A Friendly Katechon: on Adam Joseph Shellhorse’s Anti-Literature: The Politics and Limits of Representation in Modern Brazil and Argentina. By Gerardo Muñoz.

shellhorse 2017Adam Joseph Shellhorse’s Anti-Literature: The Politics and Limits of Representation in Modern Brazil and Argentina (U Pitt Press, 2017) is a bold and timely intervention in a dire moment for “literary studies” in the field of Latin American Studies. What is the epistemological status of the ‘literary’ today, if not an ambiguous force driven by machinistic inertia? The institutional erosion of the discipline’s legitimacy cannot easily be ignored, as every scholar is confronted today with interrogative demands for ‘definition’. Ambitious in scope, theoretically sophisticated, and generous in its readings of a heterogeneous corpus, Shellhorse attempts to understand “what is meant by “literature in contemporary posthegemonic times” (Shellhorse 3). Whether such interrogation opens up a desirable future, is the very heart of this important book.

Anti-Literature departs from the wake of the exhaustion of a well known triad: the Boom as a last attempt to generate a strong allegorical machine; Ángel Rama’s culturalist thinking to come to grip with the uneven development through transculturation; and the political vanguard experiment of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. The aftermath of these watershed moments has led to what is now a permanent state of crisis. The end of ‘hegemony’ in Shellhorse’s reflection demands the end of the centralized state form of the literary, but also the turning away from models of ideological Marxist critique, over that of affect, the multiple, and the experimental in writing. Compensatory to this insolvent condition, Shellhorse proposes ‘anti-literature’ as a new framework for literary studies. Although, more urgently, it offers the minimal condition for the task of reading in a present devoid of objective legitimacy, or what Shellhorse calls, perhaps more prudently, a ‘perilous present’ (Shellhorse 16).

The archive Shellhorse attends to is minimalist, functioning hyperbolically for a larger and more programmatic invitation to read in the anti-literature key. The works sketched throughout the book are the following: Lispector’s language of life and the specular feminism of immanence; David Viñas’ ‘half made literature’ as a de-spiritualized materialist gesture in his novel Dar la cara (1962); concrete poetry as a post-culturalist and post-conceptual artifact; Haroldo de Campos and Osman Lins’ poetics of the baroque; and last but not least, a mediation on historical redemption and the messianic in Salgado’s photography and De Campos’ poem “O anjo esquerdo da historia”. Irreducible in style and geopolitical demarcations, all these anti-literary projects negotiate language within the limits of its own materiality while assuming a writing of finitude. This is crucial, as it is what distinguishes Shellhorse’ anti-literature from John Beverley’s known ‘against literature’.

Whereas Beverley demanded an exception to literary hegemony in the name of a subalternist ‘subject’ formalized in the testimonio, Shellhorse’s following Moreiras’ predicament on exhaustion, does not seek to close off the promise and secret of literature, but only to interrupt its identitarian and representational pretensions (Shellhorse 42). Therefore, against the Boom as an ideological critique towards state building on one hand, and testimonio as exception to high literary sovereignty on the other, Shellhorse proposes anti-literature as posthegemonic experimentation through affect and the sensorium. Whereas testimonio demanded hegemonic filiation until the triumphant victory, anti-literature endorses the post-hegemonic in the face of defeat. Anti-literature is only anti-literary to the extent that it demands a relation to the secret of ‘what might come’. This is why Shellhorse’ Anti-Literature is untimely tied to literature as a singular procedure of writing, instead of organizing a counter-canon, in what could be taken as an effort to immunize itself through an alternate ‘aesthetic form’. This is why, it is important that Shellhorse tells us very late in the book:

“…it could be said that anti-literary writers hook up writing to literature’s outside, to nonwriting and egalitarian modes of imaging the community. What is at issue is precisely this: the concept of anti-literature need not restrict itself to an avant-garde, modernist paradigm of the arts. Rather an approach to the anti-literary entails reconceptualizing the problem of writing as a sensory procedure and perpetual force. The question of what is anti-literature can perhaps best be posed only in the wake of literature’s exhaustion, when the arrival of defeatist accounts demands the time for speaking concretely” (Shellhorse 164).

This comes as a warning to careless readers who, perhaps too hazily, will try to inseminate periodical categories of sociology or history of literature to ensure the timelessness of the boundaries of literature’s autonomy. Indeed, Shellhorse immediately writes: “Indeed, bibliography on the nature of literature in the field is marginal” (Shellhorse 164). We can only guess that the very asymmetry between an understudied Argentine writer (Viñas), ranked among giants of modern Brazilian literature (Andrade, De Campos brothers, Lispector), functions as the affective corpus of Shellhorse’s own singular judgment. This is his secret posthegemonic cabinet, just like everyone has his or her own.

By taking distance from an overdetermination based on a ‘historical period’ or a particular ‘literary movement’, Shellhorse performs his own affective caesura against the hegemonic temptation that demands age-old historico-metaphysical entelechies; such as periodization, social context, base/superstructure dichotomy, form, or aesthetic framework. If the book’s starting point is the fall of the legitimacy of Latinamericanism or Hispanism at large, this means that there is no calculative arrangement that can sustain the alleged bona fide of ‘literature’. The polyphonic assemblage regime of tones and signs is also irreducible to a life, to any life, that belongs to the student and professor of literature in the exercise of the imagination. And as I see it, this is what the anti-literature tries to register so suitably to us.

Yet, at first sight there appears as a latent paradox in the book, and it is a problem that I would like to convey, since it remains of one the strong effects of its reading upon me. Of course, I can only hope to solve it in my own name and style, and I hope that others find their own ways to wrestle with the problem. Basically, the problem could be advanced in this way: if we are in a present condition of interregnum, of the total transitional epoch in the field within a larger transformation that Moreiras has called full machination through the principle of general equivalence, where anything is replaceable and interchangeable, why does the book offers yet another frame to re-invent literary studies? [1]. What is the need of literature at a time in which it can no longer speak for itself (the ‘being’ of Literature)? Isn’t the literary today a mere defunct fossilized object, a repetition for commemorations, and museum-like artifact that only seeks the stimuli of social-media to imagine itself Eternal? Literature automatically wants to be part of the ‘museum’, but the trade-off is that the museification of the new demands its own concrete death. It is difficult to name anything interesting in contemporary literature (nothing that can compare with the Boom), and the fact that we keep reading Lezama Lima or Haroldo de Campos or Borges, bears witness to the aftereffect of being able to establish some livable relation with nihilism at the end of literature. Shellhorse does well to inscribe this important symptom in a crucial moment at the end of the book, which opens to an important discussion:

“If “literature” persists in crisis in our field, the task today is to reconstitute its critical force. Literature becomes anti-literature when it subverts itself. My contention is that it is only by bearing witness to this relation of non-essence, non-identify, and non-closure – literature is not literature – that we can begin to read anew” (Shellhorse 166).

I would like to advance the thesis that Anti-literature as a project comes to us in the form of what I would call a friendly katechon. While it is clear that Shellhorse is not proposing a new “turn” beyond literature, anti-literature is not just repetition of the same as the new. To do so would be “old”, since it would be integral to the register of High Modernity up to the readymade, that is, to the museum. Rather, anti-literature is something akin to a shadow that overlaps in what we call “literature”; a sort of dirty stain in the tradition and in the immemorial institutionality of texts. At same time, anti-literature has a reformist undertone, in the theological sense of celebration and transformation through transference.

But it is a katechon to the extent that Anti-literature retains and delays the temporal disappearance of the evermore so irrelevance of literature. As we know, the Pauline Greek word katechon (κατέχον) means restrainer (who or what), a mysterious force that helps avoiding the fall unto the anomia that imposes illegitimacy in any particular historical epoch. Although at times the katechon is understood in tandem with its own archaic regression, I do not think this is Shellhorse’s intention or effect in inviting us to partake in Anti-literature to “begin anew”. The reason is fairly simple: to the extent that we have literature, there is always already excess to every hegemonic phantasm, and that is enough to retain literature as a residual condition for thought, even when we move beyond textualism or politization.

Like Carl Schmitt, who appears in Ex captivate salus, as the last conscious representative of Modern European Law of Nations, Shellhorse appears to us as the last existential witness of the literary in the form of the anti-literary. But like an Anti-Schmittian, he does not succumb in the myth of political theology and Empire. His katechon can only be one of friendship: in the love of the text, and for the friendship of an-other to come. Anyone, at any time. But isn’t this a mirror of the measureless principle of democracy? The friendly katechon does not seek what Nietzsche called the antiquarian relation to History, but rather a reflexive and disinterested democratic thinking. The katechon, in the platonic reading that I favor here, thoroughly deters disintegration of the authentic life of the mind, which is consistent with Lispector’s language of life [2]. That is, literature is no longer revealed as accumulation and principle (archē of the archive), but as homecoming of Justice. Shellhorse explicitly sets foot on this trail this in his reading of De Campos at the very end of the book (which I would like also to de-center from the given messianism):

“Such a field no doubt defines the logic of domination. Justice as a continuous line of singularities: blurs, bends back, and breaks up the reified character of social relations as well as banal accounts of “progress” that fail to count the part that has no part in society. Citable in all their moments, as freed expressions that articulate the desire to be exception, to think the relationless relation, the affective dimension of Campos’ text inscribe the crisis of poetry in the wake of subaltern tragedy” (Shellhorse 196).

But can the Poem be a secondary substitute before the ruin, a safeguard against tripping into the abyss? It is useful to paraphrase Derrida here to remember that, neither the poem nor deus absconditus, neither decorative baroque nor the messianic community, neither the experimental sensorium nor philosophy of history, can exert as hyperbolic condition of any possible living democratic construction [3]. This is only literature’s task. Anti-literature as friendly katechon, keeps this unavowable promise as its dearest secret that nourishes from the democratic expectancy in an incalculable waiting. A politics among friends? It could well be, but only with the caveat that like friends, literature also comes like a stranger late in the day. Will it come again? All of this to say that anti-literature resists succumbing in the nihilistic abyss of equivalence as the last avatar of the contemporary university’s death-drive. The friendly invitation of anti-literature confronts us, once more, as a lux acarna. We only hope that it is not too late, and that another path could open in the very place of what has always been.






