Nota sobre “Yo también sé quién escribió el Lazarillo,” de José Luis Villacañas. Por Alberto Moreiras.

El tiempo pasa muy deprisa, y parece mentira que el artículo de José Luis sobre el autor del Lazarillo sea de 2011. Es un artículo difícil, cuya glosa no puede agotarse en esta nota breve, dadas las complejidades de la alegoría que propone José Luis a través del Edgar Allan Poe de La carta robada y Los asesinatos de la Rue Morgue, y de los textos que escribieron sobre el primer cuento Lacan y Derrida. Me autoconfino aquí a lo que José Luis propone sobre la posible autoría de López de Villalobos, que en este artículo se ofrece como mera hipótesis, pero se trata de una hipótesis cargada: José Luis dice que en algún momento en el futuro se encargará de demostrar que es algo más que eso. Lo que está en juego, ni más ni menos, es la presentación del Lazarillo como una obra decisivamente marrana, a partir de la posición de José Luis, expuesta en otros lugares, de que no hubo humanismo en Castilla no cristiano-nuevo: todo humanismo en Castilla en los siglos XV y XVI es marranismo. Es una afirmación fuerte que no puede sino aterrar a los filólogos y a los neofilólogos por principio, puesto que para todos ellos el marranismo no puede nunca pasar de ser una “hipótesis ideológica,” esto es, una suplementación al texto, a todo texto. Ningún texto es para un filólogo un texto marrano a no ser que el texto se autoproponga como tal (y aun entonces empieza y no termina la discusión), lo cual es, por supuesto, para el marranismo, por definición imposible. Parte del problema crítico es ese—no hay texto marrano para los filólogos, y para los que no somos primariamente filólogos porque no queremos serlo el marranismo, entre otras cosas, no puede ser reducido a la condición de mero add-on ideológico. La alegoría sobre La carta robada tiene que ver con esto.

Está por encima, sobredeterminándolo todo, el anonimato o el apocrifismo de la lectura del Lazarillo. Hay dos posiciones: según una de ellas el apocrifismo de la escritura dicta el anonimato, y así la falta de autor reconocido es consustancial a la verdad del texto como texto “realista,” y que llega a su destino en cuanto tal; según la otra, la falta de autor reconocido ocasiona una deriva diseminante del texto y lo fuerza a no poder tomar nunca por supuesto llegar a su destino. La segunda, claro, es la posición marrana. Pero eso también dice: la posición marrana está cómoda con el secreto, y no quiere nombrarlo, no quiere identificar al autor que se esconde. De ahí quizá la extraña estrategia de diferimiento de José Luis, digo esto, pero no lo digo, lo diré algún día, quizás, o bien ‘yo no digo mi canción sino a quien conmigo va.’ “Sin autor, nada vendrá a perturbar nuestras idealizaciones, de la misma manera que nada nos exigirá salir del marco de La carta robada si el autor trascendental de la misma, el intelecto agente, es pura repetición. Con autor, el Lazarillo es la repetición del saber que sobre el autor tenemos. No hay salida al dilema” (Villacañas, “Yo también sé quién escribió el Lazarillo,” JLACS 11:3-4 (2011): 356).

El “alma doble, que quiere ver la luz y a la vez ocultarse, es el alma del marrano” (356). Alguien como Paco Rico, comparado al prefecto de policía en La carta robada, no tiene más opción que empeñarse “a fondo en cuanta materialidad superficial tiene a su mano.” Con él la inmensa mayoría de la crítica, y así la tradición hegemónica. Esas son las verdaderas “idealizaciones” e ideologizaciones no ya de un solo texto señero, también de una tradición entera, de un archivo total. La absoluta reducción de la teoría—el rechazo a la posibilidad misma de que Lazarillo pueda ser entendida como “ficción teórica”—implica su petrificación como acontecimiento de realidad (las notas siempre monumentalizantes en la edición crítica de Rico exceden con mucho las palabras del texto que anotan). La pregunta por el marranismo ni se plantea: “Voluntad de realismo, esencia de la cultura española. Decir lo que todo el mundo sabe” (357).

La conjetura: el autor tiene, al menos, dos almas y “se expresa en un lenguaje del cual sólo sabemos que no es el nuestro” (357). La conjetura: “Todos y cada uno de los hechos de Lazarillo quedan iluminados si los referimos a momentos imposibles de idealizar de esta alma doble o triple y de lo que ve dentro y fuera. Lo decisivo es que, tan pronto hacemos esto, el Lazarillo deja de ser idealizado como el destino de la literatura española y pasa a ser un texto accidental, atravesado por el miedo, la cólera, la rabia, el dolor, la envidia, la necesidad de venganza, la ironía, la burla, la voluntad de ocultamiento, la necesidad de autoafirmación y finalmente el olvido de todo ello” (359). “Para vengarse de su enemigo [el médico Narciso de Ponte, el hijo del molinero corrupto y borracho criado en el Tíber] se comenzó a escribir el Lazarillo . . . Pero es posible que al final Villalobos comprendiera que en esa triste vida del impostor médico imperial se estuviera describiendo también a sí mismo y a sus nobles amos” (360).

La conjetura: “una que se limita a llenar un vacío con otro vacío, pero que abre el marco idealizado de la obra hasta dejarla como una obra sin marco. Por ahora ahí me quedo” (360).

La propuesta: el Lazarillo es ficción teórica y autografía marrana, infrapolítica marrana.

Sobre Teología política imperial y comunidad de salvación cristiana, de José Luis Villacañas. Por Alberto Moreiras.

Alberto Moreiras

moreiras@tamu.edu

Idolatría e infrapolítica. Comentario a Teología política imperial y comunidad de salvación cristiana. Una genealogía de la división de poderes (2016), de José Luis Villacañas Berlanga. (Borrador.)

El inmenso e importante libro de José Luis Villacañas, Teología política imperial, es un libro contra la filosofía de la historia escrito desde una perspectiva que podríamos llamar fenomenológica: su intento no es ni pronosticar un futuro ni dar recetas sobre la mejor forma de encararlo, y tampoco es ofrecer razones que permitan entender la historia como ha sido.   Busca más bien describir, en perspectiva genealógica, como afirma el subtítulo del libro, ciertas condiciones de constitución de la historia de Occidente cuya relevancia para el presente es de carácter crítico: el talante fundamentalmente postnietzscheano y postheideggeriano del libro, ciertamente postmarxista, weberiano, también freudiano, me atrevería a decir, constituye un aviso o postula una precaución sobre lo que no se puede decir, esto es, sobre lo que no tiene sentido decir desde el punto de vista de una genealogía conceptual y ateniéndose a ella. Uno puede por supuesto siempre decir cualquier cosa, pero no afirmar su consistencia histórica efectiva. Creo que esta es la posición esencial del libro. Su acercamiento—llamémosle “fenomenología débil”—a lo que retrospectivamente, desde el libro mismo, puede entenderse como el gran acontecimiento de la historia de Occidente, que es la concepción de un dios trinitario que, en cuanto trinitario, interviene en la historia humana y la convierte en historia de salvación, tiene múltiples implicaciones cuya especificación y desarrollo debería preocuparnos y sin duda va a preocuparnos durante algunos años.   Si la Trinidad supone la destrucción efectiva de cualquier teología política, que queda desmantelada en el triunfo contra el arrianismo; si la Trinidad impone efectivamente una división de poderes contra cualquier pacto de soberanía, entonces una genealogía trinitaria, repensada desde el desencantamiento del mundo, y desde el fin de la arquitectónica política de la modernidad, es decir, repensada desde el presente, entendiendo nuestra época historialmente como la época del terror (con respecto de la cual y del cual todo archivo necesita ser releído, incluyendo muy especialmente el archivo hispánico), establece límites críticos: digamos que, liquidada la teología política, liquidada la noción misma de secularización, que es consecuencia de la teología política, ya no es posible acogerse a una política comprendida como pacto de soberanía, ya no es posible acogerse a una política comprendida como contrato social, ya no es posible acogerse a una política providencial en ningún sentido. Lo que queda es una política republicana como resto profano, contra toda gloria y contra toda aclamación, contra toda tentación plebiscitaria o constituyente ((nota sobre “resto profano”)). Pero esto es republicanismo posthegemónico, fuera de toda tentación metafísica. Y conlleva una necesidad urgente de replantearse los fundamentos mismos de nuestra relación con la democracia, en la medida en que ya no es admisible una democracia basada en metapolítica teúrgica alguna ((nota sobre “metapolítica teúrgica.” Remitir a lo que dice Agamben sobre glorificación y teurgia y a la noción de metapolítica en los Cuadernos negros; quizá también en Ranciére y en Badiou)). No son sólo Erik Peterson, Ernst Kantorowicz o Carl Schmitt los que deben ser repensados, sino también, por ejemplo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, y la larga tradición que le sigue, incluyendo por ejemplo a Claude Lefort y a Miguel Abensour, y también todo el planteamiento político marxista y postmarxista, de Rosa Luxemburgo a Antonio Gramsci y de Louis Althusser a Ernesto Laclau, para no mencionar a Alain Badiou o a Antonio Negri. Y por supuesto cualquier identitarismo mesiánico derivado de cualquier afirmación sustancialista de la noción de pueblo. Una de las implicaciones efectivas del libro de Villacañas es la liquidación en política de toda metapolítica teúrgica y de toda posibilidad de metapolítica teúrgica; incluyendo, señaladamente, toda metapolítica teúrgica del poder efectivo, de la gloria de las cosas como son, que es la metapolítica neoliberal que Giorgio Agamben identifica como la metapolítica de la opinión pública, que sostiene la libertad an-árquica del capital.   Desde el libro de Villacañas, y precisamente a favor de la teoría radical de la división de poderes, la teurgia sólo puede admitirse como infrapolítica, esto es, sólo puede admitirse como opción post-política de salvación subjetiva. Volveré brevemente sobre esto.

Me apresuro a decir que, en los siguientes minutos, no puedo ni quiero intentar dar cuenta de todas esas implicaciones, ni mucho menos. Prefiero atenerme sólo a alguna de ellas, para iniciar y no para concluir el proceso de diálogo y de reflexión que el libro exige. Ojalá todos nos hagamos gradualmente cargo de tal exigencia. El rango del libro y de la problemática que el libro aborda así lo impone. Pero vamos por partes. Me gustaría considerar algunas de las reflexiones introductorias que presenta Villacañas y tratar de referirme a la diferencia que Villacañas busca marcar con respecto del proyecto teórico de Giorgio Agamben tal como es expresado fundamentalmente en El reino y la gloria. Ello llevará necesariamente a ciertas consideraciones respecto de la obra heideggeriana.   Y ya no tendré tiempo para más—pero quiero repetir aquí, por lo tanto, que estas páginas son sólo un principio, quizás incluso arbitrario y ligado a mis propios intereses. Por eso me gustaría saber, aprovechando la presencia de José Luis en esta reunión, si estas reflexiones iniciales mías son efectivamente atinadas en el sentido de no traicionar la orientación misma de su libro, por más que, aquí o allá, mis conclusiones a partir de su trabajo puedan no coincidir del todo con las suyas. En cualquier caso esas conclusiones no refieren a lo dicho en el libro, sino a lo que se puede deducir desde él. El tono del libro no es en realidad teórico, sino historiográfico, y las reflexiones teóricas quedan casi en su totalidad, fuera de breves consideraciones finales sobre Peterson, Karl Löwith y Eric Voegelin en las que no tendré tiempo de entretenerme, confinadas al capítulo introductorio. En ese mismo capítulo Villacañas se encarga de aclarar que no es para su libro establecer conclusiones deductivas. Nos dice: “no puedo abordar en este libro” “el sentido de sucesos singulares del pasado y su relevancia para el presente” (12). Así que o bien eso queda para algún libro futuro o bien se convierte ipso facto en nuestra tarea como lectores. Y en eso estamos.

