14 December, 2013
Technology, Capital, Value
Recent discussions over post-capitalism have increasingly been framed in terms of technology, logistics, and infrastructure, with critics reproaching what they see as a naive techno-utopianism, and supporters arguing for technology's potential to change the material possibilities of society. This talk will take on the critics' arguments, pointing out where they make valid qualifications of technology's potential. But it will ultimately conclude that the critics demonstrate a lack of imagination, and that any shift beyond capitalism will require repurposing the built environment of capitalism. The latter half of the talk will then make a number of concrete proposals for how this could be done: in terms of technologies of transition and technologies of collective self-determination. The former are the means through which society can extract itself from the wage relation without fostering an immediate increase in necessary labour. Such technologies should be the immediate focus of the global left today. The latter technologies, on the other hand, are the machinery through which complex societies make themselves representable and therefore capable of self-determination. These require careful calibration and construction, but are the only means by which a post-capitalist democracy can emerge without falling into small-scale communities or empty parliamentary politics.
Nick Srnicek is a Teaching Fellow in Geopolitics and Globalisation at UCL, and PhD graduate in International Relations from LSE. He was co-editor of The Speculative Turn (Re.press, 2011), and he is currently writing Folk Politics (Zero, 2014) with Alex Williams.
The Politics of Anticipation
There is an ongoing contemporary tendency in both activist left political practice and political theory towards valorising the immediate, the spontaneous, and the voluntaristic. While such emphases are explicable given the historical travails of the party form in the twentieth century, these tendencies have given rise to forms of political thinking and action which are seemingly incapable of installing the changes they wish to effect. This paper will therefore outline, as a countervailing tendency, an argument for the politics of anticipation. It will proceed in three sections. First will be a clarification of what we take to be viable and non-viable in theories of politics mortgaged to the metaphor of motion. This will critique both libidinal-economic interpretations of the idea, and those putatively (though dubiously) associated with a more Marxian cast. What remains will be two interlinked facets: the political importance of the category of the future, and the political necessity of epistemology. The second section will focus on the relevance of the future for thinking and strategising the political, in a defence of different modes of anticipation: plans, programmes, experiments, and models. Accompanying this will be an analysis of futurity as embedded in complex hegemony: the ability to modulate the direction of travel of a set of socio-political-economic-technical set of assemblages. The third section examines the role of political epistemology. It is only through an account of the articulation of knowledge and action that the politics of anticipation can be prosecuted. Against a backdrop of left political theory emphasising the ontological, this part will argue for a robust mode of political epistemology, grounded in the idea that the more we understand about the world the better we can intervene in it.
Alex Williams is a PhD student at the University of East London, presently at work on a thesis entitled 'Hegemony and Complexity'. He is also the author, with Nick Srnicek, of the forthcoming Folk Politics.