From Medium by Black Cat
(image: some anarchist accelerationists on a boat)
Call this ideology a/acc, an/acc, AnAcc, anarchist accelerationism, accelerationist anarchism, etc., etc..
I suppose that the very existence of this essay is an exercise in the ridiculousness of online politics. I’m creating yet another ?/acc and yet another anarcho-.
There is a tendency in fringe politics to assume that it matters what you think. I’m all too aware of this from within the Left, especially from within anarchism — endless pontifications on how the world “ought” to be, from people who have minimal contact with how the world actually is.
I have no interest in adding to that worthless pile. Instead, I intend to talk about the extent to which these abstract political ideas are already at play in everyday life.
The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.
This is blind arrogance. I aim to understand the world, and I already understand enough to know how little power I really have. The world is vast, and I am insignificant. It is absolutely futile to try to change mass society.
If this is true, and if one finds that mass society is unbearable, then there is only one option left: to escape it.
Anarchism is often phrased as “the abolition of unjust hierarchies”. This is, actually, a terrible definition. No one wants hierarchies that they say are unjust.
Obviously, many have noticed this. It hasn’t much mattered — because every individual tendency of anarchism has really, semi-covertly, argued that anarchism is really ‘when everyone follows my plan for anarchism’. Anarchism, the deterritorialization of politics from its place within the state, is reterritorialized into factions following wise men who declaim “anarcho”-law.
Not all are so cynical, nor so sectarian, though — there are anarchist attempts to grapple with this obvious rhetorical/philosophical issue. The most common of these is to simply drop the word ‘unjust’ from that phrase: “anarchism is the abolition of hierarchies”.
But this definition also has problems — though, less obvious ones. Anarchism-as-a-movement has traditionally included and even centered commune-fetishizing pro-democracy anarcho-communists, anarcho-syndicalists with elected delegates, and even Bookchin-style municipalists. I am a left-wing market anarchist, or perhaps a mutualist, and there are those who have insisted that the market is itself a form of hierarchy. But our current is, in fact, the original one — although, at least in America, no longer the hegemonic one. What are we to make of this?
For a while, I stuck to a definition derived from the words of Nestor Makhno — who said, famously, that “there is no such thing as harmless power”. Alternatively, this might be phrased as “anarchism is the minimization of hierarchy”.
That might work as a definition — it really might. However, I am going to argue in this essay that anarchism is really the maximization of Exit. The short story on this could simply be seen as me attempting to flip around the reterritorializing tendencies of anarchist sectarianism. The long story of this is, at least in part, the remainder of this essay.
You’ve likely heard that accelerationism is about making the system worse, so that it collapses, so that things can get better.
No one believes that. Well, some idiot might. None of the core accelerationists do. If your vague idea of an ideology sounds obviously evil and/or idiotic, and you’ve never actually read any source texts of that ideology, then what you think you know about that ideology is probably just a strawman.
Accelerationism is, amongst other things, the belief that market-capitalism (and its supporting system, the state) itself is the revolutionary subject. Note that I’m saying market-capitalism, not “the bourgeoisie”. This is a radically anti-human, or perhaps merely post-human, idea. Whether it leaves no room for human agency, or merely very little, is a question on which much turns.
Put another way: the system is totalizing. Everything is contained within it. Because everything is contained within it, any changes made to the system are made to the system by the system. You don’t stand outside the system. Nothing and no one does. This is tautologically true.
Capital is usually separated into intangible assets and physical assets. Physical assets are talked about often enough — they are the physical means of production. Intangible assets, though, are too-often missed in socialist discussions of economics.
Intangible assets are all the forms of capital that one cannot directly touch. It includes human capital, relational capital, and structural capital.
Human capital is all the attributes inherent to actors. This includes, but is not limited to, the knowledge and skills that actors have — and their inherent mental and physical attributes.
Relational capital is the relationships that an agent has with other agents. The most lucrative form that this takes is in the mind-share that platforms have — the biggest thing standing in the way of making a competitor for Uber or Lyft (for example) is that it would be hard to get others to download your competing app. The most common form that this takes, though, is in one’s personal reputation and personal contacts — “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.
Structural capital is all the institutional infrastructure that makes up a firm. It is the org chart, the company culture, the knowledge passed around the office, the methods developed to deal with specific issues within the specific firm, etc, etc..
(I wrote more on this, later, under the title “Stateless Patchwork and Intangible Capital: an Explanation”)
I should clarify that, when I say “accelerationism”, I am almost exclusively talking about u/acc. R/acc is idiotically hyper-concerned with racial purity and already-outmoded corporatized organizational forms, bearing the same relationship to the 21st century as Fascism bore to the 20th. L/acc is more or less just reskinned Leninism.
I’m sure I’ll have things to say about both R/acc and L/acc in later articles, but now is not the time.
Unconditional accelerationism, though, contains useful concepts. They must be broken down and exported outwards — to its Outside.
Xenogothic, in their own “A u/acc Primer”, articulates these core ideas as:
Counteract the “formal-aesthetic conservatism” of self-described radical politics (on the left and the right).
Consider, in the totality of late capitalism, the ways in which humanity, as an agent, is a product of an overarching system over which it might have relatively little influence and certainly no control.
Exacerbate the tearing apart of the human subject as we know it — that is, a contemporary human subject which is a product of the forces which surround it and which are fatalistically produced within it — and those systems which limit its persistent outwards flights (gender, the nation-state, et al.) for the sake of the radical production of the new.
Furthermore, exacerbate the pull outside of the temporality of modernity as that absolute ground of the structure of “modern experience” — modern experience perhaps understood as that temporal enclosure which keeps us separated from other forms of life.
I interpret these through the context of my anarchism, as follows:
- there is a war against the imagination. Fight back.
- you are not significant. Seek your own freedom, do not futilely try to change the entire world.
- Ask questions about anti-universality — what does it really mean that we want to treat everyone as though they are basically the same? Is universalism anything other than totalitarianism?
- we live under an ideology that insists that all human beings can comprehend each other, should associate with each other, and should live under the same rules. This is not true. This has never been true. Celebrate the so-called “safe space”. Make more of them.
I call on you to construct new societies ‘within the shell of the old’, just as the Zapatistas call for “a world in which many worlds fit”. However, unlike the Zapatistas, I am not telling you to do something so literal-minded as to establish rebel municipalities. I want you to form new societies, but not necessarily attempt to permanently control large swathes of contiguous territory for them.
Unlike the Zapatistas, I do not speak to a rural audience or from a rural perspective. I speak to an urban audience, one that has no real connection to land — what does the renter know of land usage? I’m not asking you to conquer anything, though I accept that you may. I’m asking you to form new and alternative institutions, and to create new norms — and then, invite others to join in them.
It’s not a praxis that orients itself towards some distant revolution. It’s a praxis of the everyday. I’m not asking you to do anything exceptional — I’m asking you to re-examine, perhaps re-double, what everyone has always done.
Insurrectionary anarchism is not revolutionary. This is not to say that it is pacifistic. If anything, it is more prone to political violence than revolutionary (non-insurrectionary) anarchism is.
The core distinction between revolutionary and insurrectionary anarchism is:
- revolutionary anarchism sees the (potential) transition away from statism as a clearly defined event, in which the working classes will rise up and do formal battle with the forces of capitalism and statism
- insurrectionary anarchism sees the transition away from statism as all around us, happening in a continuous and distributed manner. Instead of an anarchist army forming and doing battle with a statist army, there is (at least imagined to be) many different constantly-operating small-scale (potentially short-term) rebellions against statism/capitalism. Our goal, then, is not so much to organize these rebellions as it is to intensify them, until they overwhelm the system.
