There will be no time to comment on this at the Friday workshop, but I want to jot down some thoughts, perhaps for further conversation. It seems to me Bennington’s resolution of the question about the politics of politics in terms of “the unconditional affirmation of the unconditional as the arrival of the event itself” has to do with Nancy’s take on Being and Time’s existential analytic, Nancy’s thought of decision, and Nancy’s understanding of the inconspicuous incident of “the decision of existence.” Obviously Bennington refers crucially to Nancy’s great essay, but in earlier parts of his book. And yet I would like to remark on it, because it seems to me the difference Nancy ends up affirming might be crucial precisely to an understanding of the relationship between politics, politics of politics, and infrapolitics. A full treatment of this issue must be left for a later time. At the moment, just some observations.
For Nancy, “philosophizing decides to think . . . when it grasps the fact that existence unfolds in the midst of an understanding of Being, and the fact that, while understanding Being in a ‘vague, average’ manner, existence finds itself, in a wholly exceptional and precise way, in an essential (that is, existentiell) relation to its own understanding . . . Thought in its decision is not the thought that undertakes to found Being (or to found itself in Being). This thought is only the decision that risks and affirms existence on its own absence of ground” (Nancy, “The Decision of Existence,” in The Birth to Presence, 84).
The affirmation of existence on its own absence of ground is parallel to the “unconditional affirmation of the unconditional as the arrival of the event itself.” This is so because “decision” has no positive content—it is merely “the disclosive projection and determination of what is factually possible at the time” (85). The relationship to the “event” is indicated here: “Decision, in this sense (in a sense that no meaning of the word ‘decision’ will suffice to open, or to decide), is what most escapes existence, or it is that to which and in which existence is most properly thrown—and what offers existence its most proximate, its ownmost or most intimate, advent: Ereignis. . . . Ereignis is, or makes, decision, and decision is, or makes, Ereignis.” (87)
So, “thought is nothing but the exercise of the appropriation of decision” (87). There is no transcendental here, and thought does not leave the existentiell behind. Everything moves in the ontic, that is, in the terrain of what Bennington calls the rhetorico-political. But thought, and thought’s decision, are precisely a take of/on facticity—a take, a relationship to facticity, not the discovery of an alternative, this time ontological realm.
This take on facticity—some call it deconstruction. Deconstruction calls for no transcendent, it also dwells in facticity. Otherwise.
The nature of this “otherwise” if of course the crucial kernel of the existential analytic. And it has everything to do with the ontological difference. It in fact “is” the ontological difference.
It has to do with suspending Dasein’s suspension in the everydayness of “average understanding.” “Suspension is suspended, and firmly maintains itself, just in the average ontical floating” (96).
“Therefore, ‘to decide’ means not to cut through to this or that ‘truth,’ to this or that ‘meaning’ of existence—but to expose oneself to the undecidability of meaning that existence is. This can take place only just at ‘uprooted’ everydayness, and just at ‘the impossibility of deciding’” (97). One does not “cut through” to anything, one does not write or think or say in order to reach a different world. Where would it be? And the politics of politics is simply that: an exposure to the undecidability of meaning that politics is. But an exposure with a twist.
The twist is called, in Being and Time, just a “modified grasp” that does not abandon the existentiell. This from Heidegger: “existence in its ownness is not something that floats above falling everydayness; existentially, it is only a modified grasp in which such everydayness is seized upon” (quoted by Nancy, 99). But is the politics of politics something other than a modified grasp of politics in precisely that sense? No, in my opinion.
The (metaphysical) illusion, the illusion and delusion, powerful as it may be, powerful as it always is, is precisely the reverse of the following: “In decisiveness, there is no decision to be made, or not to be made, by a subject of existence of any sort whatsoever, or by a subject-existent who would emerge to cut through the possibilities offered in the exteriority of the world, in a way that would be consistent or inconsistent with respect to its own Being” (101)
So there are, there would be, at least two decisions. The average one, the metaphysical one, the subjective one, the egoic one—the decision of the hero who cuts through in order to reach a new level of existence, the heroic machination of politics in the modern sense. And then the other one, from a modified grasp. And I cannot help but think this is the model of Bennington’s “politics of politics:” “Thus ‘decision’ and ‘decided-Being’ are neither attributes nor actions of the existent subject; they are that in which, from the first, existence makes itself into existence, opens to its own Being, or appropriates the unappropriable event of its advent to Being, from a groundlessness of existence. Existing has nothing more its own than this infinite ownability of unownable Being-in-its-ownness. That is the truth of ‘finitude’ (and that is the sole ‘object’ of the existential analytic)” (102-03).
But is there not a sense that, by now, “the politics of politics” is too narrow a phrase? That we should also cut through it? That we should abandon, from existence, the supposition that existence lives in politics, that politics allows no outside?
For one thing, if there is a “joy” that comes from the modified grasp of the one who decides “to exist, to render oneself passible to non-essence” (106), that joy happens “in an existence that exists only in its existing—that is, in the free ‘nullity’ of its foundation of Being” (107). This joy is no longer the joy of the politics of politics—it is rather the parergonic joy of infrapolitics, which enables a politics of politics.
Nancy makes here a claim, perhaps monstruous for some, which I believe is decisive, and which may mark the difference between what I would like to call the first and the second turns of deconstruction: “It is necessary to understand that decision, its anxiety, and its joy take place ‘outside’ the ‘text’—in existence” (107). Existence escapes the text of the politics of politics. Its index is infrapolitical joy.
Nancy uses “exscription” for this, which I am calling the infrapolitical parergon. “The excription of a text is the existence of its inscription, its existence in the world and in the community: and it is in existence, and only therein, that the text decides/reaches its decision—which also means in the existentiellity of the text itself, in the anxiety and joy of its work of thought, its play of writing, its offer of reading” (107).
So, infrapolitics, because “thought has no decision of practical, ethical, or political action to dictate. If it claims to do so, it forgets the very essence of the decision, and it forgets the essence of its own thinking decision . . . the essential, active decision of existence. Its necessity is also called freedom . . . but freedom is not what disposes of given possibilities. It is the disclosedness by which the groundless Being of existence exposes itself, in the anxiety and the joy of being without ground, or being in the world” (109)
Which does not make for an antipolitics, only for an otherwise—minimal, maximal—than political. From which a politics of politics may be thought in or with or for some justice.