Links in the theme of home

DIY Houses in the Internet Age: Some Assembly Required (NPR)

Rural Studio Turns 20 (The Bitter Southerner)

“At schools of architecture, very often I wonder why people aren’t more interested in housing,” Freear says. “And housing as a kind of an aggregation. Because it is a challenge, and it’s also difficult. And I think schools of architecture don’t do it because it’s not that sexy. It’s not going to attract students. Tell them we’re going to design a museum and maybe they’ll want to come do it.”

Freear pauses, leaning back in his chair to look at pictures of 20K Houses that cover the walls of his office.

“I’ll go to my grave believing it’s relevant,” he says after a moment.

DIY Homes: Build Your Own Community (Telegraph)

How Robots Can Change Architecture (the next step toward world domination…)

And this:

“Significance of the ‘Self-Build’ Movement,” first published in FREEDOM May 17, 1952. Republished in Why Work? Arguments for the Leisure Society. Vernon Richards, editor. London: Aldgate Press, 1983, pp. 125-126.

We have discussed several times in FREEDOM the growing movement for “self-building” houses.

In a broadcast talk on “Building One’s Own House,” last month, Mr. Fello Atkinson, the architect, said:

“It is a sign of the fearful complication of our times that building one’s own house should seem a new idea. What else did our remote ancestors do? And, of course, all primitive and pioneer communities build this way. Grandma Moses, that astonishing ninety-four-year-old American lady who has achieved such fame as a folk painter in the last few years, records in her memoirs how, in her young days, the men of New England wanting to set up home were given land and an axe and set about making their own log cabins. I am certain there are many places where the same thing still happens. The idea is certainly not new but only unusual in modern, highly industrialised communities where each of us, except possibly farmers and sailors, tends to specialise in ever-narrowing fields to the exclusion and even ignorance of all others. The responsibility for housing has now largely passed to government, and there exists a complicated and rigid pattern of planning and building permits, regulations and standards, financing and subsidies.

“But, in spite of this, groups of men are building their own houses in this country to-day; they have been doing so for some time, and they are building them successfully within this complex mechanism. And these ‘self-build groups’, as they are called, are growing in number.”

He went on to describe the activities of groups affiliated to the National Federation of Housing Societies.

This called forth (and it is an indication of the spread of “self-building”), a letter in the Listener from the secretary of a group, who wanted to draw attention to the 194 “self-build” groups affiliated to the London and National Self-Build Housing Association, Birmingham, and to “the difficulties and heartbreak of other groups, already fully trained, with considerable financial resources, who have been ready to build for eighteen months, and who lack one thing only — the cooperation of their local authorities to grant the necessary permission for them to go ahead and build.”

The writer has also paid tribute to the founders of the associations, who “without any prompting, and for no personal gain, have come forward and shown us, for the first time in our lives, how to help ourselves.”

For the first time in our lives, how to help ourselves. This is why we believe the “self-building” movement to be so valuable and important.

Meet the baker: Alain Pommart

Clip from Rencontre avec un boulanger-paysan with Alain Pommart

For non-French speaking readers, this is what he says:

The opening that I leave in the top of the bread, which we’ll turn over and which will become the underside when it’s in the oven, is what we call la clé* in bread baking.

Just now we were saying that for the leaven I use fresh flour, because I’m looking for a very high energy level. But actually for the bread I like to work with flour that has a bit of age, one or two months, six months or even a year, that doesn’t bother me at all. That’s what I like taste wise. But with the leaven we’re working with energy, and there’s something there that’s very, very energetic, like a kid who’s four, five, six years old, seven or eight years old. Meaning it’s overflowing with energy but it’s not at all controlled. We say, “Don’t do that,” and we turn around, and he goes and does exactly what we just said not to do. And well, flour, like kids, it’s like that. It’s what commands the bakery, it’s the boss in a way. With a flour that’s already a month or two old, we can start being able to work together with it. Like someone who’s forty years old, say.

(after the other guy covers up the loaves with the canvas, which reminds me, I seriously need to get some canvas for my baking): So now we’re going to leave the trays on the shelf, and the bread will rise until 11:30 or 11:45, we’ll see. I’ll check it in a bit, see how it is.

So working, you know, bread baking, our way, it’s a bit like tightrope walking. We’re tightrope walking bakers. We work with dough that is very, very soft, which means it doesn’t have a whole lot of hold. So it’s necessary that we use certain moves, that we concentrate the dough, that we handle it. And then working with it, since it’s so cumbersome, we don’t have a lot of leeway, maybe a space of twenty minutes when the bread is good to go in the oven, so the oven has to be at just the right temperature. So we’re juggling a bit, you could say. It’s fairly stressful. (checks the temperature of the bread) Okay it’s good.

(walks over to the other guy) Okay lower it to 29. So we’ll light the fire at 9:30.

Right, so the next stage will be lighting the oven. We’re going from fire to water, and then earth. Let’s go over to the oven.

(lights the fire) And there you go. One part of the four elements.


clé literally means “key” — I wasn’t able to verify that we call it a “key” in English, but like he said it’s the spot where the dough is brought together when folding and forming the loaf

Baking sourdough with Trade School Geneva

Did my Trade School class! I was pretty nervous the night before, didn’t sleep particularly well, and woke up at one point, around 1 a.m., to realize that (oh crap) I hadn’t mixed the sponge, so I shot out of bed and into the kitchen to mix up a bit of starter with flour and water before going back to bed and continuing to lie awake thinking and rethinking about how to organize the class. Since the process I use to make bread takes place over the course of three days, I wouldn’t be able to do one loaf from start to finish in my two-hour time slot, and so I prepared the various steps in advance to be able to at least show what the steps look and feel like.

