The Great Wheel

Rota Fortunae

They’ve built a “Great Wheel” on the Seattle waterfront, directly between the part of the city that Paul Allen owns and the part of the city that is, literally, sinking into the Earth so that his property values might rise. It’s fitting, I guess. Amazon is building biodomes, the city’s economy is curving upward. According to these people, it’s all about circles. Feedback loops, wheels of fate, karmic spirals.

“The Circle Game” by sea turtle (https://flic.kr/p/cBRZAq), used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Before moving to the region, I’d lived in Northern Nevada, tearing barbed-wire fences out of the sagebrush at the depth of the recession. There, different circles seemed to govern, as booms and busts rode the fates of gold-backed securities, federal gas pipelines, and stimulus money. Before my contract ran out, I’d asked around all the casinos in Winnemucca looking for a roulette wheel. Surrounded by meth-smoking miners riding out a brief boom in gold and silver caused by plummeting stocks, I’d become fascinated by the casinos. Everyone in these small desert towns knew that everything would end soon. The new pipeline being built would pass through and thereafter remain unmanned. The mines would go bust as fast as they’d boomed.

The logical response was to turn to the casinos. Dust-coated workers cast themselves onto that wheel of fortune hoping against all odds for some break that could save them from whatever came after they were pushed off the edge of precarity. Some chance thrown into a life which, though utterly unpredictable in its details, was nonetheless determined in its long arc toward ruin. Yet the roulette wheel was strangely absent. None of the casinos in this or any neighboring town kept one—according to the dealers, this was because no one had any interest.

Like the others, my contract was up. I had a season’s worth of cash and no clue where I was headed, so I wanted to gamble. But I wanted to gamble without the artifice, without the illusion that I had some sort of skill or system that could beat the house. I was raised in an era where any vestiges of real freedom were hunted down and clubbed to death in the name of freedom itself. Lack of jobs meant I got the freedom to move. Lack of long-term employment meant I had the freedom to reinvent myself. Falling wages paired with easy access to student loans, mortgages, and other forms of consumer credit meant I had the freedom to invest in my own future. Being born to the “end of history,” when the Berlin Wall fell and “freedom” had been prevailing for decades—in the form, apparently, of undisguised oligarchy—I had concluded that the only way to fight freedom was to refuse the calculations, the choices, the obligation to enjoy.

Fuck freedom, I concluded. Fuck having to choose between a variety of identically vacuous options and identically fucked futures and then being forced on top of it to enjoy them because they were, after all, my choice. I didn’t want freedom, I didn’t want choice. I wanted the raw, impersonal logic of sheer chance. No systems, no skills, no betting high, no bluffing, no holding aces, no revolver in the back pocket, just the one wheel—red or black, the ball spinning like the dead thing that it is and landing wherever for no reason and that complete absence of reason determining whether I make or lose a hundred dollars, two hundred, a week’s pay even, the win or the loss without any work or myths about how much I earned it or how badly I invested. No self-help books. No inspirational stories and no cautionary tales. Just democracy by lot. Absolute equality in the most unequal of times.

But there were no roulette wheels. Working in the dark, loud pits or up in the scorching desert sun made you want to cling to some illusion of self-reliance. The idea that you could somehow climb up that great wheel if you tried hard enough—that those at the top deserved to sit above others, since they at least put in the work to climb there. Equality on the great wheel meant simply that those at the top would, at some point, be dumped to the bottom. Rota Fortunae. But roulette was the wheel turned on its side. No choice. No hope. That’s what I wanted and that’s what I couldn’t entirely find. So I went west again.

 

History Full Circle 

Seattle, like every city in the American West, seems to have only survived its settlement via a chain of events as serendipitous as they were ruthless. The small timber village became a military outpost in the Puget Sound War, which saw fences raised around blockhouses and the forest cleared to allow for more accurate bombardment by the gunship Decatur. After the war, the small military fortification soon evolved into a trade gateway, with timber tailings and other industrial trash from Henry Yesler’s mill used to fill in the marshlands. New islands composed of little more than sawdust, mud, and garbage agglomerated in the swamp, atop which migrant laborers raised tents and shanties—many of them the very natives, deserters, and maroons defeated in the war, now working to feed raw materials into the furnaces of the Second Industrial Revolution burning in the East.

