[Reading] ➸ Malign Velocities: Accelerationism and Capitalism Author Benjamin Noys – Sharkmotorcyclehelmets.co.uk

We Are Told Our Lives Are Too Fast, Subject To The Accelerating Demand That We Innovate , Work , Enjoy , Produce , And Consume That S One Familiar Story Another, Stranger, Story Is Told Here Of Those Who Think We Haven T Gone Fast Enough Instead Of Rejecting The Increasing Tempo Of Capitalist Production They Argue That We Should Embrace And Accelerate It Rejecting This Conclusion, Malign Velocities Tracks This Accelerationism As The Symptom Of The Misery And Pain Of Labour Under Capitalism Retracing A Series Of Historical Moments Of Accelerationism The Italian Futurism Communist Accelerationism After The Russian Revolution The Cyberpunk Phuturism Of The S And S The Unconscious Fantasies Of Our Integration With Machines The Apocalyptic Accelerationism Of The Post Moment Of Crisis And The Terminal Moment Of Negative Accelerationism Suggests The Pleasures And Pains Of Speed Signal The Need To Disengage, Negate, And Develop A New Politics That Truly Challenges The Supposed Pleasures Of Speed

10 thoughts on “Malign Velocities: Accelerationism and Capitalism

  1. says:

    I suspect most academic books, maybe books in general, are just a list of excuses for personal prejudices You believe what you want and then wave your hands until you have some mildly convincing reasons why you believe what you want to believe That s particularly easy in continental philosophy Some academic books forcefully and shamelessly delve into polemics, and the reader is along for the ride Other academic books are clear and precise enough that you forget you re reading some asshole with a PhD s preferences Other books aren t out and out polemics, but are also shoddily reasoned, so the reader is left scratching their head, writing in the margins, and wondering why they bothered Here s where Malign Velocities comes in.Malign Velocities is a critique of accelerationism What s accelerationism It is a complex, heterogenous group of thinkers, who generally emphasize speed, technological progress, and anti humanism Accelerationism is now hip with the youngins because of Living Meme Nick Land, vaporwave thinkpieces, and of course the encroaching sense of doom and futility in contemporary life Apparently Noys coined the term He describes influences and predecessors Italian Futurists, Soviet poets, French theorists, etc He also describes different trends in accelerationism apocalypticism, terminality, so on His critique amounts to the following accelerationists are apologists to capitalism even when they think they re piercing through it they indulge in a fantasy of the Real note the capital R and they forget, or try to dismiss, living labor in the productive process.Noys does not furnish a single reason why you should believe any of the preceding Partly because he avoids naming his targets partly because when he does name his target, he is simplifying and misunderstanding them beyond recognition and partly because there s no clear sense of argumentation or consistency in the chapters The first problem is simple enough considering accelerationism is not infrequently broken up into left and right, its dangerous to try and criticize accelerationism as a unified intellectual and political program When Noys is criticizing accelerationism, he doesn t often say Land says x and here s why that s problematic for example The second problem does not even depend on one s familiarity with the figures he s discussing Let s take the 1970s French theorists, who Noys criticizes at a theoretical level most considerably other people, like Land, get no noteworthy appraisal others, like the Futurists, are dismissed off hand after all, if they were Fascists or misogynists, they can t be taken seriously for one moment, right I have some knowledge of Deleuze and Guattari, a passing knowledge of Baudrillard, and no familiarity at all with Lyotard The sections on DG are based on a very simplistic reading of them, and do not levy any worthwhile criticism further, a considerate reading of Anti Oedipus especially the passages on desiring machines working by breaking down could have informed what Noys believes is a preferable alternative to accelerationism chapter 7 Not knowing anything about Lyotard, though, I can still spot the sleights of hand Noys makes In the Introduction, he does not present what Lyotard says of accelerationism in a satisfyingly clear way he then talks about Lyotard views using the term sublime, without any uncontroversial evidence he then says an embrace of the sublime is a conservative trope Connect the dots, Lyotard is a conservativeapparently This leads into the third problem most chapters in this book go the following way summarize a writer summarize a book summarize a movie this writer sucks because x There is no flow or consistency between any of the sections, or any of the chapters, that gives any credence to Noys critique For example, in chapter 3, Machine Being, Noys says he is going to show why DG actually believe in a fantasy when they think they re talking about real production Okay, fine Noys summarizes a book by Victor Tausk, which DG refer to in Anti Oedipus Noys reminds us again what he wants to argue about DG Noys then summarizes Gravity s Rainbow and hints at two readings a psychoanalytic one Noys is a card carrying psychoanalyst by the way, so let s not pretend DG ever had a chance of a fair interpretation , and an accelerationist one Noys does not explore either in detail Finally, there s a few paragraphs basically saying desire is repetitive and hollow Oh okay So why are DG fantasizing Noys just says they do, he does not argue for this position at all Towards that end, Noys uses the very handy tactic of deploying economic buzzwords accepted by postmoden social sciences and humanities academics Neoliberalism and its twin horses of doom, Thatcher and Reagan dotcom bubble financialization housing crisis stagflation and of course the big one, which is so huge and useful that it makes it into the title capitalism Pepper them in anywhere Ever notice that the CCRU started changing around the time of the dotcom bubble Weird, huh Silly Nick Land, he never had a chance of knowing his career would be historically situated, and thus defeated, by the economic machinations of stockbrokers across the Atlantic.Here s some positives, because on the internet you re supposed to try to make friends and respect your elders Noys gives a solid history and background for accelerationism You can learn a bit about where accelerationist ideas came from by reading this book, and come up with a nice reading list Also, Noys is careful enough to not take the most belligerent and wrong headed polemical critique of accelerationism Imagine this book written by someone much less intelligent, oreven worse.a critical theorist And on that note, I applaud Noys for trying to criticize accelerationism It is an absolutely worthwhile project to try and dispel the illusions and hype surrounding accelerationism Unfortunately, this book is just too short and underdeveloped to be worth reading Noys just presents some unsubstantiated things he thinks about accelerationism as a middle of the road Socialist, and summarizes a series of books you can just read for yourself Skip it, or read it and defend your favorite theorist s honor if you feel so inclined.

