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?