by Edmund Berger
A Micro-History of Hyperstition and Esoteric Resistance
The Egg and the Shell
by Obsolete Capitalism
It is with great pleasure that we republish this micro-history essay by Edmund Berger written in 2014 for the accelerationist reader Dark Glamour. For various reasons (turnover of editors and curators) the essay has never been published and therefore we think it deserves to be presented in its first form. By the end of 2017 a new version of the same essay will be completely rewritten by Edmund Berger and published for the project Dark Glamour. It will be a two volume collection of essays with Amy Ireland (exponent of the xeno-feminist collective Laboria Cuboniks), Tony Yanick, and Tim Matts as editors.
Underground Streams (2014) has been written a year before the classic Grunge Accelerationism (2015) and it represents the essay where Edmund Berger faces with the first accelerationist thought (Land and CCRU) and the second one (Srnicek and Williams) that he defines Neo-Accelerationism.
What we wish to underline in this foreword is the reconfirmation of Berger’s ability to deeply grasp the meaning of the underground streams that characterized XX century «hyperstitional» thought and to clearly define the perimeter of hyperstitional area and the contiguous esoteric resistance. Here lies the trait d’union between Underground Streams and Grungy Accelerationism as well as between Berger’s works and the line of thoughts at the base of The Strong of the Future in rizosphere’s galaxy.
From our point of view, it is quite clear that the esoteric resistance nodes of XX century related to Chaos Magick and Red Magick poles, so well described in Berger’s essay, find their origin in Nietzsche’s The Gay Science, a necessary volume for the accelerationist politics. In aphorism 300 entitled Prelude to Science Nietzsche faces the issue of experimentation and human being pragmatism, writing: «So you believe the sciences would have emerged and matured, if they had not been preceded by magicians, alchemists, astrologers, and witches who with their promises and false claims created a thirst, hunger, and taste for hidden and forbidden powers?»
According to Nietzsche then the preliminaries of science should be identified in the actions of researchers and dissenters from «not-knowing» areas and occult zones of knowledge, spaces that have always been forbidden by hegemonic katechontic powers, ruling since ever. In the above mentioned quotation Nietzsche links the seditious and obscure sprouts of pre-science to the rational and progressive «enlightened» outlining of science, hoping that, as stated in his Prelude to Science, as well as science has been able to get free from its obscure past, the man of the future may be able to free himself from the preliminary exercise represented by the monotheist religion, unburdening himself of a prehistory of belief called Christianity.
Similarly, Berger’s readers could somehow ask themselves 150 years after Nietzsche’s writings, whether the whole undergrowth of uninhibited plagiarists, iridescent communists, psychedelic anarchists, chaotic occultists and hyperstitional accelerationists, may represent a prelude to a liberating future where thirst, hunger and tastes for freedom will become the pillars of a New Earth.
Will such poets of grace represent a joyful circus-like anteroom of a new contemplative and spiritual era? And given that case, is the God of the vicious circle, the inexistent God, inevitably behind the Necessary Spectacle, a show which seems more abyssal and inexorable than the one described by Debord and the Situationists?
Nietzsche in his aphorism 56 in Beyond Good and Evil says: «anyone who has done these things (and perhaps precisely by doing these things) will have inadvertently opened his eyes to the inverse ideal: to the ideal of the most high-spirited, vital, world-affirming individual, who has learned not just to accept and go along with what was and what is, but who wants it again just as it was and is through all eternity, insatiably shouting. The religious character da capo not just to himself but to the whole play and performance, and not just to a performance, but rather, fundamentally, to the one who needs precisely this performance – and makes it necessary: because again and again he needs himself – and makes himself necessary. – – What? and that wouldn’t be – circulus vitiosus deus?»
Berger’s participants to the esoteric resistance and to the hyperstitional ring are the Strong of the Future who achieve the «second moment» dear to Klossowski, Deleuze and Foucault’s rizospheric thought, a moment which involves emphasis on antagonisms, widening of distances, mockery of any power, active participation to new forms of non-fascist life.
Berger joyfully announces to the most attentive readers the maturity of the egg and its imminent breaking of the shell.
A Micro-History of Hyperstition and Esoteric Resistance
by Edmund Berger
“But which is the revolutionary path? Is there one?—To withdraw from the world market, as Samir Amin advises Third World countries to do, in a curious revival of the fascist “economic solution”? Or might it be to go in the opposite direction? To go still further, that is, in the movement of the market, of decoding and deterritorialization?”
(Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, 1972) (1)
The question is answered only by Lyotard with a resounding “yes” in favor of these destructive power powers. Following his predecessors’ emphasis on a politics of desire, Lyotard transcribed the libidinal joy the workers found in their deconstruction into this decoding: the proletariat “enjoyed the mad destruction of their organic body which was indeed imposed upon them, they enjoyed the decomposition of their personal identity.” (2) But he too would drop this line of thought, later castigating his works from this period as “evil,” something for the philosophical dustbins.
