Two Reasons for Marranismo. By Alberto Moreiras

“Is he still not afraid?  He has already been hunted down to be put to death for doing this, and he ran away; yet here he is again burying the dead!” (Tobit 7. 3-7)

So what is it? Are we proposing to engage in a revisitation of the experience of converso Jews from the 14th through the 18th century or so in Spain and its imperial possessions, and of some of its ramifications? What is the worth of the term today?   What can it do?

I am not going to offer a full answer to those questions (I would not be able to do it), only a partial one, in an attempt to clarify, first of all to myself, my own interest. I am interested in marranismo for two main reasons, I suppose: one of them is biographical in an extended sense, the other one is speculative.

As to the biographical in an extended sense, I am referring of course to my situation as an expatriate (Galician) Spaniard. I do not think and have never thought of myself as an “exile” in any dramatic sense, I did not leave Spain for any kind of political reasons or in a forceful manner. I left because that seemed a good idea at the time. That happened in 1981. I have no complaints, but it has become quite obvious to me over the years that, for no doubt structural reasons, my life, such as it is, is to a certain intimate extent characterized by an experience of double exclusion that I assimilate to marrano history in a strong sense.   It is therefore only natural, I think, that I would want to thematize the secular marrano experience—that particular kind of historical experience that turned an uncountable number of my compatriots into strangers in their own land or in any other land.   So, this is what I would call a concrete universal for me—out of an experience of expatriation and structural double exclusion, which could be universalizable among all of those who share it, I make it concrete by assuming a certain legacy as my own, not in the name of identity, not in the name of community, but in the more (or perhaps less; yes, definitely less) spectral sense of claiming as my own the ghosts of those whose bodies are buried nowhere visible, in no grave of their own.

As to the speculative reason, I would like to think that the marrano register remits to a certain kind of intellectual experience of the world, or, what comes to the same, a certain kind of worldly experience of intellectuality that has more to do with survival (and sur-vival) than it has with being traditional or revolutionary, conservative or progressive, organic or inorganic, specific or general, engaged or uncommitted, and so forth. Take Gramsci’s distinction between traditional (say, priests, university professors) and organic intellectual. Where does a marrano stand without forcing his or her own hand? Marranismo preempts organicity or turns it into betrayal.   (And what I recently read in a novel by Héctor Aguilar Camín may be true: all “real” problems end up being problems of loyalty and betrayal.)   But marranismo equally preempts any kind of traditionality. It is barred from both. So I want to thematize, in my own life, and in my own work, a marrano existence, I want to reflect on marrano intellectuality, and I want to claim that it is irreducible to any kind of more conventional understanding of intellectuality as it may have been defined in the last couple of centuries.   It is of course quite reluctant to think of itself as in any way biopolitical—biopolitics, as the administration of life, whether from above or from below, is the enemy of a marrano experience who only has for itself the possibility—only the possibility—of a non-administrative relationship to death. But it is also reluctant to think of itself as “political:” it has no choice, it is always already a political existence, like all existences are, but its focus is not on politics. It is on what is always already before, and therefore always already after, politics. It claims, therefore, an infrapolitical politization and only that.

The crossing between the biographical and the speculative—a marrano life—seems to me worth exploring, as there would be nothing better to do.  For some of us.

Notes on “Différance” and the Ontological Difference. By Alberto Moreiras

Notes on “différance” and the ontological difference.

Following up on some discussions in the last few months I was led to reread “La différance” (Jacques Derrida, Marges de la philosophie, 1972, 1-29, but the text was a conference first given and then published in 1968) looking for the nuances and discrepancies, or the nuances in the discrepancies, Derrida establishes between his (non)concept, (non)word, “différance,” and the Heideggerian conceptualization of the ontico-ontological difference between Being and Time (1927) and The Fragment of Anaximander (1946). I will simply jot down a few comments for discussion. (I have to be selective in my quotes and references, otherwise I would risk reproducing within quotation marks the entirety of such a rich and carefully written essay.)