  2. says:

    i don t think it is entirely unfair to say that Noys critique only comes together in the final chapter The part on Bataille and anal economy is indigestibly hard going as I clearly didn t have the pre requisite background knowledge, though honestly I don t see how it ties into the rest of the book You will emerge from the other side having a better understanding of the intellectual predecessors of contemporary accelerationism Italian fascismo futurism , but not with a clear grasp of why it is not a project worth being invested in Actually even the term contemporary accelerationism is a misnomer since accelerationism is by no means a monolithic movement Noys does mention in passing Nick and William s Inventing the Future, but he does not properly distinguish it from Nick Land type hyperstitional Shoggoth accelerationism, which I believe is the intended target of his critique of going all the way , of the celebration of the merging of living labor with dead labor i might have to revisit this text again.

  3. says:

    Wilfully obscure, sloppily thought out tract on how you probably shouldn t meld with your fridge.

  4. says:

    Not convinced on Noys argument agains accelerationism which seems to only come in in the last small chapter Is a good chronology of accelerationism in its different forms.

  5. says:

    Noys book suffers from a few fatal flaws that will be briefly outlined here First, numerous grammatical and editorial errors show sloppiness on the work of not only Noys, but also Zer0 Second, Noys is extremely good at saying a lot without actually saying much He skims a great many topics and assumes readers will just understand how they all interlink without any explication While this is fine for some texts that are not making particularly novel claims, forcing the reader to make your arguments for you is not a good place to be in if you re trying to bring something new to the table Third, Noys tends to get distracted and go off talking about unrelated topics when he ought to stick to a given topic Finally, I worry that he strawmanned the accelerationist position insofar as he just provides lip service to DG, Lyotard, and others without fully explaining what he s arguing against The only redeeming part of Noys book is his treatment of Italian Futurism and Soviet Communism His analysis provides a nice, cursory look at topics that ought to be investigated The look, however, is very surface level At the end of the day, Noys bit off than he could chew and thus his chapters seem disorganized and rushed with some not being relevant at all.

  6. says:

    Leaves much to be desired, especially a thorough discussion of Nick Land s positions on accelerationism But I guess the book was planned to be a handy short book for people who are interested in accelerationism but not necessarily immersed pun intended in the contemporary discussions about it The best part is on Russian and Italian futurisms.

