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leberwurst proletariat

Tag: accelerationism

Soldering on: report on working in a 3D-printer manufacturing plant in London

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by Angry Workers World

The first part of the article looks at the current hype around automation and post-industrialism. The second part looks at the concrete conditions in the west London factory, which largely employs female migrant workers.

The current public debate about automation is a highly politicised one. The prospect of having your takeaway sushi dropped onto your roof terrace by a drone or to 3D print a custom made hip-bone is celebrated by the metropolitan professional class. At the same time they see a looming apocalyptic side of automation: the uneducated working class feels increasingly threatened by their robotic competitors and will therefore lose all liberal attitudes that ties them to the progressive world. Workers voted for Trump and other populists because of their fear that they can’t keep up with an ever faster, changing world.

The radical left is not very helpful when it comes to critically assessing the current discourse around automation from a working class perspective. Many comrades don’t question the hype. They believe that automation will kill off most manual jobs within the next decade or so. Based on this rather unfounded assumption, they are then forced to instinctively choose between two different camps: an affirmative camp (accelerationism, full communism: the robots will free us from work and we can live in luxury on dole money) or a nihilistic one (surplus population, external insurrection: everyone will be unemployed, angry and smash everything). But in order to be able to demystify the seemingly ‘automatic’ power of capital, working class analysis of current changes in technology will have to start from the bottom up. We hope that this article can contribute to this effort.

This report contrasts the experience of working in a 3D-printer manufacturing plant in west London with the general hype of ‘factory-less’ production and full-automation attached to this technology. In the first part we raise more general questions regarding the role of manufacturing or industrial production in capitalism and how the current debate about new technologies like 3D-printing is ideologically charged: with the capitalist zeal to cover up the contradictions of mass production and, with it, the essential core of capitalist exploitation. 3D-printing and ‘desktop manufacturing’ is portrayed as a symbol of revitalisation of the entrepreneurial spirit and of a utopia of small independent producers who engage freely on the market. In the second part we describe the production process and working conditions in the manufacturing plant. We don’t write these reports as an academic exercise, but as part of our proletarian research and intervention in west London.

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The Future

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Inventing the Future

The opening post in our latest forum, on Nick and Alex Williams’ new book, Inventing the Future. Commentaries will follow over the week, and Nick and Alex will respond soon thereafter with a rejoinder to points raised. All will eventually be available under this tag url.

Today kicks off a symposium on our new book, Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work. On a surface level, it is a book analysing post-work, the global crisis of surplus populations, and the challenges of rebuilding the contemporary left. Yet it is also a book designed to intervene in the current political conjuncture. It is written to produce discussions, rather than close them down; to spark debate, rather than dictate; and hopefully to persuade people of the utility of its prescriptions. As such, this blog event is the perfect avenue to inaugurate what we hope will be a series of productive engagements. Rather than simply summarising the book here, it is perhaps more useful if we briefly outline some of the debates we sought to contribute to.

The first such debate is the question concerning the dismal state of the left. While some find elements of hope in the contemporary left, for most it has been a series of marginal successes at best, and outright defeats at worst. In the book we attempt to offer a new explanation for why this is the case. Without rejecting the contributing factors of objective changes in the organisation of capitalism, and subjective changes in the self-understanding of class, we try to add a third explanation based upon a widespread common sense amongst the left. It is what we call ‘folk politics’: an intuitive set of beliefs that leads those on the left to instinctually turn towards immediacy as the solution to political problems. It finds greater and lesser expression in a series of recent movements, and while sometimes explicitly valorised, more often than not it goes on unconsciously in practices and habits. Our argument is that this folk political common sense tends to lead movements to organise and do politics in a way which constrains the possibility of escaping a global capitalism. This does not mean that folk politics should be rejected or dismissed; rather we simply try to point to its wide circulation and strategic insufficiency.

On a second level, the book seeks to generate discussion about what the future should look like. Too often, the activist and academic left only offers visions of the future in negative terms: the end of wage-labour, the end of racism, the end of sexism, the end of colonialism. These are all agreeable, of course, but ultimately remain empty signifiers. If we want a better world, we need to have some idea of where we are going. This doesn’t mean taking the opposite tack, and outlining a detailed plan for a future society (as with Parecon and New Socialism, for example). Rather it means setting out a series of broad proposals for what should be desired, what can be achieved, and how to get there. We have no illusions about the errors, biases, and limitations that our own proposals will include. We are, indeed, keenly aware of the limits of a small book written for a general audience. But the point of setting out a vision of the future and a series of demands is to lay our cards on the table for others to take up, critique, or reject. It is too easy to adopt a comfortable critical stance against the world.

Finally, discussions about the problems of the left and visions of the future must come together in debates over how to rebuild the power of the left and bring about a new future. To this end, our argument is for a counter-hegemonic strategy across an ecology of organisations, intervening in newly discovered and constructed points of leverage. While we try to give some concrete content to these broad proposals, we have also intentionally pitched these ideas at a level which allows them to be taken up in different forms across different countries and under different conditions. It is our hope that people who are convinced by our analysis and proposals will then take up these broad ideas and translate them into their own specific circumstances. We offer the book as a possibility – one among many – of what the future could look like.

-Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams

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Inside Out

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Marx famously described capitalism as mad and inverted. Daniel Spaulding re-examines speculative realism through an Adornian prism to disclose a thought of ‘the great outdoors’ beyond capital that is very much immanent to a world not only upside down but increasingly inside out 

In his book After Finitude, published in France in 2006 and in English translation two years later, Quentin Meillassoux refers to what he calls the ‘Great Outdoors’: the wilds of the Real to which philosophy may achieve direct access once it frees itself from the correlation between thinking and being. The Great Outdoors is Meillassoux’s term for everything that philosophy stands to gain from the reversal of Kant’s Copernican Revolution. Except, it turns out, it isn’t, since the original phrase is, rather, le Grand Dehors, which means something more like ‘the Great Outside.’[1] Le Grand Dehorshas no vernacular resonance in French; at least, it is devoid of the woodsmanly connotations of its English (or American) counterpart. The difference, slight as it is, may have led certain Anglophones to fantasise about camping trips to the vales of the Absolute, where marshmallows, thinking their marshmallow thoughts, roast in their ineluctable withdrawnness over the flames of unfettered speculation. Le Grand Dehors by contrast sounds rather less adventuresome. Perhaps, also, more intimidating: the dehors is a placeholder for the beyond of all sensuous experience, akin to Pascal’s terrifying infinite spaces. Gemütlich it’s not.

I mention this only because the ‘Great Outdoors’ has come to be something like a structuring trope in a broad swathe of recent philosophical thinking, in which, often enough, Gemütlichkeit returns with a vengeance. We have, over the past decade, been invited to take seriously the prospect of an ‘object oriented cookery’ that would grant full honors to non-human agents in the kitchen (that is, everything but the chef – marshmallows presumably included).[2] We have been informed, of inanimate things, that ‘the same charm is present in foreign cultures, and for all the endless diatribes against ‘Orientalism,’ objects themselves are a perpetual orient, harboring exotic spices, guilds, and cobras.’[3] We have also been told, in a meditation on the September 11 attacks, that an ‘explosion is frightening because it’s ontologically uncanny.’[4] And we have seen the rehabilitation of H.P. Lovecraft as an evidently major figure in the history of speculative thought, as well as much else passing as philosophy that seems straightforwardly reducible to kitsch: Carl Sagan-esque paeans to the wonder and weirdness of the cosmos, for example.

How to make sense of this conjunction between the familiar and the strange – cuteness combined with terror? What is it that its consumers expect from it? My answer is necessarily oblique. As an art historian rather than a philosopher I tend to read this literature with a sense of bemusement, if not bewilderment. Surely no one can care this much about whether objects are ‘fourfold’ or ‘virtual proper beings’?[5] – But then, surely nobody could care all that much about a splatter of paint. I have come to write this essay by way of a collision between adjacent realms of the abstruse.

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Postkapitalismus oder Kommunismus? Eine Kritik des Akzelerationismus

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Sonntag 7. September 2014von kommunisierung.net

Auf einmal kann es die FAZ nicht mehr erwarten: „Die Revolution soll sich beeilen“ [1]betitelt sie die Rezension des Sammelbandes zum Akzelerationismus [2]. Auch in anderen bürgerlichen Feuilletons wurde das Erscheinen des kleinen Büchleins als Ereignis gefeiert. Georg Diez bringt im Spiegel den bürgerlichen Enthusiasmus für diese „neue linke Theorieströmung“ auf den Punkt: „Sie sind gegen Nostalgie und für mehr Fortschritt.“ [3] Ganz schnell vorwärts zum Postkapitalismus? Da sollte man sich doch mal genauer anschauen, wo die Reise denn genau hingehen soll.

Neben Nick Land, einem britischen Philosophen, der dem spekulativen Realismus zugerechnet wird, wird im „Beschleunigungsmanifest“ auch Karl Marx als wichtiger Vordenker bezeichnet: „Karl Marx bleibt, neben Land, der beispielgebende Vordenker des Akzelerationismus. Der allzu vertrauten Kritik und sogar dem Verhalten einiger zeitgenössischer Marxisten zum Trotz [sic!] müssen wir uns daran erinnern, dass Marx selbst – in dem Bestreben, seine Welt vollständig zu begreifen und zu verändern – die fortschrittlichsten theoretischen Werkzeuge und empirischen Daten, die ihm zugänglich waren, nutzte. Er war kein Denker, der sich gegen die Moderne sträubte, sondern eher einer, der in ihr nach Wegen suchte, um sie zu analysieren und zu verändern. Er verstand, dass der Kapitalismus trotz all seiner Ausbeutung und Korruption das bis dato fortschrittlichste Wirtschaftssystem war und dass dessen Errungenschaften nicht rückgängig gemacht, sondern über die Beschränkungen der kapitalistischen Wertschöpfung hinaus beschleunigt werden sollten.“ [4]

Grosso modo handelt es sich um eine von der angelsächsischen realistischen und analytischen philosophischen Tradition inspirierte Rezeption der (post-)operaistischen Diskussion über das Maschinenfragment und den general intellect. Das Kognitariat war ein Produkt dieser Diskussion und Marx ist daran tatsächlich nicht ganz unschuldig: „Die Natur baut keine Maschinen, keine Lokomotiven, Eisenbahnen, electric telegraphs, selfacting mules etc. Sie sind Produkte der menschlichen Industrie; natürliches Material, verwandelt in Organe des menschlichen Willens über die Natur oder seiner Betätigung in der Natur. Sie sind von der menschlichen Hand geschaffne Organe des menschlichen Hirns; vergegenständlichte Wissenskraft. Die Entwicklung des capital fixe zeigt an, bis zu welchem Grade das allgemeine gesellschaftliche Wissen, knowledge, zur unmittelbarenProduktivkraft geworden ist und daher die Bedingungen des gesellschaftlichen Lebensprozesses selbst unter die Kontrolle des general intellect gekommen und ihm gemäß umgeschaffen sind.“ [5] Wo „Wissen zur unmittelbaren Produktivkraft“ wird, ist logischerweise ein Platz frei für ein neues Subjekt und das Kognitariat wurde von der Philosophie auf diesen Thron gesetzt.

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