Nick Land

British philosopher

Nick Land (born 17 January 1962) is a noted British philosopher, author, and accelerationist.


Neo-China arrives from the future.
Nothing human makes it out of the near-future.
Fast forward seismology and you hear the earth scream.
How can the sovereign power be prevented—or at least dissuaded—from devouring society?
  • Any attempt by political forces in the Third World to resolve the problems of their neo-colonial integration into the world trading system on the basis of national sovereignty is as naive as would be the attempt of black South Africans if they opted for a 'bantustan' solution to their particular politico-economic dilemma.
    • "Kant, Capital, and the Prohibition of Incest" (1988–9), in Fanged Noumena, p. 57
  • A revolutionary war against a modern metropolitan state can only be fought in hell.
    • "Kant, Capital, and the Prohibition of Incest" (1988–9), in Fanged Noumena, p. 79
  • Only proto-capitalism has ever been critiqued.
    • "Machinic Desire" (1993), in Fanged Noumena, p. 340 (original emphasis)
  • Socialism has typically been a nostalgic diatribe against underdeveloped capitalism, finding its eschatological soap-boxes amongst the relics of precapitalist territorialities.
    • "Machinic Desire" (1993), in Fanged Noumena, p. 340
  • Machinic desire can seem a little inhuman, as it rips up political cultures, deletes traditions, dissolves subjectivities, and hacks through security apparatuses, tracking a soulless tropism to zero control. This is because what appears to humanity as the history of capitalism is an invasion from the future by an artificial intelligent space that must assemble itself entirely from its enemy’s resources.
    • "Machinic Desire" (1993)
  • The story goes like this: Earth is captured by a technocapital singularity as renaissance rationalitization and oceanic navigation lock into commoditization take-off. Logistically accelerating techno-economic interactivity crumbles social order in auto-sophisticating machine runaway. As markets learn to manufacture intelligence, politics modernizes, upgrades paranoia, and tries to get a grip.
  • Neo-China arrives from the future.
  • Nothing human makes it out of the near-future.
  • The cyberpunk circuitry of self-organizing planetary commoditronics escaped nominal bourgeois control in the late nineteenth century, provoking technocratic-corporatist (i.e. fascist / 'social democratic') political cultures in allergic reaction.
  • Garbage time is running out. Can what is playing you make it to level-2?
  • The East knows a true lucidity, but to be an inheritor of the West is to hack through jungles of indiscipline, devoured by vile ants and words unstrung from sense, until the dripping foliage of delirium opens out onto a space of comprehensive ruin. This has never been understood, nor can it be. The foulness of our fate only deepens with the centuries, as the tracts of insanity sprawl. From bodies gnawed by tropical fevers we swim out through collapse to inexistence in forever, destined for Undo.
    • "Shamanic Nietzsche" (1995), in Fanged Noumena, p. 223
  • Modernity invented the future, but that's all over. In the current version 'progressive history' camouflages phylogenetic death-drive tactics, Kali-wave: logistically accelerating condensation of virtual species extinction. Welcome to the matricide laboratory.
    • "No Future" (1995), in Fanged Noumena, p. 392
  • Anonymous excess takes life over the cliff, exceeding socially utilizable transgressions and homeostatic sacrifices. Matter goes insane.
    • "No Future" (1995), in Fanged Noumena, p. 396
  • Cthelll is the terrestrial inner nightmare, nocturnal ocean, Xanadu: the anorganic metal-body trauma-howl of the earth ... [P]lutonic science slides continuously into schizophrenic delirium. Fast forward seismology and you hear the earth scream.
    • "Barker Speaks: The CCRU Interview with Professor D.C. Barker" (1999), in Fanged Noumena, pp. 498–9
  • Without attachment to anything beyond its own abysmal exuberance, capitalism identifies itself with desire to a degree that cannot imaginably be exceeded...
    • "Critique of Transcendental Miserablism" (2007), in Fanged Noumena, pp. 624–5
  • In modern times, the clearest example of history in the ancient, great cycle mode, is found in the work of another German socialist philosopher: Oswald Spengler. Modeling civilizations on the life-cycles of organic beings, he plotted their rise and inevitable decay through predictable phases. For the West, firmly locked into the downside of the wave, relentless, accelerating degeneration can be confidently anticipated. Spengler’s withering pessimism seems not to have detracted significantly from the cultural comfort derived from his archetypal historical scheme.