Soon, however, the “Long Depression” of the 1870s would see industrial output and demand for raw materials plummet. The first nationwide strike ripped across the country’s railways in 1877, but in Seattle the unrest took on a grim character, as thousands of unemployed white workers rioted against their Chinese counterparts, themselves left unemployed by the completion of the railroads. At the same time that the region’s first labor unions were forcing Chinese onto boats and into boxcars for deportation, the Utopian socialists that headed them proclaimed that the Second Industrial Revolution heralded the coming “Brotherhood of the Cooperative Commonwealth,” made possible by the steam engine and new machine tool technologies. Early socialist and anarchist1 colonies were founded across the Puget Sound region, their participants arguing that violent insurrection was an antiquated, if noble, product of a technologically deficient age. Instead, the crisis of their era should be met with an attempt at secession from the system itself, the form of which would be a network of autonomous communes in rural areas across the nation. With the pooled resources of their volunteer (though often whites-only) membership, a handful of co-operative colonies undergirded by modern technology were seeded across the region.

Designed as more of a self-reliant retreat from capitalism than an assault on it, the colonies collapsed from internal strife or simply withered as the national economy recovered from the depression. Some of the communes turned into lucrative real estate schemes. Others were simply abandoned as jobs became plentiful with the new regional boom. Meanwhile, young financial conglomerates rose after the city-devastating fire of 1889, linked openly to local government and public works in the kind of symbiotic public-private relationship that would become a hallmark of the Gilded Age. The new alliance of local elites rebuilt the city from the ground up, hiring engineers to build parks and level unruly hills with steam-powered water cannons, using the loosened glacial till to fill in the marshland-turned-industrial-dump. A new downtown was built from scratch, hosting the tallest building on the West Coast alongside other new constructs fat with money gleaned from the supply chains linking eastern capital to Alaskan gold.

Over the next century, Seattle would see new sequences of boom, bust, and reinvention. Military investment in the region during the First World War secured the city’s ship-building industry and expanded Boeing from a small lakeside hangar into a massive war contractor. More crises followed, including a far worse “Long Depression” than that of the 1870s, followed by another war and attendant boom. Skid row and the slums south of it, occupied by migrant laborers and the unemployed, exploded in population during the interwar years, becoming a recruitment base first for the Industrial Workers of the World—soon all but crippled by the Palmer Raids—and then the Communist Party during the Depression. In the lead-up to the Second World War, the Navy itself razed the slums to make room for wartime construction. After the war there was a brief period of suburban expansion around these same manufacturing industries and their white-collar counterparts, such as the University
of Washington.

Previously unimaginable industrial transformations punctuated each cycle of build-up and collapse. Across Washington state, capital had first poured into the “Third Industrial Revolution,”2 founded on electricity, chemicals, and massive hydropower projects during the New Deal, then into the “Fourth” wave of petrochemicals, nuclear, and, in the case of Seattle especially, aircraft and missile technology. Each was followed by periods of dramatic decline in output and employment, large out-migration, predictions of impending doom paired with rapid financialization and, finally, re-orientation around the new industrial cluster. In the case of Seattle, this maneuvering became better and better attuned to global trends over time. Today the city—again rebuilt, this time by Japanese capital in the 1980s—is seen as one of the primary beneficiaries of the “Fifth” Industrial Revolution in information technology, outshone only by California’s Silicon Valley.

 

The Immaterial

For the economist, capitalism is built of circles, sometimes brutal, but always virtuous. The booms and busts detailed above are nothing but “business cycles” which, perceived from the correct perspective, can be seen oscillating around a growth curve that points ever-upward. Even if factories must be closed and slums razed, each crisis births new innovation and innovation brings new industries with new jobs, ultimately drawing back those expelled during the crisis. In this view, the life of a city depends on the cunning of its capitalists. If they are blindly locked into the old industrial complex, the city will die with its industries—automobiles in Detroit, coal in many a Western ghost town. But, with the correct mixture of ambition and foresight, a spare few may be able to maneuver through the chaos to ensure that they and all those yoked to them emerge at new heights.

Like its predecessors, the Fifth Industrial Revolution—defined by computerization, containerization, and constant global military deployment—would birth its own prophets. The first of them were spat out of France in the throes of 1968 and California in 1969, all declaring in their own ways a new era of horizontal revolt, autonomy, and secession. The extension of production across new, computerized networks meant that rebellion could strike anywhere across the cybernetic “social factory.” Success would be defined by the ability to link up to other autonomous nodes in the network of revolt, with the “rhizome” hoisted in place of the tree as flag of convenience. The new revolutionaries thereby began to take on a form remarkably similar to their steam-engine predecessors of the Brotherhood, with Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri declaring that a classless “multitude” would usher in a “commonwealth” almost identical to that prophesied a hundred years prior. For the economist, everything had come full circle. For the autonomist, history could be repeated without irony.