What is the nature of the differend, if there is a differend? Can we say that Derrida rejects the thought of the ontico-ontological difference?   Or does he merely continue it, taking it elsewhere?   Is there a differend in the sense of polemos, in the sense Derrida himself takes back to Heraclitus’ “diapherein”?   Or is it something other than that, itself inscribed in the différance of différance? And what is at stake? (For him or for me? For me, frankly, what is at stake is my interest in basing infrapolitics on some version—but neither the first one nor the last one: rather their progression in the path of thought, not only Heidegger’s, and whatever may come after it—of what was originally named the ontico-ontological difference; secundarily, my interest in supposing, like Derrida himself did, that “différance” unequivocally affirms a plurality of discourses not organized as a kingdom, that is, not organized as hierarchically dependent on the rule of any discursive king; in the third place, my interest in rejecting a certain notion of biopolitics and biopolitical reflection as the only or dominant “philosophy of the future,” in Giorgio Agamben’s phrase.)

In connection with an elucidation of the role of the ontico-ontological difference in Derrida’s 1968 essay, several things ought to be taken into account. The first is the one given in the only footnote to the text, which comes towards its end (27-28), and was obviously added during the preparation for the republication of the essay as the first chapter in Marges de la philosophie. There Derrida presents the essay as an introduction to the totality of the essays in the volume, as its “’élaboration préliminaire,” where what is intended is to deploy the notion of “texte général” not only against its metaphysical sequestering in the different disciplines (Derrida mentions political economy, psychoanalysis, semiolinguistics, rhetoric), but also against its metaphysical sequestering in general or fundamental ontology.   The idea is then to undo any claim of a monarchic or sub-monarchic priority for thought, of any kind of a hierarchical regioning of discourses.   Given the well-known Heideggerian insistence on the priority of philosophical thought, in his style, to any regional scientific production, the anti- or non-Heideggerian approach in this respect is explicit. (And shared by me: infrapolitical reflection is not merely or even primarily philosophical reflection.)

The second has to do with a certain genealogical determination of thought, hence a provenance of thought against the background of Hegelianism. Derrida establishes a line from Nietzsche and Freud and Levinas to Heidegger, with an important reference to Bataille as well, and with a special mention, but perhaps not in the same line, of Saussure. But the more extensive genealogical analysis is dedicated to Heidegger. Indeed, against the Hegelian background, Heidegger’s thought hangs heavy on Derrida’s vacillations concerning the notion of a philosophical epoch—there seems to be an epoch of thought, which those four or five thinkers punctuate or form (he says at one point that the names are themselves symptoms of a time), but at the same time Derrida will not allow that epoch of thought to be considered part of the Heideggerian history of being—so that the epoch of thought, written as “epoch,” will not be itself a part of the history of being: some other unmentioned horizon might determine it “historically,” but this is left ultimately unclarified in the essay. (The main statement is: “la différance . . . m’a paru stratégiquement le plus propre à penser . . . le plus irréductible de notre ‘epoque’” [7]. And he even says, echoing remarks from the seminar given in 1964 on Heidegger and the question of history and being, that différance constitutes a thematics historically situated to the very extent that it could and should be replaced “un jour,” becoming part of another tropological chain. At first Derrida says he parts, “strategically,” from our time and place, from a certain “’nous,’” although he warns the reader at the same time that it is only “différance” that marks who and where “we” are, therefore the epoch does not enframe différance; it is différance that enframes the epoch and any possibility of epochal time. Later in the essay, already confronting Heidegger explicitly, Derrida remarks that “epoch” always already belongs to the history of being, and is therefore, in its very notion, contaminated or captured by that thought.   This is the point where he says that différance is “plus ‘vieille’” than the history of being, claiming a precedence that destroys history and sinks itself into the immemorial. “Epochality,” like history, can be used strategically, then, but always under erasure.   I find this unsatisfying—there is no overwhelming reason why “history” must in every case be thought onto-theologically, particularly if “différance” makes a claim to exception for itself.)

And the third one, in my opinion, has to do with the fact that Derrida, while taking explicit exception to Heidegger, to a certain extent and after recognizing Heidegger’s thought as unavoidable, orients his notion of différance on the very path of the ontico-ontological difference, insofar as one can choose to read this particular essay at least as a mere correction to the Heideggerian text.   Looking into the correction might then elicit the question, and a possible answer, as to the status of it—does the correction imply a fundamental break away from Heidegger, or is the correction more in the order of a breaching, a Bahnung, a facilitation of the way? I think the latter is the case.

