(This essay wouldn’t gel and I abandoned it. “XXXX…” means “do more here in the next writing or edit pass.”
Do get “Speculative Aesthetics” and “Class Wargames”, they are both wonderful books.)
Urbanomic’s “Speculative Aesthetics” is a freshly mined block of well-contextualised ideas, including some insightful discussion of Accelerationism’s relationship to aesthetics. That relationship is one I’ve been thinking and writing about in ignorant parallel.
I do not understand (I mean that literally: I’ve tried to parse the arguments and failed) the idea of overdetermined adherence to a teleological ideology as “freedom”. Whether the eschaton is religious, political/economic or technological, I don’t regard submission to its inevitability as freedom so much as a kind of Dice-Mannish false blamelessness. The fruit fly that buzzes in an endless repeating pattern through a featureless space is neither free nor showing free will. But then nor is the liberal consumer or subject of history in any absolute sense, however right Popper was about totalitarianism.
Abstraction is a word that describes many different phenomena, XXXXXXXX
At the same time as reading (or “reading“) “Speculative Aesthetics” I’ve been reading Richard Barbrook’s excellent”Class Wargames” book. Barbrook’s history of Guy Debord’s “Game of War” casts the game convincingly as a pedagogical tool for inoculating the political Left against the temptations of vanguard politics. Debord’s game represents the field and forces of battle at the time of the Napoleonic wars at a high level of abstraction compared to the average SPI/GDW-style wargame , making them a general representation of armed conflict. In order to win, one must recapitulate the tactics of Napoleon or Trotsky, with their attendant sacrifice and bloodshed. Having played at being Napoleon, players can both defeat them and will understand why they wouldn’t want to become or follow such a leader in real life.
This indicates the value of Acceleration’s strategy of abstraction, from specifics to generalities and back. Failing cloning, there will not literally be another Napoleon. But there will be scenarios in which another clever general might need to be defeated, either on the battlefield or in politics. There’s nothing Accelerationist about a board game, but there is about its use to create a distributed clever general. And it’s in distribution that Accelerationism can avoid vanguardism.
The legacy of CCRU can easily be painted as sitting uncomfortably with Accelerationism’s emphasis on rationality. But the irrational, imaginative, mystical, fictional nature of much CCRU/Orphan Drift/Nick Land output is rational – it can be rational to use irrationality when there is no rational means of achieving a rational end. This is instrumental irrationality, and it’s a standard part of creativity. Creativity theory tells us why – if thinking sensibly is leaving you stuck in a rut then thinking irrationally may get you out of it. Whether surrealist games, Edward de Bono’s “lateral thinking” or chemically assisted imaginings, XXXXXXXXX.
This is a very different kind of abstraction from the Real Abstraction of Marxism, or the representational simplifications and distillations of Data Visualization. Accelerationist aesthetics must achieve a new kind of abstraction via either a CCRUian instrumental irrationality as a mythological attractor and search space exploder, a Debordian detournement and redemption (rather than gentrification) of data visualization , or a remix of both.