Exiting Speed Culture: Tiqqun Against Cybernetic Acceleration


From The Cybernetic Hypothesis:

Violence is the first rule of the game of encounters. And it polarizes the various wanderings of desire that Lyotard invokes the sovereign freedom of in his book Libidinal Economy. But because he refuses to admit that enjoyments agree together on a particular territory to precede them and where forms-of-life can mix and move together; because he refuses to understand that the neutralization of all intensities is itself a kind of intensification — that of the Empire, no less — because he can’t deduce from this that while they are inseparable, life impulses and death impulses are not neutral relative to a singular Other, Lyotard in the end cannot go beyond the most cybernetization-compatible hedonism: relax, let yourself go, let out your desires! Enjoy, enjoy; there’ll always be something left! There’s no doubt that conduction, abandon, and mobility in general can heighten the amplification of deviations from the norm as long as they acknowledge what interrupts flows within the very heart of circulation itself. In light of the acceleration that cybernetics gives rise to, speed and nomadism can only be secondary developments beside the primary slow-down policies.

Speed upholds institutions. Slowness cuts off flows. The kinetic problem, properly speaking, in politics, thus isn’t about choosing between two kinds of revolt but about abandoning oneself to a pulsation, of exploring other intensifications besides those that are commanded by the temporality of urgency. The cyberneticians’ power has been their ability to give rhythm to the social body, which tends to prevent all respiration. Canetti proposes that rhythm’s anthropological genesis is associated with racing: “Rhythm is at its origin a rhythm of feet; it produces, intentionally or not, a rhythmic noise.” But this racing is not predictable as a robot’s would be; “the two feet never land with the same force. The difference between them might be more or less vast, depending on personal dispositions and moods. But you can also go faster or more slowly, run, suddenly stop, jump…” This means that rhythm is the opposite of a program, that it depends on forms-of-life, and that speed problems can be dealt with by looking at rhythm issues. All bodies, insofar as they are wobbly, have a certain rhythm that shows that it is in their nature to hold untenable/unholdable positions. This rhythm, which comes from the limping/wobble of bodies, the movement of feet, Canetti adds, is — furthermore — at the origins of writing, in the sense that it started with the tracks left by animals in motion, that is, of History in motion. Events are the appearance of such traces and making History means improvising in search of a rhythm. Whatever credit we give to Canetti’s demonstrations, they do indicate — as true fictions do — that political kinetics can be better understood as the politics of rhythm. This means, a minima, that the binary techno-rhythm imposed by cybernetics must be opposed by other rhythms.

But it also means that these other rhythms, as manifestations of ontological wobbliness, have always had a creative political function. Canetti himself also discusses how on the one hand “the rapid repetition by which steps are added onto steps gives the illusion that there’s a larger number of beings present. They do not move from place to place, they carry on their dance always in the same location. The noise made by their steps does not die, it is repeated and echoes out for a long time, always with the same resonance and the same vivacity. They make up for their small size in number by their intensity.” On the other hand, “when their trampling is reinforced, it is as if they had called for backup. They exercise a force of attraction on everybody in the area, a force that doesn’t stop as long as they continue their dance.” Searching for good rhythm, then, opens things up for an intensification of experience as well as for numerical increase. It is an instrument of aggregation as well as an exemplary action to be imitated. On the individual scale as well as on the social scale, bodies themselves lose their sense of unity in order to grow as potential weapons: “the equivalence of the participants ramifies out into the equivalency of their members. Everything mobile about a human body takes on a life of its own, each leg, each arm lives as if for itself alone.” The politics of rhythm is thus the search for a reverberation, another state, comparable to trance on the part of the social body, through the ramification of each body. Because there are indeed two possible regimes of rhythm in the cybernetized Empire. The first, which Simondon refers to, is that of the technician-man, who “ensure the integrative function and prolong self-regulation outside of each monad of automatism,” technicians whose “lives are made up of the rhythm of the machines surrounding them, and that connect them to each other.” The second rhythm aims to undermine this interconnective function: it is profoundly dis-integrating, rather than merely noisy. It is a rhythm of disconnection. The collective conquest of this accurate dissonant tempo must come from a prior abandon to improvisation.