Différance: “On ne peut l’entendre et nous verrons en quoi elle passe aussi l’ordre de l’entendement” (4).  This surpassing the understanding probably makes reference to a certain impossibility for the understanding to master the labor of différance. To the extent mastering equals naming—or the naming is always already an (alleged) mastering–this remark is not casual, as it already contains, in cypher, what will ultimately emerge as the main criticism regarding Heidegger. The radical opening of différance to its own unnaming—this is why différance can neither be a concept nor a word—makes it ready to claim an endless and ceaseless surpassing: “La différance est non seulement irréductible à toute réappropriation ontologique ou théologique—onto-théologique—mais, ouvrant mëme l’espace dans lequel l’onto-théologie—la philosophie—produit son systéme et son histoire, elle la comprend, l’inscrit et l’éxcede sans retour” (6).

On Hegel Derrida says: “malgré les rapports d’affinité très profonde que la différance ainse écrite entretient avec le discours hégélien, tel qu’il doit ëtre lu, elle peut en un certain point non pas rompre avec lui, ce qui n’a aucune sorte de sens ni de chance, mais en opérer une sorte de déplacement à la fois infime et radical” (15).   Is it the same minimum but radical displacement that would constitute the relationship with Heidegger? Not in my opinion. I think the displacement vis-á-vis Hegel is of a much more extensive kind, to the very same extent that Hegelianism is the epitome of the privileging of presence as self-presence, through the notions of subject and substance, and through the ultimate equivalence between the two.   That this is Derrida’s fundamental target is made explicit by the fact that, always according to him, the thinkers that interest him—Nietzsche, Freud, Levinas, up to Heidegger—would have attempted to destroy it as well, and always following a thinking of diapherein against every possibility of consciousness’ “certitude assurée de soi” (18).

In any case, the differences between that particular, “epochal” constellation of thinkers and Hegelianism open up, up and through Derrida’s mention of Bataille. They remain obscure, certainly, but it is through such a darkness that tentative steps are taken in order to initiate a reinscription of the very project of philosophy, “sous l’espèce privilegiée du hégélianisme” (21).   It is interesting to quote Derrida on “la plus grande obscurité,” since its designation as such ought to be enough to let us understand that something like the proper “epochal” project of philosophy is presented there. If so, then it is a matter of importance to elucidate the answers given to it by the chain of thinkers Derrida is referencing, up to Heidegger and then Derrida himself. I will limit myself to pointing out in this context that not only are the following sentences as good a description of the task of deconstruction as any other we have, but also, more cryptically perhaps, that they also fit Heidegger’s work like a glove—if perhaps a different glove: “Comment penser á la fois la différance comme détour économique que, dans l’élément du mëme, vise toujours à retrouver le plaisir où la presence différée par calcul (conscient ou inconscient) et d’autre part la différance comme rapport à la presence impossible, comme dépense sans réserve, comme perte irréparable de la présence, usure irréversible de l´énergie, voire comme pulsion de mort et rapport au tout-autre interrompant en apparence toute économie” (20).

There is a redescription of that reinscription, we could say, in more familiar terms. It is simple enough: “delimiting the ontology of presence” (cf. 22).   Here is where the confrontation with Heidegger becomes focused.   If différance, or deconstruction more generally, interrogates and solicits “the determination of being as presence” (22), Derrida notes that it is not possible to avoid “l’incontournable meditation heideggerienne” on the ontico-ontological difference. Furthermore, that it is not possible to give “a simple response” to the question as to the difference between différance and the Heideggerian prompting.

There would be a necessity to pass through the Heideggerian meditation. If différance could be said to constitute “a more violent” approach than the thought of the ontico-ontological difference, in other words, if there is to be a critical difference between différance and the Heideggerian theme, “ce n’est ni se dispenser du passage par la verité de l’ëtre ni d’aucune façon en ‘critiquer,’ en ‘contester,’ en méconnaïtre l’incessant necessité” (23).