El prólogo da quizá suficientes elementos para entender que la totalidad de los presupuestos llamados “metodológicos” (no “teóricos”) (cf. 9) del libro de Villacañas se orientan contra la obra de Giorgio Agamben y, por detrás de ella, contra la obra de los dos gigantes del pensamiento del siglo XX, Carl Schmitt y Martin Heidegger, de quienes se dice que traicionan, en su voluntad mítica o teúrgica, la verdad histórica (“la filosofía se ha alejado de todo compromiso con una posible verdad histórica,” 10).   Lo hacen a través de un compromiso con la obra de Max Weber, pero de una forma que ya encierra en sí la enorme dificultad del proyecto general.   Si Schmitt y Heidegger y Agamben son acusados de proponer metapolíticas teúrgicas (la frase es mía, no de Villacañas), la contrapropuesta de Villacañas coloca esta cita de Weber en lugar prominente: “Así como toda acción individual tiene su dios especial, así también toda acción comunitaria, que por otra parte lo necesita si el proceso de socialización quiere ser garantizado de modo duradero. Siempre que una agrupación no aparezca como cuestión del poder de un solo dominador, sino como una verdadera unión, tiene necesidad de un dios particular” (Weber citado por Villacañas, 13).   Pero esto significa, a claras luces, que la necesidad teúrgica es irreducible, y que lo es también o particularmente en cuestiones políticas. La política es teúrgica y busca o precisa en cada caso de un “dios particular.” Lo que parece estar en juego, entonces, es la propuesta de teurgias políticas que no alcancen rango metapolítico. Y quizás esta contribución mía deba reducirse a pensar inicialmente este problema, relacionable con una noción de “mínima teología” que, dice Villacañas, “es necesaria a la religión de salvación” (11), y quizás, a fortiori, también a la política misma.

Villacañas afirma querer confirmar la noción, contra Schmitt, de que no hay teología política católica. No hay teología política católica sino división de poderes. Desde esa tesis básica Villacañas se apresta en el Prólogo asimismo a “ofrecer una alternativa a la interpretación dominante de Heidegger sobre la razón imperial romana, que sería el paralelo histórico-político de la traducción de las categorías de la metafísica griega al latín, con su inexorable resultado en la voluntad de poder nietzscheana” (12). Villacañas se está refiriendo al seminario de 1942-43 sobre Parménides en el que Heidegger afirma que “pensamos la política como romanos, esto es, imperialmente” ((buscar cita)). Entonces, dice Villacañas, “razón imperial e historia de la metafísica culminada en Nietzsche serían . . . , según Heidegger, los dos márgenes que trazan el sendero de Occidente hacia ninguna parte” (12).   Esa propuesta de Heidegger, dejando aparte las últimas tres palabras, sin duda central a su pensamiento al menos puntualmente, esto es, al menos durante el período histórico de la preguerra y la guerra, sería para Villacañas la “inversión de la teología política de Schmitt” (12): “Para Schmitt, el modelo romano de una teología política imperial era el único imitable por parte de la Modernidad, mientras que para Heidegger era el más detestable” (12).   El problema de Agamben sería “instalarse cómodamente” en premisas heideggeriano-schmittianas “para así producir impugnaciones tanto más fáciles” (10).

Tanto Schmitt como Heidegger como Agamben fallarían, según Villacañas, porque “no vinculan bien la filosofía con la dimensión histórica de lo real. Muestran una comprensión del destino histórico al margen de toda intervención de lo humano” (12), lo que los lleva necesariamente a la metapolítica (si habéis estado esperando una definición de “metapolítica,” quizá esta sirva para andar por casa: la metapolítica es la reducción de la política a un destino histórico que llega al margen de lo humano). Contra toda metapolítica Villacañas afirma la noción weberiana de “religión de salvación,” a la que considera “una de las formas más poderosas que tienen los seres humanos para luchar contra el dolor de forma conjunta. . . . Weber siempre pensó que allí donde los seres humanos dieran a su dolor una dimensión común, surgirían nuevas formas de religión de salvación, de sentimiento comunitario, de ecos de la vieja deificatio, y de renovación de las estructuras psíquicas capaces de evadir el oscuro destino de especialistas sin espíritu y estetas sin corazón” (13).

La propuesta propositiva del libro de Villacañas es la de trazar un “singular histórico” (11) que permita la conciliación de práctica teórica y conocimiento de lo real.   El libro inicia un largo recorrido desde la religión política romana y sus prácticas de deificatio imperial que atraviesa muchas de las corrientes fundamentales del pensamiento cristiano de los primeros siglos hasta culminar en el análisis de la obra de Agustín de Hipona, y especialmente de Confesiones y La ciudad de Dios. En esta última se daría o habría dado una doctrina estable de la división de poderes que, según Villacañas, es necesario hoy entender con toda precisión precisamente para evitar el malentendido metapolítico.   El libro de Villacañas concluye con las siguientes frases: “el problema de la temporalización de las expectativas escatológicas, el mantenimiento del triple tiempo del dualismo agustiniano (un tiempo de la res publica, un tiempo de la iglesia visible y un tiempo de la iglesia mística invisible), unidos por una continuidad de virtud y de ordo, pero separados por su rango institucional completamente diferenciado, el problema verdadero que había planteado La ciudad de Dios, el de la división de poderes en un mismo espíritu de normas caracterizado por la contingencia de su convergencia, se olvidó. Pero, en esa relación de contingencia, la historia mostraba su verdadero rostro, ajeno a la vez a la teología política y a la teología de la historia” (605).

El olvido de la solución agustiniana—fundamentalmente una solución orientada a facilitar la convivencia de comunidades de salvación en relación política siempre contingente, salvaguardando la dimensión teúrgica de toda empresa humana de felicidad y también el derecho del César a imponer el principio de realidad que le compete—se presentaría así como la desviación traumática fundamental del destino de Occidente.   Por lo tanto reducir ese olvido, olvidar ese olvido, recuperar la memoria contra toda la tradición de pensamiento que separa la hazaña historial de Agustín y nuestra época es lo que el libro propone. Me parece que esta es la tesis de fondo del libro de Villacañas, que puede parecer sorprendente. Si no me equivoco en esto (y si me equivoco aquí está José Luis para corregirme), me gustaría dedicar el muy escaso tiempo que me queda a marcar brevemente desde ella la diferencia de Villacañas con el proyecto de Agamben e indirectamente con el heideggeriano, y hacer alguna consideración adicional sobre el problema que se abre ante nosotros, y que yo no puedo menos de ver como un problema de carácter infrapolítico—o más bien un problema que la infrapolítica resuelve.

En ciertas páginas brillantes de El reino y la gloria Agamben, que acaba de definir el himno como “la canción en honor de los dioses” (235) y la elegía como la canción que saluda una despedida, dice que “los himnos tardíos de Hölderlin son el envés simétrico de las elegías de Rilke: mientras que estos últimos son himnos disfrazados de elegías, Hölderlin escribe elegías en forma de himnos” (237). En cualquier caso ambas formas de la palabra poética tienen una intención aclamatoria y doxológica (del sentido griego de doxa como “gloria”) que refiere en última instancia a la noción de “inoperatividad” sobre la que Agamben construye toda su posición: la inoperatividad, el descanso sabático, se vincula en Agamben a la beatitud que espera al pueblo de Dios, y así es la meta o el contenido mismo de la salvación para cualquier empresa bien teológica bien política de salvación.   Pero el poema, la palabra poética, como toda instancia aclamatoria y glorificante, es en sí teúrgica—hace nacer al dios que celebra, incluso bajo el modo de despido. Y es en este problema del sabatismo en el que para Agamben culmina La ciudad de Dios de Agustín—una culminación en la que Agamben detecta cierto indecidible entre la teología y la política. Dice Agamben: “Eso significa que al centro del aparato de gobierno, el vestíbulo en el que Reino y Gobierno se comunican sin cesar y sin cesar se distinguen mutuamente está, en realidad, vacío; es sólo el Sabbath y la katapausis [inoperatividad, en la traducción de Agamben]” (243). Villacañas no se refiere a esto, prefiriendo sin duda atenerse a su propia noción de salvación. Pero es legítima la pregunta de en qué se diferencia la salvación a la que remite Villacañas y la noción agambeniana de inoperatividad sabática, o inoperatividad de los bienaventurados.

El “umbral de indiferencia entre la política y la teología” que Agamben diagnostica le lleva en última instancia a concluir su libro diciendo que “la Modernidad, al remover a Dios del mundo, no ha sólo fracasado en la empresa de dejar atrás la teología, sino que en varias maneras no ha hecho sino llevar el proyecto de la oikonomia providencial a su consumación” (287).   Como sabemos, la propuesta de Agamben termina en cierta voluntad mesiánica de reocupación del trono vacío de la gloria, lo cual constituye su metapolítica o más bien su apuesta metapolítica. Agamben establece aquí su diferencia con respecto de Heidegger, cuya propia voluntad teúrgica, según Agamben, no habría conseguido trascender el horizonte de indiferenciación entre teología y política.   No tengo tiempo de rastrear las cuatro referencias ((pero hacerlo en nota o hacerlo en reescritura)) a la obra heideggeriana que Agamben da en El reino y la gloria, la primera de ellas a través de un comentario a Reiner Schürmann, aunque todas van en la misma dirección. Se trataría de afirmar que Heidegger abole la escatología cristiana sólo para permitir su retorno infinito bajo la figura de la historia del ser (163).   La referencia más importante es la final, en la que sin duda de forma deslumbrante Agamben hace coincidir la temática heideggeriana de la Ge-stell técnica con el aparato económico del misterio trinitario. “El término Ge-stell corresponde perfectamente (no sólo en su forma: el alemán stellen es equivalente a ponere) al término latino dispositio, que traduce el griego oikonomia. La Ge-stell es el aparato de gobierno íntegro y absoluto del mundo” (253).   La diferencia ontológica heideggeriana correspondería así a la diferencia entre ser y praxis que funda la teología paulina y que encuentra su más perfecto desarrollo en la doctrina trinitaria.   Dejando al margen que Heidegger probablemente rechazaría tal identificación entre diferencia ontológica y teología trinitaria, para Agamben Heidegger no puede resolver su propia posición, dice, precisamente en la medida en que la mantiene como metapolítica y no consigue llevarla a la política. Lo curioso es aquí que Agamben le achaca a Heidegger el mismo defecto que puede achacársele al mismo Agamben, el que sin duda Villacañas le achaca al mismo Agamben, a pesar de las pretensiones resolutorias de este último. En la siguiente cita, que Agamben por supuesto presenta como su propia inversión productiva y directamente política de la posición heideggeriana, diríamos que encuentra su centro la dificultad misma del proyecto agambeniano, su condición aporética:

Heidegger no puede resolver el problema de la tecnología porque fue incapaz de restituirlo a su locus político. La economía del ser, su desvelarse epocal en un [nuevo] velamiento es, como la teología económica, un misterio político que corresponde a la entrada del poder en la figura del Gobierno. Y la operación que resuelve este misterio, que deactiva y da como inoperante el aparato tecno-lógico-ontológico, es política. No es un guardar del ser y de lo divino sino una operación que, dentro del ser y de lo divino, deactiva su economía y la consuma. (253)

Ahora bien, ¿es realmente capaz Agamben de restaurar a la política su concepto de inoperatividad destituyente y gloriosa? No tengo más tiempo ya, y tendré que terminar sin revelar mi secreto, o dándolo sólo en clave para los electos. Este es el juego: la condena de Villacañas de toda metapolítica teúrgica a partir de la posición agustiniana, que en cuanto consciente y afirmadora de la división de poderes no mistifica sino que deslinda y clarifica, es extendible a Schmitt, a cierto Heidegger, a Agamben. Desde Agamben, sin embargo, podemos ver que la condena a la metapolítica es en él también efectiva, a partir de una reivindicación de politicidad que él se adjudica a sí mismo como consecuencia de su intento de inversión práctica de la posición heideggeriana. Sólo en la medida en que la glorificación teúrgica es politizada, dice Agamben, hay política real y vencimiento del impasse teológico-político propio de la modernidad. Y ¿no es esto lo que también dice Villacañas, a partir de su invocación al “dios particular” siempre necesario para la temporalización de toda empresa comunitaria, esto es, política?