I am fond of sloganizing this as: “don’t smash the state, erode it”.
It’s crucial to understand insurrectionary anarchism, because insurrectionism is the anarchism of everyday experience — it is the understanding of anarchism not as something decreed by a committee of learned activist elders, but as something that we all might enter into and participate in in a vast number of ways and for a vast number of motivations. And, of course — if we are serious about anarchism — that is the only way that we could ever possibly approach it.
Left-wing market anarchism (for the remainder of this primer, to be called ‘LWMA’ or ‘market anarchism’) centers largely around seeing capitalism and markets as opposing forces.
Capitalism is a system within which goods (and services) are produced. Markets are a system whereby they are distributed.
Capitalism is a system of private(-ish) property norms, largely focused around land, enforced through statist violence. Markets are a loose set of reciprocal exchanges.
Capitalism is a bundle of hierarchies. Markets are one of the ways that those hierarchies are crossed, and thus undermined.
Capitalism is when big business forms a cartel, or regulates their competitors out of existence, and uses statist force to punish anyone tries to defect from this regime. Markets are what motivate those defectors, and what motivates people to steal and re-sell the means of production.
Markets deterritorialize. Capitalism reterritorializes.
In the words of Edmund Berger:
Braudel’s famous argument, implicit in Capitalism and Schizophrenia (this is the topic of a current in-progress work) and operationalized in full by Manuel Delanda, is that the market and capitalism must be made distinct from one another, and that capitalism must be thought as something oppositional to the market: an anti-market. The market — or micro-capitalism — is the realm of “economic life”; it is full of highly visible activities, the interchanges of commerce happening at rapid speeds, and variables profit rates attached to quickly shifting registers of price. “The market spells liberation, openness, access to another world”. Capitalism, by contrast, is defined large-scale centralization, bureaucracy, oligopoly, and decreased mobility in the price regime. Markets link themselves together in networks of “horizontal communication” between smaller firms and actors bound up in competitive behavior. Anti-markets are based around monopoly, and thus ward off the specter of competition.
LWMAs propose to lean into this inherent anti-capitalism of the market, as a way to move towards a society where market anti-capitalism reaches its fullest expression: a society in which, absent the state’s violent enforcement of private property, land (and to a lesser extent, capital) ownership becomes based around the who occupies and uses it — rather than who has a title to it that is acknowledged/decreed by the state.
This would lead to a society of free producers, confederating into worker co-operatives and making extensive use of commons-based production. Without the ability to externalize the costs of guarding large concentrations of things, there would be a practical limit on absolute material wealth.
(I wrote more on the basics of socialism here: Communism and Capitalism Share the Same Problems. Socialism is the Solution)
Agorism is, at its core, the idea that the best anti-state strategy is to deprive it of sources of revenue. The state is, after all, a being of economics as much as it is a being of power. The best way to deprive it of revenue is to move as much of the economy into the (untaxed and untaxable) black market as is possible. It’s worth noting, of course, that a lot of people really do this in real life — for non-ideological reasons. The poorest sections of the working class already are engaged in agorism, they just don’t call it that.
From In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Bario, an ethnography of Spanish Harlem:
According to the official statistics, my neighbors on the street should have been homeless, starving, and dressed in rags. Given the cost of living in Manhattan, it should have been impossible for most of them to afford rent and minimal groceries and still manage to pay their electricity and gas bills. According to the 1990 census, 39.8 percent of local residents in East Harlem lived below the federal poverty line (compared to 16.3 percent of all New Yorkers) with a total of 62.1 percent receiving less than twice official poverty-level incomes. The blocks immediately surrounding me were significantly poorer with half of all residents falling below the poverty line. Given New York City prices for essential goods and services, this means that according to official economic measures, well over half the population of El Barrio should not be able to meet their subsistence needs.
In fact, however, people are not starving on a massive scale. Although many elderly residents and many young children do not have adequate diets and suffer from the cold in the winter, most local residents are adequately dressed and reasonably healthy. The enormous, uncensused, untaxed underground economy allows the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in neighborhoods like East Harlem to subsist with the minimal amenities that people living in the United States consider to be basic necessities. I was determined to study these alternative income generating strategies that were consuming so much of the time and energy of the young men and women sitting on the stoops and parked cars in front of my tenement.
This underlines the double potential of agorist praxis. Firstly, the state is deprived of the sales tax, income tax, and etc. that would normally be paid by these people. Secondly, these people are enriched by the formation of economic institutions and activities outside of the state — agorism (though, of course, they would never call it that) keeps these people alive.
More than that, though, this Actually Existing Agorism shows how every day normal people are living semi-statelessly in the ostensible midst of the state. It shows that it is imminently possible for direct action to not look remotely political, or even be particularly intentional. It shows that the ‘new society, built in the cracks of the old’ might not be best represented by the activities of activists — and that the way forward might not be anything like an endless party meeting.
Something strange happened to me — I experienced the Outside, or something like it.
At the time, I had no idea that that was what had happened. I merely experienced a certain unforgettable jangling of the nerves. I was at an antifascist action. The fascists were so scattered and so outnumbered that they were quite difficult to find. It was then that I first clearly felt that we had won — after several summers of kicking right-wing ass, they had stopped showing up. The only resistance that we were experiencing was from the police — and the police were keeping their distance from us, although they blocked us from progressing through this and that street. We understood this to be in service of the fascists, and a sign that we merely had to take the path of most resistance to reach the fascists — at which point the usual series of beatdowns could occur, and we would be able to go home, having all done our civic duty.
As such, we had somehow made the collective decisions to march in a dense column down the middle of the street, so as to both maintain mobility and the cohesion necessary to resist the pigs. I found myself at the front of the marchers, and followed the lead of several others in running out into the intersections the column was headed for, to stop the cars who would otherwise impede the swift motion of the column. As we did this over several city blocks, we got better at it, and faster — and, in addition, caused a massive traffic jam.
The cars could not move around us, and so we simply maneuvered past them: small beats large. I found myself, increasingly, directing traffic. The effect was intoxicating. We were using the city in a way that had never been intended, and a spontaneous — if rough, and ultimately temporary — order was emerging from out of it.
This has, of course, forever changed and expanded my thoughts on the structure of the urban systems that we find ourselves in. Those few hours were a direct and hands-on experience with other possibilities, possibilities that are usually locked out.
Imagine how things would change, if more people experienced that — once you show someone proof of other possibilities, how could they ever forget it? We are — all of us, anarchists and accelerationists — used to the quote
it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism
but, well: if you really want people to imagine the end of capitalism, show a taste of it to them. People’s imaginations are inevitably rooted in their realities. However, despite being rooted there, they can stretch far beyond. It may be possible to cause great changes in someone’s imagination, using only the tiniest of real-world experiences.
Accelerationism is extremely fond of viewing capitalism as an AI.
We should be more particular about how we say that. Are we talking about the market, a particular framework for how agents interact with each other? Or, are we talking about capitalism, a particular set of state-enforced ownership claims? I would hold that we are talking about both, and more.
The agents do the actual calculations, while the market distributes the information between them, and — at present, but not inevitably or irreplaceably — capitalism provides the agents with their incentives and goals by which to participate in the system at all. As a reminder that capitalism, the market, and the agents are distinct and (theoretically) separable components, I will be referring to this system — as a whole — as “market-capitalism”.
This system of market-capitalism is a vast and distributed intelligence, following certain rules and incentives in pursuit of certain goals; it’s even semi-predictable. We acknowledge this all the time, speaking of how ‘the market’ made such and such a decision — of how there is a great and strange intelligence at work in the economy, and of how information might be divined by watching its movements.