These ruminations are the theoretical basis of “Accelerationism.” A divisive issue, the #Accelerate Manifesto has gained rapid traction, while its earliest traces, generated in Sadie Plant and Nick Land’s Cybernetics Culture Research Unit (CCRU) continues to trigger vitriolic reactions by its apparent celebration of capitalism’s darkest compulsions. Deleuze and Guattari had observed that underneath capitalism’s ‘decoding of flows,’ “desire itself becomes the death instinct... that carry the seeds of a new life.”(3) Land collapsed this observation into Lyotard’s own that capitalism exists due to the human libidinal drives; accelerating capitalism would then be a natural process of accelerating humanity’s own compulsion towards death. Land’s aim, most properly, is a technological market-system in runaway, outstripping its human components.
The “New Accelerationism,” is instead an invocation many aspects of high modernism. The subtle overtures towards hierarchical organization stands in stark contrast to the highly networked, distributed, and horizontal ethos found in the postmodern era – be it in the affinity groups and direct democracy found in various activist movements, or the ‘flattened bureaucracy’ of many contemporary corporate forms. Aside from this, we have the allusions to technological self-mastery, evoking perhaps the proto-fascism of Italian Futurism. Unlike the Futurists, with their prioritization of speed and war as social drivers, the New Accelerationists cite examples such as Chilean CyberSyn project as the historical precedent to their own project – arguably part of the last socialist program of modernity prior to the birth of neoliberalism proper.
New Accelerationism breaks with the Landian variant, scrubbing from its rhetoric the thanatropic drives its predecessors celebrated, the fiery apocalypticism nowhere to be seen. Instead, humanism and talk of management takes the place of inhumanism and dark, anarchic impulses. Land and the CCRU feverishly produced text after text blending cyberpunk and science-fiction, Lovecraftian horror, electronic dance music and distorted French theory into a systemic irrationality that appears far more chaotic than earlier philosophical movements. New Acceleration instead envisions a society organically organized by principles of rationality, mathematical prowess, and a bountiful cooperation between man and smart machines.
Both strands of Accelerationism can be deemed problematic for their varying degrees of complicity with neoliberal capitalism. The Landian strand, while presenting itself as anti-capitalist yet pro-market, embodies the drive to excess and destruction of the organic that marks neoliberal reality; the New Accelerationism, on the other hand, appears as the idealized face of neoliberalism due to its positive valorization of harmonic rational management through the usage of cybernetic and information technologies. Yet through its removal of Land’s own frantic excesses, New Accelerationism loses something fundamental to the ongoing critique of neoliberalism and along with it a whole host of dissident practices. This would be the conceptual force of hyperstition, an “Element of effective culture that makes itself real,”(4) - in other words, the ability for the fictional to manifest itself in the physical world.
Hyperstition was indicative of Land’s intensification of chaos theory with chaos magick. Just as hyperstition looked to the ways that unreality could displace the continuity of the real, chaos magick emphasizes the subjective nature of perception and the ways that the plasticity of ideology can be manipulated and reconfigured. One example Land gives of this shifting paradigm is William Gibson’s usage of what he dubbed “cyberspace” in novel Neuromancer. (5)In the cyberpunk classic, cyberspace is a digital ‘non-space’, a “consensual hallucination” that users can plug into and drift through the data streams of an accelerated, runaway corporatism. For CCRU, Gibson’s cyberspace helped call into being the internet as we know it today, even if it existed mainly in its militarized and state-dominated form when Neuromancer was written.