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6 Responses to Exiting Speed Culture: Tiqqun Against Cybernetic Acceleration

  1. arranjames says:

    Just catching up on you & Craig’s blogs. Just wanted to thank you for bringing this to our collective attention. At the moment I’m drafting- along with too many other things- an essay for synthetic zero that follows my Stimulation post. The new essay is on rhythms and is about arguing for the abandonment of precisely this psuedoproblematic of kinetics reduced to speed (kinetics, the kineospheric, goes further than that). On the one hand you have the accelerationist manifesto, on the other the post-futurist “senility” of Berardi and, despite the above, Tiqqun.

    I want to go in a similar direction to the thinking in the quoted text but my point of departure, or perhaps of arrival, the synapse I’m in at any rate, is RD Laing’s idea of autorhythmia. There are passages to get there. One of the strengths of rhythmic thinking/thinking rhythmically, of a rhythmatics- a pragmatic rhythmanalysis- would be to depart from the idea, the obsession, the liquid illusion, of “flow”. Instead, we get a new language. Yes, one of machinism, but also of vibration, oscillation, synchronisation.

    On the subject of the noisy rhythm, of the noise-machine, you might be interested in 1) the rhythm & event recordings- dmf may have made you aware of them already- and also 2) Steve Goodman’s Sonic Warfare.

    The opening of my own thinking about rhythms was published under my alias on the libcom site: http://libcom.org/blog/rhythms-13042014

    In a certain sense, I think I might also be thinking about Control- but under the lens of “stimulation-excitation-hyperarousal”. Just as Foucault wrote a genealogy of disciplinary techniques for the production of docile bodies, I’m wondering if Control doesn’t become more about the application of techniques for stimulating-stimulated bodies. Discipline doesn’t disappear, it just becomes part of the other side of stimulation, part of the necessary features of a collective controlled come-down.

    In one of your later posts you talk about pharmacological machines. These are the machines I take as pre-eminent. These are the machines of machines- if only because they operate directly, as directly as we can while basal stimulation techniques remain peripheral- that regulate the rhythmic patterning of the stimulation-comedown circuit (always a polyrhythmic dissonance). Obviously this doesn’t entail abandoning libidinal economy but rather its becoming-literal in the movement away from libido towards the concrete mechanics of the actual molecule (and virtual molecular arrangements, efficiencies, rhythmic regularities).

    At the end of this is a quick shot on the use of improvisation. I’m not sure if Tiqqun know much about improvisation. I’m coming at this choreographically- we’re dealing with bodies- as well as musically- rhythmic vibrations. To improvise one has to learn. It isn’t as easy as abandon. To be able to be abandoned to rhythms you have to first learn your own rhythms (become a rhythmanalyst) and learn how bodies can synchronise. Dance- ephemeral but intensely corporeal- is the art form privilege. To improvise in dance you first have to learn how to synchronise bodies and to palpate the kinespheric space. A whole kinetic of oscillation and disequilibrium comes into play.This is the opposite of abandon: this is a constant vigilance; a tactical corporeal analysis of one’s own movement, the movement of others, and their relations.

    The politics of rhythm mustn’t become a dionysian aesthetics which would simply be the other-side of capital’s static formations.

    Well, this comment certainly grew a few arms and legs from the brief thing I meant to write 🙂

    1) Rhythm & event http://backdoorbroadcasting.net/2011/10/rhythm-and-event/

    2) Sonic Warfare https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CC4QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fasounder.org%2Fresources%2Fgoodman_sonicwarfare.pdf&ei=nutrU4_sO4eNO7vMgIgN&usg=AFQjCNF-PS3sQBvCXajkIkqOdKBU77V-pA&bvm=bv.66330100,d.ZWU

    • edmundberger says:

      Hi Arran, thanks for the wonderful comment, full of thoughts and intellectual ammo… I just wanted to say, before diving into the deep end, that I’ve been following that work that you’ve been doing with stimulation – frankly, its incredible. Keep up the good work!

      I too have been looking for a way to frame a radical politics without resorting the speed fetishism that is gobbling up so much energy and discourse; this pursuit entails, as you note above, the invention of a new political language to speak in, analyze with, and hopefully derive practice from. Perhaps its the growing presence of Marx, the Situationists, Marcuse, and Tiqqun (though each has been there for sometime) in my mind, but my preoccupations are increasingly with the notion of strategies, not the development of philosophy. You talk of moving away from the image of the “flow” and all that it entails, the great ontology of liquidity; I agree. In a lot of ways, the “brief detournement” of the opening pages of AO I posted a few days back was kind of goodbye – but not a rejection! – of that venue of discourse. We need a machinic language, but it needs a rigorous reinvention. The way that you frame this with the “rhythm” is great – the remapping of Foucault into a space of vibrations, intensities, sensations subjected to a variety of rhythms… I’m sure that you’re familiar with Lefebvre’s work on rhythms?

