How is acceleration as a political philosophy

philosophyThe accelerationist manifesto

For some time now there has been a new political philosophy in Germany that deals with the global catastrophes of our time. It is a mixture of techno, terminator and Marx and it wants to abolish capitalism. Their representatives call themselves: accelerationists. The philosophy is: #Accelerationism and is - very modern - written with a hashtag in front of it.

This philosophy of acceleration comes from the London techno culture of the 90s. It has now become one of the outstanding pop-philosophical topics of our time. The masterminds and developers who gather under the label of accelerationism hold lectures at art colleges, write for the features section and enrich philosophical bestseller lists. For their philosophy, they rearrange their knowledge of science fiction, automation, algorithms and horror films. They do this with the aim of philosophically giving capitalism a decisive death blow. The accelerationists want to overthrow capitalism by means of capitalism. But they don't want to take to the streets, hand out leaflets or set up Occupy camps for it. They have different strategies - strategies that largely evolved with the digital subcultures over the last decade of the last century.

In search of traces of the accelerationist philosophy, I talked to the Berlin literary scholar Armen Avanessian, the "Spiegel" author Georg Diez and the economic philosopher Jette Gindner, who is working on her dissertation in New York. "Accelerationism is for the first time - since I can remember - the first time since postmodernism, which was more for older brothers or actually for us almost the fathers generation, is such a moment for 30 to 40 year olds on the one hand, political thinking is formulated in philosophy and, on the other hand, a possible vision of a political practice emerges that is beyond what is available to a relatively tired parliamentary democracy, or that also moves away from the political rituals of protesting, criticizing, of And that controls the present relatively directly. It drives at high speed. And sometimes overdrives. That used to be a performative provocation that fascinated me and many colleagues too, who then jumped at it very quickly. This is a very successful one , medially successful philosophical direction, I would say. "

"Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics"

Georg Diez is one of the early discoverers of accelerationism in the media in this country. In December 2013 he attended the first international acceleration conference organized by Armen Avanessian in Berlin. The doctor of literature, who comes from Vienna, was at the Free University in Berlin until the end of 2014. In December 2013, Avanessian published an anthology in which the basic components of the acceleration theory are explained on almost 90 pages. The authors of the "Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics" Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams draft theses against neoliberalism. You quote Marx and Lenin. They describe why, in their opinion, capitalism inhibits progress. And they name what they consider to be the most pressing problems of the present.

The accelerationists are certain: the current political structures are not suitable for getting global problems such as climate change under control. And that's because they're too slow. Because they don't understand enough about technology. Because the political structures no longer fit into a fast-paced world in which Facebook, Google, genetic research and stock trading have redefined high speed. The future of the following generations is not foreseen in the political structures, almost irrelevant. Accelerationists collectively want to convince as many people as possible to rebel against capitalism. Armen Avanessian says they need a new internet for that. An internet that is not in the hands of capital.

Creating a future that deserves its name

"I think this is not simply a question of speed, which one has to answer with further or even higher speed. It is simply the insight that we have this speed in which we live, this constant acceleration mode of capitalism, that we don't And instead of this equation of modernity = acceleration = capitalism, to counter a fantasy of retreat or oases of slowing down, so to speak. It's about the question of how one can decouple [capitalism]. But we will only be able to do that if we at the level of the existing sciences, knowledge or insight into technology and acting against it and finding it, with handing out leaflets or group meetings that will simply no longer work. "

The acceleration philosopher Armen Avanessian wants to think about the future in a new way. He wants to create a future that rightly bears its name. In 2014 several books and essays were published by him. To speculative horror. On technology and automation. And the deplorable situation of the university. In the humanities in particular, this situation is increasingly leading to depression among teaching staff, who can no longer work precisely in their subject. That feels worn out by structures that make real science impossible. These are the foundations of modern life with accelerationists like Armen Avanessian.