  7. says:

    thanks for the summaries, would have preferred actual ideas

  8. says:

    Parts of this book were decidedly a bit beyond my comprehension and took awhile for me to dig around the vocabulary I am not that familiar with, but beyond that, I am surprised by the well roundedness of Noys s exploration of the topic As such, some quotes showing his words are better than my attempt to sum them up What we can trace between anti accelerationists and accelerationists is a strangeconvergence on nostalgia nostalgia for a vanishing possibility of socialist slow down, itself aterminal slide away from socialism, versus a capitalist ostalgie that can only fill in our absentfuture with past dreams of acceleration This is a painful irony for accelerationism, inparticular, which stakes so much on its futurism The nostalgia is a nostalgia for forces adesire for something, anything, to generate enough energy and momentum to break thehorizon of the present It is important that this is a metaphysics of forces, and not force in thesingular, to account for the dispersion and linking of different possible sites into a plane ofimmanence Accelerationism is constructive, but the construct replicates the past in the guiseof a possible future If accelerationism points to the problem of labor as the moving contradiction of capital both source of value, and squeezed out by the machine then it tries to solve thiscontradiction by alchemising labor with the machine I want to suggest that this is not asolution We can t speed through to some future labor delegated to the machine, nor can wereturn to the good old days of labor as honest day s work In fact, accelerationism indicatesthe impossibility of labor within the form of capitalism This obviously doesn t mean labordoes not take place, but it means labor can t and doesn t perform the function of political,social, and economic validation capitalism implies The readiness of capitalism to abandonany particular form of labor at the drop of a hat, or at the drop of the markets, suggests thatlabor cannot carry the ideological weight it is supposed to.In his study of workers in post Apartheid South Africa Franco Barchiesi has detailed how,on the one hand, work is the condition of neoliberal citizenship, and how, on the other hand,it can t allow for true self reproduction The privatization of healthcare, insurance,transportation costs, home ownership, etc., leaves those lucky enough to be in work unableto survive While labor is essential for citizenship if we think of the demonization of welfare scroungers , benefit cheats , and so on and on it also never performs thatfunctionWhat is also crucial about Barchiesi s argument is that he notes that the revelation of this precariousness or impossibility of labor does not simply lead to left wing political activation but, in the current ideological context, is as likely to lead to anti immigrant and anti welfare sentiments Those struggling to survive as precarious workers are as likely to turn on others as they are to start new forms of support and struggle that recognize the impossibility of work This is, I think, one of the crucial conundrums of the present moment Accelerationism tries to resolve it in machinic integration and extinction, which bypasses the problem of consciousness, awareness, and struggle in a logic of immersion We are torn by the moving contradiction of capital into two broken halves that can t be put back together.A working solution, to be deliberately ironic, is to struggle for decommodification of ourlives Campaigns against privatization and for the return of privatized services to publiccontrol try to reduce our dependence on work by attacking the way work is supposed toaccount for all of our self reproduction These struggles are in parallel for struggles to defendpublic services, protect benefits, and sustain social and collective forms of support Whilethey may be unglamorous, especially compared to space travel, these struggles can negate theconditions of the impossibility of work by trying to detach work from its ideological andmaterial role as the validation of citizenship and existence.

  9. says:

    Gives a nice, fairly concise yet comprehensive history of the CCRU brand of accelerationism and its forerunners A couple of the latter chapters of critique didn t land as hard for me, but most of this was quite solid I thought.

  10. says:

    As one of the few perhaps the only book length critiques of accelerationism, Malign Velocities provides a powerful and necessary alternative approach to the idea that the only valuable strategy the political left can adopt in the second decade of the twenty first century is not to resist, rather to speed up capitalist modes of production in order to assist them in reaching their own breaking point Noys navigates through historical examples of accelerationism, identifying common themes shared by the Italian Futurists, defiant communist accelerationists such as Aleksei Gastev, the post 68 machinic utopianists such as Deleuze Guattari and Pynchon, and the cyberpunk phuturists of the 90s, Nick Land and the Ccru Of course this means that Noys definition of accelerationism is quite generic, and his individual critiques tend not to travel far beyond their own chapters Regardless many of his criticisms tend to stick in the memory and seem fair and measured as opposed to unfair and scathing accelerationism as utopian excess , experienced as jouissance ecstasy that collapses into masochistic pain an ironically nostalgic attempt to recreate the future of the past and a postgraduate disorder suggesting the postgraduate s confrontation of the world of labour of which they are about to be integrated as one of future horror endless and trivial Particular attention is given to accelerationism s machinic impulses Noys suggests the ongoing theme of the integration of man and machine note the gender is symptomatic of the desires to produce the Real as the Real of production and circulation italics in original and to integrate the repetitive and deadening circuit of the sexual drive into the deadening circuit of labour Using Walter Benjamin s reading of The Railway Disaster at the Firth of Tay as a springboard, Noys begins to plot out an alternative to accelerationism that doesn t simply regress back into traditional failing proletarian narratives Two key measures would be to tap and resist the incitement of desire that capitalism produces and a restoration of the sense of friction that interrupts and disrupts the fundamental accelerationist fantasy of smooth integration.