1. Alberto Moreiras. “Universidad. Principio de Equivalencia”. Enero 17, 2017. https://infrapolitica.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/universidad-y-principio-de-equivalencia-hacia-el-fin-de-la-alta-alegoria-borrador-de-conferencia-para-17-instituto-de-estudios-criticos-mexico-df-22-de-enero-2017-por-alberto-moreiras/

2. For example, at one point the baroque/ neo-baroque appears as a trope for anti-literature. In my account, this will amount to the ‘catholic’ affirmation the katechon, raising its status in a complexio oppositorum between archaic and an-archy of the eschatology, which is always political theology. Consider this passage cited from Haroldo de Campos: “…Brazilian culture was born under the sign of the baroque…it cannot be understood from ontological, substantialist, metaphysical point of view. It should not be understood from an ontological, substantialist, metaphysical point of view. It should not be understood in the sense of an idealist quest for “identity” or “national” character. Baroque, paradoxically, means non-infancy. The concept of “origin” here will only fit if it does not imply the idea of “genesis”, of a generative process with a beginning, middle, and maturity…Baroque is, therefore, a non-origin. A non-infancy. Our literature, springing up from the baroque vortex, was never aphastic; it has never developed from a speechless, aphasic-infantile limbo in the fullness of discourse”. 115 pp. The baroque as literary form, even deprived of genesis, seems to lead stray into the “frame” whether in transcendental or immanentist planes of the modern metaphysics of the political.

3. Panagiotis Christias has recently offered a very interesting reading of the figure of the katechon in a platonic key, in which he suggests that the restrainer stands against potential rise of tyranny, thus making the Philosopher, the Greek antecedent of the katechon fearing the disintegration of the polis. To what extent philosophy can deter anomia today is a completely different question. I am interested in the figure of the Philosopher as metonymic for life as it converges with passion without sacrifice. See, Platon et Paul au bord de l’abîme. Pour une politique katéchontique (2014).

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.


Katargein: notes on Giorgio Agamben’s L’uso dei corpi. By Gerardo Muñoz

Luso dei corpi 2015

1. L’uso dei corpi (Neri Pozza, 2014) is the culmination of Agamben’s Homo Sacer project after a little more than a decade. The thinker has warned that the volume should not be taken as the end of the project, but as the last installment before its abandonment. To this effect, it is for future thinkers and scholars to continue carrying forth an investigation that polemically proposes an archeological destruction of politics in the West. L’uso is a book written with a backward gaze on what has been elaborated in other volumes, while thematizing instances of the unsaid in them. A novelty in L’uso dei corpi is the constant iteration of anecdotal impressions that enact as emblems of the indeterminate threshold between thought and life.

None of these details are meant to add flare to the content. Rather, they allude to one’s impossible strategy of sketching or bearing witness to life. It is precisely that alocation which already introduces the idea of form of life. It is worthwhile to note that in this bravado, there is little meditation on Agamben’s own life, which remains silently opaque and perhaps on the side of “ette clandestinité de la vie privée sur laquelle on ne possède jamais que des documents dérisoires”. The writing of a life is only potential or a habitual relation of the singular with itself, foreign to conventional literary genres or works of memory and identity. The form of life coincides here with a writing that never anticipates its own becoming; it seeks for an inclination or a “gusto” (as opposed to an ‘aesthetic’ form) [1]. Hence, if according to Benjamin Heidegger’s thinking is angular; one is tempted to say that Agamben’s style is scaly as in the skin of a fish, only visible when exposed to light, generating multiple intensities and shifting canopies.

2. As the culmination of Homo Sacer, L’uso dei corpi is in equal measure the writing of the end of the ontological metaphysical tradition and the opening of the question of life or existence. This is not accomplished, like in Heidegger or Schürmann, solely as an extraction of the history of metaphysics given primacy to philosophical discourse. Rather the methodological wager here is archeology, which allows not for a process of “destruction” (although in a certain sense it is consistent with a deconstructive practice), but for one of rendering inoperative the machine(s) that capture negativity into life and politics, or the political as always an impolitical foundation or archē of life:

L’identificazione della nuda vita come referente primo e pota in gioco della politica e stato perciò il primo atto della ricerca. La struttura originario della politica occidentale consiste in una ex-ceptio, in una esclusione inclusive della vita umana nella forma della nuda vita. Si rifletta sulla particolarità di questa operazione: la vita non e in se stessa politica – per questo essa deve essere esclusa dalla citta – e, tuttavia, e propio l’exceptio, l’esclusione-inclusione di questo Impolitico che fonda lo spazio della politica” (Agamben 333).

[“The identification of bare life as the prime referent and ultimate stakes of politics was therefore the first act of the study. The originary structure of Western politics consists in an ex-ceptio, in an inclusive exclusion of human life in the form of bare life. Let us reflect on the peculiarity of this operation: life is not in itself political – for this reason it must be excluded from the city – and yet it is precisely this exceptio, the exclusion-inclusion of this Impolitical, that founds the space of politics” (Agamben 263)].

This position allows Agamben to simultaneously bring the relation between biopolitics and sovereignty to a maximum proximity, while taking critical distance from the so-called Italian Theory, in the variants of Cacciari, Esposito, or Tronti. Like these three, politics cannot be rethought without the wrench of the theological register, but unlike them, Agamben is not interested in take part in the construction of a nomic difference posited as an exclusive modality of “Italian difference”.

His critique is situated against the political as a transversal in Western rationality and ontology vis-a-vis the unfolding of paradigms. In Agamben’s view there is no need for epochal structuration, and not even for a history of metaphysics proper. Rather, the ‘history of metaphysics’ is the history of its apparatuses; and that is why the critique of these apparatuses is not fulfilled at the domain of epochal presencing, but rather within an array of fields of tension and relays – from metaphysics proper to the classics, from theology to modern literature, from philology to jurisprudence and political philosophy – in which power articulates and divides the constitution of life.

In this way, Agamben is neither a philosopher nor a critical theorist (in the Foucaltian or Kantian sense), since for him the history of Western philosophical tradition cannot consecrate itself in two or more moment, since the narrative of the history of philosophy is far from being the place where the question of “life” is waged. (As opposed to Foucault’s position in Lectures at Dartmouth College would could still argue: “Maybe also we can say that there are two great philosophical moments: the pre-Socratic moments and the Aufklärung”). Archeology and the paradigm are not historical moments or epochs, but singular signaturas in which the amphibology between potentiality and actuality, the political and its impolitical are dispensed as ensembles of legibility.

3. Unlike conventional philosophical histories or historico-intellectual reconstruction of ideas, the archeology of paradigms has no intention of restituting something like an uncontaminated or esoteric tradition. Averroism, just to take one example, has been casted erroneously in such a light. There is no such thing as an alternative non-metaphysical history of Western metaphysics and ontology, and the form of life as the part construens does not amount to an alternative history, but rather to the unthought of metaphysics, secluded between the public and the private (in the sphere of life), the norm and the exception. What is then given is not a second history, but something like the history of intimacy of thought at the instance of contact, a region that dwells in an improper de-relation (itself-with-itself). How Agamben reads the notion of “intimacy” could also be displaced to his rewriting of the philosophical and political stakes of his work:

אSolo a solo” e un’espressione dell’intimità. Siamo insieme e vicinissime, ma non c’è fra noi un’articolazione o una relazione che ci unisca, siamo uniti l’uno all’altro nella forma del nostro essere soli. Ciò che di solito costruisse la sfera della privatezza diventa qui pubblico e comune. Pero questo gli amanti si mostrano nudi l’uno all’altro: io mi mostro a te come quando sono solo con me stesso, ciò che condividiamo non e che il nostro esoterismo, la nostra inappropriabile zona di non-conoscenza. Questo Inappropriabile e l’impensabile, che la nostra cultura deve ogni volta escludere e presupporre, per farne il fondamene negative della politica” (Agamben 302).

[“א Alone by oneself” is an expression of intimacy. We are together and very close, but between us there is not an articulation or a relation or a relation that unites us. We are united to one another in the form of our being alone. What customarily constitutes the sphere of privacy here becomes public and common. For this reason, lovers show themselves nude to one another: I show myself to you as when I am alone with myself; what we share is only our esoterism, our inappropriable zone of non-knowledge. This Inappropriable is the unthinkable; it is what our culture must always exclude and presuppose in order to make in the negative foundation of politics” (Agamben 237-238)]

The critique raised against negativity as a disjointed form stages the necessary condition for division and distribution of ontology as political. It would not be too grandiloquent to say that negativity for Agamben is always machination and positionality. The life of intimacy or the intimate life is consistent with an infrapolitical region that is at once “superpolitical and apolitical” (hypsipolis apolis): separated in the ban from the city, it nevertheless becomes intimate and inseparable from itself, in a non-relation that has the form of an “exile of one alone to one alone” (Agamben 236). An affirmation of the regime of exodus inscribes the life of beatitude that always dwells in an absolute politicity (to the extent that the exception is de-captured and suspended), opening to a new politics of exile. It is a unity, not separation, from the political. But calling for the politization of the absolute state of exodus is already recasting the political as something other than what it has been in the Western tradition, as tied to the duopoly of polis-oikos, of inclusion-exclusion, or one of doxology and sovereignty.

Agamben moves on to argue that there have signatures in the history of thought where this politics of exile could be recasted: first, Neo-Platonism vis-à-vis Plotinus and Marius Victorinus; and secondly, in Averroism as the signature of the noetic common intellect that evades the figure of the person. But these two traditions do not exhaust the form of life (eidos zoes) that Agamben wants to pursue. The task of the coming philosophy is to imagine and provide for such thought through traditions that function as paradigms for the potentialities of thought against the historical unfolding proper of metaphysics.

4. The project does not limit itself to an archive of philosophers, but necessarily poses problems for theology. This is the case, for instance, of the early Christian rhetor Marius Victorinus. Victorinus’ apothegm from his treatise on the Trinitarian polemic (Adversus Arium) functions as a sort of chant of the form of life: “quasi quaedma forma vel status viviendo progenitus” [“life is a habit of living, and a kind of form generated by living”] (Agamben 221). Victorinus displaces and renders inoperative the ontological ground of the post-Aristotelian Hellenistic School to a co-substantialism between Father and Son, existence and essence that already prefigures the modal ontology of the late Leibniz-Des Bosses epistolary exchange, but also the Spinozian singular substance of Nature. This is symmetrical to the Averroist intellect, since ‘life’ does not take the character of a declination between attributes, properties, and differences, but is a mode instantiated by its living. The way of living becomes the threshold of indistinction, and as such, an incalculable life that is always already singular and, by the same token, a common life. But what is not clear in Agamben’s glossing of Victorinus is his place within the debate of Trinitarian thought. In Regno e Gloria, the Trinitarian machine functioned as a dual-power that was able to divide sovereign power from administrative or oikonomical power, a regime of attribute causation to one of collateral effects, one of necessity into the site where the instrumentalization of contingency takes place [2].

The Trinitarian machine allowed for the emergence of governance and administration beyond the facticity of sovereignty in a perpetual form of the stasis of humanity. By placing Victorinus as a thinker of the eidos zoes (form of life) is a risky one, Agamben might be suggesting that another turn within the theological machine is potentiality within the Trinitarian machine [3]. And this would solidify Malabou and Esposito’s recent positions, against Agamben, that political theology cannot be deconstructed. But if stasis is always a conflict in representation of the political, what Marius Victorinus posits for thought is a reconsideration of conflict that cannot assume the form of a stasis against democracy. Perhaps at stake is a democracy that never one with the People or predicated upon legitimacy. Rather, a democracy without kratos that is generated in its living body that cannot take the shape of a bare body of life or the mystical body of the political already positioned for a governance in spite of the absent People, such as in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan.

5. Agamben’s exodus is not from the political, but rather a return to an absolute politicity. But what is the proper sphere of policity here? Are all aspects of Life subordinated to the political? What is the political for Agamben? Here the recoil is to Plotinus for whom the political is the happy life is the coincidental principle of “living well” (eu zen). Agamben condemns the Heideggerian “letting-be” (galassenheit), as yet another gesture already determinate to produce necessary exception (a ban) to the political [4]. This is why happy life is always extreme and minimal politicity that incorporates life in its form as always already taking place and as a form of beatitude. In the section “A life inseparable from its form”, Agamben writes:

Il mistero dell’uomo non e quello, metafisica, della congiunzione fra il vivente e il linguaggio (o la ragione, o l’anima (, ma quello, pratico e politico, della loro separazione. Se il pensiero, le arti, la poesia e, in generale, le prassi umane hanno qualche interesse, ciò e perché essi fanno girare archeologicamente a vuoto la macchina e le opera della vita, della lingua, dell’economia e della società per riportarle all’evento antropogenico, perché in esse il diventar umano, non cessi mai di avvenire. La politico nomina il luogo di questo evento, in qualunque ambito esso si produca” (Agamben 265-66).

[“The mystery of the human being is not the metaphysical one of the conjunction between the living being and language (or reason or the soul) but the practical and political one their separation. If thought, the arts, poetry, and human practices generally have any interests, it’s because they bring about an archeological idling of the machine and the works of life, language, economy, and society, in order to carry them back to the anthropogenetic event, I order that in them the becoming human of the human being will never be achieved once and for all, will never cease to happen. Politics names the place of this event, in whatever sphere it is produced” (Agamben 208)].

Politics here coincides fully with inoperativity, its katargein (the suspension and accomplishment of Law according his reading of Paul in The Times that Remains), a singular strategy of profanation that turns each action into its improper destitution. This is what constitutes use (chresis) in Agamben’s early part of the book, and it is also a general methodology for thought that coincides with politics. Since politics is not a sphere of life, or of an administrative partition of what life is (ontology), politics is a general strategy that renders life into an event for whatever (qualunque) use [5]. Strategic politics does not posit a principle of action; it is rather what does not solicit calculation, submersing into thought and distance of the non-relation. A handy example comes by way of chess, as explicitly thematized in the drift on Wittgenstein’s form of life in language, since gaming itself results in strategy in which rules are co-substantial and infinite in the state of things (the game). Hence, in every sphere of human activity, thought exceeds the productionism of calculation normatively captured.

But the qualunque – as we also learned from Agamben’s The Coming Community – is what reimagines another possibility of a community of singulars and homonyms vis-à-vis praxis and use as the kernel of pure means. This ‘politics’ de-appropriates the form in life that has remained caught in the schism of every biopolitics. Here Agamben differentiates himself from understanding the political as a public presencing in Schürmann’s anarchistic destruction of principal thought [6]. Figures such as the landscape, the intimate exposition, style, or the inclination to animality, are metonymic tropes for a politics of use and of the contemplative region of a life that is co-substantial with its form. On the other end, whatever divides and administers singularity is always production of bare life, which is why evil is first and foremost a consequence of biopolitical machination.

6. The major volumes of Homo Sacer always revolved around a series of polemical signatures: Carl Schmitt in State of Exception, Erik Peterson in Kingdom and the Glory, Kojeve in The Open, or Kant in Opus Dei. It is fair to say that in L’uso dei Corpi we are confronted with two names: Michel Foucault and Martin Heidegger. Unlike Schmitt and Peterson, these two names are not presented as archenemies, but rather as the thresholds where the possibility of new thought is contested and waged. Whereas Foucault’s limit is the hidden question of pleasure as use (chresis) still co-related with a care of the subject; Heidegger appears as the highest aporia of Western thought in thinking the ontological difference in the limit of the animal. It is fair to say that Agamben situates his thought at the crossroads of the existential analytic on one side, and the intimacy constitutive of the “care of oneself” as a work of art on the other [7].

If Heidegger lays down a destruction of ontology in Western metaphysics, Foucault’s genealogy of contemporary subjection, avoids precisely that problematization. The confrontation is not longer given between negativity and existence, but rather on the question of life and the strategies (aporetic, which for Agamben entail entrapment in the theological machine) of making thinkable an inoperative zone of the form of life. There is a third figure, Guy Debord, who accomplishes perhaps two interrelated strategies in the vortex of the book: first, it plugs thought to strategy (Debord invited a game of war, a sort of alteration of chess); and second, out points to the impossibility of narrativizing life. Debord’s Panegyric is form of life precisely because it fails to assume an autobiographical testamentary form as documentation. Of course, Agamben appears here not a thinker of semiology and traces, but of gestures and signatures. The coming philosophy of the form of life is precisely that mobility of signatures inclined towards a region that coincides with the event of thought.

7. L’uso dei corpi is also an attempt to thematize the place of singularity. ‘Singularity’ is a term that is never mentioned as such, but instead it takes the name of the form-of-life, the Ungovernable, or the Inappropriable. Similarly, there are three places where the singular is investigated at different moments of the book: a first ontological exegesis of the Aristotelian ti en einai, vis-à-vis Curt Arpe’s work on the Aristotelian grammar in a 1937 essay (Das Ti en einai bei Aristoteles). Secondly, a recast of Leibniz’s correspondence with theologian Des Bosses on the “substantial vinculum” as to inform the question of hexis. Thirdly, the figure of the form of life as happy life in the Neo-Platonic tradition, departing from Plotinus, and making its way to Marius Victorinus and Averroes. Spinoza comes to the forefront as the thinker of the passive immanent cause, only insofar as he accompanies other strategies, such as Guillaume’s operational time or Arpe’s grammatological exegesis in Aristotelian writings. The singularity is the life of thought as occurring, which opens itself to a conceptualization of the inoperativity of man: “We call thought the connection that constitutes forms of life into an inseparable context, into form of life…Thought is, in this sense, always use of oneself, always entails the affection that one received insofar as one is in contact wit a determinate body” (Agamben 210).

8. L’uso dei corpi picks up where Altisima Poverta left off; that is, on the question of the relation between life and law (regula), which for the Franciscans overdetermined the thinking through a relation instantiated in propriety. Against the nexus of the proper and rule of law, Agamben radicalizes the archeology of form of life with the notion of use (chresis) against biopolitical subsumption of life that attempts at making form of life of divisible and instrumentalized in ontology. The passage towards a form of life that is always already in use, seeks to inaugurate, on one hand, an ethics that is no longer predicated on subjective metaphysics concepts of will and duty, and that on the other, free the anthropogenic event of the human vis-à-vis its inoperativity [8]. In political terms this is not entirely solved in Agamben, and at the very end of the book, the gesture for a translation of praxis seems to retort, against all ‘negrism’ and counter-hegemonic rehearsals, as a process of institutionalizing the deposition maneuver of the destituent potential.

What is central is to think the anthropogenic form of life coincide with a new institutionalization of every singularity beyond a procedure of administration (oikonomia), but also the fiction of sovereignty (exceptio). Contra-Schürmann, Agamben admits that staging another principle of an-archy is a false exit, since power is always anarchic, but more importantly because economy remains on the shadowy side of the political. As Agamben argued in Regno e Gloria, oikonomia is the apparatus in which the West has organized the contingency and inoperativity of the anthropogenic event. Thus, the procedure of destituent power is fundamentally anti-an-archic, if the latter is to be understood as principally tangled as an ‘economy’.

What emerges for the allowance of the form of life is a strategy of the Pauline ‘as if not’ (hos me). Agamben understands this modality as a turning of the state of things without voluntarism, and beyond the creation of a ‘new identity’. In tune with Simone Weil’s decreation, the hos me does not instantiate a messianic escathon, sacrificially putting life before the transcendental or in the community (as in Taubes). Rather, the messianic hos me detonate a klesis in life that is no longer grounded in action or in communitarian terms. The Pauline ‘katargein’ deactivates the apparatus of criminalization of sin (which for Illich represents the machine of modern subjection), as well as the historical horizon of the philosophy of History as accomplishment of the law [9]. What Agamben is after, and still remains unresolved in the case of Paul, is a new de-relation with law in which the singular could face law without passing thorough property (Franciscanism) or the rule of law (anomie).

