attempts at living

to make a system out of delusions

Quote: Passsssssivvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvism

While I am engaged in the catastrophicedge readings I’ll be using this space as a dumping ground for various resources relevant to it. If anything come out of all this it’ll get sewn together at syntheticzero.


Passivism is the political methodology that is behind the Procedure. It is almost exactly the opposite of activism. The activist looks at the world and sees problems in the system about which something must be done. He leverages his political rights to convince and agitate the public, affect change through various mechanisms, and get society to fix the problem. The passivist, on the other hand, has no political rights, and he does not try to shift public opinion or influence the system in any way. The steel rule of Passivism is absolute renunciation of official power, which in practice precludes, “in no particular order”:

“demonstrations, press releases, suicide bombs, lawsuits, dirty bombs, Facebook campaigns, clean bombs, mimeographed leaflets, robbing banks, interning at nonprofits, assassination, “tea parties,” journalism, bribery, grantwriting, graffiti, crypto-anarchism, balaclavas, lynching, campaign contributions, revolutionary cells, new political parties, old political parties, flash mobs, botnets, sit-ins, direct mail, monkeywrenching, and any other activist technique, violent or harmless, legal or illegal, fashionable or despicable”.

The passivist is a subject, not a citizen; he is absolutely at the mercy of the system, whatever it is and whatever it decides to do. If the system orders him to jump, he jumps, but otherwise he goes about his private business. The passivist serenely refrains from having outraged and partisan opinions on the latest “social issues”. His solemn duty is to submit to and obey the system.

That’s liberating, in a way, but our activism-tainted minds are quick to reject it. We wonder exactly how we are supposed to take power and fix anything with this doctrine of political harmlessness. It’s a bit too Zen for us neophytes; “to take power,” says the master, “you must first renounce power”.

Right. Left. Meh.

From: The Future Primaeval- passivism and the procedure.


Quote: Proletariatttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt—-

The loss of influence of concrete (as opposed to theoretical Marxist) working-class interests was caused by the advent of automated manufacturing, which removed the need to concentrate an army of workers in a large factory where they had economic and potentially paramilitary power.

Anomaly UK on neoliberalism.

And another other place…

Blogs are supposed to be practice. I haven’t been practicing very much. That is why I am rebooting myself over at Catastrophic Edge. It will be focussed on expanding on some of the darker aspects to what I’ve produced on here and left underdeveloped. It is part of a project in post-nihilistic thinking but heading into those shores that look at what happens when coping is pathological. Specifically it is a notepad or a rehearsal space for thoughts on suicide and suicidality, post-traumatic symptoms, self-harm, anorexia, psychopathy, dysempathy, addiction (to drugs and as a concrete metaphor for the will to live). It will also feature more things on extinction, pessimism, nihilism,  bleak theory, depressive realism, gnosticism and all those shades of horror and despair that are generally not seen as part of coping. However, this doesn’t mean the renunciation of the syntheticzero project. In fact, insofar as it means a reactivation of an exploration of coping & its discontents it is also a return to thinking about these things at all.

I’ve also gotten pretty dissatisfied with my writing so this might be a place- after the two posts already up- where I try to change it up a bit. On the one hand I want to write more stuff in the style of the hallucination and psychoclimate communique. On the other hand I also share Colin Feltham’s aspiration in his Keeping Ourselves in the Dark:

‘I want to write in a way that can be understood by my sons; that is somewhat philosophical but not too dessicated in the manner of professional academic philosophers writing or talking to each other about minutiae…wander from opinion to theory to description…to some extent reflect the messiness of life itself’ (Feltham 2015, 13).

If he doesn’t mind, I might actually use this blurb from Levi as a fun ‘about’ page…because I hate writing that shit, and because when you feel like an illegitimate voice at the table these kind of words are worth keeping hold of…

I’ve only come to know Arran James’s blog in the last year– and apparently we met when I was at Dundee earlier this year –but it is one of the best blogs I’ve encountered in years.  James works within the world of psychotherapy and this is reflected in his posts.  Thoroughly grounded in Freudo-Lacanian theory, as well as concrete patients, his writing is characterized by a passion for the problems of the clinic, a deep sense of ecology and politics, and a pervasive attentiveness to the relationship between theory and practice.

Those words were written at a time when I spent about 12 hours a day in the library and my anxiety about a lack of intellectual qualifications- having to read the right things and to read them well enough- was much more pronounced. The optimism of my politics belies a default position of  depressive realism and deflationary nihilism, and so it is that I’m returned to the position where I quit the yearning to play at the subject-supposed-to-know or measure against that holder of apophatic knowledge. We are each of us stumbling around in the blind darkness, dragging ourselves forward like Melancholia’s Justine trying to push through dense and heavy growths that grab and wrap themselves around us, pulling us down into the cold earth. We are all just trying to cope- the revolutionary and the schizophrenic, the poet and the milkman. Every one of us, so far as we do anything at all, is engaged in the project of trying to cope with life. From this perspective there is as much worth in getting through the day as there is in getting through a life as there is in having written Being and Time as there is in partaking in emancipatory struggles. I’ll end this brief post with yet another quote. This one was brought to my attention by my friend over at autodespair a few years ago and it has stuck with me ever since. I’ll leave you with the words of Frank Sinatra then…

I’m not unmindful of man’s seeming need for faith; I’m for anything that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers, or a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. But to me religion is a deeply personal thing in which man and God go it alone together, without the witch doctor in the middle.

