Illegitimacy? Review of Giorgio Agamben’s The Mystery of Evil: Benedict XVI and the End of Days. By Gerardo Muñoz.

agamben mystery 2017Giorgio Agamben’s Il mistero del male, now translated in English as The Mystery of Evil: Benedict XVI and the End of Days (Stanford U Press, 2017), is an intense repudiation of the mundane legitimacy of every institution, costume, and political structure hitherto existing on earth. For Agamben, the decline towards illegitimacy has not been a matter of a few years or decades, but part of a larger inherited drama. The core of the book reads Benedict XVI’s “great refusal” as an ‘exemplary act’ [sic] against the Church, bringing to awareness a vital “loss of substantial legitimacy” (Agamben 3). Overstating the dual structure characteristic to Western governmentality – potestas and autorictas, or economy and mystery, legality and legitimacy – Agamben asserts that Ratzinger’s gesture cuts through the very thicket of the ekklesia arcanum, reversing the mystery of faith in time to the point of abandoning the very vicarship of Christ (Agamben 5). Of course, this comes as no surprise to those that have engaged with his prior The Kingdom and the Glory (2011), where Agamben interprets the Trinity as a stasiological foundation of an oikonomia that plays out (vicariously) as a praxis without Being [1].

In many ways, this essay is supplemental to the larger turn already undertaken in The Kingdom, only that this time, Agamben brings to focus a seminal institution of the Western political tradition. Here Agamben seems to be pressing more heavily on the state of global affairs in which the Church is a metonymy: “…if this gesture interests us, this certainly is not solely insofar as it refers to a problem internal to the Church, but much more because it allows us to focus on a genuinely political theme, that of justice, which like legitimacy cannot be the eliminated from the praxis of our society” (Agamben 16-17). This is consistent with overall structure of The Kingdom, by which the structure of the oikonomia is understood vis-à-vis the true ‘providential machine’ of human administration. So every administrative structure is illegitimate, since for Agamben, it governs through de-substantial vicarious being. It is a true ‘kakokenodicy’ (referring to the emptying) that can only justify effective evil (Agamben 36). To the extent that Agamben’s overarching project seeks to establish a responsive unity to the problem of discessio or internal division, it is not difficult to grasp how Benedict XVI’s return to Tyconius’ obscure thesis of the Church composite of good and evil is highly relevant, as we shall see.

We are far from Augustine’s City of God, where the split was produced between two cities, allowing for what Erik Peterson understood, against Schmitt, as the impossibility of any political theology. Tyconius is, in a sort of way, the persistence of an Anti-Augustinian gnosis. Agamben’s effort, let’s be clear, tries to make Augustine a son of Tyconius, which makes it even more mysterious; since whereas Augustine separated Church and Empire, Tyconius separates evil and good in the temporal katechontic nature of the Church (Agamben 10-11). Agamben cites Illich’s testimony to claim that the Church is always already mysterium iniquitatis as corruption optima pessima (the worst possible corruption of the best). But once again, Agamben seems to be forcing positions, since whereas for Illich the Church, consistent with Augustine, allowed for ius refomandi (reform), Agamben posits discessio as the arche of the corporeal Church, in this way reintroducing the myth of political theology to stage the mysterical drama of History.

In a strange sense, the mystery is not that mysterious. It becomes messianic eschatology on reserve. According to Agamben’s narrative, the Church as a dual nature of opposites, possesses an internal stasis between a temporal restrainer (katechon), the evil that runs counter to against law’s integrity (anomos), and the eschatological dimension of the End. This last character points to the Pauline’ messianicity, which allows Agamben to link Benjamin and Tyconius’ in a common salvific structure. As he writes: “The mysterium iniquitatis…is a historical drama, which is underway in every instant, so to speak, and in which the destiny of humanity, the salvation or fall of human beings, is always at stake.” (Agamben 14). Benedict XVI is a counter-katechon, as he is able to reveal, in his exodus, the eschatological structure that leaves behind the vicarious economy. According to Agamben, Benedict XVI’s message was “nothing but the capacity to keep oneself connected to one’s own end” (Agamben 16).