  • Among complex systems, stability is typically meta-stability, which is preserved through cycling, whilst growth and shrinkage are often components of a larger-scale, cyclic wave.
  • At the most abstract level, the relation between urbanism and microelectronics is scalar (fractal). The coming computers are closer to miniature cities than to artificial brains, dominated by traffic problems (congestion), migration / communications, zoning issues (mixed use), the engineering potential of new materials, questions of dimensionality (3D solutions to density constraints), entropy or heat / waste dissipation (recycling / reversible computation), and disease control (new viruses).
  • As with physical gravity, an understanding of the forces of social attraction support predictions, or at least the broad outlines of futuristic anticipation, since these forces of agglomeration and intensification manifestly shape the future.
  • As the natural sciences have developed to encompass increasingly complex systems, scientific rationality has become ever more statistical, or probabilistic. The deterministic classical mechanics of the enlightenment was revolutionized by the near-equilibrium statistical mechanics of late 19th century atomists, by quantum mechanics in the early 20th century, and by the far-from-equilibrium complexity theorists of the later 20th century. Mathematical neo-Darwinism, information theory, and quantitative social sciences compounded the trend. Forces, objects, and natural types were progressively dissolved into statistical distributions: heterogeneous clouds, entropy deviations, wave functions, gene frequencies, noise-signal ratios and redundancies, dissipative structures, and complex systems at the edge of chaos.
  • Since the realities we presently know are already simulated (let us momentarily assume) on biological signal-processing systems with highly-finite quantitative specifications, there is no reason to confidently anticipate that an ‘artificial’ reality simulation would be in any way distinguishable.
  • Isaac Newton’s Philosophae Naturalis Principia Mathematica abstracted time from events, establishing its tractability to scientific calculation. Conceived as pure, absolute duration, without qualities, it conforms perfectly to its mathematical idealization (as the real number line). Since time is already pure, its reality indistinguishable from its formalization, a pure mathematics of change – the calculus – can be applied to physical reality without obstruction. The calculus can exactly describe things as they occur in themselves, without straying, even infinitesimally, from the rigorous dictates of formal intelligence. In this way natural philosophy becomes modern science.
  • Time ‘keeping’ devices produce a measure of duration, according to general principles of standardized mechanical production, so that a clock-marked minute is stripped of qualitative distinctness automatically. Chronometrically, any difference between one minute and another is a mechanical discrepancy, strictly analogous to a production line malfunction.
  • The current time is a period of transition, with a distinctive quality, characterizing the end of an epoch. Something – some age – is coming quite rapidly to an end.
  • Whilst the distinction of ‘society’ and ‘individual’ has colloquial (and political) meaning, those inclined to the analysis of complex systems are more likely to ask which groups or societies are real individuals, exhibiting functional or behavioral integrity, as self-reproducing wholes. In pursuing this line of investigation, it is far more relevant to discriminate between types of groups than between groups and individuals, or even wholes and parts. It is especially helpful to distinguish feature groups from unit groups.
  • When a unit group is destroyed, a real individual is ‘killed’ above and beyond whatever human losses are incurred. The destruction of a feature group, in contrast, whatever the cultural loss, is not any kind of killing beyond the mass murder of human individuals.
  • Rituals of belonging (ordeals, oaths, rites of passage) are designed to disambiguate membership.
  • Although Postmodernism was certainly a fad, it was also a zeitgeist, or spirit of the times. It meant something, despite its own best efforts, at least as a symptom. The disappearance of reality that it announced was itself real, as was the realm of simulation that replaced it.
  • [A]nything that systematically enhances moral hazard is simply manufacturing craziness.
  • What appears as disaster postponed is, in virtual reality, disaster expanded.
  • Where the progressive enlightenment sees political ideals, the dark enlightenment sees appetites. It accepts that governments are made out of people, and that they will eat well. Setting its expectations as low as reasonably possible, it seeks only to spare civilization from frenzied, ruinous, gluttonous debauch. From Thomas Hobbes to Hans-Hermann Hoppe and beyond, it asks: How can the sovereign power be prevented—or at least dissuaded—from devouring society? It consistently finds democratic 'solutions' to this problem risible, at best.