Choice and cuts


Human choice cuts


My place at the mental health day centre has been cancelled due to council cuts so, instead, I’ve been referred to my GP’s social prescribing service. In other words, I’ll get to meet once with someone who’ll go through a list of activities that are available to the general public in my local area, and then I’ll be left to get on with it. Social prescribing is a really good idea and will provide a valuable service for many people I’m sure. It’s something that hopefully will spread to more areas. But that’s hardly equivalent to a specialist day centre for people diagnosed with serious mental health problems. Not in any way.

As @444blackcat said:

“[Since the centre closed,] a lot [of former attendees] are now sitting at home. At the centre, they felt at ease and didn’t have to explain anything. I get the idea that people should…

View original post 1,095 more words

Geoengineering and death

The argument against geoengineering is simple and can be thought of as occurring in the discontinuous opening between the two positions that allegedly dominate the spectrum of possible positions. One the one hand is the new accelerationist return to Prometheanism, while on the other hand it is the terrified retreat of the precautionary principle.


I’ll pick out Nick Srnicek’s take on this as one of the key acceleroes. He idenifies Prometheanism with a new project of that is neither veritical nor horizontal, and places the precautionary principle in the domain of the folk politics of neoanarchist horizontalism. This positioning allows nick to idenitfy the precautionary principle with the localism that is prefered by horizontalist organising. With this is the very swift marriage of the global perspective with reason’s capacity to transform the world.


With this the precautionary principle is mired with a politics that is meant to be ephemeral, stupid, tactically dull witted, and- as the implications of any critique of localism will go- contaminated with old fashioned and dangerous ideas about organic communities, spontaneity and so on.


At the exact same time it is also implied that the precautionary principle lacks faith in reason. There is an ambiguity here- does this suggest that the holders of the precautionary principle are insufficiently rationalist or does it show that they are irrational? If its the latter case then we’d need a demonstration of why this is the case, otherwise Srnicek is just doing the old and insulting “you’re nuttters we don’t have to respond to” routine. I don’t think this is what he is doing, but I can’t say for sure.


A couple of the problems here are the way that existing politics is devided into folk and (by extension) scientific formulations. This is a simple and old distinction that is being repeated- albeit differently from the past. That Srnicek is involved with Plan C means that some of the more exaggerated claims and critiques may be being misread by me here: I’ve got a lot of time for Plan C and an increasing amount for the idea of a politics that is neither verticalist nor horizontalist but “diagonalist”.


I’m willing to suppose that some of the way this divide is being carved up is actually lost in the emergence of this new diagonal trajectory. Because for me this kind of “diagonal” image- that is a politics that would correspond to the Accelerationist Manifesto’s calls for an ecology of organisations responsive to the various strategic stratifications of the global territory of capitalism- is one in which the very distinction between local and global is lost. To make sense of the diagonal as an image of thought for use open to politics is already to see local and global as axes of figural spatial coordination (ie. position on a chart we can map our activity against).


This kind of thinking would be open to the necessity of localised responsiveness given the non-continuous and non-localisable totality of the climate hyperobject; the climate and the geoterritories aren’t one big clump but are a vast object composed of many highly ideosyncratic conditions in its various regions. Put stupidly: Africa isn’t Scotland- they have different local weather conditions, soil conditions, infrastructural conditions, capacities, possibilities, and so on, as well as different populations whom we should at least attempt to get on board with our attempts to save ourselves. (Because screw it- their isn’t a single one of us that wants to save the earth because we love dolphins that much). My point is that local conditions need to be met and meshed together across vast distances. This means impositions from above (verticality) can’t work. And yet in dismissing any actual local projects (or perhaps I’m misunderstanding Srnicek’s precise critique of localism) we are missing that level of scale.


Geoengineering requires huge scale coordination and would need to be deployed sooner rather than later- just like any other means of combating climate change. Here’s the thing right…climate may not be the only game in town right now but it is the determinative. It’s going to significantly exacerbate every other problem we face and live with from working and living conditions to mental and physical health to the blossoming reactionary movements that just love a good old fashioned dose of large scale social fragmentation. Climate change puts a real time scale of things for us. We have 100 years or so for the species. Great. We have our lifetimes in which all sorts of shit is going to get worse.