The coming politics is a politics of impotential actions, which is necessarily post-hegemonic politics, to the extent that it displaces the centrality of active domination in the polis to another region that takes ‘distance’ with politics [10]. The Pauline hos me becomes the true state of exception. In this sense, it is not an impersonal power immanent in every articulation of law, and which is why the inoperativity of law also takes distance from Esposito’s deconstruction of the politico-theological machine. Whereas law is always necessarily impersonal, the katargein is not on the reverse side of the person contained in generic equivalence of jurisdiction, but the deposition of every law in the irreducible life of the singular.

Albeit the critique of folding duality of the principial One into the person-subject, Esposito’s impersonal remains bounded to the limit of law that haunts the coming of modern biopolitics. Thus, the destitution of political theology has less to do with the deployment of certain terms whose provenance is the theological sphere, than the necessity of facing the question of law beyond the community and anthropologic productiveness of the subject. The Pauline ‘as if not’ is an effort to render thinkable a form of law no longer effective (‘actual’), but studied (impotential). Far from constituting a telic historical time, the messianic points to the potentiality of freeing the ethics immanent in every form of life, that is, decapturing the beatitude of humanity, which is the promise of Justice [11].

But how could a law of pure mediality be institutionalized? How can one open the way for law in line with the form of life not as constituting an impersonal relation, but an anarchical regulated game like the one that all infants play? After all, playing, like studying, is what denotes the force of Justice in the time of the living.



*Giorgio Agamben. L’uso dei corpi. Rome: Neri Pozza, 2014.

*Giorgio Agamben. Use Of Bodies. (Trans. Adam Kotsko). Stanford University Press, 2016.

  1. This has been recently published in another essay, Gusto (Quidlobet, 2015), although originally written in the 1970s.
  1. Agamben makes this distinction between sovereignty and the machine of oikonomia dominated by contingency in The Kingdom and The Glory: “In other words, two different concepts of the government of men confront each other: the first is still dominated by the old model off territorial sovereignty, which reduces the double articulation of the governmental machine to a purely formal moment; the second is closer to the new economico-providential paradigm, in which the two elements maintain their identity, in spite of their correlation and the contingency of the acts of government corresponds to the freed of the sovereign decision” (108).
  1. Marius Victorinus conception of absolute substantialization of the Trinity in his Treatise reads as follows in a crucial moment when introducing the ‘living life’: “Indeed, life is a habit of living, and it is a kind of form or state be- gotten by living, containing in itself “to live” itself and that “to be” which is life, so that both are one substance. For they are not truly one in the other, but they are one redoubled in its own simplicity, one, in itself because it is from itself, and one that is from itself because the first simplicity has a certain act within itself. For repose begets nothing; but movement and the exercise of acting forms for itself from itself that which it is or rather that it is of a certain mode. For “to live” is “to be”; but to be life is a certain modes of being, that is, the form of the living produced by the very one for which it is form. But the producer, “to live,” never having a beginning-for that which lives from itself has no beginning since it lives always-it follows that life also has no beginning. Indeed as long as the producer has no beginning, that which is produced has not a beginning. As both are together, they are also consubstantial. […] Therefore, from life comes understanding, and life itself comes from living, that is, from the Father comes the Son, and from the Son, the Holy Spirit. For he added this: “All things that the Father has are mine”; “I said that all that the Father has is mine, because all the Father has is the Son’s, “to be,” “to live,” “to understand.” These same realities the Holy Spirit possesses. All are therefore homoousia (consubstantial). [“Against Arius IV”, 277, from Theological Treatises on the Trinity, 1978.
  2.  Agamben writes: “And if being is only the being “under the ban” – which is to say, abandoned to itself – of beings, then categories like “letting-be”, by which Heidegger sough to escape from the ontological difference, also remain within the relation of the ban” (Agamben 268).
  1. Agamben retells this anecdote on his essay “Metropolis”: “Many years ago I was having a conversation with Guy (Debord) which I believed to be about political philosophy, until at some point Guy interrupted me and said: ‘Look, I am not a philosopher, I am a strategist’. This statement struck me because I used to see him as a philosopher as I saw myself as one, but I think that what he meant to say was that every thought, however ‘pure’, general or abstract it tries to be, is always marked by historical and temporal signs and thus captured and somehow engaged in a strategy and urgency. I say this because my reflections will clearly be general and I won’t enter into the specific theme of conflicts but I hope that they will bear the marks of a strategy”.
  1. Agamben’s moment of maximum proximity to Schürmann is also the one of his greatest remoteness. At the end of the last part of L’uso dei corpi he writes: “The limit of Schürmann’s interpretation clearly appears in the very (willfully paradoxical) syntagma that furnishes the book’s title: the “principle of anarchy”. It is not sufficient to separate origin and command, principium and princeps: as we have shown in The Kingdom and the Glory, a kind who rules does not govern is only one of the two poles of the governmental apparatus and playing off one pole against he other is not sufficient to halt their functioning” (Agamben 276).
  1. At the end of the Intermezzo on Foucault, Agamben takes this aporia of the subject to the end: “Certainly the subject, the self of which eh speaks, cannot be inscribed into the tradition of the Aristotelian hypokeimenon and yet Foucault – likely for good reasons – constantly avoided the direct confrontation with the history of ontology that Heidegger had laid out as a preliminary task. What Foucault does not seem to see, despite the fact that antiquity would seem to offer an example in some way, is the possibility of a relation with thyself and of a form of life that never assumes the figure of a free subject – which is to say, a if power relations necessarily refer to a subject, of a zone of ethics entirely substrate form strategic relation of an Ungovernable that is situated beyond states of domination and power relations.” (108).
  1. Andrea Cavalletti. “http://ilmanifesto.info/agamben-la-vita-e-forma-e-si-genera-vivendo/
  1. Agamben literally repeats the elaboration of inoperativity of the Law from the book on St. Paul: “An example of a destituent strategy that is neither destructive nor constituent is that of Paul in the face of the law. Paul expresses the relationship between the messiah and the law with the verb katargein, which means, “render inoperative” (argos), “deactivate”. Thus, Paul can write that the messiah “will render inoperative (katargese) every power, every authority, and every potential (Cor 15:26) and at the same time that the messiah is the telos of the law” (Romans 10:4): here inoperativity and fulfillment perfectly coincide”. (Agamben 273).
  1. The notion of ‘distance’ as a region of relation in the polis that precedes the equivalence grounded in administrative politics is thematized by Spanish philosopher Felipe Martinez Marzoa in his El concepto de lo civil (Ediciones Metales Pesados, 2008). Alberto Moreiras has recently treated this cuasi-concept as an infra-political register in his “Nearness against Community”: https://infrapolitica.wordpress.com/2016/03/12/nearness-against-community-the-eye-too-many-by-alberto-moreiras/
  1. Carlo Salzani has listed a typology of “messianic figures” (the messianic that in Agamben has little to do with a philosophy of History). These are also figures of the hos me such as dancing, the party, gesture, play, poetry, landscape, or thought. Introduzione a Giorgio Agamben (Il Melangolo, 2013). But at stake here is also the question of Justice. In the chapter “The Inappropriable”, Agamben recalls a fragment written by W. Benjamin entitled “notes towards a Wok on the Category of Justice” (1916): “no order of possession, however articulated, can therefore lad to justice. Rather, this lines in the condition of a good that cannot be a possession. This alone is the good through which goods becomes possessions…Virtue can be demanded [exigency]; justice in the final analysis can only be as a state of the world or as a state of God” (81). It is a strange fragment mainly because exigency of virtue (arête) is isolated from a notion of “Justice” as a state of the World. But was not exigency as demand what happens without ever being demanded? On the opposite side, the ‘state of the world’ should not be equipped with the Heideggerian notion of ‘letting be’, but rather as a politics of exile of the singular or as Agamben says “to experience is absolutely inappropriable” (81). This is connected also with a later essay that Benjamin writes on the tenth anniversary of Kafka, in which he famously writes: “…legal scholar Bucephalus remains true to his origins, except that he does not seem to be practicing law – and this is probably something new, in Kafka’s sense, for both Bucephalus and the bar. The law, which is studied and not practiced any longer, is the gate to justice. The gate to justice is learning”. Benjamin quickly notes that there is a distinction between learning and studying; the first case being on the side of that which can be mastered. Playing or studying the law is in every case the praxis of Justice and nothing more.

Potencia y deconstrucción. (Gerardo Muñoz)

Attell Agamben 2014Sobre Kevin Attell. Giorgio Agamben, beyond the threshold of deconstruction. New York: Fordham, 2014.

Kevin Attell, quien es también traductor al inglés de varios libros de Giorgio Agamben (The Open 2004, State of Exception 2005, The Signature of all things 2010), ha realizado un gran esfuerzo en su reciente Giorgio Agamben: Beyond the Threshold of Deconstruction (Fordham, 2014) por pensar la obra del italiano a la mano de la llamada “deconstrucción”. De hecho, en las primeras páginas del libro Attell lanza una premisa que articula y organiza el argumento: a saber, que desde su comienzo en la década del sesenta, Agamben no ha hecho otra cosa que medirse en relación con el trabajo de Derrida [1]. Esto pudiera ser más o menos obvio para los trabajan con la obra del italiano, aunque menos obvia es la forma en que Attell desplegará un vínculo – casi pudiéramos llamarlo un “dossier esotérico”, que atraviesa toda la obra filosófica antes y después de Homo Sacer – y muy sensible al desarrollo analítico de la deconstrucción, en donde está en juego no solo la disputa por el nombre de “Heidegger”, sino también una querella por terrenos comunes como la semiología, el judaísmo, o el marxismo.

Pero Attell no se detiene en un movimiento unilateral, sino que lo combina con la operación en reverso, mostrando cómo una vez que la obra de Agamben va generando una relevancia central en su intervención, Derrida va tomando en cuenta preguntas en torno a la biopolitica, la animalidad, o la soberanía como se hace manifiesto en los últimos seminarios sobre la bestia o la pena de muerte. De ahí que donde mayor “efectividad” concentra el plan analítico de Attell, es también el lugar donde encontramos su límite. En la medida en que el pensamiento de Agamben queda atravesado por una “polémica esotérica” con la deconstrucción, esta operación se ve obligada a reducir la analítica a una continua oposición de ambos lados; un pliegue dual de tópicos y conceptos fundamentales del pensamiento de Agamben que quizás no encuentran ensalzarse con “efectividad” en la querella de la deconstrucción (es así que Attell descuida por completo Il regno e la gloria, así como la pregunta por el método tan central en Agamben desde la publicación de Estancias).

Pero sobre estos límites y otros, volveremos hacia la última parte de nuestro comentario. Basta con decir, de entrada, que el libro de Attell, muy a diferencia de otras introducciones tales como Giorgio Agamben: A Critical Introduction (de la Durantaye, 2009), o Agamben and politics: a critical Introduction (Prozorov, 2014), es mucho más que una repaso introductorio a un aparato de pensamiento. Ni tampoco se asume como una “reconstrucción de un debate intelectual”, a la manera de la escuela de la historia de las ideas, sino que muestra los núcleos centrales de la que quizás siga siendo la disputa más importante en los últimos años, y cuya consecuencia para el campo de la política y el pensamiento no son menores.

Los dos primeros capítulos “Agamben and Derrida Read Saussure” y “The Human Voice” trazan el desacuerdo entre ambas parte por el estatuto del logos y la naturaleza general de la significación como presencia y principio general de la metafísica occidental. Hay varios elementos en juego, de los cuales no nos podríamos ocupar en el espacio de esta reflexión y que Attell reconstruye en una minuciosa lectura de Saussure de ambos pensadores. Lo central se ubica en torno a la significación general y su aporia en el interior del proyecto de la deconstrucción relativo a desmontar la jerarquía entre escritura y palabra que modula la matriz metafísica de la presencia. Citando varios momentos del temprano Estancias y del tardío Il tempo che resta, Attell explicita la coherencia de la crítica de Agamben en cuanto a la deconstrucción: al intentar “destruir” o “deconstruir” la metafísica epocal, Derrida mantiene una postura de defferal indefinido que si bien ha logrado explicitar el problema central, es incapaz de traspasar ese impasse.

A partir de una relectura de los cuadernos de Saussure- y aquí estaría en juego también la pregunta por la “filología” que Agamben eleva a un nivel de exigencia filosófica – el autor de Estado de excepción argumenta que la deconstrucción asume la saturación irreducible del signo (o del texto), ignorando la propia inestabilidad al interior de la armadura conceptual del lingüista. Por otro lado, para Agamben tampoco se trata de una cuestión meramente filológica en cuanto a los cuadernos últimos de Saussure (que meramente apuntaría a una ignorancia vulgar por parte de Derrida), sino más bien de una asimilación más profunda en cuanto al problema de la significación. Mientras que el modelo lingüístico de la deconstrucción asume una “codificación edipal del lenguaje”, Agamben se posiciona en la fractura del propio “experimento del lenguaje” en tanto problema topológico más allá de la división dicotómica entre significado y significante. Como explica Attell:

“For Agamben, the disjuncture between “S” and “s” is not itself the nonorgionary origin, or the “producer” of signification, but the index of that originary “topological” problem of signification , which remains to be thought – and thought precisely on terrain other than of the semiotic logic of the signifier and the trace….Thus, in response to Derrida deconstruction of the metaphysical logic of the sign, Agamben claims that “To isolate the notion of the sign, understood as positive unity of signans and signatum, form the original and problem Saussurian position on the linguistic fact as a ‘plexus of eternally negative different’ is to push the science of signs back into metaphysics” [3].

Aquí se enuncian varios problemas centrales, que luego derivan en la morfología topológica de la inclusión-exclusión propia de la categoría de excepción soberana, pero también la posibilidad de pensar la metafísica como un problema que excede la matriz semiológica para la cual la deconstrucción sería insuficiente. De ahí, entonces la recopilación de figuras como el “gesto” o la “infancia”, el “silencio” o el “poema”, como lugares que sitúan catacreticamente una archi-escritura en la dicotomía estructural de la presencia, y abriéndose hacia una laguna o caída del lenguaje en el hombre y del hombre en la lengua. Dicho de otra forma más acotada: mientras que la deconstrucción entiende el problema del Ser como presencia que se asume obliterando la condición de ausencia, para Agamben el problema principial de la metafísica es la falta constitutiva signada en la Voz en el devenir de lo humano.

Como sugiere Attell, aquí la discrepancia entre ambos filósofos no podría ser mayor, puesto que si para Derrida la metafísica es reducible a la presencia (“fonocentrismo”) para Agamben es la negatividad entendida como Voz; sitio donde la metafísica estructura no solo su antropología (el pasaje de la animalitas a la humanitas), sino la producción del lenguaje como aparato de subjetivización y división de “vida” en tanto negatividad. En un momento clave Attell resume la aporia que la deconstrucción no pudo asumir al situarse en la gramma como oposición al phone:

“To identify the horizon of metaphysics simply in that supremacy of the phone and then to believe in one’s power to overcome this horizon through the gramma, is to connive of metaphysics without its coexistent negativity. Metaphysics is already grammatology and this is fundamentology in the sense that the gramma (or the Voice) functions as the negative ontological foundation]…In this passage Agamben recasts the Derridean critique of phonocentraism by reading the phone of metaphysics….The Voice thus emerge not as a presence, but precisely as the original negative foundation of metaphysics. It is not the negative breach within the hegemonic metaphysics of presence, but rather the very ground of the hegemonic metaphysics of negativity” [4].

El trabajo posterior de Agamben desarrolla una respuesta al problema de la negatividad como fundamentación ontológica de la metafísica. En este sentido, el concepto de potencia (dunamis / adunamis) pasa a ser central en todo el desenvolvimiento del pensamiento de que descoloca la oposición phone / gramma del territorio de la semiología, y devuelve la saturación metafísica hacia un problema primario de la filosofía desde Aristóteles hasta Heidegger. De esta manera, Agamben construye lo que Attell se aventura a llamar una “potenciologia“, donde la cuestión obviamente no es dicotomizar una vez más dunamis vs. energeia, sino mostrar como en el libro Theta de la Metafísica de Aristóteles encontramos algo así como una valencia en donde la dunamis (potencia) no solo no conlleva a la energeia (la realización o actualización), sino que escapa la negatividad al inscribirse como modalidad de “impotencia” (potencia). Este segundo registro es realmente lo que signa el “gesto” fundamental de Agamben, puesto que de esta manera pareciera afirmarse una forma que no opera a partir de la negatividad (dunamis no es energeia, pero la adunamia es dunamis sin realización, esto es, como puro acto que acontece). En uno de los momentos de mayor claridad expositiva del capítulo 3, Attell nos dice:

“At stake in Agamben’s impotential reading is his broader critique of the primacy of actuality in the philosophical tradition, which we already saw an element of his more or less heideggerian affirmation of potentiality over actuality….for Agamben, in energeia, it is not only potentiality but also and above all impotentiality that as such passes wholly over into act, and if this the case, then actuality must be seen not as the condition of impotential and the fulfillment of potentiality, but rather as the precipitate of the self-suspension of impotentiality, which produces he act in the far more obscure mode of privation or steresis. It produces the at not in the fusion of a positive or negative ground, but in a paradoxical structure of privation that is not negation” [5].

La adunamis como impotencia no es una mera negación de la potencia, sino algo así como su devenir en donde forma y acto coinciden sin la negación de una estructura principial (en el sentido en que Reiner Schurmann discute arche y telos en función del cálculo y la exploración de la causalidad y la praxis desde Aristóteles) [6]. La [im]potencia es, como lo ejemplifica el ensayo sobre “el contemporáneo”, la im-potencia-de-no-ver en la oscuridad, donde no es que estemos no viendo (privados de la luz), sino que vemos al ver la oscuridad [7].

Esta apuesta que pareciera meramente filológica en lo que respecta a la obra de Aristóteles, le permite a Agamben hacer varios movimientos a la vez, de los cuales podríamos enumerar sin querer ser exhaustivos al menos cuatro:

  1. encontrar una salida de la “máquina semiológica” mostrando que la “represión cuasi-originaria” de la metafísica no es la supresión de la gramma, sino de la potencia que es también des-obra inoperante de la ontología. Este espacio es determinado por una lectura de Aristóteles a contrapelo de la deconstrucción, y volviendo al Heidegger de la dunamis y la pregunta por lo “animal”. Aquí pudiéramos decir que Agamben insemina la filosofía desde dentro (y no desde la lengua o la literatura, aunque como bien señala Attell esto desde ya genera la pregunta por el “apego filosófico” de Agamben. Este debate en torno a la “anti-filosofía” requeriría muchísima más atención).
  1. Al ampliar el campo general de referencia de la crítica de la metafísica (de un modo análogo como lo hizo con la “Voz”) ahora sitúa la gramma en subordinación a la potencia. Es aquí que cobra sentido la frase que Agamben recoge de Cassiodorus, quien nos dice: “Aristóteles mojó su pluma en el pensamiento”. El acontecer de la (im)potencia como intelecto es condición de inscribir de la gramma. De modo que el gesto de Agamben es ampliar el marco de problematización, y ver que el problema de la escritura en Derrida no es negado, sino recogido al interior del espacio de la potencia.
  1. Agamben de esta manea sitúa la imaginación al centro de un debate por “salvar la razón” (pregunta que también es central para el último Derrida). De ahí la importancia del averroísmo, así como cierto interés en la teoría de la imagen que recorre la virtualidad y el montaje en los libros de cine de Deleuze, centrales para el desarrollo de la teoría del mesianismo de Agamben en el libro de San Pablo.
  1. Pudiéramos decir que la potencia es lo clave en virtud de que abre una zona topológica para comprender el movimiento inclusivo-exclusivo de la soberanía, dejando atrás la dicotomía “poder constituido / poder constituyente” de Negri que, vista de esta forma, no sería más que la reificación onto-teologica que reproduce la metafísica de una nueva soberanía política.

