Notas a “De la esencia del fundamento” (1929), de Martin Heidegger.

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En este segundo ensayo de 1928 sobre el desistimiento (Nichtung):

“La diferencia ontológica es el no entre ente y ser” (trad. Helena Cortés y Arturo Leyte, 109).   Una forma de desistimiento diferente a la del no de la nada, que es “el ser experimentado a partir de lo ente” (109).

La “trascendencia,” tal como fue definida en “¿Qué es metafísica?,” es el ámbito de discusión. [De un párrafo omitido en la edición de 1949: “¿En dónde reside la necesidad de la fundamentación? En el abismo (Ab-Grund) y en la ausencia de fundamento (Un-grund). ¿Y dónde está eso? En el ser-aquí” (112)].

En una de las versiones más simples de la diferencia óntico-ontológica: “La verdad de la proposición hunde sus raíces en una verdad más originaria (desocultamiento, das Unverborgene), esto es, en el carácter manifiesto antepredicativo de lo ente, que recibe el nombre de verdad óntica” (115). “Pero . . . ni siquiera dichos modos de conducirse serían capaces de abrir el acceso hasta lo ente en sí mismo si su modo de manifestar no estuviera ya siempre previamente iluminado y guiado por una comprensión del ser de lo ente . . . Es el desvelamiento del ser el que hace posible por primera vez el carácter manifiesto de lo ente: su evidencia. En su calidad de verdad del ser llamamos a este desvelamiento verdad ontológica” (115-16). “La verdad óntica y la verdad ontológica conciernen ambas, de manera diferente en cada caso, a lo ente en su ser y al ser de lo ente. Ambas se pertenecen mutuamente de forma esencial, por razón de su participación en la diferencia de ser y ente (diferencia ontológica)” (117).

El fundamento de la diferencia ontológica es la “trascendencia” del Dasein.

Aquí Heidegger añade una precisión esencial: “Si elegimos para ese ente que nosotros mismos somos y que entendemos como ‘Dasein’ el título de ‘sujeto,’ entonces la trascendencia designa la esencia del sujeto y es la estructura fundamental de la subjetividad. Pero no es que el sujeto exista previamente como ‘sujeto’ y después, si se da el caso, también se presenten objetos que tienen que ser trascendidos, sino que ser sujeto significa: ser ente en y como trascendencia” (120). Esta es para mí la precisión heideggeriana que abre el camino a la noción de “sujeto del inconsciente” en Lacan–un ‘sujeto’ que implica ya la destrucción de la noción cartesiano-hegeliana de sujeto y que se abre al estado de arrojado desde la experiencia radical, más o menos adormecida, de “desistimiento” (ver la entrada “Notas (de trabajo) a ¿Qué es la metafísica?” en este blog). Es también, por supuesto, la posibilidad misma de un pensar político post-hegeliano ( y así del pensar infrapolítico.) El “sujeto” heideggeriano que aquí se ventila es un sujeto “traspasado” [“Trascendencia” es traspasamiento, Überstieg” (120)] cuya característica es la “mismidad” arrojada: “En el traspasamiento el Dasein llega en primer lugar a ese ente que él es y llega a él en cuanto él ‘mismo.’ La trascendencia constituye la mismidad. Pero, nuevamente, nunca constituye solo y en primer lugar ésta, sino que el traspasamiento concierne siempre también simultáneamente a eso ente que el Dasein mismo no es. . . . Solo en el traspasamiento y mediante él se puede llegar a distinguir y decidir dentro de lo ente quién es, cómo es y qué no es un ‘Mismo'” (121). El “sujeto” heideggeriano es por lo tanto un sujeto bajo tacha, esto es, desistido y traspasado. Ambas condiciones, el desistimiento y el traspasamiento, definen desde cierta perspectiva el sujeto del inconsciente lacaniano, pero también indican claramente las condiciones desde las que podría pensarse el tipo de acercamiento proactivo a lo común que definimos como práctica política, de la que no es posible por supuesto excluir la práctica política fascista. El famoso y notorio “pensar sin sujeto” de Carta sobre el humanismo queda así matizado, pero también queda matizada la pretensión antiheideggeriana de que, fuera del nazismo colectivista, ninguna política es posible desde su pensamiento: resultará obvio que el fascismo no es de ninguna manera la única solución posible a lo que Heidegger plantea como mundanidad de la trascendencia.