Es concebible que toda invocación teúrgica en la política sea ya de antemano metapolítica.   Es concebible que también la política teúrgica de salvación a la que Villacañas apela a través de Weber sea necesariamente siempre metapolítica. La solución es decir que la teurgia es sólo infrapolítica, que la idolatría no es política ni tiene lugar en una política del desencanto, y dejarle entonces al César lo que es sólo del César—o quitárselo, que viene a ser lo mismo.

Alberto Moreiras

Texas A&M University

 

Obras citadas

Agamben, Giorgio. The Kingdom and the Glory. For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government. Lorenzo Chiesa with Matteo Mandarini transl. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2011.

Heidegger, Martin. Parmenides. XXX.

—. Ponderings II-VI. Black Notebooks 1931-1938. Richard Rojcewicz transl. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2016.

Villacañas Berlanga, José Luis. Teología política imperial y comunidad de salvación cristiana. Una genealogía de la división de poderes. Madrid: Trotta, 2016.

 

Life During Wartime: Eleven Theses on Infrapolitics

RACAL

“Life During Wartime: Infrapolitics and Posthegemony”
(with a coda of eleven theses on infrapolitics)

Presented at the III Seminario Crítico-Político Transnacional
“Pensamiento y terror social: El archivo hispano”
Cuenca, Spain
July, 2016

Why stay in college? Why go to night school?
Gonna be different this time.
Can’t write a letter, can’t send a postcard.
I can’t write nothing at all.
–The Talking Heads

In what is no doubt the most famous theorist of war’s most famous claim, Carl Von Clausewitz tells us that “war has its root in a political object.” He goes on: “War is a mere continuation of politics by other means. [. . .] War is not merely a political act, but a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means” (119). There is, then, for Clausewitz an essential continuity between war and politics; they share the same rationality and ends. And this notion has in turn led many to think of politics, reciprocally, as a form of warfare. The German theorist Carl Schmitt, for instance, defines politics in suitably martial terms as a clash between “friend” and “enemy”: “The specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy” (The Concept of the Political 26). Moreover, this invocation of the term “enemy” is scarcely metaphorical. Schmitt argues that “an enemy exists only when, at least potentially, one fighting collectivity of people confronts a similar collectivity” (28), and he further qualifies the particular type of enmity involved in political disagreement in terms of classical theories of warfare: the political enemy is a “public enemy,” that is a hostis, as opposed to a “private enemy.” He quotes a Latin lexicon to make his point: “A public enemy (hostis) is one with whom we are at war publicly. [. . .] A private enemy is a person who hates us, whereas a public enemy is a person who fights against us” (29).

Likewise, the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci also calls upon the language of warfare to describe political activity, which he classifies in terms of the “war of manoeuvre” by which a political party bids for influence among the institutions of so-called civil society, and the “war of movement” when it is in a position to seek power directly from the state. Indeed, the notion of an essential continuity between armed violence and civil dispute informs Gramsci’s fundamental conception of “hegemony,” which characterizes politics in terms of a combination of coercion and consent, the attempt to win or secure power alternately by means of force or persuasion. War is politics, politics is war: the basic goals and rationale are the same, we are told. It is just the means that are different.

Keep reading… (PDF document)

eleven theses on infrapolitics

  1. Infrapolitics is not against politics. It is not apolitical, still less antipolitical.
  2. There is no politics without infrapolitics.
  3. It is only by considering infrapolitics that we can better demarcate the terrain of the political per se, understand it, and take it seriously.
  4. The interface between the infrapolitical and the political cannot be conceived simply in terms of capture.
  5. Only a fully developed theory of posthegemony can account properly for the relationship between infrapolitics and politics.
  6. Infrapolitics corresponds to the virtual, and so to habitus and unqualified affect.
  7. The constitution (and dissolution) of the political always involves civil war.
  8. Biopolitics is the name for the colonization of the infrapolitical realm by political forces, and so the generalization of civil war.
  9. But neither politics nor biopolitics have any predetermined valence; biopolitics might also be imagined to be the colonization of the political by the infrapolitical.
  10. None of these terms–politics, infrapolitics, biopolitics, posthegemony–can have any normative dimension.
  11. Hitherto, philosophers have only sought to change the world in various ways. The point, however, is to interpret it.

Infrapolitics and the exhaustion of the political

Infrapolitics and the exhaustion of the political

                       By Villalobos-Ruminott

 

 

Ten years have passed since Alberto published his third volume dedicated to Latin America and/or to Latinamericanism. I would like to suggest the almost organic link between those three volumes, Tercer espacio (1999). The Exhaustion of Difference (2001). And Línea de sombra. El no sujeto de lo politico (2006). A link that does not forbid diversity among the different topics of each book. While Tercer espacio was an attempt to deal with the reflexive potential of Latin American literature (and others) that has been systematically overlooked by traditional criticism, due to is pervasive sociologism and historicism, The Exhaustion of Difference was a similar attempt to come to terms with the cultural field and with the hopes and investments in cultural practices that Latinamericanist scholars were showing by the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s. Almost by the same token, Linea de sombra is an interrogation of the conceptual and historical limits of contemporary political thought and, up to certain point, contemporary political philosophy.

 

Somehow the notion of exhaustion was crucial in identifying the disciplinary crisis in traditional literary studies, cultural studies and political thought. In fact, the commitment that, as an ethical self-assertion, warranted the overlapping and the co-belonging between intellectual and political works, the satisfaction of knowing that one was working in favor of the liberation, was also in question and, we know this now, the series of principles articulating the historical discourse on and from Latin America were also traversing a radical process of weakening. To put it in other words, the historical imagination related to Latin America was withering away and not just because of the lack of financial support or the change of the geopolitical interests in the contemporary university, and the ongoing redefinition of Area Studies; Latinamericanism was suffering a radical exhaustion due to its inability to deal with a new facticity brought about by what we call globalization.

 

Globalization nonetheless is not only an ongoing process of destitution of the classical social contract and its institutions and categories (nation-state, sovereignty, people, citizenship, democracy, History, reason, representation, revolution, and so on), globalization is also a radical process of reorganization of the historical architecture that defined the modern university as a national university, folded to the nation-state and its sovereignty.

 

Alberto’s contributions, therefore, were timely and thoughtful, as he did not attempt to criticize, just for criticism’s sake, any other paradigmatic configuration within Latin American Studies, Hispanism, and the university at large. I am not suggesting that in his books there is no sing of destruction or even devastation of some endemic shortcomings of Latinamericanism, but criticism was secondary to a most important demand, the demand for thinking. Already in Tercer espacio, this demand invited the readers to produce a more careful confrontation with the literary imagination _not from the imperatives of the literary institution or the conventions of the literary studies_; a confrontation oriented by the writing practices of Latin American writers as thoughtful elaborations of a particular historical situation, already beyond the limits of an endemic “criollismo” that subordinated this imagination to the fictive ethnicity and the social contract of the Latino American tradition. Tercer espacio interrogated the work of Borges, Cortázar, Lezama Lima, Elizondo and many others, not to confirm the allegories of identity and liberation, the exotic archive of a magical region, neither to place literature as the referential practice to force the social process of mourning that would allow a compensatory overcoming of the brutal reality of pot-war and post-dictatorship in the continent. Its demand for thinking was very precise; a demand for the interruption of the semiotic machine and the metaphoricity inherent to literary studies that, by an infinite narrativization, repeated the forgetting of being and forbid a reflexive engagement beyond the reproduction of the university’s discourse.

 

         The Exhaustion of Difference, by the same token, should not be reduced to a partisan denunciation of post-colonialism, cultural hybridity and “first order subalternism[1], as these academic approaches were somehow placed at the principial and hegemonic position within Latin American Studies in those years. By all means, Exhaustion was a too-early interrogation of the shortcomings of these new paradigms, since we still have to endure at least 10 to 15 more years to claim the end of subalternism or the radicalization of post-colonialism as decolonial delinking. And here we are, in the middle of the profession, as if the semiotic machine and the surplus value of the cultural difference were more alive than ever. But again, it would be wrong to read Exhaustion as a partisan intervention in the battle for hegemony within Latin American Studies. Its demand was simple and radical, what if we haven’t even started yet, beyond identitarian models and the philosophy of history of capital, to deal with the savage hybridity and the différance of Latin America. What if, instead of conditioning a thinking always instrumentally subordinated to the politics of hegemony, the very first condition for a radical thinking was, precisely, to suspend the will to power feeding the hegemonic articulation of intellectual fields? Thus, Exhaustion was not a book committed to the hegemonic battles within the university, nor a new hegemonic promise within Latin American studies, but a radical questioning of the very onto-political will-to-power that feeds the intellectual work in the time of flexible capitalist accumulation.

 

Línea de sombra came to radicalize this demand for a thinking that interrupts the metaphoricity and the semiotic machine of contemporary university and its intellectual practices, not to confront the whereabouts of the new left (Zizek, Negri, Badiou, Laclau, Butler, etc.), denouncing their epistemological mistakes or whatever. Línea de sombra came to demand a thinking of the political able to deal with the overt exhaustion of the modern political imagination. And thus it already pointed to infrapolitics as a terrain of thinking that is not governed by any nomic induction or imperative, neither identitarian, liberationist, hegemonic, or else.

 

But, after 10 years of that, it seems that nothing much has happened. Or better, what is going on is still at the infrapolitical level. Let me clarify. I do not want to place Línea de sombra or Alberto’s work in general in any canonical or central place from which to deploy a strategic re-definition, a hegemonic capture, of Latin American Studies today. Please, keep your hegemony. I don’t even think that 10 years are enough for any kind of commemoration, and we know this is not the leitmotiv of our seminar. But I do think that Tercer espacio, The Exhaustion of Difference, and Línea de sombra, by themselves and as a set, configure a field or territory of thinking on which many of us dwell today, and as a territory of thinking, it is one that does not follow the nomic induction of the university and the consequent principle of sovereignty informing modern politics. This third space of thinking opens to a series of questions and problems that are not to be dealt with using the conventional tools of literary or cultural studies and political philosophy. This space opens to infrapolitics not as a discipline or as a philosophy that can command the re-articulation of the relationship between theory and practice. Infrapolitics dwells, precisely, at the disjunction of theory and practice, in a sort of exhaustion of the philosophy of history, and in an an-archic constellation of problems and traditions that forbid the very reconfiguration of the principle of reason that informs knowledge and theory as norm and command.

 

So, what is infrapolitics? I have no answer for this kind of questions, neither for this rather particular kind question, as there is no a substantive or conceptual identity in infrapolitics. On the contrary, infrapolitics is another than political relation to the political, and we want to emphasize in this apparent paradox that infrapolitics is not a renunciation to politics (as if infrapolitics were an apolitical vocation), but a demand to think carefully and beyond the natural reproduction of the narrative logic informing Latin American Studies and political philosophy at large. Infrapolitical thinking is not to be “en-framed” within the logic of Area Studies, since we claim that infrapolitics is an interrogation of the exhaustion of western metaphysics and its multiple disciplinary manifestations.

 

Línea de sombra exposed the exhaustion of the political imagination that was at stake, and still is, within the academic left, and supplemented the very exhaustion of the cultural and literary production at the center of Latin American Studies. It pointed to a sort of interregnum, anomic and an-archic, and we decided from then on, to dwell in it and not to overcome it reproducing the classical paradox of re-inseminating what we wanted to disseminate in the very first place. This interregnum doe not lead to any safe or rentable position, as it demands a permanent interrogation of any given discourse that produces compensatory mechanisms when dealing with the brutal condition of our times.

 

But, Infrapolitics, the name of our work, was not fully articulated by the time of Línea de sombra, or better, Línea de sombra expressed the uneasiness of thinking within disciplinary discourses, but it did not know (as it is not a matter of knowledge) how to call this anomic region in which there is not final principle, king or sovereign. Alberto has opened a window and has abdicated from the commanding position of being a sort of Kafkian guardian ad portas of that window. This is his gift to thinking, a gift that we recognize today thinking-with and not thinking in favor or against it.

[1] A notion that refers to a group of scholars more sympathetically identified with the subalterns, from which a more deconstructive approach to subalternism took place and split, a group that has been called “second order subalternism”.