Los próximos dos capítulos en torno a la lógica de la soberanía y la animalidad, Attell recorre el intercambio y desencuentro entre ambos pensadores. Por un lado, la pobre distinción que Derrida atiende entre zoe y bios en el pensamiento de Agamben, pero también el poco cuidado que Agamben le otorga la espectralidad como forma potencial de la naturaleza policial de una democracia arruinada por la estructura principial de autoridad. Asimismo, es sumamente productivo notar una serie de matices que introduce Attell para comenzar a pensar la crucial división del homo sacer en Agamben: primero que la zoe no está plegada a una “zona natural” de la vida “animal”, sino que conforma un duplo, junto a la bios, de una misma máquina biopolitica. Segundo, que no hay anfibología alguna entre biopolitica y política, sino toda una biopolitica estructural que recorre las épocas de la historia de la metafísica desde Aristóteles como arcanum de la consumación nihilista de la política. Y finalmente, la inserción de la “máquina antropológica” en cuanto a la división taxonómica de la vida animal y la vida humana que explicitan, quizás mejor que cualquier otro aparato de la metafísica, la estructura del aban-donamiento continuo de la vida ante un cierto principio aleatorio epocal.

Todo esto complica y problematiza la propia noción de “potencia”, ya que podemos ver de esta manera que el funcionamiento de la soberanía no es, en modo alguna, el poder de decisión a la manera del soberano schmittiano, sino más bien el lugar en donde se explota la negatividad (o la potencia) que ha sido asumida desde siempre en función de la actualización, o sea como realización de un orden establecido fáctico de la esfera del derecho. El pasaje se establece de la soberanía política estatal de Hobbes a la indecisión barroca de Shakespeare y el teatro barroco alemán que estudiase Walter Benjamin.

Aunque varios son los ejemplos que podrían aclarar la diferencia entre Agamben y Derrida en cuanto a la naturaleza del derecho, el ejemplo de la alegoría de “Ante la ley” de Kafka es quizás central, ya que si para el autor de Gramatología, estar ante la ley demuestra la asimetría diferida que explicita el no-origen o el juego de la différance de la ley, para el autor de Estado de excepción, la parábola de Kafka es el ejemplo de la estructura misma del “abandono” (ban, siguiendo el término de Jean Luc Nancy que Attell señala) en su función topológica de exclusión-inclusiva. Esa es la forma en que la potencia de la soberanía ejecuta su decisión, aun cuando sea en modalidad pasiva, aunque regulada dentro del aparato de la jurisdicción. Es así que, como bien señala Attell, mientras que para la deconstrucción se trata de mostrar una serie de aporías de un mecanismo “ilegitimo” de la Ley en su continua contaminación; para Agamben quien sigue muy de cerca la lección de Schmitt, todo principio rector de legitimidad tiene como estructura una forma de exacerbada división interna. Pero es quizás en la lectura sobre Walter Benjamin y su “Crítica de la violencia”, donde Attell mejor inscribe el desacuerdo de Agamben y Derrida en cuanto a la naturaleza dual de la soberanía. Ya que el método de Derrida es mostrar la promiscuidad entre violencia “fundadora de derecho” y violencia “conservadora de derecho”, y la noción de “violencia pura” o “divina” como una violencia sin fin capaz de desarticular la operación fáctica de la esfera del derecho (a la que interpreta bajo el signo de “origen”). Para Agamben la violencia pura de Benjamin es una zona que asegura una salida entre las dicotomías de poder constituyente y constituido, entre legalidad y legitimidad, entre energeia y dunamis. La “violencia divina” es aquí otro nombre para la impotencia (adunamis).

La tensión en el diferendo “potencia / deconstrucción” encuentra su grado de mayor tensión en el último capítulo sobre el mesianismo, donde Attell muestra cómo para Agamben el proyecto de Derrida no solo ha quedado límite en sus autolimitaciones metafísicas ya aludidas, sino que también encarna un falso mesías que apenas ha sustituido la noción schmittiana de katechon por différance. La lógica es la siguiente: si el katechon para Schmitt es aquello que frena y difiere el tiempo del fin; la différance en su postergación a venir no es posibilidad “mesiánica” real (del tiempo del ahora, ya ocurriendo, para decirlo en términos de la modalidad del tiempo operacional), sino un “falso profeta” en la culminación de la metafísica. En uno de los pasajes más duros de Agamben contra Derrida, Attell escribe:

“Agamben’s virtual charge here is the harshest that can be leveled: that Derrida, or rather deconstruction (there is nothing personal in any of this), is the false Messiah. The “elsewhere” to which Thurschwell refers here is the 1992 essay “The Messiah and the Sovereign: The Problem of Law in Walter Benjamin,” where Agamben characterizes deconstruction as a “petrified or paralyzed messianism that, like all messianism, nullifies the law, but then maintains it as the Nothing of Revelation in a perpetual and interminable state of exception, ‘the “state of exception” in which we live…[…] Schmitt’s katechonitic time is a thwarted messianism: but is thwarted messianism shows itself to be the theological paradigm of the time in which we live, the structure of which is none other than the Derridean différance. Christian eschatology had introduced sense and a direction in time: katechon and différance, suspension delaying this sense, render it undecidable” [8].

Aunque injustamente agresiva, queda claro que la movida conceptual de Agamben es mostrar como tanto Schmitt como Derrida no superan la negatividad de la anomie, puesto que han quedado ajenos a la adunamia, y por lo tanto capturados en una movimiento de desplazamiento cohabitados por la zona de indeterminación de la indexación del acto traducible al movimiento mismo de dunamis y energeia [9]. Desde luego, los pasos que Agamben se toma para desarrollar esta proximidad entre Schmitt y Derrida son inmensos, y pasan justamente por toda una lectura minuciosa a varios niveles del “mesianismo apostólico” de Pablo contra las interpretaciones vulgares del mesianismo como futurología (para Agamben basadas en una sustitución de apóstol por profeta), o la homologación con la escatología que apuntan a una crítica implícita, aunque sin nombrarlos, a Jacob Taubes y a toda la tradición marxista atrapada en una homogeneidad del tiempo vulgar del desarrollo.

Si el mesianismo sin Mesías de Derrida solo acontece en una postulación diferida de momentos en el tiempo de interrupción; para Agamben no se trata de un tiempo futuro ni del fin del tiempo, sino de un tiempo de fin que marca el ya constituido devenir entre lo que podemos concebir ese tiempo basado en nuestra concepción de la representación de esa temporalidad final. La concepción del mesianismo como “temporalidad operacional” del ahora-aconteciendo se distancia de manera fundamental de posiciones como la John Caputo (Paul and the philosophers), Michael Theodore Jennings Jr. (Reading Derrida / Thinking Paul), o Harold Coward (Derrida and Negative Theology), quienes en su momento intentaron homologar la lógica de la democracia a venir con el “tiempo mesiánico” de Pablo de Tarso.

Las diferencias son ahora muy claras: si Derrida ofrece la “trace” como catacresis de un origen, Agamben insiste que esa posición asume una concepción semiológica de la metafísica, y que ahora se inscribe en el suspenso de la negatividad (que ahora se ha insertado en la modernidad bajo la aufhebung hegeliana), pero sin posibilidad de pleroma [9]. La trace es escatológica, al igual que en su reverso el katechon, en la medida en que apunta a una anomie de primer grado – llamémosle una excepción 1 – que no logra suspender la lógica inclusiva-exclusiva del mismo movimiento de la excepcionalidad. Aunque nunca dicho en estos términos, Agamben para Attell sería quien hace posible una excepción 2 (una excepción a la excepción de la anomia via la dunamis), en donde se hace posible no una postergación del tiempo cronológico, sino una katargesis (des-obra, inoperancia) haciendo posible un vínculo existencial de representación del tiempo “operacional” mesiánico como algo que ocurrirá o que ha ocurrido , sino como algo que va ocurriendo. La noción de tiempo “operacional”, como el énfasis en los deícticos como índice del lenguaje-que-tiene-lugar, es retomado por Agamben de la escuela de Benveniste, y en este caso especifico de Gustave Guillaume para pensar la temporalidad no como chronos, sino como duración que antecede a la significación y que marca el tiempo de la formacion de una imagen-en-el-tiempo [10]. Esta maniobra le permite a Agamben seguir tomando distancia del signo y moverse hacia una significación general escapando el paradigma de la semiología y de la lengua como división residual que ahora ocurre a partir de imágenes via Aby Warburg, W. Benjamin, o Gilles Deleuze [11].

La katargesis es también la desvinculación radical en nombre de un mesianismo sin ergon, en disposición del fin de la ‘actividad como trabajo’, esto es, dada a la plenitud de la adunamia. Escribe Attell en lo que podríamos llamar una tematización de la “suspensión de la excepción 1” en cuanto a derecho:

“For Agamben, who has his critique of the Derridean katechon very much in mind here, the point of Kafka (and Benjamin) imagery of a defunct, idling, operative law is not a matter of a “transitional phase that sever archives its end, nor of a process of infinite deconstruction that, in maintaining the law in a spectral life, can no longer get to the the bottom of it. The decisive point here that the law – no longer practiced, but studied – is not justice, only the gate that leads to it…another use of the law” [12].

La diferencia sustancial entre la excepción 1 y la 2 es que mientras la 1 mantiene una “negociación perpetua” con la Ley, la 2 imagina una posibilidad del fin de excepcionalidad soberana del derecho sin remitirá al nihilismo, es decir, a su suspensión fáctica absoluta. La noción de “uso” como “juego” que introduce a Attell en su “Coda” queda limitada a desentenderse del más reciente L’uso dei corpi (Neri Pozza, 2014), donde la cuestión del uso ya no queda cifrada en una práctica ni a un dispositivo tal cual, sino más bien a una forma aleatoria de existencia – el “ritmo” o la “rima” serían incluso mejores figuras para describirla – que tematizan la irreducible distancia entre la vida y el derecho, o entre la forma-de-vida y el fin de la soberanía. Todo esto pareciera ser sospechoso, y hasta cierto punto de vista una resolución clarividente. Pero Agamben es consciente que la superación de la soberanía o del arche es una tarea en curso, y no implica que llegue a su culminación en su pensamiento. Lo que parece ocurrir es un abandono de la matriz de significación de la crítica-onto-teologica (la deconstrucción) hacia una “modalidad” que, sin vitalismo ni humanismo alguno, busca pensar la porosidad de la vida como forma an-arquica en vía de una distinta concepción de la política.

Pero habría que notar que el pensamiento de Agamben no comienza ni termina en el mesianismo, como lo demuestra ahora el reciente L’uso dei corpi, donde Agamben pareciera repetir la misma modulación de su argumento filológico sobre San Pablo, pero esta vez a través de un conjunto de “ejemplos” que incluyen la pregunta por el estilo, la ontología modal, el paisaje, el mito de Er, el concepto de virtud, o el poder destituyente en Walter Benjamin. En cualquier caso, una futura investigación crítica sobre el corpus Agamben tendría que reparar no solo en la tematización del mesianismo como un “punto de culminación de un pensamiento”, sino más bien pensar lo que yo me aventuraría a llamar la indiferenciación modular del estatuto de la glosa o del ejemplum [13]. En la forma de la glosa, así como en el ejemplo, donde pudiéramos a comenzar a pensar el desplazamiento que estructura la misma “forma de vida” en cuanto propuesta conceptual de obra que compartimentaría via ‘ejemplos singulares’ (como en La comunidad que viene) sin inscribirlos en una teoría general de pensamiento o mucho menos “teoría”. Este registro es completamente ignorado por Attell.

En efecto, una de las tensiones que solapan el libro de Attell es la poca problematización sobre el orden de la “política” o lo “político” a partir de la katargesis o de la potencia. ¿Por qué sostener una “política que viene” sin más? ¿No es eso, acaso, una forma de falso mesianismo katechontico? Es cierto que Attell alude en varios momentos a la “estructuración metafísica” de la política moderna, pero su libro, y quizás el pensamiento mismo de Agamben, nos deja una tarea para lo que aquí llamamos infrapolítica, y que de manera similar podemos pensar como una fractura de la politización con la vida más allá de una temporalidad vulgar asumida de la filosofía de la historia del capital (Villalobos-Ruminott), o como proceso continuo de metaforización (Moreiras) [14]. Es ahí donde el libro de Attell, más allá del diferendo deconstrucción-potencia, puede ser productivo para seguir pensando tras la ruina categorial de la política moderna. Tal y como dice Agamben en Homo Sacer, y que Attell es incapaz de tematizar sus consecuencias estrictamente políticas: “Politics therefore appears as the truly fundamental structure of Western metaphysics insofar as it occupies the threshold on which the relation between the living being and the logos is realized” [15].

La política es inescapable a la labor de la negatividad de la actualización nihilista. Por lo que la pregunta central en torno al uso que coloca Agamben como tarea a sus contemporáneos es, en buena medida, también la pregunta por los usos que le demos a Agamben. Usos que, más allá de estar marcados por conceptos o el circunloquio viciosos de una exigencia retórica, pregunta por la creación de una multiplicación de estilos, una capacidad de habitar sin regla ni condición al interior del intersticio entre la imaginación y el lenguaje.




  1. Kevin Attell. Giorgio Agamben: beyond the threshold of deconstruction. New York: Fordham University Press, 2014. p.3
  1. Refiero aquí “Persecución y el arte de la escritura” de Leo Strauss. Habría que pensar en que medida muchos libros de reconstrucción intelectual o “pensamiento” plantean un esquema similar asumiendo de esta manera la “crisis del pensamiento”.
  1. Kevin Attell. p.37
  1. Ibid. p.82
  1. Attell. p.97
  1. Ver la discussion sobre el arche de Reiner Schurmann en Heidegger: on being and acting: from principles to anarchy (Indiana, 1990). p.97-105.
  1. Giorgio Agamben. “What is the contemporary?”. What is an apparatus and other essays. Stanford University Press, 2009.
  1. Kevin Attell. p.215.
  1. Quizás esto ahora hace legible lo que parecía un insulto infantil en Introduction to civil war de Tiqqun: “57. The only thought compatible with Empire—when it is not sanctioned as its official thought—is deconstruction“.
  1. Si tomamos la metafísica más allá del problema del Ser, ¿no se abre otra historia que ya no pasa por el anclaje epocal que sugiere la tradición de la destrucción de la metafísica? ¿No es el “averroísmo”, una tradición de pensamiento que, al ser sepultada, queda fuera de los límites de la máquina onto-teologica de la metafísica? Para una excelente reconstrucción del averroísmo y su actualidad, ver “La Potencia de Averroes: Para una Genealogía del Pensamiento de lo Común en la Modernidad”, Revista Pleyade, N.12, 2013, de Rodrigo Karmy.
  1. Como en el capítulo sobre la “ontología modal” en L’uso dei corpi, habría que detenerse en un futuro en el nexo entre la noción de “tiempo operacional” a partir de imágenes que constituye el “tiempo del fin” en San Pablo via Guillaume, y lo que Deleuze llamó “la imagen-tiempo“. En efecto, Deleuze reconocería la centralidad de Guillaume en Time-Image: “…habría en las imágenes otro contenido, de otra naturaleza. Esto sería lo que Hjelmslev llama lo non-lingüístico…o bien, lo primero signado, anterior al sentido (significante), que Gustave Guillaume lo doto de condición de la lingüística” (262).
  1. Kevin Attell. p.253.
  1. Para pensar la noción de “ejemplo” como modalidad del método en Agamben, ver La comunidad que viene. Habría que pensar hasta que punto la oposición ejemplo y paradigma, establecen una singularización del método que no se restituya a una teoría general de lo político. Esto estaría también muy cercano de la “hacceity” que Gilles Deleuze adopta de John Duns Scotus. Le agradezco a Sergio Villalobos-Ruminott un breve intercambio sobre este tema.
  1. Ver Soberanías en suspenso: imaginación y violencia en América Latina (La Cebra, 2013), de Sergio Villalobos-Ruminott. Sobre des-metaforizacion, véase los apuntes de Moreiras al seminario de Derrida de 1964 en http://www.infrapolitica.wordpress.com.
  1. Giorgio Agamben. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford University Press, 1998. p.7-8.

Hiperneoliberalismo y los restos de Leviatán. (Gerardo Muñoz)

1. Leviatán fue el símbolo marítimo de la máquina estatal, como nos ha enseñando Carl Schmitt en su tratado sobre el « dios mortal » que tematizó Thomas Hobbes para la temprana modernidad. Es solo con el neoliberalismo que presenciamos su relativa desaparición o transformación, así como su plena descomposición contemporánea. En las playas frías del báltico solo queda su esqueleto como remanente que atestigua que alguna vez esa especie existió como jeroglífico soberano. Uno pudiera imaginar cómo, en las próximas décadas el Estado será imaginado como una forma tan bizantina como la propia iconología eclesiástica de Oriente.

2. El filme de Zviagíntsev trata, efectivamente, sobre el ascenso de un nuevo tipo de Estado (Segundo Estado mafioso, como diría Segato) que ya no es reducible a la simbología del Leviatán. Y aunque para esa novedad aún no tenemos nombre, si constamos con una economía de su fe: ahí donde se proyecta el despliegue del poder en la fase avanzada de la an-arquía del capital neoliberal. Esta fe da luz de futuro a nuevas grandezas que aparecen en boca del pope vestido en su túnica negra en el filme diciendo: « Rusia, ahora, regresa a su verdadero ser » [1].

Es el discurso de una nueva esperanzada retribución nómica-imperial del Este posterior al derrumbe comunista y a la entrada en la llamada « fin de la historia » planetaria. Este imperialismo – al menos en el film –no es nuevo. No se trata de explicitar la grandeza militar o tecnológica, sino de una trama triunfalista del cálculo; una soberanía capaz de atar los cabos entre el modelo secutirario, la flexibilidad del capital, la acumulación, y la derrota sobre los cuerpos. La nueva liturgia de la ley nunca aparece como misión bélica, sino como un dispositivo que florece lentamente sobre el interior mismo de la « casa » como última reapropiación de la intimidad y las formas de vida.

3. En su libro sobre el símbolo del Leviatán, Schmitt recoge una litografía del manuscrito Hortus deliciarum del siglo XII. Aparece ahí la imagen que reproduce la parábola del Cristo pescando con un anzuelo de su fe al gigante monstro marítimo (Leviatán). La imagen recuperada por Schmitt intentaba decir al menos dos cosas: a. que el Estado había sido siempre un animal subordinado a la fe (al complexio oppositorum, y verdadera legitimidad del poder mítico), y b. que solo desde la fe es posible re invitar un nuevo mito no-mecanicista, y por lo tanto ajeno a la valorización epocal del cálculo económico burgués.

En Leviatán ocurre lo opuesto: en plano neoliberalismo que todo arrastra en su disposición sobre el mundo y la tierra, el anzuelo de la fe es lo que termina destituyendo al Estado y a la unidad de vida. Quizás la secuencia más directa en torno a esta capacidad demostrativa de la fe, se materializa cuando vemos cómo la buldócer destruye la casa en un plano que se nos muestra desde el interior. Como una especie de anzuelo mecánico, la excavadora « Volvo » no « salva » sino que destruye, y en lugar de « instalar orden » solo crea superficies sedimentadas en un proceso que pudiéramos llamar una « geología de la destrucción y la producción de restos » (reformulamos aquí una variante muy próxima a lo que Sergio Villalobos-Ruminott ha propuesto recientemente en « La edad de los cadáveres ») [2]. El nuevo poder, por lo tanto, se desmarca de la oposición schmittiana entre la fe redentora del Christos y la « masacre kosher  del Leviatán ». La buldócer-anzuelo es el symbolon de un proceso de neo-liberalización en tanto apropiación de mundo que no ofrece futuro o redención; tan solo un suelo abstraído de la memoria y sus huellas.

4. La destrucción en Leviatán, asimismo, no deja rastros. En varios momentos del argumento, el poder opera no a partir de una « expresividad  sobre los cuerpos » de la escritura del terror, sino como simple desaparición (como notó Pablo Domínguez Galbraith). Un trazo que borran a los personajes para siempre del plano: no aparecen ante sus amigos, pero tampoco aparecen en celdas oscuras de un ultramundo que pudiera orientar cierta división fáctica entre « legalidad » e « ilegalidad », « orden / excepción » o « norma / tortura ». Los cuerpos aparecen y luego ya no son visto en ninguna de sus formas sustraídas de su ser (la ceniza, la fosa común, o el basurero). La producción de muerte, por lo tanto, alcanza por momentos un matiz que excede la producción de muerte de Ciudad Juárez (si pensamos con 2666, o la obra de Sergio González Rodríguez), o de los procesos de violencia expresiva de la narco-acumulación contemporánea en México.

