Ten Notes on First Seminar Meeting, September 2, 2014. By Alberto Moreiras.

This is simply to underline some of the topics that came up at the first seminar session, as part of the discussion, and that are far from settled. This is abstract and perhaps difficult thought, but it is meant to open up some access to dealing with concrete possibilities for thinking experience at every level. I propose ten notes:

1. The auto/heterographic inscription, or autography for short, is a singular incidence into writing (a generalized writing that also includes inscription into life in all ways) that exceeds subjective capture. This excess of the subject is essentially mysterious—it opens up, without explaining it, the possibility of a precarious thought beyond the subject, hence also of a politics beyond the subject. Perhaps this is what is called infrapolitics.

2. Autography or infrapolitics are allegorical names for quasiconceptual structures that cannot be captured into a theoretical definition, that is, into a conceptual determination—since a conceptual determination would turn them into merely captured remnants of an unnameable excess. Thinking through or from them is, on the one hand, what we do every day, what everybody does every day. At the same time, it is also what we seem to have no way of referring to except by doing it. The narrowest abyss is hence the most difficult to cross (Nietzsche).

3. Would that we became masters of metaphor, following Aristotle’s dictum “The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor; it cannot be taught; it is a matter of genius” (Poetics). Could we, as masters of metaphor, be able to define or conceptually to grasp structures such as infrapolitics or autography? Or is it not rather the case that attempting to become masters of metaphor is already a symptom of the failure of spirit to relate to what cannot be conceptually thought? But that spirit—is it all spirit or is it the metaphysical spirit, which thrives on forgetting?

4. Is deconstruction an attempt to deal with the failure of metaphor? With the fact that metaphor can never stabilize itself, that it produces a ceaseless and perpetually disavowed excess that the tradition has sometimes, even if rarely, called Being? Perhaps deconstruction is indeed the attempt to liberate the excess of metaphor, not for the sake of another metaphor, only for the sake of listening in when what has been forgotten/disavowed stirs anew. Does that mean that deconstruction looks for the end of metaphor, for an unmetaphorizable language? But no—a demetaphorized language would be a dead language.

5. And yet, the attempt to stop demetaphorization is totalitarian politics itself, it is the very mark of oppression. A demotic politics opposes every attempt not at demetaphorization, but at stopping the natural (that is, historic) entropic process of demetaphorization for the sake of a continuous production of new figures that can never turn into one (master) figure. For demotic politics (the politics of radical democratic republicanism that I associated with the Derridean project) there aren’t many masters, because there is no master.

6. So the seminar does not propose a master trope as starting ground—since every metaphor, in Platonic terms, is always a figure of the sun, it does not posit a heliopolitical goal. Rather, it posits the dark light of the perpetual interruption of metaphor for the sake of metaphor, an ongoing demetaphorization that opens up, perhaps, a way into listening otherwise.

7. This otherwise—a new way into politics and at the same time a way outside politics. Since politics is not the horizon of thought but politics cannot be disavowed by thought.

8. Is a demetaphorized metaphor (say, Absolute Knowledge, Deus sive Natura, the Being of beings) always and in every case the trace of a broken hegemony (Schurmann)? Yes, which means that deconstruction is necessarily posthegemonic thought, a-principial thinking. Infrapolitics looks for deconstruction in politics, or political deconstruction.

9. Is infrapolitics merely the opposite of heliopolitics? If heliopolitics rotates about a master trope of signification, that is, a sun of meaning, infrapolitics does not rotate around an axis. It is a spiral whose region of expression eats heliopolitics for breakfast.

10. So how does this relate to actual political processes, to our own inscription into politics, to our reading of texts, to our professionalization, to our relationship with death and temporality?

[Sorry, I was going to respond to 10, but then it was already 10 and I had to stop my notes.)


13 thoughts on “Ten Notes on First Seminar Meeting, September 2, 2014. By Alberto Moreiras.

