Is there a word for an ‘argument’ so soggily insubstantial that it has to be scooped into a pair of scare-quotes to be apprehended, even in its self-dissolution? If there were, I’d have been using it all the time recently. Among the latest occasions is a blog post by Charlie Stross, which describes itself as “a political speculation” before disappearing into the gray goomenon. Nothing in it really holds together, but it’s fun in its own way, especially if it’s taken as a sign of something else.
The ‘something else’ is a subterranean complicity between Neoreaction and Accelerationism (the latter linked here, Stross-style, in its most recent, Leftist version). Communicating with fellow ‘Hammer of Neoreaction’ David Brin, Stross asks: “David, have you run across the left-wing equivalent of the Neo-Reactionaries — the Accelerationists?” He then continues, invitingly: “Here’s my (tongue in cheek) take on both ideologies: Trotskyite singularitarians for Monarchism!”
Stross is a comic-future novelist, so it’s unrealistic to expect much more than a dramatic diversion (or anything more at all, actually). After an entertaining meander through parts of the Trotskyite-neolibertarian social-graph, which could have been deposited on a time-like curve out of Singularity Sky, we’ve learnt that Britain’s Revolutionary Communist Party has been on a strange path, but whatever connection there was to Accelerationism, let alone Neoreaction, has been entirely lost. Stross has the theatrical instinct to end the performance before it became too embarrassing: “Welcome to the century of the Trotskyite monarchists, the revolutionary reactionaries, and the fringe politics of the paradoxical!” (OK.) Curtain closes. Still, it was all comparatively good humored (at least in contrast to Brin’s increasingly enraged head-banging).
Neoreaction is Accelerationism with a flat tire. Described less figuratively, it is the recognition that the acceleration trend is historically compensated. Beside the speed machine, or industrial capitalism, there is an ever more perfectly weighted decelerator, which gradually drains techno-economic momentum into its own expansion, as it returns dynamic process to meta-stasis. Comically, the fabrication of this braking mechanism is proclaimed as progress. It is the Great Work of the Left. Neoreaction arises through naming it (without excessive affection) as the Cathedral.
Is the trap to be exploded (as advocated Accelerationism), or has the explosion been trapped (as diagnosed by Neoreaction)? — That is the cybernetic puzzle-house under investigation. Some quick-sketch background might be helpful.
The germinal catalyst for Accelerationism was a call in Deleuze & Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus (1972) to “accelerate the process”. Working like termites within the rotting mansion of Marxism, which was systematically gutted of all Hegelianism until it became something utterly unrecognizable, D&G vehemently rejected the proposal that anything had ever “died of contradictions”, or ever would. Capitalism was not born from a negation, nor would it perish from one. The death of capitalism could not be delivered by the executioner’s ax of a vengeful proletariat, because the closest realizable approximations to ‘the negative’ were inhibitory, and stabilizing. Far from propelling ‘the system’ to its end, they slowed the dynamic to a simulacrum of systematicity, retarding its approach to an absolute limit. By progressively comatizing capitalism, anti-capitalism dragged it back into a self-conserving social structure, suppressing its eschatological implication. The only way Out was onward.
Marxism is the philosophical version of a Parisian accent, a rhetorical type, and in the case of D&G it becomes something akin to a higher sarcasm, mocking every significant tenet of the faith. The bibliography of Capitalism and Schizophrenia (of which Anti-Oedipus is the first volume) is a compendium of counter-Marxist theory, from drastic revisions (Braudel), through explicit critiques (Wittfogel), to contemptuous dismissals (Nietzsche). The D&G model of capitalism is not dialectical, but cybernetic, defined by a positive coupling of commercialization (“decoding”) and industrialization (“Deterritorialization”), intrinsically tending to an extreme (or “absolute limit”). Capitalism is the singular historical installation of a social machine based upon cybernetic escalation (positive feedback), reproducing itself only incidentally, as an accident of continuous socio-industrial revolution. Nothing brought to bear against capitalism can compare to the intrinsic antagonism it directs towards its own actuality, as it speeds out of itself, hurtling to the end already operative ‘within’ it. (Of course, this is madness.)
A detailed appreciation of “Left Accelerationism” is a joke for another occasion. “Speaking on behalf of a dissident faction within the modern braking mechanism, we’d really like to see things move forward a lot faster.” OK, perhaps we can work something out … If this ‘goes anywhere’ it can only get more entertaining. (Stross is right about that.)
Neoreaction has far greater impetus, and associated diversity. If reduced to a spectrum, it includes a wing even more Leftist than the Left, since it critiques the Cathedral for failing to stop the craziness of Modernity with anything like sufficient vigor. You let this monster off the leash and now you can’t stop it might be its characteristic accusation.
On the Outer Right (in this sense) is found a Neoreactionary Re-Accelerationism, which is to say: a critique of the decelerator, or of ‘progressive’ stagnation as an identifiable institutional development — the Cathedral. From this perspective, the Cathedral acquires its teleological definition from its emergent function as the cancellation of capitalism: what it has to become is the more-or-less precise negative of historical primary process, such that it composes — together with the ever more wide-flung society-in-liquidation it parasitizes — a metastatic cybernetic megasystem, or super-social trap. ‘Progress’ in its overt, mature, ideological incarnation is the anti-trend required to bring history to a halt. Conceive what is needed to prevent acceleration into techno-commercial Singularity, and the Cathedral is what it will be.
Self-organizing compensatory apparatuses — or negative feedback assemblies — develop erratically. They search for equilibrium through a typical behavior labeled ‘hunting’ — over-shooting adjustments and re-adjustments that produce distinctive wave-like patterns, ensuring the suppression of runaway dynamics, but producing volatility. Cathedral hunting behavior of sufficient crudity would be expected to generate occasions of ‘Left Singularity’ (with subsequent dynamic ‘restorations’) as inhibitory adjustment over-shoots into system crash (and re-boot). Even these extreme oscillations, however, are internal to the metastatic super-system they perturb, insofar as an overall gradient of Cathedralization persists. Anticipating escape at the pessimal limit of the metastatic hunting cycle is a form of paleo-Marxist delusion. The cage can only be broken on the way up.
For Re-Accelerationist Neoreaction, escape into uncompensated cybernetic runaway is the guiding objective — strictly equivalent to intelligence explosion, or techno-commercial Singularity. Everything else is a trap (by definitive, system-dynamic necessity). It might be that monarchs have some role to play in this, but it’s by no means obvious that they do.