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

Rome dignitas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ius imperii: on Roberto Esposito’s The Origin of the Political: Hannah Arendt or Simone Weil? By Gerardo Muñoz.

Vicenzo Binetti and Gareth Williams’ translation of Roberto Esposito’s The Origin of the Political: Hannah Arendt or Simone Weil? (Fordham U Press, 2017) fills an important gap in the Italian thinker’s philosophical trajectory, connecting the early works on the impolitical (Categorie dell’impolitico, Nove pensieri) to the latest elaborations on negative community and the impersonal (Terza persona, Due, Da Fuori). Origins is also an important meditation on the problem of thought, and Esposito admits that had he written this work today, he would have dwelled more on this question central to his own philosophical project up to Da Fouri and the turn to “Italian Thought” (pensiero vivente). Nevertheless, The Origin of the Political is a unique contribution that crowns a systematic effort in mapping the rare misencounter and esoteric exchange between two great Jewish thinkers of the twentieth century: Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil.

In a sequence of thirteen sections, Esposito dwells on the question of the origin of the political in light of western decline into nihilism, empire, and modern totalitarianism. He is not interested in writing a comparative essay, and this book could not be further from that end. Rather, Arendt and Weil are situated face to face in what Esposito calls a “reciprocal complication”, in which two bodies of work can illuminate, complement, and swerve from instances of the said and unsaid (Esposito 2). Albeit their dissimilar intellectual physiognomies and genealogical tracks, which Esposito puts to rest at times, the underlying question at stake is laid out clearly at the beginning. Mainly, the question about the arcanum or principle of the political:

“Does totalitarianism have a tradition, or is it born of destruction? How deep are its roots? Does it go back two decades, two centuries, or two millennia? And ultimately: is it internal or external to the sphere of politics and power? Is it born from lack or from excess? It is on this threshold that the two response, in quite clear-cut fashion diverge.” (Esposito 4).

Whereas for Arendt the causes and even the texture of the political is extraneous from the totalitarian experience that took place in the war theaters of the central Europe, Weil’s response solicits a frontal interrogation of the ruinous catering of the political, going back at least to the Roman Empire. But Esposito does not want to exploit differences between the Weil and Arendt too soon. In the first sections of Origins he brings them to common grounds. First, Esposito notes how important Homer’s Iliad was to both Arendt and Weil in terms of the question of “origins”. In fact, the Iliad does not only represent a ‘before of history’, a poem that cannot be reduced to the narrative of the event; it is also an artifact that allows for truth. Esposito writes: “It is precisely the defense of truth through the name of Homer that most intimately binds our authors” (Esposito 8). Whereas totalitarianism emerges once politics is only a legislative instrument for seeking ends, truth for the an-archic Homeric poem praises both accounts; that of the victor and the defeated. Thus, any an-archic (beyond or before origin or command) is always, necessarily, a history of the defeated, which remains a demand in the order of memory. This is what Arendt’s admires and defends in “Truth and Politics” regarding the Homerian telling of both Hector and Achilles. But it’s also what Weil in her pre-Christian intuitions accepts as the survival of the Greek beginning in the commencement of Christianity without mimesis. To recollect truth in history beyond arcana (origins and commanding force) is to take distance from the force of philosophy of history, and its salvific messianic reversals. This is far from the negation of history; it is the radicalization and the durability of the historical, which Esposito frames with a cue from Broch:

“How can something conceived in terms of a caesura lay the foundations for something enduring? How can one derive the fullness of Grund from the emptiness of Abgrund? How to stabilize and institute freedom when it is born literally from the “abyss of nothingness” This is the question that returns with increasing intensity in Arendt’s essay on revolution…However, revolution cannot be an inaugural caesura and constitutio libertatis simultaneously” (Esposito 17-18).

This explains, perhaps only implicitly (Esposito does not say so openly), Arendt’s convicted defense of the American Founders over the Jacobinism of the French Revolution, which has only been an achievement in history due to the enduring progressive force of living constitutionalism. Esposito does not take up the fact that, Weil also responded critically to the Jacobin rule in her influential “Note sur la suppression générale des partis politiques” (1940). Esposito does claim, however, that any historical an-archy, insofar as it remains incomplete and evolving, must not resolve itself in genesis or redemptive messianism of the “now-time” [1]. This clearing allows for a passage through the origin that brings to bear the proximity of war to politics, which for Arendt delimits the antinomy of polemos and polis, as well as the difference between power and violence elaborated in her book On Violence.

Esposito lays down three different levels of Arendt’s positing of the origin of the political: a first one predicated on the space of the polis for the action of the citizen (polis becoming a theater); a second one, in which the agon is manifested without death; and a third, a Romanization of the Greek physis into auctoritas. For Arendt, Rome becomes a sort of retroactive payment for what was lost and destroyed. It is an after Troy in order to experience “beginning as (re)commencement” (Esposito 31). Rome is the possibility of another polis after the incineration, a tropology for amnesty within the historical development of stasis or social strife. Once again, the hermeneutics of memory over forgetting is placed above a philosophy of history that absolutizes the valence of the political. But it is in this conjuncture where Weil’s thought announces itself as an interruptive force in Arendt’s ontological conversation of the polis.

Esposito immediately tells us that for Weil the “origin” of the political does not run astray due to accumulation of historical catastrophe. According to Weil, the Fall is already original in the sense of being grounded in the event of creation (Esposito 36). Here Weil’s neoplatonic Christianity carries the weight. Weil posits an understanding of contradiction in Christian Trinitarian thought, although unlike the Carl Schmitt of Roman Catholicism and Political Form (1923), she does not substantialize this split through the reciprocity of its division into decision in the name of legitimate order. Weil, as it is well known, affirms a moment of creation grounded in its own abnegation. This revolves in the concept of de-creation that Esposito defines as: “a presence that proposes itself in the modality of absence, as a yes to the other expressed by the negation of self in an act fully coincident with its own renunciation” (Esposito 39). Conceptually consistent with Eckhart’s kenosis and later in modernity with Schelling’s philosophy of revelation, decreation is the Weil’s stamp of unoriginary foundation.

At stake here is the question of impersonal life, which in different ways, Italian thinkers as diverse as Giorgio Agamben, Elettra Stimilli, Davide Tarizzo, or Roberto Esposito himself have articulated in multiple ways in a debate that has come to us under the label of biopolitics. To the extent that decreation is an an-archy of this neoplatonic theology, Weil remains a thinker of the non-subject or of the trace of the finite that is irreducible to any modality of the political [2]. At this point, Esposito exposes the problem of force. Without fully embarking on a phenomenology of the concept in Weil’s reading of the Iliad, Esposito notes that force has the character of a total encompassing sensation that strips life unto death, belonging to no one, and viciously bypassing all limits. Here Weil cuts away from Arendt’s agonistic impulse of the polis.

The maximum distance with Arendt also emerges at this point: whereas Arendt conceived the Iliad of glory and claritas, for Weil it is “a nocturnal canto of mortality, finitude, and human misery” (Esposito 52). The uncontained force, the true and central protagonist of Homer’s epic, unfolds a negative community that Esposito calls, after Jan Patočka, a community “of the front”. Although Weil’s utmost divergence from Arendt becomes effective in the question of Roman politicity, which for her amounts to a juridical idolatry and a theologico-political glorification, as well as a prelude for the modern totalitarian experiment. In a key moment of this treatment of Weil’s critique of Roman law, Esposito writes:

“But what is even more significant for Weil’s arguments, and this is in contrast to Arendt, is that Roman law – ius, whose intrinsic nexus with iubeo drags the entire semantic frame of iustitia far from the terrain of the Greek dikē – is annexed to the violent sphere of domination. While the latter alludes to the sovereign measure that subsides parts according to their just proportion, the Roman iustum always belongs to he ho stands higher in respect to others who for this very reason are judged to be inferior, or, in the literal sense of the expression, “looked down upon”. This is the principle of a “seeing” that in the roman action of war is always bound to “vanquishing”…” (Esposito 56).

For Weil, Rome was representative of imperium and ius that subordinated the transcendence of its uncontested rule above citizenship equality, such as it existed in the Greek polis through isonomia. Devoid of citizenship, the Roman ius imperii is necessarily a dependent on slavery. Esposito notes that Weil’s anti-roman sense is more consistent with Heidegger’s critique of the falsum of the Roman pax as well as with Elias Canneti’s understanding of roman perpetual war, than with the Romantic anti-roman verdict. In its decadence, Roman politics as based on fallare opens up Christian pastoral power in a long continuum that later reproduces the basis for supreme hegemony. At the same time, Rome never truly stands for war, since it negates by declining conflictivity to peace in the name of domination. That is why for Weil the greatest discovery of the Greeks was to abide by strife as the mother of all things, while realizing its destructive nature. This makes Weil, as Esposito is aware, a figure of ignition, and a “combative thinker”. There is a sense in which the imagination of warring also colors Weil’s reading of Love in Plato’s Symposium, which positively informs her deconstruction of Roman ius.

But is this enough to leave imperial legislative domination? Should one accept Love as contained in war, as a form of warring and as a sword? (Esposito 72). The question that emerges at the very end of the Origins is whether Love can be at the center of a elaboration of a third dimension of the political, traversing both Weil and Arendt’s thought, and establishing perhaps a new principle for politics. It is to this end that Esposito argues: “…justice – love and thought, the thought of love – requires that what appears to others be sacrificed to what is, even if it remains obscured, misunderstood, or despaired (and this is precisely what Weil’s hero also proposes)” (Esposito 77).

Esposito writes just a few pages before that perhaps only Antigone succeeded in facing this differend, but only at the highest possible cost of destruction. It is at this crossroads where we find the last attempt to reconnect Weil and Arendt. However, love (eros) stops short of being a legislative antinomy and premise for a politics of non-domination beyond sacrifice or the payment with one’s own life. One should recall that Arendt’s doctoral work on Saint Augustine and love sheds light on Weil’s pursuit of love in facticity of war [3]. And if love always retains a sacrificial and Christological trace, then it entails that at any moment the condition of eros could dispense towards the very falsum that it seeks to undue. Could there be a politics predicated on love as an origin, capable of obstructing imperial renewal?

This is the question that Esposito’s book elicits, but that it also leaves unanswered. While it is surprising that the question of ‘the friend’ goes without mention in The Origins of the Political – the last twist in the book is on the figure of the hero or the antihero – it begs to ask to what extent friendship, not love, becomes the “deviation of the political” into an post-hegemonic region irreducible to the negation of war? This region is not possible to subsume in the impersonal reversal of the lover, the enemy or the neighbor. Perhaps the “He” that Esposito analyzes in Kafka at the very end of the book cannot be properly placed as an amorous figure, since the friend always arrives, quite unexpectedly, at the game of life. We abide to this intimate encounter beyond ethical and the political maximization. Moreover, we care for him, even when we do not love him. It is the friend, in fact, a figure that finds itself in a hospitable region, in a city like Venice so admired by Weil, where “he can rest when he is exhausted” (Esposito 78). This is a region no longer ruled by imperial politics, nor by its exacerbated modern perpetuity.





  1. The target here is messianism as represented mainly by Walter Benjamin and other representatives of salvific philosophies. Esposito notes that Hannah Arendt was critical of Walter Benjamin’s messianism in her “Gnoseological Foreword” of Benjamin’s Origin of German Tragic Drama. For a devastating critique of messianism and philosophy of history as a dual machine of political theologies, see Jaime Rodriguez Matos’ Writing of the Formless: José Lezama Lima and the End of Time (Fordham U Press, 2016).
  2. For the non-subject, see Alberto Moreiras’ contribution to the debate of the political in his Línea de sombra: el no-sujeto de lo político (Palinodia, 2006).
  3. Giorgio Agamben makes the claim that love in Heidegger, as informed by Arendt’s early work on St. Augustine, stands for facticity. See his “The Passion of Facticity”, in Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy (Stanford U Press, 1999). 185-205.

Retreating from the Politics of Eternity: on Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. By Gerardo Muñoz.

snyder-on-tyrannyWe often cite James Madison’s acute observation from Federalist 10: “Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm”. Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2017), is written keeping this political conviction in sight, so indispensable to the democratic aspiration of the framers more than two centuries ago. Snyder, however, is no messenger of good news. In line with those that have taken seriously the rise of presidentalism, and the expansive politization of the executive branch in recent decades, Snyder is making the case for a timely warning against a potential threat for tyranny in the wake of Donald J. Trump victory at the end of last year.

On Tyranny is informed by Snyder’s expertise and research as a historian of Eastern Europe and the Holocaust, which have resulted in landmark contributions such as Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin (2012), and Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning (2015). In both of these books, Snyder has shown quite convincingly, how the erosion of institutions and the rule of law, due to both communist and fascist planning and dismantling over the control of the eastern region, paved the way for absolute anarchy and systematic destruction that made the Holocaust a juridical and political reality. Snyder does not mean to say, by way of an easy equivalence, that Trumpism amounts to a repetition of this historical period. Rather, On Tyranny is a precise warning on two levels: on one hand, it is a plea to rethink the necessity of institutions in the times of the rise of what Arthur Schlesinger Jr. called the imperial presidency; and secondly, to learn as much as we can from History, particularly from the historical evidence that confirms that every republic has always combated and affirmed itself against a latent imperial drift. Snyder’s thesis, presumably informed from a historiographical position, also suggests a political anthropology. In other words, the battle against an empire solicits an abandonment of the voluntary servitude that only feeds the incremental force of reaction. Our present shall not be indifferent to this.

After the 2016 election what is really at stake is whether the Federalist warning against the rise of factions is enough to contain an unprecedented alignment of vertical hegemonic power. There have been scholars, such as constitutional lawyer Eric Posner in The Executive Unbounded (2013), who have said farewell to Madisonian democracy in light of the exceptional upsurge of the executive branch [1]. On Tyranny does not go this far, but it is obvious that its purpose is not to engage in the aporias and intricate developments of constitutional law in order to render feasible an argument in favor of a retreat from hegemonic politics. Non-hegemonic politics always entail breaking the spell of a given set of coordinates that have produced an impasse. Snyder provides an array of historical examples: Rosa Parks in 1955 or Winston Churchill in the darkest moment when Hitler materializes his territorial expansion. It is in these perilous moments that the retreat from hegemonic politics does not mean renouncing political action. It means, first and foremost, abandoning the hyper-political consistency that defines the eternity and enmity of the political. But I do not want to get ahead of myself while briefing Snyder’s book. Havel, Parks, Churchill, Arendt, these are names that metonymically index Snyder’s plea for a politics of vocation in a time when rhinoceros are roaming through the landscape. The reference here is, of course, Ionesco’s well-known 1959 play Rhinoceros, which Snyder introduces when discussing the submission to politics of untruth:

“Ionesco’s aim was to help us see just how bizarre propaganda actually is, but how normal it seems to those who yield to it. By using the absurd image of the rhinoceros, Ionesco was trying to shock people into noticing the strangles of what was actually happening. The Rhinoceri are roaming through our neurological savannahs….And now, as then, many people confused faith in a hugely flawed leader with the truth about the world we all share. Post-truth is pre-fascism” (Snyder 70-71).

The rhinoceros are the political converts, which are always one step too close to the work of hegemony and its delirious power. It is then entirely consistent that Snyder also makes the claim for the protection of a new sense of privacy (sic) that could contain the boundaries between oikos (private) and the polis (public) against the drift towards totalitarianism (Snyder 88). Tyrannical politics is also a politics without secrets. It does not necessarily emanate from this position that a new egotist sense of privacy will act as a modality in an existence that is now beyond risk, guarding its own skin from the wild beasts. Snyder recognizes that there is no politics without factions, as Madison would have also said. Hence, there is no real politics without a minimal corporeal investment (Snyder 83-85).

But we have moved away from the level of hegemonic thirst for domination, conceiving a relation with politics that is not exhausted in the singular existence. Or put in different terms, only in existence could a politics of lesser domination be allowed to emerge against the threat of factions. Politics should not be oriented towards the end of the administration of life, which always amounts to a biopolitics. A republicanist politics is the orgazanition of public and social life that prevents both, the intensification and nullification of life in the polis.

What becomes troublesome, as Snyder makes clear, is that the administration of politics is today justified under the name of terror. In fact, Snyder states: “Modern tyranny is terror management” (Snyder 103). This is, indeed, an actualization of the schmittian withholding of the state of exception now normalized at the heart of democratic systems. Hence, the new danger is not just juridical, although it is also that. Snyder presses on the fact that current governments and parties – from Putin’s Russia to Le Pen’s Front National to Trump’s populist rallies in Florida or North Carolina – are borrowing props and gestures from the 1930s, a decade that Steve Bannon has labeled “exciting”. It is no surprise to anyone that we are currently living in times justified by exception in the name of the “crisis”. It is this time of excitement that provides a grammar of historical teleology and inevitability, and further, of judgment. However, the passage from inevitability to something darker is what Snyder calls the politics of eternity, which is really the core of his book, and the sign under which neo-fascism abides:

“…the politics of eternity performs a masquerade of history, though a different one. It is concerned with the past, but in a self-absorbed way, freed from with any real concern with facts….Eternity politicians bring us the past as a vast misty courtyard of illegible monuments to national victimhood, all of them equally distant from the present.” (Snyder 121).

If there is no real concern with facts, it is because all politics of untruth are politics to cover the Real, or what Jaime Rodriguez Matos has recently called the formless thing [2]. And for Snyder, national populists of the far right are eternity politicians providing a form that at the end of the day is just sending signs of smoke (Snyder 122). What is being covered is the void that leads to a point of no return: mainly, that there is no “greatest moment to return to”, since it is impossible to resurrect Empire. This inevitable untruth provides illusory grounds to radical right rhetoric in Europe. Although, we must infer that this is also the moment where Trump appears in its maximum existential danger to us.

It is uncertain if the institutions of the West will withstand this immanent threat. Although it is in this conjuncture that the rule of law becomes as central as ever before, and to discard it, is perhaps one of the greatest acts of moral decrepitude. It is here where we awake from the sleepwalking of eternal politics, as we are confronted with the historical sense that gives us the phantasmatic company of those who have perished, and that have suffered more than us (Snyder 125). It is in this affirmation, we agree with Snyder, that we find a substantial push against all tyrannies.






  1. Eric Posner & Adrian Vermeule. The Executive Unbound: After the Madisonian Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  2. Jaime Rodriguez Matos. “Politics, Trace, Ethics: Disciplinary Delirium—On Trump and Consequences”. Paper Read at USC Conference, November, 2016.

Respuesta a las respuestas de Alberto Moreiras. Por Gerardo Muñoz.


En su segunda respuesta al comentario de Germán Cano, Alberto Moreiras hace una afirmación sobre posthegemonía con la cual queremos discrepar. Me permito citar ese momento hacia el final de su réplica, donde Moreiras escribe lo siguiente:

“Mi referencia es no solo la obra de Laclau, a la que me remito críticamente, sino también el trabajo que sobre ella están haciendo Yannis Stavrakakis y su grupo de Salónica. Son estos últimos los que establecen las condiciones mínimas del populismo en esos términos: transversalidad y antagonismo. Y a mí me parecen persuasivos. Sin esa base propiamente política en un populismo de condiciones mínimas…la posthegemonía se hace desdentada e irrelevante”.

Lo que me causa alarma en esa elaboración tan contundente: “sin base en un populismo la posthegemonía se hace desdentada e irrelevante”. ¿Por qué sería irrelevante la posthegemonía sin populismo? Acaso, ¿porque de esta manera lo ha venido elaborando Yannis Stravakakis y su grupo de Salónica? No, hay mucho más en juego en lo que afirma Moreiras. Para mí, lo que esta elaboración sugiere es una subordinación conceptual del republicanismo, mediante la coyuntura política, a la irrupción populista. Pero no hay razón para hacerlo más allá de la inmediatez coyuntural que es siempre pasajera. Yo podría decir, girando la mesa, que el populismo necesita de un republicanismo mínimo. Y que sin eso no habría nada por medio. De hecho, esta es la tesis que mueve muy ágilmente el hilo especulativo de En Defensa del Populismo (2016), de Carlos Fernández Liria. Pero no voy por ahí tampoco.

Me interesaría interpelar a Moreiras, pero también a Stravakakis indirectamente tomando en cuenta esa definición de populismo a partir de sus dos condiciones mínimas (transversalidad y antagonismo): ¿No estaríamos inflando un globo de aire que, como ha dicho en una conversación reciente el Profesor Jorge Yagüez, nos aleja de la precisión? ¿No se pierde especificidad conceptual y se deja de lado la materialidad real de tiempos posthegemónicos? Y si estas son las dos condiciones, ¿por qué no otras? Uno pudiera contra-argumentar diciendo que es porque hay un movimiento populista en curso, y que está dado en su formulación más feliz en el documento político de Errejón y su lista. Pero también habría una posibilidad alternativa, y es decir que la diferencia sustancial está en poner el acento en un republicanismo de fuerza, institucional, y de políticos vocacionales. Y ahí también caería la tesis de Carolina Bescansa, que pretende ignorar la pugna entre errejonistas e iglesistas rebajándola a una pelea de machos. Al contrario, estamos de acuerdo que aquí hay un problema de “error en la teoría”.

Ya de entrada, hablar de populismo confunde. Decir que puede haber populismo posthegemónico es una confusión al cubo. No hablo aquí de confusiones conceptuales o académicas, sino en el orden del discurso público, como el que circula en estos días por los medios españoles. Anoche veía la entrevista a Errejón en el programa “El Objetivo”, donde se hace muy visible las limitaciones retóricas de “entrar en razón” en cuanto a la diferencia entre errejonistas y pablistas. Y la verdad es que Errejón no hizo el mejor trabajo para desmarcase. Esa diferencia, como hemos dicho, es la hegemonía.

Pues bien, menciono esa entrevista, porque me parece que una parte fundamental de este debate pasa por la función retórica, si el objetivo es finalmente ganar votos y construir una gran mayoría capaz de desplazar el bipartidismo español. No le estoy pidiendo a Moreiras un lenguaje mediático ni nada por el estilo (¡estaría de más!), sino tan solo extrapolar un problema “real” que me parece análogo a este diferendo. Hablar claro (parraísticamente) es condición de posibilidad de la posthegemonía en última instancia. Y soy de los que cree que, al menos por el momento, no puede haber populismo de la ‘verdad’, como mismo no puede haber filosofía o pensamiento de “opinión”.

Voy al grano. A mí me parece que al decir “populismo anárquico” llegamos a confusiones aún mayores, a un callejón sin salida. Primero, porque los anarquistas piensan que has dado en la clave, y que se trata de armar una participación directa, más asamblearia, hasta llegar a trascender el capitalismo. Mientras que, por el otro lado, los populistas hegemónicos te toman como enfant terrible. Yo sigo siendo de los que piensa que las condiciones actuales son capaces de dejar desarrollar un discurso parraístico, esto es, republicano y necesariamente posthegemónico. Pero Moreiras escribe: “Si la posthegemonía es una contribución al pensamiento republicano, lo es sobre esa base populista mínima, pero también desde su antagonismo hacia todo verticalismo identitario y hacia todo identitarismo verticalizante”. Estamos de acuerdo en lo segundo, pero no necesariamente en lo primero.

El énfasis no lo pondría en ‘el populismo’, sino el pueblo, el We The People de la constitución viviente. No hay duda que, sin pueblo viviente, no hay transformación institucional capaz de atender las necesidades de cualquier presente. Pero esto ya deja atrás el populismo, porque el pueblo (en el populismo) siempre necesita apelar al líder. No así el republicanismo, cuyo pueblo solo tiene la materialidad de sus necesidades (siempre disímiles en cada época o momento), atendidas por  políticos de vocación, o lo que me gustaría llamar políticos posthegemónicos.

¿Hay populismo sin líder? Confieso ignorar si el grupo Populismus de Salónica ha desarrollado algún análisis sobre el liderazgo en el populismo (fuera de Laclau), pero tengo para mí que es ahí donde habría un verdadero ‘quiasmo interior’, muy similar al que se está produciendo hoy entre Iglesias y los errejonistas. Si el populismo requiere un líder, entonces esto implica que el populismo es solo un valor estratégico. Lo cual no está mal, pero no tiene por qué pretender agotar la posthegemonía. Yo diría de momento que mis dos condiciones para una democracia posthegemónica (no populista) serían: 1. un político poshegemónico (que J. L. Villacañas, siguiendo a Weber, llama de vocación), y 2. Institucionalidad (que es siempre más que instituciones estatales, y nunca republicanismo caduco).

El relato del bastón torcido: sobre En defensa del populismo de Carlos Fernández Liria. Por Gerardo Muñoz.

fernandez-liria-popEn defensa el populismo (Catarata, 2016), del pensador Carlos Fernández Liria, es un libro espinoso que busca instalarse con vehemencia al interior del debate en torno a la política española de los últimos años. Por supuesto, es también un libro abiertamente comprometido con el ascenso de Podemos, y su líder Pablo Iglesias, y sobra decir que su defensa de la ‘centralidad del tablero’ no se presta a equívocos. En efecto, en el prólogo del libro, Luis Alegre Zahonero celebra que Fernández Liria brinde su apoyo a la disputa por los nombres del enemigo, y que recupere para la izquierda nociones como democracia, ciudadano, derechos, o institución en línea con la obra elemental populista: la construcción de un pueblo. El punto de partida de Fernández Liria es volver sobre la textura del lenguaje, y desde ahí colonizar su gramática hasta efectuar un ‘nuevo sentido común’. Aunque Fernández Liria sitúa el problema en un arco de larga duración: al menos desde Platón y Sócrates, el lenguaje siempre ha obedecido al habla en el lenguaje del otro, léase del poderoso, y solo así ha sido capaz de generar escucha.

Según Liria ésta sería la lección decisiva de algunos diálogos socráticos, pero también de los sofistas, en la medida en que ambos discursos lo que se juega no es la verdad, sino su recursividad efectiva. Entonces, de la misma manera que Platón o los sofistas habrían derrumbado la verdad de los poetas, para Liria hoy no hacemos nada en decir verdades a orejas que no lograrían escucharla, puesto que son orejas que están blindadas a la verdad. Por lo tanto, es fundamental jugársela dentro de los límites impuestos por el falsum colectivo si es que se quiere llegar a un mínimo de veracidad. Pero, ¿qué nos dice esto del populismo? En una primera instancia que el discurso populista no depende de una aclamación de la verdad, y todo esfuerzo por desplegarlo en realidad terminaría atropellándose contra el blindaje que el ‘macizo ideológico’ (sic) de la mentira ha superpuesto en su economía general del sentido. El populismo tiene que entrar necesariamente a jugar el juego del sofismo. En un momento significativo para el argumento de Fernández Liria, éste recurre al relato leninista del bastón torcido que conviene citar íntegramente:

“Althusser recurría siempre a una cita de Lenin que hablaba de que para enderezar un bastón torcido no se podía sencillamente mojar la madera y atarla a una guía rectar, porque al soltar la guía el bastón quedaría menos torcido, pero seguiría torcido. Para enderezarlo, es preciso que la guía esté torcida en sentido contrario. Una idea falsa no se puede combatir sencillamente diciendo la verdad, hace falta otra idea falsa de signo contrario para que la verdad tenga alguna oportunidad. Una mentira se corrige diciendo la verdad. Pero en este mundo las ideas están impregnadas de una materialidad que pesa como el plomo, llevan adherido verdaderos sistemas de pasiones y afectos autorreferenciales y tautológicos…En esos casos, mover del sitio una mentira se parece a la tarea de intentar arrastrar un iceberg remando en una pirgua. Si hay que hacerlo es, por el contrario, para que verdad tenga alguna oportunidad en este mundo” (Fernández Liria 37-38).

Estaríamos ahora en condiciones de señalar la segunda dimensión del populismo que maneja Fernández Liria; a saber, que el populismo sería el mejor de los artificios posibles para el rendimiento de la política en un mundo de dilatada mitomanía. Y es esto lo único a lo que el populismo puede aspirar en su inserción social. Aunque según Liria es lo que debe aspirar toda política en tiempos de fin civilizatorio (sic) a causa del ascenso del principio general de equivalencia. No hay más fuera de esto (Fernández Liria 221). No se nos escapa en el fragmento citado anteriormente una cierta traslación leibniziana, donde el gesto de hipostasiar la imaginación política a una combinatoria lingüística es compensatorio de la crisis general de la política misma. Y tampoco es casual que Fernández Liria glose algunas fichas especulativas de Crítica de la Razón Política de Regis Debray, para dar cuenta cómo la maximización de la globalización, así como los experimentos por consolidar el socialismo real durante el pasado siglo, terminaron generando arcaísmos políticos y una perdurable proliferación de mitologías a contrapelo de la racionalidad moderna. De ahí que, si la política moderna de la secularización estuvo siempre caída hacia el nihilismo, entonces no queda otra opción que sostener cierta dosis de religiosidad edificante para retener cierta ‘calderilla antropológica’ (sic) contra el perpetuo ‘desnivel prometeico’ de la maquinación neoliberal. En estos trámites de compensación, la opción es solo una:

“Hace falta un populismo de izquierdas que, consiente de la necesidad de pertenencia tribal del ser humano, conocedor de que el mundo político tiene sus propios resortes y sabedor de que no se puede eliminar la superstición, sino, todo lo más, contribuir a su civilización, sea capaz de enderezar las energías populares a favor de instituciones republicanas” (Fernández Liria 159).

De esta manera, los capítulos “Razón y Cristianismo” y el epílogo “Progreso y Populismo”, apuestan a un registro mítico del populismo como interface o suplemento arcaico capaz de sostener lo mejor del Republicanismo, su ideal institucional, y estado de derecho. Estamos muy lejos, o casi en la posición contrapuesta a la invitación de José Luis Villacañas explicitada en Populismo (Huerta Grande, 2015), a la cual Liria alude, pero tan solo para subordinarla a su lógica principial de populismo. El sustento que alienta la teoría de Liria remite explícitamente a la lógica de hegemonía como vehículo monoestático para alcanzar y finalmente conquistar el llamado ‘sentido común’. Escribe Liria: “El mayor error que podría cometer un populismo de izquierdas sería renunciar a la defensa de esta objetividad republicana. Es más, esta defensa de la objetividad república es más bien lo único que puede convertir al populismo en un populismo de izquierdas” (Fernández Liria 109).

Si para Liria el populismo es más cercano a la Ilustración que al jacobinismo, no es porque tenga como referente último la legitimidad institucional y los derechos del hombre, sino porque el vaciamiento de estos principios hoy hace posible que el populismo les dispute el campo semántico a categorías de peso en la tradición. A diferencia de Villacañas, para quien el republicanismo pudiera aflorar como posibilidad poshegemónica y breakthrough del impasse del ‘momento populista’; en la defensa del populismo de Fernández Liria, el republicanismo y la institución son significantes y estructuras que permiten hipostasiar el pensamiento en nombre del sentido común en tanto hegemonía. En otras palabras, mientras que la deriva republicana de Villacañas busca pensar la política democrática para tiempos de interregno, el llamado ‘populismo-republicano’ de Liria funciona a la palestra de extender el presupuesto schmittiano de la enemistad. Este es, al fin y al cabo, la pieza última de la ‘defensa populista’, por la cual a pesar de todas las piruetas por distanciarse de Laclau – y que quizás implícitamente es uno de los flancos de un tipo de discursividad que ‘no convence’ en tiempos poshegemónica para Liria – reaparece acoplada sobre los mismos términos. De hecho, Liria no cambia nada de la matriz de la hegemonía entendida como reducción culturalista enchufada a la voluntad de poder. Veamos:

“…la hegemonía se ejerce, fundamentalmente, apropiándose de lo que solemos llamar el “sentido común”. Es allí, en el sentido común de la población, donde se produce la secreta mutación de los intereses particulares en intereses generales de la colectividad. Es por lo que los marxistas repitieron tanto eso de la ideología de una sociedad era siempre la ideología de la clase dominante…Es ahí donde se disputa lo que podríamos llamar “la ficción de una voluntad general”. Así pues, la lucha política es, ante todo, una lucha por la hegemonía, una lucha, por tanto, por instalarse en el sentido común de la población de manera que los propios intereses hagan pasar por los intereses de la voluntad general” (Fernández Liria 51-52).

El llamado a más hegemonía, a pesar de su apelación a la Ilustración o a la posibilidad republicana, desafortunadamente termina siendo una variante más del voluntarismo político propio del cierre onto-teológico, donde la estructuración del contrato social y la factura culturalista terminan por agotar las opciones de otra política. Y así, lo que solicita Fernández Liria, al igual que la que ha venido pidiendo Alan Badiou, es desde un principio una política para convencidos, o para militantes, o para quienes quieran creerse ‘el cuento’ [1]. Pero es también aquí donde el juego sofista entra en aprietos, puesto que, si la subsunción real del capital genera la más densa mitología del consumo y la publicidad, ¿qué puede hacer la hegemonía, sino fracasar ante ello, o bien ofrecer un contra-mito siempre limitado o insuficiente? O simplemente arribista, acotado a la ‘coyuntura’ sin más. Sin duda, la apuesta por un contra-mito tampoco es novedosa, y no habría muchas diferencias a la solución de Carl Schmitt en su conocido ensayo sobre la instrumentalización del mito en el nacional-socialismo contra la neutralización ejercida desde la ‘habladuría’ parlamentaria [2].

Pero estos fueron esfuerzos por una totalización de la política que se ha arruinado en nuestros tiempos, y sin embargo es la condición mínima para que Liria pueda echar a andar la fuerza apropiativa de la hegemonía como motor de conflicto, y de existencia en común durante tiempos de crisis. En cualquier caso, Liria no logra avanzar más allá del esquematismo constitutivo entre Ilustración y crisis que encuadra el gran relato de la soberanía popular desde la revolución francesa, y del cual la teoría de la hegemonía tendría que hacerse cargo de manera más delicada. De otra manera los sofismos antropológicos serán mellados por el tiempo efectivo del capital sin muchos reparos por las fantasías equivalenciales diagramadas sobre las lenguas comunicacionales.

Pero Liria no hace concesiones, y hacia el final del libro sentencia: “En todo caso, un auténtico cosmopolitismo no podrá jamás suprimir algo así como el Estado nación. Siempre seremos seres humanos y naceremos por ‘el coño de nuestra madre, aprenderemos a hablar en algo así como la familia y tendremos una identidad personal y tribal que tendrá que ser gestionada políticamente” (Fernández Liria 236). La pregunta que tendríamos que hacerle a la ‘defensa del populismo’ de Liria es si acaso, su ‘nuevo’ ‘populismo-republicano’ podría ser algo más que una tribulación antropológica entregada al pastoreo gubernamental, una contra-hegemonía de la dominación desde una metapolítica del pueblo. Y si así es, el relato del ‘bastón torcido’ es una teoría de ‘bandazos’, como le ha llamado recientemente Villacañas, ya que no puede convencer ni atraer a nadie en tiempos poshegemónicos [3]. Liria exige que mantengamos la vista fija sobre el listón de madera mientras el abismo que desfonda la política sigue su curso por debajo. El bastón, entonces, es principalmente un fetiche y la exigencia una plegaria.