As it turned out I had no real reason to be nervous. It went fine. The attendees were great, the bread came out pretty decent despite the weird oven and my apparently kaput cooking thermometer, and everyone left happily with a little bit of my starter which I packaged up in a bunch of glass jars I had saved up at home. I didn’t keep close track of time but I managed to pretty much use the whole two hours — something I was worried about, that I would run out of things to say. At one point after mixing the sponge and the rest of flour and water for the dough, we had to wait about a half an hour for it to rest before adding the salt. I paused for a second and my mind raced through what we could do or talk about during that half hour, and finally I said, “Well, if you’d like I can talk a bit about how modern capitalism has affected wheat cultivation and processing…” Everyone laughed and one woman shouted out “Ye-ah!” so I launched into my rant. The high point for me in all of it was when I mentioned that I’d run across a local collective of people, about twenty in the group, who have organized themselves to make bread — the slow way, over three days, like I do. They pair off each of them once a month to make enough bread for everyone else in the group, which means that each person only has to bake once a month but gets fresh bread throughout the entire month. When I said this there was a glimmer in the eyes of a few of the people in the class who live in the same village, and one of them suggested to the others that they start the same sort of thing where they live. (No bakery in the village, she said. Horrors!) I really hope they get that started — I’m going to ask that they keep me posted if they do.

Some photos from the class:

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The dough I prepared in advance. I tried out something new with this one. When I prepared the leaven the Friday night before the class on Sunday, I also mixed together all the flour and water for the dough in a separate bowl, and left that to soak overnight. The next morning I mixed in the leaven and left it to ferment in the fridge for 24 hours. A girl in the Pills and Seeds and Death workshop, an avid baker, shared this tip that soaking whole grain flour prior to baking with it softens the grain, which makes it more digestible and also causes the bread itself to be fluffier, not dense like whole grain bread so often is. I’d been meaning to experiment with the idea, and after reading about it again recently in some information I found about whole grain baking, I was reminded that I hadn’t yet tried it out so I decided to give it a shot for the class. Risking possible failure of course, but such is life when you’re learning something new.

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The class

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The barter items they brought. To date: the chocolate is eaten, the music is listened to, and the mud mask is magnificent.

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Mixing the leaven

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Talking about wheat seed anatomy and Integrated World Capitalism

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Removing the bread from the pan. Some weird crust action there…


Breaking bread. The flour soaking thing is definitely going to be part of my process from now on — I’ve never before now had this kind of result using all whole grain flour and was really shocked at the difference you get when you soak the flour. The interior was fluffy like a muffin. The ten of us polished off one of the loaves at the end of class, and I cut up the rest and sent a chunk home with everyone. As for the starter I portioned out, I’ve already gotten feedback that it’s alive and well in its new homes.


More things to read

A random salad of subjects, but I can’t stand having 800 tabs open all at once on my web browser so I’m filing them here.


A straw house for all!

(My translation of an article I came across in La revue des Livres n°013 Sept/Oct 2013, p. 77-79.)



By Charlotte Nordmann

Collectif Straw d’la bale: La Maison de paille de Lausanne. Pourquoi nous l’avons construit. Pourquoi elle fut incendiée (The Straw House of Lausanne: Why we built it, why it was burned). Paris: La Lenteur, 2013, 210 p., 12 Euros.

August 2007, Lausanne, a public park in the middle of the city. In a few days, a straw house surged up from the earth, built illegally by activists. Four months later, after the municipality, directed by a member of the Green Party, had tried in vain to impose its demolition, the house was burned to the ground during the night in what could only have been a criminal act.


The story might appear to be anecdotal, a tall tale testifying at most to the audacity and inventivity of idle youth, but not suggesting any way to confront “real” societal and ecological problems; anyway, not everyone is going to go build a straw house on every street corner in the city. Of course not. But even so, there was something important that happened here.

A diagnosis

At the beginning of the straw house project, there was an analysis of some of the major problems that affect our societies, and there was the affirmation that ecological questions are intimately linked to political and social ones. Coming from the squatter’s movement, the builders started off with a triple diagnosis.

The first diagnosis was the intentional organization of housing shortages in the capitalist city that allows for guaranteed profits for investors. Faced with capitalism’s intensive investment in urban space (1), we could try to go elsewhere — to go live in the countryside, in a collective house, for example — or we could also band together and look for ways to invest in the cracks of the city, picking up the tattered pieces. That’s the aim of squats — and it was also the aim of the straw house.

The second aspect of the analysis was the fact that the societal model that rules today is directly contradictory to the needs of ecology — needs that come from the fact that the natural resources upon which we depend are limited, and that their indiscriminate use has catastrophic consequences (with the major problem of course being climate change). In the domain of housing, this is shown in a flagrant way by the intensive use of cement, a main culprit in the disappearance of sand (2), for example, and also by the inefficient use of energy for heating buildings, and by the use of such a fundamental resource as fresh water for toilets.

The third was the fact that we are today in a relationship of heteronomy with the world in which we live, to use Ivan Illich’s words (3); we are “put up,” we don’t inhabit the space where we live; “they” provide us with a space in which to live (if we have the means to pay), which, it goes without saying, we don’t have the right to modify. “Please leave the premises in the same state in which you found them” seems to be the general principle, for the renter as for the passer-by (who of course shall not do anything more than “pass by”) in the street or in the neighborhood park. This rapport of heteronomy to our fundamental needs (to have housing, to feed ourselves, to move freely) results in a radical dependence on an ecologically non-viable system founded on exploitation.

To build oneself a home

One response to these problems is to build oneself a home, without administrative authorization and without having “legitimately acquired” the land on which one builds, and to build in a way so as to have minimal impact on the environment and reduce one’s dependence on infrastructure. That is a conclusion drawn from the diagnoses, to become aligned with one’s principles. From there the choice was progressively made to build with straw: a light material, easy to handle, that permits one to build quickly and with only a few helping hands; whose production demands little energy and whose materials are produced locally; which employs a mode of construction without lasting impact on the land (no need for cement foundations thanks to piles); insulated, conserving heat and permitting one to reduce the need for heating systems. If we add dry toilets and a natural waste water filtering system, the dependence on city infrastructure is minimal — which, in the case of an imbalanced power relationship with the mayor’s office, isn’t a negligible issue.

The approach here is the same as in the squat movement from which the initiators of the straw house came; collectively take that which we need and which capital refuses us, and organize in order to better resist attempts at reappropriation by the powers that be. To this may be added something that is in fact already present in squats, but less visible and above all less developed: the capacity to acquire know-how, to transmit it, and to accumulate it. The book (La maison de paille de Lausanne) participates itself in this diffusion of knowledge by indicating a number of resources (web sites, books, films) about DIY(T) building, and in attempting to explain in detail the construction of the straw house, thanks to which we might learn a whole vocabulary, useful and poetic — from “pisoir” (note: I’ll let you decipher that one) to “l’enduit de corps” (can’t figure this one out… something spackle??) by way of “chaux aérienne” (whitewash?). The construction of the straw house was in this way preceded by the experiences of autonomously run spaces, Lausanne squats, and notably the organization of a squatted garden in the same park where the straw house was built (an experience that itself led to a new relationship with the spaces we inhabit) — but preceded also by several “learning by doing” house building/teaching sites, as well as the experiences of the “temporary villages” of climate camps and anti globalization movements.

Too much collective power?

The efficiency with which the project got going is clearly remarkable — to build a solid and livable house in a space of two days, out of recuperated material and bales of straw, was quite a feat in itself. What this shows is at once the value of know-how acquired by the people who conceived of and carried out the project — know-how that was partly of traditional techniques, today considered to be outmoded — but also their capacity to work together, to coordinate, and most of all the power of the collective intelligence called for by this project. (One might make the connection between this and the Transition Town (4) projects with their techniques of empowerment and mobilization of group intelligence.)

We can therefore say that, in a sense, the straw house was a rousing success — and at the same time, we must add that it was as well a failure, and a failure to be expected. The attempt to create something long-term – several years at least — in which to live, and in particular to live in an alternative way, and to have this space be a long-lasting center for discussion, exchanges, and knowledge sharing: this attempt failed. The allowance taken by “the power of the people” from capitalism’s investments in space, from grid-like compartmentalization, is always precarious and in this case was, without a doubt, too visible — right in the heart of Lausanne! — to be tolerated for long. Such an example of reappropriation of public space clearly must be erased right away; it suggests that there might be an alternative to the privatization of space and the wholesale delegation of its management to a power supposedly catering to the interests of the general public (5) — a power that, on the contrary, makes clear each and every day that its goal is to guarantee the continuance of the capitalist system. Projects of the sort of the straw house also without a doubt show too clearly the lack of grounding there is in the belief that we are incapable of meeting our needs in a more autonomous way.


The attacks

The straw house sustained three sorts of attacks.

The first — and the most clever, as it seemed at first glace to be friendly support – was when certain media outlets contrasted the straw house to the squat movement; on the one side, a constructive project, inventive and “positive,” and on the other side, the “antiestablishment,” without respect for the well-being of others. In artificially isolating two sorts of action, and in disappearing the critique of the capitalist city, which was the very grounding for the house’s construction, we see sense being turned upside down.

The second attack was carried out by the municipality and consisted in demanding — nearly at the same time as its construction — the demolition of the illegally built straw house. It was enough to call up the all-powerful specter of anarchy — “Imagine if everyone started building his own straw house wherever he wanted!” — and to invoke the importance of the rules of urbanism, “the sole protection against an excess of real estate developers,” to make the situation understood. As we’ve already mentioned, the municipality of Lausanne is led by a member of the Green Party, the head of a pink-green coalition. (Note: “pink” refers to the Socialist Party.) In this case as in many others, their position well illustrates what we can expect from a party upholding the ideology of “sustainable development,” which defends a “balance between ecology and the market economy” (in the words of one elected official). We need not further explain the deception inherent in an “ecology” that has among its goals an allowance for the pursuit of “growth” (pardon us — “green growth”) in a world with finite resources.

This sort of reappropriation of ecological issues goes hand in hand with the growth of individual dispossession, of their heteronomy vis à vis their conditions of existence. Thus it happened — and this is the third attack that the straw house sustained, this time after its destruction — that the city of Lausanne inaugurated in 2011 its own “straw house”: a construction that claimed to be a “model” in the domain, built at a cost of 1.8 million Swiss francs! Built by professionals, with cement foundations, it was meant to show that the city of Lausanne is itself a model for “sustainable development” (no argument there, even if we still doubt the concept), and was but a cover for business as usual.


(The city of Lausanne’s straw house)


To return to the sense and value of the straw house, it’s clear that it is not on its own a “solution.” It will not be thanks to a proliferation of straw houses that we will halt the continuation of the capitalist system and the destruction it perpetuates. The idea that such projects can have ripple effects, that they might grow in number and send out shoots, is not enough to resolve the problem, because the temporality of this extension is not on the same scale as what is necessary to respond proportionately to ecological problems. Never mind that the capitalist system does everything it can to limit the multiplication of these alternatives, helped if necessary by regulations zealously imposed by the State (such as, for example, those who oppose the creation of local currencies, or who obstruct the development of CSAs.

Conversely, the importance of the straw house, and what continues in its own way in the book that came about from the experience, is that it created a margin in a space that tends to be saturated, by creating a space that, in addition to offering a roof to all those who lived there, allowed for knowledge sharing, experiences, discussions, and exchanges. The choice to build in the city, importantly, came from the desire for this sort of place, even if its continuation was of course much more difficult than it would have been had it been built elsewhere.

This place existed, as the book, photos, and sketches testify — and it existed for a lot of different kinds of people, evidenced by the variety of stories scattered throughout the book — as the incarnation of a place in which to live differently. I said further up that this place demonstrated the power that can come from a collective, that it contradicts the belief in our individual and collective impotence. But the demonstration of power here is not only directed toward the outside. This power is important for those individuals – and I count myself among them — who believe in it and yet at the same time don’t, and who therefore need to have the experience in order to believe, and to act. Such a place demonstrates what we are missing by not living collectively in the spaces where we live, and what we have to gain through inventing new ways of being and doing.




(1) Described in detail by David Harvey in Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution.

(2) See the recent documentary by Denis Delestrac, Enquête sur une disparition (2013).

(3) Ivan Illich is a major reference for the collective. At a 2007 protest, a squatter’s movement in Geneva reedited one of his texts, “Tools for Conviviality.”

(4) See also my (Nordmann’s) review of the Manuel for transition by Rob Hopkins (Ecosocieté, 2010), which appeared in La Revue internationale des livres et des idées, “L’après-pétrole; survivre ou vivre autrement?” Article available online (in French).

(5) Contradicting the idea of the “tragedy of the commons” (Garrett Hardin, 1968), according to which a resource used collectively is fated to disappear due to its over exploitation by all the people who use it.

Bread, improved

Another round of experiments with slowed fermentation. This time I used less flour so it was a slightly wetter dough than the last time.

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Kneaded for ten minutes until it was firm but tacky to the touch — when I pressed my hand to it and pulled away it was sticky but nothing stuck to my hand. Like the feeling of walking on a floor where a toddler spilled Kool Aid. Something like that.

And behold:

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It was a beautiful thing. The crust was good and crunchy, the interior was soft and fluffy, and the sourness was not too sour. (Note the past tense, indicating that it has already been eaten by a horde of friends and colleagues.) My best result to date, and just in time, too, because this morning I received the following email:

Dear Kate,

I am emailing you from Trade School Geneva about your upcoming class on Sunday, April 13 at Le Secheron. The class is scheduled to take place from 13h-15h in the large room/kitchen in the basement of the building. I will meet you in the entrance 15-20 minutes before the class starts to let you in and show you around, and also help with any preparation. We are so excited for you to be part of Trade School Geneva’s first month of classes!! 

I am happy to answer any questions you have about the venue, process, etc.. Please feel free to be in touch. 

Have a great Friday!!

So, this is good news for the people coming to my class. (Yes, you, I know you’ve been checking out this blog. Nicola told me the night of the TSG launch party, to which I showed up very late, bourré de fondue from the dinner I had the same night, sorry I missed you!) I manage just fine with sourdough bread made from a mix of white and wheat, but I wanted to get somewhere with this new experiment using all whole grain flour so I could share the results with everyone. And these past few weeks experimenting with all things spelt and kamut hadn’t been going particularly well, until now. All praise the microbial world. Our class will not leave hungry.


I included a link to this back in one of my weekly link posts but we talked about it the other day at CCC so I wanted to give it another read and also post it in its entirety here.

#ACCERATE MANIFESTO for an Accelerationist Politics

Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek

01. INTRODUCTION: On the Conjuncture

1. At the be­gin­ning of the second decade of the Twenty-​First Century, global civil­iz­a­tion faces a new breed of cata­clysm. These coming apo­ca­lypses ri­dicule the norms and or­gan­isa­tional struc­tures of the politics which were forged in the birth of the nation-​state, the rise of cap­it­alism, and a Twentieth Century of un­pre­ced­ented wars.

2. Most sig­ni­ficant is the break­down of the plan­etary cli­matic system. In time, this threatens the con­tinued ex­ist­ence of the present global human pop­u­la­tion. Though this is the most crit­ical of the threats which face hu­manity, a series of lesser but po­ten­tially equally destabil­ising prob­lems exist along­side and in­ter­sect with it. Terminal re­source de­ple­tion, es­pe­cially in water and en­ergy re­serves, of­fers the pro­spect of mass star­va­tion, col­lapsing eco­nomic paradigms, and new hot and cold wars. Continued fin­an­cial crisis has led gov­ern­ments to em­brace the para­lyzing death spiral policies of aus­terity, privat­isa­tion of so­cial wel­fare ser­vices, mass un­em­ploy­ment, and stag­nating wages. Increasing auto­ma­tion in pro­duc­tion pro­cesses in­cluding ‘in­tel­lec­tual la­bour’ is evid­ence of the sec­ular crisis of cap­it­alism, soon to render it in­cap­able of main­taining cur­rent stand­ards of living for even the former middle classes of the global north.

3. In con­trast to these ever-​accelerating cata­strophes, today’s politics is beset by an in­ab­ility to gen­erate the new ideas and modes of or­gan­isa­tion ne­ces­sary to trans­form our so­ci­eties to con­front and re­solve the coming an­ni­hil­a­tions. While crisis gathers force and speed, politics withers and re­treats. In this para­lysis of the polit­ical ima­ginary, the fu­ture has been cancelled.

4. Since 1979, the he­ge­monic global polit­ical ideo­logy has been neo­lib­er­alism, found in some variant throughout the leading eco­nomic powers. In spite of the deep struc­tural chal­lenges the new global prob­lems present to it, most im­me­di­ately the credit, fin­an­cial, and fiscal crises since 2007 – 8, neo­lib­eral pro­grammes have only evolved in the sense of deep­ening. This con­tinu­ation of the neo­lib­eral pro­ject, or neo­lib­er­alism 2.0, has begun to apply an­other round of struc­tural ad­just­ments, most sig­ni­fic­antly in the form of en­cour­aging new and ag­gressive in­cur­sions by the private sector into what re­mains of so­cial demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions and ser­vices. This is in spite of the im­me­di­ately neg­ative eco­nomic and so­cial ef­fects of such policies, and the longer term fun­da­mental bar­riers posed by the new global crises.

5. That the forces of right wing gov­ern­mental, non-​governmental, and cor­porate power have been able to press forth with neo­lib­er­al­isa­tion is at least in part a result of the con­tinued para­lysis and in­ef­fec­tual nature of much what re­mains of the left. Thirty years of neo­lib­er­alism have rendered most left-​leaning polit­ical parties bereft of rad­ical thought, hol­lowed out, and without a pop­ular man­date. At best they have re­sponded to our present crises with calls for a re­turn to a Keynesian eco­nomics, in spite of the evid­ence that the very con­di­tions which en­abled post-​war so­cial demo­cracy to occur no longer exist. We cannot re­turn to mass industrial-​Fordist la­bour by fiat, if at all. Even the neo­so­cialist re­gimes of South America’s Bolivarian Revolution, whilst heart­ening in their ability to resist the dogmas of con­tem­porary cap­it­alism, re­main dis­ap­point­ingly un­able to ad­vance an al­tern­ative beyond mid-​Twentieth Century so­cialism. Organised la­bour, being sys­tem­at­ic­ally weakened by the changes wrought in the neo­lib­eral pro­ject, is scler­otic at an in­sti­tu­tional level and — at best — cap­able only of mildly mit­ig­ating the new struc­tural ad­just­ments. But with no sys­tem­atic ap­proach to building a new eco­nomy, or the struc­tural solid­arity to push such changes through, for now la­bour re­mains re­l­at­ively im­potent. The new so­cial move­ments which emerged since the end of the Cold War, ex­per­i­en­cing a re­sur­gence in the years after 2008, have been sim­il­arly un­able to de­vise a new polit­ical ideo­lo­gical vision. Instead they ex­pend con­sid­er­able en­ergy on in­ternal direct-​democratic pro­cess and af­fective self-​valorisation over stra­tegic ef­ficacy, and fre­quently pro­pound a variant of neo-​primitivist loc­alism, as if to op­pose the ab­stract vi­ol­ence of glob­al­ised cap­ital with the flimsy and eph­em­eral “au­then­ti­city” of com­munal immediacy.

6. In the ab­sence of a rad­ic­ally new so­cial, polit­ical, or­gan­isa­tional, and eco­nomic vision the he­ge­monic powers of the right will con­tinue to be able to push for­ward their narrow-​minded ima­ginary, in the face of any and all evid­ence. At best, the left may be able for a time to par­tially resist some of the worst in­cur­sions. But this is to be Canute against an ul­ti­mately ir­res­ist­ible tide. To gen­erate a new left global he­ge­mony en­tails a re­covery of lost pos­sible fu­tures, and in­deed the re­covery of the fu­ture as such.

02. INTEREGNUM: On Accelerationisms

1. If any system has been as­so­ci­ated with ideas of ac­cel­er­a­tion it is cap­it­alism. The es­sen­tial meta­bolism of cap­it­alism de­mands eco­nomic growth, with com­pet­i­tion between in­di­vidual cap­it­alist en­tities set­ting in mo­tion in­creasing tech­no­lo­gical de­vel­op­ments in an at­tempt to achieve com­pet­itive ad­vantage, all ac­com­panied by in­creasing so­cial dis­lo­ca­tion. In its neo­lib­eral form, its ideo­lo­gical self-​presentation is one of lib­er­ating the forces of cre­ative de­struc­tion, set­ting free ever-​accelerating tech­no­lo­gical and so­cial innovations.

2. The philo­sopher Nick Land cap­tured this most acutely, with a my­opic yet hyp­not­ising be­lief that cap­it­alist speed alone could gen­erate a global trans­ition to­wards un­par­alleled tech­no­lo­gical sin­gu­larity. In this vis­ioning of cap­ital, the human can even­tu­ally be dis­carded as mere drag to an ab­stract plan­etary in­tel­li­gence rap­idly con­structing it­self from the bri­c­ol­aged frag­ments of former civil­isa­tions. However Landian neo­lib­er­alism con­fuses speed with ac­cel­er­a­tion. We may be moving fast, but only within a strictly defined set of cap­it­alist para­meters that them­selves never waver. We ex­per­i­ence only the in­creasing speed of a local ho­rizon, a simple brain-​dead on­rush rather than an ac­cel­er­a­tion which is also nav­ig­a­tional, an ex­per­i­mental pro­cess of dis­covery within a uni­versal space of pos­sib­ility. It is the latter mode of ac­cel­er­a­tion which we hold as essential.

3. Even worse, as Deleuze and Guattari re­cog­nized, from the very be­gin­ning what cap­it­alist speed de­ter­rit­ori­al­izes with one hand, it reter­rit­ori­al­izes with the other. Progress be­comes con­strained within a frame­work of sur­plus value, a re­serve army of la­bour, and free-​floating cap­ital. Modernity is re­duced to stat­ist­ical meas­ures of eco­nomic growth and so­cial in­nov­a­tion be­comes en­crusted with kitsch re­main­ders from our com­munal past. Thatcherite-​Reaganite de­reg­u­la­tion sits com­fort­ably along­side Victorian ‘back-​to-​basics’ family and re­li­gious values.

4. A deeper ten­sion within neo­lib­er­alism is in terms of its self-​image as the vehicle of mod­ernity, as lit­er­ally syn­onymous with mod­ern­isa­tion, whilst prom­ising a fu­ture that it is con­stitutively in­cap­able of providing. Indeed, as neo­lib­er­alism has pro­gressed, rather than en­abling in­di­vidual cre­ativity, it has tended to­wards elim­in­ating cog­nitive in­vent­ive­ness in fa­vour of an af­fective pro­duc­tion line of scripted in­ter­ac­tions, coupled to global supply chains and a neo-​Fordist Eastern pro­duc­tion zone. A van­ish­ingly small cog­nit­ariat of elite in­tel­lec­tual workers shrinks with each passing year — and in­creas­ingly so as al­gorithmic auto­ma­tion winds its way through the spheres of af­fective and in­tel­lec­tual la­bour. Neoliberalism, though pos­iting it­self as a ne­ces­sary his­tor­ical de­vel­op­ment, was in fact a merely con­tin­gent means to ward off the crisis of value that emerged in the 1970s. Inevitably this was a sub­lim­a­tion of the crisis rather than its ul­ti­mate overcoming.

5. It is Marx, along with Land, who re­mains the paradig­matic ac­cel­er­a­tionist thinker. Contrary to the all-​too fa­miliar cri­tique, and even the be­ha­viour of some con­tem­porary Marxians, we must re­member that Marx him­self used the most ad­vanced the­or­et­ical tools and em­pir­ical data avail­able in an at­tempt to fully un­der­stand and trans­form his world. He was not a thinker who res­isted mod­ernity, but rather one who sought to ana­lyse and in­ter­vene within it, un­der­standing that for all its ex­ploit­a­tion and cor­rup­tion, cap­it­alism re­mained the most ad­vanced eco­nomic system to date. Its gains were not to be re­versed, but ac­cel­er­ated beyond the con­straints the cap­it­alist value form.

6. Indeed, as even Lenin wrote in the 1918 text “Left Wing” Childishness:

Socialism is in­con­ceiv­able without large-​scale cap­it­alist en­gin­eering based on the latest dis­cov­eries of modern sci­ence. It is in­con­ceiv­able without planned state or­gan­isa­tion which keeps tens of mil­lions of people to the strictest ob­serv­ance of a uni­fied standard in pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion. We Marxists have al­ways spoken of this, and it is not worth while wasting two seconds talking to people who do not un­der­stand even this (an­arch­ists and a good half of the Left Socialist– Revolutionaries).

7. As Marx was aware, cap­it­alism cannot be iden­ti­fied as the agent of true ac­cel­er­a­tion. Similarly, the as­sess­ment of left politics as an­ti­thet­ical to tech­noso­cial ac­cel­er­a­tion is also, at least in part, a severe mis­rep­res­ent­a­tion. Indeed, if the polit­ical left is to have a fu­ture it must be one in which it max­im­ally em­braces this sup­pressed ac­cel­er­a­tionist tendency.

03: MANIFEST: On the Future

1. We be­lieve the most im­portant di­vi­sion in today’s left is between those that hold to a folk politics of loc­alism, direct ac­tion, and re­lent­less ho­ri­zont­alism, and those that out­line what must be­come called an ac­cel­er­a­tionist politics at ease with a mod­ernity of ab­strac­tion, com­plexity, glob­ality, and tech­no­logy. The former re­mains con­tent with es­tab­lishing small and tem­porary spaces of non-​capitalist so­cial re­la­tions, es­chewing the real prob­lems en­tailed in fa­cing foes which are in­trins­ic­ally non-​local, ab­stract, and rooted deep in our everyday in­fra­struc­ture. The failure of such politics has been built-​in from the very be­gin­ning. By con­trast, an ac­cel­er­a­tionist politics seeks to pre­serve the gains of late cap­it­alism while going fur­ther than its value system, gov­ernance struc­tures, and mass patho­lo­gies will allow.

2. All of us want to work less. It is an in­triguing ques­tion as to why it was that the world’s leading eco­nomist of the post-​war era be­lieved that an en­lightened cap­it­alism in­ev­it­ably pro­gressed to­wards a rad­ical re­duc­tion of working hours. In The Economic Prospects for Our Grandchildren (written in 1930), Keynes fore­cast a cap­it­alist fu­ture where in­di­viduals would have their work re­duced to three hours a day. What has in­stead oc­curred is the pro­gressive elim­in­a­tion of the work-​life dis­tinc­tion, with work coming to per­meate every as­pect of the emer­ging so­cial factory.

3. Capitalism has begun to con­strain the pro­ductive forces of tech­no­logy, or at least, direct them to­wards need­lessly narrow ends. Patent wars and idea mono­pol­isa­tion are con­tem­porary phe­nomena that point to both capital’s need to move beyond com­pet­i­tion, and capital’s in­creas­ingly ret­ro­grade ap­proach to tech­no­logy. The prop­erly ac­cel­er­ative gains of neo­lib­er­alism have not led to less work or less stress. And rather than a world of space travel, fu­ture shock, and re­volu­tionary tech­no­lo­gical po­ten­tial, we exist in a time where the only thing which de­velops is mar­gin­ally better con­sumer gad­getry. Relentless it­er­a­tions of the same basic product sus­tain mar­ginal con­sumer de­mand at the ex­pense of human acceleration.

4. We do not want to re­turn to Fordism. There can be no re­turn to Fordism. The cap­it­alist “golden era” was premised on the pro­duc­tion paradigm of the or­derly factory en­vir­on­ment, where (male) workers re­ceived se­curity and a basic standard of living in re­turn for a life­time of stul­ti­fying boredom and so­cial re­pres­sion. Such a system re­lied upon an in­ter­na­tional hier­archy of colonies, em­pires, and an un­der­developed peri­phery; a na­tional hier­archy of ra­cism and sexism; and a rigid family hier­archy of fe­male sub­jug­a­tion. For all the nos­talgia many may feel, this re­gime is both un­desir­able and prac­tic­ally im­possible to re­turn to.

5. Accelerationists want to un­leash latent pro­ductive forces. In this pro­ject, the ma­terial plat­form of neo­lib­er­alism does not need to be des­troyed. It needs to be re­pur­posed to­wards common ends. The ex­isting in­fra­struc­ture is not a cap­it­alist stage to be smashed, but a spring­board to launch to­wards post-​capitalism.

6. Given the en­slave­ment of tech­nos­cience to cap­it­alist ob­ject­ives (es­pe­cially since the late 1970s) we surely do not yet know what a modern tech­noso­cial body can do. Who amongst us fully re­cog­nizes what un­tapped po­ten­tials await in the tech­no­logy which has already been de­veloped? Our wager is that the true trans­form­ative po­ten­tials of much of our tech­no­lo­gical and sci­entific re­search re­main un­ex­ploited, filled with presently re­dundant fea­tures (or pre-​adaptations) that, fol­lowing a shift beyond the short-​sighted cap­it­alist so­cius, can be­come decisive.

7. We want to ac­cel­erate the pro­cess of tech­no­lo­gical evol­u­tion. But what we are ar­guing for is not techno-​utopianism. Never be­lieve that tech­no­logy will be suf­fi­cient to save us. Necessary, yes, but never suf­fi­cient without socio-​political ac­tion. Technology and the so­cial are in­tim­ately bound up with one an­other, and changes in either po­ten­tiate and re­in­force changes in the other. Whereas the techno-​utopians argue for ac­cel­er­a­tion on the basis that it will auto­mat­ic­ally over­come so­cial con­flict, our po­s­i­tion is that tech­no­logy should be ac­cel­er­ated pre­cisely be­cause it is needed in order to win so­cial conflicts.

8. We be­lieve that any post-​capitalism will re­quire post-​capitalist plan­ning. The faith placed in the idea that, after a re­volu­tion, the people will spon­tan­eously con­sti­tute a novel so­cioeco­nomic system that isn’t simply a re­turn to cap­it­alism is naïve at best, and ig­norant at worst. To fur­ther this, we must de­velop both a cog­nitive map of the ex­isting system and a spec­u­lative image of the fu­ture eco­nomic system.

9. To do so, the left must take ad­vantage of every tech­no­lo­gical and sci­entific ad­vance made pos­sible by cap­it­alist so­ciety. We de­clare that quan­ti­fic­a­tion is not an evil to be elim­in­ated, but a tool to be used in the most ef­fective manner pos­sible. Economic mod­el­ling is — simply put — a ne­ces­sity for making in­tel­li­gible a com­plex world. The 2008 fin­an­cial crisis re­veals the risks of blindly ac­cepting math­em­at­ical models on faith, yet this is a problem of il­le­git­imate au­thority not of math­em­atics it­self. The tools to be found in so­cial net­work ana­lysis, agent-​based mod­el­ling, big data ana­lytics, and non-​equilibrium eco­nomic models, are ne­ces­sary cog­nitive me­di­ators for un­der­standing com­plex sys­tems like the modern eco­nomy. The ac­cel­er­a­tionist left must be­come lit­erate in these tech­nical fields.

10. Any trans­form­a­tion of so­ciety must in­volve eco­nomic and so­cial ex­per­i­ment­a­tion. The Chilean Project Cybersyn is em­blem­atic of this ex­per­i­mental at­ti­tude — fusing ad­vanced cy­ber­netic tech­no­lo­gies, with soph­ist­ic­ated eco­nomic mod­el­ling, and a demo­cratic plat­form in­stan­ti­ated in the tech­no­lo­gical in­fra­struc­ture it­self. Similar ex­per­i­ments were con­ducted in 1950s – 1960s Soviet eco­nomics as well, em­ploying cy­ber­netics and linear pro­gram­ming in an at­tempt to over­come the new prob­lems faced by the first com­munist eco­nomy. That both of these were ul­ti­mately un­suc­cessful can be traced to the polit­ical and tech­no­lo­gical con­straints these early cy­ber­net­i­cians op­er­ated under.

11. The left must de­velop so­ci­o­tech­nical he­ge­mony: both in the sphere of ideas, and in the sphere of ma­terial plat­forms. Platforms are the in­fra­struc­ture of global so­ciety. They es­tab­lish the basic para­meters of what is pos­sible, both be­ha­vi­our­ally and ideo­lo­gic­ally. In this sense, they em­body the ma­terial tran­scend­ental of so­ciety: they are what make pos­sible par­tic­ular sets of ac­tions, re­la­tion­ships, and powers. While much of the cur­rent global plat­form is biased to­wards cap­it­alist so­cial re­la­tions, this is not an in­ev­it­able ne­ces­sity. These ma­terial plat­forms of pro­duc­tion, fin­ance, lo­gistics, and con­sump­tion can and will be re­pro­grammed and re­formatted to­wards post-​capitalist ends.

12. We do not be­lieve that direct ac­tion is suf­fi­cient to achieve any of this. The ha­bitual tac­tics of marching, holding signs, and es­tab­lishing tem­porary autonomous zones risk be­coming com­forting sub­sti­tutes for ef­fective suc­cess. “At least we have done some­thing” is the ral­lying cry of those who priv­ilege self-​esteem rather than ef­fective ac­tion. The only cri­terion of a good tactic is whether it en­ables sig­ni­ficant suc­cess or not. We must be done with fet­ish­ising par­tic­ular modes of ac­tion. Politics must be treated as a set of dy­namic sys­tems, riven with con­flict, ad­apt­a­tions and counter-​adaptations, and stra­tegic arms races. This means that each in­di­vidual type of polit­ical ac­tion be­comes blunted and in­ef­fective over time as the other sides adapt. No given mode of polit­ical ac­tion is his­tor­ic­ally in­vi­ol­able. Indeed, over time, there is an in­creasing need to dis­card fa­miliar tac­tics as the forces and en­tities they are mar­shalled against learn to de­fend and counter-​attack them ef­fect­ively. It is in part the con­tem­porary left’s in­ab­ility to do so which lies close to the heart of the con­tem­porary malaise.

13. The over­whelming priv­ileging of democracy-​as-​process needs to be left be­hind. The fet­ish­isa­tion of open­ness, ho­ri­zont­ality, and in­clu­sion of much of today’s ‘rad­ical’ left set the stage for in­ef­fect­ive­ness. Secrecy, ver­tic­ality, and ex­clu­sion all have their place as well in ef­fective polit­ical ac­tion (though not, of course, an ex­clusive one).

14. Democracy cannot be defined simply by its means — not via voting, dis­cus­sion, or gen­eral as­sem­blies. Real demo­cracy must be defined by its goal — col­lective self-​mastery. This is a pro­ject which must align politics with the legacy of the Enlightenment, to the ex­tent that it is only through har­nessing our ability to un­der­stand ourselves and our world better (our so­cial, tech­nical, eco­nomic, psy­cho­lo­gical world) that we can come to rule ourselves. We need to posit a col­lect­ively con­trolled le­git­imate ver­tical au­thority in ad­di­tion to dis­trib­uted ho­ri­zontal forms of so­ciality, to avoid be­coming the slaves of either a tyr­an­nical to­tal­it­arian cent­ralism or a ca­pri­cious emer­gent order beyond our con­trol. The com­mand of The Plan must be mar­ried to the im­pro­vised order of The Network.

15. We do not present any par­tic­ular or­gan­isa­tion as the ideal means to em­body these vec­tors. What is needed — what has al­ways been needed — is an eco­logy of or­gan­isa­tions, a plur­alism of forces, res­on­ating and feeding back on their com­par­ative strengths. Sectarianism is the death knell of the left as much as cent­ral­iz­a­tion is, and in this re­gard we con­tinue to wel­come ex­per­i­ment­a­tion with dif­ferent tac­tics (even those we dis­agree with).

16. We have three me­dium term con­crete goals. First, we need to build an in­tel­lec­tual in­fra­struc­ture. Mimicking the Mont Pelerin Society of the neo­lib­eral re­volu­tion, this is to be tasked with cre­ating a new ideo­logy, eco­nomic and so­cial models, and a vision of the good to re­place and sur­pass the ema­ci­ated ideals that rule our world today. This is an in­fra­struc­ture in the sense of re­quiring the con­struc­tion not just of ideas, but in­sti­tu­tions and ma­terial paths to in­cul­cate, em­body and spread them.

17. We need to con­struct wide-​scale media re­form. In spite of the seeming demo­crat­isa­tion offered by the in­ternet and so­cial media, tra­di­tional media out­lets re­main cru­cial in the se­lec­tion and framing of nar­rat­ives, along with pos­sessing the funds to pro­secute in­vest­ig­ative journ­alism. Bringing these bodies as close as pos­sible to pop­ular con­trol is cru­cial to un­doing the cur­rent present­a­tion of the state of things.

18. Finally, we need to re­con­sti­tute various forms of class power. Such a re­con­sti­t­u­tion must move beyond the no­tion that an or­gan­ic­ally gen­er­ated global pro­let­ariat already ex­ists. Instead it must seek to knit to­gether a dis­parate array of par­tial pro­let­arian iden­tities, often em­bodied in post-​Fordist forms of pre­carious labour.

19. Groups and in­di­viduals are already at work on each of these, but each is on their own in­suf­fi­cient. What is re­quired is all three feeding back into one an­other, with each modi­fying the con­tem­porary con­junc­tion in such a way that the others be­come more and more ef­fective. A pos­itive feed­back loop of in­fra­struc­tural, ideo­lo­gical, so­cial and eco­nomic trans­form­a­tion, gen­er­ating a new com­plex he­ge­mony, a new post-​capitalist tech­noso­cial plat­form. History demon­strates it has al­ways been a broad as­semblage of tac­tics and or­gan­isa­tions which has brought about sys­tem­atic change; these les­sons must be learned.

20. To achieve each of these goals, on the most prac­tical level we hold that the ac­cel­er­a­tionist left must think more ser­i­ously about the flows of re­sources and money re­quired to build an ef­fective new polit­ical in­fra­struc­ture. Beyond the ‘people power’ of bodies in the street, we re­quire funding, whether from gov­ern­ments, in­sti­tu­tions, think tanks, unions, or in­di­vidual be­ne­factors. We con­sider the loc­a­tion and con­duc­tion of such funding flows es­sen­tial to begin re­con­structing an eco­logy of ef­fective ac­cel­er­a­tionist left organizations.

21. We de­clare that only a Promethean politics of max­imal mas­tery over so­ciety and its en­vir­on­ment is cap­able of either dealing with global prob­lems or achieving vic­tory over cap­ital. This mas­tery must be dis­tin­guished from that be­loved of thinkers of the ori­ginal Enlightenment. The clock­work uni­verse of Laplace, so easily mastered given suf­fi­cient in­form­a­tion, is long gone from the agenda of ser­ious sci­entific un­der­standing. But this is not to align ourselves with the tired residue of post­mod­ernity, de­crying mas­tery as proto-​fascistic or au­thority as in­nately il­le­git­imate. Instead we pro­pose that the prob­lems be­set­ting our planet and our spe­cies ob­lige us to re­fur­bish mas­tery in a newly com­plex guise; whilst we cannot pre­dict the pre­cise result of our ac­tions, we can de­termine prob­ab­il­ist­ic­ally likely ranges of out­comes. What must be coupled to such com­plex sys­tems ana­lysis is a new form of ac­tion: im­pro­vis­atory and cap­able of ex­ecuting a design through a prac­tice which works with the con­tin­gen­cies it dis­covers only in the course of its acting, in a politics of geo­so­cial artistry and cun­ning ra­tion­ality. A form of ab­ductive ex­per­i­ment­a­tion that seeks the best means to act in a com­plex world.

22. We need to re­vive the ar­gu­ment that was tra­di­tion­ally made for post-​capitalism: not only is cap­it­alism an un­just and per­verted system, but it is also a system that holds back pro­gress. Our tech­no­lo­gical de­vel­op­ment is being sup­pressed by cap­it­alism, as much as it has been un­leashed. Accelerationism is the basic be­lief that these ca­pa­cities can and should be let loose by moving beyond the lim­it­a­tions im­posed by cap­it­alist so­ciety. The move­ment to­wards a sur­passing of our cur­rent con­straints must in­clude more than simply a struggle for a more ra­tional global so­ciety. We be­lieve it must also in­clude re­cov­ering the dreams which trans­fixed many from the middle of the Nineteenth Century until the dawn of the neo­lib­eral era, of the quest of Homo Sapiens to­wards ex­pan­sion beyond the lim­it­a­tions of the earth and our im­me­diate bodily forms. These vis­ions are today viewed as relics of a more in­no­cent mo­ment. Yet they both dia­gnose the stag­gering lack of ima­gin­a­tion in our own time, and offer the promise of a fu­ture that is af­fect­ively in­vig­or­ating, as well as in­tel­lec­tu­ally en­er­gising. After all, it is only a post-​capitalist so­ciety, made pos­sible by an ac­cel­er­a­tionist politics, which will ever be cap­able of de­liv­ering on the promis­sory note of the mid-​Twentieth Century’s space pro­grammes, to shift beyond a world of min­imal tech­nical up­grades to­wards all-​encompassing change. Towards a time of col­lective self-​mastery, and the prop­erly alien fu­ture that en­tails and en­ables. Towards a com­ple­tion of the Enlightenment pro­ject of self-​criticism and self-​mastery, rather than its elimination.

23. The choice fa­cing us is severe: either a glob­al­ised post-​capitalism or a slow frag­ment­a­tion to­wards prim­it­ivism, per­petual crisis, and plan­etary eco­lo­gical collapse.

24. The fu­ture needs to be con­structed. It has been de­mol­ished by neo­lib­eral cap­it­alism and re­duced to a cut-​price promise of greater in­equality, con­flict, and chaos. This col­lapse in the idea of the fu­ture is symp­to­matic of the re­gressive his­tor­ical status of our age, rather than, as cynics across the polit­ical spec­trum would have us be­lieve, a sign of scep­tical ma­turity. What ac­cel­er­a­tionism pushes to­wards is a fu­ture that is more modern — an al­tern­ative mod­ernity that neo­lib­er­alism is in­her­ently un­able to gen­erate. The fu­ture must be cracked open once again, un­fastening our ho­ri­zons to­wards the uni­versal pos­sib­il­ities of the Outside.


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