So I would look to what is going on now. Right now it won’t be a communist revolutionary agency that is going to save us via geoengineering. Forgive my pessimism but I don’t see it. I do see the capitalists doing something though. But to think capitalism would do anything for us rather than for the sake of extending its own lifespan? The problem is that the risk, the gamble, is that we minimise or even obliterate our chances of survival right fucking now.


What is the precautionary principle. This is probably the most popular phrasing of it:


“When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or

the environment, precautionary measures should be taken

even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully

established scientifically”.


Well I guess we can say we’re beyond that point. The precautionary principle seems to suggest an elevated threat of harm. What is a threat of harm if it isn’t a risk? So we’re talking as if the options are between a risk-aversive attitude that operates along the lines of preventative medicine (I’m a nurse so forgive me my favourite metaphorical language), while the Promethean is a radical surgical intervention involving cybernetic prosthesis. I’m not against cybernetic on singular bodies except where that body is the geo-climactic hyper-body upon which all other currently existing bodies are dependent. Maybe things would be infinitely better if life just blinked out, and maybe that kind of pessimism (one I definitely am regularly gripped by) is the secret heart of the accelerationist project. But if we were looking for secret hearts we’d find them everywhere.


The precautionary principle may still hold in terms of the application of geoengineering projects insofar as they would have to be particular. What is actually being designed, deployed and so forth? And in this case, because the level of complexity from multiple localities and scales are bein considered in huge numbers of interactions with one another and are generative of emergent phenomena that cant be deduced or modelled for from within those interactions, it will always be on those advocating a particular form of geoengineering to convince the rest of us. This isn’t really all that precautionary as it is exercising caution which as far back as the Stoics of Greece has been a key feature of the use of reason.


The medical language I used above can carry over. Say I tell you I know you have cancer but that it won’t kill you for another 60 years. I can operate right now but that operation might kill you. Do you take it? The point isn’t that the risk isn’t worth it- it’s that it isn’t worth it yet. The obvious rejoinder to this is that without pursuing geoengineering it’ll be too late when the time does come. Here I can only agree. Any attempt to tackle the ecological catastrophe that believes it can be solved in the future has already failed because it is the viability of any future that is at stake.


So here is where other arguments come in. Geoengineering as a symptom of Prometheanism represents not nefarious neoliberal globalisation but rather the human tendency to treat ourselves as if we were the masters of nature that has been the psycho-moral undergirding of the development of processes and practices that led us to this precipice in the first place. To continue on with- to accelerate- those processes but this time in our hands is insufficient because whether the mastery of nature is red, green or capitalist it remains what it is. Here my focus on Snricek comes away a bit because there is a more nuanced debate to be had here about how he and the other acceleroes concieve of mastery (a beginning has been made into this by the Out of the Woods Collective on libcom). But in general the thrust of geoengineering is one that remains susceptible to Murray Bookchin’s multiple critiques of the mastery of nature. I’ll reproduce one here:

“Social ecologists argue, based on considerable anthropological evidence, that the modern view of nature as a hostile, stingy “other” grows historically out of a projection of warped, hierarchical social relations onto the rest of the natural world. Clearly, in non-hierarchical, organic, tribal societies, nature is usually viewed as a fecund source of life and well-being. Indeed, it is seen as a community to which humanity belongs. This yields a very different environmental ethic than today’s stratified and hierarchical societies. It explains why social ecologists continually stress the need to reharmonize social relationships as a fundamental part of resolving the ecological crisis in any deep, long-lasting way. It is an essential element in restoring a complementary ethical relationship with the non-human world.


And let’s be very clear about one thing. We are not simply talking about ending class exploitation, as most Marxists demand, as important as that is. We are talking about uprooting all forms of hierarchy and domination, in all spheres of social life. Of course, the immediate source of the ecological crisis is capitalism, but, to this, social ecologists add a deeper problem at the heart of our civilization — the existence of hierarchies and of a hierarchical mentality or culture that preceded the emergence of economic classes and exploitation” (Bookchin in Defending the Earth: a debate).


[I’ll add here Bookchin’s concept of heirarchy as “an institutionalized system of domination, by which clearly definable and well-organized strata of people accrue distinct material, cultural, and moral privileges not merely, as in classes, by the ownership or control of property and the exploitation of labor”].


The Promethean need to “master nature” is thus a projection of social mastery and therefore is simply a reproduction of the (psycho)logics of domination that produced the ecological catastrophe. And if the geoengineering project was taken up by capital it would obviously just allow business as usual to proceed.


It should be noted that as something of a Bookchinite I am not suggesting technology is bad or that it should be reliquished or any other kind of bullshit. Simply I think that there must be a way of ensuring that we liberate and make use of capitalist technologies in a way that does not repeat the hubris of the industrial era. This doesn’t simply mean avoiding techno-fixes that would displace social struggle and organisation but fundamentally using technologies in a way that reflect our desires for that organisation. In the era of the anthropocene (the true significance of the name I would argue is that it assembles “the human” in a non-ideal sense for the first time) we are drawn towards a sensibility of the ontological and political force of nonhuman bodies on human life- towards the way human communities are nested within, and are nests for, nonhuman biotic and machinic communities. It is this kind of Prometheanism that subtends the metabolic rift that Marx identified in his own ecological writing.


At the moment there isn’t much to look to in terms of environmentalist praxis. There is obviously the anti-fracking movement, the recent new york stuff, the popularity of Green Parties (which it may become necessary to tactically make use of- ideologies are melting under the demands of eco-crises). There are also practices emergent around ideas of rewilding, sustainability skill sharing workshops, the Transitional Movement that has produced transitional towns that are seeking to create ecological communities, those that can survive the impacts of climate change as well as make use of appropriate ecotechnologies, and calls for a fossil fuel abolitionist movement (although I haven’t seen anything come out of that as yet in real terms), some of which are explored here.


There are also key problems on the governance issues surronding the use of geoengineering. Here we’re affecting the whole system. How do we decide? Who decides? I realise that is often taken as a kind of banal anarcho-ethical question but its important nonetheless as we’re talking about having unforeseen consequences in unforeseen places that could destroy communities, lives, ramping up the speed rates of suffering and death (although that might be alarmist, the point is we don’t know). More pragmatically for the pragmatic politicos out there is the question of geopolitical shifts in response to someone nation having this technology and potentially unilaterally, or more likely with the support of the “international community”, making this decision. It’s hard to imagine anyone being fucked off about the Earth cooling a bit or the oceans be de-acidified but geopolitics is a strange game of spectacle as much as anything else. And there again, in predicted conflicts for resource rich regions of the Earth, alot of states have already invested a lot of money into military and security infrastructure and planning.


Maybe the best thing would be for some eco-terrorist to geoengineering bomb the skies; the Unabomber who loved me.


I do agree with the geoengineering advocates in one sense though…time is running out, things are getting urgent, and so all those clever Zizekian critiques of actionism run out of the luxury of having infinite time for contemplation. In terms of disposition, I read and loved the Mars novels. If geoengineering- essentially terraforming- could work safely it’d be fantastic. If we could try it out elsewhere (ie. not Earth) great.

Here is the problem then- my position here is one that replays a particular contradiction between viewing the threat of climate change as a genuine existential threat to the species and between a desire to maintain a particular politics. And this is the essential problem. I agree with the need for geoengineering given the severity of what is facing us but also see in that the complete surrender of certain liberatory ideals whilst at the same time moving from some so-called horizontalism to whatever this diagonalism might be. The question I used to pose to people, anarchism or annihilation, might belong to another time. The reason these ideological debates- are you are Leninist or an anarchist- and so on continue is, I am sure, because we have not yet accepted the truth of climate change and as such have not yet even begun to adapt to it.

I think its clear from all this that I am in the middle of rethinking things, that I am always in the middle of rethinking things, and that it is ecological catastrophe that is behind this thinking. The name for post-nihilist reorientations towards an expanded and philosophically nuanced conception of what @MichaelPyska calls survivalism. At the same time I am more and more entrenched in the work of philosophical salvage from those traditions designed to help us cope. It wasn’t that long ago that I was slipping into a very real dread of climate change, a very potent “fuck its all already over…not in logical time, right now” and it didn’t feel liberating as it had before. One of the my prefered philosophical systems is Stoicism, and not least because of its central ethical precept since Musonious Rufus, although more famously put forward by his student Epictetus, that some things are under our control and something aren’t.

Climate isn’t. We can act to curb it, and perhaps considering the scale we should use geoengineering as that is something in our power, a way we can affect the Earth, the Planet, even if we can’t know the outcome. The Stoics called this acting with the reserve clause: we never know how our actions will turn out but that should not stop us from acting, and once we have acted, if we have failed, we simply have to accept the new situation. Of course, from the Stoic point of view human life itself is an indifferent. That is, it has no value in and of itself. This may be a forward from both the pessimists’ “life is wrong” and from the insipid idea of philosophical optimists that life is sacred (as Camus said, wherever sacredness is you’ll find no rebellion). It is our life and the biotic communities we are enmeshed with we’re seeking to preserve.

At the end of this post perhaps I have resolved nothing. It’s enough to actually get the thoughts out of your head. To see what it is that you’re thinking and to say “so much of this shit belongs to a dead world”. In any event, philosophy has always been a practice of vulnerability, at its extreme it has been a practice of learning how to die. Stoicism is only one such tradition that has counselled that learning how to die well has never meant resignation. And if we are to die well, the Stoics saw no better death than suicide. Geo-engineering may save us, or it may be our collective honourable dying well.

This post was originally a response to someone on Facebook in a thread about the anthropocene and the capitalocene. The question was asked: “what’s wrong with geoengineering anyway”? It got a little out of hand. 

Post-nihilist praxis

Michael on post-nihilist praxis

I believe the task of conscious observers (and not just intellectuals) today is to begin toindulge rather than mask the nihilistic forces of contemporary life – forces that manifest and register existentially, environmentally, and poltically in a variety of objective ways. We must partake instead of continuing to deny the dark revelations of current crises in order to push each other towards more earthly, or creaturely, that is to say ecological modes of thinking and doing. Realizing and coping-with the transcorporeal facticity of life entails communicating and making explicit our intimate connections with the planet and its beings, but it also requires us to explore and engage the inherent precarity and ontological vulnerability with-in the natural world through association, design and infrastructure.

Post-nihilist praxis is thus an experimental mode of embodied enagement oriented towards operationalizing novel and actionable solutions, communications and adaptations to the myriad of creeping potencies of nonhuman flows and assemblages both within and without. If we are to rebuild from the ruins of this mad civilization the important work to be done is decidedly practical.

Full post here.

Speculative Anarchism

“There are, you see, two ways of reading a book: you either see it as a box with something inside and start looking for what it signifies, and then if you’re even more perverse or depraved you set off after signifiers. And you treat the next book like a box contained in the first or containing it. And you annotate and interpret and question, and write a book about the book, and so on and on. Or there’s the other way: you see the book as a little non-signifying machine, and the only question is “Does it work, and how does it work?” How does it work for you? If it doesn’t work, if nothing comes through, you try another book. This second way of reading’s intensive: something comes through or it doesn’t. There’s nothing to explain, nothing to understand, nothing to interpret. It’s like plugging in to an electric circuit…This second way of reading’s quite different from the first, because it relates a book directly to what’s Outside. A book is a little cog in much more complicated external machinery… This intensive way of reading, in contact with what’s outside the book, as a flow meeting other flows, one machine among others, as a series of experiments for each reader in the midst of events that have nothing to do with books, as tearing the book into pieces, getting it to interact with other things, absolutely anything. . . is reading with love.”- Gilles Deleuze.

A while back I punted the idea of an online reading group composed of anarchos from outside or who are less familiar with the recent speculative turns in philosophy. I didn’t really follow up on that despite some interest on twitter. So here I’m going to make a more formal proposal. So here is the more formal bit:

The speculative turn is a phrase that has been used to talk about the way that recent continental philosophy has sought to explode beyond the constraints of endless talk about discourse, language, power-knowledge, textuality, and culture. At the same time the speculative turn also seeks to move passed the frozen obsession with the ‘death of man’ that has, by ceaslessly ensuring that the human, the subject, or Dasein remain the core around which philosophy circles, perpetually enacted a ‘resurrection of man’.

The speculative is about leaving the comfortable waters of human narcissism behind and venturing out once more into the “great outdoors” of objects, material processes, vibrant matter, geological and cosmological time, and thus simultaneously enacting a philosophy that rediscovers the more-than-human ecologies that we are embedded in. Much of this work offers means with which to think the materiality of power and to grasp the cartographies of capitalism.

Key to this is the common theme among the new speculative philosophers and their antecedents on leaving behind the tired distinction between nature and culture. Any anarchism today must be able to think about nature in ways that avoid reproducing the modernist trap of treating it as separate from humans- some raw material “out there” that we can ceaselessly take as exclusively our own inexhaustible means to freedom. We are embedded within ecologies and are ourselves units of alien ecologies.

Many anarchists have engaged with continental philosophy only begrudgingly or not at all. The epithets of idealism, self-importance, separation from everyday concerns, and theoretical self-indulgence, as well as a certain stale boredom, haven’t gone unanswered by certain circles of philosophers, anthropologists and sociologists.

The speculative turn towards materialism and realism offer an opportunity for anarchism to re-engage with a different kind of philosophy. The purpose of speculative anarchism reading group would be to assess whether the speculative turn is able to help us make sense of the multiple crises that we find ourselves faced with and whether there is anything that anarchists can make use of in these works. It remains an open question, although it should be noted that at least two writers featured in my list below call themselves anarchists.

The term ‘speculative turn’ may be getting old fashioned already by this point, just as the names that preceded it (“speculative realism”, “object-oriented philosophy”, “the new materialisms”) have also begun to undergo mutations, modifications, disappearances. Some of these authors are now speaking of ‘machines’ instead of objects, of posthuman life, or may be more readily understood as weird nihilists or accelerationists.

I don’t pretend that I have a comprehensive understanding of the various strands of the new materialist and realist orientations, and I don’t want to act as guide or (even less) teacher.

That said I have decided to assemble a list of books that a speculative anarchism reading group could consider looking at. It isn’t complete, not all of them are too my personal taste, and it may not cover the full range of options. This is intended to be partial and suggestive, with the final reading list open to discussion, if such a group decided to put a list together rather than drifting book-to-book, essay-to-essay as the pull of the texts demanded. Some of these texts may not be speculative philosophy at all but swim in the same uncharted waters.

