More thoughts on Posthegemony and Infrapolitics

Multitude

Further to my recent comments on “Posthegemony, Deconstruction, Infrapolitics”, in which I ask about “the varieties of infrapolitics and the extent to which posthegemony can inform (as well as be informed by) our notion of the infrapolitical”… Elsewhere, Alberto Moreiras has already responded that “as thrown into facticity, infrapolitics is the domain of deconstruction and deconstruction is the domain of infrapolitics.” Which I have to confess, I don’t really understand. But I was thinking further about Gareth Williams’s capsule summary of Posthegemony as a “critical discussion of the relation between the concept of the multitude and the underpinnings of the political.” Which may offer at least one way of thinking about the relationship between posthegemony (at least as I envisage it) and infrapolitics.

I tend to resist the notion that Posthegemony is only about the multitude, not least because thereby the equally important concepts of affect and (perhaps especially) habit get lost in a hasty conflation of posthegemony with Hardt and Negri’s rather different project. On the other hand, in that I also see the three concepts as very much bound together, and the multitude as the incarnation in specific moments of the interplay between affect and habit, I have to admit that multitude is in some sense the key concept that links and shows what’s at play in the other two.

And the multitude is, in my conception, a subject. Not the most conventional of subjects, but a subject none the less. This stress on the subject would seem to mark the most obvious difference between Alberto’s version of deconstruction, at least, and his elaboration of the notion of a “non-subject of the political.” Indeed, if a “discussion of the relation between the concept of the multitude and the underpinnings of the political” is also (as I am suggesting) a focus on the relation between the multitude and infrapolitics, then posthegemonic infrapolitics emerges as perhaps the obverse, if not the reverse, of deconstructive infrapolitics.

In short: if deconstructive infrapolitics is a concern with the non-subject of the political, is posthegemonic infrapolitics a concern with the subject of the non-political? With a subject that precedes politics, makes it possible, is perhaps what is at stake in every gesture of the political, but is somehow itself never fully political.

The question then is of the relation between these two takes on infrapolitics. Are they opposed or (merely?) complementary, perhaps even mutually dependent; bedmates, if you like. And to some extent I’m not particularly interested in attempting to resolve that question, at least not now, while the projects of infrapolitics and posthegemony remain at a rather initial stage. But I propose that it might (for strategic reasons if none other) be worth acting at least as if these two approaches complemented rather than contradicted each other.

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3 thoughts on “More thoughts on Posthegemony and Infrapolitics

  1. I’ll pick this up perhaps tonight, as I must prepare my classes and teach them during the day today. But my first take is perhaps predictable: there can be no “subject that precedes politics,” as politics is always already subjectivation. I am a Badiouan in that respect! Just like there can be no subject of love before love–love makes the subject. So, for me, infrapolitics and the non-subject, whatever that means (let us not substantialize the notion), happen at a level of facticity that precedes subjectivation as such. So I would ask you to revise the notion that the multitude is a subject–perhaps better to say that the multitude can be a subject, but it not always is. If I may, I would suggest that would be a neat move further to disentangle your own understanding of the multitude from the increasingly new-age Hardtian take.

  2. Alberto Moreiras I’ll pick this up perhaps tonight, as I must prepare my classes and teach them during the day today. But my first take is perhaps predictable: there can be no “subject that precedes politics,” as politics is always already subjectivation. I am a Badiouan in that respect! Just like there can be no subject of love before love–love makes the subject. So, for me, infrapolitics and the non-subject, whatever that means (let us not substantialize the notion), happen at a level of facticity that precedes subjectivation as such. So I would ask you to revise the notion that the multitude is a subject–perhaps better to say that the multitude can be a subject, but it not always is. If I may, I would suggest that would be a neat move to further disentangle your own understanding of the multitude from the increasingly new-age Hardtian take.
    11 hrs · Edited · Like · 1
    Jon Beasley-Murray Alberto, that would also of course be the Althusserian view: subjectifucation is capture by ideology (in general). I’m not so convinced: I think that there are, if you like, “larval” modalities of subjectivity. The question for the remit of infra politics is whether this is (or need be) a sticking point.
    9 hrs · Like
    Alberto Moreiras There should be no sticking points to the extent anybody can and should develop their own take, I assume that is true for any project not under the rule of some principle or other. Which is markedly the case here. here should be no sticking points to the extent anybody can and should develop their own take, I assume that is true for any project not under the rule of some principle or other. Which is markedly the case here. However, it is good to clarify things and to fight them out a bit. I am not sure that Badiou, for instance, would directly translate your notion of larval subjectivity into what he calls obscure subjectivity. For him the obscure subject is perhaps only the reactionary subject. But this is probably debatable already, in and beyond Badiou. Althusser himself was big on thinking outside the subject, but he substituted a certain notion of historical materialism for it–in order words, what he claimed was outside the subject was the overwhelming necessity of economic determination in the last instance, plus the apparati of mediation (superstructures, etc.) I offer the notion of the non-subject in order to mark the place of a modality of experience of the existent which is very much experience and very much belongs to the existent, but cannot be appropriately described, without confusion, along with what the tradition understands by “subject.” So I’d argue of course for the distinction–why should we call everything “subject,” in other words? It ain’t that words don’t matter!
    9 hrs · Like · 1
    Jon Beasley-Murray OK. I, too, have to teach today, but you have awakened my from my (larval?) torpor. One note, then, which is to say that the key concept here for me is neither the multitude nor affect, but habit, and more specifically conatus. I think this is what corresponds to what I’m calling here a “larval” subjectivity, and I see it as anything but reactionary… which doesn’t mean it’s necessarily politically progressive in the slightest. It’s also what characterizes, say, zombies. Or I think of the injured cousin in Breaking Bad, tearing out his IVs and crawling across the hospital floor toward Walter White… one of the most chilling scenes that Breaking Bad has offered me so far. Anyhow, much more to say here, and much more to read. High on my list of books awaiting me is Frederic Lordon’s, obviously. More, later.

  3. I like conatus, rather than subject, but I prefer habit, because as far as conatus goes I think there is a problem with it: it is the Spinozian term for perseverance in one`s being. It therefore resists, radically, as it were, the entry of the new, the traumatic possibility of change. Conatus is a wager for constancy, for immortality, but to that precise extent it is ill-equipped to deal with traumatic irruptions of the kind that, say, a disease may impose. Or falling in love. Or a radical conversion. It does wager on a continuity, a constancy that I think is one of the worst features of the traditional notion of the subject, and which I would call a theological feature. Habit is more flexible, less overdetermined, I think.

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