Sunday, 11 July 2010

Science Fiction Capital

As Mark Fischer makes clear in his 2001 statement about "Science Fiction Capital", seemingly fictional propositions about the future in the form of science fiction movies are more often than not essentially political statements about the present. Taking Stanley Kubrick's 2001:A Space Odyssey as an example, he reflects on the "future" of past, as well as the bygone "present" climate of that past, in the real year 2001. How was the film perceived then and how is perceived now.

He marks out Marx's concept of capital in its fictional/abstract capacity:

"To map SF capital adequately you have to pit the humanist Marx against Marx the remorseless abstract cartographer of abstract hypercapital.The human-all-too-humanist Marx believed that capital was a fiction that could be cashed out as real value (=labour time).This implied that capital is primordially payment capital (money=time), and that finance capital is capital (only) in its alienated form.The problem is that since, on even the humanist Marx's own logic, capital is essentially alienated (i.e. capital is the discrepancy between 'itself' and human labour-time), it must be the case that the 'purest' form of capital is also capital in its most fleeting, virtual and abstract modes.

Insofar as Marx remained a humanist, he posited a transcendent use value that was distorted and masked by the ruses of capital. But use value - like all values - is no less fictional than capital. What is at issue is the temporal orientation of the fiction.The concept of use value is a retrospeculative fiction, both gesturing towards a 'future' that will never arrive (a time of judgement, when capital will be cashed out as labour-time) while also invoking a spectral 'past' that never happened (a time when needs and desires, culture and nature, could be securely delimited). Capital's apparent orientation towards the future, meanwhile, is 'speculative' only in the sense that it is immediately efficient. Examples of this latter process are now so commonplace they need hardly be enumerated: at the most simple level, borrowing money enables the capitalist to buy what used to be called the means of production, and - at the more vertiginously abstract end of the scale - the existence of a 'futures' market makes it abundantly clear that time itself is now for sale as a commodity."

Or as Kodwo Eshun somewhat more digestably puts it:
"SF capital is the synergy, the positive feedback between future-oriented media and capital. The alliance between cybernetic futurism and “New Economy” theories argues that information is a direct generator of economic value. Information about the future therefore circulates as an increasingly important commodity."
(Further Considerations on Afrofuturism, CR: The New Centennial Review - Volume 3, Number 2, Summer 2003, pp. 287-302)

What Eshun terms "The Futures Industry" has as much to do with the global finance market as with The Matrix and Men In Black, where statements about the future have primarily the present in mind. The "significant distortion of the present" (as described by Samuel R Delaney in the Last Angel of History 1995 and quoted by Eshun in above journal) that science fiction offers, can be read as a hyperstition (to use the vocabulary of the CCRU) - "fictions which make themselves real". The Futures Industry, encompassing the sensitive nature of global stock exchanges as well as Hollywood science fiction movies, are both full of these hyperstitions where any claim about the future has some kind of effect on the present, from the minutest and immaterial to the extreme, showing real material gains and losses.

"It exists in mathematical formalizations such as computer simulations, economic projections, weather reports, futures trading, think-tank reports, consultancy papers—and through informal descriptions such as science- fiction cinema, science-fiction novels, sonic fictions, religious prophecy, and venture capital." (Eshun)

The concept of Science Fiction Capital emphasises the crossover between fiction and capital, the point partly being about the monetary power of claims, that comes down to words and statements, about the future translating into money and secondly, the fictional nature of capital and as Mark Fischer says, of use value and all values.

The hyperstitious nature of Science Fiction Capital interests me the most in the way it bridges the relationship between the material and immaterial, between words and money.

Sonic Fictions as a form of Science Fiction Capital is also an interesting thought to take from Eshun's list above - Sonic Fiction Capital?? Would be something A&R of Universal, Sony and the like would love to get their hands on...

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