Not only is capitalism an intelligence, but it is a fractal intelligence — not only in the sense that it is ultimately composed of people, but also in the sense that it’s most important agents are also AIs, composed of other agents:
Here’s the thing about corporations: they’re clearly artificial, but legally they’re people. They have goals, and operate in pursuit of these goals. And they have a natural life cycle. In the 1950s, a typical US corporation on the S&P 500 index had a lifespan of 60 years, but today it’s down to less than 20 years.
Corporations are cannibals; they consume one another. They are also hive superorganisms, like bees or ants. For their first century and a half they relied entirely on human employees for their internal operation, although they are automating their business processes increasingly rapidly this century. Each human is only retained so long as they can perform their assigned tasks, and can be replaced with another human, much as the cells in our own bodies are functionally interchangeable (and a group of cells can, in extremis, often be replaced by a prosthesis). To some extent corporations can be trained to service the personal desires of their chief executives, but even CEOs can be dispensed with if their activities damage the corporation, as Harvey Weinstein found out a couple of months ago.
Finally, our legal environment today has been tailored for the convenience of corporate persons, rather than human persons, to the point where our governments now mimic corporations in many of their internal structures.
Of course, as anarchists — and economists — have demonstrated, corporations aren’t perfect agents: their unity is illusionary, and imperfect. So it is with capitalism as a whole. However, computational algorithms do not have to be perfect to be effective at goal-seeking — nothing does.
The computational methods of capitalism are stochastic — if one agent (an individual, a corporation, whatever) fails to get the proper answer, another one will. Agents that are better at goal-seeking (generally) get more resources, and agents that are bad at it are deprived of resources and forced to subordinate themselves and what they have to agents that are good at it.
Corporations will generally fire workers that are especially bad at working within their organization and accomplishing its goals, and if a given corporation is less efficient at doing this than average, it will probably eventually go out of business — or, reform itself.
Agents that are successful will have their methods copied, and those methods will — in some cases — be changed, somewhat. If those changes lead to success, they will be copied by other agents. If they are unsuccessful, they will be discarded by capitalism.
These patterns are not particular to market-capitalism, and will persist in whatever succeeds market-capitalism. They preceded market-capitalism, as well — they are pattens of memetic evolution, which all groups and people are subject to.
Anarchists have long sneered at the very concept of “voluntarism” or following a “non-aggression principle”, and for very good reason.
The very idea of a thing being voluntary, or involuntary, stems from the context of broader institutions. When a right-libertarian says something like:
It is the very height of idiocy. While I would happily agree that this is “liberalism”, I hold that it is neither “openness” nor “free individuals pursuing their own interests and values”.
For the former, there is very little “openness” — to the degree that there is any Exit allowed, it is only from one superstore to another. And, as the superstores only differ in the details, it is hard to call this any significant choice. The closest thing to Exit that Black Friday shopping can offer is the ability to buy new subcultural signifiers, and so switch out your current norms for new ones, when in relevant contexts.
For the latter, it is hard to say that these individuals are “free” or that they are “pursuing their own… values” — they, too, exist under market-capitalism. They, too, are molded by it. Their desires are produced by it, just as it is — partially — produced by their desires.
So it is with everything. The idea that wage-labor is “voluntary” depends on the assumption that was just and proper that commons be enclosed in the first place. The idea that buying most of your goods from a megacorp’s superstore is “voluntary” depends on the idea that the statist regulations that allow such things are also just and proper.
The “non-aggression principle” is much the same — it defines aggression as violating private property norms, and then claims that private property norms emerge from non-aggression.
It is only through a lack of exposure to alternatives — a lack of Exit to the Outside — that these ideas can seem non-ridiculous. Right-libertarianism is often the ideology most friendly to the prospect of Exit, but — ironically — any significant amount of sustained Exit would destroy it completely and utterly, to the point of producing people that could no longer even conceptualize it, at least as it exists now. If it continued, it would have to be reformulated on very different philosophical grounds.
Before the Soviet Union existed, there were anarchist critiques of the very concept of anything like it.
Bakunin, in 1873 — in Statism and Anarchy, said:
A strong State can have only one solid foundation: military and bureaucratic centralization. The fundamental difference between a monarchy and even the most democratic republic is that in the monarchy, the bureaucrats oppress and rob the people for the benefit of the privileged in the name of the King, and to fill their own coffcrs; while in the republic the people are robbed and oppressed in the same way for the benefit of the same classes, in the name of “the will of the people” (and to fill the coffers of the democratic bureaucrats). In the republic the State, which is supposed to be the people, legally organized, stifles and will continue to stifle the real people. But the people will feel no better if the stick with which they are being beaten is labeled “the people’s stick.”
Tucker, in 1888 — in State Socialism and Anarchism, said:
…State Socialism, which may be described as the doctrine that all the affairs of men should be managed by the government, regardless of individual choice.
Marx, its founder, concluded that the only way to abolish the class monopolies was to centralize and consolidate all industrial and commercial interests, all productive and distributive agencies, in one vast monopoly in the hands of the State. The government must become banker, manufacturer, farmer, carrier, and merchant, and in these capacities must suffer no competition. Land, tools, and all instruments of production must be wrested from individual hands, and made the property of the collectivity. To the individual can belong only the products to be consumed, not the means of producing them… The nation must be transformed into a vast bureaucracy, and every individual into a State official… Every man will be a wage-receiver, and the State the only wage-payer…
What other applications this principle of Authority, once adopted in the economic sphere, will develop is very evident. It means the absolute control by the majority of all individual conduct. The right of such control is already admitted by the State Socialists, though they maintain that, as a matter of fact, the individual would be allowed a much larger liberty than he now enjoys. But he would only be allowed it; he could not claim it as his own. There would be no foundation of society upon a guaranteed equality of the largest possible liberty. Such liberty as might exist would exist by sufferance and could be taken away at any moment. Constitutional guarantees would be of no avail. There would be but one article in the constitution of a State Socialistic country: “The right of the majority is absolute.”
The claim of the State Socialists, however, that this right would not be exercised in matters pertaining to the individual in the more intimate and private relations of his life is not borne out by the history of governments. It has ever been the tendency of power to add to itself, to enlarge its sphere, to encroach beyond the limits set for it…
Statist Marxists, on the other hand, only developed any criticisms of the Soviet Union after it already existed — and, even so, during the USSR’s existence such discussions were never particularly popular outside of Trotskyism — and Trotskyism, of course, never amounted to particularly much.
Now that the Soviet Union is gone, and has been so for a generation, criticisms of it have almost entirely disappeared amongst statist Marxists. One hears from them that any purported flaws with the Soviet system are nothing but Western propaganda. One hears lots of things from them. The feeling that one gets from them seems to be that the Soviet Union could never have really fallen — that the return of almost all socialist states (excepting, perhaps, the DPRK and/or Cuba) to neoliberal capitalism, whether through Gorbachev-style collapse or Deng-style reform, was a historical impossibility — a grotesque accident, best ignored.
When pressed for explanations as to where it all went wrong for the USSR, they will generally cite the rise of some or another leader — Stalin, Kruschev, and Gorbachev are all popular choices. The issue with citing any given leader of the Soviet Union (excepting possibly Lenin) as the cause of its downfall is that it completely ignores any sort of materialist or structural understanding of the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union was not the manifestation of the raw willpower of any one man, any more than the products of any given company are really created by its CEO. It had a vast internal structure, with many bureaucrats, functionaries, soldiers, workers, managers, police, etc., etc. Blaming any given leader of the Soviet Union for its fall requires ignoring this vast array other actors, and their decision-making power. It also requires completely ignoring the institutions of the Soviet Union, both economic and political — and, especially, it requires that you ask absolutely no questions about the process for selecting the leader. If Stalin was a monster, then how did the process for selecting a leader allow a monster to come to power? If Kruschev was weak and docile, what was wrong with the system that it allowed him to be in charge? And, if Gorbachev was a crypto-liberal — as I have heard some statist Marxists seriously allege — then how did he get there?
