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.