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Note: Accelerationism has developed since the #Accelerate days, but it's really more of a neoreactionary vibe these days, and I admit ignorance on that front!


First, let's dispose of a myth.

In logic, there is a fallacy known as the "argument from etymology" or the "why else would they call it that?" argument. A traditional bad argument from etymology might look something like this: the German Nazi party were leftists, because they were socialists. The name of their party includes the word socialist, so they are socialists, and socialists are leftists. The name has a property, therefore the named thing has the same property: argument from etymology. The fallacy within this structure of argument is of course that words themselves do not inherently describe reality, and so an inapt name may be given, or change might alter the suitability of the name, either in the meaning of the words or the subject itself, as with parties.

Accelerationism enjoys an exciting wording, one that suggests speed, amplification, reckless progress. When we encounter in political ideology a purportedly revolutionary and anti-capitalist ideology, the word accelerate makes us ask about the system, well, what would happen if it went faster? The ensuing folk explanation which is currently circulating in political environments and places where young people are being introduced to big ideas for the first time defines accelerationism along the lines of:

  • "When capitalism goes so fast that it crashes and breaks"

  • "A revolution from letting the empire destroy itself by its natural fatal flaws"

  • "The creation of radicalizing conditions arising from society continuing as it finds acceptable."
  • Accelerate, they seem to think that the ideology goes, and we'll all be so much better off in the wreckage. It is an exciting, transgressive-feeling, reinvigorating and emotionally impossible idea that trades on its ability to promise destruction and revolution from nothing.

    It's suggested that these are old ideas, even Marxist in origin. But Marx never wrote in favor of simply waiting by while capital grinds across history and landscape. And although accelerationists will claim otherwise, his observations on the capacity for capital-owners to supplant governmental authority is not a prediction of collapse, but only a shifting of power. There is no historical basis for anti-capitalism strategy prior to the 1990s that relies on on the world's economic system to self-annihilate. This is a new (or at least historically recent) and trendy idea that places anti-capitalist branding on principled, righteous inaction, but it is a philosophical product that taps into an old feeling: that the world is going badly, and that something, somehow, is going to make it all better.

    Grand, sweeping, change without deviation from the norm is not a sensible idea, but the intellectual, university-ish veneer gives accelerationism a memetic virality. Keep buying, waking and grinding, and don't worry about the things too big to protest or vote about, because somewhere capitalism is working its way towards that step too far, great hubris in fruitful search of comeuppance, and the whole thing will come crashing down. Them being wrong, and you being right is enough, and the resulting collapse will be reward and punishment the same.

    Despite being an understandable and conditionally alluring idea, allowing the current system to run rampant is not the core accelerationist conceit. Though it is highly associated with their name in discourse about the Collapse, the Reset, and other phrases of anticipatory fatalism, the tech-fiction cyberpunk ideology of accelerationism has nothing to do with the inevitability of society-wide failure. They don't want the modern sociotechnological-political grid to go dark, they want it to build up, and up, and up, Babel-like, as described by their own writings.

    Have a look through the self-definition of accelerationism from the #Accelerate manifesto.



    [T]oday’s politics is beset by an inability to generate the new ideas and modes of organisation necessary to transform our societies to confront and resolve the coming annihilations. While crisis gathers force and speed, politics withers and retreats. In this paralysis of the political imaginary, the future has been cancelled.

    ...

    We may be moving fast, but only within a strictly defined set of capitalist parameters that themselves never waver. We experience only the increasing speed of a local horizon, a simple brain-dead onrush rather than an acceleration which is also navigational, an experimental process of discovery within a universal space of possibility. It is the latter mode of acceleration which we hold as essential.

    ...

    In the absence of a radically new social, political, organisational, and economic vision the hegemonic powers of the right will continue to be able to push forward their narrow-minded imaginary, in the face of any and all evidence... To generate a new left global hegemony entails a recovery of lost possible futures, and indeed the recovery of the future as such.

    ...

    What accelerationism pushes towards is a future that is more modern — an alternative modernity that neoliberalism is inherently unable to generate. The future must be cracked open once again, unfastening our horizons towards the universal possibilities of the Outside.


    If this sounds confusing, it's because it is. These aren't think tank white papers, this ideology uses hyped up essays and high-flying rants, intending to impress the notion that "accelerationism" is a substantial and worthwhile idea, in lieu of detailed lines of action.

    The central functional pieces of accelerationism as follows: they imagine that there are problems which exist in the world that can only be solved through the use of technology (e.g., climate, energy, water). They believe that technology necessary to solve these problems will not be created by capitalism. To remedy this, the generative forces of capitalism will be bolstered by leftists by methods including "sociotechnological hegemony", and thereby arriving at a technological singularity, in which "the human can eventually be discarded as mere drag to an abstract planetary intelligence", and which is posited as a post-capitalist society.

    They suppose that their computer overlords will take over the world, and thereby save it from us, for us.