Interregnum and worldliness: on Sergio Villalobos-Ruminott’s Heterografías de la violencia. (Gerardo Muñoz)

Heterografias de la violencia 2016Sergio Villalobos-Ruminott’s Heterografías de la violencia: historia nihilismo destrucción (La Cebra, 2016) is, at first sight, an assorted compilation of fifteen programmatic essays. Mostly written during the last decade or so, these texts attend to a wide range of theoretical specificities, such as the baroque and performative violence, imperial reason and contemporary literature, sovereign-exception law and flexible capitalist accumulation. It is to Villalobos’ merit that none of these issues are restituted to academic knowledge production or leveled out as a selection of “hot topics” within the neoliberal marketplace. As in his prior Soberanías en suspenso: imaginación y violencia en América Latina (La Cebra, 2013), what is at stake, far from erecting the edifice of a ‘critical theory’ aspiring to fix the limits of reflection – as postulated in “sovereignty” “nihilism” or “destruction” – is the composition of a constellation that circumnavigates the vortex of the general horizon of the philosophy of history and the university machine.

In some way, Heterografías is auxiliary to Soberanías en suspenso, but not in the parasitical sense of amending or filling previous generalities. This new collection pushes thought beyond the specificity of the insular ‘Chilean scene’, providing for the indeterminacy of the logic of sovereignty as the arcanum of both interruption and continuity of the philosophy of the history of capital in Latin America. This is not to say that in Soberanías en suspenso the ‘local Chilean scene’ operated self-referentially as the archive for the reassertion of a cultural investigation. In the prior book, the Chilean scene is understood as a paradigm, in the sense of a singular relation to the singular, which Heterografías converts into a topical ensemble that interrogates the displacements, variations, and narratives of principial Latinamericanist reason from both nomic and anomic spatial formations.

Heterografías resists positing a new metaphorization of history, as well as yet another ‘political theory’ for what Latinamericanists identify as the object of “Latin America”. Although Villalobos does not thematize it as such, his book is full-fleshed post-Latinamericanist, and the reason is not just because it moves and weaves through the Schmitt-Kojeve debate on geopolitics and colonialism to the politics of the baroque and Catholic imperial katechon; from Latin American literature (Borges, Lamborghini, Perlongher) to debates on memory and indexing (Richard, Didi-Huberman, Segato). It is post-latinamericanist because it challenges the university praxis that administers, organizes, and provides for a linguistic transculturation to a post-katechontic ground that is today insufficient except as onto-theology and reproduction of cliché.

On the other hand, one also appreciates Villalobos’ minimal gesture of displacement of Latinamericanism not as a mere abandonment of the Latinamericanist object – which amounts to another exception, another distance with the object of desire, or its mere dis-placement – but as an otherwise relation that is not regulated by what Moreiras has called the ‘pleasure principle’ at the heart of hegemonic investment of the Latinamericanist intellectual [1]. A post-Latinamericanism, thus is necessarily posthegemonic to the extent that:

“…no se trata de elaborar una ‘mejor crítica’ de lo real ni de desenmascarar el carácter ideológico de un programa en competencia, sino de debilitar la misma lógica “fundamental” que estructura el discurso moderno universitario…. desistir del nihilismo en nombre de un pensamiento que no puede ser reducido a un principio hegemónico de producción de verdad y de saber. La post-hegemonía de la que estamos hablando, no es solo una teoría regional destinada a evidenciar los presupuestos de la teoría política contemporánea, sino también la posibilidad de establecer una relación no hegemónica entre pensamiento y realidad. Ubicarnos en esa posibilidad es abandonar el discurso de la crítica de la denuncia y particular de una práctica de pensamiento advertida de las fisuras y trizaduras que arruinan a la hegemonía como principio articulador del sentido y del mundo” (Villalobos 36).

What is offered to radical “destruction” is the principle of sovereignty that, as Villalobos painstakingly labors to display, is always already an-archic and indetermined. If according to Reiner Schürmann, the principle (archē) is what structures and accounts for the ground of presencing in any given epochality; Villalobos bears witness to the an-archic instance of every form of apparatus (literature, geopolitics, the national-popular, ethnicity, war, neoliberalism, etc.) that seeks to ground itself through principial formation, as both origin and commandment. In this way, the ‘history of metaphysics’ is not taken here as a teleo-phenomenological compression reducible to the very hyperbolic presencing of mere principles, but as a folding process that transforms the critique of metaphysics to that of its apparatuses. This has radically consequences, since it is no longer a debate about the university regime of knowledge production, or about the co-belonging between the destruction of metaphysics and the metaphysics of destruction, but rather: “…como concebir el carácter moderna y prosaico de las prácticas históricas, ya no investidas con un secreto transcendental, sino que constituidas como aperiódica radical de de-sujeción” (Villalobos 136).

The gesture does not wish to open a second order of exteriority to thought (whether geopolitically or subject-oriented), but a practice of the “non-subject” within the interregnum that lends itself to the radical historicity beyond the historicism of its apparatuses. The interregnum highlights the radical dislocation between philosophy and history, disinhibiting the categorial determinations that attest to its in-determinacy (Villalobos 145). By putting emphasis on the indeterminate character of violence, Villalobos is also indicating the flexibility and modality of effective law in every specific historical instance [2]. Thus, to amend the anomic status of the interregnum is always already to fall a step forward into nihilism and its epochal structuration of the given conditions. This is the instinct of all hegemonic principial incorporation as a pastoral or geopolitical formation. Heterografías consistently points to the folds that open to a potential constellation of singulars as an otherwise of experience de-contained from the duopoly philosophy-history and the cunning of capital (Kraniauskas).

As such, Heterografías advances the destruction of three transversal lines that feed the apparatuses of the philosophy of the history of capital in the interregnum: sovereignty, war, and accumulation. It is not the case that these lines have their own autonomy, historical foundation, or even ‘substance’. Rather, these folds that act as an assemble that partition and make up what I am willing to call the Latinamericanist exception in its metamorphosized transformations that aggregate knowledge, practices, and discourses. To dwell otherwise on the interregnum entails precisely to ‘free the lines’, as Deleuze & Guattari’s proposed in A Thousand Plateaus, crisscrossing the modalities of war (in times of peace or what Villalobos calls pax Americana); sovereignty (as still rendered in the katechontic determination of the State and fictive ethnicity); and accumulation (as an always ‘ongoing appropriation and expropriation’ from modernization processes to neoliberalist dispossession).

The scene of the interregnum as traversed by the flexible pattern of accumulation (Williams 2002) is a baroque scene. Not so much ‘baroque’ in the literary or even pragmatic sense that seeks to provide agency to subaltern informal workers in the Latin-American peripheries, but as a modal process that counteract the dynamic of sovereignty while re-inseminating a heterogeneous (heterographic) processes of violence at the heart of the common political experience [3]. The baroque also dramatizes the fissure of finitude that could put a halt to the sovereign exception. To this end, the critical gesture during times of interregnum is to abandon first principle of action, whether as purely conservationist katechon, or as immanentization of the eschatology. Villalobos calls for a third option, which is infrapolitical relation with the worldliness and the mundane freed from exclusion-inclusion logic. In an important moment in his essay on Kojeve and the geopolitical philosophy of history, Villalobos writes:

“Faltaría pensar la no-relación entre el ni-amigo-ni-enemigo, lo neutro blanchotiano, que se des-inscribe del horizonte sacrificial de la tradición política occidental, esto es, de una cierta tradición política asociada con el principio de razón, con la comunidad y la amistad, como decía Derrida, o del sujeto, como dice Alberto Moreiras, apuntando a una dimisión no afiliativa ni fraternal, no principial ni fundacional, sino infrapolítica” (Villalobos 92).

Infrapolitical relation is given as a promise that retains freedom of life during the time of the interregnum against all apparatuses of capture and conversion (it is no by accident that the marrano figure appears a few times through the book in decisive ways). How can one participate in conflict without necessarily open to war? How could one instantiate exchange without reproducing the principle of equivalence? How could there be a relation between literature and politics beyond representation and the productionist aesthetic institution and the literary canon? The potential to render thought otherwise, profanes every articulation of the apparatus allowing for a political exigency in the interregnum: an infra-political relation with the political, which brings back democracy to its post-hegemonic site. It is in this sense that Heterografías it is not a book disconnected from the “political practices” or what the althusserians call the material “conjuncture”. On the contrary, the task is achieved through a reflexive gesture that attends to every singular determination of the ‘ongoing accumulation’ that exceed the libidinal and memorialist investments in Marxian locational archives [4].

The purpose is to avoid a calculable relation with the conjuncture as always already shorthanded for hegemony, will to power, ‘movement of movements’, subjection, etc.; as to de-capture the radical historicity no longer ingrained in History’s metaphoricity. This is why Borges, the a-metaphorical thinker, disseminates Heterografías at various key moments juxtaposing politics and imagination and undoing the master-theory for political movements that always speak in the name of ’emancipation’. (The fall of Brodie in Borges’ short-story is the absolute comic negation of the Pauline’s militant conversion at Antioch).

As already specified in Soberanías, the threshold of imagination becomes the task for intra-epochal (interregnum) experience. Imagination, of course, does not point to an anthropological faculty of humanity, the prevalence of a sensible component over reason as in Kant, or a new intellect that as post-universitarian is able to secure a new site for prestige. Imagination is a preparatory relay for a turbulent de-formation of the apparatuses in to a common universality of singulars. Villalobos does not deliver a general theory of imagination, since imagination is already what we do as a form of dwelling, in the course of every form of life. I would like to un-translate Heterografías in these terms not because imagination remains the unsaid in every practice of destitution as what always escapes identity, equivalency, or the friend-enemy relation. But then, is imagination the outside of nihilism?

Imagination accounts for the heterographic processes that are flattened out by the master concepts that capture and dispense principial thought. In this sense, imagination is not reducible to the institution of literature or culture, but inscribes a singular relation with language; the possibility of speaking in the name of that which lacks its proper name [5]. The fact that today everyone speaks in the name of something it is the most visible asymptotic of the fall into technical nihilism. On the contrary, imagination is always the potentiality to speak for a minor people that interfere with the grammar of grand politics. In the last chapter “Crítica de la accumulation”, the site of imagination is the necessary metaxy for an otherwise politics of contemporary Latin America:

“En última instancia, se trata de pensar los límites históricos de la imaginación política latinoamericana, misma que necesita trascender la nostálgica identificación con una política reivindicativa y radicalizar su vocación popular en una suerte de populismo salvaje, que no se orienta heliotrópicamente a la conquista del poder del Estado, para una vez allí, disciplinar a las masas. Un populismo sin Pueblo, pero con muchos pueblos, heterogéneos y contradictorios, con una énfasis insobornable en los antagonismos y no en las alianzas, en las figuraciones catacréticas y disyuntivas…En suma, un populismo post-hegemonico…” (Villalobos 228).

The political mediation insofar as it is post-hegemonic ceases to dominate in the principial totality where life and the social, as based on fictive identity, coincide or collapse unto each other. This post-hegemonic populism cannot be said to be one at odds with institutions, or merely just cultural or charismatic supplement. Villalobos seems to be opening here the question of a distinctive form of law that would require imagination, not heterographic violence; attentiveness to singularity, and not another politics of the subject. How could one think a law that exceeds the citizen and the exception? Is it not isonomy – as the principle of the integral movement towards citizenship – what hinders and captures political life over its heterographic excess? Could one imagine a law that is consistent with democracy as the self-rule of a minor people, of a people without history, a savage people, inhabiting the true state of exception?

The answers to these questions are not to be found in Heterografías de la violencia. Villalobos-Ruminott has made a striking effort to sketch a set of common objectives, tasks, nuances, exigencies, and considerations for the possibility of critical thought (in the deleuzian sense) against the grain of interregnum’s anomie. The task is immense, even when its transparent language is deceiving: to open a fissure of worldliness (mundanidad) in preparation for a savage democracy to come; enabling the conditions for a way of thinking that is not oblivious to the production of violence within the ongoing accumulation that unfolds and whitewashes the present.

