Open Project to Investigate Money and Economic Systems

Posts tagged accelerationism

Hilan on Acceleration

:: accelerationism

This was originally a comment Hilan made on my earlier Accelerationism post. But now I’m migrating the OPTIMAES blog from WordPress to Frog, comments have got lost. So repeating it here as a post.

Interesting way of putting things. Now, Phil and I in conversation considered responses to the (pro-capitalist, maybe libertarian) challenge that can be expressed like this: “to be against capitalism is to be a conservative”. This challenge can responded in three different ways that we can sketch like this:

  1. Bite the bullet and embrace a conservative discourse (trying to preserve the institutions that capitalism chews up, or the planet as we suppose it was before the arrival of Mr K.) This would amount to say that there is nothing wrong about conservatism provided that we are defending conservation of what is worth conserving.

  2. Dissolve the challenge by saying that there is not a single-track road, and to fight against the erosion of institutions by capital is not necessarily to preserve these institutions but rather to defend changing them in a different way. Religion and community institutions do certainly need to be reformed, but not simply bought up by capital. In other words, it is not about opting only between going either one way or the other in a single given line (or faster or slower) but rather to choose which road to go through – in which line to proceed. Otherwise, one just buy into the single-track vision that makes capitalism always win.

  3. To accept the challenge and respond to it by conceiving an anticapitalism that is not conservative, but rather erodes institutions faster and better than Mr K. Such a New Eroder would attack not only the institutions that capitalism attacks but also the ones that capitalism explicitly or implicitly has to defend in order to proceed in its (eroding) business. Capitalism consumes institutions but do so by being itself conservative of some other institutions it has to hold on to in order to make sure its flows. One then can defend a non-conservative anticapitalism where more institutions are being eroded (eroded in the very same sense that capitalist erodes) and more inconvenient (oppressive, unfair, suspicious or undesirable) institutions are being eroded instead (say private property, centripetal economic units, individuals understood as pockets with reliability etc.).

I think accelerationism is in the third way to react to the challenge.

But a proviso is needed from the start. Different layers of acceleration can produce different results. So, erosion of institutions leaving behind impoverished masses and greedy concentrating corporations could be a result of a level of acceleration (call it the K level). So, more acceleration doesn’t mean bringing up more destruction. Destruction could be a product of the individuals (or pockets) that are left conserved by K-level acceleration. A K+n acceleration level, in contrast, could bring up the erosion of individuals in favor of singularities (where there is no continuity in time, no mnemonic devices, no forced reliability). It could bring a different system altogether. So, to hold on to a non-conservative anticapitalism like accelerationism is not necessarily to expect more of the same, different acceleration levels could bring something altogether different.

This leaves open the path for a Noys-like criticism: accelerationism buys into the ontology of capitalism: production, registration, flows etc. This could be the case – maybe even there is no way to get rid of these things if alternative 3 above is chosen. But perhaps the capitalist terms are also terms that make sense given the K-level of acceleration. In any case, the accelerationist can argue that these terms are probably the best ones to analyze and forge the way out of capitalism. Not that a capitalist ontology has to be embraced, but rather that it ought to be embraced to fight capitalism.

And finally, something about dividuals. I believe the individuals are the ultimate territory to be preserved by capitalism. (I’m not convinced that the oedipal structures are ultimately dispensable for K either, but let us assume familism can be eroded by a surviving capitalism.) What do I take to be individuals? Basically, individuals are pockets with a credit (that is, they are pockets capable of making promises). They have to hold on to some accountable future – and to some responsibility for their past. They are not just nodes in a network, they are credible units that, say, don’t just swallow money but produce something out of it.

Individuals are, therefore, workers in a very general sense. Proletarians are individuals that input money and output an appropriate (or inappropriate) amount of labor because there is nothing else they can output. In a sense, most people are in these condition, especially if we consider how work can be extended to most of what humans live these days. Now, dividuals, whatever they are, can be individuals if that microstructure recapitulated the macrostructure they constitute. They can be credible units, workers. But these dividuals won’t erode individuals, they would rather multiply them. What can erode individuals is something akin to Simondon’s singularities (and also close to Deleuze’s singularities). These are not workers, not credible units, not pockets capable of promises but rather just glimpses of action, gestures, operations: a bath in the river, a look through the window, a chewing of a plum etc. They are maybe like patterns. Anticapitalism should try and come up with an economic structure that afford these gestures and operations that stabilize human life (or something broader). An economic system that doesn’t operate in terms of whos that are fixed, but rather in terms of mobile, flexible, nomadic agents that could be bunches of people or parts of a person but not individuals. I believe here lies (in a sketch) a genuine possibility of erosion of capital. After all, anticapitalism is supposed to be able to provide a revolution (in the sense that capital revolutionizes) against capital.