  1. Thanks for these notes, Alberto. It sounds like a stimulating and provocative seminar.

    Maybe after reading this, there is a point in my going back to the Linera essay I was working on; or maybe not, because that was all I wanted to say. “The attempt to stop demetaphorization”… communism’s “actuality”, for example, has been an attempt to reckon with demetaphorization if you want; we can take Chris Marker’s post 60s formulation–as you already know, I obsessively think our work is still thinking politics after the long 60s and the “restoration” that followed–which some would call melancholic: le fond de l’air est rouge. Forget the red: the real question is the groundlessness of the ground. It is not any longer heliotropic but spiral, as you suggest. It has no desire for a fixed point of reference (a horizon, red or otherwise).

    I proposed the spiral in the Linera essay, Hegelian figure, really, related in Derrida, if I remember, to Absolute Knowing which Derrida explicitly characterizes as being without principle or genesis. If that is the case–if that is the figure through which one might think against heliopolitics, then another way to formulate the question is which actual political processes invoke the “spirit of the spiral” (the spirality of Spirit, put otherwise)?

    But what I have not yet convinced myself of—now at the level of actually existing politics—is to what degree someone like Linera has “reestablished” what you call “heliopolitics” as explicit trope, that is, tending toward something like strategic demetaphorization, the attempt to _capture_ in distinct moments a procedure of demetaphorization. That is to some degree the relation of thought to politics could understand itself as the will to capture, not even absolutely, what you call an “entropic process”. Where that will to capture ends but remains thought in relation to politics–that, to me, would be the infrapolitical moment.

  2. In terms of the spiral, there is also Finnegans Wake and the proposal for an alternative Enlightenment, Vichian. But I would radicalize a bit your last thought: thinking must not only abandon the will to capture, through a letting-be: it must also oppose the attempts to tame and appropriate the entropy (inevitably then accentuating the entropy). So, yes, there is a real question that Morales´s government in Bolivia may be doing the latter, or Kirchner’s in Argentina. God knows, the Germans are doing it in Europe. Podemos’ platform in principle proposes the opposite, and they do invoke a demotic republic. As far as I am concerned, recent proposals for a revamping of the communist project indulge in the arrest of metaphorization every time they set themselves up as policing the borders of thought–all that stuff about speculative leftism, which is ultimately nothing but the call for a new orthodoxy, etc., is even explicit about it. Among other problems. I think you should finish the Garcia Linera essay, because giving it up is not ok, my opinion¡

  3. (Posteo acá un comentario privado con Alberto que me pidió subir al blog, con ánimo de seguir la conversa con ustedes).

    Alberto, muchas gracias por habernos incluido en el seminario y lograr traspasar la mediación implícita en el aparataje tecnológico necesario y crear las condiciones de un diálogo que ya nos precede desde CyT e InfraDec y que ahora continúa y se despliega en estas sesiones. Me gustó mucho la conversación y la forma de ir desarrollando tanto la diferencia ontico-ontológica en Heidegger como la des-metaforización en la deconstrucción, problemas de mucho calado. Me quedé también con un comentario, pero como rápidamente se pasó de la conversación sobre la entrevista hacia el horizonte de la ideología y la metáfora maestra, ya no lo realicé. El comentario va por la idea de una forma de destitución subjetiva en la escritura “otobiográfica”, y sobre todo un cierto horizonte de la escritura que trasciende tanto lo testimonial como lo ficticio, que yo encuentro se conecta muy bien con lo que plantea Blanchot en “La escritura del desastre”, es decir, donde la relación con la escritura no está en el hecho de escribir o no (eso no importa), sino en una destitución subjetiva como forma an-arqueo-estritural. Me parece que ese libro de Blanchot precede a muchas de las concepciones “impolíticas” y de “retirada” pero que además incluye muy bien una reflexión sobre el acto mismo de escribir suspendiendo la noción misma de autoría, de firma, etc. Me gusta mucho cuando Blanchot cita al dios de Isaac Luria, cuyo estilo es crear el mundo excluyéndose. Una política escritural de ese tipo (en destitución subjetiva) iría muy a favor de una infrapolítica no heliopolítica ni heliotrópica, y creo que un pensamiento sobre la escritura en estos términos laparece también en Marguerite Duras y su “Écrire” así como en la obra de mi poeta favorita española, Chantal Mailllard, sobre todo por ejemplo en “Matar a Platón”, o en “Filosofía en los días críticos”. Así que nada, un gran comienzo, una gran discusión, que me anima mucho a “escribir” destituyendo la fantasmagoría metafórica de todo ejercicio de escritura. Al menos será posible pensarlo, como exceso, abismo, sustracción, afuera o hendidura que es constitutiva nuestra labor.