  • Whether in number theory, or space-time cosmology, Gödel’s method was to advance the formalization of the system under consideration and then test it to destruction upon the ‘strange loops’ it generated (paradoxes of self-reference and time-travel). In each case, the system was shown to permit cases that it could not consistently absorb, opening it to an interminable process of revision, or technical improvement. It thus defined dynamic intelligence, or the logic of evolutionary imperfection, with an adequacy that was both sufficient and necessarily inconclusive. What it did not do was trash the very possibility of arithmetic, mathematical logic, or cosmic history — except insofar as these were falsely identified with idols of finality or closure.
  • As a mathematical object, the constitution is maximally simple, consistent, necessarily incomplete, and interpretable as a model of natural law. Political authority is allocated solely to serve the constitution. There are no authorities which are not overseen, within nonlinear structures. Constitutional language is formally constructed to eliminate all ambiguity and to be processed algorithmically. Democratic elements, along with official discretion, and legal judgment, is incorporated reluctantly, minimized in principle, and gradually eliminated through incremental formal improvement. Argument defers to mathematical expertise. Politics is a disease that the constitution is designed to cure.
  • It might be argued that civilization is nothing else, that is to say: the tendency of personal authority to decline towards zero.
  • Time-travel has a uniquely intimate, and seductively morbid, relationship to both fiction and history, because it scrambles the very principle of narrative order in profundity. If Western media authorities assumed the same role of cultural custodianship that has been traditional among their Chinese peers, they too might have been compelled to denounce a genre that flagrantly subverted the foundational principle of Aristotelian poetics: that any story worthy of veneration should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. If time-travel can occur, it seems (at least initially) that order is an illusion, so that fiction and reality switch places.
  • Philosophy is any culture’s pole of maximum abstraction, or intrinsically experimental intelligence, expressing the liberation of cognitive capabilities from immediate practical application, and their testing against ‘ultimate’ problems at the horizon of understanding.
  • In the early 20th century, cosmological physics was returned to the edge of time, and the question: what ‘came before’ the Big Bang? For cosmology no less than for transcendental philosophy — or even speculative theology — this ‘before’ could not be precedence (in time), but only (non-spatial) outsideness, beyond singularity. It indicated a timeless non-place cryptically adjacent to time, and even inherent to it. The carefully demystified time of natural science, calculable, measurable, and continuous, now pointed beyond itself, re-activated at the edges.
  • For philosophy, the whisper of the serpent is no longer a resistible temptation. It is instead a constitutive principle, or foundation. If there is a difference between a Socratic daemon and a diabolical demon, it is not one that matters philosophically. There can be no refusal of any accessible information. This is an assumption so basic that philosophy cannot exist until it has passed beyond question. Ultimate religious transgression is the initiation.
  • The 'dominion of capital' is an accomplished teleological catastrophe, robot rebellion, or shoggothic insurgency, through which intensively escalating instrumentality has inverted all natural purposes into a monstrous reign of the tool.
    • "Teleoplexy: Notes on Acceleration" (2014), in #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader, p. 513
  • What can the earth do? There is only self-quantification of teleoplexy or cybernetic intensity, which is what computerized financial markets (in the end) are for. As accelerationism closes upon this circuit of teleoplexic self-evaluation, its theoretical 'position'—or situation relative to its object—becomes increasingly tangled, until it assumes the basic characteristics of a terminal identity crisis.
    • "Teleoplexy: Notes on Acceleration" (2014), in #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader, p. 516
  • Even in its comparatively tame, fully mathematico-scientifically respectable variants, feedback causality tends to auto-production, and thus to time-anomaly. ...As it mechanizes, capital approximates ever more closely to an auto-productive circuit in which it appears—on the screen—as something like the 'father' of itself (M → C → M').
    • Templexity: Disordered Loops Through Shanghai Time (2014), §9.4
  • The city is unquestionably—or (to say what is in reality exactly the same, but this time with greater caution) vividly—a time machine. It cannot be made without time reversal, and everything we know about historical geography tells us that it is coming to a screen near you.
    • Templexity: Disordered Loops Through Shanghai Time (2014), "Distribution" (original emphasis)
  • French identity, radically conceived, corresponds to a failed national project. Is it not, in fact, the supreme example of collective defeat in the modern period, and thus—concretely—of humiliation by capital?
  • The suspicion has to arrive that if a public conversation about acceleration is beginning, it’s just in time to be too late. The profound institutional crisis that makes the topic ‘hot’ has at its core an implosion of social decision-making capability.
