Conversation Cacciari-Esposito on the End of Politics. (Alberto Moreiras)

Really, an interview with both, conducted by Adriano Ardovino, and published in MicroMega 2 (2014): 3-25.   On the basis of their two recent books, Massimo Cacciari, Il potere che frena (Adelphi, 2013) and Roberto Esposito, Due. La macchina della teologia politica e il posto del pensiero (Einaudi, 2013).   I find it important not just in itself but also for this project because it seems to offer an opening for infrapolitical practice or reflection in a precise sense I will attempt to mark in what follows.

There is a distinction between theology and political thought, certainly, but there is also an ineliminable continuity that we can ignore only at our own catastrophic risk. Ardovino initially argues that Cacciari insists in a radical investigation of theologico-political elements down to the beginnings of Christianity whereas Esposito would prefer finding or excavating a distance from it, in order to reveal it as the machination it is and has been.   Cacciari retorts that putting it that way could convey a false message: his archeology has primarily to do with the fact that, against Schmitt, political theology is not simply a modern secularization, rather that theology has always already been political through and through.   His interest is therefore not in or for the practice of political theology, but in an attempt at surmounting it that can only be “dramatic, tragic” and opening not onto wonderful and progressive destinies, rather, in all probability, into the “domination of the Antichrist.” Not a happy surmounting. But our lot.

Esposito says that the relationship between political thought (from now on: politics) and theology is both necessary and impossible—politics is theological, and theology is political, but politics cannot decide on the Good, and the Church cannot politicize God’s Kingdom.   Today, through “the end of empire,” the crisis of the modern State, and the extreme pressure of technology and the economy on political life, an end of modern political theology has been determined.   This means, the katechon, or restrainer, the withholding power that Paul discusses in Second Thesalonians, is under question or no longer active.   Or, Esposito says: perhaps for Cacciari our latest passage is already beyond the katechon, whereas I think our latest passage is still katechontic.

Cacciari: the katechon is a system that needs incarnation. In other words, it must have a subject. Today, however, the katechon has no face—it is anonymous. As such, it can no longer be obeyed, it no longer has hegemonic power. One obeys without belief. Hence, this lack of faith surmounts the political, and drives the political into its end. [AM: This is the precise point where Cacciari opens the field to posthegemonic infrapolitics, as a response to his diagnosis of the present.] In other words, the collapse of the sym-bolon between theology and politics, the collapse of political theology, is the necessary end of the political, from a certain perspective.

Esposito: Yes, if that perspective on the political is the one that assumes the transcendence of sovereignty.   But there is politics within the anomic situation that evolves. For instance, there is politics in today’s rule of anomic financial economics.   Which means there is also the possibility of a political response that could be alternative to previous ones.

Cacciari: When the Gospel talks about anomia and apoleia (perdition, destruction, devastation, ruin), it does not mean anarchy. It rather names the domination of the Antichrist. It means, no more redemption, no more salvation, no more “joyful news.”   Of course within that configuration there is still politics.   But we are in the epoch of its surmounting, about which we know nothing.   All we know is, we are there, but there can be no prognosis. Every circulating piece of “prognosis” today can only be understood as a form of resistance to the obtaining situation, and nothing else.   So, yes, today we have a theological economy, which is precisely the Antichrist: the absence of ends, no eschaton, hence no project, no program: no salvation, no redemption, no political ends. No politics.   [AM: Only a ghost of politics, spectral politics.]

Esposito: Ok, but perhaps there is a way in which thought can affect the situation. Let us accept the diagnosis. And let us invent a new lenguage, a new lexicon, no longer totally premised on political theology. It needs to be said that terms such as “secularization” or “profanation” the way Agamben uses them, and even “atheism,” are all of them merely negative, hence internal and dependent on that theology.   I have tried to deconstruct the theologico-political category of the person as a contribution to that new political language. [AM: My point is, the deconstruction of the person opens to infrapolitics much sooner than it does onto a new politics.]

Cacciari:   Yes, that is the task of thought today.   So we are talking about a metapolitical or meta-theologicopolitical language because we cannot simply leave the past behind, that is certain. Could that metapolitical language trigger a new political discourse?   We can talk about the movement towards the meta- as a form of Entsagung, that is, renunciation and abandonment, or else we can talk about it as a new search for the West Indies. [AM: Obviously, we can turn the meta- to infra- to some advantage: infrapolitical language does not attempt to leave the past behind, and furthermore it does not aim at a “standing above” that would then fall under the suspicion of heliopoliticity, that is, of a surreptitious onto-theological move. Infrapolitics is renunciation and abandonment but it is not only that, yet without accepting the need to move into new heliopolitical destinies.]

