The New West of Westworld: Cartographies of the Unconscious

Thanks to Ed for bringing up this footnote from A Thousand Plateaus, following the last post on Westworld, on Leslie A. Fiedler’s 1968 book The Return of the Vanishing American.

I decided to buy it.

I hadn’t heard of Leslie Fiedler prior to this tweet — to my shame — but I have since learned that he is a highly regarded writer and so I have been digging into his trilogy of books on America and its literature — only the first of which, unfortunately, still seems to be in print.

Fiedler gives his own introduction to the series in the preface to the last book in the series — the one I intend to focus on here. (I’ll take the opportunity here to point out these books are old and their nomenclature is not always PC by today’s standards…) He writes:

With ‘Love and Death in the American Novel‘ and ‘Waiting for the End‘, ‘The Return of the Vanishing American‘ constitutes a single work, the first of whose parts concerns itself with eros and thanatos; the second, with the hope of apocalypse and its failure; the third, with the Indian — all three, as I hope becomes clear in this volume, with that peculiar form of madness which dreams, and achieves, and is the true West.

As Ed highlighted with the footnote from A Thousand Plateaus — footnote 18 of the introduction: “Rhizome” — Friedler’s book “contains a fine analysis of geography and its role in American mythology and literature, and of the reversal of directions”; in the text itself, they write that America “puts its Orient in the West”.

This shift was discussed in the first part of this series — the strange disconnect in the American-historical mind between the events of the American East, South and West. As Deleuze & Guattari note, in typically DeleuzoGuattarian terms, the West “played the role of a line of flight combining travel, hallucination, madness, the Indians, perceptive and mental experimentation, the shifting of frontiers, the rhizome.”

Last time I wrote of this madness tentatively in relation to Westworld and how the series could surely not take place anywhere else:

… does Westworld not become a dramatisation of this very unruliness [madness], inherent to the idea of the American West? The revolt of the AI “hosts” of the theme park is as much a catalyst for a “new world” to come as it is the materialisation of a spectre of a past waging war on the woeful consolidation of its own future. […] To be haunted by the fractured memories of previous iterations is surely the central condition which entwines the consolidated American State and and its Self.

Fiedler makes this clear also, but particularly in relation to the “Indian”.

The “Indian”, the Native American, is that being who all Americans have internalised. He highlights the irony of that acutely American condition of constructing ancestral mythologies for oneself — “‘Do you know I’m part Mohawk? Whoo hoo!’ … descendants of East European Jews or Dublin Irish, at home and abroad, everyone who thinks of himself as being in some sense an American feels stirrings in him of a second soul, the soul of the Red Man” — and notes how indigenous peoples themselves have not escaped this internal mythologising tendency. He continues:

To be sure, the Indian has not disappeared at all “into the great White swamp,” but has begun to reinvent himself — in part out of what remains of his own tribal lore, in part out of the mythology and science created by White men to explain him to themselves. […] The Vanishing American may have bowed out as Last Mohicans or Flatheads or Sioux, but they return as what they all seemed to invading White Europeans from the start, simply “Indians,” indistinguishable non-White others.

Westworld has synthesised these othering flows into its narrative in interesting ways and these stirrings of a second soul are folded explicitly into the narrative of host’s gaining (un)consciousness through their own programming.

The cast of “hosts” are a diverse bunch, of white settlers, black “madames”, Mexican rebels. There is also — to this non-American viewer, anyway — a contingent of homogenised “Indian” tribespeople, layered in crusted body paint, stalking the outer edges of the park, who appear infrequently as that unknown “demon of the continent”.

Particularly in this burgeoning second season, the Indians appear as spectres who seem far more aware of the nature of the “game” of Westworld than their more approachable host-counterparts. They seem to know more about “the maze” than any other characters but relate to it in a way that remains mysterious to everyone else — as otherwise silent, spiritual others who speak in riddles.

“The maze” is an integral part of the series at this point. It is a symbol that the Man in Black, William, spent much of the first season violently pursuing. He finds the symbol tattooed into the scalp of a host and believes that finding the centre of the maze will allow him to “win” the game.