"My first contact was because I was in contact a lot and also worked on a philosophical movement or a new philosophical theory: speculative realism or the new speculative philosophy. Which have been around for about five or ten years and have been there pretty quickly how I started translating and editing it and introducing the objection that this is not really a political theory because it deals very much with classical philosophical topics and was out of contact with the individual philosophers I realize, of course, that this is not the case at all, that it is more the case that political issues were thought about in a different way, in a new and interesting way, something that a German audience has not yet done was known. And that's why I decided, together with the merve publishing house, to publish a few texts. "

Subversion as politics just doesn't do it

So there must be new ideas for this future. The accelerationists use science fiction to formulate these ideas. You quote authors such as the Canadian author William Gibson, who wrote the cyber-punk trilogy "Neuromancer", and other science fiction works who described an alternative future decades ago. The accelerationists take the alternative future models of the science fiction authors seriously, at least see them as being realized in a serious way. Films like "Terminator", "Matrix" or "Blade Runner" could show where technical developments are headed and what dangers lurk.

Jette Gindner, economic philosopher from New York, but speculative thinking alone is not enough: "The accelerationists are right on one point. Namely. There is no going back. Neither by decelerating. Nor by any return to humanistic ideals. Criticism of capitalism has to be avoided The only question is: How do you do it? And I would say. The nihilistic provocation alone does not work. It is absorbed very quickly by capitalism itself. If I can give you a brief example You may be familiar with Frank Sinatra's song "I did it my way." It's kind of an educational novel about how to come to terms with the rules of society. You may also know the 1978 version of the Sex Pistols, in the Sid Vicious absolutely tears the song to pieces on stage. The only question is: What happens to it in 2014? And then Sid Vicous' version of the song is suddenly the theme music for the new Acura TLX - so it is used to sell a car as particularly cool, rough and individual. What I mean by that is: Subversion as politics just doesn't work. It will ultimately be absorbed by capitalism. "

The common form of criticism of capitalism today includes demonstrations and campaigns. For example, it storms Wall Street like the Occupy movement with its camps. There are also impulses from Realpolitik to keep the negative consequences of capitalism somewhat under control: through Hartz IV and health insurance, through the provision of cheap money by the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau, cleared forests are reforested in a sustainable way and so on. Politicians are trying to regulate the banking sector. But none of that is enough for the accelerationists.

Thought provocation creates freedom in the head

This is where speculative realism, also known as "New Materialism", comes into play. He wants to break away from constructivist theories and establish a new materialistic view of the world. Matter is no longer viewed as passive material by the new materialism. Things are no longer viewed as simple-minded objects, but as assemblies of diversity. The thing is not originally a thing, but always an assembly of individual things, as in the Scandinavian “thing”, which is still used today to designate a parliament or court assembly. That sounds quite radical. Is that thing supposed to be a multitude? This new materialism is a minor scandal in idealistic Germany. The philosophical mainstream says: Consciousness determines being. The speculative realists, on the other hand, say: Being determines consciousness. They claim: There has to be a way to understand the world without people, without their thinking.

And then comes this New Materialism, which turns a common concept of thought on its head. Taken together, this is an attractive philosophy reminiscent of science fiction. Or in the words of Georg Diez: "At this point it is important to think about what the connection to speculative realism is. And that is the moment when we think the world without people. And that is for politics a challenge that is only defined by the fact that there is a human being. That means: What is a policy that actively thinks about the end of man and incorporates that into action, this consideration? Directions.

I would simply say that it is precisely this mental provocation that first creates a freedom in the head. On this basis one can then try to see capitalism naked and ruthless. That's something that's basically very difficult these days, from the discussions about Google and Big Data to American foreign policy. Because somehow the premises are all no longer there. You're not against Google now because you're somehow a culture pessimist, you don't want to be a culture pessimist. But still, a lot of people are against Google for slightly vague reasons. It would be much more interesting to try to actually somehow take big data to the point where it implodes. That there is somehow also a technical problem and that is - I believe - the moment when there is perhaps a connection to futurism, that technology is taken extremely seriously and important in accelerationism. And that's a contemporary attitude, I think. "

