Invitation to Two Working Groups: #TheEreignisTexts and #LacanianTheory.

You know how it is with social-network groups–they are frustrating more often than not, and many of them have to be dismantled after a while for lack of participation and related issues.  Not so many people are generous enough with their time and ideas to want to participate in working groups that might expose them to real conversation, and we need to take that into account and keep it in mind.  Still, provided I know you (I do want to keep trolls and spam away from this), I am inviting you to join one or the other of them, or both.

Those two groups are important to me for the following reasons: it seems to me the future of critical theory at least in the US is at stake. Things are looking bad, from where I am, and that includes several dimensions of the problem: the lack of ideas and the thorough routinization of the contemporary theoretical field, the lack of investment in the humanities by institutions that ought to know better, and the complicity of so many professionals (our own colleagues, ourselves) with the dire state of affairs. And I believe, looking at things, that there will be no salvation coming from biopolitical thought, no salvation coming from robotics or a.i. and singularity studies, no salvation coming from political philosophy or Marxism or neo-Marxism, no salvation coming from any kind of identity-powered studies, or from science studies or new media studies, etc., etc., and even if we are not looking for salvation—I am not–we can at least look forward to having some fun and some interesting moments in coming years. It seems to me either we create them for ourselves or they won’t come into existence. In any case, there is a conversation to be had. I am inviting you to it.

I think we are at the verge of what we could call the resurgence of an existential turn (certainly beyond conventional subjectivism, I am not talking about repeating the previous one)—partially as a result of the ruin and loss of momentum of everything else. It seems to me there are two main references from the tradition that stand in need of attention and care when it comes to an existential turn: Lacanian analysis and late Heideggerianism. I do not want to dismiss other very important aspects of contemporary thought, i. e., certain developments in Marxism, the ongoing publication of Derrida’s seminars or, indeed, theoretical developments in the African American field, but I think the Lacanian text and the late Heideggerian text are essential for a new and exciting theoretical avatar—if, indeed, we can have it (not at all clear to me at this point.)  You may have of course the impression that other things could be cited here, that I am reducing too drastically the field of productive discourse. You may be right, but all I am proposing is that those two fields of engagement–late Heideggerianism and Lacanian theory–need attention.

One more thing: I am inviting you to working groups. They will not be particularly work intensive, if only because we all understand that all of us have, if not excessive, at least demanding work constraints, and we do not totally dispose of our own time (although I do try to dispose of as much of it as I can for free intellectual engagement.) But, to the extent this is an invitation to working groups, of course a minimal investment in work is expected from every member. Otherwise, frankly, you should not be a member, you should not join.

This is not at all whimsical. Those of us who have experience in virtual conversation know very well that the presence of more than a few silent or inactive members in any given group has a paralyzing effect on the active members—I do not know the technical reason for it, but it is intuitive enough: if I expose myself and share my ideas with you, I expect at least minimal reciprocity and recognition. If you do not provide it, I start feeling like I am in some Amsterdam shop window acting up and you are looking at me from the street. It is no good. Even the Amsterdam mayor recently forbade the practice. It is ok if there are, say, twenty members, and four or five fall silent for a while because of whatever reason, provided the other 15 are reasonably active. But if we were to have four or five active members and fifteen inactive ones, the group would collapse in a matter of weeks. So we want to avoid it.

Looking forward to hearing from you if you are truly interested. I do not expect many, and membership of course will not be limited to people who read this blog.  If you are interested, please let me know through private channel (email, etc.), and I will send you a registration link.  The groups are #The EreignisTexts and #LacanianTheory.

Cuaderno de apuntes sobre la obra de Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio. Tercera Parte. Por Gerardo Muñoz

Non Olet (2003) es uno de los ensayos tardíos de Sánchez Ferlosio sobre materia económica. En realidad, su vórtice es la mutación del modelo de la producción al dominio del consumo. El aliento de las premisas del ensayo es muy ruskiano, aunque nunca se aluda a John Ruskin. Una mirada contramoderna como la Ruskin puede ayudarnos a desenmascarar las veleidades del valor como absoluto. Por eso hay que recordar que en Unto This Last, Ruskin argumentaba que el objetivo final de la economía política es siempre la glorificación exitosa del consumo, porque lo “usable” deviene sustrato de su sustancia hegemónica para perfeccionar el valor. Ruskin, por supuesto, no tuvo que esperar al declive histórico del trabajo y el cierre de la fábrica para darse cuenta. Ya todo estaba en el cosmos del liberalismo y del commerce.

El rastreo de Ferlosio se mueve en esta rúbrica. Para Ferlosio, la estructura tardía del capitalismo es esencialmente de equivalencia absoluta: “…el poder de determinación de la demanda y por lo tanto el poder determinante de la producción sobre el consumo, tendría el inimaginable porvenir de convertirse en el quid pro quo fundamental para el portentoso triunfo del liberalismo” (p.13). Ferlosio subraya que la “estructura de la demanda” es la unidad básica del este aparato del valor, ahora expuesto con la crisis de la forma tradicional del trabajo, puesta que hoy “el único capital humano que necesitan [las empresas] no es sino el que está compuesto de consumidores” (p.41). La intuición de Kojeve: si Marx fue el Dios, Ford fue su profeta.

No deja de curioso cómo la “demanda” también se ha convertido en el último resorte conceptual de la teoría política. No por gusto Jorge Dotti decía que la teoría del populismo era una mímesis de la equivalencia del dinero. En este nuevo absoluto, la brecha entre economía y política se rompe, haciendo del consumo la forma definitiva de la “Economía”. Por ejemplo, la noción de “ocio” entendida como tiempo de consumo es la expresión de una determinación compensatoria ya siempre entregada a la producción. En otras palabras, ahora producción y consumo son dos polos de una misma máquina que ha entrado en una zona de indeterminación (p.50).

Y es por esta razón que un marxista heterodoxo como Mario Tronti podía escribir en Operai e capitale (1966), que para luchar contra el capital la clase obrera debía primero luchar contra sí misma en cuanto capital. Es una sentencia dinámica, difícil de atravesar, y que coincide con la expansión del discurso de lo ilimitado. Hablar de un exceso en la exterioridad del Capital pone en crisis la negatividad de lo político. Así, se inaugura una nueva tiranía de los valores. Por esta razón, Ferlosio prefiere hablar de la Economía como “absoluta equivalencia, ajena a todo principium individuationis que pone en jaque a todas las formas de vida” (p.75).

La crisis de la negatividad es también agotamiento de la separación en la vida, esto es, de lo narrable como brillo de experiencia. Lo irónico de la economía moderna es que, a pesar de su origen como descarga contra el absoluto, su destino es la justificación de la rentabilidad como única verificación del valor” (p.81). El ethos económico moderno no es haber dejado atrás el peso de la contingencia del dios omnipotente, sino haber diferenciado el valor como una “función social” de las diferencias. Por eso es que Ferlosio no cree que podamos hablar de “sociedad civil” ni de “funciones sociales”, puesto que lo social ya presupone el valor como antesala de toda relación humana (p.106-107). Ferlosio escribe: “Bajo el omnímodo y omnipresente imperio de la “sociedad contractual”, todo queda indistintamente comprendido bajo el signo de las relaciones económicas. La sociedad no ya más que el sistema vascular para el fluido y el flujo de los intercambios económicos” (p.108). En efecto, ya no hay más “sociedad civil”, sino cómputo (cost & benefit) que sostiene la forma Imperio.

La estructura genérica de la sociedad consta de tres elementos – crédito, valor, y deber – que componen la máquina tripartita que produce al sujeto de consumo. De la misma manera en que la magia de la producción ha sido depuesta hacia el polo del consumo, ahora la existencia es depuesta como vida que debe ponerse en valor. Escribe Ferlosio: “Bajo la férula de la racionalidad económica, hoy coronada por el absolutismo de la hegemonía del a producción, no hay ya otra confirma de relación hombres que la de las relaciones contractuales; cualquier posible resto o renovado intento de relación no-contractual o está en precario o alcanza apenas una realidad fantasmagórica.” (p.158-159).

Un examen que nos toca de cerca: ¿no es la cultura de la culpa un modo contractual en todas relaciones sociales contemporáneas? ¿No ha sido el asenso de la identificación y la empatía, la nueva máscara obscena de la relación contractual entre personas? La función contractual no hay que entenderla como una esfera efectiva del derecho (no hay que firmar un documento en cada caso), sino como una función plástica del poder, ya sea como deber, como mandato, o como obligación. El agotamiento del contrato de la época del Trabajador, vuelve cada praxis humana una forma contractual. Es curioso que al mismo tiempo que se eliminan los contratos duraderos en la esfera laboral, toda experiencia con el mundo es hoy un contrato. Ferlosio nota un cambio importante: la palabra “caridad” (carus) paulatinamente fue reemplazada por “solidaridad”. ¿Y qué es la “solidaridad” (palabra que puede aparecer ya sea en el discurso de  una ONG, de una corporación de Wall-Street, o en el discurso piadoso de un profesor de Humanidades)?

La solidaridad es un término filtrado desde la esfera jurídica que apela al reconocimiento de un acuerdo previo. La solidaridad es el contrato con la Causa. Por eso sabemos que no hay solidaridad sin intereses y sin milicias. Sólo podemos ser solidario con la Humanidad, ya que en realidad reservamos el cariño para los amigos. La solidaridad despacha siempre a lo no-humano. Aunque lo no-humano realmente sea lo único importante; lo único que rompe la equivalencia general y que le devuelve la mueca mortal a la vida. De eso se trata: de devolverle al singular sus olores contra el non-olet genérico del Capital. Sánchez Ferlosio nos recuerda que hasta Edmund Burke tuvo “solidaridad” con los pobres en función de “la situación general de la humanidad” (p.161). Hoy cierta izquierda es burkeana porque sintetiza la solidaridad en nombre de una Humanidad que, por supuesto, cambia de rostro mensualmente. En efecto, las “Causas” no huelen.

 

Primera entrega

Segunda entrega

Cuaderno de apuntes sobre la obra de Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio. Segunda Parte. Por Gerardo Muñoz

¿Qué es un pecio? El último libro de Sánchez Ferlosio, Campo de retamas: pecios reunidos (2015) es una exploración total de esa forma. El pecio no llega a ser un aforismo, ni tampoco un decálogo de máximas, en la estela de La Rochefoucauld o Lichtenberg. Definición de pecio según la lexicógrafa María Moliner: “pecio es resto de una nave naufragada o de lo que iba en ella”.

El pecio irradia desconfianza, dice Ferlosio: “Desconfíen siempre de un autor de “pecio’. Aún sin quererlo, es fácil estafar porque los textos de una sola frase son los que mass se prestan a ese fraude de la “profundidad”, fetiche de los necios, siempre ávidos de asentir con reverencia a cualquier sentenciosa lapidariedad vacía de sentido pero habilidosamente elaborada con palabras de charol” (p.11). El pecio puede derivar el poder de lo indiscutible, y lo indiscutible es “como un carisma que sacraliza la palabra” (p.11).