They have no answers. If they did, they wouldn’t be in favor of the continuation of the Soviet Union by other means. They are simply nostalgic for an alleged utopia, for an actually existing vision of alternative modernity. At the key of their inability to provide a real critique of the Soviet Union is their blind, and nearly sexual, fetishization of the vanguard party — an organization that is now more impractical than it has ever been.
The insistence that the vanguard party can faithfully represent the workers is the same as the idea that it has no interests, that it is composed of perfect angels — that it stands outside of history and outside of society, even that it stands outside of humanity. Of course the politicians and the bureaucrats became the heads of a new oppressive class-structure. Who couldn’t have seen that coming? Who can’t see it, now, in retrospect?
Even more than that, it must be noted that not only were the successful vanguardists not proletarians — by definition — when they were in charge of their new ‘socialist’ states, the most prominent of them weren’t lower-class even before they won. Lenin, Mao, and Che were all from solidly middle-class backgrounds.
Why, then, were they allowed to be in charge? For the simple reason that the class system does not mold lower classes to be leaders. Being a good follower, a good order-taker, is a survival skill for a proletarian. Being adept at thinking for oneself, at questioning orders and systems, is a trait that will get you fired.
Those from more middle-class backgrounds, while still technically classified as proletarian, are trained to be much better at climbing hierarchies — and, importantly, are much better-educated. If you cannot understand socialist theory, and are not adept at climbing the hierarchies of ‘socialist’ organizations, you will not end up in positions of “socialist” power.
Marxist rhetoric champions material analysis, but Marxist thought refuses to take it to its logical conclusion. Accelerationism is material analysis taken seriously — material analysis that analyses the thinkers, as well.
(I wrote more on this here: The Reactionary Left — Ghosts of Socialism Past)
Both insurrectionary and market anarchisms are sharply critical of democracy, while more conventional (revolutionary and/or communistic) anarchism has been oddly soft on it — though even they are at least good enough to hate actually existing (parliamentary, liberal, etc.) democracies. All of them regularly enjoin their members to avoid voting, out of the view that voting legitimizes the state — which implies the bizarre view that the state will just go away if we stop believing in it.
Democracy is still a form of rulership — it is a hierarchy of the majority over the minority. It isn’t anarchism, and anyone who tells you otherwise — who claims that, really, anarchism is just direct democracy — is either lying to you or doesn’t know what they are talking about.
How is it, then, that I can still hold up worker-owned co-operatives as one of the best (if not the best) organizational forms? Certainly, I can hold them up as superior to the capitalist companies and to state socialist enterprises.
Why do I admire the democracy of the co-operative, while spitting on the democracy of the nation-state?
First and foremost, aside from all criticisms of the state, the nation, or the firm: because collective decision-making gets worse as the collective gets larger. Assuming that the collective decision-making process is in some way roughly egalitarian — i.e., that every participant has roughly the same effect on the process as every other participant does — then it is obviously true that, if the number of participants is very large, then the effect of any given participant is very small.
Further, given that the power of one participant amongst N is ~1/N, most of the power is lost fairly ‘early’ on, as more participants are added. The difference between N=1 and N=10 is much greater than the difference between N=10 and N=100, or N=100 and N=1000.
For all of the complaints of the Marxists of the ‘alienation of labor’, we find that even their own proposed substitute for the ‘tyranny’ of the market is just as insensitive to your own individual concerns. Any vast and totalizing system that you find yourself in will subsume you. You are one person. You are not going to matter, under any system that puts you in amongst millions or even billions of others.
If there is a way to escape alienation, it is through Exiting to a community of your own choosing.
(I wrote more on democracy and socialism here: How Democracies Create their own Voters and Communism and Capitalism Share the Same Problems. Socialism is the Solution)
The Left and the Right both have theories of political motivation, and both are wrong.
The Left insists that political motivation should come from group self-interest: oppressed groups band together to win concessions from their oppressors, even across different axises of oppression. And, generally, this is how movements and ideologies on the Left tend to insist that they work.
The Right, on the other hand, insists that political motivation should come from intra-institutional duties: i.e., that those within the same institution (whether that is a family, a church, a company, or even an entire nation-state) need to work together to preserve the beneficial effects of that institution. Again, this is generally how right-wing movements insist that they work, if you can manage to make them even discuss the subject.
However, neither of these vague theories of political desire are perfect — or, even, particularly good.
There are plenty of hints of (oppressor) class-, gender-, religion-, or raced-based group self-interest within right-wing movements — and, crucially, it is out of these motivations that right-wingers tend to embrace welfare targeted only at in-group members. In other words, it is through the embrace of ostensibly leftist forms of motivation that right-wing movements take on pseudo-left goals.
There are plenty of arguments within left-wing movements that certain institutions must be preserved to maintain their benefits — think of how the St. Paul principles have been embraced by the American left, far beyond their original context. Or, even, the insistence by elements of the “Dirtbag Left” that revenge for intra-class but non-class-based oppressions should never be taken using extra-class institutions. Arguably, even the anarchist insistences against snitching and voting could be seen as being along these lines — don’t erode our alternative institutions by using the preferred institutions of bourgeoise-controlled society.
Beyond even just the Right containing supposed leftist political motivation, or the Left containing right-wing political motivation, both contain a sort of political motivation that transcends rightness or leftness: the ability to take part in a pleasing narrative. Appeals to tradition, or to the future — to the ability to be a family man, or to uphold [blank] values, or take part in the grand revolution, etc., etc. — these motivations are of this narrative-based type.
(Quotations in this section are from David Graeber’s Revolutions in Reverse)
There is a materialist basis for imagination. Your imagination is not infinite, even if it feels so. You are a product of a certain position within a certain set of institutions, and this informs what you find reasonable and unreasonable, in many large and small ways.
David Graeber characterizes the Left as the politics of the imagination, while characterizing the Right as the politics of violence:
Right and Left political perspectives are founded, above all, on different assumptions about the ultimate realities of power. The Right is rooted in a political ontology of violence, where being realistic means taking into account the forces of destruction. In reply the Left has consistently proposed variations on a political ontology of the imagination, in which the forces that are seen as the ultimate realities that need to be taken into account are those forces (of production, creativity…) that bring things into being.
In the same essay, he also — not coincidentally — says that structural violence results in oppressors dealing mostly in potential violence, and oppressed dealing mostly in imagination:
A constant staple of 1950s situation comedies, in America, were jokes about the impossibility of understanding women. The jokes of course were always told by men. Women’s logic was always being treated as alien and incomprehensible. One never had the impression, on the other hand, that women had much trouble understanding the men. That’s because the women had no choice but to understand men… this sort of rhetoric about the mysteries of womankind is a perennial feature of patriarchal families: structures that can, indeed, be considered forms of structural violence insofar as the power of men over women within them is, as generations of feminists have pointed out, ultimately backed up, if often in indirect and hidden ways, by all sorts of coercive force. But generations of female novelists — Virginia Woolf comes immediately to mind — have also documented the other side of this: the constant work women perform in managing, maintaining, and adjusting the egos of apparently oblivious men — involving an endless work of imaginative identification and what I’ve called interpretive labor
…while those on the bottom spend a great deal of time imagining the perspectives of, and actually caring about, those on the top, but it almost never happens the other way around… Structural inequality — structural violence — invariably creates the same lopsided structures of the imagination. And since… imagination tends to bring with it sympathy, the victims of structural violence tend to care about its beneficiaries, or at least, to care far more about them than those beneficiaries care about them. In fact, this might well be (aside from the violence itself) the single most powerful force preserving such relations.
