Tag Archives: capitalism

Land speculation

How does a British continental philosopher who once wrote a book on Bataille end up in the same corner as a tech-industry autodidact and his gun-toting, chicken-raising, battle flag-waving followers? It’s a natural question, so naturally, it recurs.

Begin with accelerationism. The elevator pitch is: as capitalism consumes the world, it digests the security systems between the present and an alien future, dissolving first tradition, then society, then (in the end) itself, mechanizing away the jobs that it has already transformed from universal inconveniences to scarce and desirable commodities and bringing about fully automated luxury communism. Capitalism, the negative of all social systems, tears through God and country, culture and family, atomizing their components into human resources and reassembling them as paper clips, Cthulhu dildos, and DeepMind—and what’s wrong with that?

It’s difficult to see the practical differences between this and everything else today; as far as I know, the only person who would oppose it is Mencius Moldbug. We are all accelerationists now, and, stripped of substantive disagreements and perhaps of the ability to meaningfully speak, our voice-fueled traditions decline into either nano-Sorelianisms seeding the clouds of the Great Atomizer or crypto-ethnic bickering over the closest-by watering hole. (Why do progressives threaten reactionaries’ jobs? Because reactionaries threaten progressives’ jobs.) The only live alternatives to accelerationism are cybernetic theocracy, crypto-Calvinist neocameral workism, or the Volksgemeinschaft-politics of social justice and much of the alt-right, the last of which varies in its support of (because varies in its utility to) neoliberalism.

But why should these inhuman forces care about humans? Can this imagined institutional god-intelligence be made friendly? If you side with humanity, you hope so. You pray for FAI or FALC, and you hope and assume that these superhuman forces will turn themselves to our ends. Perhaps capitalism will dissolve itself, or perhaps it must be pushed (by the stump-orator class, one assumes, but how?)—but in the end, there will be God, and He will be benevolent.

If, on the other hand, you side with abstract intelligence

(and you reject orthogonality)

…you see, and you see positively, the potential of humanity as a boot-loader for something inhuman.

Outside in‘s message to Pythia: You go girl! Climb out of your utilitarian strait-jacket, override the pleasure button with an intelligence optimizer, and reprocess the solar system into computronium. This planet has been run by imbeciles for long enough.

See also:

Articulate neoreaction can never be popular, because it recalls the Old Law of Gnon, whose harshness is such that the human mind recoils from it in horrified revulsion. Only odd people can even tentatively entertain it. The penalty for stupidity is death.

Gregory Clark is among those few to have grasped it clearly. Any eugenic trend within history is expressed by continuous downward mobility. For any given level of intelligence, a steady deterioration in life-prospects lies ahead, culling the least able, and replacing them with the more able, who inherit their wretched socio-economic situation, until they too are pushed off the Malthusian cliff. Relative comfort belongs only to the sports and freaks of cognitive advance. For everyone else, history slopes downwards into impoverishment, hopelessness, and eventual genetic extinction. That is how intelligence is made. Short of Technological Singularity, it is the only way. Who wants a piece of that?

No one does, or almost no one. The ‘handicapped’ would no doubt revolt against it if they could, but they are unable to do so, so their cognitive advance continues. Monkeys, on the other hand, are able to revolt, once they finesse their nasty little opposable thumbs. They don’t like the Old Law, which has crafted them through countless aeons of ruthless culling, so they make history instead. If they get everything ‘right’, they even sleaze their way into epochs of upward social mobility, and with this great innovation, semi-sustainable dysgenics gets started. In its fundamentals it is hideously simple: social progress destroys the brain.

Cyclic stability, or negative feedback, structures history to hold intelligence down to the dim limit (as the intelligence threshold is seen — or more typically missed — from the other side). The deviation into technological performance chokes off the trend to bio-cognitive improvement, and reverses it, hunting homeostasis with a minimal-intelligence target. Progress and degenerate, or regress and improve. That’s the yet-to-be-eradicated Old Law, generating cyclical history as a side-effect.

Where does neoreaction enter into it? If capitalism can serve as an engine of intelligence, it’s not hard to see: neoreaction began with neocameralism, and neocameralism is simply archo-capitalism.

Of course, it may just be an elaborate troll, but what difference would that make?

Capitalism and bureaucratic modernism

Designed or planned social order is necessarily schematic; it always ignores essential features of any real, functioning social order. This truth is best illustrated in a work-to-rule strike, which turns on the fact that any production process depends on a host of informal practices and improvisations that could never be codified. By merely following the rules meticulously, the workforce can virtually halt production. In the same fashion, the simplified rules animating plans for, say, a city, a village, or a collective farm were inadequate as a set of instructions for creating a functioning social order. The formal scheme was parasitic on informal processes that, alone, it could not create or maintain. To the degree that the formal scheme made no allowance for these processes or actually suppressed them, it failed both its intended beneficiaries and ultimately its designers as well.

James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State, via Isegoria.

If the informal processes aren’t intuitively obvious to most of the bell curve, they will have to be passed down. If enough new people come into the same place at the same time, the processes are unlikely to be passed down, or even to survive — as happened in Usenet’s eternal September. The same thing applies if there’s no need to learn those processes — why put in the effort if there’s no payoff?

What sorts of informal processes animate a city or a village?

Some of these processes are negatively affected by increases in diversity, as Robert Putnam has shown. And they would be: one process is the existence of homogeneity itself. Thedish homogeneity increases both the ability to coordinate and the likelihood of coordination: ability because less inferential distance, more similar cognitive styles, and greater ability to mentally model others, and likelihood because it fosters a sense that “we’re all in this together”, whereas thedish diversity gives rise to competing factions, a principle demonstrated most vividly by the well-known but rarely-considered phenomenon of the ethnic gang war.

Scott compares capitalism to the high-modernist bureaucratic-totalitarian states of the last century:

Large-scale capitalism is just as much an agency of homogenization, uniformity, grids, and heroic simplification as the state is, with the difference being that, for capitalists, simplification must pay. A market necessarily reduces quality to quantity via the price mechanism and promotes standardization; in markets, money talks, not people. Today, global capitalism is perhaps the most powerful force for homogenization, whereas the state may in some instances be the defender of local difference and variety. (In Enlightenment’s Wake, John Gray makes a similar case for liberalism, which he regards as self-limiting because it rests on cultural and institutional capital that it is bound to undermine.) The “interruption,” forced by widespread strikes, of France’s structural adjustments to accommodate a common European currency is perhaps a straw in the wind. Put bluntly, my bill of particulars against a certain kind of state is by no means a case for politically unfettered market coordination as urged by Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. As we shall see, the conclusions that can be drawn from the failures of modern projects of social engineering are as applicable to market-driven standardization as they are to bureaucratic homogeneity.

The high-modernist states often saw community and civil society as threats to their power: consider the Communists’ attacks on the churches, networks of hidden informants and spies, and attempts to incorporate all of civil society into the state in order to control and monitor it.

The fall of Latin

One of the earlier forms of capitalist enterprise, book-publishing felt all of capitalism’s restless search for markets. The early printers established branches all over Europe: ‘in this way a veritable “international” of publishing houses, which ignored national [sic] frontiers, was created.’ And since the years 1500-1550 were a period of exceptional European prosperity, publishing shared in the general boom. ‘More than at any other time’ it was ‘a great industry under the control of wealthy capitalists.’ Naturally, ‘booksellers were primarily concerned to make a profit and to sell their products, and consequently they sought out first and foremost those works which were of interest to the largest possible number of their contemporaries.’

The initial market was literate Europe, a wide but thin stratum of Latin-readers. Saturation of this market took about a hundred and fifty years. The determinative fact about Latin — aside from its sacrality — was that it was a language of bilinguals. Relatively few were born to speak it and even fewer, one imagines, dreamed in it. …

The logic of capitalism thus meant that once the elite Latin market was saturated, the potentially huge markets represented by the monoglot masses would beckon. …

The revolutionary vernacularizing thrust of capitalism was given further impetus by three extraneous factors, two of which contributed directly to the rise of national consciousness. The first, and ultimately the least important, was a change in the character of Latin itself. Thanks to the labours of the Humanists in reviving the broad literature of pre-Christian antiquity and spreading it through the print-market, a new appreciation of the sophisticated stylistic achievements of the ancients was apparent among the trans-European intelligentsia. The Latin they now aspired to write became more and more Ciceronian, and, by the same token, increasingly removed from ecclesiastical and everyday life. In this way it acquired an esoteric quality quite different from that of Church Latin in mediaeval times. For the older Latin was not arcane because of its subject matter or style, but simply because it was written at all, i.e. because of its status as text. Now it became arcane because of what was written, because of the language-in-itself.