ZZ31D9FBE2

What the Man in Black eventually realises, much to his disappointment, is that the maze is not for him. It is for the hosts.

As this brilliantly thorough video about the show’s first season explains: the central narrative of the first season explores an entanglement of timelines which tell the story of how the park’s creators, Arnold Weber and (particularly) Robert Ford, used the park as a front for creating truly “conscious” AI.

Initially imagining the host’s journey to conscious as like “climbing a pyramid”, they later see it as a journey “inwards”, like working their way through a maze. The key for Ford, with his theory of the bicameral mind, is that the hosts will, by journeying inwards, come to understand their programming as their own internal voice, and therefore, like our own evolutionary ancestors, so the theory goes, develop “consciousness” as we currently understand it.

In this first season, as the Man in Black tries to find the centre of the maze, the host Dolores is on a similar journey but it is only she who reaches the centre. The Man in Black is, of course, already conscious. All there is for him to understand is his own nature. Something which, having spent 30 years murdering and pillaging in Westworld, he already knows too well. Dolores, instead, has a ways to go. She still has choices to make regarding who she wants to be.

For Dolores, this journey inwards is played out as a journey into her own memories, previously wiped on each return the start of her narrative cycle, and as she remembers more and more of her past experiences, she achieves consciousness — or, as Mark Fisher wrote, previously quoted in part one, unconsciousness. She kills Ford, an event previously scripted in her programming, but this time enacted by choice.

The recurring image of the maze, notable here for us, is based on a prevalent real-world Native American symbol referred to by the name “I’itoi”.

800px-O'odham_unofficial_flag.svg

I’itoi here means the “man in the maze” (seen clearly above, and notably already in the centre in Westworld‘s version). It is part of the mythology of the O’odham tribe. The maze itself is understood to be “the maze of life, where a person travels through life and encounters the different moments that impact them.” These moments, for Dolores, are her memories. The impact of her suffering is, by Ford’s design, the key to reaching the centre and, likewise, the catalyst for her murderous, revolutionary tendencies, currently unravelling in season two, through which she will rise up, assisting other hosts to also reach the centre, creating a Skynet-like army of vengeful, conscious AI.

Dolores is, of course, not Indian. But is this programmed I’itoi not precisely this ubiquitously American “demon of the continent” that Fiedler writes about?


Fiedler begins his book with a quote from D.H. Lawrence:

The moment the last nuclei of Red Life break up in America, then the white man will have to reckon with the full force of the demon of the continent … within the present generation the surviving Red Indians are due to merge in the great white swamp. Then the Daimon of America will work overtly, and we shall see real changes.

Fiedler continues: “Fifty years ago, the demonic future which Lawrence foresaw seemed only the troubled dream of a foreigner never really at home on our soil, a fantasy for poets to exploit and serious scholars to ignore; but suddenly his then is our now, and all of us seem men possessed.”

Today, this “troubled dream”, constantly threatening to erupt, seems to have plateaued once again. Another fifty years on, men remain possessed.

Can we not, for example, see the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, and the renewed interest in these writings, in a similar light? The Cthulhu mythos is made explicitly extraterrestial, otherworldly, but lest we forget the racial othering of those who are most receptive to his cosmic murmurings. Perhaps Cthulhu is likewise just another name for this demon of the American continent.

Continuing a discussion of the tensions explored last time, Fiedler notes how American geography itself is inherently “mythological”, noting how, following the closure of the frontier, the American psyche has been at sea with itself — highlighting, in particular, how “Ishmael confronts Queequeg on the great Ocean itself”, and reminding this blogger of Cthulhu’s deep-sea home of R’yleh.

Like Lovecraft’s anti-heroes, and the heroes of countless classically American novels, Fiedler describes a primitivist tendency inherent to so many of these pop-cultural imaginings of the American psyche. He writes: “Primitivism is the large generic name for the Higher Masculine Sentimentality, a passionate commitment to inverting Christian-Humanist values, out of a conviction that the Indian’s way of life is preferable.”

