Philosophy, Cyberpunk, Politics and Jungle
June 11, 2017 9:30 AM   Subscribe

 
Blech. I prefer a technological post-scarcity leisure utopia, myself.
posted by Foosnark at 10:49 AM on June 11, 2017 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I dunno. I was a huge fan of Mark K-Punk - I randomly stumbled across his blog about 2006; it's not that I'm hostile to the whole lot. But there's just something really odd that doesn't work.

I think some of it is depression, honestly, because I think that most of their work leans on the idea that horror is both truer and better than stable ordinary life, and that most people would feel this way if only they could see - so a plunge into a chaotic, violent, unjust, unstable future is actually what we should all welcome. The purpose of a lot of the drifts and other stuff that Mark K-Punk seemed to be into was always to uncover the horror beneath the benign. And the thing is, there's horror beneath the benign, sure, but there's also, like, good things in the midst of horror. For me, I sometimes felt like his blog and the associated ones were tipping me back into the depressive episode that I'd pretty much barely beaten a few years previously.

That is, I feel like a lot of the work I've read from people around these ideas seems to me to be work by people who can't imagine that anyone could authentically want a life that was plannable, stable and not full of sudden dramatic crises, shifts, interpersonal chaos,sudden shifts from ecstacy-to-nervous-breakdown, etc. And part of that's temperament, which is fine, people are different from one another, but part of it is, I think, just plain old depression.

It also sort of bugs me that inevitably these people drift off to very nice, cosy, middle/upper-middle existences. It's like, have the fucking courage of your convictions - you want to consign us all to a chaotic, unequal, violent future and yet you, like, move to the country, have a perfectly conventional marriage and have kids, or fuck off to some well-paid corporate gig. As usual with this type of left, they want to advocate for disaster while being assure that they themselves will go on like Jack in the boat, doing very nicely.
posted by Frowner at 11:26 AM on June 11, 2017 [24 favorites]


Blech. I prefer a technological post-scarcity leisure utopia, myself.

You and me both, but, at some point, there needs to be cyberjacks and hacking The Man.
posted by Samizdata at 11:28 AM on June 11, 2017


I mean, one thing I don't get with accelerationism - if the "natural" state of the world is unchained capitalism creating perpetual inequality, injustice and chaos, why celebrate that? Why not say "the natural state of the world is horrible, maybe we can't beat it entirely but we're going to give it a damn good try"?
posted by Frowner at 11:36 AM on June 11, 2017 [9 favorites]


Never trust academics who use "academic" as an insult.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 11:41 AM on June 11, 2017 [2 favorites]


This was an interesting read - less about "accelerationists" as I see the term used here, though I have about as many warm feelings toward either expression, as specifically about Land and the CCRU. The article sort of tries to paint Land as a brilliant mind who fell from grace, but frankly every example of "brilliant mind Land" leaves the impression that he went from being a racist, crackpot douchebag to being a racist, crackpot douchebag. Land at his peak doesn't sound any more compelling or coherent than his legacy today in the alt-right/"Dark Enlightenment" New Fascists.
posted by byanyothername at 11:58 AM on June 11, 2017 [5 favorites]


I like the bit where they all got into Crowley and Lovecraft and then went mad. Also JUNGLE IS MASSIVE (god, I miss the 90s, esp the cyber-90s)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:07 PM on June 11, 2017 [5 favorites]


β€œI think [Nick Land is] one of the most important philosophers of the last 50 years.”

πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚
posted by RogerB at 12:17 PM on June 11, 2017 [1 favorite]


"There was always a tendency in all of us to bait the liberal, and Nick was the best at it.”

When philosophy becomes trolling.
posted by bodywithoutorgans at 12:20 PM on June 11, 2017


β€œI think [Nick Land is] one of the most important philosophers of the last 50 years.”


Or on the other hand just another high status idiot asshat.
posted by Pembquist at 1:04 PM on June 11, 2017 [1 favorite]


These people are idiots, but it was an interesting read. What got me, though, was the very start:
Half a century ago, in the great hippie year of 1967, an acclaimed young American science fiction writer, Roger Zelazny, published his third novel. [...] He and the book are largely forgotten now.
Zelazny forgotten? Say it ain't so! To me he'll always be an acclaimed young American science fiction writer.
posted by languagehat at 2:41 PM on June 11, 2017 [5 favorites]


β€œthe sacred substance amphetamine" explains a lot. If you say you're into ''Acceleration' but you're only discovering Neuromancer in the late 1990s them you're doing it wrong. Even Bono and Billy Idol had been using it as a town by then. Has anyone told these people about Snowcrash yet?

