Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Accelerationism II.2

Two excellent posts by Owen and Mark, which demonstrate the 'general intellect' at work.

1. Owen makes the important point that 'accelerationism' doesn't have to be an ultra-leftist catastrophism but can involve the rational re-use of capitalist developments in constant capital to reduce variable capital, if we destroy the capitalist relation of accumulation (which is of course the proverbial big 'if'). This would, of course, be different from the capitalist reduction of variable capital through 'social exposure' (ie dumping workers into the reserve army of labour or out of the monetary relation altogether). Interestingly, I was reading this exact point being made by Richard Brenner in his essay on "Karl Marx's Theory of Crisis".
If we were to hypothetically leave out of the account real social relations of production today (capitalism), then improved technology and increased labour productivity would tend naturally towards the reduction of working time. Mechanisation would help convert the worker from semi-slave of constrained by a rigid division of labour into a supervisor of production, someone able through the progressive and sustained reduction of the lenght of the compulsory working day to participate in supervision and planning of ever wider spheres of production, distribution and consumption (socialism).

2. On Mark's post, just to say almost complete agreement... It was Landianism I had in mind with 'Deleuzian Thatcherism'; as for my choice of Lyotard as the text of accelerationism this was due to his outbidding of Deleuze & Guattari and his almost complete embrace of the consequences (I particularly like his sarcasm directed at Baudrillard concerning the lack of the 'good hippies' of symbolic exchange...).
It's slightly uncanny but Mark's three points were floating around in the cesspool that is my 'mind' and on the fantasmatic of capital permit me to refer to Mark's article in Film-Philosophy (a pdf).
In light of Mark's work I was thinking of the hyperstitional as a means of probing the 'real abstractions' of capital; especially as sketched by Roberto Finelli and Alberto Toscano.

3. One issue here (raised implicitly by Mark) is that of reterritorialisation as essential co-dynamic of capitalist deterritorialisation; [correction follows] Eric Alliez argues that the problem of Badiou's reading of Deleuze is that inscribes a constant and necessary relation between reterritorialisation and deterritorialisation. In doing so Alliez argues that he produces 'Capitalism and Paranoia', not 'Capitalism and Schizophrenia' - in which every deterritorialisation is immediately recuperated by reterritorialisation. For Alliez, we have to always fold capitalist deterritorialisation onto absolute deterritorialisation - hence, to quote Deleuze on Bergson - 'Dualism is therefore only a moment, which must lead to the re-formation of a monism.' This then is the sticking-point between Mark's formulation that 'it is was Deleuze and Guattari who proved to have the better handle on capitalism, precisely because they insisted on reterritorialization as the necessary counterpart of capitalist deterritorialization.' (which correspond to Badiou's position - and my own inclination) and SBA's position, which is more classically Deleuzian.

4. This is where the problem of agency comes in (again). I chose Lyotard as the exemplar because he seems pretty explicit that capital is the subject (of revolution): "[Capital] is the unbinding of the most insane pulsions" (138). If we want an alternative then we have to find some 'good hippies', or otherwise get into that various sub-Baudrillardian gestures of embracing the market that seemed to have a mercifully brief flowering in the 1980s/90s. Mark has made further comments on Lyotard here. In a sense this re-makes my point - Lyotard is the examplar because of this disappearance of the critical. This is exactly the point on which he departs from Deleuze and Guattari. Of course Lyotard's later political evolution - traced by Perry Anderson (see my comments here) - doesn't exactly make one convinced by this position of capital as absolute subject (subject as substance and subject?).