The gendered nature of this tendency as masculine is notable. Fiedler dedicates a whole chapter to the “Anti-Pocahontas” in all Americans; an entwined taming of both the Indian woman and the corrupting of the female WASP. The masculine contorting of the other is always, he seems to theorise, the externalising of an internal struggle of fragile masculinity. Speaking more generally, Fiedler continues: “From this follows the belief that if one is an Indian he ought, despite missionaries and school boards, to remain Indian; and if one is White, he should do his best, despite all pressures of the historical past, to go Native.”

Fiedler compares this to a certain kind of class drag, inherent to much Victorian fiction (and the halls of our present-day universities): the desire for a kind of self-righteousness acquired by reading about “the tribulations of the poor.”

The pretence of writing from within the consciousness of Indians intrinsic to such fiction leaves me always with the sense of having confronted an act of impersonation rather than one of identification, a suspicion of having been deceived; and this is reinforced when the presumable wisdom of the alien Red Man turns out to be some quite familiar cliche of our own culture.

My initial, much older post on Westworld‘s first season, explored in light of Trump’s election, highlighted an article in The New Inquiry which highlighted the show’s first season as an explicitly feminist narrative of escaping patriarchy. But is Westworld not a further doubling down on this kind of writing, from within the consciousness of an other?

From out of this analysis, Fiedler describes a kind of New Western (of which Westworld is perhaps a New New Western, or, dare I say, a Post-New Western). He quotes a letter sent to him following the death of Ernest Hemingway:

The mental mirror of the conqueror cannot be found in the culture of the conqueror. The mental mirror of the conqueror can only be found in the eyes of the conquered, those people who do not read or write or leave histories or legends, but simply live and die unremembered.

In this way, as an act of sympathetic but nonetheless pure imagination, the New Western is necessarily not the document of the social historian. He writes: “the real opposite of nostalgia is psychedelic, the reverse of remembering is hallucinating, which means that, insofar as the New Western is truly New, it, too, must be psychedelic.” The New Western, in this way, is a hallucination of templexity; of a false past aimed towards a new future.

The ease of jumping towards Mark Fisher’s Acid Communism here is potent. Fisher’s Communism is not a remembering of past Communisms but nor is it a forgetting. It is a hallucinating of the New, in that way that the New Western, and Westworld, are truly new imaginings of the flows of the American West.

Of course, Fiedler highlights the inherent anachronism of this framing. So many infamous psychedelics are, of course, natural — marijuana, peyote, ayahuasca. These drugs “are our bridge to — even […] gifts from — the world of the Indian”.


Again, I am writing this post as the new series of Westworld unfolds, and how the role of the mystical Indian hosts will develop is currently unknown. (At the time of writing, I have just watched the fourth episode of the series.)

However, I would like to end with the same example with which Fiedler ends his own book.

Perhaps the best analogy for all that we have discussed, continuing this ever-entangling entanglement of consciousnesses that Fielder and others explore, is the finale of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

Jack Nicholson’s character, “Mac” (aka McMurphy), is, in a way, the ultimate Westerner; the rebel, who stirs up and antagonises the status quo. He is, as Fiedler calls him, “the New American Man.” Fiedler writes on the original 1962 book, set in a psychiatric hospital: “McMurphy chooses instead if not madness, at least aggravated psychopathy and an alliance with his half-erased, totally schizophrenic Indian comrade — an alliance with all that his world calls unreason.”

McMurphy, we must remember, is not actually mad. He pleads insanity when convicted of crimes of battery and gambling, believing he will receive a more lenient sentence. The tragic irony of the story is that he is eventually lobotomised, and it is the Chief, in the film at least, on seeing what has become of his friend, the fully-erased New American Man, who breaks out of his affective impotence and heads for the Outside.

