CCRURU reading/discussion group

Sadie Plant: Zeroes and Ones, “foo” and “bar”

2021-01-15 18:30



The critique of self-care

There is a connection to the aging demographic of neoliberalism. The state locks everybody and everything up in order to preserve the largest voting population. Self-care is very cybernetic idea: the pursua


The clinical definition of needing therapy is that you cannot “function”, e.g. go to work daily. As soon as the person is not useful for capital, they need to be fixed. For as little cost as possible (in a cost-efficient way): hence, self-care. They should fix themselves and pursue a balance throughout their whole life so that they continue to function. At therapist, patients/clients are advised to “find a balance”, and when it comes to what kind of balance it is, the answer is “you have to find out yourself”. This is responsibilisation: the responsibility for their state is put on the individual rather than society.


Being optimistic can be a form of resistance, since everything is so bleak. Cyberpunk became the defining spirit of the moment, but in a depressing post-apocalyptic common sense, which is now a computer game. This connects to afro-futurism strand too, a previous cultural cycle that is also coming back now. Self-care, minimum effort, saying no, holding back, meditating, alienation of the concept of the care of the self, and the techniques of the self from Foucault.

Vitalism against cybernetics. We did enter the question of life and counterposing machines with living things. This is an outstanding drift to pursue.

Gunther Anders

Philosopher of the Critique of technology. The Obsolescence of Man, vol1 and vol2. The second volume he wrote when he was old. In that second volume he is guilty that he went back to writing, because he abandoned it for politics and organisation.

George Bataille

There is some quote from him, like the usefulness of man is not to be measured by their products but the extent that they can contaminate others to use up the fullness of their resources. He also wrote a novel Story of the Eye.

Peter Sloterdijk

Cynical reason is his big idea that is supposed to be marking the spirit of the times. It is the opposite of false consciousness, the belief in the common sense of the dominant ideology. Cynical reason is not to believe that the world is fucked up for a good reason, but to be convinced that the world is a piece of shit, but at the same time to accept that there is no alternative and so you play along without belief in the system. It is interesting for us because it connects to the daily experience of people. It is hard to relate some of the things we discuss to daily life.

Diogenes was the first cynic, who defined cynicisism as “living like a dog”. When the meaning of changed cynicism . In a way this is in opposition with the cynics of pre-Socratic philosophy. What they practiced was “testimonial philosophy”, so that their life was a demonstration of their ideas. What is the connection with the early Christianity? And the first monastic orders? They were also living their ideas – but they were in constrant struggle with the established Church. The monastic form of life was a threat to other forms of order. That is why they were a threat.

What is the connection between cynicism and scepticism? Well, the sceptics were another pre-Socratic group. Each of them were perverted and reinterpreted through history

What is the connection between pre-Socratic cynicism and contemporary cynicism according to Sloterdijk? He opposes these two explicitly. He talks about K in kunikos vs. C cynism; as well as philosophical cynicism and popular cynicism.

Mark Fisher

“It is easier to imagine the end of the world as the revolution.”

It becomes the background to life that goes on.

Gut feelings

[Anice reads a text she wrote on Postmodernism.]

Disconnection between life and belief. What of the themes is the opposition between discourse and symbolic order, the discourse and the body, sex and death and other bodily things are a threat for the symbolic order. It must have to do something with cybernetics and digital technologies.

We are alienated from our critique.

Plant’s recent lecture: “Against Speculation” → The Real Economy vs. the Speculative Everything

Speculation is the…

2007: Speculative Philosophy workshop at Goldsmith University, London. → Since then we talk about the Speculative Turn, drawing on the idea of the earlier Linguistic Turn.

Speculative philosophy

The perspective of the species as a whole is posited as something that we should overcome. It is interested in cosmic stories, not even universal stories: what Meillausoux calls “the great outside”. So, it is an anti-humanist or a-humanist perspective. However, it is also very humanist: it builds on a charicature of the human, where we are supposed to be stuck in. This is suspicious. Mark Fisher: “the solitary urinal of masculinity” – this is where speculative everything is stuck. The woman, the transsexual, the slave and the worker, embodied bodies are always already in constant contact with the outside. Where does this break between the in/out come from? This longing to “exit”, as they commonly say? “Exit” is often used in alt-right circles, as it went popular in Brexit. Trump as the speculator par excellence. Where does this desire come from?