5. SBA has commented further on agency here, and re-iterating a strong accelerationist position rather than the previously canvassed Badiouian alternative. The action particularly takes place at the end of the post:
Outside either a vitalist ethology of ‘natural’ auto-self-maximisation, or some kind of Marxist-Hegelian dialectical drive towards the elimination of contradiction in the same, how might we be able to ground the very need for an inhumanising desubjectivation at all? Though we might wish to create a system which has had done with judgement, to ground the praxis (and here we return to the “sticky” issue of agency) necessary to arrive at this state requires the illegitimate use of the very devices the praxis seeks to erase.
This seems to imply a kind of reverse Munchausen effect - instead of the subject pulling itself up by its hair it destroys itself by a 'self'-erasure. This may be formulated along the lines Reza suggests as an exposure to being 'butchered open' (see Reza on hauntology in relation to SBA's posts here). The difficulty is the passivity implied in this sense of agency - to be butchered by the processes of capital do we have to do anything more than just live and await our demise? How could we acclerate this process (and if so why)? Then, also, which particular humans would perform this self-destruction of the human?

6. Finally to try and clear up the Achcar matter (on which I was perhaps rather unclear), I'm in agreement with this point by Owen:
"Mind you, for that I don't subscribe either to the Gilbert Achcar view - it's always relative privation which causes revolt. The starving might not start revolutions, but the only insurrection during a boom I can think of is the abortive May."
A couple of things to add, first this can involve psychic immiseration, which I'm sure Owen includes in relative privation. This was the situ point about the misery of everday life qua accumulation.
Second, I posted the Achcar comment more for a reflection on the 'accumulation of struggles' as precondition for agency, hence I was going back to the 60s/70s. Mark and Owen, and everyone else who said, is perfectly right that (a) booms don't necessarily need to revolution (I have no 'one size fits all model of revolution', anything would be nice), and (b) the recent 'boom' hasn't. Of course that's because that 'boom' involved the massive decomposition of working-class power in a waning cycle of struggle. What concerned me was the mechanisms to translate disenchantment and privation into struggle, and whether (as Mark points out) the crisis is more likely to lead to barbarism than socialism in the absence of such accumulated struggles.
It seems appropriate that I should have to write a couple of lectures on Dickens, as he is a writer of catastrophism, and has his own version of accelerationism in 'free circulation' (he hated blockages of all kinds). Mercifully for the students this won't be much discussed by me.


Jasper Bernes said...

And now, the very philosopher of speed himself weighs in on this fascinating cluster of posts. Synchronization indeed!


A bit thin, I think, but nonetheless provocative. Like Splintering Bone Ashes's posts, it seems that he buys into finance capital's own self-presentation, that it is value created ex nihilo, when in fact this crisis demonstrates that the LTV still holds, and will always hold for capitalism, that credit is an advance on future surplus labor which, failing to appear, brings down the whole house of cards.

The point, I think, and this is why Brenner is important, is that as much as neoliberalism is about liquidity, flexibility, faster and faster rates of circulation of capitals, it has also been a period of stagnation, of stagnant wages and profits in the real economy, of a lack of opportunities for fixed investment. When these opportunities do appear, the torrents of money capital floating around immediately blow them up into a nice big bubble. . .

If this crisis is the result of the lingering and unresolved overcapacity/overaccumulation of the 1970s, then one wonders if, forcing capital back to a Keynesian setup, where profits must come with investment in the real economy, wouldn't, in a relatively short time, force the question of surplus value. . .That is, I'm not sure that capital has any real choice today besides financialization. Or suicide of the sort Wallerstein imagines, with the ruling class converting to another form of rule. And I'm not sure that, ultimately, destructions of capital are totally circular. The last 30 years have been an acceleration off one sort to avoid an acceleration of another sort. D&G's point was that the limit-shattering tendencies of capital are provoked and excited by the limits it poses for itself. I always thought that their strategy proposed splitting the limts (the state) from the excess (nomads), a kind of dual power, so that the state swallows itself. It's not a process of sublation, not a withering away of the state.

In any case, forcing capital back to its pre-'73 arrangement and into accelerations of the Brechtian kind might allow us to win. Or so I think today.

Great conversation, this one.

Benjamin said...

dear jasper,
yes I think the point is whether, pace Braudel, financialisation is a sign of capital in 'autumn' and then is this cycle of crisis building up to a more fundamental fracure - as Wallerstein suggests. I think yr point concerning stagnation is also important - especially in terms of not taking capital at its own fantasmatic self-presentation as 'asbolute deterritorialisation'.