Just as the Man in Black, in seeking the maze, is disappointed to find it is not for him, there is perhaps a parable here for the current White Western Man that the revolution is not for him. This seems to be what has the Right running scared. In wanting to take responsibility for their actions only, and not the actions of others, they may be left treading water.

If the White Man really wants to exit, he can’t lead but only follow…

 

Advertisements

Identity Politics and Patchwork

Invoking “The Left” and “The Right” is a bad habit of this blog and since we’re on a roll doing clarifications, here’s another one.

For this blog, invocations of Left and Right are used intently to refer to the Big Tent labels that they are, although — of course — this isn’t always a helpful or clear way to frame the dynamism of the current political landscape.

Their usage persists on this blog, however, because I feel like patchwork contends with these Big Tents inherently and I would rather talk about this broad contention abstractly than get too bogged down in that very online tendency to academically overdefine micropolitical positions. (At least at this stage.) I’d rather keep things flexible and scalable — just as patchwork should be. [1]

As ‘State Decay‘ began to explore, patchwork warrants the fragmentation of our unwieldy political “wholes”, which we have already been seeing for some time — or, arguably, for all time, considering the cyclic processes of fragmentation and consolidation that define so much of political history.

A U/ACC vision of patchwork suggests that we stop getting cold feet, with regards to fragmentation, and stop naively attempting to consolidate untameable processes into hard-bordered state apparatuses. The scar tissue that has resulted from such incessantly pursued consolidatory processes looks, at present, to be more brittle than ever before.

So… Let go.

Identity politics is one lens through which the Left itself considers this phenomenon of fragmentation and difference — sometimes usefully, sometimes not so much. Identity politics obviously has a long history and many of its antecedent constitutive parts look very different to their now well-known caricatures. It is my view that many of these ideas still hold potentials for contemporary productive politics, despite their unfortunate recent reputations.

To cut to the chase, the question I want to ask in this post is this: could you turn your safe space into a patch?

That’s not a glib bit of cynicism on my part. To ask the question of how functional a sovereign safe space would be, whilst a bit funny, also asks that you put your money where your mouth is…

Continue reading “Identity Politics and Patchwork”

The New West of Westworld: On Patchwork, Frontierism and Anachronism

So the second season of Westworld has started and it has got me thinking: “Why Westworld? Why the Wild West?”

The end of the first season teased the existence of other theme park Worlds — in particular a “Samurai World” — and already in this first episode of Season 2 we have heard various characters refer to a variety of other worlds. (I believe there’s supposed to be six others in total.)

Whilst many assume we’ll see more of these worlds in Season 2 — and with all the foreshadowing already, it seems likely — I’m left thinking that the Wild West is still the best sandbox for the show’s plot, given the “chaos reigns” narrative of the unfolding AI revolution. (NB: I’ve discussed the burgeoning revolution that plays out during the show’s first season on this blog here previously, if you’re interested.)

But why? What is it that makes the anachronism of Westworld‘s cyberpunk West work so well as an AI theme park overflowing with revolutionary potentials as opposed to any other historically idealised geosociocultural configuration? What is it that endures about the potentials of the American West in the popular imagination?

If these questions are asinine, please remember I am but a humble Englishman. They have nonetheless reminded me of Deleuze’s belief in America’s inherently revolutionary potential and the ways that this potential is explicitly tied, for him, to patchwork.

He writes in his essay “Bartleby; or, the Formula”:

The American is one who is freed from the English paternal function, the son of a crumbled father, the son of all nations. Even before their independence, Americans were thinking about the combination of States, the State-form most compatible to their vocation. But their vocation was not to reconstitute an “old State secret,” a nation, a family, a heritage, or a father. It was above all to constitute a universe, a society of brothers, a federation of men and goods, a community of anarchist individuals, inspired by Jefferson, by Thoreau, by Melville. [1]

America, for Deleuze, in the nineteenth century, is a becoming. It is not “a puzzle, whose pieces when fitted together would constitute a whole, but rather a wall of loose, uncemented stones, where every element has a value in itself but also in relation to others: isolated and floating relations, islands and straits, immobile points and sinuous lines — for Truth always has ‘jagged edges.'” [2] He could not be clearer when he says “the Americans invented patchwork, just as the Swiss are said to have invented the cuckoo clock”, aligning the philosophy of American Pragmatism with “this double principle of archipelago and hope.”

