Accelerationism is a range of ideas in critical and social theory that propose that social processes, such as capitalist growth and technological change, should be drastically intensified to create further radical social change referred to as "acceleration". The term can also refer to the post-Marxist idea that because of capitalism's internal contradictions and instabilities, the abolition of the capitalist system and its class structures could be brought about by its acceleration. Various ideas, including French critical theorists Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's idea of deterritorialization, as well as aspects of the theoretical systems and processes developed by English philosopher, and later alt-right commentator, Nick Land, are crucial influences on accelerationism, which aims to analyze and subsequently promote the social, economic, cultural, and libidinal forces that constitute the process of acceleration.
Contemporary accelerationism has since been ideologically divided into mutually contradictory left-wing and right-wing variants. Both support the indefinite intensification of capitalism and its structures as well as the growth of a potential technological singularity, a hypothetical point in time where technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible. The term has also been appropriated and placed into contexts distanced from traditional accelerationist ideas. Right-wing extremists such as Neo-fascists, Neo-nazis, White nationalists, and White supremacists have been known to refer to an "acceleration" of racial conflict through violent means such as assassinations, murders, terrorist attacks, and societal collapse, in order to achieve the building of a White ethnostate.
Background and precursors
The term "accelerationism" was first coined as a neologism by professor and author Benjamin Noys in his 2010 book The Persistence of the Negative to describe the trajectory of certain post-structuralists who embraced unorthodox Marxist and counter-Marxist overviews of capital, such as Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in their 1972 book Anti-Oedipus, Jean-François Lyotard in his 1974 book Libidinal Economy and Jean Baudrillard in his 1976 book Symbolic Exchange and Death.
English alt-right theorist and writer Nick Land, commonly credited with creating and inspiring accelerationism's basic ideas and concepts, cited a number of philosophers who express anticipatory accelerationist attitudes in his 2017 essay "A Quick-and-Dirty Introduction to Accelerationism". Firstly, Friedrich Nietzsche argued in a fragment in The Will to Power that "the leveling process of European man is the great process which should not be checked: one should even accelerate it." Then, taking inspiration from this notion for Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari speculated on an unprecedented "revolutionary path" to further perpetuate capitalism's tendencies that would later become a central idea of accelerationism:
But which is the revolutionary path? Is there one?—To withdraw from the world market, as Samir Amin advises Third World countries to do, in a curious revival of the fascist "economic solution"? Or might it be to go in the opposite direction? To go still further, that is, in the movement of the market, of decoding and deterritorialization? For perhaps the flows are not yet deterritorialized enough, not decoded enough, from the viewpoint of a theory and a practice of a highly schizophrenic character. Not to withdraw from the process, but to go further, to "accelerate the process," as Nietzsche put it: in this matter, the truth is that we haven't seen anything yet.
Land also cites Karl Marx, who in his 1848 speech "On the Question of Free Trade" anticipated accelerationist principles a century before Deleuze and Guattari by describing free trade as socially destructive and fuelling class conflict, then effectively arguing for it:
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.
The Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (CCRU), an experimental theory collective that existed from 1995 to 2003, included Land as well as other influential social theorists such as Mark Fisher and Sadie Plant as members. Prominent contemporary left-wing 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". For Mark Fisher, writing in 2012, "Land's withering assaults on the academic left [...] remain trenchant", although problematic since "Marxism is nothing if it is not accelerationist". Benjamin H. Bratton's book The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty has been described as concerning accelerationist ideas, focusing on how information technology infrastructures undermine modern political geographies and proposing an open-ended "design brief". Tiziana Terranova's "Red Stack Attack!" links Bratton's stack model and left-wing accelerationism. Out of Xenofeminism grew a strand of accelerationist thought labeled "gender accelerationism," asserting that the destruction of the patriarchy and the gender binary is not just a preferred future, but an outright inevitability of capitalism's acceleration. Aria Dean notably synthesized the theory of Racial Capitalism with accelerationism, arguing that the binary between humans, and machines and capital, is already blurred by the scars of the Atlantic slave trade.
