July 1, 1963. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge MA. America is in the midst of the Cold War. The masculine fire and fury of World War II has given way to a period of cooling and the new digital war of information. Two Titans prepare to enter into battle for the dominion of Gaia, to claim their perfect sky from the Moon and reign down missiles onto the Earth. The Cold War’s primary theater is the Space Race, and the Soviets become the first to master the skies with Sputnik in 1957 and Luna 2 in 1959. America is getting nervous.
For Jünger, souls are judged according to their readiness to see an invisible war. Invisible war conjoins the immediacy of the front experience (Fronterlebnis) to a higher order of determination. Immolating fire is a communiqué that travels from an absolute remoteness to an essentialised closeness: causality is vertical, hierarchical and unilateral. An act on the front is the mirror of a determination within the invisible war. The station of a higher soul can be achieved through the intensification of this perception, which separates a reflective surface from a secret face.
You’re basically one of the leading thinkers of what we might call the school of thought that’s known as accelerationism. Accelerationism is something like the view that contemporary history is changing at an exponential rate, technologically and economically, and that this rate of change confounds nearly all of our traditional concepts for thinking about society and economics and politics. If someone on the street walked up to you and asked you “What is this whole accelerationism thing?” is there a kind of key essence or upshot that you would add to what I just said?
There is a famous scene in the movie Alien where engineer Brett is chasing a cat in the space ship’s engine room and unexpectedly runs into an alien. So do the spectators, who see an adult alien for the first time—even a bit sooner than the character since the creature descends from the ceiling behind Brett’s back while he is staring into the camera and courting Jones, the cat. I believe our attitude towards capital to be quite similar—we are Brett the moment before he turns around, we sense something unbearably, monstrously alien behind our back, yet we still behave as if we were only chasing a cat. The alien capital in the title stands for alienness, for the eighth passenger aboard a spaceship with seven humans. The capitalist economy we are more familiar with also encompasses classes, entrepreneurs and employees, banks and finances etc. and something else, something alien.
Towards the end of his book on Henri Bergson, Deleuze mined from the philosopher’s work a spectral prefiguration of the people-to-come: the faint traces of an emergent and enigmatic open society, a “society of creators” and ‘privileged’ souls connected together by an imperceptible circuitry. Standing atop a grand, abstract summit, the open society derives its name not only from its differentiation to the closed society, but through that which it opens onto. The open society moves in the direction of what Bergson had called the élan vital, the impulse or force that compels self-organization in matter and morphogenesis through time. Such a movement is an affair of life itself, the sifting apart of the organic from the inorganic, organization from base matter. By ascending up a cosmological hierarchy in order to enter into unending engagement with this force, the mark of the open society is life at its most creative.
A philosophy of horror inevitably reaches transcendental limits; it is thought itself which is born in the shadowy depths of a horrific sublime. Nick Land screeches in the void that “horror first encounters ‘that’ which philosophy eventually seeks to know”, and we will trace this pre-philosophical trauma of thinking in the abstract spaces of German Expressionist cinema.
The Millennium is ten years out, but for Baudrillard it might as well have already happened. The eclipsing of the communists’ historical dream by globalized flows of floating capital and information ushered in a cold, glacial stasis: the enveloping of any sense of forward momentum by the simulation of what had once been real events. As ubiquitous media begins to seep down to every crack and crevice and the whirlwind fades into the sensation of an odd vertigo, the only question Baudrillard finds himself capable of asking is this: “What do we do now that the orgy is over?”
Anything is only itself because it’s functionally different from everything else. This computer I’m typing at is only itself because it’s neither at the next desk, nor does it function in the manner of an apple, amongst many other things.
The degree of differentiation is not absolute. There is a gradient of order from the inside core to the outside, where others lie. There are, nonetheless, boundaries. Permeable boundaries, but boundaries nonetheless. Discontinuities where the gradient takes a leap.
Modernity can be thought of as a process of atomization, arguably initiated by the Protestant Reformation. Today, atomization is something that almost everyone protests (on the left and right), but protest itself is an atomization dynamic, automatically reproducing the mold of Protestant schismatics. In our sincerely felt repulsion to atomization, we instantiate a distance between ourselves and this supposedly external alienating phenomenon, the cause of which is imputed to something or someone else, somewhere else. This helps to explain other puzzling phenomena such as “community-building” political activists the attitudes and behaviors of whom are maximally inhospitable to most people everywhere. No matter how hard such groups sincerely want and try to connect with “the masses,” they continue to repulse the masses more and more, because their interest in building a commons is predicated on opposition to the only, last thing that humans today generally have in common: atomization.