Below is video from a livestream chat I did with Justin Murphy on August 18, 2018. Justin is Lecturer in Governance and Policy within Politics & International Relations at the University of Southampton. His research focuses on questions related to political economy, media, and the determinants of political behavior and conflict.
We chatted about patchwork theory, creating alternative communities, accelerationism, and who would win in an MMA cage fight between Nick Land and Jordan Peterson. Justin is a gracious and intelligent person, and I really enjoyed engaging with him. Feedback is, as always, very much welcome.
We didn’t get as much into the acceleration/deceleration debate as I would have liked, however reflecting on this after our chat I want to propose, entirely tongue in cheek, the term Altceleration. This term is a fun way for me to suggest the idea that in order for sapience to continue on this planet, in the ‘bounded’ (Roden) form that means the most to us, we will need to decelerate some technomic systems and trajectories and accelerate others.
The dialectic between intensifications and de-intensifications operating on biological, machinic and existential registers is expressed in variation and alterity – always in ‘khaotic’ alterior configurations that give particular systems their unique organizational characteristics. A deep methodological and analytic appreciation for varying tempos and trajectories is so very important when trying to design, intervene and enact positive outcomes.
I suppose what I’d like to emphasize in (mis)using such a contrived term is the ways in which complex situations and problem-spaces require particular kinds engagements and approaches that are contingent upon those contexts (materials, dynamics, scales, codes, narratives, historical tendencies, etc). Exclusively and strictly applying either a ‘decelerationist’ or ‘accelerationist’ analyses or tactics will lead to a complete failure to appreciate the massive complexity and onto-specificity of actually existing social relations in real world bioregions. And without adequate epistemological and tactical reflexivity we risk capitulating the blindnesses of past applications of popular frameworks.
Of course, the call for for nuance and appreciation of the devilish details is nothing new. Social theorists have been going back and forth on issues like this for as long as critical thinking has been in practice. I’m only playing with this term here in order to help keep the Dec/Acc conversation flexible enough to remain sensitive to the varying, and often competing, processes and tendencies in the actual systems that we are all seeking to understand. I will have more to say on this issue in the future, but for now I leave it here for your consideration.
maybe this gets better as it goes along but the failures of past and present communes/communisms weren’t/aren’t the kinds of things that could be solved by better tech or information (this is solutionism at its worst) it would require a whole new way of organizing and managing peoples’ desires, cog-biases (which we still don’t really understand let alone know how to fix), and understandings, none of which has been achieved (would in a true sense be post-human) on any sort of scale or over time in ways that are sustainable let alone provide resistance to the international flows of capital and the like (any examples of really stopping these flows/extractions?), when capital can be hid overseas and invested or withdrawn from all over, pollution flows likewise, and viruses (computer and otherwise) can be sent from all over the globe as can missiles and armies, and so on, we are in too many ways interconnected (not to mention too dependent for all major resources on supply chains from afar good luck even powering, feeding, or watering a city locally) and yet too fractured/fragile. The best I think folks can do is to offer whatever localized relief/alternatives they can for as long (and share this info online and elsewhere we need more new whole earth catalogs to supplement the already good ones that exist) as they can be maintained and hopefully some of these relations/trust will soften the blow/tensions that inevitably arise when the shit really hits the fan and things get more feral/street and the militias turn into gangs and the gangs into militias (do we really think we are better people than those in the sacrifice zones now run by gangs/militias and fleeing when they can until they run into walls, drown in oceans, or get trafficked into slavish labor?)
“The city is a symbol of outward-looking cosmopolitanism – a potent answer to the homogeneity and insularity of the nation state. Today it is the only place where the idea of exerting meaningful democratic control over one’s life, however trivial the problem, is still viable. From transport to food delivery, from accommodation to energy consumption, the city also figures prominently in how digital technologies penetrate our life. That the city is also the primary target of big tech is no accident: if these firms succeed in controlling its infrastructure, they need not worry about much else.” ~ Evgeny Morozov
Great article/link Dirk. I agree with Evgeny. Without control of infrastructure at the municipal level we have no chance of resisting corporations reorganizing life along some very dark lines. That realization is at the core of my interest in proto-typing some municipalist patchwork models.
I think it’s really important to catalogue the failures and challenges experienced in past and present attempts at communialistic living. If we even hope to mitigate some of these difficulties we first need to recognize what they are. Do you have some examples or suggestions as to what those might specifically be Dirk?