El pecio, por lo tanto, es un resto que descarga la deriva sacer del lenguaje. Los restos nunca pueden terminar en la síntesis de la Alta Alegoría. El pecio por lo tanto no interesa tanto como forma, sino, para decirlo con Rodriguez Matos, de lo informe. Esto es lo interesante del pecio: su potencia al delegarnos una metafórica del naufragio. En Campo de retamos no hay ningún esfuerzo meta-teórico por definir el pecio. Todo pecio es singularidad, porque es superficie y extravío. De ahí también su densidad.

El pecio como metafórica del naufragio. Según Hans Blumenberg, el naufragio es la mejor exposición de la existencia humana. En el mar encontramos al existente en una situación de riesgo anómico. Mar es anomia. En la experiencia del naufragio, vemos la miseria y la autoafirmación de lo humano. Blumenberg cuenta anécdota que aparece en uno de los diarios tardíos de Jünger: los marineros antes del siglo diecinueve negaban sin saber nadar. La razón era simple: delegan a la velocidad del tiempo de una probable muerte (caso de naufragio) la incapacidad de ejecutar una acción. En otras palabras, incluso en una región anómica como el mar, la existencia habilita mecanismos de distanciamiento y repliegue. Por esta razón, lo más importante en la vida no es la unidad o la cohesión social, sino lo que trasciende la vida. Solo esto puede ser realmente considerado lo sagrado en la vida (lo ex-sacer), esto es, una vida auténticamente profana.

Volvamos a la cuestión de la singularidad contra la cohesión social que para Ferlosio remite al problema de la “unidad”. Escribe Ferlosio: “…la expresión “cohesión social: ninguna otra palabra podría recordar más de cerca el pegamento capaz de pegar cascotes rotos, pero no de conciliar personas” (p.47). Volviendo a la metafórica del naufragio: en el mar el naufragio se distancia de la unidad como artificio compensatorio. La unidad es una invención de la autorictas, de la misma manera que “el destino es un invento de la desventura, como el pecado es un invento del castigo y el juez es un invento del verdugo” (p.97). Se pide “unidad” para no pedir el sacrificio; son bondades de la gramática de la hegemonía. Es importante que en uno de los pecios de Campo de retamas se titule explícitamente ‘Anti-Goethe’, porque aquí queda expuesta la crítica ferlosiana  a la noción de “vida”:

“A nadie podría sentir yo más ajeno y más contrario que al que dijo: “Gris, mi querido amigo, es toda teoría; verde, en verdad, el árbol de la vida”. Siempre ha parecido a mí, por el contrario, ser la vida lo gris, y aun lo lóbrego, lo nusiestor, polviente y reseca momia de si misa. Verde, tan solo he visto, justamente, el árbol idea de la teoría; dorada, solo la imaginario florido de la utopía…desafiando la ominosa noche, en la ciudad bajo los bombardeos” (p.126).

No es menor que el blanco sea Goethe. Puesto que Goethe es la figura ilustrada en el camino de la Forma. La vida es ya la formalización de la existencia. De ahí la postura anti-Goethe. En cambio, a Ferlosio le interesa el desvío en lo informe. La unidad de la vida como facticidad alimenta las pretensiones de la Historia. Como escribe Ferlosio: “El fascismo consiste sobre todo en no limitarse a hacer política y pretender hacer historia” (p.53). La vida de la heliopolítica de Goethe es una Alta Alegoría de la Humanidad: lo que es legibilidad en la Historia (Lux) se convierte en la pegatina de la “unidad” en política. Ferlosio, en cambio, es un pensador fuerte de la separación. En realidad, el pecio es la unidad mínima de la separación entre vida y existencia, plenitud y naufragio, sol y la noche del pensamiento. El derecho positivista no nunca puede recoger esto como “alfombra solada bajo un suelo futuro” (p.103).

El pecio es el resto profano irreductible a la unidad. Hacia la última parte de Campo de retamas, escribe Ferlosio: “La amistad relaciona a los hombre en su condicion de de hombres; la unidad los junta y mantiene juntos como cosas. La unidad destruye la amistad porque la desplaza y la reemplaza, usurpando su lugar. La unidad funciona igual que un pegamento, es una especie de sindeticón, que mantiene pegados a los hombres como cascotes inertes, inconscientes, de un cacharro roto…El origen del concepto de unidad no es otro que la guerra y la dominación” (p.200).

La unidad es condición de toda cohesión social que suprime la stasis en nombre de la guerra como motor dialéctico de la Historia. ¿Qué es la teoría para Ferlosio? El árbol más verde, porque es la contemplación de las formas de vida. En el artículo del 2002 titulado “Naufragios democráticos”, Ferlosio retoma la metafórica marítima para discutir de la crisis como arte del gobierno: “…”crisis” no connota el inmediato aspecto “natural” del accidente”, sino el mediato del riesgo político electoral” (Ensayos 2, p.306-308). La crisis es la afirmación de la excepción en lo inmediato.

En otras palabras, la crisis en política no es un elemento creativo (Schumpeter) de la naturaleza del capitalismo. La crisis es la forma en que la guerra es administrada desde la eficacia del error. No dejar de ser curioso que las últimas palabras de Ferlosio, reaparezca la metafórica del naufragio, en versos de Leopardi: “E il naufragar m’e dolce in questo mare”. Una oposición importante en Ferlosio: riesgo vs. naufragio.

El concepto de “riesgo” no es ajeno al constitucionalismo. En cambio, el naufragio del pecio nos retrae a la desobra de otra imaginación. Una imaginación que siempre antecede a los titanismos del polemos del orden.

 

Primera Entrega

On Presentiment.  The Anticipation of an Other Beginning. Ankhibasie.

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Everything is now strictly bound in planning and control and in the exactitude of a sure course of action and a domination ‘without remainder.’ Nonbeings, under the semblance of beings, are brought by machination into the haven of beings, and human desolation, which is ineluctably compelled thereby, finds its compensation in ‘lived experience.’ (Martin Heidegger, Contributions322)

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The future ones stand in sovereign knowledge as genuine knowledge.  Whoever attains this knowledge cannot be subjected to calculation or compulsion. Furthermore, this knowledge is useless and has no ‘value;’ it does not matter and cannot be taken as an immediate condition for a currently ongoing business.  (Martin Heidegger, Contributions314)

On Presentiment.  The Anticipation of an Other Beginning.  Ankhibasie. Draft Paper for BeiträgeWorkshop, Indiana University, April 12, 2019. By Alberto Moreiras.

In Conversations on a Country Path Martin Heidegger talks about devastated life as, among other things, life deprived of what is unnecessary for it.  He refers to some Chinese dialogue about the necessary and the unnecessary.  The Chinese sage says that the only necessary thing is a square foot of earth where one can plant himself and stand up.  But if someone were to come and remove all the unnecessary dirt that surrounds the necessary square foot, then one could no longer ever take a step without falling into a fairly radical Abgrund.  I am sure everyone of us will have their own opinion as to whether the world in general is increasingly moving in the direction of devastated life, that is, of bare life for the human in general (and of no life for many species, as we know).  But we can narrow it down a bit, to make it manageable: Is the Chinese parable not a good parable of the contemporary public university, both for teachers and for students?  It could be the case that the ongoing reduction of the unnecessary, particularly in the humanities, in the name of good business practice, is threatening the necessary.  We will always find out too late.  Once we do, we may become vigilant as to whether the tendencies toward devastation to which our administrations happily subscribe (with the passive complicity of the faculty, obviously) reach absolute success or whether a reaction against them may thwart them.   But then of course we need to ponder the reach of the possible reaction, and whether the reaction is and can be anything other than devastating itself.  At this point there are no ideas, there is no program, whether in the left or in the right, to salvage the situation.  Ongoing devastation seems to be what everybody wants. To that extent and for that purpose we can certainly trust our university leaders.

Let me state that the structural site of thought today, such as it is, is the university.   If the university, as structural site of thought, is moving towards the elimination of everything unnecessary, perhaps in the name of business (or is business the name for something else yet unnamed and unnameable?), then it may be time to ponder the unnecessary as the toposfor a breakaway, at the unstructured center of the structure: can we see there, in the inconspicuous unnecessary, the “clearing of a self-concealing,” as Heidegger would put it?  The clearing of the university, following the logic of the parable, must then be a clearing from the university, a move away from the university, ex universitate.  Let me accept beforehand that such a move will be politically useless, and entirely without value.  No business will be done.

I have been reading Heidegger all my life, more or less, on and off, yes, but not professionally.  For me that means I was not reading him to quote him, not reading him in order to write about him.  Until recently.  He was a private pleasure, formative, yes, but in pretty much the same way my favorite thriller authors, also a reading passion of mine, were formative: they offered me an intriguing show of style, thoughts to lose myself into, and even, secretly, perhaps a way to model myself, a prop for my own path, the idea of a master to follow, something not to share, something others would have to find on their own.   Friedrich Nietzsche, Jacques Derrida, and a few others, at different times, were also that for me.  For god’s sake, I was in Spanish, not even a literary critic, not even a cultural studies fellow, not even a historian of ideas, somewhere in between, as I tried to accumulate, through the rest of my writings, a necessary knowledge, or experience, or guts, or permission, to write about the unnecessary authors within my academic field that were really important to me: Valente, Benet, Goytisolo. Which I have not done yet.   This is not a disclaimer, just an explicitation of what is the case, of facticity.  And I thought that my contribution to this workshop on Heidegger’s Beiträge, a fairly inexhaustible “unwork,” in my opinion, could come directly from that facticity, from that modality of Weg-sein, of being thrown into what is the case, of being-away, which happens to be mine.  I have no pretensions to expertise, therefore, but let me tell you something: I do not believe in expertise any more, not in the humanities, I no longer seek it.  The only game for me is to manage to say something to you, here and now, that might prompt a conversation, in this case in relation to Heidegger’s Beiträge.  Oh, this has nothing to do with modesty.  I do not claim modesty.  I will claim, I do claim, that I am following an imperative of thought that Beiträgeitself seems to suggest to me, co-suggest, prompt me into.   Let me call it, for short, the transport into an existential clearing.  And I will offer my own context for it.  The last thing I feel I can do is to utter an exegetic or paraphrastic account of Heidegger’s own attempt at transitional thought.  I will try to say something about my own transitional thought, indebted to Heidegger, if you want radically indebted to Heidegger, and grateful to him.  But I do not particularly want to speak as a Heideggerian (this sentence may become meaningful only at the end of my paper, through the mention of the death drive.)