On the reverse, this entails subscribing a messianic turning of life from within the Church in order to posit a metapolitical form without remainder. The renunciation of the katechon implies that we are left with an economy (oikonomia) devoid of legitimacy. The central problem here is that history itself has become mystery of the economy, instead of an economy of mystery, which is the Pauline arche. What compensates for this illegitimacy becomes messianic politics that “does not remain a mere idea, entirely inert and impotent in the face of law and economy, but succeeds in finding political expression in a force capable of counter-balancing the progressing leaving out onto a single technico-economic plane of the two coordinated but radically heterogeneous principles [legitimacy and legality] that constitutes the most preciouses patrimony of European culture” (Agamben 18).

But if the machine of governance of the West is dual, playing legitimacy and legality in a skirmish co-dependency, why does Agamben conflate the renewal of legitimacy to the coming of a new politics? The reason seems to be that once you accept the condition that what exhausts government is an economical structure of the Christian katechon, you can then accept as exodus a metapolitics of salvation. What is interesting is that this politics, seemingly against Schmitt, actually re-enacts the same movement for an exact, albeit reverse, political trade-off. Agamben does not follow Peterson here. Let us recall that Peterson’s argument was never that the Church is an oikonomia, but that Schmitt’s totalizing and unifying political theology applied not to the Church, but only to Empire. This principial politics, as we know, has always led to catastrophic dominance, from Rome to Christian Monarchy to Nazi Germany. Counter to Schmitt, Agamben wants to produce not an imperial katechon, but “a time of the end, [where] mystery and history correspond without remainder” (Agamben 30).

The problem becomes that in order to set the stage for such “drama”, Agamben needs to avoid at all costs the Augustinian/Petersonian split of the Church in its facticity (as it actually happened). This explains why, in the second essay, history is understood as mysterical. In this context, it is noteworthy that Peterson is fully absent, even though he famously authored the essay “The Church”. There he writes in an important passage:

“The worship the Church celebrates is public worship and not a celebration of the mysterious; it is an obligatory public work, a leitourgia, and not an initiation dependent on voluntary judgment. The public-legal character of Christian worship reflects the fact that the church stands much closer to political entities like kingdom and polis, rather than voluntary associations and unions” [2].

I highlight Peterson’s reference to the “the mysterious”, because this is an explicit polemical stance against Casel, the Benedictine monk that informs Agamben’s mysterical adventure in history. But this has important implications, only two of which I will register here. First, accepting Casel’s mysterical Church leads us to conclude that internal worldly illegitimacy requires that we embrace a messianic politics ‘again’ (Agamben 38). In fact, politics is ultimate salvation in Tyconius, Casal, and Benjamin.

Secondly, mysterical historicity demands voluntary filiation. Agamben lays this out in plain sight: “it is in this drama, always underway, that all are called to play their part without reservation and ambiguity” (Agamben 39). Messianism forces agonic politics, displacing administrative vicarship with a conceptual theodicy. But profane life does not need to coincide with or abdicate a metapolitics of salvation. Now, if this is so, perhaps the accusation raised against governmental structure as illegitimate is in itself not legitimate. What if instead of being on the side of the metapolitics of the eschatological mystery, legitimacy is nothing other than the internal rational enactment of the separation of the profane that is always taking place in the world?




  1. Agamben writes in The Kingdom and the Glory (2011): “And, more generally, the intra-Trinitarian relation between the Father and the Son can be considered to be the theological paradigm of every potestas vicaria, in which every act of the vicar is considered to be a manifestation of the will of the one who is represented by him. And yet, as we have seen, the an-archic character of the Son, who is not founded ontologically in the Father, is essential to the Trinitarian economy. That is, the Trinitarian economy is the expression of an anarchic power and being that circulates among the three persons according to an essentially vicarious paradigm… The mystery of being and of the deity coincides entirely with its “economical” mystery. There is no substance of power, but only an “economy,” only a “government.” 138-39 pp.
  2. Erik Peterson. “The Church”. Theological Tractates (Stanford U Press, 2011). 38 pp.