Left-wing accelerationism, commonly referred to as "L/Acc", is often attributed to Mark Fisher, a prior CCRU member and mentor for Srnicek and Williams. Left-wing accelerationism seeks to explore, in an orthodox and conventional manner, the ways in which modern society has the momentum to create futures that are equitable and liberatory. While both strands of accelerationist thinking remain rooted in a similar range of thinkers, left accelerationism appeared with the intent to use their ideas for the goal of achieving an egalitarian future. In response to this strand of accelerationism and its optimism for egalitarianism and liberation, which departs from prior interests in experimentation and delirium, Land rebuked its ideas in an interview with The Guardian, saying that "the notion that self-propelling technology is separable from capitalism is a deep theoretical error".
Other uses of the term
Since "accelerationism" was coined in 2010, the term has taken on several new meanings, particularly by right-wing extremist movements and terrorist organizations, that has led the term to be sensationalized on multiple occasions. Several commentators have used the label accelerationist to describe a controversial political strategy articulated by the Slovenian philosopher, Freudo-Marxist theorist, and writer Slavoj Žižek. An example often cited of this is when, in a November 2016 interview with Channel 4 News, Žižek asserted that were he an American citizen, he would vote for former U.S. president Donald Trump as the candidate more likely to disrupt the status quo of politics in that country.
Far-right accelerationist terrorism
In spite of its original philosophical and theoretical interests, since the late 2010s international networks of Neo-fascists, Neo-Nazis, White nationalists, and White supremacists have increasingly appropriated the term "accelerationism" to refer to right-wing extremist goals and reactionary ideals, and have been known to refer to an "acceleration" of racial conflict through violent means such as assassinations, murders, terrorist attacks, and societal collapse, in order to achieve the building of a White ethnostate. Far-right accelerationism has been widely considered as detrimental to public safety. The inspiration for this distinct variation is occasionally cited as American Nazi Party and National Socialist Liberation Front member James Mason's newsletter Siege, where he argued for sabotage, mass killings, and assassinations of high-profile targets to destabilize and destroy the current society, seen as a system upholding a Jewish and multicultural New World Order. His works were republished and popularized by the Iron March forum and Atomwaffen Division, right-wing extremist organizations strongly connected to various terrorist attacks, murders, and assaults. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate groups and files class action lawsuits against discriminatory organizations and entities, "on the case of white supremacists, the accelerationist set sees modern society as irredeemable and believe it should be pushed to collapse so a fascist society built on ethnonationalism can take its place. What defines white supremacist accelerationists is their belief that violence is the only way to pursue their political goals."
Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the perpetrator of the Christchurch mosque shootings that killed 51 people and injured 49 others, had embraced right-wing accelerationism in a section of his manifesto titled "Destabilization and Accelerationism: tactics". It also influenced John Timothy Earnest, the man accused of causing the Escondido mosque fire at Dar-ul-Arqam Mosque in Escondido, California; and committing the Poway synagogue shooting which resulted in one dead and three injured, and influenced Patrick Crusius, the man accused of committing the El Paso Walmart shooting that killed 23 people and injured 23 others.
Although these right-wing extremist variants and their connected strings of terrorist attacks and murders are regarded as certainly uninformed by critical theory, which was a prime source of inspiration for Land's original ideas that led to accelerationism, Land became interested in the Atomwaffen-affiliated theistic Satanist organization Order of Nine Angles (ONA), that adheres to the ideology of Neo-Nazi terrorist accelerationism, describing the ONA's works as "highly-recommended" in a blog post. Since the 2010s, the political ideology and religious worldview of the Order of Nine Angles, founded by the British Neo-Nazi leader David Myatt in 1974, have increasingly influenced militant Neo-fascist and Neo-Nazi insurgent groups associated with right-wing extremist and White supremacist international networks, most notably the Iron March forum.
- Accelerating change
- Great Acceleration
- Speculative realism
- Time–space compression
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