What moves the transition?  What moves movement?  This is of course an old question.  Thomas Sheehan has linked the Heideggerian conception of ex-sistence to Aristotle’s notion of kinesis, movement, as energeia atelés. Through kinesisa thing achieves itself, completes itself, or at least does so when its dynamisdisplays. According to Sheehan, Heidegger’s notion of Eignungtranslates dynamis, which would be the thing’s (force of) appropriation to the thing’s own telos.  In terms of the human being, Ereignisbecomes for ex-istence what Eignungis for things: existential kinesis, move toward self-appropriation, which in Beiträgewill several times be named “selfhood” in a non-subjectivist sense, i.e., the “selfhood” of Da-sein, Da-sein’s appropriation into the “there.” Sheehan reserves the word that Heidegger used in what was perhaps a slightly different context, ankhibasie, an extant word from Heraclitus meaning “ever approaching” (to Logosin the Heraclitean sense, to the Da of Seyn in the Heideggerian one), to name this “asymptotic condition of ex-istence” (Sheehan 1), that is, a condition of ex-sistence according to which ex-sistence can never fulfill itself but can come closer and closer to such a fulfilment.   Ankhibasieis therefore an existential practice of radical transition into a “there” that receives several names in Beiträge: “the other beginning,” “the clearing self-concealing,” “the essence of truth,” “the sheltering,” even “the last god” among others.  What interests me at this point is the imperative dimension of ankhibasie, not present in the Heraclitus fragment: that fact that, in the Heideggerian-Sheehanian way, it names a drive that is a drive for Da-sein, an existential drive somehow explicitly situated beyond the drives of animal rationale.  If the animal rationalemeans to be left behind, and with it the “sheer, insatiable riot of blind drives” that Heidegger refers to at one point in his text (196), it is not as if Da-sein were to be deprived of dynamic movement. In fact, we could probably, and impossibly, sum up Beiträgeby saying that it marks the attempt to establish a blueprint for a transformation or transfiguration of animal rationaleinto Da-sein.  What does this mean?  It means that there is no “closeness to life” that may rescue us, that an intensification of life, a recuperation of life, a redemption of life is not what Da-sein seeks.  But, if the inversion of animality is spirituality (rationalehas meant “spirit” all along the history of metaphysics), then no spiritual transformation is being invoked here: neither spiritual transformation nor life’s redemption.  Da-sein’s drive is a drive of desire otherwise, an ex-istential desire, a form of jouissancefor which I am happy to accept Sheehan’s suggestion and call it ankhibasieAnkhibasienames Da-sein’s dynamic movement forward.

In the section of Beiträgeentitled “The Future Ones” the connection between the seeking of transitional thought and what Conversations on a Country Pathwould name ankhibasiebecomes almost explicit: “Seeking is intrinsically futural and is a coming into the nearness of being.  Seeking brings the seekers to themselves for the first time, i.e., brings them into the selfhood of Da-sein, wherein the clearing and concealment of beings occur” (Contributions315).   It is also important to point out that, in that section, Heidegger marks a difference between those he calls “the future ones,” of whom he will say that “there are already a few” without further precisions (317), and those of us who live in our own hour:  “Our own hour is the era of downgoing” (314), which is “the path to the reticent preparation for what is to come, i.e., for the movement in which and the site in which the advent and the remaining absent of the gods will be decided.  The downgoing is the utterly first beginning” (314).   In another section, Da-sein is defined as “the crisis between the first and the other beginning” (233).  The first beginning is our history, which our downgoing consummates.  There is a way in which Da-sein, that is, not the human being, certainly not the animal rationale, but the human being that has leaped into Ereignis, that is, the human being who has accepted the need for a transitional thought into his or her own asymptotic condition of ex-sistence, is opposed to what Heidegger calls Wegsein, being-away.  In its first mention Being-away presents itself as a rewriting of the notion of inauthenticity in Being and Time(cf. Contributions238). It is a “denial of the exposure to the truth of beying” (239), and it is as such “the ordinary way of being human” (256): a way of living, in history, away from history, distracted from it. If so, then there is a way in which Being-away also grounds Da-sein: “To the ‘there’ belongs, at its extremity, this concealment in its most proper open realm, i.e., the ‘away’ as the constant possibility of being away; the human being is acquainted with the ‘away’ in the various forms of death” (256).  Hence, Da-sein must incorporate the concealedness of the ‘there’ into the steadfastness of enduring the truth” (257).   Such incorporation, the accomplishment of what Being and Timecalled “Being toward death,” is the passage into Da-sein, and the leap toward the other beginning.  Which consummates our history in an alternative sense, precisely by opening it up again.  Ankhibasieis Da-sein’s dynamic movement toward another history, which is history itself.

What would I want you to retain from all of this? We are living in our own hour, in our own time, a time of downgoing that can solve itself into a time of permanent blockage, a time of devastation and of the deprivation of everything unnecessary for life, paradoxical as that may sound, or a time that can find in that very devastation an intimation and a presentiment of what Heidegger calls “the most intrinsic finitude of beyng,” “the last god” (325), understood as “the danger of something strange and incalculable” (322), simply the most extreme decision regarding that danger, and death as “the most extreme possibility of the ‘there’” (257).  There is a choice here, or rather than a choice, a decision, a decision for history, a decision for time, but it is unclear who decides, and even whether a “who” decides.  In any case, ankhibasieis the name for the exposure to the ceaseless imperative of the there, which means exposure to the decision of the last god, exposure to our own ongoing death as completion and Ereignisof our finite existence, and exposure to the “utterly first beginning,” to the end of the first beginning as abandonment of beying and overcoming of the metaphysical path: a decision for history, a historical decision.  They all may be the same.  This is the crisisof Da-sein as Heidegger presents it.  It is a crisis precisely as the site of a decision in favor of the asymptotic condition of ex-sistence that alone may enable us to understand the radical negativity of the abandonment by beying in the constellation of death and the advent or remaining absent of the most extreme god that may open up history again.

2.

The decision, between the Wegseinof the first beginning and the Da-sein of the other beginning, hinges on an intimation, a Wink(also called an Ahnung, a foreboding, a presentiment).  Who is receptive to it?  Or even: can there be receptivity?  In the first section of Beiträge, entitled “Prospect,” Heidegger speaks about the “long future” of transitional time (19) and mentions the need for a “basic disposition” that would attune the human being to it.  Heidegger calls it “presentiment,” Er-Ahnenor Ahnung, and says of it that it encompasses shock, and restraint, and diffidence (14), and that the presentiment is the “decisiveness” itself (20). This decisiveness is ankhibasie, Da-sein’s drive.  The decision for the other beginning, that is, for the not-yet, is grounded in a leap away from the first beginning, that is, the no-longer.   It is a decision that stems from a basic disposition, a Grundstimmungthat not everybody has—only “the transitional thinkers,” named such in the text.  Who are they?  Again, let us narrow the question down in order to make it manageable.

Who are they? Certainly not everybody in the university.  In fact, Beiträgeincludes a ferocious indictment of the German university in the late 1930’s.   We have become so familiar with Heidegger’s dubious exaltation of the institution during his rectorate in the early 1930’s that it is possibly worthwhile to quote him at length, since by the time of Beiträgehe had abandoned all illusion:

the universities, as “sites of scientific research and teaching,” . . . are becoming sheer business establishment.  In these establishments, which are ever “closer to reality,” nothing is decided.  They will retain the last vestiges of a cultural decorationonly as long as they must also and for a while still remain a means for “cultural-political” propaganda. Nothing resembling the essence of universitaswill be able to unfold out of them any longer: on the one hand, because the commandeering of everything into political-ethnic service makes such an unfolding otiose, and also because science itself as a business can hold its course more securely and easily withoutwhat is “proper to a university, i. e., without the will to meditation.  Philosophy, understood here exclusively as thoughtful meditation on truth, i. e., on the question-worthiness of beyng, and not as a historiological and “system”-building erudition, does not have a place in “universities” and certainly not in the business establishments they will become.  For nowhere at all does philosophy “have” a place, unless it is the place it itself founds, to which indeed no path could lead immediately, starting from an established institution.  (121-22)

We can no doubt split a few hairs and claim that our university of today, in the United States, for instance, does not do cultural-political or political-ethnic propaganda, which in Heidegger’s terms would mean that universities have lost their last vestige of “cultural decoration” value, that is, their last claim to symbolic prestige.  It is not quite so, as we all know, thanks in part to branding and propaganda techniques and to the residual prestige of social hierarchy, which means that a degree from Texas A&M University in the main campus of College Station is worth more than a degree from, say, Texas A&M Prairie View, or Stanford is worth more than California State at Fresno. But that only means that even the residual value of cultural decoration has been reduced to business–money rules the day in the university, and there is no longer even a pretense to anything other than the increasingly radical application of the principle of general equivalence, on which branding itself is based.    For university administrations, increasingly, at least in the public area, the university is an institution that should be handled according to the logic of so-called Customer Relationship Management–really, no longer an institution, only a corporate business where meditation, Besinnnung, what Heidegger calls philosophy or thought according to the imperative of ankhibasiefinds no place, no site, no mercy.   The logic of today’s university of excellence is exclusively the logic of machination, of which Heidegger said: “The hex cast by technology and its constantly self-surpassing progress is only onesign of this bewitchery that directs everything toward calculation, utility, breeding, management, and regulation.  . . . The average becomes better and better, and thanks to this betterment the average secures its dominance ever more irresistibly and unobtrusively” (98).   The principle of general equivalence can only fight himself–a generalized leveling of all ranks promotes of course the most extreme hierarchization.  “The constant raising of the average level and the concurrent widening and wide application of this level, until it becomes the platformfor all activity, constitute the most uncanny sign of the vanishing of the decisive places: it is a sign of the abandonment by being” (99).

What is to be done?  Does Heidegger advocate for an institutional change?  Does he ask for university reform? For something in the nature of an academic countermovement?  For a leftist correction to the hegemony of the right, or for a rightist correction to the hegemony of the left?  No.  In fact, he says: “Not a counter-movement, for all counter-movements and counter-forces are essentially codetermined by that which they are counter to, although in the form of an inversion” (146).  The possibility of what Heidegger calls “opening up the truth of beying,” that is, of a transitional thinking orientated toward the other beginning, “will not be made in previous domains (‘culture’ — ‘worldview’), ones still upheld by counter-movements” (147).  Thought is only possible today ex universitate.

What could we then say of university politics? Politics is overrated, I think, it has become another form of chatter.  Politics, either for business or as a counter-movement to business, that is, for more business, will not guarantee, will in fact cover over the very possibility of finding an existential clearing in the university. I take my authorization from Beiträge.  At several early points in the text Heidegger repeats the notion that he would like to have nothing to do with Existenz, as he does not want his project to be confused with Existenzphilosophie.  But in #179, admittedly a paragraph that stands alone and has no precedent or continuity, Heidegger will nevertheless say in black and white that “being-historical Ex-istence” is “steadfast transport into the there” (239).  There is therefore a clear reason, from Beiträge, to speak of the need for the return to a thinking and a practice of existence, to a meditation on existence that I will simply name infrapolitical.

