Dear Frederic, I admire the wager on utopia, it's resonant for me. What's
more, the George Floyd uprising finally made me understand how many people
want to go through a social breakdown, to emerge on the other side,
somewhere else. For them, the bad accident is good.

It's not my desire because I actually feel part of what would thus be
destroyed. I see immense possibilities for change. What is, could be
different. Maybe it already is and we didn't notice. Maybe it could be
immensely worse and we'll notice that immediately. Pragmatics interests me
more for this reason, along with perception/expression. Find out what's
happening, as concretely as possible, and talk about it. I am touched by
your letter because my wager is also Pascalian, I am swept away by it.

I'm probably a bit schizophrenic though, because I'm acutely aware of the
line that you're taking, and increasingly, of Black history and colonial
critique. I have been carrying out a project in Louisiana that involves
Angola prison, the plantation system, Cancer Alley. Those things are strong
medicine, they sap your belief in anything called "justice." And you may
have noted that in my previous text I do not describe anything called
"justice." What I ultimately look for, in Louisiana and elsewhere, are the
facts of a disaster and the transcendence of a cosmology.

I'd say all pragmatics is guided by cosmology, in the Latin American sense
of 'cosmovision'. Each one renders something different. In my schizophrenic
case - which is probably not that unusual - the godhead is embodied by
biogeochemical cycles whose effects I can see everywhere, and the
concept/practice of solidarity is made more profound by the understanding
of symbiosis. All that is material, metabolic, and I'm afraid, linked to
lots of future suffering. The suffering is bound up with specific things,
machines, organizational routines, symbolic systems... The end result for
me is to wonder, pragmatically, how the entire world could be totally
different. And to act on that when I can.

best, Brian

On Thu, Oct 20, 2022 at 8:16 PM Frédéric Neyrat <> wrote:

