Unity is Tyranny. by Alejandro Moreiras

Derrida: “The ‘tower of Babel’ does not merely figure the irreducible multiplicity of tongues; it exhibits an incompletion, the impossibility of finishing, of totalizing, or saturating, of completing something on the order of edification, architectural construction, system and architectonics.”

And Yeshayahu Leibovitz explains that the Tower of Babel narrative shows God’s mercy in dispersing man to create difference: “In a world that is of one language and a common speech, man is a complete slave because there is no greater tyranny than to have unity forced on people.”

In the biblical text, the people say, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves.”

A tower leading to the heavens, to the gate of the gods, made of brick instead of stone, was the first hegemonic project, a progressive one, technologically advanced, meta-physical, rational, categorical, pursued in the name of recognition, for having a name, to finally reach the divide between the cosmos and the heavens.
But the people fail, they do not reach their liminal threshold, their border, their door, their wall. The gods scatter them because, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
A reminder from Derrida, which is self-evident in Hebrew, is that here ‘confusion’ is used metonymically for ‘babel’; Babel is at once The Gate of God and The Great Confusion.
What happens next is perhaps unexpected: once dispersed the people stop building, and the Tower is left deconstructed. But nevertheless, the seekers find what they sought–identity. But it was not unified, nay, it never could be, there could only be identities; infinite, like the cosmos. They desired the names of the gods for themselves; but a name, it turns out, does not make way for a new hegemony. It makes way for infrapolitics.
The builders of the Tower, the nameseekers, wanted a collective recognition, one that erased distinction and watered the desert between the divine and the profane. They wanted, as a group, an identity that signaled accomplishment, completion, power, conquest, totality.
Deserted the Tower eventually crumbled. But for a time it remained, half-built and forgotten, not destroyed by the godhead but abandoned by the people.
The heavens remained out of reach, as always, and the people gained language, a confused and fluid tool of division and independence. With language and name people no longer understand one another. Bewildered they continue, divinely confused and unfinished, living with the rubble, and the story goes on.
The project of the Tower of Babel, to bind the heavens and the earth, to pursue utopia, to wish for the eschaton, to desire a return, to want a postmessianism, is an exercise of hegemonic fantasy.
The scatter is necessary. The confusion is babel–the doorway to god, the name of the gods as well as gods’ name for us; and our names for each other.
Cacophony is the order of the political. A pluralist and diverse mess where tyranny can not live, where the polis is relegated and delegated by chaos, a fermenting chaos that births life and moves it.
I’ll close with Benjamin’s divine violence, a violence not based in law but that exists in spite of; a violence that liberates from the harmful violence of order and universalism; one that undermines the implicit horrors of a social contract; a violence that obliterates the terranean impulse to reach for the stars.

12 thoughts on “Unity is Tyranny. by Alejandro Moreiras

  1. Ok, if the phrase “hegemonic posthegemony” is not a typo, what do you mean? In my opinion, it is a contradiction in terms: there can be no hegemonic posthegemony, since, the minute posthegemony becomes hegemonic, whatever that may mean, posthegemony will cease being posthegemony.

    • the way I see it, posthegemony the term (not the thinking behind it) implies a linearity, a before and an after, a teleology; still committed to a future and to hope, revolutionary, utopic. I don’t think that’s what’s meant, well maybe by some, but nevertheless there is too much of this baggage to carry while trying to enjoy riding the posthegemonic wave. i am interested in a politics ‘without form and void’ (תוהו ובוהו)–in what happens before god creates the firmament. there, perhaps, is the dwelling place of infrapolitical thinking.

  2. i would say, though, that the post- in posthegemony does not refer to either a teleology or to any kind of utopian perspective–and that it does not follow linear time either. In other words, posthegemony, for me, is strictly the claim that, given the apparent waning of a historical situation, that of modernity, where different hegemonic situations have obtained through a number of historical principles that the different hegemonic agents were said to embody, we might as well abandon that kind of principial relationship to history–the one inspired by beliefs in progress, in capital, in liberal individualism, in the inevitable triumph of the working class, in the secure progress of biopolitical governmentality, etc., In other words, posthegemony is a thought relationship to the political process, which to that extent implies a (necessarily democratic, since the end of the legitimacy of the principle means nobody has any claim to domination) politics. It is in that sense a supplement to infrapolitics–I think you are on the right track for that.

    • Update: I deleted the sentence. The note I posted is certainly in the spirit of posthegemony. And yet, still haunted by a ghost of the telos, the phrase is not so easily detached from the principial relationship it takes pains to reject.

  3. There is something decisive here, which has to do with the old Aristotelian definition of the “final cause,” which obviously embodies both arché and telos. Aristotle, if I remember correctly, talks about a carpenter making a table–the carpenter must have a clear telos in mind, his or her idea of the table, and his or her idea orients all of the work. In that sense, the telos works as the arché. I think posthegemony is the attempt at living political life outside the final cause, that is, in the absolute rejection of the final cause as a “proper” organizer of political activity. Posthegemony is in every case a politics of the singular, an affirmation of difficult freedom at every step of the way.

  4. This could clarify something: “Fue Schürmann el que dijo “Solo un desgarro del pensar permite a uno pasar del ‘tiempo’ ocupado en el pensamiento epocal al tiempo originario, que es Ereignis—a libramientos polémicos y agonistas” (Schürmann, Broken 598). Este desgarro del pensar–¿sería preciso referirse a él como capaz de una nueva determinación de la esencia del ser humano, de una nueva determinación de la historia, de una nueva dispensa histórica? La respuesta debe ser negativa: esos “libramientos polémicos y agonistas” no coalecen en ninguna nueva concordancia hegemónica. La infrapolítica marrana es la mera posibilidad de un desgarramiento del pensar hacia la cercanía: hacia la cercanía de lo que está más cercano, no hacia una nueva época. La infrapolítica marrana no es una política, y sin embargo establece las condiciones y abre el camino de una práctica posthegemónica de la democracia, que es el libramiento, polémico y agonista, del tiempo infrapolítico en y para la existencia marrana.”

  5. terciando en este intercambio, solo para hacer constancia del enorme interés que despierta en mí este proyecto, verdadera obra que habrá que seguir muy de cerca.

  6. Gracias, Eduardo. Te agradezco mucho esta expresión de interés, y creo que hablo por todos los que están en este proyecto. Para ponerla en perspectiva: creo que es la primera vez que pasa en estos tres años, en los que sin embargo hemos recibido muchas noticias de descalificaciones e incluso terror contra algunos participantes, solo por serlo. Un gran abrazo.

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