In political and social theory, accelerationism is the idea that either the prevailing system of capitalism, or certain technosocial processes that have historically characterised it, should be expanded, repurposed, or accelerated in order to generate radical social change. Some contemporary accelerationist philosophy takes as its starting point the Deleuzo-Guattarian theory of deterritorialisation, aiming to identify, deepen, and radicalise the forces of deterritorialisation with a view to overcoming the countervailing tendencies that suppress the possibility of far-reaching social transformation.[clarification needed] Accelerationism may also refer more broadly, and usually pejoratively, to support for the deepening of capitalism in the belief that this will hasten its self-destructive tendencies and ultimately lead to its collapse.
Accelerationist theory has been divided into mutually contradictory left-wing and right-wing variants. "Left-accelerationism" attempts to press "the process of technological evolution" beyond the constrictive horizon of capitalism, for example by repurposing modern technology for socially beneficial and emancipatory ends; "right-accelerationism" supports the indefinite intensification of capitalism itself, possibly in order to bring about a technological singularity.
A number of philosophers have expressed apparently accelerationist attitudes, including Karl Marx in his 1848 speech "On the Question of Free Trade":
- 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.
In a similar vein, Friedrich Nietzsche argued that "the leveling process of European man is the great process which should not be checked: one should even accelerate it...", a statement often simplified, following Deleuze and Guattari, to a command to "accelerate the process".
Prominent theorists include right-accelerationist Nick Land. The Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (Ccru), an unofficial research unit at the University of Warwick from 1995–2003, of which Land was a member, is considered a key progenitor in both left- and right-accelerationist thought. Prominent contemporary left-accelerationists include Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, authors of the "Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics", and the Laboria Cuboniks collective, who authored the manifesto "Xenofeminism: A Politics for Alienation".
Along accelerationist lines, Paul Mason, in works such as PostCapitalism: A Guide to our Future, has tried to speculate about futures after capitalism. He declares that "[a]s with the end of feudalism 500 years ago, capitalism’s replacement by postcapitalism will be accelerated by external shocks and shaped by the emergence of a new kind of human being. And it has started." He considers that the rise of collaborative production will eventually help capitalism to kill itself.
Focusing on how information technology infrastructures undermine modern political geographies, and proposing an open-ended "design brief", Benjamin H. Bratton's book The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty is associated with accelerationism. Tiziana Terranova's "Red Stack Attack!" links Bratton's stack model and left accelerationism.
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- Marx, Karl, On the question of free trade, Speech to the Democratic Association of Brussels, 9 January 1848.
- Quoted in Strong, Tracy (1988). Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of Transfiguration. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 211. Original in The Will to Power §898.
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