimately end in doom)? On the other hand, however, things get a little murky. If deceleration is raised under the specter of the cycle, this would imply that acceleration is that of the straight line. For Kant (and Deleuze as well), time is ultimately the straight line that cuts through everything that is. It is cold, uncaring, empty and open-ended development in its most abstracted sense, the permanent revolution that composes the stretch of the infinite itself. But this isn’t the time of acceleration itself. Following Land, acceleration must be thought of as unfolding within the straight line of time, but in the form of the spiral: the diagonalization between the straight line and the cycle, the uncompensated and the compensatory mechanism, attached to the running of “innovation and tradition together as Siamese twins” across its masked surface.

If acceleration is the accurate diagram of modernity, the cycle is already present. The future terrain stays the same, but color shades subtly adjust themselves. The burning question at the heart of it all – what is modernity doing? – can be answered as thus: critique. The posing of solutions to problems. If capitalism works by breaking down, by learning to learning, it is because modernity advances itself through encounters with problems that must either be solved or routed-around. The ecological pressure cooker bearing down on global civilization is the articulation of an immense problem, one that is indeed perhaps unsolvable. The cry to assault modernity on account of this problem is a forceful posing of the problem from the interior of modernity itself, the early spasms of a coming transformation.

The future, at least in the West, looks grim. Whatever molar shake-ups that took place in 2016 and 2017 are fading, the sheer weirdness of the time being slowly but surely recoded back into a neoconservative status quo. The bourgeoisie remain stupified, the political class broken, the great underclass masses go through the rotations. Yet will this not change, by very want of impending ecological devastation? As the noose tightens, the political articulation of deceleration will only proliferate. The existential risk of conflict will hang like a storm cloud as the black and the green draw respective lines – but this rain could very well be nourishing fluids for modernity. This is not to say that the dialectical parring is what saves modernity for itself, or that on side will necessarily win against the other. Instead, such a conflict would be learning, modernity itself working through to an other side that we cannot, by necessity, know in advance.

Understood as elements tangled in auto-critique and production, black and green are both trapped right from the start. It is in the rising from this to the level of the loops that the future of civilization will be made, or will be broken.