The Paradox of the Void at the End of Hegemony: on Maristella Svampa’s Debates Latinoamericanos: Indianismo, desarrollo, dependencia, y populismo. Notes from Presentation & Workshop at the University of Pennsylvania. By Gerardo Muñoz.

debateslat2017Maristella Svampa’s most recent book Debates Latinoamericanos: Indianismo, desarollo, dependencia, y populismo (Edhasa 2016) is truly a significant book. It is the result of more than a decade of archival research and theoretical elaboration, with deep implications in the sociological and political scholarship of the region. In a recent workshop held at the University of Pennsylvania this week, Prof. Tulia Falletti referred to Svampa after the publication of Debates Latinoamericanos and Maldesarrollo (2014) as a “new Guillermo O’Donnell” given the long-lasting impact that her systematic work will produce for so many fields of investigation both in the United States and in Latin America. Framed through four competing analytical problems – indigeneity, development, dependency theory, and the Latin American populist tradition – Debates Latinoamericanos engages and assesses the limits of the political reflection of the region in the last half a century. Furthermore, the book is beneficial for both specialists and students, since it covers a large bulk of historiographical debates in a polemical fashion. And I say polemical here not just in terms of its heterodoxy, but also in terms of a polemos relief that moves thought forward, inviting further reflection and contestation.

In the space of a brief commentary on the book, I cannot attempt the impossible, and offer an substantial summary of such a massive book. Rather, I want to take this opportunity to advance some of the questions that we juggled a few days ago when I presented this book in a workshop. I also want to have in mind Maristella Svampa’s brilliant keynote on populism and the end of the Latin American Progressive Cycle, which she delivered the day after and that was linked to relevant problems elaborated in the book [1].

Svampa writes Debates Latinoamericanos facing the ruinous space of the political in the Latin American tradition. But what and where is the origin of this catastrophe? To what extent can we offer a counter-imperial explanation for imperial domination against a marginalized locality in the world system of modern capitalism? Svampa does not say that the counter-imperial position is insufficient as a model to explain internal expropriation and continuous democratic deficit, but she runs a scan through the different four paradigms that shed light to what is, certainly, the meaty question of Latin American political reason: why has there not been democratic legitimacy in the region for the last two hundred years? I want to pause briefly in a moment that seems to provide a good starting point for conversation, and that I think should be cited at length:

“En ambos países [Argentina y Chile] el espacio ocupado por los indígenas era visto como “desierto”, “espacio vacío”, o para utilizar libremente la imagen de David Viñas, como la “contradicción de lo vacío que debe ser llenado” (1981:73). En Argentina, la metáfora del desierto creaba así una determinada idea de la nación, que tanto había obsesionado a la Generación del 37: más que una nación para el desierto, se trata a de construir un desierto que justificara la expansión de la nación. En Argentina, la expansión del capitalismo agrario y la consolidación del Estado nacional (mediante la estrategia de control territorial y afirmación de la frontera con Chile), se realizaría a través de la violencia genocida contra las poblaciones originarias en diferentes campañas militares, en la Patagonia y en el norte del país, entre 1870 y 1885. Dicha violencia tuvo un efecto demoledor sobre los diferentes pueblos indígenas.” (Svampa 43)

At first sight, it could well be that this passage is just a strict gloss of Tulio Halperin Donghi’s Un nación para el desierto argentino (1989) juxtaposed with David Viñas ’ Indios, Ejercito, y Frontera (1983). But I want to suggest that Svampa is doing something else here too. Whereas for Halperin Donghi the Dessert Campaign commanded by General Roca was the consolidation and crowning of the national state, for Svampa it marks the void at the center and origin of the political in Argentina. The extermination of the indigenous population as a form of ongoing originary accumulation, to say it with John Kranaiuskas, is what is common to the historical development in neoliberal times. But I do not think that Svampa is in agreement with David Viñas’ thesis either. According to Viñas’ narrative, the military defeat of the indigenous community is equivalent, a mere repetition, to the desaparecidos of the military dictatorship during 1976-1983. This repetition points to an originary and symmetrical violence that must be overcome by revolution. As I have studied in my work on Viñas, this critique of historicism of the Argentine state remains within the horizon of revolutionary violence as transcendental excess for liberation [2].

Svampa seems to tell us that this paradox or contradiction at the void makes us aware of a different problem, but also of an alternate reasoning beyond national consolidation and subjective militant liberation. A few pages after this moment, Svampa writes: “Cierto es que la “invisibilización no los borró por completo, sino que los transformó en una presencia no-visible latente y culturalmente constitutiva de formas hegemónicas de la nacionalidad”. Tan hegemónico ha sido el dispositivo fundamental en la representación de la Argentina como nación que muchos argentinos que se lamentaron de la brutalidad de la Campaña del Desierto, incorporaron el dispositivo invisiblizador, contribuyendo a reproducir la idea de que lo indígena ya no es parte de la nación” (Svampa 45). This is telling for a number of reasons. But I mainly want to suggest that the paradox of the void is integral to the labor of hegemony, both as an apparatus of exclusion, but also in its function as a spectral and residual transport.