      “I think I might also be thinking about Control- but under the lens of “stimulation-excitation-hyperarousal”… I’m wondering if Control doesn’t become more about the application of techniques for stimulating-stimulated bodies.”

      I think you’re right on the mark there. At first glance, “discipline” and “control” seem to be antithetical forces, like the “Fordist” and “post-Fordist” eras to which they are aligned. But we know that for all the rhetoric, post-Fordism in its globalized form (neoliberal capitalism) retains so much of the Fordist production modes. Likewise, we see the hallmarks of the disciplinary institution and the production of docile, regulated bodies, taking place all over the map. In his “Postscipt,” Deleuze likens the enclosures of discipline to molds, and the sort of openness that control deploys to a modulation. This seems to be establishing a binary between the two, but if one turns to Simondon, the source of Deleuze’s language, we find a definition of modulation as an open-end, continuous molding. In a genealogy of the subjective expression of modulation, we might find a genesis in the drive, immediately following World War 2, to create a flexible, open-minded “New Man” as an antidote to the “Authoritarian Personality” that gave rise to fascism. Regardless, I’m sort of viewing modulation as an oscillation between two figures, that of the Libertine and that of the Judge. Not only does this pole cut across the macro-scale of society, but also cuts through each of us. Capitalism requires the heavy hand, the capacity for self-regulation of the body that it expects from the market, while also needing the excess, the Dionysian intoxication and spontaneity – libidinal economics. I’ve been thinking a lot about the non-spaces that Control promotes (there is the familiar checklist, the most famous being the airport), in particular the spaces were excess is not only allowed but feverishly promoted. Digging into architecture and design theory, I found that the principals of generating these spaces follows the same information theory that the greater Abstract Machine follows – all deployed to produce completely modeled environments to maximize capital and commodity exchange,sexual exchange, exchange of experience.Taking a page from your book, I like to think of these as spaces of “S(t)imulation.” Push everything as far as you go, but make sure you come back. Inverting Deleuze’s dictum on deterritorialization, capitalism compels us to “keep a small patch of land,” even in the most frenzied moments. And here comes the comedown… and the pharmacological machines, perhaps here under the gaze of the Judge.

      That the Libertine axis of control is so contingent, on a physical level, on a culture of dance makes your comments very interesting. Against the maximization of capitalized individual experience that this culture promotes, I like Laing’s autorhythmia, with its empowerment of individuals to find their own rhythm, and if I understand correctly, to make these rhythms operate in complexity with other bodies-in-rhythm in a beneficial, therapeutic, and ultimately organic way. This is experimental spontaneity, the essence of which needs to be reclaimed. Hence my newfound interest in noise, not only as an ontological horizon, but a mutator in a system that can perhaps be tactically wielded…

      • arranjames says:

        Very interested in seeing how your work progresses. I also agree entirely with the categorisation of the problem in terms of a libertine-judge polarity. I wrote something about this last year. For me the two figures are enveloped inside each other via the injunction to Enjoy. Of course I take this from Zizek’s observation of what he (weirdly) calls the matriarchal superego- of a capitalism that demands its subjects to Enjoy. But I don’t think its at all as straight forward as that. The injunction always comes with a caveat that marks a limit to enjoyment, but that limit itself is never disclosed. I’ve generalised from a very specific symptom of this phenomena that is easy to miss. Its always there in advertising and once you see it its difficult to unsee it. The injunction is always articulated as “Please enjoy responsibly”- we see this in alcohol advertising most especially. But it can also be read in the “can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet” in food advertising. What this reveals to my mind is a double bind that compels that we be both libertine and judge, but which withholds the criteria of judgement. The result is a pathogenic confusion.

        I am familiar with Lefebvre, but have only very recently read Rhythmanalysis.

        Thanks for the encouraging words; I need to get back to the stimulations/rhythms stuff soon…I’m side tracked by a million projects. Such is my own rhythm.

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