Question consensus

The core idea of ​​the accelerationist philosophy is: One looks from an imaginary distant future to the present. This direction of view is different from the usual previous view of the world, where one looks back from the present to the past. Desperate policies are sold or justified on the basis of a terrible story. The euro rescue package is needed so that the specter of inflation and mass unemployment from the 1920s does not recur. The capital market should be as unbound as possible, capitalism should float freely so that there can never be a socialist Eastern bloc again. Learning from the past is a consensus and dictum in our society that accelerationists question. The imperative of perpetual review of the past also explains the alternative that accelerationism seeks in relation to science fiction. There is more to this than a slim reference to pop culture. The 1999 film "Matrix" used Jean Baudrillard's philosophy to inspire the masses. What Baudrillard had thought up in the mid-1970s, namely that we live in a world of diverse simulations, is taken to extremes in the film "Matrix". The computer screen simulates a desk. The voice announcement in call centers simulates a real conversation. Even the farm printed on a liver sausage pack simulates a country idyll that does not exist. We live in simulated worlds. And in "Matrix" this world is, down to the smallest detail, a computer simulation of machines that our brains have connected to a program. Our present is not that bad. There is no evidence that we are actually asleep in a nutrient solution and that our life is always just a movie. But there are more and more simulations, more and more pretending of reality in our lives. Facebook simulates real conversations. The internet seems to represent the world. And so on.

Harrison Ford in the movie "Blade Runner" (AP) In the movie "Matrix" people are underage beings who no longer notice that they are sleeping and no longer live in a real world. The accelerationists want to use science fiction to show what our present may be heading towards. So the film is not just a film, it is also a warning and wants to draw attention to the fact that we should pay close attention to the power machines have over our lives. The accelerationists want science fiction to actually be taken seriously. Armen Avanessian: "It is a different generation, so to speak, that writes, has come to speak and also acts politically, that no longer represents a phantasm of '68 and an Occupy community that can be found on the street, so to speak. Instead, it is specifically interested in algorithms , for information technologies and so on. The question of raw materials, the question of working hours and so on. That means, these are highly complex technological questions that we have to understand in order to face the enemy, the adversary or however one sees capitalism, to be able to counter something. "

The catastrophe has already occurred

The film "Matrix" is of course exaggerated. It's fiction. Nevertheless, he shows how a technical dictatorship can be defeated by technical means. It serves, so to speak, as the most vivid example of the accelerationist philosophy. It is a warning and a possible solution. In "Matrix" the enemy machines are only defeated by those people who have mastered the computer programs. Those who could use the most modern technology have always had the power. This is exactly where the "acceleration" comes into play. Because the means of capitalism have become faster and faster:

High-speed stock trading, Google algorithms, surveillance cameras that can match faces with anti-terror databases in milliseconds. Anyone who does not know how these algorithms work or what principles high-speed stock trading is based on can easily be mastered. Demos for more data protection seem absurd in view of the gigantic and indomitable Google server park. The same applies to the most frequent reflexes on the climate collapse: Instead of decelerating, recommending solar panels on the roof and shopping in the organic supermarket, accelerationists like Armen Avanessian propagate a different model: "The question is: What premises are thought about sustainability at all? Which partly me What is annoying about the sustainability model is that behind it there is such a phantasm of a balance of an equilibrium or an original equilibrium. I think that's over. The catastrophe has already occurred. Nature, whatever that is supposed to have been, does not exist more. That is not simply nihilistic. I think that there is also a certain Enlightenment or Promethean mandate connected with it, how one can, however, think about how one can act differently in the age of the Anthropocene. "

Anthropocene: Age of Man

The idea of ​​the Anthropocene is one of the hottest concepts in the humanities and social sciences these days. The different ages of the earth are divided into layers of the earth. You can tell from the layers of the earth when the Ice Age took place or when the world's oceans were formed. For several centuries, however, humans themselves have been changing the layer of the earth: they mine coal, build subways and so on. That means: If at some point we no longer exist, a man-made change will be recognized for Earth time from around 1800. Hence the Anthropocene, Age of Man, from ancient Greek "ánthropos", man.