Daniela Vallega-Neu has often called the reader’s attention to the passages in Mindfulnesswhere Heidegger discusses the three possibilities of the so-called “decision.”  According to the first possibility (but Heidegger says that “the order in which these possibilities are named here is not important” [Mindfulness204; I am using Parvis Emad and Thomas Kalary’s translation, and it will sound very different from the English terminology used so far, I apologize]), “whether in poets and thinkers ‘the thinking-ahead-remembering’ of the truth of be-ing enowns itself, that is, in those who have a burden to lift, whose weight escapes any and all numerical calculation” (204).   That is, the truth of beyng will come out of unconcealment in the word of the poets and thinkers, always the spokesmen for the essence of their people. According to the second possibility,

whether beings hold on to the claims and conventionalities of the hitherto historically mixed up and inextricable beingness and compel to a total lack of decision; whether within the sphere of this lack beings then pile upon beings in ever-newer arrangements and ever-faster controllability; whether under the guise of an intensified “living” a being chases another being, takes its place, and settles the haze of an amusement over all beings . . . until the end of this mastery of beings (of “actuality that is close to life”) has become endless. (204)

It is clear that, of the two possibilities, Heidegger favors the former and not the latter, and his wager seems to be for the former as the many paragraphs in Beiträgethat speak about “the essence of a people” and as the very fascination with Hölderlin, understood as the poet of the German fatherland, as one of “the future ones” would seem to indicate.  For us, indeed, eighty years later, and in spite of the hopelessly counterfeited resurgence of contemporary nationalisms everywhere, it seems as if that first option is already gone from the books, and the poets and the thinkers will never accomplish the feat of carrying the burden of their people and saving them all beyond, precisely, calculation, even if we make it merely political calculation.  At the same time, I assume we reject the second possibility as desirable–even if we cannot reject it in its sheer facticity.   What about the third possibility, then?  Heidegger writes: “whether the first possibility stays away, and though the second one does assert itself, and given their admitted appearance, beings dominate all being but still something else happens: whether the history of be-ing (the grounding of its truth) begins in the unknowable hiddenness-shelteredness within the course of the struggle of the ‘alone ones’ and whether be-ing enters its ownmost and strangest history whose jubilation and sorrow, triumphs and defeats beat only in the sphere of the heart of the most rare ones” (204-05). Surely the rhetoric is old, perhaps even distasteful.  Those lonely ones, the rare, the rarest, would have it on themselves to follow ankhibasie, to expose themselves to the end of calculation, to sound out the absent gods.   If so, something would be kept, and could be transmitted.

It seems to me, such is my own transitional thinking, that the keeping of the unnecessary, to go back to the Chinese tale, as we let all machination pass us by without resistance (no counter-movement, no counter-politics: let them come to their own end), is the only possible promise of an existential clearing ex universitate.  It is not much, and it may be nothing.  We still have students, and we may owe them our presentiment, which is all we really have.  But let me not moralize, let me not end in a note of moralism: perhaps beyond students, what I am arguing for is the need to let ankhibasieflourish, to let it proceed to where it may lead, no spiritual transformation, no individual redemption, just a liberation of a certain drive, which could indeed prove to be a form of the death drive: Da-sein’s death drive, to be distinguished from the biologistic death drive of animal rationale.  How are we to think about it?

Alberto Moreiras

Texas A&M University

(Notes missing on Vallega-Neu, Polt, Ziarek, Dastur, Sheehan, Schürmann, on Country Path, etc. . . .  Note on the death drive in Freud, Lacan?)

 

Works Cited

Dastur, Françoise.  …

Heidegger, Martin.  Contributions to Philosophy.  (Of the Event).  Richard Rojcewicz and Daniela Vallega-Neu translators.  Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2012.

—.  Conversations on a Country Path.  …

—.  Mindfulness.  Parvis Emad and Thomas Kalary translators.  London: Continuum, 2006.

Osborn, James.  “The Overturning of Heidegger’s Fundamental Ontology.”  Journal of Philosophical Research41 (2016): 559-600.

Polt, Richard.  The Emergency of Being.  On Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy.  Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2006.

Sheehan, Thomas.  Making Sense of Heidegger.  A Paradigm Shift.  London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.

Vallega-Neu, Daniela.  Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy.  Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2003.

—. Heidegger’s Poietic Writings.  From Contributions to Philosophy to The Event. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2018.

—. “Heidegger’s Reticence: From Contributionsto Das Ereignisand toward Gelassenheit.”  Research in Phenomenology45 (2015): 1-32.

Schürmann, Reiner.  Wandering Joy.  Meister Eckhart’s Mystical Philosophy.  Great Barrington, MA: Lindisfarne, 2001.

Ziarek, Krzysztof.  “The Modern Privilege of Life.”  Research in Phenomenology44 (2014): 28-49.

—. “Image-less Thinking: The Time-Space for Imagination in Heidegger.” International Yearbook for Hermeneutics. . .

 

 

 

 

 

Cuaderno de apuntes sobre la obra de Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio. Primera Parte. Por Gerardo Muñoz

La serie a continuación son solamente notas de lectura en preparación para el curso que daremos en unos meses titulado “Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio y la infrapolítica“. La lectura va dirigida en función de dos hipótesis de trabajo: a. Primero, tener una idea integral de la operación “destructiva” de Ferlosio; operación que abriría, según ha dicho el propio escritor, una entrada a “la esencia de la lengua pertenece al ser profana” (Pecios, p.12). Ferlosio pertenece – junto a una serie de escritores, como Simone Weil, Cristina Campo, Yan Thomas, Giorgio Agamben, o María Zambrano – a una modalidad que busca cuestionar el suelo sagrado (sacer) de los dispositivos del humanismo. b. Segundo, me interesa ver lo que Sánchez Ferlosio tiene que decir sobre la optimización del conflicto contra el paradigma de la guerra. Estas dos líneas de lectura buscan explorar lo que pudiéramos llamar el arcano de la obra Sánchez Ferlosio. Para llevar a cabo estas interrogaciones, utilizaremos solo dos fuentes bibliográficas: los ensayos reunidos en cuatro volúmenes (ed. Ignacio Echevarria, Debolsillo, 2018), y la biografía El incognito Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio: apuntes para una biografía (Ardora Ediciones, 2017), de J. Benito Fernández. Una de las metas de esta investigación es poder llegar a decir algo sistemático sobre la crítica de los fundamentos teológicos-políticos de Sánchez Ferlosio. Sólo así pudiéramos despejar en él la órbita infrapolítica.

En esta primera parte quiero detenerme en el ensayo de 1996-1999 titulado “El Castellano y Constitución” (p.397-443). Interesa por al menos dos razones: como comentario a la escritura de las constituciones, y como análisis del aparato lingüístico. El punto de partida, para Ferlosio, es una máxima constitucional: “El castellano es la lengua española oficial del Estado. Todos los españoles tienen el deber de conocerla y el derecho a usarla“.

Es curioso que Ferlosio no diga nada de los dos polos que cierran la máxima, y cuyo peso conceptual no se le escapa a nadie: deber y uso. Veremos si en textos posteriores Ferlosio pondrá atención en la noción kantiana de “deber” que tanta influencia ha ejercido en el derecho moderno y en la subjetividad hispánica (Opus Dei). Ferlosio prefiere aislar estos términos para enfocarse en la esencia “modal” de la expresión, y de la estructura del presente indicativo (p.399). Las constituciones tiene mucho de presente del indicativo, pero también de la forma modal. Esto hace que se establezca una especie de “efecto de noticia”, que la vuelve siempre actual (p.400).

Dice Ferlosio: “Así pues, el que informa a otro del contenido de una ley usa el presente, porque da noticia de algo que, por decirlo con la lúgubre formula inmemorialmente acunad para el destino, ya “esta escrito”. Con esta misma fórmula “está escrito”, se remitían los judíos a la Torá, a la Ley, cuyos libros no, ciertamente, por casualidad tomaron precisamente el nombre de Escrituras” (p.400-401).

Ferlosio detecta uno de los misterios del derecho en Occidente: la ley tiene que estar escrita. No hay derecho sin escritura. La escritura misma en la constitución es “escritura escribiente” (p.401). (Nikolas Bowie tiene un artículo muy interesante sobre este problema como la arcana del constitucionalismo norteamericano: “Why the Constitution Was Written Down”, Stan.L.Rev, 2019). Pensar aquí en Yan Thomas: la escritura funciona como uno de las operaciones de la artificialidad del derecho. Esta es una de las herencias fuertes de la romanitas. Lo importante, nos dice Ferlosio, es que el presente indicativo de la escritura constitucional no es un “valor veritativo”, sino imperativo: “La ley es un mandato obligante; su enunciado no puede ser más verdadero o falso de cuanto puede serlo una frase en el modo llamado “imperativo” (p.401).

¿Qué es un mandato? Es la pregunta que sobresale en estas páginas de Ferlosio. El mandato traspasa el límite de lo verídico, y puede prescindir de ella, puesto que su interés es producir una orden que a su vez ordene. Esta es la esencia del sacramento (p.402). El mandato es principio y orden, pero más importante, dice Ferlosio, es que produce un sentido de “futuro”, ya que la afirmación del sujeto y predicado ya esta dada. Piénsese en este mandato: “Pondrás la mesa todos los días” (p.406). La futuridad no es una cosa de mera temporalidad abstracta, sino de la construcción de hábitos y normas efectivas. El derecho es la coherencia de la normalización.

Dice Ferlosio: “La noción de norma, no acepta en modo alguno cubrir una orden ocasional como la que se dan “imperativo”, de tal manera que puede servir como piedra de toque para distinguir entre las funciones del modo “imperativo” y las del “futuro” (p.407). Lo decisivo aquí: el indicativo de la ley produce “vigencia” (p.408). O también pudiéramos decir, eficacia. Por eso, la ley no puede ser más que el futuro, nunca el presente (p.409). En realidad esto es importante, puesto que si pensamos en las discusiones sobre el “originalismo” en el constitucionalismo norteamericano, el debate pareciera ser una operación de fidelidad en el origen, pero no es tal. La verdadera operación es instrumentalizar el principio para tener acceso directo al futuro y atrapar al destino. Ferlosio cita una frase de Benjamin que va directo al problema: “El juez puede ver el destino donde quiere; en cada pena debe infligir ciegamente el destino” (p.410). Pero como decía Carl Schmitt (Hamlet o Hecuba): ningún destino inventado es un destino. Y este es el problema.

Este también es el problema de la lengua. El castellano se ha vuelto ley escrita y por lo tanto un dispositivo de la hegemonía imperial, perdiendo radicalmente su destino material y profano. Termino con este momento al final del ensayo. Escribe Ferlosio sobre el “castellano”: “…España no significa la unidad e integridad  – o “de destino” – sino sencillamente la amistad entre sus reinos o, en lenguaje de la Iglesia, la “paz y concordia entre los príncipes cristianos” (p.437). La operación moderna por la cual la guerra civil es suprimida y desplazada, a cambio del miedo (Hobbes) y la auctoritas tiene un secreto importante en la operación de la lengua como forma del imperativo. Un imperativo que está ya siempre caído al imperii del futuro.