This new ideological framework, its various strains3 shorthanded here as simply “Autonomism,” reached its peak in the late 1990s and early 2000s with the extension of digital technology into everyday use. Decentralization, network organization, and other features of capitalist logistics infrastructure became a sort of second sense. At the same time, the Internet was imbued in the popular imagination with the same mystical power that had previously surrounded the steam engine, the electric grid, or the nuclear reactor. The digital was increasingly thought of as somehow “immaterial,” sustained by intellectual labor more than physical toil and fixed capital. This same mysticism was transferred into the political realm, where the relative weakness of defensive “holding pattern”4 revolts such as those of the Zapatistas, the Naxalites, or the anti-globalization and anti-war movements, were rewritten as unprecedented strengths—again, despite their obvious similarities to the frail, politically ambiguous, and easily crushed populist movements of a century prior.

Just as in the past, these radical visions of new technological potential have increasingly fused with or simply given over to liberal evangelism. It is no longer out of the ordinary to have a venture capitalist give a TED talk about how “the pitchforks are coming” and then go on to back a $15-an-hour wage bill put forward by a “revolutionary socialist” politician, or for mainstream media to echo with profile pieces on “Spain’s anarchist mayor” while the New York Times, Forbes, and the Financial Times ponder the end of capitalism without revolution, in language almost identical to that of John Holloway and the World Social Forum.

 

The End Times, Again

The fact is that, since its inception, capitalism has always appeared to be on the edge of imminent collapse. The rabble has always been at the door, pitchforks in hand. Yet each threshold has, in the end, also been the signal for some new wave of territorial expansion, political domination, or the subsumption of untouched realms of life into the brutal circuits of the market. And, at each stage, the most active functionaries of new technological complexes also tend to become the most vocal prophets of the system’s demise. Regardless of the era, their myth remains invariant. Just as human history, retold by the economist, is nothing but a process in which instinctual commercial impulses naturally bloom into a world-rending economic system—capitalism generating capitalism—so too does the future, as foretold by the economist, appear as nothing more than capitalism burning to ash in the light of its own glory.

From the Puritan bestseller, Day of Doom (1662), to today’s own Walking Dead, myths of the “end times” have been common: portrayals of crisis and power shifts in an ever-expanding, ever-changing system of capitalist production undergirded by waves of technological transformation. The shorthand for this phenomenon is “Accelerationism,”5 the basic idea that acceleration of capitalism’s own core dynamics will ultimately push it into final collapse. Autonomy is, in our era, the name for Accelerationism’s explicitly political program—laid out most honestly for the digital age by Hardt and Negri and pasteurized for the general public by liberals like Jeremy Rifkin, who proclaims the end of capitalism and the coming “cooperative commons” via solar energy and 3-D printing, without the necessity of a messy revolution.

These, however, only represent the most self-conscious varieties of a broad and increasingly popular genre of speculative apocalypse, ranging from the grim futures of Interstellar or The Hunger Games to the more hopeful visions commodified by the “non-profit” foundations of billionaire philanthropists or popularized by things like the TED talks, where anyone with an Internet connection can watch a parade of smiling Silicon Valley jackasses whisper self-congratulatory haikus into tiny headsets. On one side are the Holy Accelerationists, devoted to the true Collapse, on the other, the Happy Accelerationists, applauding the coming Cornucopia. Either way, acceleration is now solidly mainstream.

 

In the Shadow of the Machine

But how is it that prophesies of the “Second Machine Age” seem to grow at the same rate as global slums? In an era full of workers co-ops and “sharing economies,” why are so many people in jail? These are the questions that the Happy Accelerationists simply cannot answer. They are brushed off between consulting sessions or mumbled away behind the tiny TED talk headset. Meanwhile, the Holy Accelerationists can offer little more: just wait, the collapse is coming. Their program seems indistinguishable from that of libertarian survivalists: buy guns, learn how to skin animals.

A medieval Wheel of Fortune with a crowned king at the top, from John Lydgate’s Troy Book and Siege of Thebes, England, c. 1457.

The defining feature of a Utopia is not the unfeasibility of any given vision for the future world, but the lack of a line drawn, or even roughly hypothesized, between A and B. For all of these political visions, getting from one to the other is not the feat of human beings, but something provided ex machinaby the loving grace of the coming machines. Acceleration, Autonomy, Collapse, an ethical and equitable capitalism: all names for fundamentally Utopian projects, the attainment of which is only conceivable if the very problem itself—capitalism—somehow breaks down, disappears, or simply ceases to be capitalism as such.