The fact that the accelerationists are now advancing with accelerated means and not with sustainability concepts is encountering resistance in many places.But the business philosopher Jette Gindner vehemently contradicts the accelerationists: "The enthusiasm of the accelerationists for technology actually seems strangely antiquated. So somehow out of date for our post-industrial present. Benjamin Noys gave a pretty good explanation for this in his new book" Malign Velocities ". He says: If we go away from the self-presentation of accelerationism as a future project and if we read accelerationism as a kind of longing look back at a past. So actually, accelerationism can be understood as a nostalgia. After times in which capitalism, technology and Progress itself has promised a future for people. But that is no longer real. Why? Under the acceleration, which so incredibly fascinates the accelerationists, there is in truth a paralysis. So it has stagnated since about the mid-1970s real added value and you have to think of the acceleration with this paralysis. And when you think it through to the end, you realize: Accelerationism may not actually be a solution at all, but rather a kind of fantasy. "

Think the end of capitalism

Indeed, in many places it is not clear how accelerationists understand acceleration. Because: why is acceleration a problem in capitalism? The economy is not paralyzed. She's fast. She has to be quick. Economy only works through constant revolution. New smartphone models have to be brought onto the market all the time - otherwise Apple or Samsung will not make a quarterly profit. The fitness industry is also constantly celebrating new trends: aerobics is being replaced by spinning. Spinning has to give way to Zumba, and the rhythm is getting faster and faster. The accelerationists are certain: if you accelerate capitalism even more, it will hit the wall with so much force that it really cannot be saved. The accelerationists want to force this tearing apart. And then there would be room for something new. "What is important, I think, is that one tries to take capitalism seriously, to fight capitalism not by ignoring it, but capitalism - I would not like to say think through to the end, but think the end of capitalism. And that's an exemption for the time being. "

Acceleration and the importance of machines were major themes in French philosophy from the 1970s to the 1990s - as is now again the case with accelerationism. Part of this is that they contradicted Marx, who believed that the proletariat was primarily the vehicle for social progress. The justification of these very first accelerationists was: The productive forces unleashed by capitalism were not human - but machine. That is why man alone can do so little under capitalism. He has to work together with the machines if he wants to move something….

In the 1990s, the mindsets of Paul Virilio, Gilles Deleuze and Francois Lyotard infected a new pop culture: Techno. Groundbreaking and rhythmically whipping techno music from Detroit met philosophical speed thinking from Paris. The philosophers' fascination with rhizomes and fractals led to club videos as an illustration of DJ sets. Technical language and science fiction fantasies dominated music that was created on the computer.

"You could say that it would be de-individualized music that turns people into robots. If you want to see it that way. I find that too culturally pessimistic. And I would rather see it as an expression of a very specific and then nihilistic-provocative one and in a strange way, perhaps more utopian than dystopian attitude. "

Served in the archives of the subculture

Many of the pioneers of accelerationism were part of the techno and jungle scene in the 1990s. But economic philosopher Jette Gindner also takes a critical look at these pop culture borrowings. The 34-year-old has been working at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York State, since 2012 in the fields of economic criticism, critical theory and contemporary literature.

"The accelerationists used the archives of various subcultures in an incredibly skillful way. It starts with cyberpunk, so films like" Blade Runner ", continues through various" Terminator "films, right up to the great musical subcultures of the 90s, or a bit beforehand: jungle, techno and so on. But one should look carefully at which subcultures accelerationism cites - and how it uses them. Does it really deal with the subcultures and their imaginaries? Or is it mainly about to somehow give the theoretical project a radical chic? "

"I think that is formulated too simply to say that these parallel worlds created by XTC or Jungle were escape worlds. Or would have been mechanistic booming hell. Rather, this is how every political movement has its drug and so does every one The technical innovation of your drug was a very specific expression of a potential for protest that was ultimately not even aware of itself. Why: The incubation period for knowledge was the 1990s. And that always apparently takes 20 years before it gets somewhere . "