If Deleuze’s vision of America seems generous to us today, it is perhaps because what he sees in the United States is difficult to recognise now following another 150 years of state consoliation — and particularly to an outsider who has set foot on its soils only once. It is also difficult to recognise in modern evaluations of American history.

Continue reading “The New West of Westworld: On Patchwork, Frontierism and Anachronism”

Shakespearean Patchwork

A new book is on the way from Prof Stuart Elden considering how our ideas of “territory” were shaped by the works of William Shakespeare.

There’s a little interview with him on the Warwick University website:

“While he only uses the words ‘territory’ and ‘territories’ rarely in his plays, the concept and practice is not at all marginal to his work. A number of his plays are structured around questions of exile, banishment, land politics, spatial division, contestation, conquest and succession.

Shakespeare exhibits a profound geographical imagination and his plays and poems raise a whole host of geographical questions. We can use them to shed light on the concept of territory as we understand it now.”

This will be something to return to I think, once the book is out. Interested in what readings of regional geopolitics in Macbeth can be attached to this blog’s sense of Gothic Patchwork and the fragmentations of state and self which follow the witches’ flight

Patchwork Q&A

I thought it might be useful, for both myself and others, if I tried to field some patchwork questions, many of which warrant answers longer and more rigorous than CuriousCat is really tailored for.

I’m going to pin this to the sidebar and add to it over time. All of these questions, unless otherwise stated, were sent in via CuriousCat. If you have questions of your own, feel free to click there and do the same.

Continue reading “Patchwork Q&A”

Patchwork 101

My blog’s stats page told me that I received a few clicks from deepcomrade‘s CuriousCat recently, after an anon asked what the fuck patchwork is.

In response, they linked to my ‘State Decay‘ post — which was nice to see: thank you — but I realised, reading it back, now with the benefit of hindsight, that that post begins very much in the deep end. The theory was given a very quick once-over and then we dove right into what I recently described as “the eye of the storm” of patchwork — which I see as the spiralling internal engine of populist Left and Right approaches to sorting difference — but that doesn’t say much about patchwork itself.

So, over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to write a Patchwork 101 post, going into the theory’s foundations in much more detail in order to clarify them against the oppressive legacy of Mencius Moldbug.

Xerosones recently beat me to it with the inaugural post on their blog providing “a minor introduction” to patchwork which is definitely worth a look at. The post makes it quite clear, however, that the general idea of patchwork has a very potted history and there are many different perspectives on it, many of which appear at odds with one another.

It’s not surprising, with all this in mind, that there has been some confusion over what we’ve all been talking about here recently. However, I’ve since realised that to write a post trying to consolidate all these branches is a sort of impossible task. Patchwork is itself already a patchwork. It is fragmentary by nature. This isn’t unusual for any kind of broad political thought, really, but in this case it is something to be emphasised and accelerated.

Patchwork nonetheless requires some clarification, or else it runs the risk of appearing to be some kind of “zero claim ideology”, as Reza has recently been calling u/acc on Facebook, so I thought it might help to give an overview of what patchwork is — specifically for me.

I want to do this as concisely as possible.

Firstly, mine is not a Moldbuggian patchwork. What I am trying to figure out for myself here is a theory of patchwork that is inherently anti-nationalist and decolonial. This may seem antithetical to considerations of Moldbug. He lingers for me only because his definitions of patchwork are the most clear but the idea in itself did not begin with him and it shouldn’t end with him either. His is only one point of view and it is counter-productive to read patchwork via one theory alone. Likewise, any pursuit of one perspective requires a consideration of its outside. Once you let the outside in there’s no telling when the resulting fragmentation will stop.