Ardovino, the interviewer, wants to talk about the location of the problem. The mention of the West Indies brings it up, indirectly.   Can we look at pre-Christian and non-Christian referents here?   They might not come under the domination of political theology, under the sway of a field exhausted by the polarity of Christ and Antichrist.

Cacciari: Yes, we can attempt it. Starting with the pre-Christian or non-theologicopolitical elements in our own tradition, which is a task for thought that has not been done, and it is far from being done.

Ardovino then asks whether the counterpart to the Heideggerian notion of machination, which Esposito invokes, that is, the Geviert, the gods/mortals/earth/sky, is already moving in that direction, that is, in a non-monotheistic, hence non-politicotheological direction.

Esposito: Let us distinguish three lines of discourse. The first one, obviously, is the Hegelian one as the great thinker of modern political theology.   Then there is a second line, internal to the Christian-metaphysical tradition but not Hegelian, which Cacciari and others have studied: say, from the Neoplatonics to Schelling. Then, of course, Heidegger. But the Heideggerian line takes us into an aphasia, into an anomic impossibility of unconcealment.   There may be another tradition that I have myself tried to study, an “immanent” tradition that goes from Averroes to Bruno and Spinoza to Nietzsche.   I find it the only viable one, beyond the Heideggerian and the Cacciari “heterodox to Hegelianism” line [AM: understandingh that Hegel, the master, is also the enemy here.]

Cacciari: We do not have a choice, in fact, we have the necessity of thinking through our own tradition, which even Nietzsche fully shares.   Immanence is always in every case an immanence that transcends!! Immanence in so many segments of contemporary thought is fully fallen into the epochal frame we are describing.

Esposito: All modern Western thought is within the Christian semantic trajectory, even if not everybody says ever the same thing.

Ardovino: so this “necessity,” of using ever the same language, can it be questioned?   Can others move through a different language?

Cacciari: when I say “necessity” I do not mean ananke, but rather Notwendigkeit, a certain indigent need.   We notice the change of time, but we can only search for what comes or may come. Where? We only have our own language.   And we know, through it, that every epochal change has always been impelled not through politics but through religion. All great thinkers know this.   We must confront theology as it is today. [AM: this is another hint, for my way of reading, that it is infrapolitics not politics or ethics that can set us on the way towards a new understanding of religion, or, if you want, that it is the residually religious that sets us on our way to infrapolitics as the Notwendigkeit of our time.]

We have to work for figuring out whether our meta- can ever become a beyond, not merely a supra. [AM: but infrapolitics suppresses this question of the beyond, is not concerned with it.]  What is crucial is to understand that there is no desire to return to political theology, but also that our accounts with metaphysics and theology are not settled.

[AM: I find myself well attuned to what transpires in this conversation, and I accept its underlying recommendations, with the corrections I have bracketed in the text above.   With one exception: There is on Cacciari’s part a certain amount of attack and denunciation of the “Heideggerian-Deconstructivist” line of genealogical hermeneutics, whose flaws I would not want to endorse anyway, although it seems to me what is being named and disavowed there is an eminent tool for further necessary work within the terms and along the lines proposed by the conversation.   Another significant absence is Marx, or Marxism, never mentioned.   Do Cacciari and Esposito place Marxism entirely under the shadow of the Hegelianism they assimilate to political theology, as its greatest modern representation?]

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2 thoughts on “Conversation Cacciari-Esposito on the End of Politics. (Alberto Moreiras)

  1. Me parece muy acertado el haber traído esta sustanciosa conversación. En efecto toca muy de cerca a la problemática infrapolítica, y creo que ello es debido al lazo de la infrapolítica con una categoría con la que comparte tantas cosas, y que se debate en sus mismas dificultades, que es la categoría de impolítica, especialmente en cuanto crítica radical de la teología política. Por mi parte plantearía dos cuestiones: a) ¿Es válida la afirmación de Esposito: “Lo político, a su vez, tiene dentro de sí un núcleo irreductiblemente teológico” ?. Si fuera así, inevitablemente el intento de superar el elemento teológico de la política significaría la superación de la categoría misma de política? Tengo mis dudas al respecto. b) La crítica de la teología no debe ser referida solamente a su nexo político, debe dirigirse también a aquella otra instancia, la economía que suplanta a la política, por cuanto también ella comporta un elemento teológico; también la teología de la economía ha de ser criticada.

  2. Does anyone know if this interview was ever translate in full? In any case, thank you very much for the translated excerpts you’re offering here. Much appreciated.

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