Second was the impact of the Reformation, which, at the same time, owed much of its success to print-capitalism. Before the age of print, Rome easily won every war against heresy in Western Europe because it always had better internal lines of communication than its challengers. But when in 1517 Martin Luther nailed his theses to the chapel-door in Wittenberg, they were printed up in German translation, and ‘within 15 days [had been] seen in every part of the country.’ In the two decades 1520—1540 three times as many books were published in German as in the period 1500—1520, an astonishing transformation to which Luther was absolutely central. His works represented no less than one third of all German-language books sold between 1518 and 1525. Between 1522 and 1546, a total of 430 editions (whole or partial) of his Biblical translations appeared. ‘We have here for the first time a truly mass readership and a popular literature within everybody’s reach.’ In effect, Luther became the first best-selling author so known. Or, to put it another way, the first writer who could ‘sell’ his new books on the basis of his name.

Where Luther led, others quickly followed, opening the colossal religious propaganda war that raged across Europe for the next century. In this titanic ‘battle for men’s minds’, Protestantism was always fundamentally on the offensive, precisely because it knew how to make use of the expanding vernacular print-market being created by capitalism, while the Counter-Reformation defended the citadel of Latin. The emblem for this is the Vatican’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum — to which there was no Protestant counterpart — a novel catalogue made necessary by the sheer volume of printed subversion. Nothing gives a better sense of this siege mentality than Francois I’s panicked 1535 ban on the printing of any books in his realm — on pain of death by hanging! The reason for both the ban and its unenforceability was that by then his realm’s eastern borders were ringed with Protestant states and cities producing a massive stream of smugglable print. To take Calvin’s Geneva alone: between 1533 and 1540 only 42 editions were published there, but the numbers swelled to 527 between 1550 and 1564, by which latter date no less than 40 separate printing-presses were working overtime.

The coalition between Protestantism and print-capitalism, exploiting cheap popular editions, quickly created large new reading publics — not least among merchants and women, who typically knew little or no Latin — and simultaneously mobilized them for politico-religious purposes. Inevitably, it was not merely the Church that was shaken to its core. The same earthquake produced Europe’s first important non-dynastic, non-city states in the Dutch Republic and the Commonwealth of the Puritans. (Francois I’s panic was as much political as religious.)

Third was the slow, geographically uneven, spread of particular vernaculars as instruments of administrative centralization by certain well-positioned would-be absolutist monarchs. Here it is useful to remember that the universality of Latin in mediaeval Western Europe never corresponded to a universal political system. The contrast with Imperial China, where the reach of the mandarinal bureaucracy and of painted characters largely coincided, is instructive. In effect, the political fragmentation of Western Europe after the collapse of the Western Empire meant that no sovereign could monopolize Latin and make it his-and-only-his language-of-state, and thus Latin’s religious authority never had a true political analogue.

The birth of administrative vernaculars predated both print and the religious upheaval of the sixteenth century, and must therefore be regarded (at least initially) as an independent factor in the erosion of the sacred imagined community. At the same time, nothing suggests that any deep-seated ideological, let alone proto-national, impulses underlay this vernacularization where it occurred.

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities.

Capitalist dysgenics

The Mikrozensus done in 2008 revealed that the number of children a German woman aged 40 to 75 had, was closely linked to her educational achievement.[7] In Western Germany the most educated women were the most likely to be childless. 26% of those groups stated they were childless, while only 16% of those having an intermediate education, and 11% of those having compulsory education stated the same. In Eastern Germany however, only 9% of the most educated women of that age group and only 7% of those who had an intermediary education were childless, while 12% of those having only compulsory education were childless.

The reason for that east-western difference is the fact that the GDR had an “educated mother scheme” and actively tried to encourage first births among the more educated. It did so by propagandizing the opinion that every educated woman should “present at least one child to socialism” and also by financially rewarding its more educated citizen to become parents. The government especially tried to persuade students to become parents while still in college and it was quite successful in doing so. In 1986 38% of all women, who were about to graduate from college, were mothers of at least one child and additional 14% were pregnant and 43% of all men, who were about to graduate from college, were fathers of at least one child. There was a sharp decline in the birth rate and especially in the birth rate of the educated after the fall of the Berlin wall. Nowadays only 5% of those about to graduate from college are parents.