  4. Thanks, Pablo! I appreciate your willingness to be there, and that of the others. We cannot and should never take these things for granted. In any case, I do not know Maillard, so I won´t comment on her, but, regarding Blanchot, yes, hard-sledding as he is many times, he is a fundamental reference for me. I recently read Nancy´s La communauté desavouée, where he recounts the relation with Blanchot and Levinas that made the whole issue of the literary community develop (I should also mention, and recommend, the recent volume 3 of Levinas’ Oeuvres, edited by Nancy and Cohen-Levinas, on Eros, Littérature et Philosophie). I think, or believe, that that particular strand of Blanchot’s work, on writing, witnessing, community without community, relation without relation, is for him a radical coming-to-terms with the challenges of Levinasian thought. You know they were very close friends. This is one of the reasons why the talk of literary community, the inconfessable community, the unworked community, and so forth, has very little to do with the issue of communism in the sense Sam mentioned of “actually existing communism.” And of course we should reflect on it. It is a bit puzzling to me that the notion of a demotic republicanism, which is actually shared by most important twentieth century thinkers on the left other than the orthodox (or slightly unorthodox) Marxists, prompts such strong and constant resistance. But I´d say not just Derrida, also Levinas and Blanchot were there, in different ways, and so is Nancy, Lacoue-Labarthe, even Ranciére. In any case, lots to think about, but one of the particularly important strands in the developing conversation is precisely, I think, the recovery of an impolitical thought (which is not anti-political at all, it is just another way of being commensurate to the importance of politics as living together). We can take this a long way forward, perhaps not in the sense of literary-critical analysis or cultural history in the conventional ways of our field, but certainly in the sense of whatever could go under the name of thought in our territories.

  5. Hola a todos, mi nombre es Yumary Alfonso, del campus de College Station. Me uno al agradecimiento de Pablo para el profesor Moreiras y para todos los que están involucrados en este proyecto, por permitir este espacio para compartir dudas y comentarios con mentes abiertas. Mi acercamiento a este curso parte de la Literatura, que es mi formación en la academia cubana de la cual provengo. Pero como sabemos no puede separarse el pensamiento, la política, la teoría, la comprensión de las artes y la filosofía de la literatura misma. Me surgen entonces muchas interrogantes al tratar de discernir las categorías que se conversaron en el encuentro y su aplicación en textos literarios o a la escritura creativa, así como ciertas inquietudes sobre cómo pudiera ampliarse la aplicación del concepto de la destitución subjetiva en análisis de textos propiamente. Y sobre el funcionamiento conceptual de la desmetaforización, ¿es acaso pura deconstrucción de la metáfora? Si partimos del concepto de metáfora, de figura retórica, o tropo inicial como transposición de la realidad, o traslación de sentido. ¿Deconstruir la metáfora no implicaría que estamos volviendo a la realidad que ha sido transpuesta de antemano? Esto ya implica una destitución a mi modo de ver.
    En la entrevista que leímos de Alejandra Castillo, Alberto refiere en un fragmento algo que me pareció sumamente poético y explicativo del fenómeno: “Si yo digo que los jinetes se acercan tocando el tambor del llano el ruido del tambor es mi fantasma: la música. Si me doy cuenta de ello, la música calla” Más adelante apunta él, que esto tiene efectos destituyentes y da el pie para explicar lo destituyente, y lo constituyente, en el sentido simbólico. En esta línea me interesa plantearme los efectos de la escritura en la realidad, y viceversa- y cuáles son los márgenes de lo real y lo simbólico. Por ejemplo hay estudios que he rastreado ahora en internet, de algunos colaboradores sobre estas relaciones entre escritura, realidad e infrapolítica, pienso en el ensayo de Infrapolítica en Yo el supremo, en los que están mezclados estos presupuestos, igualmente pudiera aplicarse a otras novelas históricas del boom y de lo que precedió a este momento. Luego, abro mis horizontes a los que puedan y quieran iluminarme sobre estas ideas para discernir “el secreto” que señalaba Alberto.
    (Acepto todas las recomendaciones posibles de lecturas para ampliar mi background sobre el tema)
    Muchas gracias nuevamente.

