Malign Velocities: Accelerationism and Capitalism

Malign Velocities: Accelerationism and Capitalism

Benjamin Noys

Language: English

Pages: 130

ISBN: 1782793003

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

We are told our lives are too fast, subject to the accelerating demand that we innovate more, work more, enjoy more, produce more, and consume more. That’s one familiar story. Another, stranger, story is told here: of those who think we haven’t gone fast enough. Instead of rejecting the increasing tempo of capitalist production they argue that we should embrace and accelerate it. Rejecting this conclusion, /Malign Velocities/ tracks this 'accelerationism' as the symptom of the misery and pain of labour under capitalism. Retracing a series of historical moments of accelerationism - the Italian Futurism; communist accelerationism after the Russian Revolution; the 'cyberpunk phuturism' of the ’90s and ’00s; the unconscious fantasies of our integration with machines; the apocalyptic accelerationism of the post-2008 moment of crisis; and the terminal moment of negative accelerationism - suggests the pleasures and pains of speed signal the need to disengage, negate, and develop a new politics that truly challenges the supposed pleasures of speed.

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post-industrial Afro-futurism, it aimed to ‘erase the traces’ (in Brecht’s phrase) of the Fordist sound of Motown and to mimic the new robot production-lines that had displaced the remains of ‘variable capital’ (i.e. humans) for ‘constant capital’ (i.e. machines) at Ford. This so-called ‘automation’ was called ‘niggermation’ by radical black workers in the 1970s – the systematic forcing-up of production under unsafe conditions through super-exploitation.8 They disputed the story of new hitech

with dropping corporate profits, then it may not be surprising to find that the contemporary apocalyptic tone is also rooted in that moment. These examples of contemporary post-autonomist thought all take off from the fusion of the work of Negri with that of Deleuze and Guattari. In particular they draw on Negri and Deleuze and Guattari’s re-imagining of the concept of the tendency in the early 1970s. I am not suggesting a simple isomorphism between capitalist base and theoretical superstructure;

obviously suggests a counter to accelerationism. The reference is to the notes for Benjamin’s 1940 essay ‘On the Concept of History’, where he writes: ‘Marx says that revolutions are the locomotive of world history. But perhaps it is quite otherwise. Perhaps revolutions are an attempt by the passengers on this train – namely, the human race – to activate the emergency brake.’2 For Jameson, obviously, this conception is an ‘odd idea’ because it is a failure to measure up to Marx’s own embrace of

likely to lead to anti-immigrant and anti-welfare sentiments. Those struggling to survive as precarious workers are as likely to turn on others as they are to start new forms of support and struggle that recognize the impossibility of work. This is, I think, one of the crucial conundrums of the present moment. Accelerationism tries to resolve it in machinic integration and extinction, which bypasses the problem of consciousness, awareness, and struggle in a logic of immersion. We are torn by the

Red Cavalry: Creation and Power in Soviet Russia Between 1917 and 1945, ed. Rosa Ferré (Madrid: La Casa Encendida, 2011), pp. 46–93, p.70. 20.  Ibid., p.72. 21.  Stites, Revolutionary Dreams, p.153. 22.  Ibid., pp.226–7. 23.  Slavoj Žižek, Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?: Four Interventions in the (Mis)Use of a Notion (London: Verso, 2002), p.108. 24.  in Hellebust, Flesh to Metal, p.172. 25.  Andrei Platonov, The Foundation Pit, trans. Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler and Olga Meerson

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