Respondant Comments on UC-Davis symposium on “Academic Brands: Globalizing, Privatizing, and Quantifying the University.” March 22-23 2019.

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This has been a wonderful conference, and I have learned a lot.  I found myself fascinated by many of the arguments that have been presented and really with few criticisms to make.  I am not sure there is a matter of agreement or disagreement here, everybody has presented things as they see them from their position and experience.  And for me in this brief response it cannot be a matter of asking questions from the paper presenters either.  I do have one question for whoever wants to pick it up: why did the state decide to de-fund public education institutions, did they have real or merely political, phony reasons to do so, and can that trend be reversed, and what would it take?

Other than that, I will try to make a general comment–on the somber side, I suppose, because I am actually very worried about the future of the university.  And I can assure you there was no one more committed to institutional development, no one who loved the university more than I did in earlier years.  No more–it is a fact.  But I will not say I am sorry about my own change of position.  I think looking at things as they are is still where the peculiar satisfaction academics can aspire to lies.  One can of course be mistaken–you can judge that.

It is one thing to try to present yourself, as an academic institution, in the best possible light in order to attract students.  I think institutions have a clear right to do that, and I certainly have no objections.  But I really do not think that is what we have come to call branding.  Of course fund raising is a legitimate activity, and so is merchandising, I have no particular objections to business in general, but I think branding, to the extent that it promotes the quality of a product by identifying it with a particular name, is about fake news, it is about fooling the potential constituency, it is about planting ideological mystification, and it is, finally, what I would call a practice of straight cold-blooded sentimentality meant to sell a product as a product, whatever it takes and regardless of what the customer needs.  The problem is that branding really has little to do with truth, or nothing to do with truth.  Truth is only at best instrumentalized at the service of branding, never the other way around.  Yes, you can tell me that branding is not a lie, since no reasonable person would ever believe its claims–it is a theoretical fiction, like all advertising.   But let us try to see through what this means when it is applied to the university.  Although Mario has already given us a clear example.

Branding has to do with products; education, like existential experience in general, is not and cannot ever be a product.  When you attempt to brand an intangible you first have to destroy the intangible as intangible and turn it into a commodity.  Branding the university–of course the university can sell t-shirts and props of all kinds, I do not care, and that is not what we are really talking about–branding the university as such is literally branding the students with a hot iron, turning them into submissive and subservient subjects, which they do accept for a reason of course, and it is a mercenary one, as they think it gives them symbolic compensation, symbolic power.  They do not realize what is stolen from them is much more valuable than the miserable gift that comes to them in the form of a fallen fetish, an opaque glimmer, an ultimately shameful distinction having to do with claiming superiority.  Let me offer a thesis, see if you have a problem or many problems with it:  branding the university–associating education with the consumption of a product that fills your gut with symbolic exchange value– is a direct attack on whatever in life exceeds calculability, whatever in life exceeds labor time; it is in fact an attempt to turn free expenditure into labor time; it is an attempt to commodify and instrumentalize what should be impersonal and holy for every human life.  Of course nobody has to fall for it (although most people do)–the system does not need for everybody to fall for it.  Just for the system generally to work in that direction.  As usual.

The university has been understood since the Enlightenment as a shelter against general equivalence, a shelter from (if not necessarily against) the commodification of the time of existence as living labor.  If the modern university is consistent with the rise of capitalism, it was also taken from the beginning to be an exception to capitalism, in fact a compensation for capitalism, a place protected from its ravages in the name of freedom.  It was, explicitly since the founding of the Humboldt University in Berlin in 1816, ideally a place for the free use of time in favor of non-instrumental activities, a place of Bildung, opposite to the biopolitical instrumentalization of the time of labor as commodified time, fetishized time, the time of reification, reified time.  There has always been, in modernity, a deep connection between university–the principle of the university, university reason, the time of the university–and freedom.  We can sum it up by saying that the time of the university has never been the time of labor.

Today all of that is under attack as we know very well.  We are in the middle of an epochal change, and of course the danger is that it will become irreversible.  The present generation of academics is witnessing the abandonment of the modern university in favor of a new organism, at this point still hybrid, that seeks to organize itself on the basis of what I will call the principle of general equivalence, which is based, already in the Karl Marx of the Grundrisse, on what he called the Gemeinwesen, the common substance, money.  We are witnessing the taylor-fordization of the university, the transformation of the time of knowledge into labor time, a radical biopolitization of the university, which of course hinges on the biopolitization of its denizens, students, faculty, administrators, alumni.  University life is today biopolitical life, a life increasingly under the claim of biopolitical rule.  General equivalence of course also means general hierarchization, general placement into the place where you belong: you have some chips, you have more chips if you are a UCLA graduate than if you are a Cal State Fresno graduate, more chips if you are a dentist than if you are a plummer, branding gives you some of the chips, but everything is about chips, you cash them, see where that puts you, you live your life.  You try not to run out of chips. If you do, where would you go?

The principle of general equivalence is also the principle of general calculability.  Life must be reduced to calculation, life must be calculated, and whatever in life remains outside the possibility of calculation is merely either disposable life or, more likely, life that has not yet come under the principle of general, which means total, calculation.

Let me suggest, then, that branding is an effort, one among others, branding is only part of a strategy, not its totality, to maximize calculability outcomes.  It is a partial strategy of capture that must be understood contextually.  It is part of a monumental, massive or gigantic endeavor or enterprise of submission, hence of domination, that we call biopolitical social engineering.  The goal of branding, consistent with the goal of biopolitical engineering, is totalitarian closure into an exhaustive, and exhausting, network of hierarchies that will dictate the conditions of existence for everyone in the future.  Think of it, to use Celia’s words, as a gigantic conversion of the time of existence into Customer Relationship Management.

In the light of what we have heard over the last couple of days, the question for us is, how do we inhabit the university today?  You may tell me it is a Romantic question–as if we had a choice.  But we do have a choice.  Please bear with me and consider the possibility–that I will not have the time to explain–that the corporatization of the university we have all heard so much about over the last two days is part and parcel of a generalized state-form that we could call a state of extraction–we are information, our information is exchange value, and our information needs to be extracted at the service of the production of surplus value and in the name of the principle of general equivalence.  Branding, trademark bullying, faking coauthors, negotiating cognitive dissonances–they are all forms of extraction for the production of money, which is the overall goal, and in fact the only goal (I will not mince words here–I think old university goals as represented by the Humboldt University are gone, are history, and that today’s university in the United States and in a few other countries such as the UK is interested only in money, in the general equivalent, to which all members of the institution must submit.)

Resisting the state of extraction–for instance, as embodied in the contemporary university–is to step back, from the university, against the university. Ex universitate salus. This is just an example. I am not claiming you should not cash the check you get at the end of the month or that you should not teach your students. You should do both things–as needed. But there are political and infrapolitical ways of living in the university, of living the university, just like there are political and infrapolitical ways of existing. Politics is overrated, I think, particularly for us, here and now. It has become another form of chatter, in a deep way. Infrapolitics may prepare a new political avatar–but of that, at this point, we are not prepared to talk. I am not prepared to talk.

I think my claim–try not to be an informant, try not to let them abuse you, try to resist the state of extraction, practice living in the secret, do not let yourself be coopted–means to prepare an existential clearing.  In the name of survival.  Infrapolitical survival is premised on a step back from the state of extraction, which is also, today, a step back from politics as chatter, from social-network politics, from institutional politics, from hegemony politics, from the farce all of it has become for the most part.  We could also appeal to the more hard-nosed Marxist positions of Fredric Jameson, when he claims that politics is really of little import, since political economy determines everything, not the will of the people, much less the will of bourgeois intellectuals.  In a situation like the one he describes, and I think he is more right for today than for any other time in history, infrapolitics is all we can (and should) focus on.

The comment I wanted to add has to do with an article I read a couple of weeks ago in El Confidencial, actually an interview with Israeli cybersecurity expert Nimrod Kozlovski.  It is an interesting and frightening interview, both, telling everybody what experts already know, which is, how corporate practices are moving in the direction of a complete colonization of life, of existence, of which Academic branding is very obviously part and parcel, and in it some unnamed Yale professor is quoted as telling Kozlovski something like “you could get a doctorate critiquing things and speaking for privacy, against data mining, against corporate and technological intrusion in your deepest dreams, and all that shit.  But you could also get on with the program, and you should, because it will be better for you.”  The whole point has now become to embrace all kinds of corporate transgressions, we need to love the university not in spite of what it now does, but because it does it, and we need to accept that we all have a more or less secret corporate score, which has to do directly with our relationship to branding, and that we must live our lives simply trying to improve on our corporate score–after all, they, that is, the system, the capitalist system that runs our lives, they do know much better than we do.  We need to submit completely.  The Chinese have made it explicit, and everybody else is working implicitly at it.

But I do think, I believe from the bottom of my heart, that the Yale professor who told the Israeli cybersecurity expert to get on with it, to give up on any resistance, any objection, any reluctance, should be given a low score and released into, I don’t know, a job as assistant manager at a NAPA auto parts store.  To be kind.  Give him some proper branding to do.  See how he fares.

From Leigh Johnson on State of Extraction and Secrecy.

http://www.readmorewritemorethinkmorebemore.com/2019/03/on-snitches-silence-and-secrecy-in.html

Leigh, thank you so much for your comments.  I have already posted part of this in your blog, but I add one reflection at the bottom.  I think there might be an only too logical misunderstanding in your critique, namely, having to do with my notion of infrapolitics, which of course there is no reason why you should be familiar with. But for me my argument rests entirely on infrapolitics (not on protopolitics–protopolitics is all well and good, so is politics, etc.: but my argument is on infrapolitics–neither on protopolitics nor on politics.) And infrapolitics is not a form or politics nor does it want to be. In fact, it is a step back from the political horizon, for the sake of something other, of a certain unnameable “nothing” that precedes politics and without which no politics would ever be possible. And it is a step back inspired by a deep suspicion of politics as such. I think, in the current predicament (let the notion of State of Extraction sum it up), politics has always already failed, and it is in fact complicitous with it–right or left politics, I am talking about politics as we know it at this point in history, and you should know I consider most if not all conceptions of politics in the left exhausted and obsolete.

So, my claim was not about the “right to remain silent.” It was really about the claiming of a radically infrapolitical space that drastically includes the practice of the secret. Having a secret is not automatically to be an informant, by the way, we may disagree there. Resisting the state of extraction–for instance, as embodied in the contemporary university–is to step back, from the university, against the university. Ex universitate salus. This is just an example. I am not claiming you should not cash the check you get at the end of the month or you should not teach your students. You should do both things–as needed. But there are political and infrapolitical ways of living in the university, of living the university, just like there are political and infrapolitical ways of existing. Politics is overrated, I think, particularly for us, here and now. It has become another form of chatter, in a deep way. Infrapolitics may prepare a new political avatar–but of that, at this point, we are not prepared to talk. I am not prepared to talk.

