Decay as Background: The Grounds Between Acceleration and Deceleration

The development of decelerationist thinking as a counterpoint to accelerationism has raised an interesting debate about what the flows and meaning of capital are, and whether they are controllable. Decelerationism is a narrative of existence in and around Satan, the stock market as “a living breathing Overmind. Markets is not “THE BAD CAPITALISTS TAKING MY MONEY” no no no. The Market is a pricing-discovery neural network, an allocation-machine. All human and inhuman participants uplink themselves to determine what is bought and sold. It is the thing that governs your life. It is an entity”[1]. Capital in this sense is an oxymoronic entity, both internal to our very workings but external in its exigencies and developments. It works in, through and beyond the human capacity for understanding.

Further, the externalities of capital – both positive and negative – are to be worked around and manipulated. The decelerationist acts as a spanner in the works, working with the destructive consequences of capital’s externalities (pollution, extinction, urbanisation, etc.) and looking for broken flows and statistical errors in the production process. Its a kind of acceleration through the backdoor, accelerating the process through manipulating dead links and viruses, using these fragments of networks to build their own resilience and encourage the downfall of the wider system. Rather than being the opposite of accelerationism, its a differential understanding of the same dynamic, that of accelerating the developments of capital thus expanding its forms, creating new fields of development and experimentation.

While on the face of it these two positions seem contrary they both go along the same dynamic for similar reasons i.e. increasing the experimental field of meta-governance for dealing with technological processes, means of production and the means of social existence. The decelerationist example sees this as a field of collapse, creating post-collapse conflagrations of existence that exist between and outside the ubiquity of technology[2]. It means not necessarily rejecting techno-capital, but creating borders and valuation structures that delineates and limits its effects and reach. In other words it relies on the developments of decay and destruction, and its subsequent experimental background, to develop their own forms of praxis and action. Decay is the background for the decelerationist understanding, as it is for accelerationism. It is the rhizomatic decay of organisms and organisations that produces new forms and systems. The rhizome operates by variation, expansion, conquest, offshoots[3] and other developments that are indicative of the decay of energy. The increasing largesse of all things, from organisms to states, corporations and systems, creates patterns of decay and destruction as they become maladaptive to complex situations. Channels of communication become jammed as central units cannot process all the information necessary for control. The only working elements become those that ignore the central unit, focusing instead on creating adaptive relations which allow for the movement of information, goods or biological matter to go between multiplicitous actors.

Thus I’m not really sure where deceleration becomes something uniquely positioned to take on the forces of capital except in the generic sense it exists on the ocean of experimentation that seethes beneath and through all organisations/organisms. In the same way trees exist in various circumstances, working through “fungal networks” that keep alive members of their networks, including dead stumps who cannot provide the electrical signals and nutrients to mutually provide to this network[4]. Trees here are indicative of networks of existence that deal with and work through continual decay, much in the same way accelerationist and decelerationist thinking aim to understand the increasingly faster developments of technology and system decay. And from the branches of these trees new networks can develop and grow. Piore and Sabel’s model of technological development as a multiplicitous series of branches is indicative of these network formations. Multiple possibilities exist that are shaped through historical contingencies. Even on particular socio-economic tracks, the existence of alternative formations always stay below the surface, creating a multi-systemic reality masked by semiotic centrality. Both in their conception and their existing reality these networks of decay and recreation are part of a multi-systemic, meta-perspective of capital and how it is interacted with.

In Kegan’s model of psychological development, he identifies five stages of development in human existence[5]. The latter three have the most applicability to human development as seen today. The third focuses on the stage of development most associated with clannish behaviour and early human organisation through villages and basic municipalities. The fourth stage then sees the development of individualistic tendencies associated with industrial modernity, where socio-economic developments separate individuals from village communities and increasingly separate work from social life. Here clannish organisation becomes increasingly disparate and fragmented. The fifth stage goes beyond these toward a concept of meta-systematicity, where systems themselves (systems of governmental organisation, productive capacity and social control) are treated as individual elements to human life (in the way clans were treated as differential elements to individual lifeworlds). This is I think where both accelerationism and decelerationism sit, away from the supposed paradox of group and individual toward a meta-perspective of governance and order that sees decay and destruction as the continual elements of systems. Systems in this perspective are “nebulous: unpredictable, unknowable, understood more by feel than rational analysis”[6], being both tools for human use as well as their own forms of organisation that produce unexpected outcomes.

Meta-systematicity is the recognition of systemic fragility and the constant stage of unknowingness. Unexpected consequences produced from rhizomatic decay. This is the background of all systemic and organic activity as complexity eats through stages of adaptivity. Thus the ideas of deceleration fit more in this meta-categorisation than they do as a reaction against accelerationism. Both aim to understand and adapt to surrounding circumstances, seeing experimental possibilities in the seething elements of modernity that allow for new structures of organisation that can cope with and work alongside the nebulousness of automatised production systems networked activity. Decay and destruction are always in the background.







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s