In the Delirium of the Simulation:
Introducing our latest collaboration with NON.
We are extremely happy to announce the beginning of the presale period for the fourth book published by Becoming, this time in collaboration with NON: In the Delirium of the Simulation:

If you remember back to Becoming Magazine Issue Zero, the ghost issue that helped Becoming establish just enough presence to begin coalescing and affecting, it featured a section on Mille Plateaux that culminated in an Interview/Questionnaire with Achim Szepanski, a rather infamous theoretician and culture pioneer. Sometimes dubbed the European version of “Underground Resistance”, Szepanski’s myriad projects, labels and imprints (which, for convenience, we tend to roll up into “Force Inc—Mille Plateaux” and “NON”) are perhaps amongst the few music projects in the last thirty years that have tried so hard to practice and perform the kind of anti-fascist art and music that was envisioned by Frankfurt’s, where Szepanski dwells, most beloved ghosts, Walter Benjamin & Theodor Adorno. 

In that first demo issue of our magazine, we intended to speak to Szepanski to ensure the project started without any illusions, and it is fair to say we used Szepanski as an antiheroic guru, who can shine an ultrablack light on any material to reveal capital’s ghostly fingerprints. We wanted to start Becoming from the most simple assumption that publishing practices still had some value, that we might still contribute to a “better world” through our practices — yet, perhaps one of the most important things that ever influenced the trajectory of Becoming was the agreement we made with Szepanski, so long ago, that perhaps romanticism has reached the limit of its use: Becoming will not save the world, and it is a constant, enduring struggle, to keep any art/cultural project from being devoured by capital. Along with few other academics and so on, Szepanski was part of what we called “queer cynicism”, which was an attempt to find a balance between optimism and cynicism, where one could maintain some revolutionary hope for the future without expecting us to upload our way out of neoliberalism.

It is so fitting that, 2 years later, we are preparing the publication of this book by Achim that orients the work of Jean Baudrillard, someone who ranks highly in the order of the cynics. As with Adorno and other before him, Jean Baudrillard possessed the capacity to think as if the worst was true, or as if the worst had already happened, and their analyses of culture and media industries was brutal, but the brutality became more and more justified the more and more relevant his theories became. Baudrillard is easy to dislike, he is after all that Marxist thorn in our side who says that we can’t consume our way out of capitalism — we are running into oblivion on treadmills, or rather, we are watching the post-apocalyptic final-cut of the documentary about ourselves running into oblivion.

Since Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, the topic of Critical Theory, Control Societies and Anticapitalism has had a resurgence of interest from a wide range of people who may not have ever identified with Communism or the Frankfurt School — there is something about the cute/sad, ultra-caffeinated English teacher that people related to. Yet, as much as it may seem like a positive to resurrect some interest in criticising control societies and neoliberalism, we have become drunk on the discourse. Somehow, all these radical ideas were diverted towards an emergent new Popular Critical Theory that must be unlearned as much as possible. In a bid to make critical theory widely understood or known, the result is simply the overpopularization of catchphrases from Frederic Jameson or Ursula Le Guin, soundbites and motion graphics that make you think for a second that you’re channeling your revolutionary angst into something productive, but eventually realise was just a punching-bag or fleshlight — we are yelling at politicians on Instagram like our fathers yelled at the football players on their TVs; we are drunk, wasting energy, and consuming our own despair like a lifestyle product. 

Yet, in terms of consuming sour/fermented discourse, Baudrillard became something of a prison moonshine of legendary proportions; he drank so much dodgy discourse that he could no longer get drunk on it, and broke through to become a shaman of navigating Critical Theory and discourse. I contend that he is mad, completely obscene (to use his own word), but his master of obscenity can be seen as a mastery of the illusions we are under. Baudrillard’s bibliography is huge, and it covers everything from the disappearing future, the evolution of fascism into neoliberalism, artificial intelligence, the fourth world-war, and the ever worsening problem of Western Hegemony and Simulation. Yet, Baudrillard is a substance that must be handled with care, by experts who understand how to avoid going mad, as it takes serious strength of mind to keep your mind together when the real and more-real than real start to separate, and all the symbolic associations that mediate your reality start melting. For this, we need Achim.

The blurb reads: 

15 years after his death, the ghost of Jean Baudrillard lingers. Beyond just a pessimistic media theorist, the hyper-realist metaphysician of media and information may have become more relevant than ever before, and many of the concepts that Baudrillard left behind have become guiding principles in an ever deteriorating situation. Much of these ideas, from the Hyperreal to Cultural Nihilism, were repopularised in the last 15 years through such books as Capitalist Realism, in which the poster child for critical theory, Mark Fisher, appeared to have left the world a message, written in blood on the inside of our shared prison cell: Baudrillard was right! 
            A lot of the most frightening confessions there drew primarily from Baudrillard such as the future collapsing in on itself, and all meaning and symbolism melting down into a delirious nihilism under the ever-rising heat of Capital as it establishes itself as an all-encompassing, totalising, technology-obsessed form of dominion, that thinks and acts of its own will, like an Artificial Intelligence that endlessly feeds itself data until all information has been devoured.
            To say that we live in a simulation seems more true than ever, as we have less and less ability to affect anything, we reach out to influence what we see, only to realise time and time again that we are somehow cut off from the content, as if everything we know is just a projection on a wall; the horrors are real, and happening somewhere, but exist to us as holograms. We can but run our fingers through the beams of light projected on the wall, so close but so far from anything real.