Is There an Infrapolitical Dignity Worthy of the Name? By Gareth Williams.

Rome dignitas

Geoffrey Bennington, Scatter 1: The Politics of Politics in Foucault, Heidegger and Derrida. New York: Fordham University Press, 2016.

My presentation is framed as a question, but is simply an attempt to think alongside scatter, with no definitive response to the question itself. I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude to Alberto Moreiras for this gathering, and my admiration to Geoffrey Bennington for Scatter 1, which, via the “politics of politics” in Foucault, Heidegger and Derrida, posits a thinking not of the political per se, but of a certain autoimmune distance from the political, which is, of course, a distance from politics understood as the dialectical orientation and administration of force. Bennington proposes a dismantling of the hermeneutics of the political, and, as such, a deconstruction of the originary polemos/polis relation. He does this in such a way as to unveil—that is, to loosen and scatter—just some of the originary concealments that lie at the heart of the political. Bennington presents us with what one might call, perhaps a little inappropriately, a form of anticipatory resoluteness that is extended, however, not in the name of power over Dasein’s existence, as in Heidegger’s not so surreptitious decision, but in the name of autoimmunity. This movement uncovers a “modest falling short of the transcendental”; the potentiality of a turn toward a thinking of autoimmunity that traces the contours of a thinking without mastery; an opening to a certain environmentality within thinking that remains at a significant remove from the dialectic of reason and the certainties of political consciousness that animate every teleology.

We could understand Scatter1, therefore, as a protocol of reading that highlights, and animates, a certain trembling at the heart of the political; a trembling that is covered over, concealed, and systematically rendered oblivious in the name of teleology. Bennington’s is a protocol that is extended with a view to dispersing all fugitive Self-Other concealments. This is obviously not the work of a card carrying Heideggerian, however. Quite the contrary, the author proposes the detours of scatter in such a way as to open up a task for thinking that does not regurgitate Heidegger’s troublesome metaphorics of proximity and gathering; a metaphorics that Derrida in May ‘68 (“The Ends of Man”), but also in his lectures from a few years before On the Question of Being and History, had already outlined as a thinking of “simple and immediate presence, a metaphorics associating the proximity of Being with the values of neighboring, shelter, house, service, guard, voice and listening” (“Ends, 130). As Derrida highlights in reference to Heideggerian metaphorics, this is “not an insignificant rhetoric” (130).

With this in mind, Scatter 1 takes aim at the underlying problems of the “moment of vision” (Augenblikt), which Heidegger developed with a view to anchoring and holding together the factical and the transcendental, the existential and the existentiell; the gathering together of all thrownness, dispersal and ek-sistence. In contrast to Heidegger’s moment of vision, Bennington invites us to approach the politics of politics in the absence of such a problematic metaphorics, in the process raising the question of metaphoricity in general, and along with it the very conceivability of plurality, coexistence and simultaneity.

Echoing Derrida’s “differance”, Scatter 1 offers its readers the tomb of the proper, the death of the tyranny contained in Heidegger’s metaphysics of gathering and proximity (Derrdia, 1972, 4). As such, the politics of politics unveils an economy of death that lies at the heart of the metaphorics of the familial and the proper. Rather than positing presence, scatter loosens, breaches and breaks open in a movement toward the politics of politics; politics in its autoimmune self-difference, or alter. The politics of politics marks not the sign politics, but the sign of the sign, and therefore the opening to the unveiling trace of the erasure of the trace itself. As a result, Scatter is the movement of an autoimmune destitution of political presence that moves in the name of an economy without reserve, always preceding and differentiating itself from the political.