The whole point of theorizing and modeling patchwork is explore and suggest new ways of “organizing and managing peoples’ desires and cognitive biases”. As Justin argues in the livestream, we have to do a better job of bringing together the knowledge and innovative practices from ALL the disciplines into more useful models of social organization – free as possible from ideology. My aim to to begin piecing together what that might look like in a sophisticated enough way that accounts for the political, psychological, and technical complexities involved. I will be sharing my thoughts on exactly those issues as we move along, but I don’t see this as an inherently impossible task. We have re-engineered desires and overcome some of our cognitive blind spots before. Religion, militaries, nationalism, the emergence of medical procedures, creation of new instruments of perception, marketing, google, etc. – all these developments reorganized our desires and changed the way we relate to each other. Capitalism both gave rise to AND hijacked the Enlightenment, along with all but destroying the rich alternative potentials embodied in non-Western cultures. This trajectory can be worked over, in some cases reversed and in others ceased. Possibilities for new life ways remain, and it is our job to find ways of patching the right elements together to create working alternatives to the shit show we have now.
As I mentioned in my post on ‘radical municipalism’, the only way to combat “global flows” is to 1) control the local infrastructure and land-use wherein corporations operate, and 2) intensify local food production and reduce useless consumption by selectively decoupling most our lifestyle, habitation practices, desires, and values from the global market. Exit from specific flows and control the field of operations upon which outside interests work.
This can all be done Dirk; and we know this because human societies have in the past existed without global capitalism. When capitalism breaks up into neo-feudalism we will reorganize again (with great pain and suffering), and the kinds of patchwork (compositional, assemblage, design) approaches I will be exploring only seeks to anticipate and mediate how this might happen in order to build from what remains.
The goal of my exploring this way is not to suggest that our current system can be saved or reformed, but that we should better use what exists and is available to create alternatives and possible strategies now, as opposed to later. We are not “better than” those people who are already living at the edge of collapse, but we can use our current privileges to become better prepared. We share resources and tactics for survival, as you suggest, AND we begin to take over our towns and cities in order to build patches of resilience when it does all goes to shit.
The issue of posthumanism is secondary, i think, to the imperative to control and generate our most basic flows (water, food, energy) within any given bioregion. We often talk about seizing the means of production, and I only want to take that deeper into a discussion about bioregional sovereignty, and the politics and ethics of cultivating new social niches. Will there be room for hi-tech solutions and augmentations of the human? Maybe. I hope so. But we have to look at building alt-patches (communalistic municipalities?) from the ground up, based on the specific needs of bioregions and their populations.
In my patchwork posts I hope to address all your concerns: from food production to energy capture, and from military/security issues to dealing with pandemics. My goal is get serious about patchworking from the ruins and in anticipation of further ruination.
hey M, I think we agree that people will continue to group together for all sorts of reasons after capitalism leaves them in the ruins, the problems are about how to come to common objectives, to agree on and to reconfigure as needed means, all of which gets harder under pressure/threats and with limited resources. Take your ongoing housing project which looks like a great example of the sort of local/transient (one might even say quasi-nomadic) means of alleviating some suffering/shocks that I was recommending, how do we decide (not mention enforce) what/who’s interests to serve, which come first, how much say do different parties get, are all voices/opinions equal, does political/economic clout speak louder, how to address external pressures and limits, and so on? This is why I raise the limit concept of the post-human as these are questions of human psychology that can be amped or dampened by technology but not changed (the mindfulness people crack me up sometimes, they should see how the sausage is made in the management of meditation organizations).
Way back when people were taken in the corner of the blogosphere with the democracy of objects (really subjects in a kind of autopoetic way) I was puzzled at how we would manage even more (and more complicated/alien) diversity when we couldn’t manage to organize sustainable/scalable assemblies with people much like ourselves at times when we had relatively high degrees of faith in institutions/experts/etc.
One of the sad truths about governance (complicated of course by the life-cycle of industrial capitalism and all) in the US is that as we have gotten more diverse representation we have gotten more divided and less effective, not surprising really that having competing interests tends to add friction but still a real conundrum and that doesn’t even get into the whole area of:
complex interdependencies, see the wiki/Wicked_problem
ps all the issues above of the who/how are made brutal by our cog-biases we (as a public) suck at thinking in terms of complex causality, over time/space, recognizing limits of our knowledge (we are certain about a dizzying array of subjects that we know little to nothing about, try finding a subject that you don’t have some sense of knowing about), taking opposing views into consideration, judging the motives of others, and on and on. No tech fixes for those.
you might enjoy the work of