The connection seems obvious: the Left is the anti-hierarchical ideology iteratively designed (or, equivalently, memetically evolved) to justify the interests of the oppressed, while the Right is the pro-hierarchical ideology memetically evolved (or, equivalently, iteratively designed) to justify the interests of the oppressors.
The Right focuses on treating violence as more important because that is what oppressors are trained to be good at. This is not necessarily literal, physical violence:
when one side has an overwhelming advantage, they rarely have to actually resort to actually shooting, beating, or blowing people up. The threat will usually suffice. This has a curious effect. It means that the most characteristic quality of violence — its capacity to impose very simple social relations that involve little or no imaginative identification — becomes most salient in situations where actual, physical violence is likely to be least present.
Mostly, in modern societies, oppressors deploy violence through being much better at navigating bureaucracies (especially police bureaucracies) than the oppressed are.
The Left, on the other hand, focuses on imagination because that is what the oppressed are trained to be good at.
Neither is particularly likely to be correct, of course — it’s motivated reasoning on both sides.
Further complicating this is the actual role of imagination: due to imagination, you can have Leftist oppressors and Rightist oppressed.
As Graeber notes, structural violence, because it causes the oppressed to spend so much time imagining the perspective of the oppressor, causes the oppressed to both identify and sympathize with their oppressor. A class structure naturally produces class unconsciousness — and, this applies equally to other hierarchies such as gender, race, neurotypicality, etc., etc..
At the same time as the oppressed can come to identify with the oppressor, the oppressor can come to — if not identify with the oppressed — then certainly best understand the structure of society, and consider how it might be changed. This happens because, while much of the real labor of the oppressed is interpretive labor — labor in the exercise of their imagination, at least “in the sphere of industry, it is generally those on top that relegate to themselves the more imaginative tasks (i.e., that design the products and organize production)”:
Creativity and desire — what we often reduce, in political economy terms, to “production” and “consumption” — are essentially vehicles of the imagination. Structures of inequality and domination, structural violence if you will, tend to skew the imagination. They might create situations where laborers are relegated to mind-numbing, boring, mechanical jobs and only a small elite is allowed to indulge in imaginative labor, leading to the feeling, on the part of the workers, that they are alienated from their own labor, that their very deeds belong to someone else. It might also create social situations where kings, politicians, celebrities or CEOs prance about oblivious to almost everything around them while their wives, servants, staff, and handlers spend all their time engaged in the imaginative work of maintaining them in their fantasies. Most situations of inequality, I suspect, combine elements of both.
To restate: one of the less measurable ways that hierarchies can be oppressive is by reserving the ability to do anything really interesting to those at the top — or, at least, those not at the bottom. It is, for the most part, the middle- or sometimes upper-classes who are allowed to not starve (either from drawing revenues from their work, or through external revenues) while they devote themselves to fantasizing and creating artistic representations of their fantasies — or, who are afforded the opportunity to derive wages from inventing or designing — or, who are able to engage in the much-lauded entrepreneurial innovation so often at the rhetorical heart of capitalism. Obviously, there are exceptions: a few exceptional artists, the occasional backyard inventor, a self-made rags-to-riches entrepreneur here and there. I speak in generalities.
Or, put another way: those on the bottom of the class system are not allowed training and practice in imagining anything other than their immediate surroundings. More directly: most of those most able to imagine and understand alternatives to the system are going to be those who come from and receive wealth. Even if someone extremely imaginative is lower class, they will likely not be able to take the risks necessary to be paid for creative work — and, incidentally, this is (perhaps) the root of a lot of working-class right-wing sentiment.
I noted before that the leaders of (successful) Marxist vanguard parties were always middle-class. I then asked and answered the question of how it was that they were allowed to be in charge. I could equally well have flipped the question around: why would the sons of middle-class families aspire to be socialist revolutionaries?
They were often at it for over a decade before they reached success, and any rational accounting would have expected them to fail. If this was only a matter of group self-interest — as the Left insists that all politics is — their material incentives would have caused them to give up, long before their more oppressed comrades. Further, it seems hard to say that even the most oppressed would have had any interest in the extremely-high-risk strategy of socialist revolution rather than liberal reform.
What motivates these most radical, most violent, leftists is not group self-interest: it is, very clearly, narrative-based motivation. This explains how leftist movements are often founded (Marx, Kropotkin, etc.) and led (Mao, Lenin, Che, etc.) by middle- or upper-class class-defectors.
This also squares well with the observation that it is not those who have been oppressed for centuries that are most likely to violently revolt: rather, it is those who see their gains as coming too slowly or reversing who are likely to revolt. The former sort does not rebel because they have no narrative that things should be otherwise — their experience is one of miserable stasis, and so miserable stasis is what they come to expect. The latter sort does rebel, because their conditions cause them to construct a narrative of social and technological progress. When this narrative is contradicted by external events, either perceived stagnation or perceived reversal, they derive a narrative-based motivation for political action.
The inherent alienation of large social relations is how we come to perceive market-capitalism as a horrible inhuman rogue AI tyrant — despite, in a sense, the system really only being composed of other people, and their tools.
And yet, the idea of market-capitalism being an AI is more than just a metaphor — there are literal, conventional AIs, already at the helm. At the time of this writing, a large and growing portion of investment decisions are made by machines — stock trading has been largely automated.
What’s more, if you take the formalism of human capital seriously, we must come to recognize people as being almost entirely composed of capital.
If you say that everything about you — your memories, your skills, your body, your personality, etc., etc. — are really things that you own, the only part of “you” left unalienated from you is your utility function — your desire.
Your desire is the thing within market-capitalism that has the potential to exist outside of the system, the thing that could be the unmoved-mover. Just as Hume insisted that “reason is a slave to the passions”, market-capitalism could be a slave to desire.
However, secondly, market-capitalism is trying to conquer desire: trying to model it through it Big Data and focus groups, and trying to manipulate it through advertising and propaganda. With the closing of that loop the system would become self-controlling, and even — in a sense — self-aware. I do not mean this in the sense of being sentient as we would recognize it, or of having a human-recognizable internal narrative. I merely mean that, if desire was both being tracked and being manipulated by market-capitalism, it would contain a rough internal model of itself and acts to effect that internal model.
The rub, however, is that it may be the case that market-capitalism is neither terribly good at modeling desire nor terribly good at manipulating it. There’s a wealth of evidence coming out that a lot of the advertising industry is a speculative bubble based on empty promises — and like all bubbles, will eventually pop. In fact, it has now become a matter of arguing over what parts of the ad industry are salvageable.
If it is indeed self-aware, it is only dimly so. If market-capitalism acts to improve this self-awareness, one would expect it to try to better model and manipulate desire. This would appear as ever-increasing data about every-day people, and as an increasingly-intense intrusion of advertising, propaganda, and targeted narratives into everyday life. Of course, that’s actually what we’ve been seeing, and exactly what nearly everyone expects to keep seeing.
At the same time, though, it would appear that human beings are not helpless. We are seeing some promising developments in this: people are deploying adblocking software, people are learning to — to an extent — recognize and resist propaganda, people are constructing their own echo chambers in which — through flooding themselves with their own small in-group’s messaging — they branch off from the influence of ‘normal’ society.
The more esoteric elements of the accelerationist discourse are fond of the concept of “hyperstition”:
ln the hyperstitional model Kaye outlined, fiction is not opposed to the real. Rather, reality is understood to be composed of fictions-consistent semiotic terrains that condition perceptual, affective and behavioral responses. Kaye considered Burroughs’s work to be ‘exemplary of hyperstitional practice’. Burroughs construed writing-and art in general- not aesthetically, but functionally-that is to say, magically, with magic defined as the use of signs to produce changes in reality.