And yeah, how have more people not read Lord of Light?
posted by meehawl at 5:59 PM on June 11, 2017 [3 favorites]


For "town" read "totem". Looks like my accelerationist pocket wonder computer is still lacking something. This is a long way from what "Accelerando" promised.
posted by meehawl at 6:19 PM on June 11, 2017


This article rules IMHO.
posted by liliillliil at 9:50 PM on June 11, 2017


Finding out that Nick Land, touchstone for neo-feudalism, started a cult in a philosophy department both vindicates my belief that cults are mostly about social dynamics and not the subject matter, and makes me wonder how much of the world's evil comes from people getting caught up in a cult of some kind.
posted by Merus at 11:18 PM on June 11, 2017 [3 favorites]


This all reads very reminiscent of Italian Futurism to me. The embrace of speed and change, the need to shock, the celebration of freedom mixed with massive cultishness, the eventual dissolution into very conservative right-wing thought.

Plus the Futurists did better art.
posted by Zarkonnen at 2:55 AM on June 12, 2017 [5 favorites]


Frowner: The answer to your question is easy. "The world is terrible, but the people who are going to suffer are people who aren't us, ergo we don't need to give a shit. Pass the speed."
posted by SansPoint at 7:33 AM on June 12, 2017


I mean, one thing I don't get with accelerationism - if the "natural" state of the world is unchained capitalism creating perpetual inequality, injustice and chaos, why celebrate that? Why not say "the natural state of the world is horrible, maybe we can't beat it entirely but we're going to give it a damn good try"?

Because the naturalistic or is-ought fallacy is itself natural.
posted by srboisvert at 10:11 AM on June 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


I think the Futurism comparison is apt - as is the observation about their relative artistry. Futurism also fetishised the machine as a higher order of creation, to be evolved towards or subsumed within, an idea which ain't dead yet. That iteration collapsed when the realities of machines and violence became all too apparent, but apparently it takes a few goes around the loop for it to sink in. If it ever will.

And, yes, all of the above as a method to sieve the elect from the chaff, the sheep from the goats, the true inheritors of greatness from those too thick or too weak to fall into line.

Fascism (for want of the better word) is in some ways a weaponised mutant of the engineer's disease virus, and it does love its technology; science is a mutation of the enlightenment, and they live in symbiosis. The one person most responsible for the modern, technology-moderated world, was Hitler - how many seeds were planted in the second world war, and forcibly cultivated in the world that was his immediate legacy? Think how many people died in horror to kick off the joys of Youtube at 35,000'.

The irony is that once technology actually gets into the hands of the authoritarians, it usually terrifies them with its potential; they lock down and steal what they can, but the sort of amplifications it offers to the common man are too dangerous to let flower. Clever stuff, clever people: hard to trust either. A few years back, I visited the Stasi museum in Berlin. The Stasi loved their high technology, but had to engineer an entire society where 'high tech' meant the best the 1970s could do. Moore's Law applied to the non-compliant as much as the compliant, and that would never do.

The most fascinating experiment along these lines is what the authoritarian, modern states are doing with the Internet. We're living through that now. You may have noticed. Can centralised control win against personal empowerment? Is network neutrality the Second Amendment in disguise, and will it have comparable consequences?

Tune in next week.
posted by Devonian at 2:00 PM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Devonian: I think the Futurism comparison is apt - as is the observation about their relative artistry. Futurism also fetishised the machine as a higher order of creation, to be evolved towards or subsumed within, an idea which ain't dead yet. That iteration collapsed when the realities of machines and violence became all too apparent, but apparently it takes a few goes around the loop for it to sink in. If it ever will.

And, yes, all of the above as a method to sieve the elect from the chaff, the sheep from the goats, the true inheritors of greatness from those too thick or too weak to fall into line.


Yup. And often the people perpetuating this awful shit (at least those who know they're perpetuating it) are often the ones who think they'll make it through the sieve. And they're often wrong.
posted by SansPoint at 2:10 PM on June 12, 2017


For another aspect, Nerdwriter on Ghost in the Shell's establishing intermission.
posted by Devonian at 6:48 PM on June 12, 2017


It also sort of bugs me that inevitably these people drift off to very nice, cosy, middle/upper-middle existences.

Came here to say this. It fits in very well with that British tradition of radicalism play making by bored middle class academics: talks big, doesn't follow through, is in the end just trolling, freaking out the bourgeois.

Mark Fisher though moved away from that. I got to his K-Punk blog through Richard Seymour's Leninology and that was much more leftwing and thoughtful. Fischer's Capitalist Realism especially is a good, short look at the idea of capitalism as the only alternative.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:58 AM on June 14, 2017


languagehat: "Zelazny forgotten? Say it ain't so! To me he'll always be an acclaimed young American science fiction writer."

I don't think he ever truly delivered on his promise, though. There's a certain tossed-off quality to most of his stuff, and he admitted that much of his later work (like later Amber novels) was strictly to address financial problems he had.

[/derail]
posted by Chrysostom at 1:25 PM on June 26, 2017


Oh, I'm sure you're right; I haven't read him in many years, and it would probably be better if I didn't revisit the stuff I loved when I was a teenager. My comment was basically about me and the passage of time, not about Zelazny.
posted by languagehat at 1:32 PM on June 26, 2017


Metafilter: Oh, I'm sure [Chrysostom's] right.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:53 PM on June 26, 2017


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