I am taking advantage of the fact that I have had early access, courtesy of Emilio and Eugenio, to a text that will be published over the next few days in nonsite. I will post the link here once it happens. I should wait to post my reaction, but I have never waited well, so I am starting something here with my apologies included. This entry treads lightly, therefore, and is meant to be only the beginning of a conversation that I hope will be long and intense.
Their essay, entitled Making It Visible. Latinamericanist Criticism, Literature, and the Question of Exploitation Today, engages with the recent work of Josefina Ludmer on “postautonomous literatures,” with John Beverley´s particular take on cultural studies up until his postsubalternismo book, with Jon Beasley-Murray´s posthegemony, and with my own work through Exhaustion of Difference but with specific mention of infrapolitics, which is a word I have been using since I did preparatory work for Linea de sombra, then dropped for a while, and I recently took up again.
The essay is good and fair, at least regarding my work, but I think in general. It is actually enormously useful. Through some very smart observations on the problem of the frame, the need for a frame, and what they consider our collective abandonment of proper reflection on the frame, they make a double argument for the specificity of aesthetic, hence also literary, autonomy, and for the need to thematize exploitation rather than exclusion in politically-intended or politically-inflected work. They link the absence of frame to the inability to think about exploitation.
So what I want to say here to start with is that I find the issue of the frame very provocative and interesting, and, while I am not entirely sure I myself omit the frame from my reflection entirely, I am more than willing to concede the criticism is quite valid. Since I am not entirely sure of its absence, that probably means I am not entirely sure of its presence either. This is something I will have to think about for a while.
But the second thing I want to say is that, in my conception of what infrapolitics could mean, exploitation is by no means absent. On the contrary, first, it starts off by thematising the politico-ethical exploitation of the entire field of practical reason at the cost of suppressing every other possibility of thought and experience, and, second, it continues by focusing upon conditions of everyday life and labor, where the Marxist-based theme of exploitation has of course pride of place. Or let me put it this way: even biographically, infrapolitics shows up in my critical reflection as a concrete reaction to the extreme Fordist-Taylorization of middle-class intellectual life as I have experienced it. Now, it is true there has been no expansion of this line, there has been no particular engagement with it in connection with infrapolitics, or not a published one yet. But it will come. My interest here is to hold open the place of exploitation as an absolutely essential resource for infrapolitical thought. I could even say: no infrapolitics without exploitation, no exploitation without infrapolitics. We have a pending discussion here on Frederic Lordon´s book Willing Slaves of Capital, which I think should include Simon Head´s Mindless. And some of us have a pending commitment to write on Tronti and Lazzarato´s work, as part of a book on Italian political philosophy,precisely along the same lines. I have also pùblished a recent essay, “We Have Good Reasons Too, and They Keep Coming: Revolutionary Drives and Democratic Desire,” where I discuss exploitation already, although, true, in a preliminary and insufficient way.
The latter is not to be defensive, or to preempt further critique. I think the critique is accurate and fair at this stage of things, and it will work as a spur to get on with it.
Beyond all of that, the third thing I wanted to say is that I find Sauri and DiStefano´s reflection on cultural studies and its effects on work produced during the last decade very fascinating and appropriate. Along the way of their critique there show up many issues, which they treat only marginally in order to keep their focus on the double issue of frame and exploitation, but which deserve further dwelling and radicalisation.
As I said, I hope this will the beginning of a long conversation. The blog can hardly subsist without interaction of that kind.