My view of patchwork, I have realised, is almost identical to my view of the Red Pill, as explored in my “Egress” post. I wrote:

… the “Red Pill” is not an inherently right-wing concept. […] The Red Pill allows the person who takes it to see the formation of the Matrix for what it is — a digital simulation — and initiates the taker’s egress. Neo, choosing the Red Pill and subsequently undergoing a course of intensive training, is additionally given the power to shape the Matrix at will. In this way, the Red Pill is a medium through which one can manipulate perception and desire, allowing for the direct “upload” of knowledge, objects and abilities through a neural interface—which all humans outside of the Matrix are now “born” (or rather, “grown”) with—and into the “hardware” of the human brain and its central nervous system. It is a psychedelic drug through which the real conditions of existence become not only available but immediately plastic, allowing for the interruption of the biological foundation of the Matrix that the machines have implanted into the collective consciousness of humanity enslaved.

At its heart, then, The Matrix is a cinematic fable of political and philosophical choices and its success can be attributed to its ability to dramatise abstract questions usually debated by political philosophy. With its narrative combination of drugs, Prometheanism […] and machinic enslavement, The Matrix could easily be read as an Acid Communist and (Left) Accelerationist parable. However, it is as if the right-wing monopolisation of the Red Pill requires that the left abandon its potentials…

I also do not see patchwork as an inherently right-wing concept. Just because certain subgenres of the Right have utilised it and successfully used it to map out its potentials for their desired forms of the good life does not mean the Left — or any other broad political affiliation for that matter — must abandon its potentials.

In fact, patchwork and the red pill may have more in common than first appearances suggest. Patchwork functions similarly to the red pill in that it is a giant suppository for leviathan, corroding processes of state consolidation and making the conditions of (geopolitical) space both available and plastic. They are tandem, interscalar concepts: one for the subject and one for the state. This interscalar relationship is what interests me most and that is why ‘State Decay’ remains the bedrock for what this blog has become in recent months.

The Promethean and technological overtones within the patchwork / red pill analogies, thanks to The Matrix, are also very important. Axxonnhorror has done well to summarise the implications of patchwork’s modern entanglement of geopolitics and tech, exploring how the resulting “connective disintegration” is not as alien to our current social realities as we might think:

‘Connective distintegration’ immediately makes me think of Cyberspace, with countless amounts of users and programs, delocalised from their immediate geographical standings, and functioning on a vast informational network, interconnected, yet disintegrated, operating in niches with filtered content, but capable of instantaneously moving on a trajectory linking many newer, foreign nodes.

They continue:

Patchwork doesn’t delineate a rigid set of neighbours for each patch, but allows local structures to change internally and with respect to its outside: some patch might want to cluster next to some set of microstates, another time escaping them, or drifting out into the open smooth cosmos, alone, but perhaps connecting via the immense cyberspace, or even stranger vistas, to the others. Just like the individual subject — strange, not-fixed, mobile, “garnering here, there, and everywhere” through connections, but not integrations.

The Internet should and will play a central role in our considerations of the transformation of meatspace. We can see this aspect of patchwork informing a great deal of contemporary thought — most obviously, Benjamin Bratton’s The Stack. (I’m only just getting around to reading this so more on that in a future post I think.)

In an article on e-flux, Bratton writes:

My interest in the geopolitics of planetary-scale computation focuses less on issues of personal privacy and state surveillance than on how it distorts and deforms traditional Westphalian modes of political geography, jurisdiction, and sovereignty, and produces new territories in its image.

Patchwork, even in its Moldbuggian mode, shares these considerations. In his introductory post to patchwork, Moldbug (who, lest we forget, has a day job in Silicon Valley) draws further parallels between our understandings of off- and online space. This later definition is the only definition I would like to preserve in my thought from Moldbug’s.

The first lesson of Patchwork 101 is this:

[W]e can think of Patchwork as a new operating system for the world. Of course, it does not have to be installed across the entire world, although it is certainly designed to scale. But, it is easier and much more prudent to start small. Innovations in sovereignty are dangerous.

