Left Accelerationism as product re-branding
Well, at least in part, it is because Land’s self-styled critics, such as, for instance, Alex Williams, write shit like this:
Where Deleuze and Guattari ultimately counseled caution, to accelerate with care to avoid total destruction, Land favored an absolute process of acceleration and deterritorialization, identifying capitalism as the ultimate agent of history. As Land puts it, “Capitalism has no external limit, it has consumed life and biological intelligence, [and it is] vast beyond human anticipation.” Here, the deregulation, privatization, and commodification of neoliberal capitalism will serve to destroy all stratification within society, generating in the process unheard of novelties. Politics and all morality, particularly of the leftist variety, are a blockage to this fundamental historical process. Land had a hypnotizing belief that capitalist speed alone could generate a global transition towards unparalleled technological singularity. In this visioning of capital, even the human itself can eventually be discarded as mere drag to an abstract planetary intelligence rapidly constructing itself from the bricolaged fragments of former civilizations. As Land has it, through the acceleration of global capitalism the human will be dissolved in a technological apotheosis, effectively experiencing a species-wide suicide as the ultimate stimulant head rush.
Marxists look at Land and they are scandalized by his writing; writings that violate their petty bourgeois sensibilities.
This immediately calls to my mind something Marx wrote about the attitude some held toward Ricardo:
“It is that which is held against him, it is his unconcern about “human beings,” and his having an eye solely for the development of the productive forces, whatever the cost in human beings and capital-values — it is precisely that which is the important thing about him.” (My emphasis)
What made Ricardo the most significant of all political-economists of his time was the fact he had no concern at all about human beings — his sole concern was the development of the forces of production. Thus, when Ricardo realized the development of the productive forces themselves led to a fall in the rate of profit, he was shocked.
As Marx describes it:
“What worries Ricardo is the fact that the rate of profit, the stimulating principle of capitalist production, the fundamental premise and driving force of accumulation, should be endangered by the development of production itself.”
The development of the forces of production is the means by which capital extracts ever more surplus value from labor power; but it is this very means that leads to a fall in the rate of profit and threatens capital with collapse.
In Marx’s opinion,
“This is just the way in which [capital] unconsciously creates the material requirements of a higher mode of production.”
Note here: capital itself creates the material requirements of a higher mode of production and it does this unconsciously, i.e., without ever being aware of what it is accomplishing. Williams’ criticism of Land’s Accelerationism on the grounds that he,
“favored an absolute process of acceleration and deterritorialization, identifying capitalism as the ultimate agent of history”,
is, like most Marxist arguments, completely fucking irrelevant to the discussion, since, in Capital, capitalism is, in fact, the ultimate agent of the historical process by which the material conditions for a higher mode of production are created.
Indeed, Marx argues :
“Development of the productive forces of social labour is the historical task and justification of capital.”
So — Yes — capital itself is, in fact, the ‘agent of history’ in this sense; unconsciously creating the material requirements for communism. And the very idea that the fate of all mankind is in the hands of blind, unconscious global process fills our Marxists with absolute terror. And for good fucking reason, since they can only imagine no other result than extinction of the species, or, at least, a holocaust greater even than the world wars of the 20th century. Thus, the end of capitalism is re-imagined in the fevered nightmares of Marxists as the end of civilization and, in the worst case, as the end of the species itself.
Properly understood, Land’s only argument is that we do not need to leave the creation of communism in the hands of a blind process. We can drive the process, precisely because it is a blind, unconscious, process. The defect in Land’s argument is his focus on the superficial and entirely fetishistic forms the process takes. However our so-called Left Accelerationists have no objection to the fetishistic focus of Land’s critique. This they wish to extend further.
Thus Williams writes:
“one significant pinion point between epistemic and political acceleration is the potential for the transformation of economics. Here, epistemological gains directly interface with technological, social, and political ones. Srnicek reasons that economic models effectively operate as navigational systems for particular social and ideological infrastructures, and as such we can distinguish between those models which provide orientation and strategic support for the current capitalist system, and those which might provide resources by which we could navigate towards a future post-capitalist society. In this fashion, “the critique of restricted knowledge therefore parallels the critique of restricted economies.”14 In other words, new ways of thinking about the economy can have dramatic effects on how actual economies operate. The post-capitalist order which political accelerationism takes as its immediate goal necessarily depends on the ability to transform the discipline of economics and the body of knowledge it supports and instantiates. The transformation of economics can be seen as one important element within a broader process of transition, with the development of new models and cognitive maps of the existing system leading towards the development of a speculative image of the future economic system.”
Alex Williams can only champion the ‘transformation’ of economics, not its abolition. And, like most Marxists themselves, Williams cannot conceive of the abolition of the state, but only, “to revolutionize the contemporary political Left.”
“Holding that capitalism now constrains the productive forces of technology, directing them towards narrow and often fruitless ends, accelerationism as a political project proposes identifying latent productive forces which must be unleashed against neoliberalism. Rather than working to smash the current capitalist system, the existing infrastructure is here identified as a platform requiring repurposing towards post-capitalist, collective ends.”
While he criticizes Land for confusing Acceleration with speed, Williams appears to confuse it with standing frozen in both space and time. We can accelerate capitalist development so long as political-economy never changes in any but its most superficial expressions.
Marxist accelerationists have no intention to let food stamp socialism go, they simply want to pay it out in bitcoin.
This isn’t a Left Accelerationism, it is simply re-branding the tired old political strategy of the 20th Century workers movement.