We are psychiatric patients trapped in algorithmic cells, cut-off, stressed, and scared—the prophecies that caused Fisher to panic have, by this point, been completely realised. We have crossed over a threshold into a world that is both more-real than real, and yet entirely unintelligible and unintuitive, shifting wildly around and unfolding like a fever-dream. In the delirium of the simulation, nothing makes sense without knowing the codes that superficially hold everything together, and perhaps only Baudrillard figured out the code. After all, Baudrillard, with his ideas about code, the digital, quantum theory and hyperreality, seems to be one of the few who recognised early enough the true form of Capital as fictitious or speculative Capital. While his books may have once read like speculative, cynical horror-fictions about what could go wrong if Capital became an all-encompassing and nihilistic tyrant, now that this has come true, perhaps it is time to consult his ghost. It is time to admit that the worst case scenario has become real, and that the raving-mad cynic on the side of French Theory may have been talking the most sense, after all.
            This book is an incredible serious diagnosis of the current form of capital, a profound excavation and presentation of the most important and helpful ideas that Baudrillard published: from the unravelling of western philosophy, to a redefining of marxist theories of economics and capital, to a shift in critical theory that complies with quantum theory. 


From the text:

“It seems to have been the fatal fate of simulation theory that simulation ended up devouring theory itself: the sublime disappearance of theory and its own referent happened through obscene overexposure, and hastily led to a forced reduction of theory to a mere piece of intellectual currency, that quickly lost its value and power. Baudrillard was well aware that his own discourse was subject to simulation, because all attempts to represent and criticise the simulated system fall victim to the simulation itself. Any opposition to the system can apparently be easily integrated into the system itself.
            Yet, what happened in the intellectual scene after Baudrillard was all the more eerie: the entire hyper-current of ultra-exposed and ghostly resurrected critical academic discourse continues to prolong its failure in operation to this day, only to fail further. Some headwinds have only come from minoritarian groups such as Tiqqun, who rely on deception and the confusing fog of the black underground against a system that operates by making its own visibility visible. But if the critics, even those who dismiss the notion of simulation in the name of a recoverable political or historical movement, are themselves implicated in the precession of simulacra, then this could still apply even to the darkest discourses of the minorities. But what if, in the wake of quantum theory, not only could the inexorable logic of the excluded third no longer have any effect, nor would a "both and" that comes close to simulation suffice to ride those waves of nothingness with which the worlds we are familiar with disappear? Baudrillard would now be, in a sense, resurrected from nothingness or resurrected from the dead. Who would speak then, if not the dead themselves? Dark, clandestine and deceptive discourse warriors would have come upon us to fight the simulative war of discourse against itself. These were warriors of an intellectual suicide state practicing the politics of their own disappearance. So why should we write about Baudrillard and beyond him again today?” (p7)

 “For Baudrillard, the crux of theory thus consists, on the one hand, in providing an immanent statement or an immanent description/analysis of a system that follows its inner logic, including a constant integration of the Other, to the bitter end, thus adding nothing to the system qua theory and, on the other hand, reversing it and thus showing that the system is not possible without this Other, which the system also attempts to make impossible.” (p12)

“On the other hand, it would be a perfect crime to invent a flawless world and draw from it without leaving a trace. However, we leave traces everywhere - viruses, gaps, germs and catastrophes - signs of imperfection that are the signature of man in the age of the artificial world.” (p61)

“Baudrillard reveals a number of weaknesses in his book The Symbolic Exchange and Death, which is generally regarded as his magnum opus, particularly in his discussion of Marxism. In this text, capital is not completely abandoned, but described as a totalising, technology-obsessed form of domination that seeps into and is scattered across all social, media and political fields, which is optionally given names such as structure, system, code, model, etc.” (p64)

“For Baudrillard, it is rather a matter of a molecularity of almost tree-like social control, which, at least from the point of view of fractalisation and self-similarity, reaches into the last ramifications of the system and constantly re-produces it (whereby decentralisation of control is not excluded.) In fact, much of Baudrillard's work reads as if he were describing an evil twin of Deleuze” (p65)

“Information no longer has to be rational, because it is measured neither against an ideal nor a negative instance. It is nothing other than operative. In fact, the real that emerges from the ecstasy of information is not that of a Laruelle or Lacan, because it is either not closed (Laruelle) or no longer envelops an imaginary (Lacan), it is rather a hyperreal that has emerged from a radiant synthesis of combinatorial models in a hyperspace without atmosphere.” (p74)

“The 24/7 engagement with screens has long anesthetised us, according to Crary, so that we have lost the sensory capacity to experience ourselves as part of life on earth.” (p75)

More excerpts and information will be disseminated throughout the next weeks. Presales/reservations have started