Derrida turns then to Heidegger’s 1946 essay on Anaximander. His leading question is whether it would still be necessary to understand the Heideggerian propositions in that essay, which include the highlighted notions of “early trace” (die frühe Spur) and usage (Brauch), as necessarily oriented towards the Wesen des Seins, or essence of being—that is, whether the Heideggerian vocabulary, engaged with truth, essence, being, and presencing, does not ultimately aim at preserving a certain kingdom (“Non seulement il n’y a pas de royaume de la différance mais celle-ci fomente la subversion de tout royaume” [22]), namely the kingdom of metaphysics. Derrida puts it somewhat awkwardly: “Pour nous, la différance reste un nom métaphysique et tous les noms qu’elle reçoit dans notre langue sont encore, en tant que noms, métaphysiques. En particulier quand ils disent la détermination de la différance en différence de la présence au present (Anwesen/Anwesend), mais surtout, et dejá, de la façon la plus générale, quand ils disent la détermination de la différance en différence de l´ëtre á l’etant” (28).

Différance has no name, Derrida says, but a perpetual dislocation in differing substitutions.   There is no name, and the name cannot be retrieved. “Il n´y aura pas de nom unique, füt-il le nom de l’ëtre” (29).

This is the site of the disagreement: according to Derrida, at least in Der Spruch des Anaximander, Heidegger sustains a metaphysical engagement through his attempt to search for “a proper word and a unique name” (29).   Différance, however, gives up on the name and lives in dissemination. “Telle est la question: l’alliance de la parole et de l’ëtre dans le mot unique, dans le nom en fin propre” (29). Ultimately, Derrida claims that the difference between the Heideggerian difference and his own différance is a matter of joy against nostalgic hope, in a context in which we should simply affirm hope and reject nostalgia.

It is indeed, or not, an “infime et radical” displacement.   For me, a displacement within a continuum that may enrich the epochal thought of the ontological difference by underlining some of its more promising features.   But it does not announce a break: only a breach that infrapolitical reflection can use, for instance, by recognizing that the Freudian thought of the death drive is not limited by its always already ontic rank (as Heidegger himself might have argued or did argue) and can thus not enter but rather entirely bypass the ontological kingdom. As itself nothing but the site of a non-administrative relationship with death, infrapolitics unashamedly links Heidegger’s existential analytics with Derrida’s determination of the greatest obscurity as the interruption of every economy.




Macrismo: populismo y nuevas derechas. (Gerardo Muñoz)

Aun no ha pisado la Casa Rosada y las medidas del macrismo ya dan un primer acorde a la época que se abre con Cambiemos: una explicitada alianza con la derecha regional en búsqueda de un acelerado agrietamiento del eje Mercosur (que en primera escena del bunker del PRO estuviese Lilian Tintori, esposa del encarcelado líder político venezolano Leopoldo López, no es un dato menor). Reclamarle a TeleSUR y a la prensa bolivariana neutralidad parece no solo injusto, sino incorrecto, ya que ha sido el mismo Ingeniero Macri el primero en hacer un guiño a la opinión pública de la nueva reorganización geopolítica en la región. Es obvio que el eje bolivariano haya contestado beligerantemente y se sienta interpelado por un marcado giro en las relaciones bilaterales con el nuevo gobierno porteño.

Si esto es así en materia internacional, en la economía ha seguido una ‘intempestiva suba de precios’ que, como ha visto en su última nota el historiador Alejandro Horowicz, marcan la clara tendencia de un proceso de devaluación y comienzo de una serie de medidas de ajuste económico que el propio jefe de gabinete Marcos Peña no ha dudado de adjetivar como “impresionante” [1]. Por el frente doméstico la sorpresiva nominación de Patricia Bullrich para el Ministerio de Seguridad prepara la grilla policial para lo que se espera que pueda ser otro ‘Diciembre caliente’. Es cierto que el actual ministro de seguridad Sergio Berni no se queda atrás en cuanto a los cumplidos de represión y despliegue securitario, pero lo nuevo aparece aquí como una réplica naturalizada por los dispositivos del discurso instalados en el mismo seno del macrismo triunfante. Lo que antes pudiera haberse leído como errónea anomalía, ahora se registra como el estado de excepción desde los cuerpos y las lenguas que lo gobiernan. Si le agregamos a todo esto, la nominación de Pablo Avelluto en Cultura y el indecente editorial de La Nación “No mas venganza” apenas un día después de la derrota del Frente para la Victoria, vale confirmar el regreso de la naturalización del discurso de los ‘dos demonios’ y de una lengua de pacificación que escamotea la continuación de la guerra sobre los cuerpos y la del propio campo de la política [2].