I think my claim–try not to be an informant, try to resist the state of extraction, practice living in the secret, do not let yourself be coopted–means to prepare an existential clearing. You mention Derrida in your entry: “learning to live” as living-on, as sur-viving. Infrapolitical survival is premised on a step back from the state of extraction, which is also, today, a step back from politics as chatter, from social-network politics, from institutional politics, from hegemony politics, from the farce all of it has become for the most part.  We could also appeal to the more hard-nosed Marxist positions of Fredric Jameson, when he claims that politics is really of little import, since political economy determines it, not the will of the people, much less the will of bourgeois intellectuals.  In a situation like the one he describes, and I think he is more right for today than for any other time in history, infrapolitics is all we can (and should) focus on.

The comment I wanted to add has to do with an article I read this morning in El Confidencial, actually an interview with Israeli cybersecurity expert Nimrod Kozlovski.  It is an interesting and frightening interview, both, and in it some unnamed Yale professor is quoted as telling Kozlovski something like “you could get a doctorate critiquing things and speaking for privacy and all that shit.  But you could also get on with the program, it will be better for you.”  The whole point has become to embrace all kinds of transgressions, accept that we all have a more or less secret corporate score, and live our lives simply trying to improve on our corporate score–they do know much better than we do.  The Chinese have made it explicit, everybody else is working implicitly at it.

I think the Yale professor should be given a low score and released into, I don’t know, a job as assistant manager at a NAPA auto parts store.  To be kind.

The Unfathomable Principle: on Helmuth Plessner’s Political Anthropology (2019). By Gerardo Muñoz

Joachim Fischer tells us in the epilogue of Helmuth Plessner’s 1931 Power and Human Nature, now translated as Political Anthropology (Northwestern, 2019), that this short book is very much the intellectual product of its time. It is a direct consequence of Plessner’s elaboration of a philosophical anthropology in the wake of the “philosophies of life” that dominated German philosophical discourse during the first decades of the twentieth century. More importantly, it is also a reflection very much tied to the crisis of the political and parliamentary democracy experienced at the outset of the years of the Weimar Republic. Plessner’s own intellectual position, which suffered tremendously due to his unsuccessful major work, The Levels of the Organic and the Human (1928), occupies a sort of third space in the theoretical debates on the political at the time, carving a zone that was neither that of a romantic impolitical position (the George Group, Thomas Mann, and others), nor that of liberal legalism perhaps best expressed by Hans Kelsen.

Curiously, Plessner’s understanding of the political cohabitates quite conformably in Carl Schmitt’s lesson, albeit in a very particular orbit. On his end, Schmitt himself did not miss the opportunity to celebrate Plessner’s defense of the political as grounded on his friend-enemy distinction elaborated just a few years prior. Indeed, for Schmitt, Plessner’s Political Anthropology drafted an epochal validation to his otherwise juristic formulation, going as far as to write that: “Helmuth Plessner, who was the first modern philosophizer in his book dared to advance a political anthropology of a grand style, correctly says that there exists no philosophy and no anthropology which is not politically relevant, just as there is no philosophically irrelevant politics” (Plessner 104).

Schmitt captures the essence of the convergence between the philosophical anthropology project and the nature of the political as a consequence of modern “loss of center” in search of a principle of autorictas (a “new political center” that the Conservative Revolution will soon try to renew) [1]. In this sense, Plessner, like Schmitt but also like Weber, is a thinker of legitimacy as a supplementary principle, although he declined to craft a theory of legitimation. Unlike Weber, Plessner does not defend charisma as the central concept of political vocation. The nature of the political coincides with the nature of the Human insofar as it is a constitutive element of conflict, and univocally, a “human necessity” (Plessner 5). Hence, Plessner’s theory of political was the ultimate test for philosophical anthropology, given that the general historical horizon of the project was meant to provide a practico-existential position within concrete conditions of its own historicity, responding to both the Weimar Republic and the belated nature of the ‘German national spirit’ [2].

We are to do well to read Plessner’s political anthropological elaboration in conjunction with his other book The Belated Nation (1959), in which he draws a lengthy intellectual genealogy of the decline of the German bourgeoisie as a process of spiritual embellishment with impolitical fantasies. In a certain sense, both Political Anthropology and The Belated Nation (still to be translated into English) are a response to the Weimar intellectual atmosphere of the “devaluation of politics”. There is no doubt that Plessner is thinking of Thomas Mann’s unpolitischen here, but also of the poetic fantasies that Furio Jesi later referred to as the mythical fascination with the “secret Germany” [3]. The impolitical repression from political polemos to consensualism always leads to worse politics (Plessner 3). Politics must be taken seriously, and this means, for Plessner, a position that not only goes against the aesthetes, but one that is also critical of the dominant ideological partisanship preparing the battleground for gigantisms, of which classic liberalism, Marxism, and fascism were manifolds of philosophy of history. Plessner wants to locate politics as a consequence of the Enlightenment (Plessner 9). For Plessner, this entails thinking the conditions of philosophy anew in order to escape the dualistic bifurcation of an anthropological analysis grounded in either empiricism or a transcendental a prori. The conventional biologist program of anthropological analysis never moved beyond the scheme of “mental motivation”, which is why it never escaped the limits of a “pure power politicized, predominantly pessimistic, anti-enlightenment and in that respect, conservative” (Plessner 10).

We could call this an archaic anthropology for political shortcuts. Obviously, Plessner places the project of political anthropology beyond the absolutization of the human in its different capacities. This was the problem of Heidegger’s analysis of existence, according to Plessner, since it stopped at “the conditions of the possibility of addressing existence as existence at the same time have the sense of being conditions of the possibility of leading existence as existence” (Plessner 24). This “essentialization of existence” (Plessner dixit) is only possible at the expense of concrete formilizable categories such as life, world, and culture (Plessner 24). It is only with Wilhelm Dilthey’s work that philosophical anthropology was capable of advancing in any serious way. It is only after Dilthey’s position against a ‘nonhistorical apriorism’ that something like the a characterization of the Human as an unfathomable principle was drawn. The battle against a priori absolutism entails the renunciation of philosophy’s “hegemonic position of its own epistemological conditions…to access the world as the embodiment of all zones and forms of beings” (Plessner 28). We are looking at a post-phenomenological opening of historicity that is neither bounded by existence qua existence (Heidegger’s position), nor by the Hegelian’s labor of the negative. For Plessner, the most interesting definition of the political lies here, but this presupposes the principle of unfathomability of the human. Undoubtedly, this is the vortex of Plessner’s political anthropology.

The principle of the unfathomable is neither precritical nor empirical, as it takes the human relation to the world as what “can never be understood completely. They are open questions” (Plessner 43). This schemata applies to the totality of the human sciences in their relation to life in the world as the only immanent force of history. Thus, for Plessner, this entails that “every generation acts back on history and thereby turns history into that incomplete, open, and eternally self-renewing history that can be adequately approach  the interpreting penetration of this generation open questioning” (Plessner 45). This materialism subscribes neither Marx’s synthetic historical materialism, nor the empirical history of progress. The unfathomable relates to a historicity that, in its reference and relation to the world, presents an “eternal refigurability or openness” (Plessner 46). This is an interpretation close to the definition of modernity as the self-assertive epoch of irreversibility, later championed by Hans Blumenberg. The irreversible, following the unfathomable principle, assumes the ex-centric positionality of the human. The unfathomable principle is what concretely binds the human to the phenomena of the world by means of a radical originary separation that carries an ever-evolving power for historical sense beyond absolute universality.

Of course, Plessner is thinking here of Max Weber’s important insights in Economy and Society regarding the process of legitimation and the separation of powers. The human of political anthropology becomes nothing but the means to “executive the value-democratic equalization of all cultures”, which is a common denominator of civil society pluralism (Plessner 47). But as life itself becomes indeterminate and unfathomable, power is rediscovered as a self-regulating mechanism of inter-cultural relations among human communities. In other words, insofar as the unfathomable principle drives the openness of the human in relation to the world and others, the human always entails a positing of the question of power as a form of a struggle in relation to what is foreign (Plessner 51). Here Plessner follows Carl Schmitt’s concept of the political transposing it to the human: “As power, the human is necessarily entangled in a struggle for power; i.e, in the opposition of familiarity and foreignness, of friend and enemy” (Plessner 53).

We might recall that Schmitt addressed the definition of the enemy from Daubler’s reference to “our own question” (Der Feind ist unsere eigene Frage als Gestalt), that is, with what is one’s most familiar, a sort of originary primal scene of his subjective caesura. For Plessner, as for Schmitt, the friend-enemy relation is an originary confrontation that makes the political an exercise of “every life-domain serviceable and just as well be made to serve every life-domain’s interests” (Plessner 55). The friend-enemy relation accomplishes two functions simultaneously: it takes power seriously in light of the unfathomable principle, and it dispenses conflict without ever reaching a stage of total annihilation. That is why Plessner emphasizes that the political has primacy in the ex-centric essence of the human (Plessner 60).

In fact, for Plessner there is no philosophical anthropology without a political anthropology. And here we reach a crux moment, which is Plessner’s most coherent definition of the political principle: “Politics is then not just a field and a profession…Politics then is not primarily a field but the state of human life in which it gives itself its constitution and asserts itself against and in the world, not just externally and juridically but from out of its ground and essence. Politics is the horizon in which the human acquires the relation that makes sense of itself and the world, the entire a prori of its saying and doing” (Plessner 61).

Philosophical anthropology is to be understood as a process of historical immanence and radical openness of the human’s ex-centric position in coordination with a metaphysical political principle that guides the caesura between thought and action. In fact, we could say that politics here becomes a hegemonic phantasm (very much in the same as in post-foundatonalist thought) that establishes the conditions for the efficacy of immanence, but only insofar it evacuates itself as its own determination. This is why we call it “phantasmatic”. In fact, Plessner tells us that the political principle has only a primacy because it relates to “the open question or to life itself”.

In other words, the movement that Plessner undertakes to shake the absolutism of philosophy’s abstraction over to anthropology has a prior determination that runs parallel: the fundamental absolutization of the political via the immanence of the principle of unfathomability. Under the cloak of the indetermination of the “philosophy of life”, Plessner ultimately promotes a prote philosophia (first philosophy) of the political even if “in no way subsist absolutely, immovable across history or underneath it” (Plessner 72). There is a paradox here that ultimately runs through Plessner’s anthropological project as whole, and which can be preliminary synthesized in this way: the radical unfathomable principle of the human is, at the same time, established as open and immanent, while it acts as a phantasmatic principle to establish the political. Hence, the political becomes a mechanism of amending originary separation and to provide form to the otherwise multiple becoming of the human. This is why politics, understood as political anthropology, ceases to be an autonomous sphere of action to coincide with the ‘essence of humanness’ in its struggle for the organization of the world. Politics becomes synonymous with the administration of a new legibility of the world and in this way reintroduces hegemony of the political unto existence. Plessner is clear about this:

“Politics is the art of the right moment, of the favorable opportunity. It is the moment that counts…That is why anthropology is possible only if it is politically relevant, that is why philosophy is possible only if it is politically relevant, especially when their insights have been radically liberated from all consideration of purposes and values , considerations that could divert an objective coherent to the last” (Plessner 75).