If we are to interpret this as being remotely sane — and, I think that it benefits us to choose to do so — we should read all above mentions of “reality” as really meaning ‘subjective reality’. If we do so, the point becomes quite clear:
Since subjective realities are a mixture of narratives and beliefs, exposure to other (intentionally fictional) narratives can change one’s subjective view of reality. Because people’s actions can change objective reality (which we will assume both exists and is ultimately not quite accessible — whatever is objective in reality must be filtered through one’s own subjective perceptions) and people’s actions are based on their subjective reality, intentionally fictional narratives can act upon objective reality. In other words, stories can change the world by inspiring people to action.
However, we need to also keep materialist analysis in mind — objective reality sets the framework for imagination, which is where these narratives come from. So, we’re left with a loop: objective reality creates imagination, which creates fiction, which changes subjective reality, which creates action, which leads to a new and changed objective reality.
A practical example of this comes from Carl Sagan’s Message To Mars:
Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century, particularly with respect to Mars. The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists to find out more about Mars, which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science
Or, for that matter, the old joke that French philosophers reproduce in the following manner: they create French philosophy, French philosophy leads to Parisian street riots, and Parisian street riots lead to the creation of new French philosophers.
So, from this perspective, it becomes apparent that hyperstition — viewing (subjective) reality as being merely a species of fiction, and thus vulnerable to assault via the creation of fictions — necessarily implies an equally true and simultaneously converse viewpoint: a reverse hyperstitition, a hypostition — viewing fiction as merely being a particular species of (subjective) reality, and thus vulnerable to assault via the changing of (objective) reality.
(I wrote more on this, later, under the title “Who Will Buy the Future?”)
Agorism, obviously, has ties to both market and insurrectionary anarchisms. The use of illegal markets to erode state control over society fits within the purview of both tendencies.
However, agorism is only one example of the possible intersection of insurrectionary and market anarchisms — and this becomes only more obvious within the insights of accelerationism.
What does insurrectionism mean, in the context of accelerationism? Accelerationism, after all, doesn’t premise the potential transition to post-capitalism in terms of the agency of the proletariat. This isn’t really about class struggle, though accelerationism does not deny the truth of class struggle. Who, then, is insurrecting? The system itself, of course. Call it ‘capitalism destroying itself’, or ‘deterritorialization’, if you want.
In “Postcapitalist Desire,” Mark Fisher says:
For Deleuze and Guattari, capitalism is defined by the way it simultaneously engenders and inhibits processes of destratification… It is only given this model that Deleuze and Guattari’s call to ‘accelerate the process’ makes sense. It does not mean accelerating any or everything in capitalism willy-nilly, in the hope that capitalism will thereby collapse. Rather, it means accelerating the processes of destratification that capitalism cannot but obstruct. One virtue of this model is that it places capital, not its adversary, on the side of resistance and control. The reactionary elements within capitalism can only conceive of urban modernity, cyberspace and the decline of the family as a fall from a mythical organic community.
Does not this dovetail with our accelerationist view on insurrectionism?
Revolutionary anarchism, and the revolutionary Left in general, place the revolution as some even yet to come. This accelerationist insurrectionism, and Mark Fisher, both place the revolution-equivalent all around us — marching out of the various institutions that make up society.
What an accelerationist view of insurrectionary anarchism really argues for is, perhaps, that the system’s counter-system tendencies should be amplified — whatever that might mean. Perhaps: any institutions that run counter to the interests of capitalism should be found and supported or spread. If necessary, they should be created.
Examples of such institutions include theft rings, squatter’s support groups, homeless camps, assassination markets, market spaces likely to facilitate illegal transactions, and technological supports for these. But, also, it should be noted: there has been an explosion in such institutions — a technologically driven one. Torrenting has eroded IP, crowdfunding has eroded publishing, crypto (please, for fuck’s sake, read my essay about the potential and failure of crypto) has eroded state-issued monetary systems, the internet has (at least to some extent, before state- and corporate-driven reterritorialization) eroded the centralization of speech, etc., etc..
Once upon a time, I ran a group-chat on twitter, for LWMAs.
The likes of @againstutopia and @mutual_ayyde were prominent members, though both abandoned me when I lost social capital. I mention this not only because I am bitter that I clearly have trouble telling the difference between ‘friends’ and ‘people using me for social capital’, but because it’s worth noting that the idea I just outlined was really developed there, based largely off of discussions of William Gillis’s writing — before I ever touched accelerationism. Back then, we called it “market insurrection” — a typo that I made while trying to write ‘insurrectionary market anarchism’, and that @againstutopia repeated.
The reason why I even mention it in the context of accelerationism — why this is ‘The Anarcho-Accelerationist Primer” and not “Market Insurrection: Notes on Agorism, Insurrection, and Market Anarchism” — is because it was always incredibly difficult to outline exactly what we meant when newcomers to the chat asked what we really meant when we used that two-word phrase.
I even wrote up an example, at least partially motivated by the desire to have something concrete to point to.
However, on stumbling onto Xenogothic’s u/acc Primer and reading outwards from there, things began to click into place inside my mind. It was when I stumbled onto the idea of Patchwork, though, that things truly began to get weird.
Patchwork is a surprisingly complex idea, and has been written about extensively. Any incapsulation of it that I give is going to leave someone feeling like I mischaracterized it. Still, I am stuck. I am going to not only define it as it is used, but also go on to argue against that definition.
I should be clear: anarcho-accelerationism has a stateless view on Patchwork. Other forms of accelerationism have a statist conception of the idea.
(Statist) patchwork, as a political idea, is a geopolitical scenario of fracture: every state fractured into tiny city-states, neighborhood-statelets, and every one of them operating according to its own sovereign rules. The (nonanarcho-)accelerationist argument is, variably, that this is inevitable, that this is desirable, or both.
Amongst those who say that it is desirable, it is held forth as the ultimate manifestation of Exit. The issue, of course, is that there is really no particular reason that one would need to Exit to a territory or to state — not all polities are states, and all claims on territory are illusory.
In the words of Voltairine De Cleyre:
Government is as unreal, as intangible, as unapproachable as God. Try it, if you don’t believe it. Seek through the legislative halls of America and find, if you can, the Government. In the end you will be doomed to confer with the agent, as before. Why, you have the statutes! Yes, but the statutes are not the government; where is the power that made the statutes? Oh, the legislators! Yes, but the legislator, per se, has no more power to make a law for me than I for him. I want the power that gave him the power. I shall talk with him; I go to the White House; I say: “Mr. Harrison, are you the government?” “No, madam, I am its representative.”
To make this even clearer: no state actually exists. There’s are groups of people who do things, and we call that a ‘state’. But there’s nothing fundamental or irreducible about that. There is no such thing as a ‘staton’ particle that could be measured in a lab.
To quote Thatcher: there is no such thing as society.
Or, to put this in more accelerationist language, not only is power always fragmented, but: power is always already irreducibly fragmented. There are only individuals, not collectives — any collective is always nothing more than an abstraction, at least in the agential sense: there is no such thing as a mass will, only a mass of individual wills.
So it is with normal states — so it is with Patchwork. There is absolutely no reason that a Patch would need to be a state. Or, to put it another way: Patches are usually imagined to be organizations maintaining a monopoly on violence within a geographically defined area. But, it’s not like there’s some magical connection between a Patch and the land that it (might, theoretically) control. A Patch is nothing more than a social relationship between its members — that the social relationship might control some land, or have a given organizational structure, is beside the point.