 

 

 

Notes

  1. Alberto Moreiras. “Poshegemonía, o más allá del principio del placer“. Poshegemonía: el final de un paradigma de la filosofía política en América Latina. Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva, 2015.
  1. It is in the quasi-concept ‘effective operation of law’, where Villalobos comes nearest  to Yan Thomas’ studies on the juridical flexibility of law. See his Les opérations du droit (EHESS, 2011).
  1. I am thinking here of Veronica Gago’s recent book La razón neoliberal: economías barrocas y pragmatica popular (Tinta Limón, 2015) which seeks to render a micropolitical form of neoliberalism from below deploying the concept of ‘baroque’ to ‘express’ its emancipatory and empowering dynamic in the informal sector. For Villalobos, on the contrary, informal economy is not an exception to the visible form of accumulation, but its flexible difference in the age of an-archic capital. The baroque is not a given instance for “emancipation” or “subjective agency”, but where sovereignty becomes dramatized in its most extreme degree: “Es decir, necesitamos pensar el barroco como una problematización de la filosofia de la historia del capital, con una interrupción que trastoca la especialización del atemporalidad propia de la metafísica moderna y más específicamente, de su correlato, política, la versión liberal-contractualista del orden y del progreso social” (78).
  1. “Diría que hay, al menos, dos formas de confrontar este problema; por un lado, la posibilidad de repensar el marxismo, Marx y sus diversas apropiaciones, según su historia, sus filologías y tradiciones, para determinar la “verdadera” imagen de Marx, hacerle justicia a su corpus, exonerarlo de los excesos de la tradición y traerlo al presente según una nueva actualidad. Por otro lado, sin renunciar a un horizonte materialista y aleatorio, la posibilidad de elaborar una crítica de la acumulación….” (215).
  1. Giorgio Agamben. “In nome di che?” Il fuoco e il racconto. Rome: nottetempo, 2014.

De El fragmento repetido, de Willy Thayer (Santiago: Metales pesados, 2006). Por Alberto Moreiras.

El último párrafo de El fragmento repetido, ostensiblemente sobre el nihilismo neoliberal o el neoliberalismo nihílico como época que termina las épocas, con su invocación de la imagen dialéctica como recurso de destrucción o destrucción recursiva, puede servir para referir a la relación entre infrapolítica y política: “Tal vez cuando indicamos que nada respira, en esa indicación algo respira. Como si el pensamiento contemporáneo–en cada caso–tuviera su chance de oxígeno en esa indicación; como si pensara sólo cuando pensara en su imposibilidad; tal como el arte sólo tiene lugar ‘subrayando en cada caso su propia muerte'” (340).

 

Stasis: Civil War as Threshold Between Infrapolitics and Politics

Agamben, Stasis

Crossposted from Posthegemony.

Giorgio Agamben’s short book Stasis: Civil War as a Political Paradigm comprises two brief essays, one on the Athenian concept of “stasis” or civil war, the other on the role of the multitude in Hobbes’s Leviathan. What links them, he tells us, is the notion that “the constitutive element of the modern State” is “ademia [. . .] that is, [. . .] the absence of a people” (vi). Obviously enough, this will come as something of a surprise to “the Western political tradition” for which, as Agamben notes, the “concept of people” is “arguably the fundamental concept” (39). Think after all of the opening of the United States constitution, for which “we the people” are presented as that country’s basic political bedrock.

Agamben proposes instead the multitude as the core concept of political theory. So far, so good, and no doubt also so Italian. But what Agamben adds to the work of (say) Toni Negri and Paolo Virno is the observation that “the multitude is the subject of civil war” (40) and, further, that it is thus through civil war that the political realm is established. Or, as he puts it in his discussion of the Greeks:

it constitutes a zone of indifference between the unpolitical space of the family [oikos] and the political space of the city [polis]. [. . .] In the system of Greek politics civil war functions as a threshold of politicization and depoliticization, through which the house is exceeded in the city and the city is depoliticized in the family. (12)

For, as Agamben points out, Solon’s law explicitly punishes those who do not take part in civil war: such people forfeit their rights to citizenship; “not taking part in the civil war amounts to being expelled from the polis and confined in the oikos” (13). Civil war is, therefore, not (as we tend to see it) simply the point at which the political dissolves, as the state fractures and society is reduced to warring factions. It is also constituent, “the unforgettable that must always remain possible in the city,” however much today, by contrast, we regard it as “something that one must seek to make impossible at every cost” (16).

To put this another way (in terms that Agamben himself does not use), it is civil war that is the threshold or hinge between infrapolitics and politics per se. He offers here a theory of the ways in which the political emerges and is dissolved. Moreover, in his study of Hobbes, Agamben further offers civil war as the process by which what he calls the “dissolved multitude” (the multitude subject to biopolitical power) is transformed into the “disunited multitude” that makes itself known by turning on the absent people (absorbed into the figure of sovereign power, the Leviathan). And though it is not entirely obvious how these two conceptions mesh with each other, in both cases civil war has to remain an intimate possibility in the heart of any and every political order. For sovereignty, at least until the coming of the end times, can only remain an (optical) illusion, a trick of representation. In the meantime, “no real unity, no political body is actually possible: the body political can only dissolve itself into a multitude” (49). Agamben thus reverses the eschatological tendencies inherent (as I have argued elsewhere) in Negri’s vision of the multitude: here it is only the state that dreams of a substantial presence and unity to come. The multitude, by contrast, is located on a perennial threshold, figured as civil war, between house and city, infrapolitics and the political.

The sting in the tail of Agamben’s analysis, however, is given only sotto voce, in a digression or coda to the first essay that’s presented in smaller font than the rest. This is the observation that “the form that civil war has acquired today in world history is terrorism. [. . .] Global terrorism is the form that civil war acquires when life as such becomes the stake of politics” (18). This only goes to show once again that (whatever Negri thinks) nobody should look to the multitude for their salvation. But instead of denying the possibility of civil war, trying to exclude it from the political order, we need to recognize that order’s indebtedness to it, and pick one of the many sides (who says there should be just two?) that any such conflict opens up. For this is the very paradigm of the political, of the perpetual emergence and dissolution of political activity as such.

Breve nota a transversalidad. Por Jorge Alvarez Yágüez.

 

  • De acuerdo con las apostillas de Gerardo Muñoz y Alberto Moreiras al artículo de David Soto Carrasco (todo lo cual puede encontrarse más abajo en este blog): fin del hablar en nombre de, problema de la identidad política, republicanismo como alternativa, aspectos críticos del concepto de hegemonía y necesidad de introducir el principio de poshegemonía)) en los sendos comentarios al artículo de David, que tiene la virtud de señalar el problema crucial de la transversalidad, sobre el que girará la política durante mucho, mucho tiempo. Y eso es debido a la nueva estructura de los problemas tanto relativos al sistema económico (dos vitales: desigualdad salvaje y génesis del valor por el conjunto de toda la sociedad) como, en relación también con él, a la salud, medio-ambiente, población, seguridad, mundialización, muchos de los cuales han sido teorizados bajo el epígrafe de “sociedad del riesgo”. Todos ellos impulsan la construcción de un conjunto social absolutamente mayoritario frente a un sector muy reducido. Ahora bien, esta potencial base mayoritaria no es una especie de macrosujeto (aquí son cruciales las observaciones de Gerardo), no es homogénea ni puede serlo, y sus conflictos internos serán una constante. Tampoco es delimitable sujeto alguno por antonomasia que en su seno pueda operar el papel directivo, esto es, la hegemonía, por lo que lo que se postula es una pluralidad en constante renegociación ad intra en su confrontación global ad extra. Esta es la condición básica de la poshegemonía, aunque no la única. ¿Significa esto el fin de la hegemonía como concepto político? Veamos. A la crítica de Laclau-Mouffe de 1981, que considero señalaba puntos críticos definitivos en el concepto gramsciano, habría que añadir ahora los que se derivan de la perspectiva poshegemonía-infrapolítica (como apunta Alberto). Sin embargo la crítica del tandem Laclau-Mouffe, en una primera fase, se limitó a recortar, digamos, el entramado conceptual de “materialismo histórico” con el que se articulaba el concepto, sin entrar en su problemática interna. En una segunda fase, Laclau. especialmente, le daría una interpretación populista al mismo, lo que, a mi modo de ver, cortaría ya todo lazo posible con Gramsci. No hay hegemonía populista en el sardo, o lo uno o lo otro. No puedo aquí desglosar ahora esta problemática (en el espacio que me han dado los de Claves inicio algo, en el próximo número). Esa interpretación suponía dos aspectos no-gramscianos: a) una transformación adelgazante del concepto de hegemonía en la construcción de un macrosujeto hilado endeblemente a través del mecanismo discursivo de equivalencia de las demandas. b) una quiebra populista del principio “pedagógico” de relación entre dirigentes (elemento plural a su vez)- dirigidos, que en Gramsci era el principio republicano de autogobierno (la alternancia aristotélica gobernantes-gobernados). Hecha esta operación, es mera confusión seguir reclamándose de Laclau y de Gramsci. El principio poshegemonía-infrapolítica aporta a esto dos elementos capitales: 1) Señala la base de condiciones históricas que imposibilita un sujeto hegemónico, lo que enmarca en una crítica de largo aliento de una determinada concepción del tiempo histórico (Alberto y Sergio han hecho muchas y sustanciosas observaciones al respecto; el último paper de Jaime apunta también en esta dirección) 2) Alerta acerca de todos los mecanismos de poder que se generan y reproducen en la realización de toda hegemonía. ¿Qué queda entonces de la hegemonía? Pues creo que dos aspectos. El primero, hace referencia a una dimensión de la hegemonía en Gramsci que no suele abordarse. Se acostumbra a resaltar solo la dimensión de la hegemonía como dirección de un conjunto social por parte de una clase -dimensión que consideramos caduca-, pero hegemonía es también ese nuevo conjunto de elementos culturales y civilizatorios (entiéndase esto de la manera más amplia) vehiculado por un conjunto plural que termina por configurar, fuera de todo plan, un “bloque histórico” nuevo (esta es una noción habitualmente mal entendida, en gran parte debido a los usos que en su momento hizo el PCI de ella), es decir, un nuevo entramado económico-espiritual. El segundo aspecto, también gramsciano, es el principio educativo de estirpe republicana al que me refería, que en todo el planteamiento de los Quaderni y escritos anteriores es absolutamente central, y que entra en conflicto radical con los rasgos populistas: con su concepción del liderazgo populista, con su antiinstitucionalismo (dos rasgos en los que ha incidido críticamente José Luis), con su instrumentalismo, con su temporalidad. Poshegemonía-infrapolítica no tiene nada contra esto. Es lo que queda después de pasarle el filtro de infrapolítica posthegemónica.En la interpretación y encauzamiento político, pues, de la mencionada transversalidad están dos líneas en juego: la antipolítica del populismo y la política, esto es, la del republicanismo que solo puede estar movida por un criterio de democracia radical que se va progresiva e interminablemente autointerpretando, que sirve de medio epistémico de aclaración de las preferencias de los agentes sociales, de configuración del nuevo bloque histórico, y de marco de recursos pacificador de sus diferencias, tensiones y conflictos inevitables.

Podemos, ¿en nombre de qué? Transversalidad y Democracia. (Gerardo Muñoz)

En el artículo “Una patada en la mesa”, publicado el pasado 17 de Mayo, el pensador David Soto Carrasco pone sobre la mesa dos estrategias fundamentales para acercarnos sobre lo que viene acechando a la política española (aunque para los que estamos interesados en pensar la política más allá de un caso nacional, España es solamente un paradigma de la tarea central para el pensamiento político). Primero, Soto señala, contra los críticos convencionales tanto de la derecha como de la izquierda, que el nuevo acuerdo entre Podemos-Izquierda Unida no es una radicalización ultraizquierdista de la nueva fuerza política de Pablo Iglesias. Y segundo, sugiere que el nuevo acuerdo tampoco es un “acto de resistencia” en el sentido de una mera filiación para mantenerse a flote en la escena de la política nacional.

