October 28, 2008

Spectres Of Accelerationism

Two more stimulating posts from Splintering Bone Ashes, indicating that the cracking pace that Alex has set shows no signs of letting up. Here are some quick responses...

To take the hauntology one first... I think the difference here lies in our different ideas of the status and purpose of hauntology. For me, hauntology is best conceived of not as some political aspiration, but rather as a zeitgeist, something which is already in place and which demands critical commentary (and extrapolative extension). Hauntology is not something that is aimed towards, so much as where we are starting from (the End of History and its escape). Hauntological theory is an attempt, for instance, to account for why the Burial records have captured a mood, a malaise, this decade. The claim is not that hauntology is ultimately preferable to some accelerationist model of culture (although the Burial records are in many respects actually superior to the accelerationist Jungle they spectralise). On the contrary, one of the things that you can hear in hauntology is the spectres of accelerationism itself. To turn Alex's question about the political correlate of hauntology around - what is the cultural equivalent of accelerationism now? It was precisely the lack of any cultural exemplars of accelerationism that led to spectrality in the first place. The paradoxes that Alex refers to are not a problem for hauntology; or rather, the problems they indicate are constitutive of a hauntological moment which makes the only resistance to the nostalgia mode look like a nostalgia for modernism. Hauntology is not, therefore, opposed to accelerationism; rather, it is the only way, at the moment, that culture makes any kind of contact with it. Neither is there any opposition between "the return of modernism" that Alex decries and "the arrival of a new (perhaps, or at the very least) a currently properly unthinkable temporo-cultural episteme" which he calls for. What is modernism if not that which generates a "properly unthinkable temporo-cultural episteme"? Modernism (and Badiou's theory of the event has been characterised as a late arriving philosophy of/ for modernism) can return as a recirculated obsolete style, but it cannot 'return' as the unthinkably novel without puncturing a hole in postmodernity. Certainly, the issue is how can we bring about a break of this sort, which returns us to the question of agency, the central issue in Alex's other new post.

If the problem with hauntology is its association with a defeated (and defeatist) leftism, the problem with accelerationism now might be that it has no political correlate at all. This might be because "left Landianism" risks being an impossible confection. Landianism staked everything on the obsolescence of human agency: Capital was the only agent worth the name, so any human attempts to intervene in the process of planetary meltdown would necessarily be futile and irrelevant. Since politics was tied up with (human) agency, the 'political' itself was defined by forms of prohibition and resistance to Capital's "horrifying and utter negativity" (it was a case of an insipid, security-orientated anthropomorphic negativity trying to contain the sublime, unqualified, inhuman negativity of Capital). But what would it mean to reconfigure this picture so that human agency played a role? Would this make any sense at all? Alex comes up with a striking image:

    The irresistible inverse image of 9/11 presents itself: Instead of flying the planes into symbols of western capitalism, we plunge the financial-capitalistic contents of the towers into the human world itself, dissolving, sundering, shattering…

(I can't help hearing this as a mirror image of Virilo's recent claim that, rather than capitalism nearing its end, "the end is nearing capitalism".)

But who is the pilot in this analogy (or anticipative diagram)? The question of what a party of inhuman negativity would look like requires further elaboration, to say the least. (For more on this, see Plamonenology's very useful post.)

Nick Land needs to be counted as a speculative realist theorist, if only because he provided a version of Deleuze and Guattari evacuated of any "pseudo-biological vitalist ethology" (but also because Metzinger's account of identity as a systemic illusion generated from cybernetic feedback sounds like a detailed elaboration of concepts sketched in texts such as "Meltdown" and "No Future"). Behind all these discussions, of course, is the issue of speculative realism's relationship to politics, if any. (See Speculative Heresy's call for debate on this.) Is there a way of commensurating the necessarily human focus of the political with the nonhuman perspective opened up by SR that will not betray or compromise its fundamental insights?

Posted by mark at October 28, 2008 02:16 PM | TrackBack