For myself, I also imagine this group as a possible exercise in intensive reading– in regarding the text less as a container of information that should be killed by understanding, but met and integrated with living. So, the proposed list….some of these may be more or less immediately useful…

The Three Ecologies– Felix Guattari.

After-finitude- Quentin Meillassoux (this text is fairly foundational philosophically- but we may not really require it).

Ontocartography: an ontology of machines and media– Levi Bryant.

The ecological thought– Timothy Morton.

Bodily nature: science, environment and the material self- Stacey Alaimo.

We have never been modern– Bruno Latour.

Posthuman Life- David Roden.

nihil unbound– Ray Brassier

Extrastatecraft: the power of infrastructure space

On an ungrounded Earth– Ben Woodard.

Essays on extinction- Clair Colebrook (2 vol.s)

Stolen Future,Broken Present: the human significance of climate change- David A Collins.

Testo-Junkie::Sex drugs and biopolitics in the pharmacopornographic era- Beatriz Preciado.

Like I say, this list is illustrative of the kinds of texts any group that comes out of this might want to look at. These are the books that sprang immediately to my mind so don’t read that as indicating they are necessarily the most important or indicative (although a couple of them are). Of course there are also primers, overviews and anthologies on speculative realism, new materialism, and ‘the speculative turn’. Many of the texts related to this reorientation of philosophical practice are available as pdfs or as open access books- although some aren’t and are pricey. There are also journals such as Speculations and the expansive Collapse that circle around the same strange orbits.

I’ve never been involved in organising an online reading group (although I saw how difficult the Latour AIME group was to coordinate), so if any of y’all have more experience than me I’d be keen to hear your advice.

You can register interest either here in the comments for now or via email by contacting me via d r o n e m o d u l e [ a t ] g o o g l e m a i l . c o m and we can start circulating a group list thereafter.

exist strategy: become-machine

There is something we love to imagine more than anything else: the end of our species. In the field of the imagination there is more to relish in pictures of hell than any paradise. What motivates that morbidity? It’s tempting to conclude outright that we hate ourselves. We have philosophers who will tell it to us. John Gray’s ludicrous idea of homo rapiens is ludicrous, but there it is, in black and white. The available information went into one clever ape’s head and selections were made as to how best to make sense of it and what came out was the conclusion that as a species, paraphrasing the Matrix, we are cancer. What do you do with cancer? You treat it. But to treat it is to kill it. But we’re addicted to being alive, and the thought of our own individual deaths terrify us. Imagine it on a bigger scale, imagine it on a cinematic scale, depersonalise, disidentify and there you go. It’s quite tolerable to talk the death of the species. What does it even mean?

So now nick bostrom tells us that superintelligent machine intelligence might be lead to our end of days, while the paper’s ring out that skynet is on the way:

But the Tesla-founder [Elon Musk] claims the technology could someday be more harmful than nuclear weapons.

Last month, the billionaire tweeted a recommendation for a book that looks at a robot uprising, claiming ‘We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.’

Musk referred to the book ‘Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies’, a work by Nick Bostrom that asks major questions about how humanity will cope with super-intelligent computers.

Mr Bostrom has also argued that the world is fake and we are living in a computer simulation.

In a later tweet, Musk wrote: ‘Hope we’re not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence. Unfortunately, that is increasingly probable.’

Musk’s tweets follows a similar comment in June in which the Tesla-founder said believes that a horrific ‘Terminator-like’ scenario could be created from research into artificial intelligence.

The 42-year-old is so worried, he is investing in AI companies, not to make money, but to keep an eye on the technology in case it gets out of hand.

I’m an anarchist- as I’m sure most people know- but under those conditions what would it even mean any more? And so, when placed in relation to this emergent tendency, what does it mean now. Politics lags behind reality; we can’t update our delusions fast enough to keep track, and the demand for a coherent structured life shrinks back further into the realms of the unmanageable. We’re on the threshold of being replaced (in our own minds) and destroyed (in reality).

But what if we just like to think that? This sf scenario is getting closer and closer to being real. But climate change and the rise of all kind of violent reactionary movements are here-and-now. The tension between present and future is always hard to bear. But what if its not just that we like to think of ourselves as always on the brink because anxiety does you good and introduces you to the mother of invention? What if the fear, the anxiety, the excitement, the eros of extinction- don’t dare doubt their is such a thing- is what we’re really thirsting after when we thirst for annihilation. We don’t hate ourselves any more than any other species- but perhaps we sense that being alive is difficult, that it is hard, that it isn’t a great and wonderful gift. We like to imagine exit-routes. What if there is no way out? What if the real horror is we just keep on surviving.

All these posthuman visions. Can we imagine turning them on ourselves? These posthuman beings that are distinctly and definitely not human beings. Here’s a way out that let’s us survive: we go extinct by becoming posthumans. How would do such a thing? After all, we don’t know what they’d be like. Something else, at least, than ourselves. Maybe not a species that dreams so often of escaping its own existence. What is the human condition? night’s like this I want to answer: go ask a suicidal person.

I’m an anarchist and a pessimist. What do you want from me? I’m being realistic and demanding the darkest impossibilities 🙂

Hunting for a red October: events round-up for the next few weeks

A full few weeks of action.

Cautiously pessimistic

"These people need homes - these homes need people": the Focus E15 Mothers getting their message out

There’s quite a lot of important events happening over the next few weeks. Some of them have been quite widely publicised, others less so, but here’s a round-up of events that look worth attending over the next month or so:

First, Plan C are holding a co-ordinated series of public meetings about work next week. In their words:

“We Need To Talk About Work: a series of public discussions about the crisis of the work society and strategies for moving beyond it.

Plan C is calling for two things in October:

* Mass support, solidarity actions and participation in the national trade union strike on October 16th.

* A bloc at the TUC demo on October 18th in London.

We want to open up the ideas and plans for these interventions to everyone who shares our problem with work. We’ve already started these discussion and want to continue them…

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Hallucination #1

There is an undeniable need for health. Biophysical survival depends on being healthy, and you can forget any autonomy without it. Basic needs give way to expansive desires and both collide in the expanded notion of need located in Marx. For instance, in the Grundrisse 


Not only do the objective conditions change in the act of reproduction, e.g. the village becomes a town, the wilderness a cleared field etc., but the producers change, too, in that they bring out new qualities in themselves, develop themselves in production, transform themselves, develop new powers and ideas, new modes of intercourse, new needs and new language.


Madness is such a need, or rather the expression of such a need. This is David Cooper’s argument in The Language of Madness, which attempts to trace and, to some not entirely successful extent, to perform in its style. The vertiginous looping of language in dialectical spirals, the shifting of meanings, their reduplications and cascading self-erasures, the way words trip and jar, and above all in the comic mode of demanding simplicity in the most obtuse (mocker?) of the Marxist-Hegelian language of the time. In a sense he performs the very evaporation of the capacity for sense making that marks so much of the psychoses, the sublime objects of psychiatry. The chain of signification has these chains tightened and compressed to the point that they become an indistinguishable mess, while these chains are loosened. Hegelian language bleeds into an unnamed Buddhism, while the term “the third world” becomes interiorised into Western territories and the territorial regions that we pretend to ourselves happen much deeper than this: our “selves”.

But the chain of signification takes in asignifying particles as well as nonsemiological significations. Madness liberates expression. Madness makes a mockery of language not because language is bad, corrupt, an evil technology, but because speech has a battery that batters the unsayable. What is unsayable? Whatever cannot be said. So Wittgenstein’s mysticism is a conservatism that madness breaks from and ruptures. The chain goes lunatic, the body goes everywhere. What we can’t speak is exactly what the mad tries to say. And what is it we can’t speak if it isn’t the truth? Or, better still, the truth is precisely what is easiest not to hear, not to rouse action, and so may as well not be said. Or at least not in the neurotic’s speech.

In a training session on aggression- I am bored, we all just want to play with the break away techniques- and I remember a girl I slept with, we used the sessions as flirtation and as foreplay; psychiatry isn’t always about killing the libido. We were reminded about the need to read bodies, as if bodies were texts waiting to be read, as if they were ink on a page, rather than the very living vehicle, the weird machines of existential hallucination, that can’t not be read, that aren’t read because they don’t communicate at the banal level of rationality and structure, but beneath it, in the endocrinological and the spatial, coupled no doubt to cultural rules of display (a secondary coding). Proxemics, the lifeless lifefull thing in front of me was saying, is the study of the body in space. Language. Communication. Almost entirely corporeal. I am yawning when she says this- and through it the boredom communicates without me about itself. She is saying this because to teach the language of the body without words would require something more than a corporate training session can offer, because capitalism remains wedded to the semiological, because measures must be made, equivalences drawn and accounted for.