In these movements the politics of politics governs nothing. If it is anything, scatter is the name for that which “lingers in the expanse of unconcealment” (Derrida,”Ousia and gramme), and, as such, in the expanse of the trace of the erasure of the trace. Scatter is a thought of lingering and of falling short. Making the unveiling of oblivion the issue not of politics, but of the politics of politics, scatter suspends teleology from the start, in the name of always, humbly, and necessarily, falling short of gathering. As such, it remains at all times without a kingdom and without an epoch; as Derrida observes in reference to differance, which remains at all times the underlying movement of scatter, it is an “affirmation foreign to all dialectics” (27). As a result, there is no philosophy of bios and zoe available to us here; there is no affirmative biopolitics in scatter. Rather, it is thinking in the name of blind tactics, empirical wandering (Derrida, 7), and the circumventing of the willful politics of the decision, of any specific political consciousness, and of the operation or action of a subject on an object. In scatter sovereignty is nothing and the only democracy worthy of the name would be an-archic.

This is, of course, a fundamental project for our times, understanding our times as our atrocious, forced familiarity with a seismic shift in the coordination of teleology and eschatology that we have come to call globalization. Half a century ago, in “The Ends of Man”, Derrida first approached the question of dignity and democracy, highlighting the following limit: “What is difficult to think today is an end of man which would not be organized by a dialectics of truth and negativity, an end of man which would not be a teleology in the first person plural” (121). Fifty years later our phrasing would have to be slightly different, since that limit evoked by Derrida has been displaced by the globalizaton of techne and the determination of humanity as standing reserve. In these dire circumstances, we might now have to say that what is difficult to think is an end of man that could possibly be organized by a dialectics of truth and negativity, an end of man that could possibly be a teleology in the first person plural, other than that which leads to the eschaton of complete nomic collapse, of course.

It is in this context that Bennington returns to Derrida’s approach to, and distancing from, the Kantian stipulation that a dignity “worthy of the name” be returned to politics, in such a way that a new politics—a repoliticization, another concept of the political—be forged in which rational beings are treated always as an end, “and not merely as a means to be arbitrarily used by this or that will” (Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals). What is ultimately at stake (and this is inevitable in this proposition) is the aporia of a political re-instrumentalization of man as an end in itself, rather than as a value, even though dignitas is only ever an expression of value—of a certain auctoritas—and, as such, the expression of a certain property of the State. The question of force still, and perhaps only ever, haunts this attempt to make room for, and to distance oneself from, dignity in the politics, property and titles of the State.

Bennington asks: “Is it possible to think of a dignity that is not bound up in (and, one might be temped to say, compromised by) the teleological structures of the Kantian Idea?” It is this question that leads to the question of the structure of (in)dignity—the constitutive indignity—that upholds “the supposed dignity of [all] metaphysical concepts”. From an infrapolitical, rather than from a classical political perspective, what is at stake here is how to try to make room not for dignity in real politics, and therefore in the administration of force (auctoritas), but to let the dignity of a remove from the metaphysics of force (that is, a constitutive indignity) be involved in existence. With this question of constitutive indignity in mind, we are left to wonder if there is an infrapolitical inflection—an inflection that is without doubt akin at all times to the protocols of deconstruction, but that is not necessarily bound by the protocols of deconstruction—; I repeat, is there an infrapolitical inflection available to us that might allow us to reckon with the distance from auctoritas, from the property titles of the State or the dignity of metaphysics, from a site other than that of the Kantian inheritance that Derrida reckons with from “The Ends of Man” (1968) all the way through to the end itself in 2004?

At this point I will merely offer an example, and that, precisely, is the weakness of everything that follows (though in Specters of Marx Derrida notes that “an example always carries beyond itself; it opens up a testamentary dimension” (41). I wonder, then, whether in the example there lies the problem and possibility of an infrapolitical inflection that turns away from the political, and turns in the direction of allowing that the dignity of a remove from force be involved not in politics, but in existence.

Of all people, it is Cicero the elderly statesman who might exemplify such an inflection. In a brief essay published in 1960, the Oxford classicist J.P.V.D. Balsdon recounts Cicero’s return from exile and ultimate political capitulation in 56BC, when, in the face of “the prolonged triumph of gangsterdom which followed his exile” (49), Cicero found himself obliged to turn his back on the dignity and prestige of a public life. He had become an ineffective pariah in the motley world of populist resentment. What is at stake in Balsdon’s treatment of this moment in the history of the Republic are the slight shifts in Cicero’s uses of the terms dignitas and otium, together, at this particular time of capitulation and relinquishment.

