I wonder why it gets to be so tedious to argue with the hegemony people that there is always and in every case more to any political process than hegemonic or counterhegemonic moves. If they accept this, just because it is difficult to disagree with the notion that “there is more than one thinks,” it is simply to sweep it under the table and ignore it in the next move, which is a move again entirely contained by hegemony theory. But posthegemony obtains every time there is a failure of hegemony, and failures of hegemony are constant–otherwise there would be no politics. Say, if I fail to be happy in my love for the leader, it is not because I am plotting a counterhegemonic move for the most part: it is because the hegemonic interpellation does not please me. So, perhaps to avoid the tiresome repetition of the same obvious points every time, we should radicalize the position and say that posthegemony is the political moment or manifestation of infrapolitical jouissance. And that, as such, it is, thank god, unavailable to any politician, ungraspable to them, and beyond capture. It is the very distance from politics that opens up the gap of freedom, even if freedom is only the acceptance of necessity as such (as opposed to unfreedom, which is blindness to necessity camouflaged as hegemonic love.)
This could also be a case for excessive political fanaticism, no? An excess of political love for my leader that is nevertheless never entirely satisfied, no matter how often I scream and riot in the streets, no matter how many opposition members I harass, kidnap or kill. It is the nature of that desire that it is never to be neither entirely fulfilled or entirely contained. However, in this framework it is difficult to say what would be specifically infrapolitical, and not just simply a symptom of the lack in the Other. Would the infrapolitical be a practice that works within this gap, for example? Or is it something else?
I understand the gist of Peter’s question, and am interested in this as well, but are we sure that “works” is the most apt verb to describe what the infrapolitical in effect, does?
Perhaps the infrapolitical would not be worked at all but rather désoeuvré… I wasn’t particularly happy with the word choice either… What word would you suggest to use? I’m not sure how to think through my own question, really…
Yannis Stavrakakis Alberto, I think your comment is a bit unfair towards certain ‘hegemony people’ if , for example, you count Ernesto Laclau among them… This is because Ernesto has always seen hegemony as a partial construction within an undecidable terrain of ontological impossibility. This is why he has added to his concept of “articulation” – the attempt to construct a new hegemony – that of “dislocation”, the unavoidable failure of every such attempt. This failure is not secondary but very much inscribed within the fabric of hegemonic articulation itself to the extent that, as he put it, every discourse is “always already dislocated”. Interestingly enough he highlighted “dislocation” as a “moment”, and in fact a moment of freedom (in his New Reflections), something that brings him extremely close to your own argument. The only difference is that he did not call that moment “infrapolitical”, but rather “political” as opposed to “politics” (the politics of hegemony that is). And he would never call it post-hegemonic to the extent that this moment of failure does not mark a passage beyond hegemony… It obviously entails a sense of failure and limitation, it can liberate imagination and allow us to encounter partial (and not phallic jouissance) but, to the extent that we remain within the socio-political world, it is then invested into a new hegemonic construction, a new positive object, and is thus reinscribed into the negative dialectin between articulation and dislocation…
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Alberto Moreiras Yannis, not thinking about Ernesto, more about any number of Spanish commentators on the Podemos process. Or, in fact, thinking about Ernesto in terms of precisely the unavoidable dislocation within any hegemonic process. So I accept your argument until almost the end. I think the point of disagreement is that I do not believe we are always already consumed by the political world. So I do not believe everything we do is necessarily invested either in sustaining a given hegemonic articulation or in looking for a new one. Now, for me that region of facticity, not political but infrapolitical, has implications for our understanding of political structuration–in and through its own radicality infrapolitical life inflects or endows political life with an irreducible posthegemonic dimension. This is not a minor thing for me. So, for instance, while I agree with and admire hegemony theory as a description of the political process for the most part, I think there is a democratic demand-position, primary and irreducible, that is posthegemonic in the sense that it posits-demands a political space not subject to hegemonic conditions of rule. This seems to me essential for theorizing political democracy. And, therefore, also essential for political invention today.
Peter, I think désoeuvré is acutely more sensitive to articulate what is indeed at play here. In my writing, I have simply adopted “unwork”. But “désoeuvré” is a far better choice, and fancier!!
I think this is a powerful issue, so thanks to Bram and Peter for bringing it up. I haven’t thought it through, but i think it would be very productive to do it. There is definitely some kind of basic attunement between the thought of infrapolitics and the thought of desoeuvrement in the work of all those, from Kojeve and Queneau to Bataille and Blanchot to Nancy and Agamben, but now we’ll need to be more precise and specific.
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You say “posthegemony obtains every time there is a failure of hegemony, and failures of hegemony are constant–otherwise there would be no politics.”
Hegemony fails, yes. Indeed, strictly speaking hegemony never succeeds; in this sense, Laclau, too, could sign on to the slogan “There is no hegemony and there never has been.” Except that, for Laclau, hegemony triumphs in its continual failures.
Hence Yannis, summoning Laclau, seems to suggest that the correct formulation is that “failures of hegemony are constant–otherwise there would be no hegemony” and “hegemony obtains every time there is a failure of hegemony.”
Me, I think that there must be more to posthegemony than merely the failure of hegemony, which would indeed make it no more than an effect of hegemony. My point is that looking at hegemony, in its failures as much as its (alleged) successes, is a diversion, missing the point.
This I think short-circuits the admittedly tedious arguments you mention.
Yes, it does, Jon, it seems to me. And i think it is great that we are trying to clarify our respective takes here. Your argument presents hegemony as something like an imaginary entanglement, so you want to do away with it. I think Yannis might want to say that, at least in Ernesto’s take, politics is nothing but an imaginary entanglement. And i might want to say that politics is an imaginary entanglement only to a certain point beyond which we need to move if there is to be democratic invention. Is that more or less right?
From Yannis Stavrakakis: Why not put it like that: there is something irreducible in both dimensions, which permits their conceptual grasping in more or less clear terms… nevertheless, in political life they continuously fail to institute themselves as closed orders and invariably end up into a mutual engagement that can take a variety of forms… one of them is the (radical) democratic form: to articulate a paradoxical hegemony on the basis of registering its own limits, its own failure, continuously coming to terms with them..