Están las cartas echadas y los cromos de pie para hacernos una idea de la nueva escena post-Kirchner. En efecto, esta podría ser un espejismo del kirchnerismo, aunque aun está por verse si el macrismo está en interesado o no en colonizar las reductos estatales del kirchnerismo o aplicar a la menemista, una serie de shocks sin anestesia. Esto es, solo el tiempo dirá si la ‘nueva derecha’ se constituye como tal y si el macrismo logra navegar gradualmente sobre la estatalidad y la reestructuración económica distanciándose de las formas compulsivas que caracterizaron a las derechas neoliberales de los noventa en la región; o si, por el contrario, la nueva derecha será capaz de emprender el incierto camino hacia el “cambio” aprendiendo de sus enemigo y de una larga derrota que ha durado más de una década. El mismo lema de “cambiemos” instala y apropia el horizonte progresista en una nueva jerga de la ciudadanía votante [3]. Si bien no hay elementos contundentes para afirmar uno de los dos derroteros para la derecha, si partimos de la hipótesis de la supervivencia de la cultura del consumo al interior de la era “posnacional”, como la ha designado el historiador Pablo Hupert, entonces es muy probable que la acomodación hacia una postura de nueva derecha no sea un proyecto tan arduo ni voluntarista de construir como parece.

La inclusión por el consumo y la revitalización de un neoliberalismo de baja intensidad – que se repliega y organiza a varios niveles, en la esfera laboral informal, tal y como lo ha estudiado Veronica Gago en La razón neoliberal (Tinta Limón, 2015) – sumado a la devaluación internacional de los precios de los commodities que signa el límite de la matriz de acumulación para la expansión democrática, sería consistente con una agenda de esa new right investida en clausurar el esquema de la gran política en cuanto antagonismo social y reformulación de grandes preguntas triangulantes (entrecruzamientos entre Estado, cultura, subjetividad, símbolos, y retórica). No es casual que el globo amarillo sea el símbolo de PRO, si nos esforzamos a leer en ese signo el pasaje del viejo nacionalismo culto de las banderas fascistas, a una simbología más light, donde el carnaval (notable topos de la cultura de masas) es apropiado por nuevos insumos colectivos sin aquel viejo identitarismo ocultista que sabiamente había estudiado Furio Jesi y que ahora se parecieran estar a la altura cultural del hombre común [4]. El insigne globo macrista es consistente con la esferología contemporánea de la globalización, tan animado como las propias mercancías que circulan por cada urbe. Como en las escalofriantes masas carnavalescas de los relatos anti-peronistas de Rodolfo Wilcock, el macrismo es la perversión de lo nacional-popular, aunque sin el matiz grotesco que caracterizó tradicionalmente al fascismo.

Lo que llama la atención de la novedad macrista es que reinstala ese ‘salgan todos que ahora entramos nosotros’ que apunta no solo al tan discutido ‘continuismo peronista’ de parte del FpV, sino a otro problema de fondo, tal vez un poco menos referido: el presidencialismo hegemónico. No es que Macri sea en este sentido una réplica de Kirchner, sino que ambos se cobijan sobre una misma estructura. A la apuesta de los movimientos sociales no estaría mal suplementarle el tema de la democratización del presidencialismo desde arriba, como pedía Eugenio Zaffaroni recientemente [5]. Una democratización al presidencialismo de facto funcionaría como bastidor en momentos transicionales e incluso como resguardo de los errores del gobierno de turno y sus timonazos inequívocos. Esta es la vieja tensión entre ruptura y conservación en los precarios modelos democráticos latinoamericanos, así como la pregunta que coloca en el centro la posibilidad de la democracia real en América Latina por fuera del ropaje republicano del institucionalismo de derecha (conservacionismo tradicional) y de las “transiciones” (y con lo mismo estoy diciendo una interrupción del orden que siempre ha sido interrumpido, esto es, un orden de excepcionalidad soberana).