Georg Diez ‘Thinking comes from the 90s. In this techno and startup decade, the later columnist got to know almost all of today's phenomena as they emerged. "Much, if not everything, that concerns us today, arose in this post-triumphant era of the western world and capitalism, as it was mainly practiced in America. That there was this talk of the end of history, and that at the same time Things emerged that ultimately proved the technical feasibility of everything. That is also something that Michel Houellebecq described. In other words, the questions of the explosion in genetic research. Where one suddenly had a completely different view of man. Evolutionary knowledge, where for the first time it has become clear what kind of puppet a person is, the puppet of his genes or his brain or evolution and that he is not the master of his own house. That means: What does that mean for thinking? That is of course an old, philosophical problem, which in this case was perhaps formulated with a new scientific urgency. "

Rethink the future

There are now a variety of techniques that can easily replace humans. Machines do the job. Genetic engineering optimizes the body. Computers manage human knowledge. For the accelerationist Armen Avanessian reason enough to rethink one's own actions: "Instead of general, vague, abstract, detached academic questions, the question always arises for me: Where am I? In which place? That is a question of localization. From which place do I speak? And in what situation do I live or work and for me that is specifically the question as an academic: How does the university work today? How does the academic system work? And that simply implies the need to locate yourself in it and less to make abstract political theory, so to speak, but to address and politicize the discourse of the university. "

As recently as autumn 2013, accelerationism was a theoretical plankton that was discussed by freaks, geeks and nerds at best. It has been set since the Berlin Accelerationism Conference at the beginning of December 2013 and the subsequent publications around the world. But accelerationism is still in its infancy. First of all, a comprehensive theory is being worked on. First of all, accelerationist thinkers are brought together, before more concrete plans for the restructuring of capitalism are soon to come. Because so far the accelerationists have tried to rethink the future with the help of science fiction, but what exactly it should look like in their opinion and, above all, how we can get there by political means is still in the stars.

Accelerationism continues to have a hard time in academic philosophy. Armen Avanessian is regularly invited by the philosophical departments of the American Ivy League universities. In Germany, faculties of literature and philosophy are walling up. Instead, art colleges, renowned museums and galleries promote accelerationism.

"There is often a greater curiosity and also a tolerance for things that are not immediately understandable - in the art world. This has historical reasons, but it also has something to do with the failure of academic philosophy. These are now very pragmatic reasons, so to speak. But I also think that art, especially today, still has a much more direct, much greater closeness, connection to questions of economy and technology. Simply through the way they work. There is still a certain ivory bulwark mentality at universities. "

Increase people's freedom with the politicization of technology

Jette Gindner remains skeptical. "The accelerationist utopia remains extremely vague. Who is actually accelerating what here? And how exactly is capitalism supposed to be plunged into crisis? All that remains totally unclear. It is also questionable which side accelerationism is on politically. Read the manifesto. Or just listen to the language. Efficiency, strategic effectiveness, measurable success. What kind of language is that? It's management slang. The accelerationists are adopting the language of neoliberal capitalism. Aren't they also adopting its politics? "

That will be observed. So far, accelerationism has had a predominant goal. He wants to use technology and the politicization of technology and programmers to increase the freedom of all people. That sounds communist. It is. In Italy, philosophers close to sociology such as Elena Esposito are working on a new concept of communitas, of cohesion and community. Even Facebook is more communist than expected in this sense. In theory, anyone can use the same means to communicate on the world's best-known social media platform. Facebook can do more than distribute cat pictures and tap advertising data from its users. Facebook is perfect as an academic networking tool. The problem: Facebook is pure capitalism. The goal of the accelerationists is to convert programs like Facebook from capitalism to neo-communism.

This is where most of the accelerationists can be found. You can write to them here. Questions. You are sure to write back.

Armen Avanessian studied philosophy, political science and literature in Vienna and Paris, works as a research assistant and lecturer at the Peter Szondi Institute for General and Comparative Literature at the Free University of Berlin. Collaborator of the "Texts on Art" and editor of the book "Acceleration".

Georg Diez, author and journalist in Berlin, has written for Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Spiegel and Die Zeit and is a columnist for S.P.O.N., Spiegel online. Jan Drees works as a reviewer and feature journalist for Der Freitag, Rolling Stone, BR, WDR, among others.