Nick Srnicek and Alex William

#Accelerate Manifesto

Manifesto

2014

http://syntheticedifice.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/accelerate-manifesto-for-an-accelerationist-politics/

Srnicek’s and William’s #Accelerate manifesto came ready hashtaggable and is perhaps the first manifesto to exist as a meme (with all the tensions this might entail). A polemical attempt to reclaim the future for the radical Left in the face of the profound economic, ecological and political crises ranged against it – and its own internal subjective crisis – the manifesto has been widely read and sparked vigorous debate (much of it online). Whilst it has been translated into numerous languages the manifesto has also been subject to controversy, having been accused of being inherently macho (because of its strident tone, its celebration of self ‘mastery’ and the fact that related discussions are dominated by young men) and implicitly colonialist (because of its call to revive the project of Enlightenment and promoting the importance of modernity and universalism). Whilst these critiques must be born in mind, #Accelerate deserves consideration as a serious attempt to think beyond the deadlocks of a radical Left too often mired in identity politics, fixated on local and temporary response to global conditions and focused on laudable but limited attempts to resist the conservative onslaught against the welfare state rather than constructing counter-hegemonic forces capable of restructuring it in light of radically transformed conditions. One of the key claims made in the manifesto is that emerging technologies, including computation, can play a key part in constructing a post-capitalist future, and should neither be ignored as politically irrelevant or simply opposed as the products and tools of a capitalist system. The degree to which this has been controversial has made clear the need for a broader and more nuanced discussion of technology on the part of contemporary Left thought.

‘Accelerationism’, the wider movement of thought associated with the manifesto, is one product of the remarkable proliferation of philosophical discussion that has emerged online in recent years with the growing popularity of social media, blogs and other forms of online publishing. Indeed, ‘Speculative Realism’ – a somewhat related phenomenon – is frequently cited as the first online philosophical movement. The degree to which digital technologies enable and frustrate philosophical discussion remains an open question but the internet has certainly allowed discussion to flourish beyond the slow pace and gate-keeping strategies of academic publishing and created a platform for a vast number of conversations across continents and disciplines that were previously impossible. The emergence of a philosophical ‘blogosphere’ has been one of the most exciting developments in the field for many years, serving as a useful corrective to often calcified discourses and creating an outlet for serious philosophical discussion involving those outside the bounds of academic philosophy departments (even if the nature and merits of so-called ‘para-academic’ activity are matters of heated debate). Nonetheless, it is questionable as to whether or not the incessant, 24/7 chatter of social media is conducive to philosophical thought in the longer term and existing discussions are certainly not without problems. Sadly, they remain dominated by male voices and are frequently marred by macho posturing, personal attacks and fits of ‘web rage’. I’ve had my fingers singed a few times but, for the moment at least, I’m willing to keep putting my hand back in the fire as there are great things being melted and remodeled there.

Werner Herzog

Ten Thousand Years Older

Documentary

2014

This short 2002 documentary sees Herzog return to the Amazon basin, where he had shot some of his defining feature films Aguirre: The Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo, although this time to Brazil rather than Peru. As in those earlier films Herzog reflects upon people facing extreme natural environments, one of his enduring themes (indeed Herzog’s monolog on the jungle in The Burden of Dreams, Les Blank’s documentary about the making of Fitzcarraldo, is perhaps his greatest work), and returns once again to the more subterranean question of colonization and the conflicted processes of modernization that ran through them. Although Herzog might be accused of harboring something of the same Amazonian orientalism that typifies some of his characters, the dark currents of romanticism that ran through those earlier ‘Amazon’ films is absent here. Instead Herzog presents a more sober, indeed melancholic, reflection on the effects of colonization – or more recently ‘contact’ – on one tribal people living in the Brazilian jungle, the Amondauas. The increasing contact between the Amondauas and the ‘modern world’ of the state and expanded patterns of trade not only establishes new channels of communications and networks of relations but sees older ones, those that have been integral to the community and culture of the Amondauas for centuries if not millennia, rapidly unravel in a matter of years. Herzog quietly probes the ways in which communication with the ‘outside world’ comes at the expense of communication across generations, as a gulf – perhaps even a ‘civilizational’ gulf – opens between the younger members of the Amondauas, born into and embracing of the changes that ‘contact’ brings, and older members who are seeing long-stable relations dissolve with the intrusion of the ‘outside world’. One of the most powerful aspects of the film is the attention given to language as both a medium for and barrier to communication, especially in the poignant scene where one of the elder members of the tribe enacts a ritual which has largely lost its cultural power, seeming instead to take the form of a desperate attempt to hold on to a language and an entire way of life in the face of a seemingly irresistible tide of change. This reflection on the death of a language and the eclipse of a culture by the forces of modernization perhaps has its counter-point in Herzog’s ambiguous reflection upon the ‘new language’ of capitalism that he saw emerging in the impressive high-speed cattle trading at Pennsylvania livestock auctions, the subject of an earlier documentary short, 1976’s How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck.