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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"All Futurisms Are Finally Retro-Futurisms"

The following is adapted from an exchange over at Accelerating Future, occasioned by one of my Futurological Brickbats: "To speak of 'The Future' is always to indulge in reaction. All futurisms are finally retro-futurisms."

Richard Holt protested: "Historically, Revolutionaries have fetishized ‘The Future’ far more than Reactionaries or Conservatives."

I replied that perhaps this helps account for why so many historical revolutions have eventuated in tyranny: A disdain for the open futurity inhering in the present, peer-to-peer, expressed through a parochial idealization of “The Future” imposes an instrumental rationality and instrumental misconception of freedom on political realities that are of a radically different character.

I happen to think "The Future" of the futurologists has so much in common with "The Golden Age" of reactionaries that it is illuminating to treat techno-fetishizing futurological ideologies as structurally continuous with "nature"-fetishizing bioconservative ideologies. Both are functionally retro-futural, both idealizing and naturalizing parochial values and then disdaining the present world of the diversity of their peers the better to dream of "The Future" world re-written in the image of the universal prevalence of their parochialism.

Holt then asserted: "Goals are political. The analysis of future scenarios [which is the chief business of 'professional futurologists' --d] is not."

To which I must reply that futurological scenario spinning is not analysis, properly so-called, so much as it is an inept literary genre aping and amplifying (sometimes to an extent verging on the theological) the hyperbole and fraud of contemporary marketing and promotional discourse while superficially appropriating the most hackneyed conceits and tropes from science fiction ready to hand.


Luke said...

I suppose it is sort of tautologically correct to state that a prediction about the future being made in the present will, in the future, regardless of its accuracy, end up being a prediction about the future that was made in the past.

As regards the nostalgic longing for the future, while this does seem to indicate a "reaction" against the present condition, isn't futurism predominantly a case of curiosity about what will happen next? And isn't the yearning mostly to fulfill that curiosity?

Dale Carrico said...

If you will peruse the texts offered in the archives available at the sidebar under the headings "A Condensed Critique of Transhumanism" "Futurological Brickbats" and "Futurology Against Ecology" I hope you will agree (even if you disagree with my arguments) that there is more than tautology in what I am saying. You are right to point out that curiosity is not to be lightly disdained -- but I will call your attention to the suffixes -ism and -logy in the terms futurism and futurology and note that these contain a presumption of more than curiosity. Indeed, they suggest the basis for a movement on the one hand and a unique discipline of inquiry on the other. Neither of these claims stand scrutiny, neither seem to me the least bit honest or harmless, but in fact are, I fear, deceptive and outright pernicious. Again, as I say, there is an elaborated critique behind what I say, which may or may not convince you, but I welcome your more serious consideration of it.