But capitalism doesn’t just break, it must be broken. When it seems to be collapsing of its own accord, it is simply reinventing its own technological, geographic, and political basis as new industrial complexes are built and new systems of more extensive government solidified. Myths of collapse and cornucopia obscure this very process. The illusion of a global system built on decentralized, non-hierarchical networks that drove the early cyberneticists of the ’60s and ’70s was precisely an ideological smokescreen that allowed for the construction of the bloody supply chains currently stretching from Central African coltan mines to this computer. Similarly, Silicon Valley myths of automation, “post-work society,” and “immaterial” labor disguise a more gruesome dynamic in which growing segments of the global labor force are being deprived even of the basic brutality of the wage, instead forced out into growing rings of slums, prisons, and global wastelands.

It’s true that the past 50 years have seen astonishing technologies capable of automating an enormous variety of dangerous, expensive, or humiliating activities formerly performed by human workers. But, rather than an end to work, such technology has simply brought with it a swelling surplus population and an astonishing divide between those privileged to engineer the digital world and those whose only function is to facilitate the blind, mechanical motion of containers across the surface of the earth. Whereas the economist sees the waves arcing ever upward, in reality, each technological revolution actually forces a larger percentage of the workforce out of employment in the core industrial complex. The underside of the “Kondratiev Wave” is this secular decline in employment paired with the simultaneous increase in automation at the global level, where humans are made redundant even as output and profits skyrocket. This is the shadow of the machine.

Perched alongside a downtown business corridor full of cloud computing start-ups and new hyper-sustainable apartment complexes, Seattle’s Great Wheel seems to peer out over Rifkin’s prophesied “cooperative commons,” an infotech metropolis abutting the beauty of an evergreen arcadia. But travel below Seattle’s cluster of infotech industries and the image appears much the same as that of a hundred years prior—a trade gateway, squeezing value from supply chains by selling transport and logistical support. The southern stretch of the metropolis bears little resemblance to the revitalized urban core of the city proper. Instead of the “cognitive labor” of Microsoft, it is defined instead by the cold calculation of companies like UPS, founded in Seattle when the city was one link in a colonial supply chain built first for timber, then Alaskan gold, then World War. The company is now headquartered elsewhere, but its logistical lineage has remained.

In south Seattle, this logistics empire takes the form of faceless warehouses, food processing facilities, container trucks, rail yards, and industrial parks concentrated between two seaports, an international airport, three major interstates, and railroads traveling in all directions. Meanwhile, the poor have been priced out of the old inner city, moving southward into these same post-war suburbs, all of which have simultaneously become gateways for new immigrant settlement. Many work in the lower-rungs of the “dual economy” in Seattle proper, performing the low-wage service work necessary for high-end producer services to function.6 But they can also be found staffing the airport and the rail yards, hauling cargo in and out of two the major seaports, loading boxes in warehouses, or manning industrial machinery in the region’s comparatively large manufacturing sector.

And, beyond them, the shadow stretches out to Washington’s rural hinterlands where migrant laborers staff a new boom in agriculture and raw materials exports to Asia—and further still into America’s long-depressed interior, where the Great Wheel meets its opposite: Memphis, the FedEx logistics city, watched over by a great black pyramid. Because this is the truth of the matter: there is no wheel of fate dragging us upward and casting those at the top down. From where we’re standing, we can look up and see others above us, look down and see some below. We can see those in the middle rungs jostling for position, attempting to climb, sometimes slipping. Peering up from the belly of the pyramid, it appears as if it were a circle. Some rise, some fall. But as we ponder the plummet of friends and acquaintances on our own level, promising ourselves that we won’t make the same mistakes, we tend to lose sight of the top rungs, not noticing the fact that those who are there seem to have always been there, and that their children stay there after them.

Within the Great Wheel hides the pyramid. Every Seattle is capable of creating an eco-friendly, “cooperative commonwealth” tended by apps and algorithms only insofar as there is a Memphis that can provide human workers to sort the packages, a Shanghai to build the containers that carry them, and a Shenzhen to solder together the circuits of the machines that govern it all. The rise of infotech, decentralization, and networked production has not brought liberation from capitalism, but has instead created a world where most people’s lives are governed by the cold, machine logic of capital. Schedules at Starbucks are created by an algorithm designed to maximize labor-power, workers run back and forth across expansive warehouses in Memphis or SeaTac, their motions commanded by computer headsets, others shed wires for 14 hours in the industrial suburbs of Shenzhen, their every move watched over by managers related to the boss. Today we are all little more than cogs in an inscrutable sorting machine.