Soto Carrasco nos dice que se trata de un acto político de madurez que convoca a la ciudadanía española a través de una táctica de transversalidad. La alianza con Izquierda Unida, de esta manera, no estaría implicada en arribismo hegemónico, sino en nuevas posibilidades para “dibujar líneas de campo” y enunciar otras posiciones por fuera del belicismo gramsciano (guerra de posiciones). Soto Carrasco le llama a esto “sentido común”, pero le pudiéramos llamar democracia radical, o bien lo que en otra parte he llamado, siguiendo a José Luis Villacañas, deriva republicana. Conviene citar ese momento importante del artículo de Soto Carrasco:

“En política, la iniciativa depende fundamentalmente de la capacidad de enunciar tu posición, la posición del adversario pero también de definir el terreno de juego. Si se quiere ganar el partido, no solo basta con jugar bien, sino que hay que dibujar las líneas del campo. Dicho con otras palabras si se quiere ganar el cambio hay que recuperar la capacidad de nombrar las cosas y redefinir las prioridades. Generalmente esto lo hacemos a través de lo que llamamos sentido común. Para ello, la izquierda (como significante) ya no es determinante” [1].

El hecho que los partidos políticos y sus particiones ideológicas tradicionales estén de capa caída hacia el abismo que habitamos, es algo que no se le escapa ni al más desorientado viviente. Contra el abismo, el sentido común supone colocar al centro del quehacer de la política las exigencias de una nueva mayoría. Pero esa gran mayoría, en la medida en que es una exigencia, no puede constituirse como identidad, ni como pueblo, ni como representación constituida. La gran política no puede radicarse exclusivamente como restitución de la ficción popular bajo el principio de hegemonía.

En los últimos días he vuelto sobre uno de los ensayos de Il fuoco e il racconto (Nottetempo 2014) de Giorgio Agamben, donde el pensador italiano argumenta que justamente de lo que carecemos hoy es de “hablar en nombre de algo” en cuanto habla sin identidad y sin lugar [2]. La política (o el populismo) habla hoy en nombre de la hegemonía; como el neoliberalismo lo hace en nombre de la técnica y de las ganancias del mercado, o la universidad en nombre de la productividad y los saberes de “campos”. Hablar desde el mercado, la universidad, o el gobierno no son sino un mismo dispositivo de dominación, pero eso aun no es hablar en nombre de algo. Agamben piensa, en cambio, en un habla abierta a la impotencia del otro, de un resto que no se subjetiviza, de un pueblo que no se expone, y de una lengua que no llegaremos a entender. El mayor error de la teoría de la hegemonía es abastecer el enunciado del ‘nombre’ con fueros que buscan armonizar (en el mejor de los casos) y administrar el tiempo de la vida en política.

Por eso tiene razón José Luis Villacañas cuando dice que el populismo es política para idiotas (Agamben dice lo mismo, sin variar mucho la fórmula, que hoy solo los imbéciles pueden hablar con propiedad). Podríamos entender – y esta sería una de las preguntas que se derivan del artículo de Soto Carrasco – el dar nombre, ¿desde ya como función política que abandona la hegemonía, y que contiene en su interior el rastro poshegemónico? ¿No es ese “sentido común” siempre ya “sentido común” de la democracia en tanto toma distancia de la hegemonía como producción de ademia? Si la democracia es hoy ilegítima es porque sigue dirigiendo las fuerzas de acción propositiva hacia la clausura del significante “Pueblo” en nombre de un “poder constituido”.

En este sentido estoy de acuerdo con Moreiras cuando dice que la poshegemonía “nombra” la posibilidad de cualquier posible invención política en nuestro tiempo [3]. Es una brecha del pensamiento. Lo que siempre “nombramos” nunca habita en la palabra, en el concepto, o en prefijo, sino en la posibilidad entre nosotros y la potencia de imaginación para construir algo nuevo. Y eso es lo que pareciera constituir el olvido de los que permanecen enchufados a la política de la hegemonía, o la hegemonía como siempre reducible de una manera u otra a la política.

Soto Carrasco propone una transversalidad entendida como “principio político y nueva cultura política”. Y esto, nos dice, es lo decisivo para un nuevo rumbo y renovación de la política. La transversalidad es momento y estrategia de invención de las propias condiciones de la política real, y por eso necesariamente se escapa al orden de la hegemonía o del doblez en “Pueblo”. ¿Qué tipo de transversalidad? ¿Y cómo hacerlo sin volver a dibujar un mapa de alianzas políticas y sus digramacionoes de poder, siempre en detrimento del orden institucional y de la división de poderes? Fue esto lo que en buena medida limitó y finalmente llevó a la ruina y agotamiento la capacidad de ascenso del progresismo en América Latina durante este último ciclo histórico de luchas más reciente [4]. La transversalidad no puede ser alianza meramente con fines electoralistas o populistas de un lado u otro péndulo del poder.

A la transversalidad habría que superponerla con su suplemento: una segmentariedad inconmensurable, poshegemónica, y anti-carismática. Como lo ha notado recientemente José Luis Villacañas, quizás varíen las formas en que aparezca el lenguaje: “Es posible que lo que yo llamo republicanismo no sea sino la mirada de un senior de aquello que para alguien jóvenes es populismo…” [5]. Pero si las palabras y los términos fluctúan (siempre son otros para los otros), lo único que queda es la pregunta: ¿en nombre de qué?

Más allá de la palabra o el concepto, la política que viene tendría que estar en condición de hablar-se en nombre del fin de la hegemonía y la identidad. Solo así sus nombres del presente podrían ser democracia poshegemónica, populismo, comunismo del hombre solo, transversalidad, institucionalismo republicano, o división de poderes…

 

 

 

Notas

  1. David Soto Carrasco. “Una patada al tablero”. http://www.eldiario.es/murcia/murcia_y_aparte/patada-tablero_6_516958335.html
  1. Giorgio Agamben. Il fuoco e il racconto. Nottetempo, 2014.
  1. Alberto Moreiras. “Comentario a ‘una patada al tablero’, de David Soto Carrasco. https://infrapolitica.wordpress.com/2016/05/18/comentario-a-una-patada-al-tablero-de-david-soto-carrasco-por-alberto-moreiras/
  1. Ver, “Dossier: The End of the Progressive Cycle in Latin America” (ed. Gerardo Muñoz, Alternautas Journal, n.13, 2016). Ver en particular la contribución de Salvador Schavelzon sobre las alianzas en Brazil, “The end of the progressive narrative in Latin America”. http://www.alternautas.net/blog?tag=Dossier
  1. José Luis Villacañas. “En La Morada”: “Es posible que lo que yo llamo republicanismo no sea sino la mirada propia de un senior de aquello que para alguien más joven es populismo. La res publica también provoca afectos, como el pueblo, aunque puede que los míos sean ya más tibios por viejos. Su gusto por las masas es contrario a mi gusto por la soledad. Yo hablo en términos de legitimidad y ellos de hegemonía; yo de construcción social de la singularidad de sujeto, y ellos de construcción comunitaria; yo de reforma constitucional, y ellos de conquistas irreversibles; yo de carisma antiautoritario, y ellos de intelectual orgánico. En suma, yo hablo de Weber y ellos de Gramsci, dos gigantes europeos. Es posible que una misma praxis política permita más de una descripción. Es posible que todavía tengamos que seguir debatiendo cuestiones como la de la fortaleza del poder ejecutivo, algo central hacia el final del debate. En realidad yo no soy partidario de debilitarlo, sino que sólo veo un ejecutivo fuerte en el seno de una división de poderes fuerte.” http://www.levante-emv.com/opinion/2016/05/17/morada/1418686.html

A Negation of the Anarchy Principle. By Alberto Moreiras.

BloodPure.JPG.-m0-1

 

I go out far away from my home, as a hostage, without ever taking up habitation with you, nor ever being your guest, since you have no residence, but I also thereby fulfill my calling, which is to be at home no longer. (Lyotard, The Differend 115)

A Negation of the Anarchy Principle

(Draft Paper for the Southwest Seminar on Continental Philosophy, College Station, May 2016)

This particular slot at the conference, in our first idea, was to be devoted to a roundtable discussion of Jean-François Lyotard’s posthumous book Logique de Levinas, recently published in France (2015), which brings together some texts on Emmanuel Levinas or around Levinasian themes that complement the section of Lyotard’s Le différend (1983) devoted to the French-Lithuanian thinker.   As you might remember if you have read The Differend, there is a chapter entitled “Obligation,” where Lyotard engages with Levinas and Kant in the fragmented, quasi-aphoristic style that is the mark of that book. In that chapter Lyotard makes some observations that have a bearing on what can conceivably be understood as the ontological difference with a Levinasian twist. Everything has to do with the difference between prescription and description, or with the difference between what Lyotard calls the “ethical phrase (infinity)” and the “speculative phrase (totality)” (Differend 115). Lyotard adds:

When the universe in which you are the addressee entails an addressor instance that is left empty, and is perhaps “absolutely“ not marked, not even by a silence, that is the ethical situation, or the disposition of the universe presented by a phrase of obligation. But that cannot be inscribed into your own experience. For, in this universe, you are presented on the you instance, you are called, but experience and cognition take place in the first person, or at least as a self. What you judge to be the Lord’s call is the situation of you when I is deprived of experience, “estranged,” “alienated,” “disauthorized.” You do not therefore have the experience of the Lord, nor even of alienness. If you were to have that experience, it would not be the Lord, and it would not be ethics. You cannot therefore testify that whatever it is that calls upon you is somebody. And that is precisely the ethical universe. (115-16)

We can suspend for a moment whatever it is that the notion of “ethics” prompts in you. Make no presumptions: Lyotard is pretty fierce in this respect, stating as he does that the “addressor instance is left empty.”   There is no “somebody” on the other side. We have no idea. All we know is that there is a form of discourse, prescriptive, a form of discourse that Reiner Schürmann would have called “imperative” against any notion of merely “indicative” discourse, a form of discourse linked to a “peregrinal ontology.”   We had been thinking about all of this, and we had been linking it to something we started to call the infrapolitische durchbruch, the infrapolitical breakthrough, in connection with Reiner Schürmann’s work on Meister Eckhart (Cf. in particular Wandering 29, 69-73, 87). If “toute pensée n’est pas savoir” (Lyotard, Logique 89), then there was a form of thought whose momentum would be something other than knowledge, non-denotative thought, responsive thought, indeed imperative thought.   The reflection was pretty simple: prescription obligates not by referring to truth or falsity. It obligates in terms of what is just. But prescription is not politics, even if politics, in its democratic instantiation, which is the only possible one since non-democratic politics is merely a game of interests, business not politics, is also about the just. Where is the difference? Democratic politics must universalize its procedures, must turn all decisions into a norm valid for all. Infrapolitics does not universalize, does not normativize. It provides no knowledge.   Is it therefore an “ethical praxis” in the Lyotardian sense?

When we thought of organizing a conversation on Lyotard’s Logique de Levinas we were just coming out of a workshop we organized here in College Station (in January of this year) on the work of Reiner Schürmann where some of those problems were discussed, and we figured there would be something in the new Lyotard book we needed to pursue (none of us had read the book at the time, so this was only a guess, more or less informed.) To sum it up briefly, we anticipated Lyotard’s comments on Levinas might have something to tell us of importance for our ongoing project on marrano infrapolitics, on posthegemonic infrapolitics, and we thought they might even correct or help correct some particularly significant issues in Schürmann’s work that we imagined needed correction. That was the initial hypothesis, on the basis of which we made our proposal. Unfortunately the idea of the roundtable had to be dismantled: two of our copanelists announced they would be unable to make it to this conference, and Dan Conway suggested it would be better, then, if Marco Dorfsman and I simply read more normal papers in two different time slots.

Of course, for better or for worse from your point of view, this gave both Marco and me more time. I have decided to use my time, now 45 minutes as opposed to 10 or so, to be as clear as possible about some of the questions that were on my mind at the time of the initial plan.   Let me, then, before getting into what I think might be the heart of Lyotard’s posthumous book (and you must remember this could be a heartless book, an unfinished book, nothing more than the dream of an editor, since Lyotard himself had no idea such a book would be published under his name—but I like unfinished work, or rather: I suspect all finished work), let me point out some of the considerable problems Reiner Schürmann’s work brings to the project of infrapolitics. I will do this, and then I will try to offer some ideas from Lyotard’s book that I think might help us. The obvious caveat is: Lyotard’s book will get little time in my explanation, I will only be able to indicate some themes for further scrutiny and reflection on the basis of the first part of Logique de Levinas, that is, the essay titled “Logique de Levinas” (19-74). There would be more to say, but that should be enough in terms of the discussion, which is what I want (I do realize most of you have not even heard of infrapolitics, might not know what they could be about, and of course there is no proper time to clarify it. But perhaps, just perhaps, you might get a glimpse of it by following the set of problems that we are trying to grapple with, or better put: that I am trying to grapple with in solidarity with a collective thinking endeavor.)