Es aquí también donde se impone el dilema del constitucionalismo y la necesidad de su reforma. Buena parte del éxito de gobiernos de la Marea Rosada (particularmente los de Ecuador y Bolivia), se deben a procesos constituyentes capaces de reinscribir constitucionalmente la extensión de derechos plurinacionales o no-humanos al interior del Estado. Está es una tarea que excede la matriz funcionalista del derecho y que profundiza sobre sus condiciones operativas. Es por esta razón que el repetido reclamo ilustrado ‘anti-corrupción’ o ‘legalista’ corre el riesgo de perder de vista la insuficiencia del derecho como organismo imparcial (‘qué no me venga a decir Habermas sentado en una oficina en Alemania que la constitución y la ley es el canal de solución’, escribe Spivak en su reciente Nationalism and the imagination). Tal vez por estar inscrita en la tradición republicana y muy ausente de los modelos de gobernabilidad latinoamericanos, la pregunta constitucionalista, sin embargo, siempre acaba siendo menoscabada o relegada a la opción populista. Es difícil incluso imaginar que significaría un nuevo republicanismo para el debate de la política latinoamericana de cara al agotamiento del ciclo progresista sin repetir esta doble estructuración.

Éste sería un republicanismo como crítica efectiva de eso que el sociólogo boliviano Luis Tapia ha llamado, justamente, la tiranía del derecho. Por eso no estaría mal comenzar a pensarlo no solo en línea con la eventualidad del macrismo, sino como debate crítico sobre el populismo, cuya interpretación de la instucionalidad (como ha observado recientemente José Luis Villacañas) aparejado de su silencio sobre la esfera del derecho (la soberanía) pareciera ser unas de las patas flojas de la teoría de significación equivalencial de Ernesto Laclau [6].

Si el anti-institucionalismo depende de la estructuración (identitaria) de la equivalencia, ¿por qué no pensar y hacerse cargo desde el pensamiento de un republicanismo institucional de la inequvialencia? Traídos al presente, ¿no querrían populistas y neoliberales esa misma flexibilidad institucionalidad para un voluntarismo político cuya fórmula redonda es el anti-institucionalismo de la hegemonía? Es en este punto donde hegemonía equivale a soberanía excepcional de la razón transicional del poder. Las nuevas derechas – y el macrismo como encarnación inmediata – pudiera tomar este camino, sin que esto suponga un retroceso necesario hacia el “mínimo Estado” que caracterizaron a las derechas tipo Sánchez de Lozada, Vargas Llosa, o Fujimori a finales de la pasada centuria [7]. Y esto no implicaría, en modo alguno, la expansión del horizonte democrático, sino todo lo contrario. Será interesante seguir la metamorfosis del macrismo en los próximos meses, pero desde ya pareciera más fascinante pensar un institucionalismo por fuera de la equivalencia del populismo, así como del liberalismo criollo históricamente excluyente y subalternizante.




  1. Ver la columna de Alejandro Horowicz. “Los precios de la derrota”.
  1. “No mas venganza”. Editorial del 23 de Noviembre.
  1. La pérdida de horizonte por parte de la izquierda es tal que pareciera que solo la derecha la que puede hoy enunciar o apenas trazar un plan de la utopía. Esto se comprueba con el hecho que buena parte de los gobiernos de la Marea Rosada en estos tiempos ha estado anclada en lo que Fernando Coronil llamó en uno de sus últimos ensayos una nueva teleología nacional como índice de legitimidad. Ver, “The future in question: History and Utopia in Latin America (1989-2010)”.
  1. Furio Jesi. Cultura de derechas. Barcelona: Muchnik, 1989.
  1. Eugenio Zaffaroni.” El derecho latinoamericano en la fase superior del colonialismo”. Passagens, Mayo-Agosto, 2014.
  1. José Luis Villacañas. Populismo. Madrid: La Huerta Grande Editorial, 2015.
  1. Veronica Giordano. “¿Qué hay de nuevo en las «nuevas derechas»? Nueva Sociedad, Noviembre-Diciembre de 2014.