In general, the term otium referred to the private or retired, as opposed to active public, life. However, in public life otium could also refer to peace and freedom from disturbance, or relief after war and internal disorder (47). It referred to a form of serenity or harmony in the wake of war. Upon Cicero’s political capitulation, Balsdon says, “the opening remark of the De Oratore, [signaling pseudos] which was finished in 55, introduces the new conception ‘cum dignitate otium’. ‘Otium’ is now retirement, the condition of the elder statesman who turns his back on the political. His active political life, his consulships and proconsulships are at an end (49). “Battling through the stormy seas of popular agitation”, observes Balsdon, Cicero had to “make for a different harbor . . . ‘cum dignitate otium’” (50). For the classicist Balsdon this is a harbor of studious relief from disturbance, freedom from agitation, and relief after war and internal disorder, for “persistence in opposition which was doomed to ineffectiveness would not, for the Roman world at large, promote “cum dignitate otium’” (50).

Learning to turn one’s back on the political in order to exist “cum dignitate otium”, learning to be without or in the absence of the dignitas of auctoritas, and, as a result, detouring back toward the constitutive indignity of the pre-political, and doing so while understanding at all times the agitations of the world of force, Cicero would have confronted and suffered the weight of a dignity uprooted from all titles of community. This would have been a dignity without dwelling in political life, and therefore not entirely worthy of its name, since at the same time it would have been a return to a constitutive indignity that was destined to always fall short of the political metaphysics of gathering, of majesty, or of any harbor.

Surely Cicero would have lived it as a “sad or sober pragmatic renunciation of some fuller version of dignity”, as Bennington puts it at the end of Scatter. But perhaps one could speculate that it is here—“cum dignitate otium”, in the infrapolitical turn back to a constitutive indignity that is exposed to real and symbolic death itself—that one could learn to exist, think, and write in an infrapolitical rather than a political fashion. It is there that one might have to learn to live with the without, in such a way as to exist not in the name of dignity or of a future politics or communal title anchored by the sublime or the general structure of “going beyond”, but in the name of a without that nevertheless lets the dignity of the remove from the public world of force be involved in existence. Perhaps it is cum dignitate otium’s passive movement of allowing to be involved in existence—of a care for that which comes at a remove from the biopolitical orientation and administration of forcethat forges the possibility not of a new democratic form, of a re-democratization built liberally on the logics of inclusion and exclusion, but of an infrapolitical scatter of mastery and title that casts freedom from among the ashes.

Ironic gramscianism: on Patrick Iber’s Neither Peace nor Freedom: the Cultural Cold War in Latin America. (Gerardo Muñoz)


Iber Peace Freedom 2015Patrick Iber’s Neither Peace nor Freedom: The Cultural Cold War in Latin America (Harvard Press, 2015) is a very much-welcomed piece of historiographical investigation on Hemispheric Cold War in the Americas, and I think it is not just circumscribed within conventional historiography, since it also speaks to us as Latinamercanists, that is, some of us not precisely invested in writing history of Latin America. Its publication coincides with other recent books that reexamine the “culture battles” during the Latin American Cold War, such as Jean Franco’s Cruel Modernity (Duke, 2014) Mabel Moraña’s Arguedas/Vargas Llosa (Iberoamericana, 2014), or Rafael Rojas’ Fighting over Fidel (Princeton, 2015). Neither Peace nor Freedom studies the Cold War structuration in the region as a long durè process– spanning from the late twenties (take the assassination of Julio Antonio Mella in Mexico) to Sandinismo and the Marea Rosada or Leftist progressive governments that began with Hugo Chavez’s 1999 election. The Cold War took place in a climate of political and cultural conflictivity that the historian is not hesitant to call a “civil war”: “…the work of political and intellectual currents whose existence predate the Cold War, and whose sources lay in what might be described as the international Left’s civil war. The arrival of the Cold War meant that the Left’s internal conflicts would be inscribed onto superpower competition, and thus that struggles for justice around the world would be refracted through imperial interests of the United States and the USSR. In Latin America, that would leave the Left with almost no viable options for pursuing its aims without compromising them” (3).