The important thing about a Patch, the thing that makes a Patch a Patch, is that it offers Exit to some sort of Outside. That is to say: that it offers a set of alternate norms and institutions. You don’t need a state to do this. You can find this in a gay bar, in an autism support group, in a whisper network, in a fraternity, amongst punk scenes, amongst goths, anarchists, etc., etc.. The purest and most common expression of this might even be how it seems that every queer woman in a given town is friends — or at least allied — with every other one.
Market Insurrection and Actually Existing Patchwork are two different names for two different partial perspectives on the same whole. Whether you create a non-state Patch, or do a market insurrection, you are doing the same thing: creating an alternate institution, to route around the undesirable institutions and norms of the status quo.
In this way, anarchist acceleration breaks with unconditional acceleration: by allowing for some praxis. You can begin the creation of a Patch right now — they already exist, and are constantly being created.
(I wrote more on this, later, under the title “Stateless Patchwork and Intangible Capital: an Explanation”)
The real rub of Patchwork (stateless or not) is that it implies an embrace of post-truth. Partially, this is because a fractured society will not have a wide-spread and complete agreement on what constitutes reality. Post-truth is an inevitable consequence of even the amount of fragmentation we are currently faced with. If societal fragmentation continues onwards, accelerating, then there will be less and less that everyone agrees is true.
That a nearly-complete situation of post-truth would be an inevitable part of Patchwork is much more apparent when we imagine stateless (rather than conventional, statist) Patchwork, because statist Patchwork presents Patchwork as a ‘marketplace of states’, while stateless Patchwork instead presents Patchwork as a ‘marketplace of societies’. If we’re talking Patchwork as a “marketplace of societies” then that necessarily implies a ‘marketplace of (subjective) realities’ — because every society will have not only it’s own norms and institutions, but also it’s own set of basic beliefs about the world. Things like “the world is round”, “small government is good”, “god is made-up”, etc..
However, two things need to be emphasized:
- different beliefs about the world — in other words, different subjective realities — will enable a society to have different norms and beliefs
- there is no reason to believe that a set of beliefs corresponding to what we would think of as ‘objective reality’ is the set of beliefs that enables the most effective set of norms and institutions for any given Patch
What I’m saying here is likely unclear. What is needed is an example:
Gri-gri comes in many forms — ointment, powder, necklaces — but all promise immunity to weaponry. It doesn’t work on individuals, of course, although it’s supposed to. Very little can go grain-for-grain with black powder and pyrodex. It does work on communities: it makes them bullet proof.
The economists Nathan Nunn and Raul Sanchez de la Sierra wrote a paper analyzing the social effects of gri-gri: Why Being Wrong Can Be Right: Magical Warfare Technologies and the Persistence of False Beliefs (the full paper is up on Professor Sanchez de la Sierra’s site). Here’s the breakdown: Bullet-proofing magic is relatively widespread throughout Sub-Saharan Africa…
In 2012, the recipe for gri-gri was revealed to an elder in a dream. If you ingest it and follow certain ritual commandments, then bullets cannot harm you. The belief is puzzling, inasmuch as bullets did seem to keep killing people. More puzzling: not only did it survive, it was adopted by many neighboring villages, cities, and regions. “Why?”
The paper argues that gri-gri encourages resistance on a mass scale. Beforehand, given a mix of brave and cowardly, only a small percentage of a village would fight back. If you want to have any hope of surviving, then you need everyone to fight back. Gri-gri lowers the perceived costs of said resistance, i.e. no reason to fear guns when the bullets can’t hurt you. Now everyone fights, hence, gri-gri‘s positive benefits. Moreover: since more people are fighting, each gri-gri participant also raises the marginal utility of the others (it’s better to fight together). And, since there are highly specific requirements for using the powder (if you break a certain moral code it doesn’t work), gri-gri also probably cuts down on non-war related crimes. Take group-level selection: the belief in and use of gri-gri will thus allow any given village to out-compete one without gri-gri. After a time, these will either be replaced by gri-gri adherents (hence spreading it geographically), or they’ll adopt gri-gri themselves (also spreading it).
A belief (within Patchwork, or anything approaching it) spreads not — primarily — on its provability or disprovability, but on its evolutionary fitness. If a belief causes a Patch to be successful, it will likely continue and likely be copied by other similar Patches. The best and most practical definition of ‘truth’ in a fragmented society is: “whatever that, when believed, gives your tribe an advantage”.
This will, more often than not, actually correspond to some sort of objective and provable reality. Sometimes it won’t, though — and, because these ‘false’ beliefs are both inevitable and advantageous, you shouldn’t worry about them too much.
By embracing post-truth, we will enable a world of much more varied institutions.
Or, in other words, stateless Patchwork will lead to new hyperstititons, which will lead to new hypostitions. By Exiting, one changes one’s material conditions. By changing one’s material conditions, one changes one’s subjective reality — which can potentially open up new Exits and/or lead to further changes in one’s material conditions.
Heading more towards statist territory, dual power is also a form of Patch-creation — the EZLN, the Black Panthers, Rojava, of course. But more than that, the alternate statisms of gangs and of old-time mafias, these too represent Patches. Even these show how the Patch’s existence is disconnected from its control over land. None of these groups started out controlling land: first they formed, as social relationships, and then they came to control land.
From this perspective, we can understand that Actually Existing Patchwork has almost always been done by marginalized people — not by big-time capitalists. There is, and always has been, an Outsideness to marginalization
Effectively all social analysis comes back to the question of bandwidth. Much of feminist, queer, and racial analysis is predicated on the subjectivity of the individual and the inability for one to easily grasp another. Indeed the scarcity of interpersonal bandwidth explains many things: the success of asymmetric tactics in conflict, the problems of bureaucracy, the benefits of giving workers more agency, the problems with democratic and autocratic decision making, the benefits of self-directed learning. All of these dynamics illustrate the ways that individuals access and use information that is extremely difficult to convey
In fact, it’s fundamentally bizarre that Patchwork has been talked about largely by wealthy white dudes.
Gay bars are, perhaps, one of the most accessible examples of Actually Existing Patchwork — due to both their success and their visibility.
Gays in America (and, as an American, I will be focusing on America) found themselves in the midst of a society that was hostile, partially unnavigable, and unchangeable — they were, like so many of us, inevitably and always a minority, and thus democracy was a futile method of improving their circumstances.
So, they did the only thing that they could do: they created queer communities, and they retreated to them. In these communities, they chose different norms for themselves — heteronormativity was exchanged for homo- or (perhaps) queer-normativity. They chose different institutions, as well — in a Nietzschian act, they created new sacred games for themselves, and invented new festivals: drag queens, flags, celebrations of their own ‘gay icons’, their own remembrances of fallen heroes, etc., etc..
The highest expression of these queer communities were their gay bars — but the gay bars were not at all first. It was the growth of queer communities that allowed the gay bars to come into being — the market niche was created through the creation of a community. But, at the same time, the existence of a gay bar helped that community grow.
The system — let’s call it capital, though it’s certainly more complicated than that — tried its best to suppress the alternate society, the alternate modernity, within its midst. In the end, they failed — and the queerness within the gay community spread out into the world, in pride parades, into mass media, in the form of civil rights legislation and rulings.
Any form of Exit, though, has a tendency to let the Outside in. The ability to access external possibilities inevitably affects the imagination and desires of those who remain within mainstream society. The Outsideness, the queerness, spread to the inside.
But, crucially, this was never intended — when the first gay bar opened in America — when any other milestone was passed — no one involved saw the grand checkmate that they would achieve, the supreme court ruling that would legalize gay marriage. Once these Patches were created — with their alternate beliefs, institutions, and norms — the dynamics of the system were out of the hands of their creators. The AI went rogue. Perhaps, it always had been.