Fischer is right to remind us that at the heart of Plessner’s Political Anthropology lies an ultimate attempt at combining “spirit” and “power”, a synthesis of Weber and Schmitt for the human sciences inaugurated by Dilthey’s project. But what if the movement towards synthesis and unification of a political theory is the real problem, instead of the solution? Are we to read Plessner’s political anthropology as yet another failed attempt at an political determination in the face of the nihilism of modernity? And what if, as Plessner’s last chapter on politics as a site of the nation for the “human’s possibility that is in each case is own”, is actually something other than political, as Heidegger just a few years later proposed in his readings of Hölderlin’s Hymns? The dialectics between “spirit” and “power”, Weber and Schmitt, the precritical and the humanist empiricism, exclude a third option: a distance from the political beyond the disinterred apolitical thinking and acting, and its secondary partisanship waged around the Political. In this sense, Plessner is fully a product of the Weimar impasse of the political, not yet finding a coherent exodus from Schmitt, and not fully able to confront the ruin of legitimacy. As Wolf Lepenies has reminded us recently, even Weber himself in his last year was uncertain about strong “political determinations”, as Germany started descending into a ‘polar night’ [4].

The oscillation of antithesis – ontology and immanence, predictability and indeterminacy, historicity and the human sciences, politics and existence, nationality and the world  – situate Plessner’s essence of the political as a true secular “complex of opposites” that ended up calling for a ‘civilizing ethics’ (Plessner 85). This essence of the political reduces democracy to the psychic latency of drives of the social order, as the unergrundlich (unfathomable) becomes a principle of management in the form of an ethics. This is not to say that the “historical task” of philosophical anthropology remains foreclosed. However, political anthropology does not break away from the conditions of the crisis of the political that was responding to. For Plessner, these conditions pointed to a danger of total depolitisation. Almost a century later, one can say that its opposite has also been integrated in the current technical de-deification of the world.

 

 

 

Notes

  1. Armin Mohler in The Conservative Revolution in Germany 1918-1932 (2018) notes that: “[The Conservative Revolution in 1919]…considered calling themselves the “new Center”. The latter was meant to symbolically represent the need to create a comprehensive political…that would overcome the oppositions of the past”, p.95.
  2. Helmuth Plessner. La nación tardía: sobre la seducción política del espíritu burgués (1935-1959). Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva, 2017.
  3. See, Furio Jesi. Secret Germany: Myth in Twentieth-Century German Culture. Chicago: Seagull Books, 2019.
  4. See, Wolf Lepenies. “Ethos und Pathos”. Welt, February 16, 2019. https://www.welt.de/print/die_welt/debatte/article188905813/Essay-Ethos-und-Pathos.html

The End of the Constitution of the Earth. A review of Samuel Zeitlin’s edition of Tyranny of Values & Other Texts (Telos 2018), by Carl Schmitt. By Gerardo Muñoz.

Samuel Zeitlin’s edition of Tyranny of Values and Other Texts (Telos Press, 2018) fills an important gap in the English publication of Carl Schmitt’s work, in particular, as it relates to his lesser known essays written during the interwar period. This edition is still meant as an introduction to Schmitt’s political thought and it does not pretend to exhaust all the topics that preoccupied the Catholic jurist, such as the geopolitical transformations of the European legal order, the rise of economicism at a planetary scale, or the ruminations over the early modern theories of sovereignty and its defenders. Indeed, these essays sheds light on the complexity of a thinker as he was coming to terms with the weakening of the ius publicum europeum as the framework of European legality and legitimacy, and of which Schmitt understood himself to be the last concrete representative, as he repeatedly claims in Ex captivate salus.

As David Pan correctly observes in the Preface, the Schmitt that we encounter here is one that is confronting the transformations of political enmity in light of a gloomy and dangerous takeover of a global civil war. In fact, one could most definitely argue that the Schmitt thinking within the Cold War epochality is one that is painstakingly searching for a “Katechon”, that restraining force inherited from Christian theology in order to give form to the ruination of modern legal and political order. The global civil war, cloaked under a sense of acknowledged Humanism, now aimed at the destruction of the enemy social’s order and form of life. This thematizes the existential dilemma of a jurist who was consciousness of the dark shadow floating over the efficacy of Western jurisprudence. In other words, the post-war Schmitt is one marked by a profound hamletian condition in the face of the technical neutralization of every effective political theology. This condition puts Schmitt on the defensive, rather than on the offensive, as his later replies to Erik Peterson, Hans Blumenberg, or Jacob Taubes render visible.

The essays in the collection can be divided in three different categories: those on particular political thinkers, some that reflect on political enmity and the concept of war, and two major pieces that deal directly with the crisis of nihilism in the wake of the Cold War (those two essays are “The Tyranny of Values” and “The Order of the World after the Second World War”). Zeitlin includes an early essay on Machiavelli (1927), a brief piece on Hobbes’ three hundred years anniversary (1951), a reflection on his own book Hamlet and Hecuba (1957), and a succinct note on J.J. Rousseau (1962). These are all not necessarily celebratory of each of these figures. Indeed, while in the piece on Hobbes Schmitt celebrates the author of Leviathan as a true political analyst of the English Civil War against Lockean contractualism; the piece on Machiavelli is a clear exposition of his loathe for the Florentine statesman. In fact, to the contemporary student of intellectual history these words might sound unjust: “[Machiavelli] was neither a great statesman nor a great theorist” (Schmitt 46). If politics is understood as the art of reserving an arcanum, as mystery of power against all forces of moral relativism and technical procedures, then, machiavellism’s endgame amounts to a mystified anti-machiavellinism that favors individual pathos over political decisionism. Machiavelli might have said “too much” about politics; and for Schmitt, this excess, points to the flawed human anthropology at the heart of his incapacity for thinking political unity (Schmitt 50).

If juxtaposed with the essay on Hobbes, it becomes clear that Schmitt’s anxiety against Machiavelli is also the result of the impossibility of extracting a Christian philosophy of history, which only the Leviathan was able to guarantee in the wake of a post-confessional world. Whereas Hobbes provided a political theology based on auctoritas, non veritas, facit legem, Machiavellism stood for an impolitical structure devoid of a concrete political kernel. In such light, the essay on Rousseau is astonishingly curious. For one thing, Schmitt paints a portrait of Rousseau that does not adequately fits the contours of a political theologian of Jacobinism. On the reverse side of this, Schmitt also avoids making the case for The Social Contract as a precursor of totalitarianism. Rather, following Julien Freund, Schmitt polishes a Rousseau that stands for limited freedom and equality; a sort of intra-katechon within Liberalism, and in this sense a mirror image of every potential Hegelianism for the unfolding of world history (Schmitt 173). Finally, the piece “What Have I done?”, a response to a critic of his Hamlet and Hecuba, is aimed not so much at the making of a “political Shakespeare”, but rather at shaking up both the “monopoly of dialectical materialist history of art” as well as the “well-rehearsed division of labor” of the university” (Schmitt 139-41). This is critique has not lost any of its relevance in our present.

Whereas the pieces on political thinkers is an exercise in reactroactive gazing on the tradition, the essays on political enmity and war are direct confrontations on the erosion of the European ius publicum europeum in the wake of the Cold War, dominated by the rise of international political entities (NATO, UN), and anticolonial movements of a new global order. It is in this context that Schmitt’s interest in the figure of the partisan begins to take shape as a way to come to terms with the new forms of mobility, irregularity, and changes in its territorial placement of the enemy. In “Dialogue on the Partisan”, Schmitt revises some of his major claims in Theory of the Partisan, while reminding that “the great error of the pacifists…was to claim that one need simply abolish warfare, then there would be peace” (Schmitt 182).The destitution of the ius publicum europeum, that oriented war making vis-a-vis the recognition of political enmity has, in fact, opened up for a de-contained partisanship in which the destiny of populations now was at the center. This new stage of political conflict intensifies the nihilism where potentially anyone is an enemy to be destroyed (Schmitt 194).

As Schmitt claims in the short piece “On the TV-Democracy”, the question becomes who will hold political power and to what extent, as techno-economical machination becomes the force that directly expresses the Goethean myth of nemo eontra deum nisi dens ipse. With the only difference that the mythic in the essence of technology has no political force, but mere force of mobilization of abstract identities and what Heidegger called “standing reserve”. In this new epoch, the human ceases to have a place on earth, not merely because his political persona cannot be defined, but rather because he can no longer identify himself as human (Schmitt 205). Schmitt’s sibylline maxim from poet Theodor Daubler, “The enemy is our question as Gestalt”, thus loses its capacity for orientation. Already in the 1940s, Schmitt is contemplating a crisis that he does not entirely resolve.

This is one way in which the important essay “The Forming of the French Spirit via the Legists”, from 1941, must be understood. This text on the one hand it is a remarkable sketch of French jurisprudence, grounded on “mesura”, “order”, “rationalism”, and sovereignty. It is no doubt an essay directed against royalist French intellectuals (Henri Massis and Charles Maurras are implicitly alluded to); but also at the concept of state sovereignty. Indeed, the most productive way to read this essay is next to The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes (1938) written a couple of years prior. The impossibility of crafting a theory of the political in the wake of the exhaustion of the sovereign state form will eminently leave the doors wide open for a global civil war, as he argues in the post-war essay “Amnesty or the Force of Forgetting”. Schmitt’s defense of the a formation of the Reich in the 1940s will be translated in his general theory of a ‘new nomos of the earth’ immediately after the war.

The two most important pieces included in The Tyranny of Values and Other Texts (2018) are “The Tyranny of Values” (1960), and “The Order of the World after the Second World War”. The “actuality” of Schmitt’s political thought has a felicitous grounds on these essays, although by no account should we claim that they adjust themselves to the intensification of nihilism in our current moment. There is much to be said about the weight that Schmitt puts on the “economic question”, a certain pull that comes from the emphasis of the much debated question then concerning “development-underdevelopment”, which does not really capture the metastasis of value in the global form of the general principle of equivalence today. Schmitt also deserves credit in having captured in “The Tyranny of Values”, the ascent of the supremacy of “value” in relation to the philosophies of life (Schmitt 12). Schmitt quotes Heidegger’s analysis, for whom “value and the valuable become the positivistic ersatz for the metaphysical” (Schmitt 29), which we can have only intensified in the twenty-first century. Perhaps with the only difference that “value” is no longer articulated explicitly. But who can deny that identitarian discourse is a mere transposition of the tyranny of values? Who can negate that the cost-benefit analysis, “silent revolution of our times” as one of the most important constitutionalists has called it, now stands as the hegemonic form of contemporary technical rationality? [2].

