Into the common blue: on Federico Galende’s Comunismo del hombre solo. (Gerardo Muñoz)

Galende Comunismo hombre soloFederico Galende’s new book Comunismo del hombre solo (Catálogo, 2016) cannot be read as just an essay, but rather as a gesture that point to a common hue of humanity. This hue is the intensity of blue – instead of the zealous red, the morning yellow, or the weary white – the intensity that withdraws to an ethereal plane of the common. In a recent book on Picasso, T.J. Clark reminds us that the palate blue of the Spanish artist’s early period paved the way for the entry into the temporality of the modern, while demolishing the bourgeois interior and its delicate intimacy of lives that thereafter became possessed by work and display [1].

Galende’s blue dwells on an angular bend of a color without signification. He is not interested in re-signifying blue as topologically reducible to the new oikos of being. Rather, it is the blue of Aki Kaurismäki’s films what inscribes a distance or metaxy of what is improperly common to a humanity thrown into a world beyond measure (11-12). For Galende, Kaurismäki’s work is an excuse for thought, in the same way that the paintings of Yves Klein or Andrew Wyeth would have been been deployed to un-veil a distant sky that opened to the world of the living in a radically different temporality that is neither that of progress or work, nor that of alienation and consumption.

Blue communism, or rather a communism of blues brings forth unity where there is separation, because ‘class’ far from constituting an identity, is a praxis that “les brinda a ser habitantes inocentes de una actividad que se despliegue bajo un mismo cielo” (36). Hence, there is no ‘idea of communism’, but only an unfulfilled image of potentiality (this is what at stake in Kaurismäki’s cinema, but also in Bresson and Bela Tarr, briefly sketched out in the essay by Galende) of a “tiempo inútil” or an inoperative time. It is a time of life against empty homogenous time of historical appropriation or abandonment. This is also the time that exceeds the threshold between life and work, cinema and the worker’s ailment, the solitary proletarian and the lumpen as always immanent to the capitalist conditions of labor. This inoperative time is what gives form (gestalt) to a negative community of the senses that re-attaches, as in multiple patchwork, what is real and what must remain fiction (78).

Galende sees implicitly this inscription of the inoperative time in Marx’s figure of the lumpenproletariat, and more subtlety, in bits and pieces of Marx’s own life as is autographically reconstructed from the days when the “18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” (1852) was written. It is only in Blanqui and later Benjamin, where communism is imagined as the improper existence of singulars under a common sky. Galende’s injunction for communism is an astro-communism that is neither regulated by subjectivity or will, political parties or the language of the transcendental nor is it a historical benchmark for hegemony and order. Against every regimen of subjective onto-theology, astro-communism is an experimental and impersonal practice of being exposed in the other, with the other. In a crucial moment of his essay, Galende writes:

“Introducir la práctica de los otros no es sin embargo una facultad exclusive del arte. Es la manera que tienen cualquiera de deshacer la identidad a la que ha sido confinado por el otro…Esto significa que no hay nada que interpretar ni nada que comprender, como diría Deleuze, ningún imperativo que asimilar: lo que la experimentación destruye es el transcendental que el catastrofista o el adelantado inyectan en el movimiento de la experiencia con el único fin de inmovilizarla. Ahora estamos al tato de que ese trascendental no era más que la máscara que cubra la vida vacía del sacerdote que frustra las potencias que se actualizan en su despliegue. […] Probar ser otro: la experimentación es una extensión en lo impropio” (81-83).

Astro-communism is conditioned by a metaxy that exceeds every anthropological remainder and its restitution. This explains why in the later part of the essay, Galende turns his attention to the animalia of both Kaurismäki and Bresson’s films: stray dogs, Balthassar the donkey, talking monkeys, rats or giant insects in Kafka. Curiously enough there is no mention of wolves in the essay (the wolf being the only animal that resists the circus or domestication, that is, that resists theory proper). Under the sway of animality, what Galende captures is not a substance or an intensity of the animal as to delimit the caesura between man and animal, but an openness that retain metaxy of every singular animal with the world.

For Galende, the animal’s sight abolishes any ‘central organization of perception’, which is condition for the appearance and consequently for being-singular in common (103-104). The metaxy of animal-world is (intentionally?) underdeveloped in Comunismo del hombre solo, but one could well speculate that this imagistic tactic here is to cross over the ontological difference into a region what the event of the human proper loses its privilege into an unearthly landscape where things and animals are assumed as a form devoid of epochal destiny. Astro-communism renders inoperative all epochality, since it conceives itself as lacking a ‘center, axis, or an organization of the visible that are merely instantiated in the quotidian [2].