The most basic error of the accelerationist hypothesis is the presumption that the end of capitalism is primarily a technological problem. It’s unlikely that 3-D printers, solar energy, and biotech will end the crises that our last “post-scarcity” technologies couldn’t, because technology, under capitalism, is always used to solve the problems of capital, not humanity. And despite the romance of a mechanical conspiracy, the machines themselves aren’t behind it. They, like us, are yoked to the cold logic of capital, forced to smooth all impediments to its compounding expansion. There is no Skynet, aside from the Stock Index. And there’s no man-machine Übermensch sent back to save us. Steam engines didn’t save us. Electricity didn’t save us. The atom didn’t save us. The Internet didn’t save us. Today Rifkin and Li Keqiang may talk about 3-D printing, solar energy, and the zero-marginal cost society, but, if history is any indication, the glass palace is followed by machine guns and trenches brimming with dead. It’s easy to imagine, because the pieces are already there: a TED talk where some smug new oligarch whispers about “population optimization” or renkou suzhi7 (人口素质, “population quality”) into his tiny headset as hi-def Prezi slides hiss behind him, adorned with pictures of 3-D printed, solar-powered concentration camps.

 

Falling in a Straight Line

In an era when so much is determined, what is there to do but gamble? The picture above may itself seem to narrate an overly mechanical story of the last two centuries of capitalist history and resistance to it, where the form of each oppositional movement is simply pre-determined by the technology around them. But this is not so much determination as it is a path of least resistance. Ostensibly leftist movements which are, de facto, defenders of the currently existing system, not despite but because of their Utopian “resistance” to it, are as much a part of a given technological complex as the labor regimes that milk productivity from workers. Every Burning Man is destined to become nothing more than a weekend getaway for techies. But each stage of this history has also seen powerful, anti-Utopian counter-currents conditioned by the failure of their Utopian predecessors. Many of these currents were extinguished by force, while others ossified through their own victories at the globe’s edges. The point is simply that, perceiving the pyramid behind the circle, these people chose, at least, to gamble.

Their fundamental maneuver was the strategic rejection of any determined apocalypse or rapture. There is no quiet secession, only secession mobilized as acts of war against the present world. Autonomy is not in and of itself antagonism, and defense against capital in capital’s own wastelands is not the same thing as a revolution. There simply is no way to truly retreat, because retreat has been programmed into the system—the act of retreat is your freedom to choose your own individual future and to enjoy it in an era when all futures have had their bones snapped and the marrow sucked out of them. If you don’t like the system, you don’t have to participate.

Naval Officers oversee a burning shack in Seattle’s Hooverville. Source: University of Washington Libraries, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection. In the Museum of History and Industry, Seattle repository.

In Nevada I could well have used my cash to run somewhere. An organic farm in Southern Oregon. A village in the quasi-stateless mountains of Upland Southeast Asia. A squat in Oakland or Mexico City. But I wanted to gamble. There was no roulette wheel in the desert so I found one on the streets. As people rushed to explain the Arab Spring and Occupy in terms of Twitter, the angry ones among us had become skeptical of the evangelists. In the United States, Occupy was split between the older, “autonomist” generation, informally headed by David Graeber, with their base in New York’s Occupy Wall Street—referred to colloquially as “99ers” for their attachment to Seattle ’99 and to the “We are the 99%” slogan—and a much more opaque tendency, loosely organized around grouplets of non-denominational communists and insurrectionary anarchists, with their base in the West Coast’s
“Oakland Commune.”

For this second faction, the Occupations themselves in no way prefigured some future society growing “in the shell of the old.” There was no glimmering hope in the shitshow of the General Assemblies and their “direct democracy.” No attempt to build a “social movement” out of a coalition of identity groups. Instead, there was simply the desire to meet each other as we plummeted through life, to spread and intensify the disruption we were causing in the hope that it might begin to cascade down the supply chain, to draw more of our fucked generation closer to each other and to the chaotic heart of the pyramid. Now it’s over, but it’s never over—and not because it comes in waves or circles or cycles of struggle because it doesn’t. It comes in a downward line. Athens burns, London burns, Oakland burns, then Ferguson.