The event of the Cold War in Latin America was in this sense a long and costly civil war overdetermined by a dual structuration. However, as Patrick Iber’s studies moves on to argue, this structuration didn’t always lead to political or cultural closure on either side. This duality had multiple replications throughout the book: there was the World Peace Council (WPC) and the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), Casa de las Americas and Mundo Nuevo, along with the principles of “peace” (promoted by the geopolitical interests of the Soviet Union) and that of “freedom” (promoted by anti-communist and largely financed by the CIA). Of course, every reader could input their favorite artist, intellectual, or country for either side. It might be superfluous to say that Neither Peace nor Freedom maps a heterogeneous and conflicting history of the Cold War in the Americas (as opposed to being a “Latin American narrative” that only “happened to them” so engrained in the common position of anti-imperialist mapping. Some of us, not all, associate this second with John Beverley’s work and in particular with his Latinamericanism after 9/11).

But perhaps less obvious is the fact that Iber’s commitment to historical writing has abandoned a model of political militancy to generate an otherwise relation with the cultural Cold War archive. I want to expand on this point. At the center of Iber’s argument is that this dual structuration – whether you were anti-communist or anti-anti-communist – encompassed both a technology of liberation and a position in favor of occasional oppression (149). If this is in fact what ‘contained’ the logic of the Cold War, then one can see that Iber’s own position as a historian is consistent with not being on the side of ‘liberation’ or of ‘oppression’. To affirm this, either side would have to hold on to some principle of imperialism. These are the stakes in Patrick’s own book, and I am bringing up this point as to allow for a reexamination of the “dual structure” of the Cold War epoch in light of our present. I think there is something to this. If Patrick is neither on the side of “peace” or “freedom”, ‘liberation’ or ‘oppression’, ‘Latin American anti-imperialism’ or ‘neo-conservative domination’, what is his ground? Where is he standing?

I think there is commitment in Neither Peace nor Freedom, but only in so far as it uncovers another space beyond ideology. This dislocation is the excess of the cold war duopoly. One of the places in which one could start discussing this space, is where Iber argues the following, which can be found at the very end of the introduction of his book:

“Each camp would accuse the others of corruption and operating in the service of foreign empire. But it was not so much an issue of corruption as of the inscription of intellectuals’ preexisting campaigns onto Cold War. The evidence from Latin America suggests that the Cultural Cold War is best understood within a framework of “ironic gramscianism” – the pursuit of cultural hegemony through a combination of coercion and consent, incorporating many agendas. But the consequences were so varied that cultural fronts produced nearly as many ironies as they did movement in the direction that their patrons hoped…And the experience of Lain America’s Left during the Cold War was less a betrayal of democracy than a true paucity of options” (18).

This notion of “ironic gramscianism” – that also makes an important come back at the very end of the book- remains an underdeveloped quasi-concept making it even more suggestive for understanding the endgame of the cultural Cold War [1]. To finish, I want just to elaborate on two aspects that seem latent in this fragment of Iber’s text, and I take them to be hyperbolic of some of the strong claims laid out. First, “ironic gramscianism” seem to be understood by Iber as the contamination by way of the effects of hegemony. Hegemony here is taken as producing not just ‘other effects’ than those desired or intended, but more importantly, perverse effects. As I understand it – not just explicitly in this fragment, but more implicitly in Iber’s study cases– ironic gramscianism breaks the very closure and suture logic of hegemonic articulation, opening itself to an excess that it cannot contain ideologically. That explains why there were “many ironies counter to the direction that the patrons hoped”.

