On #Accelerate (#2a)

Assume — at least provisionally — that Accelerationism is serious. While abstracted from physics, the concept of acceleration is not reduced to mere rhetoric (or metaphor), even if it is no longer applied to changes in the velocity of objects in space. It refers strictly to change of the first derivative (or higher) in a measurable quantity across time, formally compliant with the differential calculus. The rate of acceleration — or system performance — can be estimated in principle, even if practical considerations complicate this task. In other words, the object of accelerationist attention (and promotion) has demonstrable reality.

The intellectual history of industrial capitalism advances two streams of (quantitative) information, both of great apparent relevance. On its technical side, it produces an apparatus of rigorous measurement directed to the behavior of complex physical systems, or machines — temperature differences, free energy, thermodynamic efficiency, entropy dissipation, complexity, information, and (emergently) intelligence. On its commercial side it establishes institutions of accountancy and econometrics, denominated in currency units, and applied to economic production, income, taxes, trade flows, credit, asset values, and increasingly exotic financial instruments. While an argument could be made that the confluence of these two streams is implicit within — and even essential to — the nature (or culture) of capitalism, with intelligence-price discovery as its immanent epistemological directive, no such results are readily or publicly available. There might even be reasons for suspecting that the raw question how much is intelligence worth? cannot be overtly articulated within any imaginable social order. It is, in any case, a distraction at this stage.

Despite remarkable progress in the technical study of ever-larger complex objects, and the obvious relevance of this work to accelerationist concerns, it is the socio-economical rather than the techno-mechanical mode of quantification that is advantaged in the analysis of very large scale systems, especially in regards to those entities — up to the level of the global economy — which have monetized their own processes, and thus quantified themselves prior to their theoretical objectification. The enormous theoretical relief provided in this way is such that even the most severe conceptual difficulties (with which we shall soon collide) are unable entirely to annul it. (Information sciences offer comparable relief on the technical side, but it is restricted solely to the domain of artificial digital machines.)

The compelling attraction of a comprehensive, rigorous, non-anthropomorphic apprehension of terrestrial modernity as a complex system, machine, or emergent individual, to be described through its thermodynamic, dissipative, or intelligenic properties, is such that this aspiration is unlikely to be wholly excised from the accelerationist intellectual program (as it exists, and as it will necessarily exist due to systemically-generated modernist impulses). Despite this, it is probably uncontroversial to expect the consolidation of accelerationist theory to initially take shape through reference to cultural resources of economic description, analysis, explanation, and practical proposition. The first intellectually credible version of accelerationism cannot realistically be anything other than a global economic theory of modernity.

“A global theory of modernity? You mean, like Marxism?” Yes, in a way, very much like Marxism. The tracks are already set in a direction that allows only two destinations: Accelerationism can either be Marxism, or its substitute — an upgrade or a competitor.

The tracks lead across the same country in either case, at least initially. It is worth sketching out some shared presuppositions, to be inherited by whatever Accelerationism becomes.

(1) The tendential globality of Capitalism is a signature of its virtual singularity (as a real individual) and not merely an effect of generalization across space. ‘Terrestrial Capitalism’ (or whatever else we might want to call it) is the proper name of a thing, rather than a generic label. It is an occurrence, or machine, before it is any kind of social type.

(2) Capitalism is at least integral to actual modernity, if not (in its own actuality) unambiguously coincident with it. A completed theory of capitalism — however hypothetical this idea has to be — would explain modernity, across all its distinctive features, including the genesis and destiny of (modern) anti-capitalism.

(3) Capitalism is essentially cumulative. It is not something to which growth can be attributed as an extrinsic property. Even occasions of capitalist shrinkage or contraction are restricted to specific dimensions, and intelligible only through an enveloping expansionary trend.

(4) The self-propelling growth that — when adequately understood — defines capitalism is necessarily expressed as an economic index. An economic meta-theory capable of decrypting this index, through some set of consistent mathematical transformations of the system’s own price information, is able to access data sufficient to support the body of empirical conclusions and projections that make up the accelerationist description of capitalism. This theory, therefore, will be denominated in units of economic value strictly isomorphic with those composing the planetary aggregate of effectively monetizable wealth (whose extreme speculative virtuality describes the horizon of economic-theoretical possibility).

It is notable that at some stage in point (4), this enumeration of shared presuppositions switches over into something else.
[So this might be a good moment for a break]

7 thoughts on “On #Accelerate (#2a)

    • Thanks — I’ll process it at the maximum practical speed. (The focus of the recent Brassier piece — so bound to be interesting.)

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  2. I’ll try to be succinct so not to betray myself as too much of an econometrician and too poor a political economist;

    — can’t some still-deleuzoguattarean accelerationism abstract away from the nitty-gritty of marxian capital theory (and thus the drudgery of the transformation problem) so to work with a generic “drive” — capital as the desiring-production of capital — at the microeconomic level?

    (I mean, reswitching makes neoclassical “capital” wobbly at best at a macro level, but at a micro level you get _Damodaran on Valuation_ — I keep insisting on this because it’s a wonderful Martha Stewart Cookbook of corner cases in practical problems.)

    Otherwise, on (4), you really want to look at Eric Weinstein’s work (the gauge theory welfare stuff), even if it looks inaccessible at first. It’s a generalized theory of “rise over run” on general indices.

    • How do we measure “generic ‘drive'”? (I agree it’s probably the ‘real thing’ we’re aiming at, but we need a quantifiable empirical proxy, if we’re not going to be merely guessing about its dynamics.) I’m going to try to spiral into this a little deeper today.

      I’m not familiar with Eric Weinstein — added to the reading list.

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  4. Yeah well. This might be just why I keep finding “accelerationism” unsatisfactory either as critical theory or positive economics. As I said in the other place, never seems to be either more exciting than Damodaran or less vague than Stross.

    What’s really needed to begin with, it seems to me, is some anepistemological referrent/pointer to external reality so our mental models edge past the limitation of foreseeing merely the situations they can conceive of. Meillassoux’s “Great Outdoors” is something of that sort, although it does seem that it misses haecceity, the specifically-this-ness of situations.

    I mean, this before we can really discuss emergence and reductionism on clear terms. If there is any kind of irreducible emergence, it’s the “great outdoor haecceitas”. Maybe all we can actually know of capitalism is in unsexy equity valuation manuals — “solve for NPV = 0” is still a shining, blinding light to the actual dynamics of actual capital. (Capital, I sustain, is highly characteristic, but highly specific. Wasn’t Marx trying to say that all quidditas melts into haecceitas?)

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