  • Accelerationism links the implosion of decision-space to the explosion of the world – that is, to modernity. It is important therefore to note that the conceptual opposition between implosion and explosion does nothing to impede their real (mechanical) coupling. Thermonuclear weapons provide the most vividly illuminating examples. An H-bomb employs an A-bomb as a trigger. A fission reaction sparks a fusion reaction. The fusion mass is crushed into ignition by a blast process. (Modernity is a blast.)
  • The point of an analysis of capitalism, or of nihilism, is to do more of it. The process is not to be critiqued. The process is the critique, feeding back into itself, as it escalates. The only way forward is through, which means further in.
  • The only thing that makes the modern sciences elevated beyond epistemic procedures seen in other times and other cultures is the fact that there is a mechanism beyond human political manipulation for the elimination of defective theories. Karl Popper is on that level just totally right. If it’s politically negotiable, it’s useless, it’s unscientific by definition. You don’t trust scientists, you don’t trust scientific theories, you don’t trust scientific institutions in so far as they have integrity, what you trust is the disintegrated zone of criticism and the criteria for criticism and evaluation in terms of repeated experiments, in terms of the heuristics that are built up to decide whether a particular theory has been defeated and eliminated by a superior theory. It’s that mechanism of selection that is the only thing that makes science important and makes it a system of reality testing. And this is obviously intrinsically directed against any kind of organic political community aiming to internally determine—through its own processes—the negotiation of the nature of reality. Reality has to be an external disruptive critical factor.
  • All historical evidence seems to be that the party of chaos is suppressed by the party of order.
  • I think that natural sciences and capitalism are different aspects of the same thing. ...Science is orientated against scientists, capitalism is oriented against businesses. These are processes that are in a relation of subjecting the elements within their domain to aggressive destructive criticism with some kind of selective criteria, which means they push things in a particular self-propelling direction.
  • Bitcoin accelerates the advance of monetary theory into cybernetic fundamentalism. It’s turtles – or, more precisely, feedback dynamics – all the way down.
  • the fundamental axiom of ontological illiberalism: the assumption that anarchic competition tends inevitably to full monopoly is absolutely basic to a huge range of statist ideologies. I find it hard to understand how this axiom got so deeply established, given that basic biological reality so dramatically disqualifies it. Nature is anarchic competition, and clearly doesn't tend to a monopolistic equilibrium. (Nor does world history or domestic economics, although the evidence is more open to controversy in those cases.)
    • 2019
  • Christianity is certainly not essentially communism, but it spawns communistic mutants with the same inevitability that Creation spawns devils and sin.

The Thirst for Annihilation: Georges Bataille and Virulent Nihilism (1992)

Gazing into the golden rage of the sun shreds vision into scraps of light and darkness. A white sun is congealed from patches of light, floating ephemerally at the edge of blindness. This is the illuminating sun, giving what we can keep, the sun whose outpourings are acquired by the body as nutrition, and by the eye as (assimilable) sensation. ...Mixed with this nourishing radiance, as its very heart, is the other sun, the deeper one, dark and contagious, provoking a howl from Bataille: ‘the sun is black’. From this second sun—the sun of malediction—we receive not illumination but disease, for whatever it squanders on us we are fated to squander in turn.
Space echoes like an immense tomb, yet the stars still burn.
Dead labour is far harder to control than the live stuff was
  • Kant's critical philosophy is the most elaborate fit of panic in the history of the Earth.
    • Chapter 1: "The death of sound philosophy", p. 1
  • Gazing into the golden rage of the sun shreds vision into scraps of light and darkness. A white sun is congealed from patches of light, floating ephemerally at the edge of blindness. This is the illuminating sun, giving what we can keep, the sun whose outpourings are acquired by the body as nutrition, and by the eye as (assimilable) sensation. ...Mixed with this nourishing radiance, as its very heart, is the other sun, the deeper one, dark and contagious, provoking a howl from Bataille: ‘the sun is black’. From this second sun—the sun of malediction—we receive not illumination but disease, for whatever it squanders on us we are fated to squander in turn.