 

II.

At the end of Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy (286-89), Reiner Schürmann explicates four “Consequences for the Direction of Life.”   I will address all four of them, all four of those consequences, looking not for exhaustivity in terms of Schürmann’s own considerations, rather in terms of their problematic relevance for infrapolitics. Schürmann suggests, of course, that his Heidegger interpretation imposes some obligations on the thinker.   I will attempt to describe infrapolitical obligations in disagreement with the alleged “consequences” Schürmann posits regarding Heideggerian thought. One could say that we are simply disputing the Heideggerian legacy, and I do not wish to contest that. Perhaps that is indeed all we are doing.

First disagreement (I am sorry about the long quotation): Schürmann mentions a “heuristic” function in Being and Time’s concentration on “everyday activities” in view of the need to establish a “fundamental ontology.” But, beyond the establishment of a fundamental ontology, he says,

there is another priority of praxis in Heidegger, which appears as early as in Being and Time and which remains operative throughout all of his work: to retrieve the being question from the point of view of time, a certain way of life is required. To understand authentic temporality, it is necessary to ‘exist authentically;’ to think being as letting phenomena be, one must oneself ‘let all things be;’ to follow the play without why of presencing, it is necessary ‘to live without why.’ Here the priority of praxis is no longer heuristic . . . According to the mainstream of the metaphysical tradition, acting follows being; for Heidegger, on the other hand, a particular kind of acting appears as the condition for understanding being as time. Here praxis determines thinking. In writings subsequent to Being and Time, it is suggested that this praxis is necessarily of a political nature. (287)

There is, then, the call for a certain way of life according to which acting is a precondition of understanding, and praxis determines thinking. This second (non-heuristic, non-cognitive) priority of praxis is fundamental to the infrapolitical constellation, which emphasizes it and names it “existential.”  A praxis of existence—not a politics, not an ethics, certainly not a disciplinarization or institutionalization of existence, which is the reason why infrapolitics breaks and must break with university discourse—opens the way to infrapolitical reflection to the very same extent infrapolitical thought cannot be premised on anything but a specific relation to existence.

But Schürmann all too quickly says: “this praxis is necessarily of a political nature.” Why is that? Whether Heidegger himself indicated the possible political relevance of this existential understanding of praxis is probably irrelevant for infrapolitics, but it may not be irrelevant regarding the fundamental thrust of Schürmann’s interpretation.   There is, in or behind the attribution to the late Heidegger of a (reluctantly) “anarchic” political drift, an assumption perhaps essential to the work of Schürmann that I would not share: that changes in thinking, in order to be relevant, are necessarily epochal, that is, historical or historial (even if, at a certain point, under the hypothesis of the closure of metaphysics, their epochal or historial stance would mark, according to Schürmann, the end of epochality, the end of epochal history), and, as epochal, they reach and affect and shape and force the compliance of the totality of the political collectivity as such.   In other words, the supposition is that the discovery of a non-heuristic, non-cognitive praxis of existence must become “political” in order to be hearable or in order to reach the dignity of historial presence—that, indeed, there is no historial presence without political relevance, and viceversa.

Schürmann names his own political practice “anarchy.” For Schürmann “anarchy,” on his terms, is not the singular choice of a thinker but rather the offspring of the contemporary economy of presencing with which the (contemporary) thinker should comply.   Anarchy would be a paradoxical nomos at the end of principial (metaphysical) epochs, at the end of the time of metaphysical epochs. “The nomos or injunction always and everywhere determines the oikos, the abode of man” (235). But I would like to argue that there is a certain ultimate incoherence in claiming both that thinking presupposes a particular exercitium that belongs to the thinker’s singular existence (a change in the direction of life, the obligation of a non-heuristic, non-cognitive praxis before understanding, an existential immersion in existence), and that thinking only lives through attunement to a nomic or temporal presencing that affects everyone. This is the first of the problems I wanted to point out regarding infrapolitics.   Infrapolitics affirms that changes in the direction of life do not have to become historial or epochal, do not have to become “political,” in order to appear as obligations, hence already dramatically relevant for the endeavor of thought.

The second problem follows from the first. Schürmann says: “Being can be understood as time only through its difference from history. The investigation into the concrete epochs and their regulation is what binds the later Heidegger’s phenomenology to experience. Since this is, however, not an individual’s experience, the issue of phenomenology proves to be political in a broad sense. An economy of presence is the way in which, for a given age, the totality of what becomes phenomenal arranges itself in mutual relations. Any economy is therefore necessarily public” (287). The politicality of epochs has to do with the fact that epochs force an order of the visible (things, words, actions) into an order of domination. Principial epochs guarantee the domination of the principle as hegemonic domination (at the time of modernity, for instance, subjectivism dominates hegemonically, and it dominates all orders of existence: politically as well as philosophically or artistically, and in any other register of cognition).   But Schürmann’s distinction between history and time prepares his affirmation of an end of epochal history that opens the visibility of presencing as non-domination.

At the end of the cycle of principial epochality, where we hypothetically are (this is “the closure of metaphysics”), the thinker can move or prepare the way for anarchy as non-domination. But the politicality of the thinker is then either prophetic or it has the character of a historical vanguard.   In both cases it appears as messianic, as it incorporates and enables a promise (the “early” correspondence of the thinker, as response to an incipient unconcealing presencing, is a commitment to and an announcement of a general dispensation to come, a dispensation that, on becoming general, becomes political as well).   The thinker appears in this account as the vanguard of history, as a preparer, as a harbinger. The thinker is still, in this account, a world-historical figure, a hero in a sense that becomes hardly distinguishable from the Hegelian determination of the hero. Infrapolitics must take exception. Infrapolitics prefers to consider its own time, which is the time of posthegemony, as the deconstruction of all political legitimation, including the preparatory, anticipatory, or transitional legitimation of a purported, posthistorical economy of presencing of universal reach. Infrapolitics gives up on preparatory thinking (it is, in that sense, a non-messianic thinking of the now-time) as it refuses the distinction between history and time.

The exposition of the third problem requires another fairly long quotation:

The hypothesis of closure results from the reduplication ‘will to will’ substituting itself for the difference ‘being and entities.’ Enframing, then, is not like any other principle. It is transcendence abolished. Total mechanization and administration are only the most striking features of this abolition and reduplication, of this loss of every epochal principle; a loss that, as Heidegger suggests, is happening before our eyes. (288)

For Schürmann technology would be “the age without a beyond” (285) that terminates the epochal cycle, the history of being.   He claims that, at the end of the epochs, “originary time” resurfaces into a presencing no longer to be understood as the constant presence of the metaphysical dispensation.   Responding to originary time—the worlding of the world, the thinging of the thing—is what the thinker today prepares: “to think is to follow the event of presencing, without recourse to principial representations” (286). But the withering away of epochs needs not be thought of as the welcoming of an unepochal dispensation, about which we know nothing and we experience nothing others may not have also known and experienced in any of the previous transitional times. Infrapolitics makes no claim that its claim is a claim about the end of history as such, the end of epochality, it makes no claim about the singular experience of time it enables, it makes no claim that others, our ancestors, in their epochal perplexity and delusion, were stuck in a deadend the will to will has now cleared by opening up, through its very intensification, an inaugural glimpse into an entirely other time, the time of non-epochal or non-historial history. Infrapolitics remains content with its affirmation of a “simple dwelling” in the here and now, instead of thinking of itself as the promoter of a “step into the blue” (284) at the abyssal end of the history of being. Another way of putting this, maybe, would be to say that the time of infrapolitics is always the time of what Schürmann refers to as “the legislative-transgressive fracture” or double bind (Broken 25), a posthegemonic time that refuses legislation without transgressing it into an alternative one.

And, as to the fourth problem, Schürmann says: “Poein kata phusin . . . Thinking is essentially compliant with the flux of coming-to-presence, with constellations that form and undo themselves. To think is to follow the event of appropriation, to follow phuein” (289). Schürmann proposes two master terms for such compliance: non-attachment and releasement, both taken from Heidegger in specific reference to Meister Eckhart. There is certainly a difference between submitting to ordering principles and “acting according to presencing,” in compliance with the worlding of the world and the thinging of the thing.   But who guarantees the public, collective, universal compliance with the second under the guise of the (transitional) principle that there are no principles?   A second-order hegemony, in this case presumably guaranteed by the thinkers and the poets to come, is no better than the pedestrian economy of the principle.   Infrapolitics prefers the suspension of compliance, not out of any fundamental suspicion towards the mysterious dispensations of the fourfold, rather out of a fundamental suspicion of its interpreters.   Letting-be is infrapolitically to be thought of as, indeed, existential releasement for the sake of a radical attachment to the free singularity of existence, which is therefore also an un-attachment to everything else. Letting-be is not to be thought of, infrapolitically, as the secret hegemony of the thinkers and the poets to come.

Let me sum up the four disagreements, which are disagreements regarding Schürmann’s drawing of consequences after his otherwise admirable interpretation of Heideggerian thought.   They all amount not to a rupture with Schürmann’s thought, rather to its infrapoliticization. Schürmann’s Heidegger interpretation remains all too political—that is in a sense both its strength and its weakness. They have to do with the structure of obligation.   Against Schürmann, first disagreement, the obligation of thought, as regards infrapolitics, is not an obligation of a historico-political nature; the obligation of infrapolitical thought, second disagreement, is not of the order of the heroic, and it cannot be, as it does not found itself on a difference between time and history that necessarily turns history into a site of cognitive dispensation as opposed to the mere existentiality of the time of life; infrapolitical obligation, third disagreement, does not depend upon the final catastrophe of the principle that kills all principles, technology or the will-to-will as the unintentional provider of originary time, and infrapolitical obligation does not respond to the event of postechnological presencing, it is fond of no steps into the blue, and it does not like to fall into any unthinkable abyss of the “not-beyond;” finally, infrapolitical obligation, fourth disagreement, does not claim to breach the path for universal compliance with the presencing of the fourfold, the worlding of the world, or the thinging of the thing.   Infrapolitical obligation, through those disagreements which are perhaps better to be understood as a negation of the premise, appears as a much more modest endeavor. We could sum them all up into the negation of the principle of anarchy as exposed by Schürmann, to which I now turn.

 

III.

The complicated conjunction between “principle” and “anarchy” is motivated, for Schürmann, on the alleged or suspected fact that the so-called “hypothesis of metaphysical closure,” and the consequent loss of any recourse to principles or principial thought, do not immediately condemn us to an a-principial world, since, on the “transitional” line, at the line but not beyond the line, we can only think, our language can only offer us to think, the lack of a recourse to principles through the painful enunciation of the principle of anarchy, the principle of non-principles. The principle of anarchy would necessarily be a precarious phrase—no principle if anarchy, no anarchy if principles; and yet, there is a principle of anarchy as a placeholder for an unthinkable time to come where anarchy would dissolve the principiality of any principle, including itself as principle. This is not a trivial affair. If, as Schürmann establishes at the end of Broken Hegemonies, a hybristic insistence on the maintenance of principles as constant presence equals something like (non-ethical, non-moral, but nevertheless overwhelming) evil, the principle of anarchy might also be considered historial evil—is it not after all a reluctant recourse to principles in the last instance, in the very face of the absence of principles? Is it not a desperate clinging to the principle—an irremediable and yet radically bogus extension of its presence—under the ruse of anarchy?   How are we to negotiate the ultimate catastrophe assailing the hypothesis of closure? Would the principle of anarchy be a bite into evil, apotropaic or not, but in any case fundamentally the largest kind of bite, to the extent that it knows itself as evil?

