October 20, 2008

Nihilism without negativity

(Some still forming thoughts on Xenoeonomics and accelerationism...)

Splintering Bone Ashes' case for an accelerationist capitalism constitutes something like a left Landianism. Libidinal Economy may be, as Leniency says, "the book of accelerationism", but Lyotard was then openly intoxicated with/ by Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus; and Nick Land's 90s texts emerged under the euphoric, inhumanist influence of both. This was a kind of nihilism without negativity; the only interdiction was on the negative, in all its senses: the 'No' of a sclerotic leftism characterised (or caricatured) as eternally resisting and repressing and the miserabilism of all the parties of depressive deceleration were to be abjured in favour of the unleashed full positivity of Capital as monstrous ex nihilo propagator without limit. The vast, sublime mechanism of Capital as planetary artificial intelligence would liquidate (the illusion) of human agency: you either submit and enjoy or act out the dead drama of your own impotence.

Splintering Bone Ashes' Alex describes his leftist spin on this as follows:

    The “blind acephelous polymorph” that is capital must be embraced, but not from the point of view of some naïve enthusiasm or sentiment of hope that markets can deliver utopia. Instead, as the way out of the binaries of a leftism which is utterly and irretrievably moribund, and a neo-liberal economics which is ideologically bankrupt, we must bend both together in the face of an inhuman and indefatigable capitalism, to think how we might inculcate a new form of radically inhuman subjectivation. This entails the retrieval of the communist project for a new man, AND the liberation of the neo-liberal quest for a capitalism unbound, from both its subterranean dependence upon the state and the skeletal humanist discursive a priori which animates its ideological forms.

Three questions immediately occur.

1. Is this pure Capital, a Capital without human qualification, an unbound Capital without a human face, anything more than a fantasy (the fantasy of Capital itself, perhaps)? Isn't Capital, rather, essentially constituted by the tension between dissolution-without-limits and inhibition (I believe that the importance of Deleuze and Guattari's analysis lies precisely in claiming just that.) But this might be the point: if the fetters and buffers were removed, we would no longer be dealing with capitalism at all (further: it is the fetters and buffers which precisely stop capitalism from mutating into something new and inhuman).

2. The problem of agency. Let's suppose that such a Thing could emerge from the husk of late capitalism. One major difference between SBA's accelerationism and Landianism is over the question of agency: for Landianism, Capital is the only agent of note, whereas for SBA, Capital must be assisted to become something else. But what form would this assistance take? As per Tronti's question about the left after the demise of the workers' movements, what group subject could emerge which would be both willing and able to offer it? In the lack of a collective agent, wouldn't we be back to a kind of theoretical parlour game that has no consequences?

3. How is it possible 'to utilise the stuctures of capitalism against the state' in a way that does not repeat neoliberalism?

Given his scepticism about hauntology, it would be too cheap a rhetorical strategy to adopt to suggest that there's a way in which SBA's accelerationism could itself be a trace (a reinvocation of certain 70s and 90s inhuman forces turned spectres). In any case, hauntology is not, at least not as far as I am concerned, a political strategy, nor does it preclude other stances or tactics. It is about responding to what is there - or about what absently insists in what is there. It is best conceived of as a symptomatology, cultural rather than political (where culture is very much read, naturally, as a political-economic effect). Alex is therefore right to characterise hauntology as a kind of "good" postmodernism - the cultural logic of capitalism turned against itself. In cultural terms, sadly, is has been the case that a terminus, perhaps temporarily, has been reached - "that there is nothing else, (at this moment in time at least) that nothing else is possible". Much as I wish it weren't the case, it isn't possible to bring back modernism by force of will alone.

Posted by mark at October 20, 2008 04:55 PM | TrackBack