Iber seriously puts hegemony theory in crisis. As we know, hegemony theory is not just a theory, but also inevitably the principial political theory of and about modern Latin America State form. I do not know to what extent hegemony theory can come back unscathed as a viable political option (another example: to what extent the valence of Estado Integral as Estado Aparente in Álvaro Garcia Linera not an ‘irony’ in a deep sense?) [2]. If gramscianism is always ironic, this means that gramscianism does the work in the negative (the “cunning of imperialist reason”), and this negative is the limit of what is no longer “tolerable” in history (think dictatorship, or forms of oppression) (244). If Gramsci (consent and coercion) is always a machine that generates other effects, then it cannot but be ironic. A fundamental consequence here is that hegemony theory does not produce democracy (it cannot do this labor). It is my impression that it is not just a matter of perception, but that gramscianism (hegemony) is irony tout court. Is the ‘irony’ constitutive of hegemony not the very excess and ruin of itself as shown consistently through the Cold War disjunction?

Secondly, I want to raise the question of democracy that lies at the heart of Iber’s intervention. Fundamentally, the question about the Cold War is also a genitive question about democracy in the region: why has there always been a demise and impossibility of democracy? Why the condemnation, the open repudiation across intellectual groups and politico-cultural ideologies? I don’t think that this is something that Iber takes up in his book, nor should we demand an answer from it. In my view, Patrick Iber makes a modest plea: democracy (or let’s call it republicanist democracy) was impossible because there were no options that allowed for such a drift. It is here where I want to open another question for Patrick – as well as for our debate more generally– and this is: what about populism in the Cold War? The national popular State (Peronism, Cardenismo, Varguismo) with all its limitations and authoritarian drives has been the closest to true democratic experiment in the region. Early castrismo, for instance, is in a sense-liquidated populism [3]. Perhaps populism is what the negative does not let be in time. My point is not that populism is something like a “Latin American destiny”. What I wonder is if populism is not what could allow for a republicanist drift (as I suggested recently reading Jose Luis Villacañas’ Populismo) as to establish long lasting democratic institutionalization, perhaps for the first time in the region’s history since the independences of 1810.

I realize that this a highly speculative question, since with the demise of what some of us are calling the “exhaustion of the Latin America political progressive cycle”, populism is not even a viable option. What is worse, the neo-populisms from the Right are neither desirable nor consistent with a democratic opening. The Marea Rosada was a fundamental moment of the Latin American Leftist democratic desire, but not for the reasons proposed by Beverley (geopolitical inversion or State-subaltern alliance), but rather because of the implementation of a certain “fiesta del consumo” that expanded the borders of democratization. Now, to keep insisting on ‘gramscianism’ – and its categories, such as the Integral State, hegemony theory, “identity”, “correlation of forces”, albeit the admiration for Garcia Linera’s thinking, whose work is the most systematic effort to re-inscribe Gramsci in the present – is more of the same, and in an ‘ironic’ way, an option that is highly consistent with neoliberal machination and de-hiarchization (Hatfield 2015).

The end of the Latin American progressive cycle puts to the test the populist democratic articulation that conditions the national popular state form. As we know, this past Sunday, Evo’s MAS lost the referendum in two of its most important political bastions (Potosí and El Alto). If las nuevas derechas are able to keep the level of consumption on the side of large underprivileged popular sectors, then this would mark the final collapse of Latin American populism as a potential democratizing force, obliging us (scholars, and students) to rethink the nature of the political anew.




  1. Patrick Iber. Neither Peace nor Freedom: The Cultural Cold War in Latin America. Harvard University Press, 2015. In the conclusion, Iber writes: “The history of the MLN is another reminder that prodemocracy movements in Latin America, whether of the anti-Communist or anti-anti-Communist variety, used languages of liberation that were implicated in support for empire somewhere on the globe. Perhaps there was no other way” (149). Also see (195) his emphasis on “truncated Leninism” as the modernizing drive of the anti-communist intelligentsia.
  1. For this conceptual translation in Garcia Linera, see Gareth Williams’s excellent “Social Disjointedness and State-Form in Álvaro García Linera”. Culture, Theory, and Critique, 2015.
  1. On the Cuban Revolution as hegemony, see El Viejo traje de la Revolución: identidad colectiva, mito, y hegemonía política en Cuba (Universidad de Valencia, 2007) by Sergio López Rivero.