To be continued…

Nationalist Realism

Capitalism is pervasive across the entirety of the globe. An obvious point but one that warrants more careful consideration.

Capitalist realism cannot be thought of without a consideration for its Cthulhic (and Cthelllic) global tendrils that weave their way through, over and around our nation-states. When we talk about the end of the world being easier to imagine than the end of capitalism, this is no doubt partly why. Ours in a world so thoroughly entangled with itself and it is capital that seems to do much of the entangling.

Is this even further exacerbated by the dovetailing of capital’s and the Left’s globalising tendencies? Is it a coincidence that the fracturing of (geo)political subjectivities has brought about new hopes for postcapitalist futures? Can we glimpse something other through the ever-growing cracks?

Patchwork is a way of widening these cracks to finally see the plethora of futures that might lie ahead.


Another obvious observation: Capitalism is an economic and — thanks to its parasite neoliberalism — political system that is sewn into the very fabric of our national identities.

Perhaps, in corroding Mark Fisher’s “capitalist realism” down to its implicit and constitutive parts, we can also consider a kind of “nationalist realism” — here defined as our belief in the Nation as a sacred concept that, like its more explicitly economic counterpart, is given its shape by processes of dreamwork.

In my previous post, “Egress“, I quoted Fisher’s Capitalist Realism and his exploration of Freud’s dreamwork as being that process which legitimises capitalism as a system despite itself:

When we are dreaming, we forget, but immediately forget that we have done so; since the gaps and lacunae in our memories are Photoshopped out, they do not trouble or torment us. What dreamwork does is to produce a confabulated consistency which covers over anomalies and contradictions, and it is this which Wendy Brown picked up on when she argued that it was precisely dreamwork which provided the best model for understanding contemporary forms of power. [1]

Perhaps we can consider the Nation — and, in turn, nationalism; nationness — in a similar way. Patchwork becomes, in this framework, the antithesis to dreamwork — making inconsistencies its foundation rather than glossing over them.


Nationalists are, as Benedict Anderson writes, members of an “imagined community“. Nations and their cultures shape an illusionary consistency in the minds of their citizens that are at odds with reality. Whilst Fisher argues that we must awaken ourselves to the illusions of capitalist realism, it is increasingly apparent that we should take note of inconsistencies in other areas of political thought too.

Whereas Mark believed that the cultural dissolution of capitalist realism could lead to the instantiation of a New Politics, a New Future, the cultural dissolution of the idea of the Nation-State could likewise lead to the blossoming of something new.

To further build on “Egress”, perhaps we can consider Left melancholia as a feeling of impotency with this similarly closed structure of the nation-state. As the Left hangs onto its utopian, globalist vision of a world without borders, it ignores not only the concerns over immigration of its supposedly right-wing opposition but also the internal fragmentation of its own ideological “borders”.

This is not to say that immigration scare-mongering holds much water but it is evidently a symptom of the fracturing of illusionary nationalist psyches. This is not something to be afraid of, as we have tentatively been exploring.

Elsewhere in “Egress”, I quoted Simon O’Sullivan’s essay “The Missing Subject of Accelerationism“:

On the face of it what has become known as left accelerationism involves something more immediately recognisable: a communist subject, or a subject that is the product of collective enunciation […] a ‘new’ kind of (human) subject, the result of the knitting together of ‘disparate proletarian identities’, and one capable of ‘abductive experimentation’ in to how best to act in the world.

What is this “knitting together” if not precisely a patchwork, providing new potentials for our burgeoning geontologies?

Nationalist Realism is not only a belief, of course, it is an atmosphere. Like Fisher’s capitalist realism, it is a “pervasive atmosphere, conditioning not only the production of culture but also the regulation of work and education, and acting as a kind of invisible barrier constraining thought and action.”

It is likewise something to be overcome but we remain skittish around the suggestion.

What this blog has been trying to make clear recently is that this needn’t be the case.

More on this in future…




[1] Mark Fisher. Capitalist Realism (London: Zero Books, 2009), 60.