I do not mean to answer that question (or perhaps I will answer it without meaning to). Let me only point out a curious circumstance. Emmanuel Levinas, whose work could be considered committed to the awakening of goodness in his sense, published Otherwise than Being in 1974. His Chapter 4 opens with a section on “Principle and Anarchy” (Otherwise Than Being, 99-102). It could be expected that any posterior attempt at dealing with the “and” in Levinas´ phrase would refer back to that work and those pages—and to the rest of the Levinasian chapter those pages initiate. And yet Schürmann’s Heidegger on Being and Acting, whose original French title was and is Le principe de l’anarchie (1982), devotes only one footnote to Levinas (in the English translation, page 346, on the difference between originary and original Parmenidism, which will not concern ua), and, let us say, half of another one, whose main thrust is intended as a sharp critique of Jacques Derrida. Let me quote that section of the second footnote: “Among the company of writers, notably in France, who today herald the Nietzschean discovery that the origin as one was a fiction, there are those who espouse the multiple origin with jubilation, and this is apparently the case with Deleuze. There are others who barely conceal their regret over the loss of the One, and this may indeed be the case with Derrida. It suffices to listen to him express his debt to Lévinas: ‘I relate this concept of trace to what is at the center of the latest work of Emmanuel Lévinas,’ Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, p. 70. The article by Emmanuel Lévinas to which he refers announces in its very title—‘La trace de l’autre,’ the Other’s trace—how far Derrida has traveled from his mentor. For Derrida, the discovery that the ‘trace’ does not refer back to an Other whose trace it would be is like a bad awakening: ‘arch-violence, loss of the proper, of absolute proximity, of self-presence, in truth the loss of what has never taken place, of a self-presence which has never been given but only dreamed of,’ ibid., p. 112” (Schürmann, Heidegger on Being and Acting, n. 44, 321-22).

As you have just seen, there is no mention of Levinas’s take on “principle” and “anarchy,” on on “principle and anarchy,” unless we extend the intended critique of Derrida into an indirect critique of Levinas’ notion of the trace, as referring to an Other understood as neighbor, as always already nostalgic of the pure presence of the One. If so, there would be a terminal disagreement at the level of conceptualization.   But the footnote does not really warrant it. In fact, the footnote might on equal or even hermeneutically superior grounds be taken to be an endorsement of the Levinasian position against the Derridean “bad awakening.”   In that case Schürmann would be approving, or not disapproving, of the Levinasian notion of the trace as strictly the trace of the Other.   But what about Schürmann’s relation with “principle and anarchy” as Levinas discusses it?

For Levinas, and please forgive me if I do nothing but cover some basic ground here, “consciousness” does not exhaust the horizon of Being and should not be, against modernity, considered the Being of beings. Or perhaps it can, but then the positing of a non- or me-ontological region (from the Greek “me,” meaning “non”), beyond Being, certainly beyond consciousness, becomes obligatory.   Within that structure, “principle” is very much on the side of consciousness: in fact, subjectivity is the principle invoked in the phrase “principle and anarchy, as the following quote attests:

Being a theme, being intelligible or open, possessing oneself, losing itself and finding itself out of an ideal principle, an arché, in its thematic exposition, being thus carries on its affair of being. The detour of ideality [Levinas has just said that ‘even an empirical, individual being is broached across the ideality of logos,’ 99] leads to coinciding with oneself, that is, to certainty, which remains the guide and guarantee of the whole spiritual adventure of being. But this is why this adventure is no adventure. It is never dangerous: it is self-possession, sovereignty, arché. (99

If there were to be an “spirituality” beyond “the philosophical tradition of the West,” it would have to be found beyond consciousness, that is, beyond always already archic being.   It would be the place of “anarchy.” Of a dangerous and adventurous anarchy.

Anarchy is presented by Levinas as a persecution and an obsession. “The subject is affected without the source of the affection becoming a theme of representation” (101); “Anarchy is persecution. Obsession is a persecution where the persecution does not make up the content of a consciousness gone mad; it designates the form in which the ego is affected, a form which is a defecting from consciousness. This inversion of consciousness is no doubt a passivity—but it is a passivity beneath all passivity” (101).   Far from being a hypertrophy of consciousness, it hits us as irremediable and always unwelcome trouble. It comes from outside. It is not domesticable, tamable, it admits of no reduction to arché. It is an absolute passion: “This passion is absolute in that it takes hold without any a priori” (102). Do we want it? But that question is only a question posited to consciousness, to the archic.  Beyond consciousness we cannot resist it, and that is all there is to it.

Anarchy is the unconditional call that befalls us from the Other, or the other, whatever that may be, the dismantling of any archic certainty, the dismantling of the principle of consciousness or consciousness as principle. What is it, specifically? Levinas calls it “a relationship with a singularity” (100).   It therefore irrupts from a “proximity” we cannot organize or measure, and it is a proximity beneath all distances (“it cannot be reduced to any modality of distance or geometrical contiguity,” 100-01). It is the “trace:” “This way of passing, disturbing the present without allowing itself to be invested by the arché of consciousness, striating with its furrows the clarity of the ostensible, is what we have called a trace” (100).

Is this in any way commensurate to Schürmann’s thought of the principle of anarchy?   Does it come under the possible indirect critique in his footnote? Yes, without a doubt, the Levinasian anarchy is “arch-violence, loss of the proper, of absolute proximity, of self-presence, in truth the loss of what has never taken place, of a self-presence which has never been given but only dreamed of.” Schürmann’s critique may hint at the notion that any surprise in this regard, such as the Derridean one, would be always naïve or feigned. It is true that Levinas makes it dependent on the encounter with the other as neighbor (“What concretely corresponds to this description is my relationship with my neighbor,” 100).   This is what Derrida is said to depart from, and what Schürmann seems perhaps, in our second reading, to take for granted as correct. But it is difficult to judge here whether Schürmann’s acceptance of the notion of the trace as necessarily the trace of the face of the other in me, as face, that is, as human referent, is exclusive, in the sense that it would preempt an expansion of the trace referent. In fact, it does not seem it could be so. The irruption of anarchy would not for Schürmann, any more than for Derrida, be reducible to an encounter with human otherness, even if the encounter with human otherness could trigger it every time, or some times, also as a persecution and also as an obsession. In Levinas the persecutory obsession of relational anarchy does not seem to be triggered by unspecified being, by being in general, or by Being as difference, it would not seem to be triggered by, for instance, the “legislative-transgressive predicament” of a transitional time—it is always, it seems, a relationship with a singularity that does it, with an entity—the widow, the orphan, the neighbor—that poses a demand and imposes an obligation. We have already seen Lyotard’s intended correction to the restrictive interpretation of ethical otherness in The Differend (see above)—for Lyotard the addressor may not be “somebody,” may be absolutely unmarked.

But, leaving Levinas’ ultimate position aside, there is something else in Schürmann’s gesture of (non)citation that should be questioned.

Schürmann, by invoking the principle of anarchy as the political response in transitional times to the absence of metaphysical principles in metaphysical closure, seems to naturalize, hence disavow, the persecutory aspect of me-ontological anarchy by positing (displeased) surprise at Derrida’s feigned surprise and celebrating Deleuze’s jubilation in the face of it.   As if there were nothing particularly painful in being thrown over to an anarchic relation as radical obligation.  As if, therefore, the resources of subjectivity—the subjectivity of the thinker—were or could be enough to keep the dangerous adventure of anarchy at bay, under control. The Schürmannian principle of anarchy could then be thought to be still the subjective reaction to the epochal dismantling of ontology (as metaphysics). But, if so, the principle of anarchy emerges, plainly, as principle, and principle of consciousness.   Anarchy runs the risk of becoming yet another form of mastery, or rather: anarchy, as principle, is the last form of mastery.  At the transitional time, posited as such by the hypothesis of metaphysical closure, metaphysics still runs the show as consolation and consolidation.   But this may not be good enough.   It is not exposure but counterexposure. It is reaction, taming, and re-enclosure. Let us now see if Lyotard’s unfinished work on Levinas can help us with it.

 

Against the so-called “Hegelian persecution” (Logique 19), Lyotard finds in Levinas the claim “the self does not proceed from the other; the other befalls the self” (24).   The ethical phrase depends on the radical exteriority that Hegel’s phenomenology must dismiss: “the demand of the exteriority of the exterior-interior relation is no less required for ethical discourse than the demand of the interiority of the same relation is required for phenomenological deployment” (27). In Hegelian terms, the speculative approach would concern the true and the false, whereas the non-speculative engagement—discourses on justice, on aesthetics—would be relegated to “discursive arts” such as morals or politics, literature or rhetoric.   But Levinas inverts the terms and wants to claim that philosophy, as first philosophy, “does not consist in describing the rules that determine the truth or falsity of statements, but rather those that determine their justice or injustice” (29).   The game is served. It has to do with establishing a philosophical procedure on prescriptions not descriptions. And it is prescriptions that introduce the anarchy that, without them, would be merely whimsical.

Lyotard says:

An expression like “Welcome the stranger!” . . . must be valid not because it can be inferred from previously accepted statements, or because it would conform to more archaic propositions, rather from the only fact that it is an order that has its authority in itself. It is therefore in some way a command of command. In particular the considerable importance Levinas attaches to the idea of anarchy resides in the refusal to infer normative statements. And it is also there where his attacks on ontology, not just Heideggerian but also for instance Spinozist, find their strength: ontology would only be another word for a metalanguage of descriptive statements. (37-38)

Of course the thinker that did the most of the attempt to deal with prescriptions rather than descriptions in the philosophical tradition was Kant, whose notion of the categorical imperative in the second Critique is ostensibly conceived of as an imperative.   But Lyotard shows how the Kantian second Critique unguts the anarchy of the Kantian imperative by referring it on the one hand to a causality (freedom) and on the other hand by referring it to the need for universal consensus, for normativization (40-60).   Levinas, against all of that, would have attempted to pursue the thought of an obligation never convertible into a norm.

Norms pass through their understanding before they can force action, whereas obligations prompt action before understanding.   In the latter case, obligations follow the Schürmannian specification of the non-heuristic, non-cognitive praxis, and bring the issue into the region of existential infrapolitics.   Infrapolitics must reject what Lyotard terms, following Levinas, “the infatuation of the Self in knowledge” (65). The interruption of the domination of knowledge, that is, of the infatuation of the descriptive statement, is a precondition for infrapolitical exercise. Does it turn infrapolitics into an “ethical phrase”?   “Do not let ‘you’ ever become ‘I’” (73) is the prescription that Lyotard pragmatically extracts from his analysis: a prescription cannot be tamed into description. For Lyotard, the incommensurability between obligation and enunciation is also the incommensurability between the freedom of the sovereign subject and becoming-a-hostage to the addressor. And Lyotard says: “but the ethical and political question does not begin with the question of liberty where the I plays, it begins with the obligation that seizes the you. Not with the power to announce . . . , but with the other power, which is in the West an impotence, which is to-be-required-for . . .” (73).

Is infrapolitics a praxis outside the universe of knowledge? Is this characterization, seized by the power of unconditional obligation to no known addressor, consistent with our four disagreements with Schürmann’s Heidegger interpretation?   And what of the anarchy principle?   But there is no anarchy principle that does not turn anarchic persecution into a norm, that does not turn anarchic obsession into a universalizable duty.   It is indeed possible that the universe of politics and ethics, that the universe of ethics and politics, begin in the obligation imposed by an unknown exteriority on the you.   But it is also possible, if not necessary, that, before ethics and politics, another discursive instance is interposed—that which refers to the infrapolitical acknowledgement of an addressor without referent that turns every possible solipsism and every possible infatuation into a practice of existence.

Alberto Moreiras

Texas A&M University

 

 

Works Cited

Levinas, Emmanuel. Otherwise than Being, or Beyond Essence. Alphonso Lingis

trans. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1991.

Lyotard, Jean-François. The Differend. Phrases in Dispute. Georges Van den

Abbeele trans. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1988.

—. Logique de Levinas. Paul Audi ed. Paris: Verdier, 2015.

Schürmann, Reiner. Broken Hegemonies. Reginald Lilly trans. Bloomington:

Indiana UP, 2003.

—. Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy. Christine Marie-

Gros and Reiner Schürmann transl. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1990.

—.   Wandering Joy. Meister Eckhart’s Mystical Philosophy.   Grand Barrington MA:

Lindisfarne Books, 2001.