Elsewhere, Land describes capitalism as a force “extremely sensitive to hyperstition, where confidence acts as an effective tonic, and inversely.” (6) This is particularly true of the finance markets, where early news reports and off-the-cuff interpretations can shape the movements of trade, and with it the entire monetary system. Speculative finance has made a home in this quasi-fictional web, utilizing these fluctuations of financial instruments to turn high-risk investments into profit gains. Other speculative modes of playing with market expectation and confidence has been defined as “positive-feedback trading,” or the buying of securities when prices are high and the selling when they bottom-out. As described in a 1990 article by Larry Summers, among other economists, this process involves “Investment pools whose organizers buy stock, spread rumors, and then sell the stock slowly as positive feedback demand picks up rely on extrapolative expectations over a horizon of a few days.” (7) Clearly, positive-feedback trading is contingent on the fostering of rumors in the context of the real, utilizing the cultural ferment of Wall Street to transform these abstractions into financial reward – with long term, overarching ramifications for the rest of the market. This reveals precisely the hyperstitional dimensions of finance markets: “Hyperstition,” Land states, “is a positive feedback circuit including culture as a component. It can be defined as the experimental (techno-)science of self-fulfilling prophecies.” (8)
The talk of positive-feedback, alongside the usage of advanced information technologies on the trading floors (ranging from the global connectability of the electronic marketplace to the ‘black boxes’ of the high- frequency traders) shows the debt that neoliberal capitalism holds to the boom in information sciences during and following World War 2, or what Philip Mirowski has called the “cyborg sciences” - cybernetics, communication theory, game theory, etc. (9) An example of this is the famous Black-Scholes model, the first formula for pricing options that enabled the rise of financial capitalism proper by importing the Wiener Process (named for the father of cybernetics, Norbert Wiener) into economic theory. Here we find hyperstitional attributes in that this borrowing from physics and computer science was presented as a ‘universal law’ in economics; what the model did was conjure forth a new paradigm for capitalism that presented itself as wholly rational and organic. Mirowski quotes Herbert Simon by describing the movement of these scientific constructs into economics as the “sciences of the artificial,” noting the increasing inability and perhaps outright collapse of the distinction between the real and the mathematically-construed simulations of reality. (10)
We should take heed of Marx when he observed that “even as capital appropriates technology as the most effective form of the subsumption of labor,” technology itself “is not ‘identical with its existence as capital... and therefore does not follow that subsumption under the social relation of capital is the most appropriate and ultimate social relation of production for the application of machinery.’” (11) But Land was far more influenced by Fernand Braudel than Marx, relying on the former’s distinction between markets, where goods circulate through horizontal networks, and capitalism, where structures like the corporation (and the state) act as anti-markets. As Marx noted, capital constrained the application of technological innovation; synthesizing with Braudel, Land’s position is that the acceleration of market circulation would then, presumably, unleash the latent forces within technology itself. From this perspective the binary of real/simulation matters not, for the feedbacking loops of hyperstition shows the constant movement between the two; it propels itself from economics and technology to an ontological plateau that is populated, for Land, by Gothic horrors and occult assemblages. From another angle, it charts the acceleration of markets and technology as resistance to the totalizing forces of capitalism.
This returns us to the key problem in Land’s Accelerationism: to what degree, in the dually horizontal and vertical system of neoliberalism and hyper circulation of money as digital code, does the distinction between capitalism and markets offer alternatives? At what point does Accelerationism not actually oppose neoliberalism, but instead buttress the logic of capitalism by providing a science-fiction twist on libertarian ideology? Other theorists (Deleuze and Guattari, Tiqqun), have observed the importance of speed in resistance, while others (Virilio, Bifo, Tiqqun again) have emphasized deceleration; meanwhile, each of these stands sits uneasily between the false distinction between the alternatives of rampant neoliberalism and statist liberal social democracy dominates resistant imaginations. Tiziana Terranova writes that “the notion of a post-capitalist mode of existence must become believable,” (12) a statement that indicates the becoming-real of imaginative alternatives and looping us again back to the specter of hyperstition. In the debate over the Accelerationist tendency, hyperstition itself – and its historical progenitors – may have much to teach us, if for no other reason than its utilization of things that appear irrational, nonsensical, and anti-scientific as a weapon against the rationality of our neoliberal globe.
to be continued...
The essay is taken from:
Speculating Freedom: Addiction, Control and Rescriptive Subjectivity in the Work of William S. Burroughs
Jose Rosales - ON THE END OF HISTORY & THE DEATH OF DESIRE (NOTES ON TIME AND NEGATIVITY IN BATAILLE’S ‘LETTRE Á X.’)
Jose Rosales - BERGSONIAN SCIENCE-FICTION: KODWO ESHUN, GILLES DELEUZE, & THINKING THE REALITY OF TIME
Obsolete Capitalism - THE STRONG OF THE FUTURE. NIETZSCHE’S ACCELERATIONIST FRAGMENT IN DELEUZE AND GUATTARI’S ANTI-OEDIPUS
Obsolete Capitalism - Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 1)
Obsolete Capitalism - Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 2)
Obsolete Capitalism: Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 3)
Obsolete Capitalism - Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 4)
Obsolete Capitalism: Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 5)
Steven Craig Hickman - David Roden and the Posthuman Dilemma: Anti-Essentialism and the Question of Humanity
Steven Craig Hickman - The Carnival of Globalisation: Hyperstition, Surveillance, and the Empire of Reason
Steven Craig Hickman - Shaviro On The Neoliberal Strategy: Transgression and Accelerationist Aesthetics
Steven Craig Hickman - Hyperstition: Technorevisionism – Influencing, Modifying and Updating Reality
Terence Blake - CONCEPTS OUT OF THE SHADOWS: Notes on Deleuze and Guattari’s “What is Philosophy?” (2)
Terence Blake - GUATTARI’S LINES OF FLIGHT (2): transversal vs transferential approaches to the reading contract
Himanshu Damle - Games and Virtual Environments: Playing in the Dark. Could These be Havens for Criminal Networks?
Himanshu Damle - Hegelian Marxism of Lukács: Philosophy as Systematization of Ideology and Politics as Manipulation of Ideology.
Nick Land - The unconscious is not an aspirational unity but an operative swarm, a population of 'preindividual and prepersonal singularities'