Money and Identity

:: accelerationism, netocracy, philosophy

OPTIMAES is stirring …  a couple of different conversations in the last couple of days, with Scribe, who now runs a BitCoin blog,  with Hilan and Rodrigo on revolution, inspired us to bring it back to life, at least for the purposes of capturing a discussion.

With Hilan and Rodrigo I was debating Accelerationism and the revolutionary power of capitalism.

Hilan is sympathetic to the Accelerationist claim to out-pace capitalism and beat it at its own game. But what game is that?

In my view capital’s success is in consuming institutions. It gets its energy from ingesting community. It bubble-wraps gift-giving. It erodes trust and intrinsic motivation, substituting externalized accounting and rewards systems in their place. It puts worker against worker in the competition for wages and chews thoughtlessly through the world’s finite resources. If capital is to be opposed, it’s because we value and want to defend these other systems.

But for Hilan, capital’s main fault appears to be it’s dependency on, and protection of, institutions like the nuclear family and the humanist individual. Acceleration becomes the search for and celebration of forces which will quicken their destruction (and take capital with them).

I’m not convinced. Seems to me that capital is already finished with the nuclear family, happy for women to be equal participants within the economy. I don’t see that even the humanist individual is particularly needed. Why shouldn’t the aspects of the Deleuzian “dividual” similarly participate. Isn’t a dividual simply someone with multiple bank-accounts and credit cards?

Chatting with Scribe, today, he said :

Great talk by Dave Birch at Meaning Conf a while back too. Money is coming up against some fascinating challenges now. @dgwbirch on twitter Identity and Value are about to get messy :)

Which sort of set off  a bunch of divergent thoughts in my mind. They sure are going to get messy. I suspect that ultimately money and identity are moving to become the same thing. This is a very netocratic thought, of course.  In netocracy links themselves are the most important type of wealth. And IDs are just the end-points of links.  But even before full-blown netocracy, there’s a clear connection from identity to reputation to currency. You need ID to interface with the financial system. Your reputation blurs into your credit rating. (Update : watched the video. Yes, that’s what he says.)

If money and identity merge, one challenge is how can you retain anonymity, privacy or autonomy from the major powers (governmental and private). BitCoin is perhaps most interesting as the world’s biggest experiment into that question : how much can money be detached from identity. Can there be a meaningful way of opting out of ubiquitous financial surveillance?

Scribe again :

    that's a + of bitcoin - an address can be a line of software or an international organisation or a road sensor, or a moment in time. from a tech perspective, it's not anonymous. it's more agnostinonymous.

Which brings me back to the discussion of the dividual. Anything with an address is stable enough to play a role in the capitalist network. If we can give ID to the fragments of the dividual then they can participate in capital. In fact, we would expect capital to welcome blowing the individual to smithereens to extract the extra liquidity and fungibility that such micro-chunking would enable. Unless, the “pieces” of the dividual have an instability which eludes persistent identity. But it’s not yet clear if that’s the case. Deleuzians will have to educate me in whether the notions of sameness in their discourse are immune to sophisticated biosensors that can individuate us by the gait of our walk or the tremors in our hands. A quick glance at this suggests that the dividual’s parts are very much created by addressing, within of the system of control.

So what are the attractions of Acceleration? And can it really out-compete capital at its own game without being “worse”?

To me the best-case would be if Accelerationism is a proposed cure to a certain kind of eschatological romanticism which holds that the destruction of the existing system is a prelude to building the next. If, in contrast, Acceleration is a reminder that we must build the alternatives to capital here and now, and be prepared for them run the race against it in the world as it is - that we must give them what Robert Axelrod would call “initial viability”, the ability to compete even when they are in the minority - then I see the value. OTOH, if it’s a doubling-down on eschatalogical romanticism : an arms race to build weapons even more destructive than those of capital, then why exactly do we want it? Capital seems quite capable of bringing us change and excitement. And the destruction will come soon enough.

BTW : I keep returning to Netocracy as one of the few really plausible theories of a post-capitalist society. (I’m currently reading The Global Empire) And I’m struck again by Bard and Soderqvist’s point that the netocrat is an enthusiastic Deleuzian for whom philosophical “mobilism” is not simply freedom but a strategy of economic advancement within the game. They challenge us with a vision of a world which has successfully abandoned many of the things we say we don’t like (including “capital”), while remaining far from utopian. Is Acceleration, then, nothing but the will to power of a netocratic class struggling to bring itself to dominance?