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The Great Acceleration

Research Framework

If an extraterrestrial would ask me to define the past 75 years in three words, I would be inclined to answer "The Great Acceleration" (henceforth, "GA"). This term articulates an unprecedented, profoundly destructive shift in our biosphere—a metamorphosis more significant than the trials and tribulations of human history that unfolded over these same decades.

Putting the Great Acceleration at the core of our analysis rapidly leads us to pressing questions. What can we learn from viewing twentieth- and twenty-first-century history through the prism of GA? What, if anything, does deceleration entail? And how can we philosophically come to terms with humanity's Great Surge? In particular:

  • Can we delineate an epistemology of both the Great Acceleration itself and "accelerationism", its largely invisible ideological backbone?

  • On what grounds can we classify philosophical work itself as contributive, antithetical, or orthogonal to accelerationism?

  • Finally, can Deep Ecology, wisdom traditions, and indigenous literature function as a source of a decelerationist antidote to GA?


Pictured: Smoke billows from a large steel plant as a Chinese laborer works at an unauthorized steel factory, foreground, on November 4, 2016 in Inner Mongolia, China. The Atlantic, Images of China's Steel Industry.

“Strangely enough, just as the Great Acceleration was shifting into high gear, academic social scientists and humanists chose to retreat from grimy and greasy realities into various never-never lands. They found all manner of discourses worthy of their studied attention, reveling in the linguistic and cultural “turns.” But the extinction of species, the incineration of forests, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere—all this seemed unworthy of their powers, interesting only for the discourses it aroused. Meanwhile, one species of social scientists, economists, jilted reality in favor of a different fantasy, one of ever-more-abstract modeling based on universalizing assumptions of individual behavior and state conduct, casually ripped from all historical and cultural, not to mention ecological, context.”

The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene since 1945 - J. R. McNeill and Peter Engelke


Does Accelerationism — the school of thought that originated with the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, not accelerationism in lower case, which here signifies the thought underlying the Great Acceleration itself, and neither its neofascist outgrowth militant accelerationism — have an anthem? Steve Goodman (a.k.a. Kode9) is an electronic music artist, Accelerationist, and founder of the Hyperdub record label.

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