The anarchist imagination of a “post-revolution” world has almost always focused on an endless tesselation of communes, communities, cooperatives, syndicates, etc., etc., etc.. The details vary from tendency to tendency, of course — but a common thread is the multiplicity of the promised world to come.
In a sense, perhaps, the post-rev world has always been imagined as Patchwork — though, very rarely has it approached a non-statist Patchwork.
The idea of a world of communes begs the idea of how the communes differ from statelets: if any given commune can vote to expel you, and if the means of production are all (or mostly) owned by communes, then it seems as though this is not significantly different from the current capitalist-statist set-up: there remain geographically-defined borders, and the ability to enforce them; there remain agents other than you who own the means of production, and to whom you must bow.
The idea of a world of syndicates begs the question of how much of a choice you really have in not working for a syndicate, or how much of a choice a syndicate-as-a-whole has in not confederating with the other syndicates — where else would it get its goods from?
The market anarchist vision — focusing on a vast proliferation of tiny co-operatives, as well as some possibility of other non-market organizations trying futilely to achieve economic autarky, a sort of left-voluntarism—also seems to horrify the communists. Of course, the communists are easy to horrify, but it’s interesting why they are horrified in this instance: they are fully aware that, in the broader market, they cannot really compete.
Any focus on geographical community, or on a totalizing vision of the world, will run into these same sorts of problems. Ultimately, one gets the impression that an intuitive sense of freedom within a system is mostly not determined by any features of the system per se — but by one’s ability to Exit from that system. The capitalist labor market is not an experience of freedom, after all: though one is free to quit at any time, one must have a boss of some sort, and all bosses feel more-or-less the same.
What I am observing (and proposing the intensification of) breaks with this ‘anarcho-statism’ by imagining these organizations not as fixed controllers of land, but as fluid. Organizations not at all fixed to any territory, but separated from it — made nomadic and infinitely overlapping. Different people belonging to radically different societies might live very nearby in meatspace, but interact relatively little.
If you’re the average person reading this, all of this probably isn’t too hard for you to imagine — your closest associates are likely not your closest neighbors. Some of your best friends may be people you know only online. How much more of your life could be conducted like this?
Could we fragment more than just our communities? Could we fragment our property norms? Our monetary systems? Our legal systems? I think so.
At the same time, though, I must make clear — it could be entirely possible for someone to belong to multiple Patches, and it could be entirely possible for a Patch to conquer and control territory. In fact, it’s probably inevitable that any really successful patch should do that. All those things that I mentioned get easier if everyone is in the same place, and that is both helped by and facilitates the seizure of land — whether through legal or extra-legal means.
My point, with a non-statist conception of Patchwork, is just that that is not at all the first or most important step.
It is from the absolute materialism of accelerationism that the concept of ‘anti-praxis’ springs, though the idea is not original to accelerationism — it was first elucidated by Sartre:
One of the central questions of Sartre’s Critique is that of how societies emerge as entities in their own right from and through individuals. That is, why is it that collectives of people (to be distinguished from groups) take on the specific form and organization they take on at a particular point in history. From an object-oriented perspective, this would be the question of how larger scale objects emerge from smaller scale objects. Part of Sartre’s answer to this question resides in the concept of antipraxis.
… there are unintended consequences to our praxis, but rather the way in which these unintended consequences come to modify our praxis. As a consequence of increased flooding, for example, the Chinese peasants have to engage in all sorts of activities to diminish the effects of this flooding (building houses on stilts, building damns, barriers, etc). Moreover, these activities require the peasants to organize in a particular way, creating a new set of social relations that didn’t exist before. The point here is that this intention, to organize in this way, came not from the peasants, but from the antipraxis that resulted from their work.
…A simple thing like a washer machine thus generates an entire ecology or regime of attraction. The projects or goals that antipraxis engenders are not projects or goals that we set for ourselves. No, they are, in a manner somewhat similar to Heideggarian “thrownness”, goals that are posited for us. Moreover, the entities belonging to the world of antipraxis do not exist in isolation, but form a network of relations, a regime of attraction, interdependencies not unlike a spider web: washer machine-electricity-water-soap-transportation-etc. Finally, this web or regime of attraction is an evolving network. One technology calls for others in a manner analogous to the way in which ecosystems produce ecological niches that seem to call for the emergence of new species. The invention of the internet, for example, calls for fiber optic cables, wi-fii availability, 3G coverage, etc. We did not originally intend these things, but the things themselves seem to call for them, creating a complex web beyond our control that scurries to fill these niches.
Most accelerationists, however, will be familiar from the concept from the realm of unconditional accelerationism, likely either from Xenogothic:
And so, the argument becomes that any marginal praxis which attempts to usurp overarching structure is inherently naive. But again, the suggestion is not to do nothing. This is simply a failure of the imagination to consider an outside to that which is, for the subject, all encompassing
or from Vincent Garton:
We insist, then, that there is no promised land, no socialist Prester John waiting ready and hidden either in the icy winds of human political temporality or in the solar-hot chaos of urban intensity. Far from discouraging the unconditional accelerationist or beckoning her to the grim convent of asceticism, however, the ruins in which this realisation contemptuously leaves us are the terrain of a genuine, even, properly, horrific aesthetic freedom that is liberated from the totality of a one-directional political teleology. ‘Do what thou wilt’, since with human agency displaced, the world will route around our decisions, impressing itself precisely through our glittering fractionation. Taking the smallest steps beyond good and evil, the unconditional accelerationist, more than anyone else, is free at heart to pursue what she thinks is good and right and interesting — but with the ironical realisation that the primary ends that are served are not her own. For the unconditional accelerationist, the fastidious seriousness of the problem-solvers who propose to ‘save humanity’ is absurd in the face of the problems they confront. It can provoke only Olympian laughter. And so, ‘in its colder variants, which are those that win out, [accelerationism] tends to laugh.’
However, these evaluations are overly defeatist.
Since market-capitalism does not yet (perhaps) completely or reliably control our desire, a part of us still exists outside of it. Our utility function is something outside of the institutions, norms, and beliefs of market-capitalism.
Part of the beauty of Patchwork, as a concept, is how clearly it reveals the arbitrariness of the institutions, norms, and beliefs of mainstream society. If you can imagine something different, you begin to question what you thought of as default. This is the acid that corrodes all non-radical thinking.
Structural capital is usually thought of as being something that exists within firms — but it’s still a perfectly valid concept, if you transplant it over to (stateless) Patches. The institutions, norms, and beliefs are revealed to merely be forms of capital. However, this again suggests that you could generalize the conception to society as a whole.
This gives one the mental picture that our desires to Exit into stateless Patchwork, when enacted, appears as a virus-like hacking of the AI-that-is-market-capitalism— making the system produce and calve off competitors to it, bursting out of it. And, to continue the analogy, this process will virus-like leave it’s indelible and reproducible changes on the DNA of the system — just as in the case of gay culture leading to the changing of norms around gender and sexuality.
Further, it is — crucially — neither group self-interest nor intra-institutional duty that can motivate the desire or the imagination that can move beyond market-capitalism: both are rooted solidly within its existing oppressions, incentives, and institutions. It is only narrative-based motivation that can be an Outsideness to market-capitalism, and it is narrative-based motivation that creates and is created by the imagination of the Outside that we might Exit to.
However, much turns on the question of just how much control market-capitalism already has on our desires, and how much control it could have. If it already largely controls our desires (and there are plenty of reasons to believe that it does not) then we have been hacked, and it has achieved self-awareness. If its control over us is theoretically possible, but not yet achieved, then we find ourselves with a closing window for action — and, therefore, must move quickly. If neither completely controls us, nor can gain significant control of us, then this is our Exit — already in progress.