Working notes for a sci-fi novella (after accelerationism):
Theme: The romanticism of those who would escape to a world without Skynet is Skynet’s greatest weapon. A boys-own fantasy for which foot-soldier anarcho-neo-cons are fully trained and computer literate, knowing the blue pill will bring on an Armageddon for which they have prepared all their lives, in which they will be heroes, have warrior wives and send loyal lieutenants to certain death. Of course what they really want instead is the red pill of an endless deferral, in which they have all the time in the world – indeed, more than all time through the recombinant feedback loop of time-travel-altered futures, with Eloi-friendly-replicants sent to protect and serve, displacing inevitable Borg dominance one episode at a time… The John Conner god complex requires a transcendental observer using the force to manage the time shifts – Guild Navigators or the Weyland-Yutani Corp itself perhaps – happily ventriloquizing conspiracy theory with theological Jedi-speak and Deleuzo neo-liberal buzz words.
At best this is concrete poetry with a phraseology that signals its own black humour. At worst, the new horizon has three levels of myopia: first, an unapologetic ethnocentric and Eurocentric metropolitan class privilege in which the non-west is always an undifferentiated dystopian slum gridded over with vectoral finance flows and gap-year flexi-workers on the make. A second affliction is the abstract esoteric framework disconnected from agency and any semblance of political organization – the untermenschen believe and know the movement will be there for them, and will creatively transform and terraform all, but they can do nothing to make this happen but wait upon the coming of Lensman Thead. And thirdly, the clerical crypto fascism of the god complex, grinning at the coming conflagration with no idea how to oppose a Capital with tanks that will only ever change when compelled by struggle.
And in the time before Skynet, which is always yet to come, there will be 8ft pixies and a forest enhanced with fairy lights. Perhaps a point-of-view android to sucker in the kids. Hey Boxey.
It seemed to me that a lot of the stuff that was being said yesterday – on the part of those who were endorsing a kind of ‘accelerationism’, that is – seemed to rest on a few assumptions. The first of these is that we’re all lost within might, for eth sake of brevity, be called ‘real subsumption’; the view that capital has absorbed everything and there’s now no longer any outside. Hence the need to push capital forwards to its demise from a position within it. Secondly, that this subsumption invokves erasing a ‘natural’, pre-capitalist human subject. This underlies the view that there is no outside, as it entails that we are all one with capital; hence the Negri-esque view that we just need to take capital over, and chuck away the nasty bits. It’s also allied to agonising over a seemingly bsent or hidden proletariat. Thirdly, that we can talk about capital and capitalism from a Marxist-ish perspective whilst jettisoning or undermining the labour theory of value. The LTV is very old and unwiedly, but chucking it away not only allows capital to be presented as a kind of ideological glamour or spell that we can wake up from, or as a ‘parasite’ on the ‘potentia’ of society as a whole; in addition, it raises questions about what capital is, what is to be done about it, why we should do anything at all, and who is to do it.
This may well seem terribly dull and dogmatic, but it seems to me that if one retains a focus on the wage relation these problems just don’t crop up. If one does adopt such a focus, one could reply to the points above by saying that total subsumption simply can’t take place: the wage relation perpetually posits the worker ‘outside’ capital, so that he/she can sell labour-power back ‘into’ it. An antagonistic other is thus always generated, and this means it simply doesn’t matter if some original ‘essence’ has been erased. Furthermore, if capital is understood as value that has the capacity to grow – a capacity founded on property relations that ensure exploitation – then the target for any form of anti-capitalism is pretty clear too, i.e. the wage relation itself, without which capitalism can’t operate (at least on the basis of the LTV). Significantly, Negri quite deliberately glosses over this sense in which the wage ensures an ‘outside’ when inventing ‘aporias’ in the opening sections of Time for Revolution.
One of the most interesting points raised involved addressing the ways in which labour relations construct forms of subjectivity. This was of interest to me because of the sketch outlined above; and yet at the same time, there also seemed to be a great deal of wariness involved in awarding primacy to labour (or indeed in focussing on the social relations that shape it). A focus on the wage or on labour seems to be linked to a very fixed and classical notion of subjectivity, and this notion of subjectivity is viewed as reactionary or disabling. Maybe it is. However, the alternative position seemed to be that the subject is entirely structured and shaped by capital (hence the need to understand it as a negative, oppositional other, by virtue of the absence of any a priori humanity). Does this not end up sailing very close to determinism and structuralism?
yes yes Tom. It is just that sort of gleeful headlong rush into the double glamour of post-subjectivity that neither needs to do anything nor worry about a someone that will do the doing that makes this so strange. We all know the move well by now, but I’m bludgeoned into amazement that some are happy to endorse it, with a few ironic asides to the narco-psychotic dangers of taking yourself too seriously. The trouble is that there is no-one to blame here either – its as if it all comes down to the old fiction of human nature, its not those who work the system (for class gain), its the system effect itself, and nothing can be done – radical apathy is the posture, demoting revolutionary activity to mere self harm, alcohol and piercings [in descending order these need not be the greatest problems in themselves, but if that’s all you’ve got…] – and absolutely never a mention of any involvement in a revolutionary Party with a program that might win [fight racism, end wars, arms trade, mega-corp mining, medical scandals, plunder and theft etc… see the 12 point program]. This may indeed provoke you to apologize for hanging on to outmoded truths like the LTV, but in what I took as a ‘wrong way go back’ ‘don’t follow me’ type warning, Liz Grosz once said to me: “I used to think like that when I was a Marxist”. Still do.
Mashed up version: