apparently nick land was once given a disciplinary hearing at warwick to explain why the whole of one of his modules in the philosophy department was on the difference between VHS and betamax
Since the mid-1980s, as Britain, or, more specifically, London, has emerged as a global financial centre rivalled only by New York the idioms, codes, and rituals of high finance have become pressing concerns for British novelists. These concerns became acutely urgent with the onset of the global financial crisis or ‘credit crunch’. The sub-genre of contemporary British fiction dubbed ‘crunch-lit’ by the critic Sathnam Sanhera has achieved prominence, popularity, and acclaim in recent years, but the novels in question have so far proved wholly inadequate to their subject matter, attempting to impose the venerable fictional traditions of realism, personalisation, and moralisation onto a crisis that was in many ways unreal, impersonal, and amoral. In this essay, I suggest that for British fiction that fully acknowledges the intellectual and aesthetic challenges posed by financial crises we must look to earlier decades and to overtly avant-garde techniques: specifically to the experimental science fiction of Christine Brooke-Rose and the academic philosophy-cum-cyberpunk writing of Nick Land. Brooke-Rose’s Amalgamemnon (1984) vividly imagines the impending catastrophic breakdown of a wholly computerised global financial system, from which human agents are excluded. Similarly, Land’s ‘theory-fictions’ or, in his preferred term, ‘hyperstitions’ of the 1990s—most notably ‘Meltdown’ (1994)—construe the sprawling, anonymous circuits of contemporary financial capitalism as tending inexorably toward crisis. Both Brooke-Rose’s and Land’s texts overtly present themselves as prophecies of financial disaster; as such, their time has now arrived, eclipsing in importance and relevance more conventional texts that respond directly to the ongoing crises of financial capitalism.
[…] Amalgamemnon parodies the tendency, typical of works of crunch-lit, to personalise financial crises by depicting a figure who, as Debra Malina suggests, appears to be none other than ‘capitalism it/herself’. Brooke-Rose highlights the inadequacy of responses to crisis that think purely in terms of individual desire and action by emphasising precisely the impersonality of this notional ‘person’. The student revolutionaries who kidnap this strange entity know that ‘she’ will die ‘unless fed exclusively on capital’ and attempt a radical reprogramming operation, feeding her not with infusions of capital but with readings from Das Kapital. In one of the novel’s strangest and most suggestive moments, the resistance that this strategy encounters is conveyed via what can only be described as the direct interior monologue of an entity entirely bereft of interiority, and of centre, essence, consistency, and coherence:
I could take vaster risks within the mind construct of high finance and the perpetual excitement of the movement of capital. They’ll never understand that they can’t win … as long as I continue to calculate myself into existence out of imaginary sums, increasing myself per day per minute if necessary, after all every financial operation might be pure fiction from my point of view.
[…] Narrated in the present tense, with all its urgency and immediacy, ‘Meltdown’ ostensibly tells us what is happening, whilst also, like Algamemnon, implicitly identifying itself as a projection of what will happen. Land’s text is similarly self-conscious about it proleptic orientation, tracing a historical trajectory that—like the Mesoamerican Long Count calender in the imaginations of New Age Mystics—appears to zero in on the year 2012: ‘Converging upon terrestrial meltdown singularity, phase-out culture accelerates through its digitech-heated adaptive landscape, passing through compression thresholds normed to an intesive logistic curve: 1500, 1756, 1884, 1948, 1980, 1996, 2004, 2008, 2010, 211 … ’ . As Land explains, these dates charts modernity’s race ‘through intensive half-lives.’ Though the years enumerated after 1500 (which presumably stands as modernity’s symbolic start date) are at least partly the arbitrary products of a numerical scheme in which the gaps between the integers must progressively halve, it is a confirmation of Land’s underlying claim about the intensification of technological, economic, and political processes that each year carries some iconic world-historical resonance: the beginning of of the Seven Years War; the International Meridian and Berlin conferences; the Berlin Blockade; the Reagan election; Kasparov and Deep Blue; the Madrid bombings… Speaking in the late 1990s, one of Land’s former colleagues wryly recalled how Land went through a ‘glorious phase in which he offered millennial prophecies for the next global meltdown in world markets, a deduction based on past such cycles, it rather smacked of an infatuation with the power of numbers.’ The tone here is affectionately mocking, but looking now at the version of these numerological musings committed to print in ‘Meltdown’, one cannot help but notice that, whether coincidently or not, Land’s countdown includes the year—2008—which saw undoubtedly the most severe financial crisis since 1929, and arguably the worst in history. As the aftershocks of that crisis rumble on, the stark final paragraph of ‘Meltdown’ seems more ominous than ever: ‘To be continued.’
—Paul Crosthwaite, ‘Soon the Economic System Will Crumble’: Financial Crisis and Contemporary British Avant-Garde Writing, in The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Fall 2012, Vol. XXXII
What feels from any everyday human perspective like catastrophic change is really anastrophe: not the past coming apart, but “the future coming together”. Where Land gives this idea a millenial spin (he’s described capitalism as “an invasion from the future”, a virus retrochronically triggered by some kind of artificial intelligence to create the conditions for its own assembling—an idea that reads like it was spawned by watching Terminator on acid), Plant’s attitude is more humanely ambivalent. In the mid-Eighties, for instance, she supported the Coal Miner’s strike, a revolt against Thatcherite modernising policies and an attempt to preserve a traditional working class culture. Since then, she has come to believe that the privatisation and anti-welfare policies pursued by the Conservative goverment in the 1980s really did constitute “a revolution”. She talks approvingly of the end of “the dependency culture”, arguing that this helped catalyse the Nineties upsurge of British pop culture, fashion and art.
“Obviously it is painful for any particular community that ends up on the scrapheap of history”, Plant says, looking appropriately pained. “But I’ve got a far more evolutionary view of history these days. Just as particular species or ecosystems flourish and die, so do human cultures”. In the face of this “reality”, she argues, the British Left is comparable with the Church of England: “Every so often it comes out and makes some moral statement about how terrible things are, but what’s it going to do about it? Nothing.”
Many Left-wing theorists would retaliate by arguing that the Plant/Land/CCRU pro-market stance is merely an intellectual accomodation to “realities” imposed by top-down corporate forces; that by mapping techniques appropriate for natural phenonema (chaos theory, non-linear dynamics) onto capitalism, they’ve effectively naturalized the free market, resulting in a kind of post-Deleuzian version of Social Darwinism. Judith Williamson—Professor of Cultural History at Middlesex University, and writer for the left-leaning newspaper The Guardian—accuses the CCRU of “inevitabilism”.
“All these excitingly eroticised ideas about the flows of capital absolve one from morality,” she says. “Most of capitalism’s flows are deeply pernicious.” The trouble with inevitablism is that it removes human agency from the picture, complains Williamson. “But human will is not nothing — there have been these huge acts of courage and altruism throughout history.” As neo-Deleuzians devoutly committed to impersonality, agency is precisely what Plant and the CCRU demote. “Nothing takes the credit—or the blame—for either the runaway tendencies at work or the attempts to regulate them,” argues Plant in Zeros + Ones. “Political struggles and ideologies have not been incidental to these shifts, but cultures and the changes they undergo are far too complex to be attributed to attempts to make them happen or hold them back”.