¿Pero no sería hora de arrojar el bastón? Luego de la lectura de En defensa del populismo queda muy claro que hegemonía como suelo que agota la política es el principio ineludible del sentido común. Y es esa la razón por lo que Luis Alegre tilda de “pensadores perezosos o cobardes” a quienes se afanaban por inventar ‘cosas mejores’ (sic), esto es, cualquier cosa que no sea hegemonía (Fernández Liria 13). O bien pueda Liria exhibir a aquellos que, en lugar de ofrecer sus vidas a la teología de la liberación, “estaban intentado descifrar a Derrida o dándole vueltas y vueltas al insondable misterio que ellos llamaban el dilema del prisionero” (Fernández Liria 149). Aunque quizás la inventiva de ese hombre perezoso y poshistórico, tal y como lo pensaba Alexandre Kojeve, sea la que menos rebusque en los basureros intelectuales de la izquierda. Ese perezoso hombre poshegemónico, es cierto, no ofrece proezas salvíficas o descalificaciones altisonantes, pero tal vez remitiría a un tiempo de democracia más allá de fábulas antropológicas que hoy solo pueden sucumbir a la indiferencia generalizada, o bien a rechineos para espabilar solo a unos cuantos.





  1. Es lo que propone Badiou con su noción de “nueva gran ficción” en “Politics as a nonexpressive dialectics”, en Philosophy for Militants (Verso, 2012).
  2. Carl Schmitt. “La teoría política del mito” (1923). Carl Schmitt: Teólogo de la Política (Orestes Aguilar, ed., 2001).
  3. José Luis Villacañas. “Podemos, la hora decisiva”.

‘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.


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).

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.

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.

A Thesis on Culture/Politics. By Alberto Moreiras.

It is no doubt not only arrogant but also silly to state that culture does not exist, or that politics are useless, even if or particularly if we provide a suitable and encompassing definition of what it is we want to do without, which is not easy of course.  Culture and politics are master concepts, whether we like it or not, and one cannot leave them behind without giving up on language and history both.  However, I have insisted and will continue to insist on the fact that without a critical destruction (a destructive critique?) of both concepts, after which we’ll have to see what might be left over, the project of infrapolitics, or even of its associated term, posthegemony, will not take off, will be hampered at the very basic level of articulation.   A few years ago I called this predicament the “cultural-political closure”–as the horizon of thought, which is as ideological as any other horizon of thought, and there is nothing natural about it.  No doubt my thinking was as insufficient and incoherent then as it is today.  But I’d like, nevertheless, in a tentative and risky way, to put forth the idea that the cultural-political closure is as pernicious yet constitutive for our world as political theology was for the 19th century.

More thoughts on Posthegemony and Infrapolitics


Further to my recent comments on “Posthegemony, Deconstruction, Infrapolitics”, in which I ask about “the varieties of infrapolitics and the extent to which posthegemony can inform (as well as be informed by) our notion of the infrapolitical”… Elsewhere, Alberto Moreiras has already responded that “as thrown into facticity, infrapolitics is the domain of deconstruction and deconstruction is the domain of infrapolitics.” Which I have to confess, I don’t really understand. But I was thinking further about Gareth Williams’s capsule summary of Posthegemony as a “critical discussion of the relation between the concept of the multitude and the underpinnings of the political.” Which may offer at least one way of thinking about the relationship between posthegemony (at least as I envisage it) and infrapolitics.

I tend to resist the notion that Posthegemony is only about the multitude, not least because thereby the equally important concepts of affect and (perhaps especially) habit get lost in a hasty conflation of posthegemony with Hardt and Negri’s rather different project. On the other hand, in that I also see the three concepts as very much bound together, and the multitude as the incarnation in specific moments of the interplay between affect and habit, I have to admit that multitude is in some sense the key concept that links and shows what’s at play in the other two.

And the multitude is, in my conception, a subject. Not the most conventional of subjects, but a subject none the less. This stress on the subject would seem to mark the most obvious difference between Alberto’s version of deconstruction, at least, and his elaboration of the notion of a “non-subject of the political.” Indeed, if a “discussion of the relation between the concept of the multitude and the underpinnings of the political” is also (as I am suggesting) a focus on the relation between the multitude and infrapolitics, then posthegemonic infrapolitics emerges as perhaps the obverse, if not the reverse, of deconstructive infrapolitics.

In short: if deconstructive infrapolitics is a concern with the non-subject of the political, is posthegemonic infrapolitics a concern with the subject of the non-political? With a subject that precedes politics, makes it possible, is perhaps what is at stake in every gesture of the political, but is somehow itself never fully political.

The question then is of the relation between these two takes on infrapolitics. Are they opposed or (merely?) complementary, perhaps even mutually dependent; bedmates, if you like. And to some extent I’m not particularly interested in attempting to resolve that question, at least not now, while the projects of infrapolitics and posthegemony remain at a rather initial stage. But I propose that it might (for strategic reasons if none other) be worth acting at least as if these two approaches complemented rather than contradicted each other.