Accelerationism - Wikipedia

In political and social theory, accelerationism is the idea that capitalism, or some processes associated with it, and technological change should be "accelerated" and drastically intensified to create radical social change.[1] Sometimes, and often in a pejorative sense, it may refer to the theory that the end of capitalism should be brought about by its acceleration.[2][3][4] The French critical theorists Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's idea of deterritorialization, as developed in the two volumes of their work Capitalism and Schizophrenia, as well as aspects of the theoretical systems and processes developed by English philosopher Nick Land, are important influences on accelerationism, which aims to analyze and promote the social, economic, cultural and libidinal forces that constitute the process of acceleration.[5]

Accelerationist theory has often been divided into mutually contradictory left-wing and right-wing variants. Left-wing accelerationism (abbreviated "L/Acc"[6]) attempts to press "the process of technological evolution" beyond the restrictions of capitalism[clarification needed] by dismantling and reusing modern technology.[example needed] On the other hand, right-wing accelerationism (abbreviated "R/Acc"[6]) supports the indefinite intensification of capitalism, in order to bring about a technological singularity, which is a hypothetical point in time where technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible.[7][8][9] Accelerationist writers have additionally distinguished other variants such as "unconditional accelerationism" (abbreviated "U/Acc")[10] and "gender accelerationism" (abbreviated "G/Acc").[11]

The term accelerationism has also been appropriated and placed into contexts distanced from accelerationist ideas, often as a description of violent extremist goals and strategies. White nationalists have been known to refer to an "acceleration" of racial conflict through terrorism, societal collapse, and the building of a white ethnostate.[12][13][14]

Background and influences[edit]

English philosopher, theorist and writer Nick Land, commonly credited with creating and inspiring accelerationism's basic ideas and concepts, outlined a number of philosophers who express anticipatory accelerationist attitudes in his 2017 essay "A Quick-and-Dirty Introduction to Accelerationism".[15][6] Friedrich Nietzsche argued in a fragment in The Will to Power that "the leveling process of European man is the great process which should not be checked: one should even accelerate it".[16] Taking inspiration from this notion, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, in their 1972 book Anti-Oedipus, speculated on an unprecedented "revolutionary path" to further perpetuate capitalism's tendencies that would later become a central idea of accelerationism:

But which is the revolutionary path? Is there one?—To withdraw from the world market, as Samir Amin advises Third World countries to do, in a curious revival of the fascist "economic solution"? Or might it be to go in the opposite direction? To go still further, that is, in the movement of the market, of decoding and deterritorialization? For perhaps the flows are not yet deterritorialized enough, not decoded enough, from the viewpoint of a theory and a practice of a highly schizophrenic character. Not to withdraw from the process, but to go further, to "accelerate the process," as Nietzsche put it: in this matter, the truth is that we haven't seen anything yet.[17]

Land also cites Karl Marx, who in his 1848 speech "On the Question of Free Trade" also anticipated accelerationist principles a century before Deleuze and Guattari by describing free trade as socially destructive and fueling class conflict, then effectively arguing for it:

But, in general, the protective system of our day is conservative, while the free trade system is destructive. It breaks up old nationalities and pushes the antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the extreme point. In a word, the free trade system hastens the social revolution. It is in this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, that I vote in favor of free trade.[18]

Contemporary accelerationism[edit]

The Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (CCRU), an experimental theory collective that existed from 1995 to 2003,[19] included Land as well as other influential social theorists such as Mark Fisher and Sadie Plant as members.[20] Prominent contemporary left-wing accelerationists include Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, authors of the "Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics";[8] and the Laboria Cuboniks collective, who authored the manifesto "Xenofeminism: A Politics for Alienation".[21] For Mark Fisher, writing in 2012, "Land's withering assaults on the academic left [...] remain trenchant", although problematic since "Marxism is nothing if it is not accelerationist".[22] Benjamin H. Bratton's book The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty has been described as concerning accelerationist ideas, focusing on how information technology infrastructures undermine modern political geographies and proposing an open-ended "design brief". Tiziana Terranova's "Red Stack Attack!" links Bratton's stack model and left-wing accelerationism.[23] Out of Xenofeminism grew a strand of accelerationist thought labeled "gender accelerationism," asserting that the destruction of the patriarchy and the gender binary is not just a preferred future, but an outright inevitability of capitalism's acceleration.[11] Aria Dean notably synthesized the theory of Racial Capitalism with accelerationism, arguing that the binary between humans, and machines and capital, is already blurred by the scars of the Atlantic slave trade.[24]

Several commentators have used the label accelerationist to describe a controversial political strategy articulated by the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek.[25][26] An example often cited of this is when, in a November 2016 interview with Channel 4 News, Žižek asserted that were he an American citizen, he would vote for previous U.S. president Donald Trump as the candidate more likely to disrupt the status quo of politics in that country.[27]

Since accelerationism was coined in 2010 by Benjamin Noys to describe Land and his proponents, the term has suffered from considerable conceptual stretching and has taken on several new meanings, often appropriated by right-wing extremist movements, that has led the term to be sensationalized on multiple occasions.[28]

Far-right accelerationism[edit]

Since the late 2010s, neo-Nazis, white nationalists and white supremacists have increasingly used the term "accelerationism" to refer to extremist goals and ideals of violently establishing a white ethnostate.[13][14] The inspiration for this distinct variation is occasionally cited as American Nazi Party and National Socialist Liberation Front member James Mason's newsletter Siege, where he argued for sabotage, mass killings and assassinations of high-profile targets to destabilize and destroy the current system, seen as a system upholding a Jewish and multicultural New World Order. His works were republished and popularized by Iron March and Atomwaffen Division, groups strongly connected to terrorist attacks, murders and assaults.[29][30][31] According to Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate groups and files class action lawsuits against discriminatory organizations and entities, "on the case of white supremacists, the accelerationist set sees modern society as irredeemable and believe it should be pushed to collapse so a fascist society built on ethnonationalism can take its place. What defines white supremacist accelerationists is their belief that violence is the only way to pursue their political goals."[31][12]

Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the perpetrator of the Christchurch mosque shootings that killed 51 people and injured 49 others, had embraced right-wing accelerationism in a section of his manifesto titled "Destabilization and Accelerationism: tactics". It also influenced John Timothy Earnest, the man accused of causing the Escondido mosque fire at Dar-ul-Arqam Mosque in Escondido, California; and committing the Poway synagogue shooting which resulted in one dead and three injured, and influenced Patrick Crusius, the man accused of committing the El Paso Walmart shooting that killed 23 people and injured 23 others.[32]

Although these extremist variants and their connected strings of terrorist attacks are regarded as definitely uninformed by critical theory which was a prime source of inspiration for Land's original ideas that led to accelerationism, Land became interested in the Atomwaffen-affiliated organization Order of Nine Angles that adheres to the ideology of neo-nazi terrorist accelerationism, describing O9A's works as "highly-recommended" in a blog post.[33]


Further reading[edit]