At one point in the “Tyranny” essay, while commenting on Scheler’s philosophy, Schmitt says something that it has clearly not lost any of its legibility in our times: “Max Scheler, the great master of objective value theory has: the negation of a negation value is a positive value. That is mathematically clear, as a negative times a negative yields a positive. One can see from this that the binding of the thinking of value to its old value-free opposition is not so lightly to be dissolved. This sentence of Max Scheler’s allows evil to be requited with evil and in this way, to transform our earth into a hell, the hell however to be transform into a paradise of values” (Schmitt 38). It is a remarkable conclusion, and one in which the “mystery of evil” (the Pauline mysterium iniquitatis) becomes the primary function of the art of government in our times. It is here where we most clearly see the essence of the techno-political as the last reserve of legal liberalism. Schmitt would have been surprised (or perhaps not) to see that the disappearance of the rhetoric of values also coincides with a new regulation of disorder, whether it takes the name of “security”, “cost and benefits”, or “identity and diversification”. Indeed, now politics even has its own place in the consummation of the race for the “highest values”, since anything can be masked a “political” at the request of the latest demand.

In his 1962 conference “The Order of the World after the Second World War”, delivered in Madrid by invitation of his friend Manuel Fraga, Schmitt still is convinced that he can see through the interregnum. Let me quote him one last time: “I used the word nomos as a character denomination for the concrete division and distribution of the earth. If you now ask me, in this sense of the term nomos, what is today, the nomos of the earth, I can answer clearly : it is the division of the earth industrially developed regions or less developed regions, joined with the immediate question of who accepts development from whom…This distribution is today the true constitution of the earth” (Schmitt 163). It is a sweeping claim, one that seeks to illuminate a specific opaque moment in history.

But I am not convinced that we can say the same thing today. Here I am in agreement with Galli and Williams, who have noted that the disappearance of a Zentralgebiet no longer solicits the force of the Katechon [3]. And it is the Katechon that guarantees an effective philosophy of history for the Christian eon. The Katechon provides for a juridical sense of order against a mere transposition of the theological. Indeed, it is never a matter of theological reduction, which is why Schmitt had to evoke Gentilis’ outcry: Silenti theologi, in munere alieno!  I guess the question really amounts to the following: can a constitution of the earth, even if holding potestas spiritualis, regulate the triumph of anomia and the unlimited? Do the bureaucrat and the technician have the last world over the legitimacy of the world? Here the gaze of the jurist turns blank and emits no answer. One only wonders where Schmitt would have looked for new strengths in seeking the revival of a constitution of the earth; or if this entails, once and for all, the closure of the political as we know it.

 

 

Notes

  1. Carl Schmitt. The Tyranny of Values and Other Texts, Translated by Samuel Garrett Zeitlit. New York: Telos Publishing Press, 2018.
  2. Cass Sunstein. The Cost Benefit Revolution. Massachusetts: MIT Press 2018.
  3. See Carlo Galli, “Schmitt and the Global Era”, in Janus’s Gaze: Essays on Carl Schmitt. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015, p.129. Also, Gareth Williams, “Decontainment: The Collapse of the Katechon and the End of Hegemony”, in The Anomie of the Earth (Duke University Press 2015), p.159-173.

Some Notes Regarding Hölderlin’s “Search for the Free Use of One’s Own”. By Gerardo Muñoz.

In what follows, I want to comment on Martin Heidegger’s reading of Hölderlin’s well-known dictum from his 1801 letter to his friend Casimir Bohlendorff, “the free use of the proper is the most difficult thing”. Heidegger devotes a whole section to this enigmatic phrase in the recently translated 1941-42 Hölderlin’s Hymn “Remembrance” (2018) seminar, which dates to the years in which he was confronting Nietzsche’s work, and also more explicitly and for obvious reasons, the issue of German nationalism [1]. In the wake of recent conversations about nationalism and patriotism in political rhetoric, it seems like a fitting time to return to Heidegger’s comments on Hölderlin’s work. This also marks a turn in Heidegger’s thinking of the poetic in the strong sense of the term, which has been analyzed widely in the literature.

Heidegger begins by claiming that the “free use of one’s ownmost” requires a direct confrontation with “the foreign” but that at the same time, it is the easiest thing to miss (Heidegger 105). What is difficult is that which is already one’s own and nearest, and because it is intuitive, it is easy to overlook it. What is difficult is not due to some kind of epistemological overcapacity that today we would associate with the complexity of technical density, but rather, it is an immediate inhabitation, a mood of our belonging that is grasped beyond consciousness and propriety. Hence, it is easy to discard it in a gesture of dismissal due to its familiarity. It happened even to the Greeks.

Heidegger quotes Hölderlin’s verses referencing the loss of the ‘fatherland’: “Of the fatherland and pitifully did / Greece, the most beautiful, perish” (Heidegger 105). Following an obscure Pindar fragment on the “shadow’s dream”, Heidegger shows that the absence is the most important element to illuminate the unreal as it transitions to the real. And this is what the poet does. Indeed, the poet can establish a “footbridge”, or rather it came bring it forth, to initiate a transition towards “what is historically one’s own” (Heidegger 109). If anything, what Greece and Germania point to in Hölderlin’s poetry is this otherwise of historical presencing, which Heidegger admits has nothing to do with historiographical accumulation or cultural metaphorcity (Heidegger 109). At times it is all too easy to dismiss what is at stake here. In the beginning of the twentieth century, for instance, E.M. Butler wrote a book titled The Tyranny of Greece over Germany (1935), which studied the “classical influence” of all things Greek since Winckelmann and German Idealism. Many do not cease to repeat the cliché that Heidegger’s thinking – even Schmitt in Glossarium laments the fascination with Hölderlin over Daubler, which is also the controversy between the critique of logos and a Christological conception of History – is a flight back to Greek ruminations for a new German beginning.

Obviously, this is not Heidegger’s interest in reading the holderlinian use of one’s own. There is no cultural equivalence between the German and the Greek sense of belonging; rather it seems that what Heidegger is after is another way of thinking the historicity of the people, which is fundamentally a problem with the relation with time: “A humankind’s freedom in relation to itself consists in funding, appropriating, and being able to use of what is one’s own. It is in this that the historicality of a people resides” (Heidegger 111). The poet is the figure that, by asking the question about the most difficult thing (one’s use of the proper), can discover this task. Only he can take over the business of founding it (Heidegger 112). The task of the poet is always this “seeking”, which is already in Hölderlin’s first fragment in his novel Hyperion: “We are nothing: what we seek is everything” (Heidegger 113). The task of seeking opens itself to what is the highest and the most holy, which for Hölderlin is the “fatherland’. It is “holy” precisely because it is forbidden and the most difficult to retain.

We are far away here from the sacrificial structure of Hölderlin’s “Der Tod Furs Vaterland” (“To Die for the Homeland”), which Helena Cortés Gabaudan has read in light of the archaic Horacian trope of ‘dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’; a staging of the heroic ethos against the backdrop of the aporetic conceit between thinking and action, the sword and the pen, the poet and the warrior in the early stages of the artist fallen into the age of revolutions [2]. Something else is going on in “Remembrance” use of one’s own at the level of the very transformative nature of historical time, in so much as that which is most holy is nothing that resembles a past principle (a work of art stored in a museum, or the poem as an artistic medium), but rather an atheology, which is never negation or lack; it is always nearness to one’s own as the encounter with what’s “holy” (Heidegger 117).

This atheology suspends any given theistic structure in the act of poetizing. (Is it even correct to refer it as an “act”?). And this poetizing is the task as passage is the inscription of the impossible relation with one’s use here and now. But where does the “political” fit in this picture, one could ask? Is Hölderlin’s turn towards the “use of the national” (Vaterland) entirely a question driven by a political vocation of some sort? This is a poet, one must remember, frustrated by the belated condition of nationhood that sealed Germany’s destiny in the wake of the French Revolution. Hölderlin is first and foremost a poet of political disenchantment and a witness to how politics cannot escape this tragic fate. Indeed, only the poet can actually look straight at this predicament, unlike the political thinker who fantasies with a programmed “assault on the heavens”. In an important moment of the analysis, Heidegger touches this problem:

“What is more obvious than to interpret the turn to the fatherland along the lines of a turn to the “political”? However, what Hölderlin names the fatherland is not enchanted by the political, no matter how broadly one may conceive the latter…The turn to the fatherland is not the turn to the political either, however“. (Heidegger 120).

Undoubtedly, this is a Parthian arrow directed at the political essence of the national understood as a gigantism of state, culture, and history as it was conjuring up in the European interwar period. It is also takes a distance from any given “standpoint” of the national becoming. In this sense, I am in agreement with poet Andrés Ajens’ suggestion that, against the dialectics of locational “alternative histories”, the problem of the national is that of an infinite task of the “desnacional” (this is Ajens’s own term) under erasure, in relation to the “foreign”, in preparation for the “passage of learning to appreciate one’s own” (Heidegger 120) [3]. What we cannot grasp in the national is precisely what bears the trace of the task of ‘denationalization’ as the homecoming of “the clarity of presentation” in its discrete singularity (Heidegger 122). This last line is also from the letter to Bohlendorff.

It is interesting that every time that the form of denationalization has been referred to in strictly political terms, it entails the overcoming of politics by an exogenous force that liquidates the capacities for its own limits. This is, indeed, the realm of the political in the strong sense of the term, in line with the emergence of sovereignty that Hölderlin’s poetic thought wants to curve toward an otherwise of the national. This use of the national wouldn’t let itself be incubated by the supremacy of the political. Let us call this an infrapolitical kernel of patriotism.

This is why at the very end of this session Heidegger mentions that Hölderlin, unlike Nietzsche, must be understood as a “harbinger of the overcoming of all metaphysics” (Heidegger 122). We wonder whether the emphasis on the “People”, however fractured or originary, does not carry a residue of metaphysical rouse. Nevertheless, it is undoubtedly true that Hölderlin aims at something higher. Perhaps he aims at an “inebriation that is different from the “intoxication of enthusiasm” (Heidegger 125); that is, a distance from Kant who elevated the perception of the French Revolution as an anthropological affection.

The step back of the singularity is driven by the “soul” – which Heidegger connects to the polysemic usage of the word Gemüt (at times translated as disposition or gathering) – as other than politics, since it sees through the offering of the dark light and keeps thinking in the human. Transposing it to our discussion, we can say that a politics is irreducible to Gemüt, and that only Gemüt is the excess in every politics. The use of one’s own, vis-a-vis the national (or the process of denationalization), is a resource to attune oneself with this “disposition”. No human can bear to be human without it. Hölderlin seeks to reserve this poverty as the primary task of the poet as a radical neutralization of all techno-political missteps. Or, in the last words in the session: “…it is the while of the equalization of destiny” (Heidegger 131).

 

 

 

Notes

  1. Martin Heidegger. Hölderlin’s Hymn “Remembrance”. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2018.
  2. Friedrich Hölderlin. Poesía esencial, ed. Helena Cortés Gabaudan. Madrid: Oficina de Arte y Ediciones, 2018.
  3. From a personal exchange with Andrés Ajens.