—Simon Reynolds, Renegade Academia
“deleuzian thatcherism” to quote b. noys
Landian ruminations on “Rave Culture”
The UK edition panel discussion featured producer, DJ, and Hyperdub Records founder Kode9; PAN-signed electronic musician Lee Gamble; noted blogger and author of Capitalist Realism Mark Fisher; and co-author of the forthcoming book Folk Politics Alex Williams and was moderated by Electronic Beats’ online editor Lisa Blanning. It began with a presentation by Alex Williams. - See more at:
(nick land is said to have quipped at someone not long before going to china that “baudrillard is the only philosopher these days still in touch with reality”)
That the root of love is a thirst for disaster is exhibited throughout its erratic course. At its most elementary love is driven by a longing to be cruelly unrequited; fostering every kind of repellent self-abasement, awkwardness, and idiocy. Sometimes this provokes the contempt that is so obviously appropriate, and the tormented one can then luxuriate in the utter burning loss that each gesture becomes. One wastes away; expending health and finance in orgies of narcosis, breaking down one’s labour-power to the point of destitution, pouring one’s every thought into an abyss of consuming indifference. At the end of such a trajectory lies the final breakage of health, ruinous poverty, madness, and suicide. A love that does not lead such a blasted career is always at some basic level disappointed: ‘to love to this point is to be sick (and I love to be sick)’ [III 105]. Yet there are times in which the morbid horror of love infects the beloved, or one is oneself infected by the passion of another, or two strains of love collide, so that both spiral together into a helix of strangely suspended disintegration, cheated of innocent disaster. Each competes to be destroyed by the other, drifting into the hopeless ecstasies that follow from the severing of all moorings, attempting to exceed the other in mad vulnerability. When propelled by an extremity of impatience this too can lead to suicide of course, but such an outcome is uncommon. The adequate pretext for such a conclusion is lacking, since the capacity to wound is melted from the world, which becomes a softened—and often almost imperceptible—backdrop, whilst the beloved, who is invested with such a capacity to a degree inconceivable to the utilitarian mind, strives entirely to annul it. Thus it is that the lovers conspire to protect each other from the lethal destiny of their passion, either succeeding in this, and relapsing into the wretched sanity of mutual affection, or compacting their fever to new scratch-patches of intensity. In the latter case all legible charts are lacking, and if the real has a splinter-fringe of utter exploration this is it…
— Nick Land, The Thirst For Annihilation: Georges Bataille and Virulent Nihilism
Was going to post about this last night actually. I doubt that guy who spoke at the accelerationism conference and is writing a book trying to do precisely that will just stop and do something else. Be interesting to see what he comes up with, but I personally don’t think the ‘left-landianism’ schtick is something worth attempting any more, if it was ever even possible, which I think it just might have been with some ingenuity.
Fact remains though I’m incapable of simply ignoring Land. I have this idea for a book, I don’t want to go too much into it, I have so much more work to do before I’m getting anything concrete down. Mid-2013 may well see me posting some drafts here. Suffice to say what really interests me is something like an oblique tracing of Land’s aesthetics.
We talked about the reactionary blogosphere and its connections with various anti-liberal movements (Game, MRA, traditionalists). It was funny that we happen to read almost the same blogs. We agreed that while the analysis of the sheer madness of liberalism is mostly right, all the proposed solutions are all implausible. Monarchy? Christian traditionalism? Henry VII? Come on. As a futurist, Nick Land is surely extremely bored by proposals which amount to pretty much turning back the clock.
…He has this model on the elite, which he defines in a Pareto distribution as the productive 20% (against the useless 80%), would simply flee to civilised fortresses mega-cities a la Singapore where they would enjoy the benefits of a high IQ society. With robotics and other advances the utility of low skilled labor will decrease into what amounts to nil, so the masses would left to their own devices in the hinterland. Where they’d starve to medieval densities.
fucking hell nick
vauung October 12, 2012 at 03:00
so i was just thinking the other day how i should maybe copy/paste some of the comments on a lot of nick land’s urban future posts for future reference, particularly the whole strange one-sided breakdown of the relationship with p.j. mullins, because I think that’s especially indicative of how land’s writing tends to be very attractive to people like mullins, someone for whom everything is completely subjectivised and personal, ostensibly the diametric opposite of land, something I’ve found interesting and think is key to a lot of what’s going on with him
but now they’ve updated the site and all comments on everything ever have disappeared, I’m guessing forever
which is in turn a very nick land thing to happen
I’ve just realised I still have some urban future tabs open so I can still see the comments on those until I close them which is an even nick lander thing to happen
The state of Bangladesh, until 1971 East Pakistan, is nestled in the delta complex of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers, and is amongst the poorest as well as the most densely populated regions of the earth. It is a country whose natural inheritance is a mixture of fertility and disaster, and whose people are exposed by their poverty to the unimpeded course of elemental forces; rendered naked before the storms. Since records began in the eighteenth century at least 1.2 million Bangladeshis have been killed by cyclones, as many as half a million in the storm of 1970 alone.