> Dear Brian,
> It's always a gift to read your analysis, your posts, they really feed my
> attempts to understand what's going on.
> Just a thought: what happens when we reverse the order of things in your
> analysis: instead of a) the technopolitical paradigmatic shift (what
> appears as a sort of historical necessity) b) "IF in fact it does emerge,
> IF we don't just sink into entropic conflict and collapse" (the bad
> accident), we have: a) entropic conflict and collapse (the necessity) and
> b) a possible (i.e. almost impossible really, contingent) technopolitical
> paradigmatic shift.
> My goal is not to be overly pessimistic, but if war and the ecological
> situation - as you argue, right? - drive where we are at, then the
> understanding of the global situation is that nations/classes don't care
> that much about technological shifts, nowadays they care about local
> survival (their survival), and it generates survivalist nationalism,
> eco-fascism (ecological measures driven by authoritarianism), the rise of
> the far right (Sweden, Italy, France, the USA, Russia, India, etc. etc.
> etc.), war of predation, and so on.
> If it’s true, it’s time - at last - to be, really, and without any
> restriction, utopian, i.e. it's time to insert in reality what could
> de-program it. Without the wind of utopia, the world will go down, without
> geo-engineering or because of it.
> Codicil: it does not mean that technology should be neglected, refused,
> but one thing for me is sure: without a radical re-orientation of
> technology (not only the production of a new tool, i.e., as Virilio
> explained pretty well, a new accident), there will be no shift, but the
> continuing of disaster with the same means, even in a new form.
> Addendum: and if we think it’s too late to be utopian and to invent a new
> praxis, then it means that everything is lost. However, “Il faut parier;
> cela n’est point volontaire; vous êtes embarqués"(Pascal)!
> Frédéric
> __________________________________
> ________________
> On Thu, Oct 20, 2022 at 4:19 PM Brian Holmes <>
> wrote:
>> For years on nettime, the much-regretted Armin Medosch, myself, Felix
>> Stalder and a number of others developed a theory of technopolitical
>> paradigm shifts: a grand narrative to explain social change in industrial
>> societies. Well, even if you don't like grand narratives, you may have
>> noticed that a tremendous shift is indeed now taking place, real time,
>> global scale, involving every level of entrepreneurial and governmental
>> organization and every aspect of social reproduction. It's sudden, it's
>> violent and it obviously has consequences. Shall we talk about it?
>> I recall speculation on the list about whether a new technopolitical
>> paradigm would ever take form. Would there be economic growth again? Would
>> innovation return? Could global capitalism really develop new forms of
>> self-regulation? Or is it stalked by entropy and decline? I think the
>> discussion suffered from too much emphasis on computers and finance as the
>> drivers of change - leading to the conclusion that, if Silicon Valley has
>> already done its thing, if Meta is no more than The Matrix Reloaded, then
>> history must be over. But it turns out that the decisive factors in
>> technopolitical paradigm shifts are neither economic, nor even
>> technological. The decisive factors are instead political, in the broad
>> sense of politics that runs from individual agency, through collectivities
>> of all kinds, into national and international relations. Political conflict
>> is what brings societies into crisis. When the overarching
>> cultural/economic/military order - what the international relations
>> theorists call world order - is shaken by an integral crisis, then, and
>> only then, can a paradigmatic figure of capitalism begin to transform at
>> all levels, including institutions and ideologies as well as money,
>> machines and relations of production.
>> Does anyone else think a major crisis - what Gramsci would call an
>> "organic crisis" - has taken hold since the outset of the pandemic?
>> Leftists have often cried wolf over financial crises, but with climate
>> change, plague, ideological upheaval, industrial restructuring and war,
>> what we are living through today looks a lot like the turning-point crises
>> of the 19th and 20th centuries. Turning points entail both institutional
>> breakdown and renewal. On the breakdown side, take for example the
>> abandonment of two former pillars of neoliberal international relations,
>> namely the German "Wandel durch Handel" policy of cheap resource extraction
>> from Russia, and the American just-in-time strategy of outsourced
>> production from China. Both these began as opportunistic statecraft during
>> the major crisis of the early Seventies, and both subsequently became
>> foundational components of the neoliberal world order. It took the attack
>> on Ukraine to expose Europe's gas hypocrisy, while in the US, it took
>> Trumpian populism to state the bitterly obvious: The outsourcing of labor
>> is a social crime, just like the endless oil wars. Of course US
>> progressives think the same, and have better policies to address it, but
>> it's a real shame that mainstream Democrats stifled progressive populism,
>> so we got the anti-imperial message from the right instead. Doesn't matter.
>> The question now is what to do. How to diagnose and respond to the crisis?
>> This is the renewal side: Social democrats in both the EU and the US are
>> attempting to use the upheaval for transformative ends. Europe is being
>> forced into an energy transition at top speed, and the "Repower EU" project
>> builds on the national Recovery and Resilience plans developed during the
>> pandemic. All those plans drew the consequences of the Anthropocene: they
>> aimed to use deficit funding to rebuild employment by investing in
>> alternative energies. It just took a war in Europe to make them real. Even
>> more surprisingly in the US, the same kind of stalled recovery program is
>> suddenly moving ahead fast, with carefully targeted research, industrial
>> stimulus and federal infrastructure investments. Even though its dollar
>> figures were reduced, the Inflation Reduction Act (aka Build Back Better)
>> is a genuine plan for technological system change. It's interesting that to
>> dramatize the need for this planning in the eyes of the population, the US
>> has had to elevate the threat of war with China (which itself is a bit of a
>> stand-in for the threat of civil war at home). So again, the drivers are
>> war and climate change. The fact is that the US has long experience with
>> this kind of system reset, from the age of the great corporate mergers in
>> the late 1890s, to the consolidation of the corporate state during WWII,
>> and then again, the development of microelectronics and the transition to
>> financially driven globalization in the Reagan era. A decade after that,
>> Clinton, Blair and Schroeder finished the regulation of the last big reset,
>> with terrible consequences for social democracy, because in reality, the
>> current problems are of their creation. Since the Ukraine war broke out, it
>> has finally become clear to the "extreme center" (Tariq Ali's phrase) that
>> they must carry out a new system reset, and above all, sell it to their
>> populations during elections, because only a successful
>> economic/environmental fix can hold back the advancing tide of fascism. So
>> whaddaya know, it's socialism or barbarism, as usual! For all these reasons
>> it's really starting to happen, that crazy thing we talked about for a
>> decade: a technopolitical paradigm shift.
>> Concerning the techno part, in my view the development of Moderna's mRNA
>> vaccines was really stunning, the biggest and swiftest scientific
>> breakthrough I've ever seen. It presages the future industrial development
>> of the life sciences, under exactly the kind of national innovation regime
>> that people like Mariana Mazzucato talk about. Now, the concept of
>> "national innovation regime" is foundational for the technopolitical
>> thinking that interested Armin Medosch and myself. The concept comes mainly
>> from Chris Freeman at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at Sussex
>> University in the UK. A national innovation regime brings together the
>> universities, the corporations and the military, under government guidance
>> with significant public funding. Its goal is to jump start economic growth
>> with technological innovation, particularly in the wake of a major economic
>> crisis when state-led investment can be justified. The national innovation
>> regime is a well-studied feature of large capitalist states since the
>> 1930s, although of course, it has become somewhat more complex with
>> transnationalization. Both Repower EU and Build Back Better are dependent
>> on this kind of industrial stimulus planning. What I expect to see emerging
>> from these crucibles over the next 20 years are AI-assisted research
>> programs for industrial-scale responses to the basic
>> environmental/metabolic problems of the Anthropocene. To put it another
>> way: If capitalism is going to survive, it is finally going to have to
>> internalize the costs of social/ecological reproduction, or at least some
>> of them. This is comparable, but not identical, to the way that Fordism
>> internalized consumption as part of the production regime in the
>> mid-twentieth century - under the threats of war and revolution, for sure.
>> AI was crucial in mRNA vaccine development, and the entire project was
>> underpinned by years of federal science funding to make exactly this kind
>> of breakthrough possible. For sure, I'm also aware of the shocking
>> injustice and arrogance with which the Pfizer/Biontech and Moderna vaccines
>> were restricted to paying customers, essentially in the Global North, and
>> only parts of it. That's why I see the mRNA story as the nutshell of a
>> future development model in which the full spectrum of the life sciences -
>> extending to earth system science - will play a crucial biopolitical role,
>> with the inclusion/exclusion routines that are characteristic of democratic
>> biopolitics. It's like this: The social-democratic mission of Green
>> Capitalism will be to mitigate the effects of onrushing global ecological
>> change - and for better and worse, they're gonna mitigate. Not just with
>> new energy sources, but with new science and technology from the cellular
>> to the atmospheric levels: the genetic redesign of Sloterdijk's "human
>> park," as well as huge new "air conditioning" endeavors, meaning a
>> pervasive artificialization of the environment. In short, there is a direct
>> line between vaccine development and geoengineering - and that lifeline of
>> capitalism is called the national innovation regime. The externalities and
>> undesired consequences of whatever new paradigm finally emerges will fall
>> in radically unequal measures along geographic, class, race and gender
>> divides - IF in fact it does emerge, IF we don't just sink into entropic
>> conflict and collapse. But if a paradigm shift does occur, resistance to
>> inequality and racism will be a tremendous influence on whatever new regime
>> of social regulation might take form. And a new regulatory regime, too, is
>> already under construction in fits and starts, as one can see in the US
>> since the pandemic and the George Floyd uprising. The reexamination of
>> colonialism that currently occupies many intellectuals (cf Amitav Ghosh)
>> is, to my mind, an extremely valuable contribution in this regard.
>> So the point of this whole discussion is not to celebrate a possible
>> technopolitical paradigm shift, but instead, to get ready to deal with the
>> many new problems it will bring. Because my sense is that a paradigm shift
>> is going to happen, and that it will be much worse if better ideas are not
>> rapidly brought into play - and into production. Neoliberalism has left
>> progressive intellectuals long on utopia, and short on praxis. That really
>> has to change. Otherwise the miserable ideas of the right will get built
>> out into reality.
>> Marx was right when he said that we make history, but not under
>> conditions of our choosing. I'm afraid that all of you who don't want to
>> live through Green Capitalism are going to be very disappointed (I will be
>> too). Far from entropic breakdown, what we are about to witness and take
>> part in will be yet another wild acceleration, on the back of great
>> collective machines, with no steering wheel, destination unknown. And
>> that's exactly what "technopolitical paradigm shift" really means. A crisis
>> of capitalism takes you somewhere terrifyingly new. The steering process
>> has to be invented in mid-flight. And the journey has already begun.
>> Thoughts about it?
>> Brian
>> #  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
>> #  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
>> #  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
>> #  more info:
>> #  archive: contact:
>> #  @nettime_bot tweets mail w/ sender unless #ANON is in Subject:
#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info:
#  archive: contact:
#  @nettime_bot tweets mail w/ sender unless #ANON is in Subject:

Reply via email to