    While emergent sociotechnological hegemony is a real entity, it remembers no promise, nor has any inherent ideological loyalty of any kind, to any concept. Accelerationists are foolish for thinking that artificial mastery over the human being would serve their ideology, rather than like all power, which first, and perhaps exclusively, seeks its own persistence. The same hallucinatory, verbose praise-blatherings that 90s cyberpunk speed-dreams would have offered to any exciting new idea do not belong in the mouths of moderners; here in the 203rd decade, the mistaken affections of a past writer are no substitute for thinking about the extant world while we are still alive and in the god-damned thing. While nearly all of accelerationism can be discarded as a redundant call to technocratic capitalism, it made one successful prediction: the existence of online social hegemony and technospheric influence. But what Nick Land wrongly imagined as gleaming chariots fleeting towards his singularity are in no synchrony.

    What is their plan? Nothing too precise can be discerned. But some notion of how they imagine success is found in the "On the Future" section of their manifesto, which recommend "an ecology of organizations", control of media, and class consciousness. For a revolution, these ideas are hardly revolutionary. Nor do they seem to achieve anything particular to accelerationist goals, just boilerplate leftist organizing copy. It seems like accelerationists suffer from a case of "ideas about ideas", where they know an idea must be created to address a problem, and their grand solution is to bring about the conditions sufficient to cause some other person to come up the idea. In lieu of a workable solution, they present the grandiosity of how effective and how magnificent that yet unimagined idea will be, when it arrives, date TBD.

    To put it mildly, the internal logic is fuzzy here. The manifesto writers rely more on strong wording, suggestion, and selections in the arrangement of sentences rather than on any kind of maintained consistency between ideas. Noticeably missing points are the flaws by which capitalism would fail to manifest relevant technology (other than it does not yet exist), the means to fix these undefined flaws, and answers for the increases to alienation and exploitation inherent to such an acceleration.

    Accelerationist writers align themselves with the left, likely due to having been created in academic settings, yet have little in common with leftists as they currently exist. Their posturing maximizes the distinction between "folk politics of localism (and) direct action" and their own "complexity, globality, and technology". They disparage inclusiveness, democracy, and transparency, in favor of self-reported secrecy and hegemony. Indeed, much of the call to action within accelerationism positions leftists as subjects meant to generate pessimism, cynicism, disillusionment with the possiblity of change, and to that end, it is puzzling why accelerationism seeks to direct leftist action and organization. Further calls to the study of economic modeling centralized by a belief in the generative capacity of capitalism reveals that accelerationism views rightward hegemony as powerful and lasting, and leftism as weak and preoccupied. Rather than aligning with rightists, the species-minded accelerationists argue that the left ought to guide the hegemonic powers and progress to their vision of technological singularity.

    It culminates in a summation of so-called "mastery" of the direction of the efforts of the human race, by some "effective new political infrastructure" to be achieved and designed by means unknown. It climaxes on a note of space travel, a continued indulgence of Nick Land and his associates -- as if acceleration and the full restructuring of human society was motivated by smoke-filled visions from the CCRU of flying in space.

    The most significant challenge to accelerationist ideology is a simple and obvious question: why should humanity seek to hand over control to a singularity at all? There is no explicit argument made in favor of it, other than the continued assertion that hegemony and power are to be good in their view. Accelerationism imagines a problem, and imagines a course of action, but does not in-between imagine what the solution might appear like. The myth resolves: there is with certainty no "crash" that they are deliberately hurtling us towards. Capitalism will seek its own persistence, any emergent technological intelligence will fail to understand such an impenetrable rhetoric as accelerationism, and the methods of achieving accelerationist goals will remain firmly hegemonic and establishmentarian.

    Contrast this likely outcome against the techno-utopia they offer (or perhaps dystopia, since these world-promisers refuse even the gentle praise of utopianism), the very subject to which accelerationists wish us to accelerate towards. Capitalism and hegemony are pieces of a beloved machine of speeding progress to the accelerationist, one which they do not seek to dismantle, and one which does not seek to solve the problems that accelerationists promise to solve. Instead, they would create an technocratic secret government, a global system that would render irrelevant all human concerns. It would be chilling, if there was reason to believe they had made any headway since the origin of accelerationism. It does not seem to have moved at all.

    Nowhere in these manifestos does the supposed "end of capitalism" come about, though the guidance called for by accelerationism is achievable by political manifestation not a whit grander than governed capitalism. Perhaps these academic writers just want to see grants.

    If taken sincerely, the true face of accelerationism is a technological fervency seeking ascendant technological uber-lifeforms to worship and obey. Think Lovecraftian robed figures chanting in dark rooms around floppy disk drives. It is no wonder that they allow the pop culture misconception about Marxistly waiting for the revolution to serve as disinfo cover for acceleration, because the real idea is more treacherously capitalistic and anti-human.