If you cannot beat it, join it! – Speculators say. There are various ways to do it. A lot of it is about joining uncritically: uncritical acceptance of the narrative that things become more and more abstract and dematerialised. The alternative approach of going with it, but doing it differently (Iriguray?) – trying to imitate it with the idea of turning it against itself, to divert it. This is the approach of Left Accelerationism. They are still not investing in the Real Economy, but playing an intellectual game. Sometimes it does have an influence but in a reluctant way to accept that speculation is linked to real outcomes. They fail to take responsiblity for the direction of the process.

“Fictioning” is a similar term speculators use. The attitude of the one who knows, or the attitude of the one who is “covered either way”. Speculators on financial markets “hedge” while they take risks about the future. Thinking in the subjunctive: writing speculative fictions, would-be, might-be way.

At the same time, speculation can be very productive: have a picture of the future and pulling yourself towards it in the future. Hyperstition is used to express this mode of wave-working, making bets on the future, which bets influence the past – e.g. our present. Occult, sorcery, withcraft is interesting from this perspective. There is a general logic behind this: How do we realise out dreams, put our plans in operation, set our goals and then realise them? “Where do we want to be in five years? We want to make the best burgers in town. So, you call your burger shop The Best Burger in town.”

pbox: “the extractiveness of the virtual”.

Luxury Automated Communism! – But on which basis this is done? There is no base, no final reference.

“Derivatives” – where do they derive from?

The speculative economy is actually tightly integrated with the real economy – the speculative economy crashed in 2007 as the speculative turn in thought happened – because of subprime crisis, e.g. land and property! → So, a Rentier Economy better describes what is happening. It is not only that everything solid melts into air, but there is also a solidifying movement. More accumulation and less circulation (Piketty’s point). → A very static system (reterritorialisation rather than deterritorialisation. → Less production, more profit! Things are not sold any more, they are renting out their various assets. Amazon moves real things but makes more money from renting out its computing powers. Renting out of land became a model of a new kind of capitalism: intellectual property, land, digital platforms, radio spectrum (5G), natural monopolies (telephony), service contracts.

According to Piketty, this is the inherent logic and teleological direction of capitalism. Other economists feel that there are political decisions that have been made to bring this about. Piketty’s argument that the landed gentry never gone away in the UK, and the land ownership has always been more important in the UK than other places.

Nothing is done/made any more. A small elite accumulates wealth and then rents out these assets. That is how money is made today. It does away with workers and work, employment and time, effort and getting hands dirty.

What does this say about speculative thinking? What is eliminated is the world of production. Even “the work of art” is destroyed.

Speculation is a spectacle.

  • Left acceleratism looks down on folk politics.

  • Hyperstition calls the future into being: the tricks of the advertiser put in the service of communism. You can proclaim to make the best burgers, – but you actually have to make the burgers! On what grounds, to what ends would one to do that? Here, speculative thinking has nothing to say.

The risk is that writing/artistic production can suffer the same fate as the Real Economy: closing on in itself. An engagement with the Real Economy is inevitable at some point. At one point you get to make the burgers. It is a commitment, an investment, etc. Then, you do not need speculation any more!

Other words: thoughtful, creative, imaginative, investigation, performance, activism, intervention, inquiry – or maybe no need for an adjective.

Is not speculative fiction just fiction?

Speculation is without commitments and apparently without investment, but it as real effects. At least it consumes/wastes a lot of intellectual energies. These could be put into changing the world instead of speculating about it!


Shea, Louisa. 2010. The Cynic Enlightenment: Diogenes in the Salon. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Sloterdijk, Peter. 1988. Critique of Cynical Reason. Theory and History of Literature. Minnesota, MN: University of Minnesota Press.