Before leaving Nevada I remember one late night at a desert bar frequented by old burners, bikers, miners, and meth cooks. Bodies packed together and pool balls cracked together in the smoke. The doors had been kicked open and outside another kind of circle had formed in the dust. Two men clutching blades for who knows what reason, maybe drugs, maybe women, maybe just something lost in translation—whatever started the fight wasn’t the point in the first place. Trains laden with shipping containers shot past in the darkness behind. Someone lit a pile of trash on fire and the orange light flickered across the bodies and the blades. There was no moral tale here, no defense of honor. Just this leveling of two men in the dust and others gathered round in the shape of that roulette wheel I could never find: A rough equality hewn by our collective, desperate nihilism.

We’ve bled our whole lives into those machines and their bright future. The men circled each other, kicking up dust like a soft, white smoke. Someone in the back hurled a whisky bottle out toward the roar of the passing train but after disappearing into the darkness the bottle made no sound like it had never landed—just another commodity absorbed into the containers and their inscrutable networks, drawing blood from the world’s every vein. Here, in the circle of firelight, we at least drew our own blood. Fuck choice. It’s only through our absolute lack of hope, hardened by our own sweat—when our nihilism becomes less desperate and more disciplined—that we have any chance of shaking those bright machines moving in the depths of the world behind us, shattering their grace. Only by grasping the dice can we gamble. One of the men jabbed forward. The knife is a straight line that cuts the circle. No collapse is coming to save us, no cornucopia. In the desert, wounds opened and blood poured into the dust and clotted there, black.



NOTES

  1. At the time there were few hard distinctions between socialists and anarchists, and the terms were used relatively interchangeably. More common and possibly more accurate was the designation “social revolutionary,” spanning the range from propaganda-of-the-deed anarchists to Eugene Debs. For details on the Puget Sound colonies, see: Charles LeWarne, Utopias on the Puget Sound, 1885-1915 (University of Washington Press, 1995).
  2. The periodization here is based on that commonly used by theorists of so-called “Kondtratiev waves” of technological change. For a brief overview of these theories and competing ones, framed in a discussion of postwar economic trends, see: David L. Rigby and Michael J. Webber, The Golden Age Illusion: Rethinking Postwar Capitalism (New York: The Guilford Press, 1996), Chapter 3.
  3. Some may object to such a shorthand, either because such a wide variety of positions, opinions, aesthetics, and political projects cannot be so easily classified or simply because “Autonomism” refers somewhat more specifically to several movements that self-identified as such (the Autonomia in Italy, Autonomen in Germany, “Autonomist Marxists” of the academy, etc.). But it is precisely this variety that defines the term—such a divergent list of activities can be classified together since those engaged in them consider such variety to be fundamental to their own projects. “Autonomy” is the underpinning of this variety, and exists in implicit contradiction to the “universal” or “general” project of revolution. Thus “multitudes” must replace “proletariat” or “rabble” as the lukewarm mysticism of various “post-structural” and “post-modern” academic projects becomes fused to what is, in practice, little more than the expansion of the state’s softer components, here in the form of “social movements,” NGOs, and academic conferences on mass imprisonment or environmental collapse.
  4. See: “The Holding Pattern,” Endnotes, Issue 3. www.endnotes.org.uk/en/endnotes-the-holding-pattern
  5. The term more explicitly designates a political subculture that emerged in the late 1990s, influenced by the work of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and popularized by Nick Land, before going into decline and only recently re-appearing, adapted for the present “end times,” in the form of the #Accelerate Manifesto. This new Accelerationism differs substantially from its predecessor, operating more as an intervention into current Marxist debates about global logistics networks and prospects for “communizing” currents to emerge within current struggles. Neither of these self-designated accelerationist trends fully encompasses the more general phenomenon described above. For a summary of the trends, see the work of Benjamin Noys, in particular Malign Velocities: Acceleration and Capitalism (Zero Books, 2014).
  6. For an explanation of this process, see the “Global Cities” literature, in particular Saskia Sassen, The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991) and Robin Cohen, The New Helots: Migrants in the International Division of Labor (Gower Pub. Co., 1987).
  7. See the work of Ann Anagnost for more detail on the concept, increasingly popular in China: www.publicculture.org/articles/view/16/2/the-corporeal-politics-of-quality-suzhi

Contributor

Phil A. Neel

Phil. A. Neel is a writer and geographer from the Pacific Northwest. He has previously had fiction published in Fiddleblack, Fjords, and Monday Night. Some of his other writing, as well as maps and original research, is periodically published at www.ultra-com.org.

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