This improper communism of the singular man delivers no political program. Of course, Galende makes no effort in restituting a politics in the time of the ruins of the political; at a moment when critique as such has been subsumed into a universitarian operation (125-126). Galende’s point of departure (not of arrival) is thus infrapolitical. His gesture in this sense cannot be said to produce a critical register aim at “re-orienting the present struggles” and re-integrate lumpen-living into the “stable working class”. This second option is already to abandon the promise of astro-communism in the name of an anthro-productivism that feeds off from the fictive arrangement of mechanical and labor arrangement against the singular experience.

Comunismo del hombre solo imagines and thinks what is always-already in the excess of production, that is, on the side of the lumpen, which is the form of life of astro-temporality of being. The blue man of communism can’t never be subsumed by work, since he is first a style of existence that is closer to the work of art. This is why the experience of communism, as Groys understands it, was a destructive plenary where social space became an all-encompassing museum. But that experiment failed, and only comes back to us as spectral trace. This is the promise in Kaurismäki’s oeuvre. What returns is what is un-common of the inoperative man – for instance, the particle ‘mu’ of communism [3] – not only as what makes possible and concrete every existence of life, but as a natural flux of a reverie that carries the fractured back of a laboring humanity.

 

 

 

Notes.

  1. T. J. Clark. Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2013.
  1. Federico Galende writes: “…en este comunismo no hay centro, no hay eje, no hay una organización de lo visible ni a partir del contracampo del protagonista en el que el paisaje se condensa ni a partir de una mirada dirigida….fuera de toda imposición, en formas de co-existencia que asoman solo cuando se las requiere para solucionar un traspié inmediato o cotidiano”. 117-118
  1. Wu Ming. “The Mu particle in communism”. Make Everything New: a project on communism. London: Book Works, 2006.
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Is communitarianism a substitute for State-University discourse? (Gerardo Muñoz)

Julian Velez Bolivia 2015

As we witness the exhaustion of the Latin American progressive cycle, it is obvious that new demands emerge for thought. What began more than ten years ago in Venezuela, Ecuador, and a little later in Argentina and Bolivia, has now come to a full close. Concretely, this signifies a halt in the processes of democratization in the region. It also entails the need to think new categories, demand imagination to other possible configurations, and abandon principles that have been subsumed into the ‘duopoly’ of market-State formulation [1].

If the last decade was characterized by democratization through consumption, this could well mean that the Latin American plebs will now consume less, will party only part-time under surveillance, and will have to reimagine themselves otherwise (even if it is around a Coca-Cola late at night in the villa). The runfla lives (the lives of the marginalized, of the popular sectors, the villeros, etc.) will have to regain the time of life, which is the time of the commons in consumption.

Out of the many concepts that circulated in the ‘Universidad Posible’ Conference (generously organized by Willy Thayer & Raul Rodriguez Freire) that took place in Santiago (April 18-21) it was that of ‘the commons’ which had intellectual political purchase to ‘invert’ and transform the waning of progressive political structuration, now in the hands of right-wing administrative governmentality. But the idea or concept of ‘commons’ was in itself ambivalent: on one hand, the ‘idea of the commons’  (it is always an idealistic affirmation) thrives on the general horizon of resistance from below, but on the other, it necessarily feeds off the crystallization of the crisis of hegemonic articulation.

This resonated in the phrase that Eduardo Rinesi repeated throughout the four days of the conference: ‘let us not forget that something has happened all these years in Latin America’ (“recordemos que algo ha venido pasando en América Latina”). On one hand, this introduced the experience of someone implicated in a progressive State apparatus, but on the other, this was also an implicit response to those who called for radical suspension of university epochality [2].

But what is that that has happened (in Latin America)? In any case, what happened must remained silenced, and merely evoked. The event cannot be given its proper weight, its semantic density, and its full hermeneutic dis-closure. Perhaps, because what has happened is democratization, but also (now) the crisis of democratization. In other words: in the time of the ruin of hegemony proper, there is a decline and trans-formation into its other, the shadow of post-hegemony as translated and incorporated against the time of democracy. Hegemony flows back as time past to avoid its spectral present.

More importantly, that ‘that which has happened’ provides for political verisimilitude that guarantees specificity of location, which is also a guarantee of the political. But in its closure, it also unveils a temporality of the past. A past that cannot assume the present, and when it tries to do so, it renders a telic result of what has already taken place. In this variation of university discourse, thought is incorporated into the prison of consequential necessity of time. It has happened, but it must remain outside of the now. If according to a maxim of the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky, the prison is maximum time with minimum space; university discourse is maximum past with minimum present. In the carceral reflection on the university in time of crisis, thought itself enters prison with no possibility for parol.

It is at this point where the communitarian option emerges from below as co-substantial with the crisis of democracy. In fact, its demand appears as its supplement that affirms time present of horizontal an-institutionalization with the ‘something has happened’ of partial (interrupted) democratic life. Communitarism becomes a safety-vowel to recast hegemony form from below in the crisis of hegemony form. Thus, communitarianism is a necessary supplement of hegemony to keep its ground intact.

It is in this double movement – between hegemony of the effectual past and the localization of the movement in the present – where something like a crisis of university discourse could be located in the Latin American intellectual reflection when confronted with the inevitable sinking progressive cycle in the region. This movement is full stasis in a double sense: it provides balance and form to principal (intellectual) reflection, and it also guards the conflict between fracture of institutional hegemony and immanentization of hegemony translated into community.

Can the Latin American crisis assume the form of a political plebeization to save itself? What is the time for a plebeization of the university? This was the question posed by Oscar A. Cabezas against reflexive modalities of political closure or the substantialization of the political (as stasis) into thinking the present [2]. Plebeization becomes a possible horizon when it demands the integration of the unity of conflict. But the turn to a communitarian unity of intellect must first posit political struggle as a primary antagonism of the friend-enemy divide, as Luis Tapia forcefully argues [3]. In fact, this is the argumentative core in Tapia’s Universidad y Pluriverso (2014), an inverse but affirmative schmittianism.

Plebeization (a term that interestingly Tapia himself does not deploy) organizes the time of the ‘future’ as a way to govern the present, in the name of forgetting the singular. Or is plebeiazation an invisible remainder of what is always taking place? Or is it a dirty eschatology for post-katechontic times? In both cases, the ‘something has happened’ and the ‘immanentization of the ultimate struggle’ amount to a dual machine of a particular historical fabric that, in the face of the fissures the political, is unable to see the open.

 

 

 

Notes

*Image: Popular procesion after Tiwanaku, by Maria Alejandra Escalante & Julian Velez, 2015. (Do not reproduce without their permission).

.

  1. The duopoly of State and market was thematized by Gareth Williams following Brett Levinson’s Market and Thought: Meditations on the Political and Biopolitical (Fordham, 2004).
  2. Moreiras referred the a-positional ‘ex-universitatis’, Villalobos-Ruminott a suspension of the principle of equivalence, whereas I called for a ‘postunivesity form beyond community’. Rodrigo Karmy’s averroism against ‘epistemic personhood’ was also consistent with these positions. These were all rehearsals for an infra-university, as Williams called it.
  3. Oscar A. Cabezas. “Los intelectuales y la universidad norteamericana”. (Paper read at Universidad Posible Conference, 2016).
  4. Luis Tapia’s Universidad y Pluriverso (2014). The reference to Schmitt’s concept of the political is thematized explicitly in Tapia’s essay.

Esse extraneum: on Emanuele Coccia’s Sensible life: a micro-ontology of the image. (Gerardo Muñoz)

coccia sensible lifeLa vita sensibile (2011) is Emanuele Coccia’s first book to be translated into English. Rendered as Sensible Life: a micro-ontology of the image (Fordham U Press, 2016), it comes with an insightful prologue by Kevin Attell, and it belongs to the excellent “Commonalities” series edited by Timothy Campbell. We hope that this is not the last of the translations of what already is Coccia’s prominent production that includes, although it is not limited to La trasparenza delle immagini: Averroè e l’averroismo (Mondadori, 2005), Angeli: ebraismo, cristianesitimo, Islam (co-ed with G. Agamben, 2011), and most recently Il bene nelle cose: la pubblicità come discorso morale (2014). One should take note that in Latin America – particularly in Chile and Argentina – Coccia’s books have been translated for quite a while, and have been part of a lively debate on contemporary thought. We hope that a similar fate is destined in the United States. For some of some of us working within the confines of the Latinamericanist reflection, an encounter with Coccia has grown out of our continuous exchange with friends like Rodrigo Karmy, Gonzalo Diaz Letelier, and Manuel Moyano. It would be superfluous to say that Coccia’s work is nested in the so called contemporary ‘Italian Philosophy’ (pensiero vivente, in Roberto Esposito’s jargon), although one would be committing a certain violence to reduce it to another ‘theory wave’ so rapidly instrumentalized in the so called ‘critical management’ within the North American university.

Coccia’s tropology (not entirely a set of fixed “categories” or “concepts” for a philosophical program), such as imagination, the sensible, and the averroist intellect are signatory relays for a potential history of thought against the grain of grand conventional histories and historiographies of Western philosophy, or even more so, against the reaffirmation of a principle of philosophy of history in the wake of nihilism and biopolitics. It is most certainty true that Coccia’s investigations share a horizon that we can call the “form of life” – some of us also call it “infrapolitical existence”, which for Coccia himself has translated as the vita sensibile – although both his approach and condensation of thought always presuppose an efficient interrogation of the singular indifferent to “influences” or “schools of thought” (even when Coccia moves deep into scholastic and medieval philosophy). Perhaps no less important of a metacritical index is the unreserved service for a reconsideration of the philosophical tradition – and more importantly, the transmission and disposition of a thinking that remains unwritten – beyond the history of metaphysics and political theology.

Sensible Life is not a book about the ontology of the image in the pictorial or phenomenological sense, but an investigation into the metaxy of existence and being in the world. As Coccia argues early on in the book, ‘the sensible life is a world given to us, and only as sensible life are we in the world’ (2). Against biopolitical or vitalist (neo-positivist) remnants of understanding as fated in the subject (or the persona), Coccia prepares the ground for a physics of the sensible that affects, without really transforming, the human as subject, although it does seek to exhaust itself in subjectivity. Coccia argues, as if implicitly taking up Simone Weil’s suggestion, that the form of sensation is always a modal relation with the outside, an improper distance (metaxu) of the ‘in between’, necessary for any schematization of concrete existence [1]. Hence, perception or sensing is only possible because there is metaxy, and not because there is a subject as the producer and commander of capacities and substances. Against distributive ontologies that design complex arrangement and division of ‘life’, Coccia’s sensibly maps out a region that has always already been there, and that turns to another relation with ontology and language.

In a large part, Sensible Life is vastly informed by his prior study on Averroes and the averroist tradition Averroè e l’averroismo (Mondadori, 2005), where Coccia studied the ways in which conventional Christian history of philosophy convicted the twelve century Iberian philosopher for the madness of positing a common and universal unity of the intellect. What Coccia thematizes in that study, but also in Sensible life with greater speculative freedom, is the extent to which reason depends on the potentiality of the intellect understood as the capacity for imagination. What is common and at the same time ‘improper’ to all beings is the potentiality of imagination that remains outside of life, never constituting a principle of sufficient reason nor the ground for dogmatic belief. The ‘scandal of averroism’, as Rodrigo Karmy has called it, was followed by the Scholastic ban on teaching averroism and removing averroists from the university. It is no surprise that this coincided with the development of the category of the person as a secondary reserve of Christian political theology and Roman Catholic ratio [2].

This is what lays bare in Coccia’s explicit condemnation of the Cartesian cogito, and his affirmation of the sensible as a de-metaphorized image without proper location, since it only dwells ‘where one no longer lives and where one no longer thinks’ (17). This impersonal drift of the sensible is what allows for an extreme de-localization in multiplicity of reproduction of images that serve to dislocate the very inside and outside of the constitution of the subject, but also of any constitution of life itself (31-32). Indeed, the first part of the book is said to write a physics of the impersonal and immaterial ‘third space’ (sic) – what in Aristotle’s vocabulary is the relation with the ‘externals’ [tōn exōthen], and in medieval scholasticism is the esse extraneum – that like marrano existence, it dwells on a dual exteriority. In a key moment of the development of Sensible life, Coccia writes:

“How, then, can we define an image? In his work on perspective John Peckham held that an image is “merely the appearance of an object outside its place (extra locum suum) because the being appears not only in its own place but also outside its own place”…Our image is nothing but the existence of our form beyond what makes up, the substance that permits this form to exist in an entirely extraneous matter to that in which one exists and mixes with. Every form is born from this separation of the form of a thing from the place of its existence: where the form is out of place, an image will have a place [ha luogo]. […] Thus, an image is defined by a dual exteriority: the exteriority from bodies and the exteriority from souls – because images exist prior to meeting the eye of the subject who observes a mirror” (19).

The reproductive machine of the sensible image does not ground itself unto the subject or the purely sensorial; a movement which would have produced yet another schism between mind and body, senses and reason, the visible and the invisible. Against the categorial arrangement of the persona (and its attributes, genus, and divisions), Coccia pushes forth a general theory of productions of forms that could account for the natural life of images (31). What is really at stake here is a medial process (provided by the medieval intentio) of multiplicity beyond being and substance, property and the proper of ontological assertion. Instead, Coccia affirms a cosmological understanding of the One. In fact, one could stress this a little bit further and argue that the averroist potential intellect is a singularization of the henological neo-platonic substance into one of pure externality beyond metaphysical structuration. But the question of henology and the overcoming of metaphysics is one that we cannot raise in the space of this commentary.

For Coccia the medial extension of the image (and the imagination) leads to a metaxy of coming together (simpatizzano, which is Italian ‘third person’ indicative for sharing, is the word he choses) that conspire to form a sort of clinamen effect of singularities. Not long ago Fabián Ludueña thematized this negative community in his important La comunidad de los espectros (Miño & Dávila, 2010) as a ghostly disfiguration that, vis-à-vis the nature of mediality, enters into relation with what is always unhomely and foreign (extraneum). That is the only possible form of the communitas in the sensible life.

The second part of the book made up of seventeen scholion unveil the way in which the sensible immaterial metaxy also provide for the man’s body that accounts for a mundane relation that exceeds and subceeds the psychological and the culturalist materialisms. By reassessing vita activa and mediality, dreams and the ‘intra-body’ (Ortega y Gasset), clothing and cosmetics, Coccia situates the sensible incarnation on the very surface of the body as momentary dwelling (52). As a general anthropology of the sensible, Coccia recoils back to the ‘subject’ and even ‘identity’, but only insofar as one recognizes in this an intention that he calls an ‘ontological indifference’ that allows for an outside projection of an “infra- or hypersychic consistency – a consistency that is almost hyperobjective. Here, “the intentional sphere does not coincide with the sphere of the mind even it includes the mind; it is, rather, the state of existence of all forms when they keep themselves beyond objects and on this side of subjects, or vice versa” (55). This “infra-subjective” solicits a concrete intentional relation of dwelling in the world.

Although the space of the political is not elaborated explicitly – and perhaps for Coccia there is no need for embarking on such a task – one could say that this region is consistent with the infrapolitical relation of the non-subject vis-à-vis the ontological difference. In fact, the marrano whose existence is necessarily infrapolitical in nature is consistent with the multiplied imposture that clothes every identity and every oikos an un-homely as being-in-the-world (91). In fact, Coccia is correct in taking this cue to the limit: “only those can make up and disguise themselves can truly say “I” (86). Marrano life is also the life of the outside, a borrowed life. It is in fashion understood as a tropological site of existence, where according to Coccia a style of the multiple is given its proper place, precisely because it lack costumes, essence, or meaning. On the contrary, fashion brings to bear that only modal relations can constitute forms of life (habits). Fashion has freed life to the sensible, through a suspension of all meditation with the metaphor as its end. Indeed, it is style and not metaphorization what provides for the sensible life.

The dwelling of the sensible is also incarnated multiplicity: it is the improper relation between man and animal, between living and dying. The sensible life as pure immersion, as Coccia has argued in another place, is a flow where movement and detention, action and contemplation become inseparable [3]. It comes as no surprise that Sensible life closes with a meditation on images for life and with a general economy of natality. Here perhaps one could raise the question about averroism as philosophical transmission, but also regarding its staging of ‘living with images’. Coccia argues that life is, above all, ‘what can be transmitted, the very being of tradition” (98). But to transmit is to re-enact a style that never took place: it is a becoming of singularity. In this sense, continues Coccia, ‘Life never stops producing and reproducing, and multiplying’. However, can there be ‘inheritance’ or even ‘legacy’ of that which lacks proper place, and that is always alocational? Is not the becoming of the reproduction of the sensible the very end of transmission, the very form of dis-inheritance from any nomic determination?

It is in this aporia where Coccia’s account of the sensible life (perhaps as a flight from the form of life) touches on the question of natality as a central problem for thought, which is fundamentally a question for the history of thinking. This is also the problem that Reiner Schürmann contemplated in his posthumous Des hégémonies brisées (1996) without really unrevealing its major consequences (except in the problem of finitude posed by the tragic denial). Coccia’s invitation is for us to reimagine imagination (la vita sensibile) outside of its proactive and transcendental saturation into a region that co-belongs with thought. To this end, the vita sensible cannot amount to another anthropology, since its taskless work is to render a life that is no longer one for labor and action, but affected by the immanence of what can be imagined.

 

 

Notes

  1. Simone Weil. “Metaxu”. Grace and Gravity. New York: Rutledge, 1999.
  1. Rodrigo Karmy. “La potencia de Averroes: para una genealogía del pensamiento de lo común en la Modernidad”. Revista Plèyade, N.12, 2013.
  1. Emanuele Coccia. “Speaking Breathing”. New Observation, N.130, 2015.