Leviatán da cuenta de una nueva metamorfosis hacia un hiperneoliberalismo que ha logrado asumir en el interior de su racionalidad el secreto fundamental de la vida y la muerte en el movimiento compulsivo de la legalidad. Tanto Lelia (la esposa y amante) como Dimitri (el abogado) más que “asesinados o dados de baja”, son desaparecidos sin huellas ; cuerpos arrojados a la intemperie de un territorio que no los reconoce, puesto que la vida ha sido reintegrada, ahora sin costo político alguno, en los mecanismos de un siniestro totalitarismo social (en este sentido, los esqueletos de la ballena en la playa es crucial, puesto que en tanto Leviatán ya no « representa » al pueblo ni entra en juego con la multitud. Es un cadáver autorreferencial y post-dramático, en la medida en que no hay ni siquiera conflicto entre polis y multitud).

5. La trama del filme no es solo ilustrativa de los tiempos que corren en Rusia (para-legalidad, corrupción policial, mafias, dualidad de Estados), sino una proyección de la ontología política de nuestro presente. No es casual que los espectadores, siempre a la espera de la violencia afectiva y expresiva, queden desilusionados por el mensaje de Zviagíntsev, esto es, que la violencia hoy se encuentra en otra parte.

El filme apunta a una nueva legalidad constitutiva del orden del poder, donde priman los “procesos de Justicia” en un redoble de la antigua liturgia cotidiana que gobernaba el misterio de la vida antes del paso hacia la secularización de Occidente. En línea con los procesos de Kafka, Leviatán entiende que la nueva apertura se da a través de una espacialización litúrgica de la ley, de un infinito proceso que siempre te alcanzará, y para la cual no hay negociación del culpable. La operación del misterio se construye, así, como un nuevo brazo armado de las fuerzas oscuras de lo político.

Si por un lado pueden coexistir y trabajar en concierto organismos violentos y represores de la sociedad (el llamado “modelo secutirario” es su explicitación más visible), este pliegue esclarece el refuerzo de la legalidad por someter a los cuerpos, resistencias, y formas de vida. Si acaso nuestro presente vive en tiempos del fin de la contención katechontica, esto no implica realmente una entrada hacia la liberación anómica del mundo, sino más bien una nueva factoría de producción infinita de la esfera del derecho. Una legalidad que, al igual que la flexibilización del capital, opera a partir de eso que Salvatore Satta llama el “misterio del proceso”: la invención y reproducción originaria que encausa a todo aquel que busque desactivar el movimiento del progreso [3].

6. La película tiene muchos ecos de la trama del clásico Michael Kohlhaas, de Henrich Von Kleist. Aunque con una enorme diferencia: en la novela de Kleist, es Kohlhaas quien lleva adelante una revolución anárquica cometida contra una municipalidad y una ley que no alcanza a rendir justicia a su persona. En Leviatán, al contrario, la revolución permanente la lleva adelante el poder, en un despliegue de economías de la fuerza que intentan derrotar al enemigo ya no solo físicamente sino también desde la esfera jurídica y la “verdad”.

Leviatán nos ofrece una imagen impecable de una de las formas de la guerra civil global que continua más allá del deshielo post-comunista y la homogenización neoliberal del planeta. El neoliberalismo aparece aquí, entonces, como una nueva vanguardia revolucionaria (Lenin en toda la película solo aparece una vez, mientas la cámara se va alejando y perdiéndolo de foco y contrasta con el close-up del Jesucristo en el encuentro entre el pope y el alcalde) liderada por al esfera del derecho y sus dispositivos de control. Ya no es posible la resistencia – a la Kohlhaas – por lo que no es posible una política de la subjetividad llamada a transformar el presente político [4].

No queda nada claro si el último sermón del pope sobre el estatuto de la verdad y la mentira, vía el mensaje de San Pablo, funcionaría como una subversión de este nuevo poder tiránico o como la usurpación última de la forma diabólica en el espacio mismo de la potencia mesiánica. La pregunta por esta nueva forma de plasticidad infinita de eso que llamamos hiperneoliberalismo reactualiza la pregunta por la soberanía en sus diversas transformaciones contemporáneas sobre los terriotorios. Una pregunta que, sin temores ni entusiasmos, la pensadora Catherine Malabou ha buscado instalar en el campo de nuestras problematizaciones: ¿es posible hoy deconstruir la soberanía?




1. Escribe José Luís Villacañas en su artículo “Leviatán”: “Si alguien quiere conocer la índole de los poderes emergentes en Rusia debería ver Leviatán, el filme de Andréi Zviagíntsev, candidato al Oscar a la mejor película extranjera. Atravesado por el mítico simbolismo de la poderosa bestia bíblica, la película muestra la estructura de la férrea maquinaria mafiosa gobernante que se extiende desde Moscú hasta la costa báltica, a través de una inmensa red de capilares en la que están implicados los restos del viejo aparato del Estado, sobre todo la policía resentida, corrupta y servil. Esta jerarquía es alentada en sus crímenes infames por la paralela legión de popes, que entrega sus servicios de limpieza de conciencia a cambio de poderosos beneficios materiales. No sólo fortalece la frágil e insegura mente del criminal ante su acción plagada de consecuencias inciertas, sino que refuerza la conciencia nacional rusa, representada de forma esencial con la fe ortodoxa. «Ahora Rusia vuelve a su verdadero ser», dice el pope revestido de gloria en el triunfante discurso final. Y ese verdadero ser es el nuevo leviatán que, poco a poco, hace resucitar al que, reducido a huesos, ha quedado varado en la playa del comunismo”. (http://www.levante-emv.com/opinion/2015/02/10/leviatan/1223735.html.

2. Sergio Villalobos-Ruminott. “Las edades del cadáver: dictadura, guerra, desaparición”. (Ponencia leída en el marco del congreso “Crossing Mexico”, Princeton University, Marzo 2015).

3. Salvatore Satta. Il mistero del proceso. Adelphi: Milán, 1994.

4. Podemos leer el accionar de Kohlhaas como alegoría del militante del siglo XX en la búsqueda de la trascendencia de la justicia retributiva. Es curioso cómo Lutero, quien también pertenece al momento del nihilismo moderno en cuanto subjetividad, aparece en la novela como pacificador del orden nómico alemán. Para ver un análisis contemporáneo sobre Kohlhaas, ver Dimistris Vardoulakis, Sovereignty and its other (Fordham Press, 2013).

Cabezas’ A-Positional Freedom. By Alberto Moreiras

“No infrapolitics without exploitation; no exploitation without infrapolitics.”   The Introduction to Oscar Cabezas’ Postsoberanía: Literatura, política y trabajo begins by stating that post-sovereignty would be the condition of capital’s “absolute sovereignty,” that is, a capitalism without restrainer.   The hypothesis, or thesis, is that such is the regime of rule today, in virtue of which there is no limitation to the slavery imposed by capital. Post-sovereignty would describe the political terrain of globality, understood as the political terrain of exploitation.

But in the first chapter we read that there is no formal or real imposition of sovereignty, as the history of modernity shows, without the simultaneous production of a “judaizing remainder” (22), the organizer of the marrano figure, or register, as a radical exception to the sovereign community.   The marrano exception is an error or errancy as such, and marks or provides the “enigmatic experience” of something that, interpellated and informed by the law, is never quite subordinate to the unity of command” (23): an overflowing or desbordamiento “before the law.”

If the “community,” certainly in its modern form as national community, but presumably beyond that, is always an invention of power, even of inquisitional power (in the same way that the marrano is a figure within the law that exceeds the law itself, its counterpart, the Inquisition, or inquisitional logic, is “a power within the state superior to the state itself,” in Henry Charles Lea’s definition), then the marrano marks a decommunitarian option or position that, towards the end of the chapter, Cabezas will indicate as an a-positional position, an exodus from position (81).

Cabezas corrects Heidegger’s Parmenides by insisting that it is not the Germans, precisely, who could mark the very possibility of a non-Roman, non-imperial understanding of the political, but rather the marrano, as inquisitional excess.   He links this to Derrida’s messianism without the Messiah, hinting at, without fully developing, the idea that Derrida was the first to thematize political de-capitalization for a properly counterimperial, non-Roman thinking of the political.

But I wonder whether, within the confines of this chapter at least, Cabezas’ move is really towards counterimperial politics and not rather towards infrapolitical decapitalization.   Perhaps the most moving pages in the chapter are the central ones, the section entitled “Sovereign T-error, Exile’s Truth.” In them Cabezas pursues notions such as “subjectivity without subjection,” “apátrida thought,” “erratic language,” and “sovereignty without sovereignty” in order to affirm that it is only in them that a possible “relation to freedom” opens up in modernity and beyond modernity (43).   The radical sadness of exile, of ex-communication, of de-communitarization, is a condition of freedom under every regime of sovereignty, which the marrano abhors.

But can a radical opposition to sovereignty be identified as a political position? The language of the marrano is always a losing language, a language of loss or in loss (51). “Only a language of unity turned sovereignty can fulfill the function of union” (51). There can be no union under a marrano register, only separation.   But this then means, “the marrano condition of language” (61) is never political, and can only be infrapolitical. Cabezas says “clandestine,” “subterranean,” “invisible,” that is, it never rises, because it can never do, to heliotropic regions.

Marrano a-positionality is always already infrapolitical, which is its condition of freedom.   Freedom is never defined, only invoked.   So this chapter powerfully raises a question that it is not easy to come to terms with: the answer would be, there is no political freedom, in the same way there is no good community in community. But there is something like infrapolitical freedom, invoked, never defined.

Cabezas concludes: “Exile unbinds freedom doubly, as an experience in the open, but also as the impossibility for it to take place in the name of any modern genealogy of sovereignty or its criollo variations. Freedom is the experience of exile, and the whisper of a marrano who blows into your ear the destruction of the images of idols” (91).