Cyclones are atmospheric machines that transform latent energy into angular momentum in a feed-back process of potentially catastrophic consequence. Their conditions of emergence are a warm water surface, a latitude of at least five or six degrees deviation from the equator (such that the Coriolis effect is operative), a pronounced instability in the air column or a low surface pressure, and the absence or virtual absence of wind shear. When these conditions coexist a cyclone can develop, over a period that normally lasts from four to eight days. A large cyclone transfers 3.5 billion tons of air an hour from the lower to upper atmosphere, and releases energy in the order of 10^25 ergs every second. At the centre of the cyclone is a still zone of low pressure known as the ‘eye’ or ‘core’ which registers no radar echo, and which functions as the immobile motor of the storm’s angular momentum or expressed energy.
Large cyclones have the impact of immense explosions, and when they strike the coast of Bangladesh they leave a shock-wave in the silt, throwing-up numerous evanescent islands in the shallows of the gulf of Bengal. Due to the general hunger for land, and the richness of the sediment that has been carried down to the sea, these fragile traces are enthusiastically occupied, rice is cultivated upon them, and fish harvested from their shores. It takes no great feat of imagination to envisage the fate of the peasants and fishermen clustered on these insubstantial ripples of earth when the cyclone returns, and instantaneously consumes the tenuous vestiges of previous ravages. The densely inhibited silt traces are not merely flooded, but utterly erased, as everything which had seemed solid is dissolved into the vortex of the storm. The people of the Bangladesh coast are episodically consumed by a harsh truth from which we can momentarily hide. Being a patriarchal faith, or doctrine of identity, the Islamic culture predominant in Bangladesh is no better a preparation for this liquidation than Judaism or Christianity would be. Nevertheless, an annihilation such as that of the cyclone—in which all stability is washed away and loss alone prevails—is not merely a disaster, but religion.
—Nick Land, The Thirst for Annihilation: Georges Bataille and Virulent Nihilism (an essay in atheistic religion)
yeah around 2007 or so he turns into an anarcho-capitalist obsessed with space exploration and secession and markkkets because of how he ended up thinking capitalism is the best/only way of deterritorialising the shit out of everything into oblivion
there’s also the whole speed psychosis/living in shanghai/total hatred of leftist academia to factor into this, plus it’s not like his current blog isn’t still 1000x more interesting than anything any libertarian has ever written, and he seems weirdly coy about so many things that it makes you wonder what his ‘actual’ positions are (if he has any/is allowed to have any by the chinese government…)
“These are the words of a man who is confident he will survive for some considerable time. There is no discernible urgency here, far less abruptness, desperation, or any of the raw intensities of haste. Instead there is the now familiar rhetoric of close reading; the simultaneous performance and prescription of a painstaking care, deliberation, conscientiousness, and reverential textual devotion. A certain intricately intertextual discussion of spirit unfolds, at a languorous pace, inspired by uninterrogated principles of decency and justice. Everything is mediated by elucidations, re-elucidations, elucidations of previous elucidations, conducted with meticulous courtesy, but never inattentive to the complicity of the concept of elucidation with the history of metaphysics from Plato to the previous paragraph of De l’esprit. Our author is not to be hurried into premature pronouncements on matters of such seriousness as philosophical discourse, hermeneutics, or poetics. Nor is he prepared to descend into such overenthusiastic crudity as examining more than one of Heidegger’s words in a single book. Last of all, as it has so often tended to be, comes a promise to take seriously the problem of animality, which — God and such like spiritual primordialities being willing — come to be written about one day.
It is probably relatively uncontroversial to conclude from all this that Derrida is not a werewolf.”
“Fast forward seismology and you hear the earth scream. Geotrauma is an ongoing process, whose tension is continually expressed — partially frozen — in biological organization. For instance, the peculiarly locked-up lifeforms we tend to see as typical — those more-or-less obedient to darwinian selection mechanics — are less than six hundred million years old. They began with the planetary oxygenization crisis, triggered by the saturation of crustal iron, followed by mass oxygen-poisoning of the prokaryotic biosystem and the emergence of a eukaryotic regime. Eukaryotic cells are highly suppressive. They implement a nuclear command-control model based on genomic ROM, affined to meiosis-mitosis diplocapture, hierarchical organization, and multicellular specialization. Even the distinction between ontogeny and phylogeny — distinct time-orders of the individual and the species — makes little sense without eukaryotic nuclear read-only programming and immunological identity. Evolutionism presupposes specific geotraumatic outcomes.”