*Introductory remarks for Patrick Iber’s book worskshop at Priceton University, February 23, 2016.

Derrida’s Heidegger: la question de l’Etre et l’Histoire. Second Session. First Set of Notes. By Alberto Moreiras.

Notes on Derrida´s Heidegger: la question de l´Etre et l´histoire

Second session–First set of notes.

So, Hegel “refuted and totally accomplished metaphysics,” and Heidegger moved toward destroying it “to make appear the thought of being that hides in the ontic depositories.”

 The difference is barely perceptible, from Heidegger´s account of Destruktion, but it is nevertheless decisive.   It avoids the “inversions” (cf. Nietzsche and Marx) that, as inversions, remain prisoners of what they would like to transgress.

 This means, again, that Heidegger´s project is not the offering of a new ontology. “Ontology” for the Heidegger of Letter on Humanism, cannot go beyond thinking the being-being of being.   Whereas Heidegger wants to move towards the thought of the “truth” of being.   This is a thought that would have to be other and more rigorous than “conceptual thought.” [Through conceptual thought being can only be determined as “the poorest concept,” the emptiest, as it can only attempt to think the being-being of being. Conceptuality and ontology go together.]

 The displacement is pointed out in an exemplary form in the 1955 letter to Junger, Zur Seinsfrage, by means of the “kreuzweise Durchstreitung,” the crossed erasure superimposed to the word Sein.   In that erasure or crossing-out we understand a thinking of being that is no longer the thought of the concept of the being-being of being, of the totality of beings, or any thought that thinks being under the subject/object relation.

Which brings up the question of history.   [As a history of being, which incorporates the history of the thought of being but cannot be reduced to it.]

Heidegger produces for the first time the “radical affirmation of an essential link between being and history.”   Hegel did not do it. Why not? Because in Hegel and for Hegel history was still the manifestation of an absolute and eternal concept, of a divine subjectivity/substantiality whose total presence history can only copy. [In other words, for Hegel there is no historicity of being, there is only a history trying to catch up with the eternal concept.]

After Hegel, who came closer to thinking the historicity of being? Marx, with his concept of alienation.

Which is the reason why the dialogue [or confrontation, Auseindersetzung] with Marxism is the essential dialogue of our time, says Heidegger in 1947.

But Marxian alienation is still a prisoner of the Hegelian determination. For Hegel work was still a self-organizing process within unconditioned production. That is, work and the force of production are not to be derived from other conditions, but are the ultimate condition, the very objectivation of the real in the historical process, which it itself defines. But this obviously means: it is an objectivation of the real for human subjectivity, even as it marks and forms human subjectivity.   Man is the subject of work, the subject of production, in both senses of the genitive.   Which links Marxism to subjectivism, humanism, and metaphysics in a terminal way.

Marxism, as an inheritor of the Hegelian determination of work as production as the motor of history, remains caught up in humanist anthropologism.

Marx was unable to raise himself up from and through humanist anthropologism to a thought of the technical as a historico-ontological destination of the truth of being.

By “naturalizing” work [“In the beginning was production,” says Marx at the beginning of the Grundrisse] Marx remained caught up in ontic determinations. [His notion of history is still an ontic history, on the basis of an ontological conceptuality that thinks the being-being of beings and wants to account for the totality of beings as they affect the subject.]

So, what does it mean to posit the radical affirmation of the link between being and history? What does it mean to say being AND history?

[At this point Derrida introduces the issue of the language needed for such a radical enterprise. Can we really think what has never been thought using our existing language? But we have no other.   And yet: destruction is also self-destruction.   So that the Destruktion of metaphysics is necessarily also the destruction of philosophy!] “New words will be forged, new concepts, pushing the resources of the language, certain resources of the language that are, should be younger than philosophy, latecomers to philosophy” [55].