I remember the intensive care nurse turned “bipolar”. Months on end at arms length observations. no shoes laces. Rapid tranquilisation (the enforced pharmacarceration of the body inside itself via the chemical attack on its ability to move, to regulate itself, to communicate, to remain awake- some people are trapped forever within stylised postures, waxy muscle rigidity: a perfect prison swallowed, injected, plugged into at the tip of a syringe). Two nurses if he wants out for a smoke. no more than 5 minutes, no intense conversations, no maudlin remembering of a once intact life, because what? Yes, an massive weight of despair sometimes…but who gets hospitalised for that? A lot of people, but who gets months on end of involuntary incarceration? Instead it is mania- first encoded by the proto-engineers of the ancient world who still had the sense of naturalism about them. He rhymes and puns, rhymes and puns, makes loose associations, lets it all just fuck around in the space of reasons that has stopped giving itself incessantly serious reasons to speak, which revels in the absurdity of just about everything. Sure: you can’t get on well at the shops or the workplace. Did anyone consider that as a condemnation of the shop and the workplace? Because he speaks an intolerable speech he is locked a hospital, a ward, a room, a structural arrangement he can’t escape: call it the circuit that runs brain-body-self-brain-repeat. And again: language is private property, you’re madness is disrespect for that property, the state’s property…reasons property? Proper tea is theft, cleft, a movement to the left that disembarks the intonations and throws itself overboard. Didn’t nietzsche or someone who looked and sounded just like him once write- why do we still write?- that to be understood one must write in blood. Well even speech can bleed. Be made to bleed. It is a tortured speech, but is it torturing?

For Cooper the self is a trap to be escaped. The individual is always the bourgeois individual and thus is always necessarily a castrated neurotic. nevertheless the neurotic has glimpses, insights, attempts. Madness is a kind of psychic politics of exodus, a “founding leave taking”, a line of flight, a racing out of oneself to the zero-point expanse where the nothingness of the ego or self-consciousness are experienced as the dizzy hallucinations they are. At this point they vanish. The need for autonomy, even if hallucinatory, is the root cause of the kind of madness that Cooper targets, the same kind of madness that Foucault saw pleasantly roaming the streets, and which Deleuze and Guattari give the name of schizo, the madness that the psychedelic movement yearned for, and which is perhaps still with us in recuperated form today in the corporate cultural appropriation of yoga, of meditation, of all that Eastern and Shamanic stuff that good white rationalists despise.

And from the need builds the strategy. It can be more or less conscious. Which is to say one can be aware of the breaks in information processing, the excesses of the same, of the attempt to uncouple and recouple, to mutate the psychosomatic infrastructure in its fullest sense. And who is being a Romantic here? Madness isn’t all fun and games. Pain and suffering. Sure, and that comes as the cost of your flesh (at least for now; but I suspect suffering is also capable of revising itself). But pain and suffering aren’t illness or disease, even if you play about a bit and introduce the hyphen like the 12 steppers do. Okay, my name is Arran and I’m an addict. But my addiction seems to be my own existence and existence as such. Despite the grim gnosis that cuts through every diagnosis (cutting a cutting) I go on, and am capable of happiness…but mostly of that self-same constriction called self. Give me the tools to cut it and reshape it. The psychedelic movement expressed the libidinous need for this too: to reappropriate the means of machinic subjectivation. But that was child’s play compared to the possibilities inaugerated by the neuromodulations to come. DIY neuroscience and grime music. Pain and suffering are the result of the abortive attempts at autonomy and/or the blessed treatment of the diagnosable aberrations from conditioned semiotic and behavioural patterns. Reason is recombinatory but it is intolerable to psychiatry that it recombine in ways judged outside the bandwidth of our shared delusional frameworks. So no one is forgetting suffering, in fact its our biggest gripe.

But on the other hand: this other side of madness has been lost. Stunted within the biotechnological techniques of the psychoengineers who want standardised and Taylorised subjectivities. Stunted within the confines of health. To speak of mental health is to speak already in the language inherited from the agencies that enforce this reality and close off all utopic possibilities. no one has no future more than the psychiatrised. Madness is a dual-use technology: one the one hand it kills and makes killable, on the other it liberates. There where the danger grows…………………but that’s a bit weighty and a bit fraught with drama. Mental health isn’t like physical health. Don’t pretend it is. I would prefer to talk about madness as a creative destruction, an autonomisation of the fabric of what we still parse as the mind.

Groups conjoined in shared hallucinations. Stimulating one another’s brains directly. Rewiring the organic plane while reconstructing the ruined world about it. A rushing sense of chaotic rhythms phasing in and out of synchronisation. I dreamed I was a madman, or am I madman dreaming I am sane? First eliminate the “I” then eliminate the distinction. The question isn’t sick or well, insane or sane, rational or irrational. The question is: which madness? While I write this I’m sloping off the edge of not enough sleep and the pressing sense that I must sleep. It is too hot in this room and the glaring light makes everything look unimportant. A clock can be heard ticking in the kitchen. Fascists are on the march in bootstraps and in cardigans and they have well manicured beards. Gaza is burning. There is a history and many reasons. In this room they don’t penetrate. But not from a lack of empathy but from the dissolving of the agent of care into the semisolid state of exhaustion. What does rationalism no about any of this? The rationalist never dissolve, only augment. Madness might be reason weaponised against the world. A revision too far, or a revision just far enough. I’ve got to sleep. Tomorrow I am not the madman but the one who stands with patent lie of the cure.


To change the objective conditions…but infrastructures don’t stop at the skin.