Entering into the last weeks of the seminar I feel it is time to move towards some careful determinations that will, on the other hand, never have been careful enough. The last three works we will read are Nahum Chandler’s X: The Problem of the Negro as a Problem for Thought, Javier Marías’ Los enamoramientos, and Roberto Bolaño’s 2666. Those works were first thought of not just as examples, even exemplary examples, of infrapolitical deconstruction in place. They were also thought of as works that would help push the theoretical line, that is, that would advance it. Take Chandler’s first chapter, on the notion of “exorbitance.” I think we would be perfectly justified in claiming that exorbitance is an infrapolitical notion, to the very same extent that it posits the existence of fundamental problems that are and remain below a certain threshold of visibility in terms of the ethicopolitical relation; that, in fact, remain, as problems, below the threshold, and can only be brought partially, through writing, or naming, into the threshold—and this is what makes them problems. The naming process solicits and destabilizes—in virtue of the postulation of exorbitance, once named, nothing in the ideological ethicopolitical relation, that is, within the assumed orbit, remains the same.
Perhaps infrapolitics simply names what remains or has remained below the threshold. We could say that visibility should be taken in a large sense, and that it incorporates audibility—whatever is audible is also necessarily visible, and viceversa. For Hegel sight and hearing were the two “theoretical senses.” Touch, smell, whatever belongs in the haptic is infrapolitical (and smell is a haptic sense, because we only smell what we touch). At some point Chandler talks about “the African-American inhabitation of what is usually called music” and says that we must “simultaneously appropriate and disabuse the heading of composer by refusing the supposed finality of its assumed contemporary distinction from performer” (56). This leads him into posing, vis-à-vis what he names “the problem of the Negro,” the possibility of “another kind of inhabitation of the problem of thought as such in our time” (56). It is clear that he is talking about a haptic inhabitation of thought that we may call infrapolitical.
Which brings up a problem that has been plaguing us over the last several weeks: what is, then, and finally, the political sense of infrapolitics? Does it have one? I would prefer to think of it by reversing the question, and rather asking about the infrapolitical sense of politics. One can imagine an otherwise perfectly reasonable, or relatively reasonable, political position that is however premised on stinking infrapolitics. In fact, they are everywhere, and they are even the norm in our societies—particularly as, more and more, they move into a state of affairs where politics is nothing but a superstructural component of what we saw, a few days ago, Esposito calling an economic theology that runs our lives. So the political sense of infrapolitics is to create the conditions for the political demand regarding appropriate, that is, democratic infrapolitics—posthegemony is that attempt at incorporating infrapolitical demands as a condition of every acceptable politics. It imposes conditions of possibility on democratic politics. It is the thematization of conditions of possibility for democratic politics. It is much more than that, but it is that also. And it is more than that because infrapolitics does not exhaust itself in its political demand—it is first of all the dream of “another kind of inhabitation of the problem of thought in our time.”
Another kind? From what? The preliminary response to the what concerns the threshold of visibility that we have been calling onto-theology, and its different avatars and moments in the history of being. Which is far from having stopped after Heidegger named it.
Is literature, or a certain kind of literary writing, predominantly haptic? Literature is not the space of infrapolitics, but it is a space where infrapolitics can be thematized. The hypothesis is of course that such is the case for certain segments of world literature—from Greek tragedy to Shakespeare to Baroque moralists to Paul Celan to Marías and Bolaño.
In fact, could we not say that, as haptic, as a resolute installation below the (onto-theological) threshold of visibility, whatever is infrapolitical reflection engages always and in every case with a form of savage moralism that cannot be contained by any ethics, because it represents the haptic underside of any ethics?
In any case, I think Chandler, Marías, Bolaño certainly move in that direction.