  6. Thanks, Yumary, for your thoughtful comment. Yes, all of those are problems we will discuss at length. Let me recommend, if you do not know them already, two books that have been important for me in connection with some of the topics you bring up: Alain Badiou’s book on Beckett, which is actually a fascinating account of how a writing of destitution connects with the question of being, in particular through Beckett’s novel How It Is; and certainly Maurice Blanchot’s The Writing of the Disaster, that Pablo already mentioned. So, what could conceivably be at stake in the endeavour of demetaphorization, or even, perhaps more radically in some sense but less radical in other senses, the endeavour of denarrativization? To stop telling ourselves stories–how would it help? It would help at the level of the real, at the level of what English can only call knowledge but Spanish can call saber. But I insist that those two enterprises name impossible horizons where we push the limits of any conceivable imagination. And yet your compatriot Lezama said it once: “Sólo lo difícil es estimulante,” which in Greek was said: “Xhaleppa ta kalla.”

  7. Thank you Alberto for your reply and for everybody participating here. I was reading yesterday about Bertolt Brecht’s “Arbeitsjournal”, a kind of journal where there is actually no subject, or the subject has become the Arbeiter, the worker thinking and struggling on the question of total war, of information and counter-information, who is not concerned with its own biography but becomes a form-of-work as life. The Arbeitsjournal was the project Brecht developed during his exiled years (and where he reflected and lived the condition of exiled), and was meant to be a kind of weapon against the geopolitics of the World War II and the following years, a place where the news and the information could be received not as a mere account of singular catastrophes, but as exactly misleading operations of control and counter-insurgency aimed at not presenting the real conditions of exploitation in the capitalist and fascist regime eras, and functioning as a couner-information device. For me it would be interesting to read the Arbeitsjournal and its twin brother project, the Kriegsfibel (a recollection of images of war and military-industrial complexes accompanied with epigrammes expanding, multiplying and positioning politically within a much more deep understanding the information the picture and the footnote within it conveyed) within the framework of the “subjective destitution” and the “autobiographical” work as a no-subject writing project. What becomes of writing when it is viewed as a tool aimed at changing and making explicit the conditions of exploitation within intellectual labor? Would be interesting to me to see if there can be some kind of relay between a figure like Brecht and what we have been discussing in regards to The Writing of Disaster and Alberto’s concept of subjective destitution in autobiographical writing.

    I also wanted to share this quote I just found in Achille Mbeme’s Necropolitics article, which defines politics as an spiral figure via Bataille’s theory of the expenditure:

    “By treating sovereignty as the violation of prohibition, Bataille reopens the question of the limits of the political. Politics, in this case, is not the forward dialectical movement of reason. Politics can only be traced as a spiral transgression, as that difference that disorients the very idea of the limit. More specifically, politic is the difference put into play by the violation of a taboo.”

    What could be said of the figure of the spiral as a figure of transgression of the limits that continually keeps transgressing and expanding the exception of sovereignty and exercising power through the decision to let live (or to give life and let die)?

  8. Pablo, good questions. It seems to me, however, and I may be unfair, perhaps, that Brecht´s non-subject moves in the direction of strict objectivity a la historical-materialist in the old fashioned way: and that Bataille`s spiral of transgression is a function of his sovereign individuality, which is a form of transcendental subjectivity in the Hegelian manner. So, and again, this may be a little rushed and unfair, both projects, Bataile´s and Brecht´s, for different reasons, and in interesting ways, move in directions that are ultimately not compatible with what I see as an infrapolitical take.

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