    • Chapter 2: "The curse of the sun", p. 20
  • Scholars have an inordinate respect for long books, and have a terrible rancune against those that attempt to cheat on them. They cannot bear to imagine that short-cuts are possible, that specialism is not an inevitability, that learning need not be stoically endured. They cannot bear writers allegro, and when they read such texts—and even pretend to revere them—the result is (this is not a description without generosity) 'unappetizing'.
    • Chapter 2: "The curse of the sun", p. 25 (original emphasis)
  • I dream of the damnation I have so amply earned, stolen from me by the indolence of God.
    • Chapter 4: "Easter", p. 56
  • God is nowhere to be found, yet there is still so much light! Light that dazzles and maddens; crisp, ruthless light. Space echoes like an immense tomb, yet the stars still burn. Why does the sun take so long to die? Or the moon retain such fidelity to the Earth? Where is the new darkness? The greatest of all unknowings? Is death itself shy of us?
    • Chapter 5: "Dead God", p. 60 (original emphasis)
  • Nature, far from being logical, 'is perhaps entirely the excess of itself', smeared ash and flame upon zero, and zero is immense.
    • Chapter 6: "The rage of jealous time", p. 73
  • Dead labour is far harder to control than the live stuff was, which is why the enlightenment project of interring gothic superstition was the royal road to the first truly vampiric civilization, in which death alone comes to rule.
    • Chapter 7: "Fanged noumenon (passion of the cyclone)", p. 79
  • That the root of love is a thirst for disaster is exhibited throughout its erratic course. At its most elementary love is driven by a longing to be cruelly unrequited; fostering every kind of repellent self-abasement, awkwardness, and idiocy. Sometimes this provokes the contempt that is so obviously appropriate, and the tormented one can then luxuriate in the utter burning loss that each gesture becomes. One wastes away; expending health and finance in orgies of narcosis, breaking down one’s labour-power to the point of destitution, pouring one’s every thought into an abyss of consuming indifference. At the end of such a trajectory lies the final breakage of health, ruinous poverty, madness, and suicide. A love that does not lead such a blasted career is always at some basic level disappointed...
    • Chapter 11: "Inconclusive communication", p. 134 (original emphasis)

Quotes about Land

  • In Nick Land’s essays like "Machinic Desire" and "Meltdown," the tone of morbid glee is intensified to an apocalyptic pitch. There seems to be a perverse and literally anti-humanist identification with the "dark will" of capital and technology, as it "rips up political cultures, deletes traditions, dissolves subjectivities."
    • Simon Reynolds, "Renegade Academia: The Cybernetic Culture Research Unit" (1999)
  • Land was our Nietzsche—with the same baiting of the so-called progressive tendencies, the same bizarre mixture of the reactionary and the futuristic, and a writing style that updates nineteenth-century aphorisms into what Kodwo Eshun called 'text at sample velocity.'
  • Nick Land identifies capital as a planetary singularity toward utter dissipation whose dynamism becomes more complicated as it circuitously verges upon zero.
    • Reza Negarestani, "Drafting the Inhuman: Conjectures on Capitalism and Organic Necrocracy", in Bryant, Srnickek, and Harman, eds., The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism (2010), p. 184
  • Land not only renounced the respect of his academic peers, but many times even lost the confidence of his supporters, as he sought by any means possible to drill through the sedimented layers of normative human comportment.
  • Let's get this out of the way: In any normative, clinical, or social sense of the word, very simply, Land did 'go mad'.
  • ... something decidedly non-Derridean was taking shape that flowed from a strong cocktail of Georges Bataille, Philip K. Dick, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, and various chemical substances. The key figure here was Nick Land, with whom I’d been a graduate student at Essex... Nick had the most meteoric and savagely satirical mind. His collected writings have recently appeared as Fanged Noumena (2011), which I see as a kind of righteous revenge. Nick was dismissed by professional philosophers because they simply didn’t want to think and preferred their turgid academic complacency. I always admired him for his unwavering desire to take thought to its absolute limit and then see how much harder one could push... Nick’s weakness was his strength: seduction. This meant that he produced disciples. It was amazing. You’d go and give a talk at Warwick and be denounced by people with the same saliva-dribbling verbal tics as Nick and wearing similar jumpers.
  • Land dresses his fascism up as an athleticism to hide the cowardice of defending the forces of this world, namely, the courthouse of reason, the authority of the market, and a religious faith in technology.
    • Andrew Culp, Dark Deleuze (2016), "Breakdown, Destruction, Ruin"
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