Whereas both Halperin and Viñas, one from the side of Liberalism and the other from Sartrean Marxism, subscribe a hegemonic closure of history, Svampa’s paradox of the void concerns the very articulation of hegemony as what is installed as the central problem of accounting for the democratic deficit of the region as well as for the exceptional and fissure legitimacy of sovereignty. It is in this way that documents as important as Alberdi’s axiomatic principle of “gobernar es poblar”, Rodolfo Walsh’s “Carta Abierta a la Junta Militar”, or even Ernesto Laclau’s theory of the empty signifier of populist theory, are just different variations the same problem; that is, heterogeneous ways of coming to terms with the paradox of the void, but only to legislate the time of its ruin. What is Laclau’s theory of hegemony if not the assumption that there is a void, but only to the extent that we must find an equivalent filling to constrain the cavity that is constitutive of its origin? Take, for instance, what Laclau says in a moment of his posthumous The Rhetorical Foundations of Society (2014):

“”…the precise relationship between ’empty’ and ‘floating’ signifiers – two terms that have had a considerable currency in contemporary semiotic and post-structuralist literature. In the case of a floating signifier…while an empty signifier on the contrary, would ultimately be a signifier would a signified. All this leads to an inevitable conclusion: understanding the workings of the ideological within the field of collective representations is synonymous with understanding this logic of simplification of the social field that we have called ‘equivalence’.” [3]

In her talk on the end of the Latin American Progressive Cycle, Svampa mentioned three analytical models of populism. First, there is the weak version associated with Loris Zanatta’s analysis which obstinately, and in my opinion erroneously, conflates populism and theological irrationalism. This allows for outrageous comparisons, such as that of Eva Perón with Marie Le Pen, or even Juan Domingo Perón with Trump or Eastern European fascism. Secondly, there is Laclau’s model as first elaborated in his early Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory (1977) and later in his On Populist Reason (2002), which tried to advance a coterminous elaboration of hegemony theory with the political vis-à-vis discourse theory and lacanian topologies. Third, is the sociology of populism, which Svampa inscribes herself, in particular elaborated in her book La plaza vacía: las transformaciones del peronismo (1997). This model is also shared by political scientists such as Margarita Lopez Maya, Carlos de la Torre, and in a different way with Benjamin Arditi. This third option is what Svampa offered as a model of “ambivalent populism”, which is in constant struggle with the problem of democracy. But just like the label suggests, ambivalent populism remains just that: ambivalent, which amounts to an impasse and limit. Can we move beyond it?

I read Debates Latinoamericanos as a timely opportunity to pose this problem, and think further. In response to my question about the possibility of a democratic populism without hegemonic closure and charismatic leadership, Svampa mentioned that in Latin America there has been only populisms of hegemony and nothing else. It is also clear that in Latinamericanist reflection, the narrative has been thoroughly populist, but only disguised as “cultural studies”, which was argued already late nineties by Jon Beasley-Murray. It is time to move beyond hegemony theory, in particular if it has proven catastrophic in short and long terms across the political spectrum. Populism with hegemony cannot fly very high, and there is no need to carry heavy burdens of a time long gone [3]. It is time to abandon it. If times have changed, and the composition of the national popular or integral state is no longer the main restraint of politics in the external global networks or even in the internal expansion of the administrative law, it only makes sense that we move towards a demotic populism for posthegemonic times.

This displacement will make a crucial difference between, on one hand, a posthegemonic populist experiment, and on the other a reactionary populism. Whereas right-wing charismatic leaders such as Le Pen or Petry promise a popular nationalism, they do so on the (false) premise that something other than factual globalization is still possible and better. The same could be argued in terms of the rule of law. According to Bruce Ackerman, there are moments of popular expansion of unmet social demands, and there are reactionary constitutional moments that restrain or betray these goals (take the Shelby County vs. Holder case of 2013 decided by the Roberts Court against the constitutionality of two key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965) [5]. Neither delinking from the global economy nor a remote imperial past is desirable as the political fate for millions of citizens and social communities of the West. Such a demand, if called upon, could only be part of a decolonial neo-imperial fantasy. On the reserve of reaction, we could think about Errejón’s important political program “Recuparar la Ilusión”: here we have a great populist proposal that is based neither on charismatic presidentialism, nor in delinking from the Eurozone. Errejón openly sketches a program based on democratic transversality and European integration. In fact, the defeat of Errejón in the Second Congress held in Vistalegre earlier this year was a political catastrophe for those hoping for democratic revival in the European zone.

But we can also look at the so-called emergence of the Right in Latin America. Svampa correctly pointed out that Mauricio Macri’s government has not defunded the main welfare programs of the state during kirchnerismo. This is consistent with Pablo Stefanoni’s hypothesis a couple of years before the meltdown of the progressive cycle, that suggested that after a decade out of power, the Right might have learned to move around the structures of the state in tandem with global multinationals, avoiding the conditions of possibility that early in the millennium, led to the overthrow of several presidents in Argentina, and to the political rise of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela [6]. In a strange way, the Right knows better than anyone that the situation is no longer that of the 30’s or 40’s (or even the 90’s!), and that in order to foster new and stealth forms of domination, there is a need for constant adjustment. It is time for the Left to also learn from its mistakes if it wants to avoid the pendulum movement that bestows the dismantling of the social gains of the regulatory state in a time of decentralized administrations. Thus, it is not exaggerated or immodest to say that only by affirming a posthegemonic politics does a new progressive project have the capability for a democratic reinvention in Latin America, and across Europe where the future is even gloomier.

 

 

 

Notes

  1. Maristella Svampa. “Latin American Populisms at the End of the Progressive Cycle”. Talk given at the University of Pennsylvania, April 5, 2017. https://www.sas.upenn.edu/lals/event/lalses-seminar-2
  2. See my “Gloria y revolución en David Viñas: sobre “Sábado de Gloria en la Capital (Socialista) de América Latina”. La Habana Elegante, Mayo de 2012. http://www.habanaelegante.com/Archivo_Revolucion/Revolucion_Munoz.html . Also, John Kraniauskas, “Gobernar es repoblar: sobre la acumulación originaria neoliberal” (2003).
  3. Ernesto Laclau. “The Death and Resurrection of the Theory of Ideology”, in The Rhetorical Foundations of Society. London: Verso, 2014.
  4. The idea of hegemony as heavy weight that leads to disaster has been recently posed by Moreiras when reading Podemos in Spain, See, Alberto Moreiras. “The Populist Debate in Spain after 20-D”. https://infrapolitica.wordpress.com/2017/01/02/the-populist-debate-in-spain-after-20-d-draft-paper-for-mla-2017-by-alberto-moreiras/
  5. Bruce Ackerman. “Reactionary Constitutional Moments: Further Thoughts on The Civil Rights Revolution”. Jerusalem Review of Legal Studies (2016) 13: 47-58.
  6. Pablo Stefanoni. “La lulización de la izquierda latinoamericana”. http://www.eldiplo.org/notas-web/la-lulizacion-de-la-izquierda-latinoamericana

*This a commentary related to a two-day discussion with Maristella Svampa that took place at the University of Pennsylvania, April 4-5, 2017. The two events were organized by the Latino and Latin American Program & Political Science Dept. This is a work in progress for a forthcoming publication [DNC].

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‘Chasing the hare with the ox, swimming against the swelling tide’: Towards a Posthegemonic Institutionality. (Gerardo Muñoz)

*(Paper read at the workshop “Left Behind: The Ends of Latin America’s Left Turns”, held at Simon Fraser University, December 5, 2016. Organized by Jon Beasley-Murray.)

In an important moment of Alberto Moreiras’ new book Marranismo e inscripción (2016) we read: “La sospecha de no ser lo suficiente correctos en política, con todo el misterio terrífico que esa determinación tiene en la academia [norteamericana], pesó siempre sobren nuestras cabezas como una grave espada de Damocles y todavía pesa…” (Moreiras 125). It might be a good ocassion to say upfront that the waning of the progressive cycle in Latin America will most likely revive old affective demands and well-known pieties that the Left never affords to give up. Someone will be blamed for the broken plates, and the burden of those “left behind”. But this moment should be seized to think not what ‘politics’ should or must do (in Latin America and beyond), but rather how to think politics in what already is taking place. Or to question if perhaps the political today amounts to nothing more than what Arnaut Daniel said of the poet: “[He] chases the hare with the ox, swims against the swelling tide”. Can the paralysis of politics be something other than hunting or resistance?

As this 2016 comes to a close, we have witnessed a series of drawbacks in the political landscape of Latin America: from the outcome of the referendum in Bolivia to the electoral victory of Mauricio Macri’s PRO in Argentina, not to speak of Dilma Rousseff parliamentary impeachment in Brazil. There has been other lesser-known events, although no less disturbing, such as Roxana Pey’s arbitrary dismissal as First President of Universidad de Aysén by the current Chilean Minister of Culture after proposing a debt free and non-corporate public education. The sense of ‘exhaustion’ is at the thicket of the progressive cycle and has only deepened in the last two years, although this prognosis is more than just a motto of ‘ultra-leftistism’. Recently, high profile figures of the so-called Pink Tide governments have also voiced a sense of political stagnation and defunct space to reignite the original rhythm that took place at the turn of the century.

Just about a week ago, in a conversation that took place at Columbia University between philosopher Étienne Balibar and Vice-President of Bolivia Alvaro Garcia Linera, the latter stated that we are now in turbulent times where no horizon is in clear sight. It might be true that the unsettling remark might have partly been influenced in the wake of Fidel Castro’s death as the symptom of Latin American Left’ symbolic orphanhood, although Castro died far from leaving a relevant political legacy. I think many will agree that the guerrilla warfare, the Partido Único, or the concept of ‘struggle’ plays no role in the future of the Latin American Lefts. Yet such announcement from the Vice-President of the Bolivian Plurinational State seems to put to a halt the deep political conviction for transformation that he himself theorized in a wide range of orienting categories such as ‘creative contradictions’, ‘planetary ayllu’, or ‘communist horizon’.

The deficiency of a visible political vista means that we are in times of interregnum; a time when the modern epochality is left behind and a new one that has yet to materialize. The interregnum describes an extraneous temporality that fissures the antinomies of architectonics of modern politics – autorictas and potestas, constituent and constituted power, legitimacy and legality – carrying the very economy between thought and action in a threshold of indeterminacy. At the closure of epochality we are obliged to rethink once again the limits of the Latinamericanist conditions of reflection in light of the contemporary transformation of the space or object of knowledge that we call Latin America. A few years ago, John Beverley made an attempt to propose a new paradigm in his Latinamericanism after 9/11 (2011) under the preliminary notion of post-subalternism, which he defined as an alliance between subaltern and the new progressive State:

“The question of Latinamericanism is, ultimately, a question of the identity of the Latin American state…I would like to suggest here an alternative that is post-subaltenrist, ‘post’ in the sense that it displaces the subaltenrist paradigm but is also a consequence of that paradigm in that it involves rethinking the nature of the state and of the national popular from the perspectives opened by subaltern studies. …This possibility has a double dimension: how can the state itself be radicalized and modified as a consequence of bringing into it demands, values, experiences from the popular subaltern sectors, and how, in turn, from the state, can society can be remade in a more redistributive, egalitarian, culturally diverse way (how hegemony might be constructed from the state, in other words). (Beverley 110-116)”.

The post-subalternist option largely depends on the temporalization of the State-people alliance, which leaves pressing questions relative to State form and patterns of accumulation untouched, or any excess that disrupts the culturalist consensus at the heart of every hegemonic articulation. The problem that arises from this specific conceptual design is that with the rise of the New Rights, which continue to operate on the basis of the expansion of social inclusion through consumption, the hegemony of a ‘non-State that acts as a State’ (another way through which Beverley defines postsubalternism), will be set to accomplish two simultaneous tasks: on the one hand, contain and polish the heterogeneity or savage dimension of ‘the people’ into the metaphoricity of national-popular representation; while on the other, reducing the State’s structures and institutions to the management of geopolitical processes and rent distribution. In a rather counterintuitive way, the post-sulbanternist option reenacts the decionism from the instrumentalization of the state as the exception to post-sovereign capital in the name of the people.

At the same time, facticity is now fully post-subalternist, but for the opposite reasons as those imagined by Beverley: hegemony’s de-hiearchization and economic administration convergences with the neoliberal general equivalent as real subsumption of capital renders hegemonic politics obsolete for substantial change. Ultimately, post-subalternist alliance curbs posthegemonic temporal intrusion, which forces a relentless displacement of its object of identification to disregard the constitutive tragic repetition of the fissure in its closure.

Post-subalternism is an attempt to reawake the specter of hegemony from the ruins of the political: from the inside it stands politics of subjectivization by the State, and from the outside, as a metapolitical form of order (katechon) to detain internal social explosion (Williams 61).

In recent years the post-subalternist paradigm has been somewhat displaced by what I have called elsewhere a ‘communal or communitarian turn’ (Muñoz 2016). Raquel Gutierrez Aguilar, a key thinker of communal horizontalism and also the author of the influential book Los ritmos de Pachakuti: Movilización y levantamiento indígena-popular en Bolivia (2008), at the end of last year conjured a radical turn towards the “communal” as the site for a new political program. In a more urgent tone, Huascar Salazar Lohman in Se han adueñado del proceso de lucha (2015) defines the position as following:

“Lo relevante es afirmar que la transformación heterogénea y multiforme que emerge de los entramados comunitarios implica la capacidad de dar forma a su reproducción de la vida social, trastocando, trans-formando o reformando la propia forma de la dominación…La manera en que los entramados comunitarios enfrentan al capital es a partir de vetos que permiten conservar, establecer, o restablecer relaciones sociales para reproducción la vida. En este sentido, el telos o el horizonte de deseo que media la lucha comunitaria es el despliegue de su propia forma de reproducir la vida, es decir, ampliar su capacidad de formación” (Salazar Lohman 35).

For both Gutierrez Aguilar and Salazar Lohman, the communitarian horizon requires breaking away from the dichotomy of civil society and State in order to relocate the temporal vitality of an autonomous re-production of life and the re-appropriation of that which the state has expropriated from communal property. However, if the communitarian form is not determined a priori by domination and capital, why is the emancipatory potential of the communitarianism emphasized solely on the basis of re-appropriation of what is valorized in the State? Salazar Huascar himself provides the answer to us when alluding to Bolivar Echevarria’s reconceptualization of the notion of use-value as yielding something like an inner exception within the logic of exchange. Communitarism, then, re-translates use-value as locational propriety.

Ironically, this is not very different from Álvaro Garcia Linera’s own attempt to “restore the communal (ayllu), against the logics of subsumption, through a re-functioning of culture and democracy and the recent juridical-political attempting to contain the ‘cunning of capital’ as it imposes its logics through its others…” (Kraniauskas 48). Although it seems the polar opposite of Huascar’s position, Garcia Linera’s instrumentalization of the communitarian through use-value mediates an indianization of the subject of social emancipation in the ‘community form’” (Kraniauskas 48). In fact, communitarianism ends up offering yet another exceptional particularism legitimized by the normative assumption of propriety and properness via-a-vis collective decision-making ( as ‘participacion directa y obligatoria’), and an alternative biopolitics of the ‘reproduction of life’ (reproducción de la vida). Communitarianism as a locational politics of resistance is already contained in the State’s shadow of community use-value, which is inverted on behalf of communitarian decisionism.

A similar paradox is at the heart of Diego Sztulwark and Veronica Gago’s essay that expands the temporality of the ‘end’ of the Latin American progressive cycle from below. On the one hand, they note that neoliberalism runs parallel to constituting a governmentality from above, and is also “inextricably linked to popular consumption, apparatuses of indebtness, and new forms of violence” as two dynamics that permute and sustain one another” from below (Gago & Sztulwark 610). While discerning the spectral dimension of contemporary flexible capital, they immediately move on to claim that it is on this plane where new counter-powers are transformed, modes of weaving together a resistance and a set of practical actions for political efficacy… (Gago & Sztulwark 612). However, counter-hegemonic subjective vitalism is already captured by the plasticity of financial subjectivization. Thus, this new vitalism framed solely as resistance only lifts political imagination to the domain of stasis or civil war already taking place in the territories, in which the struggle for subsistence takes the form of a neo-Francicanism eschatology (minimal relation to propriety) immanent to the financial subaltern bodies.

I would like to suggest that the two reflexive options sketched above, that of a post-subaltern state and the particular communitarian horizon, coincide in fashioning a politics of resistance after the closure of hegemonic principles. At the same time, the failure of hegemonic theory in the region is in this sense neither accidental nor limited to the temporalization of the so-called progressive cycle, since it also characteristic of the phenomenology of the originary fissure in the State form over the last two hundred years.

Hegemony or hegemon as an ultimate ontology of the political constitutes itself as a phantasm, which following Reiner Schürmann, denies the tragic dimension of the singular, translating norms and legislating laws in the name of its own sovereign principle. A phantasm is hegemonic when an entire culture relies on it as if it provided that in the name of which one speaks and acts. Such a chief-represented (hêgemôn) is at work upon the unspeakable singular classifying, inscribing, and distributing proper and commonality (Schürmann 22). In this sense, communitarianism and state hegemony are not just contending procedures of political decisionism, but more importantly, the two poles of a same structure waged on life as ultimate referent.

This is why, according to Schürmann, there is a “kind of joy of violent submission to it. Perhaps the intoxication they wish for us, or that we wish for ourselves through them” (Schürmann 29). To the extent that is waged on life, there has always been hegemony, although only as a phantasmatic economy to flatten and systematically erase the time of the tragic, whenever it appears to interrupt and ascend into the political principle. This is the time of the singular that is neither reducible to a subject in the eventfulness of history (a movement, a people or a multitude), nor a cultural schematization of identity and difference.

The challenge for thought is necessarily post-hegemonic, which I define as the potentiality for institutionalization of the tragic (singularity) in the anomic epoch of neoliberal administration. It is no coincide that both communitarian and hegemonic options define themselves against institutions, and they both respond to the moment of crisis of political epochality. A reformulation of an institutional form can mediate the ever-present pendulum movement that oscillates from neoliberal deregulation to the populist anti-institutionalism and back. But it so happens that populism does not posses a theory of institutionality, therefore is in no condition of providing a strategy to cope with the movement of the pendulum (Villacañas 2016). Since populism is always a decision on a concrete existential situation, it always remains attached to the perpetuity of the state of crisis as a decision made on and for life (understood in the Greek sense of krisis as judgment). As such, populism is the temporality of expropriation, and its process of abstractation into finite demands coincides with the money form (general equivalent) that structures the contemporary financial body of the living.

In the introduction to their edited volume Left Turns (2010), Beasley-Murray & Cameron & Herschberg noted that “if the Latin American states are to survive their current crisis of legitimacy they then need to be better funded, more efficient, and more reflexive of public preferences…the entire political class confronts the challenge of refunding the Latin American State” (Cameron & Herschberg 6). This was the promise and the stakes .Since then, the Latin American Progressive Cycle’s extreme presidencialism led to the withering of institutionalization making it easier for an accelerated restructuring of the State’s institutions by the New Rights technocrats. As the populist interpellation between friend and enemy evaporates in each political cycle, the price to be paid is life as thetic communitarian identity formation or as counter-hegemonic biopolitical vitalism. Constitutional scholar Bruce Ackerman alerts in his The Decline and Fall of the American Republic (2010) that the expansion of the powers of the ‘most dangerous branch’ (executive) effectively prepares the ground for an ominous neoliberal anti-institutionalization. This is what lurks in United States’ political future after the President-elect Donald Trump, and more generally, what haunts the spatial configuration of every western state’s void of legitimacy.

A posthegemonic institutionality for post-hegemonic times seeks the thinking of another relation with the political that is not reducible to the principle of a hegemonic phantasm as the oblivion of its own excess to equivalence. But perhaps more importantly here is how to think a posthegemonic institutional form that that would break away from the indeterminate concrescence of law as always already short-handed for internal exceptionality in order to redirect and put in motion the temporality of development. Thus, a posthegemonic institutionality will thrive to move beyond a notion of interruption or an insurrectionary moment dispensed in the phantasm of hegemony.

How can we imagine a form of life instituted not only in its irreducibility to the movement of vital ‘rhythm’, but in the arrival of the day after, when the last lights have gone off, after everyone has returned home, and mobilization gives way to demobilization? In his book on the Spartacist uprising, Furio Jesi says that the ‘decisive day of freedom’ is that which takes place the day after tomorrow, in which the time of living is not exhausted in life or death (Jesi 134). The crucial distinction here is a temporal one: living against life or death.

To institutionalize not life in the frame of biopolitics or communitarism, constituent power as passage to constituted power, but a destituent time of the living. The day after tomorrow is posthegemonic demobilization as distance from political ontology and its conversion into metapolitical community. Only by institutionalizing the temporality of an improper singularity could something like an inequivalent and ungraspable form of democracy and radical freedom could be conceived as the new truth in and beyond politics.

Bibliography

Ackerman, Bruce. The Decline and Fall of the American Republic. Boston: Harvard University Press, 2010.

Beverley, John. Latinamericanism after 9/11. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011.

Cameron, Maxwell & Herschberg, Eric. Latin America’s Left Turns: Politics, Policies, and Trajectories of Change. Boulder: Reinner Publishers, 2010.

Gago Verónica & Sztulwark Diego. “The Temporality of Social Struggle at the End of the “Progressive” Cycle” in Latin America”. SAQ, 115:3, July 2016.

Kraniauskas, John. “Universalizing the ayllu”. Radical Philosophy, 192, July-August, 2015.

Moreiras, Alberto. Marranismo e inscripción. Madrid: Escolar & Mayo, 2016.

Muñoz Gerardo (ed.). “The End of the Latin American Progressive Cycle” (dossier). Alternautas (3.1, July 2016). http://las.sites.olt.ubc.ca/files/2016/11/Alternautas_End-of-Progressive-Cycle-Dossier-2016.pdf

Salazar Lohman, Huascar. “Se Han adueñado del proceso de lucha”: horizonte comunitario-populares en tensión y la reconstitución de la dominación en la Bolivia del MAS. La Paz: autodeterminación, 2015.

Schürmann, Reiner. Broken Hegemonies. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.

Villacañas, José Luis. Populismo. Madrid: La Huerta Grande, 2015.

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Williams, Gareth. “Los límites de la hegemonía”. Poshegemonía: el final de un paradigma de la filosofía política en América Latina (Castro Orellana, ed.). Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva, 2015.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Notes

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

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

Macrismo: populismo y nuevas derechas. (Gerardo Muñoz)

Aun no ha pisado la Casa Rosada y las medidas del macrismo ya dan un primer acorde a la época que se abre con Cambiemos: una explicitada alianza con la derecha regional en búsqueda de un acelerado agrietamiento del eje Mercosur (que en primera escena del bunker del PRO estuviese Lilian Tintori, esposa del encarcelado líder político venezolano Leopoldo López, no es un dato menor). Reclamarle a TeleSUR y a la prensa bolivariana neutralidad parece no solo injusto, sino incorrecto, ya que ha sido el mismo Ingeniero Macri el primero en hacer un guiño a la opinión pública de la nueva reorganización geopolítica en la región. Es obvio que el eje bolivariano haya contestado beligerantemente y se sienta interpelado por un marcado giro en las relaciones bilaterales con el nuevo gobierno porteño.

Si esto es así en materia internacional, en la economía ha seguido una ‘intempestiva suba de precios’ que, como ha visto en su última nota el historiador Alejandro Horowicz, marcan la clara tendencia de un proceso de devaluación y comienzo de una serie de medidas de ajuste económico que el propio jefe de gabinete Marcos Peña no ha dudado de adjetivar como “impresionante” [1]. Por el frente doméstico la sorpresiva nominación de Patricia Bullrich para el Ministerio de Seguridad prepara la grilla policial para lo que se espera que pueda ser otro ‘Diciembre caliente’. Es cierto que el actual ministro de seguridad Sergio Berni no se queda atrás en cuanto a los cumplidos de represión y despliegue securitario, pero lo nuevo aparece aquí como una réplica naturalizada por los dispositivos del discurso instalados en el mismo seno del macrismo triunfante. Lo que antes pudiera haberse leído como errónea anomalía, ahora se registra como el estado de excepción desde los cuerpos y las lenguas que lo gobiernan. Si le agregamos a todo esto, la nominación de Pablo Avelluto en Cultura y el indecente editorial de La Nación “No mas venganza” apenas un día después de la derrota del Frente para la Victoria, vale confirmar el regreso de la naturalización del discurso de los ‘dos demonios’ y de una lengua de pacificación que escamotea la continuación de la guerra sobre los cuerpos y la del propio campo de la política [2].

Están las cartas echadas y los cromos de pie para hacernos una idea de la nueva escena post-Kirchner. En efecto, esta podría ser un espejismo del kirchnerismo, aunque aun está por verse si el macrismo está en interesado o no en colonizar las reductos estatales del kirchnerismo o aplicar a la menemista, una serie de shocks sin anestesia. Esto es, solo el tiempo dirá si la ‘nueva derecha’ se constituye como tal y si el macrismo logra navegar gradualmente sobre la estatalidad y la reestructuración económica distanciándose de las formas compulsivas que caracterizaron a las derechas neoliberales de los noventa en la región; o si, por el contrario, la nueva derecha será capaz de emprender el incierto camino hacia el “cambio” aprendiendo de sus enemigo y de una larga derrota que ha durado más de una década. El mismo lema de “cambiemos” instala y apropia el horizonte progresista en una nueva jerga de la ciudadanía votante [3]. Si bien no hay elementos contundentes para afirmar uno de los dos derroteros para la derecha, si partimos de la hipótesis de la supervivencia de la cultura del consumo al interior de la era “posnacional”, como la ha designado el historiador Pablo Hupert, entonces es muy probable que la acomodación hacia una postura de nueva derecha no sea un proyecto tan arduo ni voluntarista de construir como parece.

La inclusión por el consumo y la revitalización de un neoliberalismo de baja intensidad – que se repliega y organiza a varios niveles, en la esfera laboral informal, tal y como lo ha estudiado Veronica Gago en La razón neoliberal (Tinta Limón, 2015) – sumado a la devaluación internacional de los precios de los commodities que signa el límite de la matriz de acumulación para la expansión democrática, sería consistente con una agenda de esa new right investida en clausurar el esquema de la gran política en cuanto antagonismo social y reformulación de grandes preguntas triangulantes (entrecruzamientos entre Estado, cultura, subjetividad, símbolos, y retórica). No es casual que el globo amarillo sea el símbolo de PRO, si nos esforzamos a leer en ese signo el pasaje del viejo nacionalismo culto de las banderas fascistas, a una simbología más light, donde el carnaval (notable topos de la cultura de masas) es apropiado por nuevos insumos colectivos sin aquel viejo identitarismo ocultista que sabiamente había estudiado Furio Jesi y que ahora se parecieran estar a la altura cultural del hombre común [4]. El insigne globo macrista es consistente con la esferología contemporánea de la globalización, tan animado como las propias mercancías que circulan por cada urbe. Como en las escalofriantes masas carnavalescas de los relatos anti-peronistas de Rodolfo Wilcock, el macrismo es la perversión de lo nacional-popular, aunque sin el matiz grotesco que caracterizó tradicionalmente al fascismo.

Lo que llama la atención de la novedad macrista es que reinstala ese ‘salgan todos que ahora entramos nosotros’ que apunta no solo al tan discutido ‘continuismo peronista’ de parte del FpV, sino a otro problema de fondo, tal vez un poco menos referido: el presidencialismo hegemónico. No es que Macri sea en este sentido una réplica de Kirchner, sino que ambos se cobijan sobre una misma estructura. A la apuesta de los movimientos sociales no estaría mal suplementarle el tema de la democratización del presidencialismo desde arriba, como pedía Eugenio Zaffaroni recientemente [5]. Una democratización al presidencialismo de facto funcionaría como bastidor en momentos transicionales e incluso como resguardo de los errores del gobierno de turno y sus timonazos inequívocos. Esta es la vieja tensión entre ruptura y conservación en los precarios modelos democráticos latinoamericanos, así como la pregunta que coloca en el centro la posibilidad de la democracia real en América Latina por fuera del ropaje republicano del institucionalismo de derecha (conservacionismo tradicional) y de las “transiciones” (y con lo mismo estoy diciendo una interrupción del orden que siempre ha sido interrumpido, esto es, un orden de excepcionalidad soberana).

Es aquí también donde se impone el dilema del constitucionalismo y la necesidad de su reforma. Buena parte del éxito de gobiernos de la Marea Rosada (particularmente los de Ecuador y Bolivia), se deben a procesos constituyentes capaces de reinscribir constitucionalmente la extensión de derechos plurinacionales o no-humanos al interior del Estado. Está es una tarea que excede la matriz funcionalista del derecho y que profundiza sobre sus condiciones operativas. Es por esta razón que el repetido reclamo ilustrado ‘anti-corrupción’ o ‘legalista’ corre el riesgo de perder de vista la insuficiencia del derecho como organismo imparcial (‘qué no me venga a decir Habermas sentado en una oficina en Alemania que la constitución y la ley es el canal de solución’, escribe Spivak en su reciente Nationalism and the imagination). Tal vez por estar inscrita en la tradición republicana y muy ausente de los modelos de gobernabilidad latinoamericanos, la pregunta constitucionalista, sin embargo, siempre acaba siendo menoscabada o relegada a la opción populista. Es difícil incluso imaginar que significaría un nuevo republicanismo para el debate de la política latinoamericana de cara al agotamiento del ciclo progresista sin repetir esta doble estructuración.

Éste sería un republicanismo como crítica efectiva de eso que el sociólogo boliviano Luis Tapia ha llamado, justamente, la tiranía del derecho. Por eso no estaría mal comenzar a pensarlo no solo en línea con la eventualidad del macrismo, sino como debate crítico sobre el populismo, cuya interpretación de la instucionalidad (como ha observado recientemente José Luis Villacañas) aparejado de su silencio sobre la esfera del derecho (la soberanía) pareciera ser unas de las patas flojas de la teoría de significación equivalencial de Ernesto Laclau [6].

Si el anti-institucionalismo depende de la estructuración (identitaria) de la equivalencia, ¿por qué no pensar y hacerse cargo desde el pensamiento de un republicanismo institucional de la inequvialencia? Traídos al presente, ¿no querrían populistas y neoliberales esa misma flexibilidad institucionalidad para un voluntarismo político cuya fórmula redonda es el anti-institucionalismo de la hegemonía? Es en este punto donde hegemonía equivale a soberanía excepcional de la razón transicional del poder. Las nuevas derechas – y el macrismo como encarnación inmediata – pudiera tomar este camino, sin que esto suponga un retroceso necesario hacia el “mínimo Estado” que caracterizaron a las derechas tipo Sánchez de Lozada, Vargas Llosa, o Fujimori a finales de la pasada centuria [7]. Y esto no implicaría, en modo alguno, la expansión del horizonte democrático, sino todo lo contrario. Será interesante seguir la metamorfosis del macrismo en los próximos meses, pero desde ya pareciera más fascinante pensar un institucionalismo por fuera de la equivalencia del populismo, así como del liberalismo criollo históricamente excluyente y subalternizante.

 

 

Notas

  1. Ver la columna de Alejandro Horowicz. “Los precios de la derrota”. http://tiempo.infonews.com/nota/197116/los-precios-de-la-derrota
  1. “No mas venganza”. Editorial del 23 de Noviembre. http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1847930-no-mas-venganza
  1. La pérdida de horizonte por parte de la izquierda es tal que pareciera que solo la derecha la que puede hoy enunciar o apenas trazar un plan de la utopía. Esto se comprueba con el hecho que buena parte de los gobiernos de la Marea Rosada en estos tiempos ha estado anclada en lo que Fernando Coronil llamó en uno de sus últimos ensayos una nueva teleología nacional como índice de legitimidad. Ver, “The future in question: History and Utopia in Latin America (1989-2010)”.
  1. Furio Jesi. Cultura de derechas. Barcelona: Muchnik, 1989.
  1. Eugenio Zaffaroni.” El derecho latinoamericano en la fase superior del colonialismo”. Passagens, Mayo-Agosto, 2014.
  1. José Luis Villacañas. Populismo. Madrid: La Huerta Grande Editorial, 2015.
  1. Veronica Giordano. “¿Qué hay de nuevo en las «nuevas derechas»? Nueva Sociedad, Noviembre-Diciembre de 2014.