Heidegger pasa a explicar el concepto de Ser y tiempo de “ser-en-el-mundo” a partir de la noción de que el mundo es la totalidad de lo ente. “La tesis de que a la esencia del Dasein en cuanto tal le pertenece el ser-en-el-mundo contiene todo el problema de la trascendencia” (123). Es aquí, desde el ser-en-el-mundo como sitio de habitamiento, donde Heidegger introduce preliminarmente ciertas consideraciones sobre la antropología filosófica de Kant–“antropología pragmática” que pertenece a alguien que comprende el juego del mundo y participa activamente en él. En ellas se indica que la comprensión del mundo es siempre necesariamente un “traspasamiento” hacia el mundo, y así una relación plena y plenamente activa con el mundo: “a partir del mundo el Dasein madura y se produce a modo de un Mismo, es decir, a modo de un ente al que se ha confiado el tener que ser. De lo que se trata en el ser de este ente es de su poder ser” (135).

Y no es trivial que a ese “traspasamiento” hacia el mundo Heidegger le de el nombre de “libertad.” “El traspasamiento hacia el mundo es la libertad misma” (140). “Pero aquí la libertad se manifiesta simultáneamente como lo que hace posible el vínculo y el carácter vinculante. La libertad es la única que puede lograr que reine, waltet, un mundo que se haga mundo, weltet, para el Dasein” (140).

No hay produccionismo aquí, ni Heidegger pretende alumbrar la idea de que el traspasamiento del mundo en la libertad del Dasein es un construccionismo. Se trata solo de insistir en que no hay otro fundamento de la acción que la diferencia ontológica, desde la que un Dasein desistido y traspasado immer schon vive en su temporalidad y existe bajo todos los posibles modos de existencia fáctica, incluyendo el de la explicitación de la facticidad misma–en el que se guarda la posibilidad política que es también la posibilidad filosófica o infrapolítica. No hay produccionismo ni constructivismo porque “trascendencia significa un proyecto de mundo tal que lo proyectante ya está también dominado y determinado en su ánimo por ese mismo ente al que traspasa” (142).

¿Por qué no insistir en la apelación radical por Heidegger a un principio de realidad que destruiría la contraposición arbitraria entre Ser y Real?   Pero es un principio de realidad cuya esencia es la libertad: “El acontecer de la trascendencia, en cuanto fundamentar, es el construirse de ese espacio en el que irrumpe el mantenerse fáctico en cada momento del Dasein fáctico en medio de lo ente en su totalidad” (146).

Heidegger concluye con un párrafo en cierta medida antológico, por desusado en su obra. Pero de él cabe concluir también lo que estaba en juego políticamente en el intento de enunciar la esencia del fundamento como libertad finita. Estamos en 1929, y no puede no escucharse un aire nietzscheano que iba a resultar ominoso, pero solo retrospectivamente: “Y, así, el hombre, que en cuanto transcendencia que existe se lanza hacia adelante en busca de posibilidades, es un ser de la distancia. Solo mediante lejanías originarias que él se construye en su trascendencia en relación con todo ente se acrecienta en él la auténtica proximidad a las cosas. Y sólo el poder escuchar en la distancia produce y hace madurar en el Dasein, en su calidad de Mismo, el despertar de la respuesta del otro Dasein compañero, con el que, al compartir el ser, puede olvidarse de su Yo para ganarse como auténtico Mismo” (149).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Take on “What is Metaphysics?” by Martin Heidegger. By Gareth Williams.

Here’s a very preliminary impression of, and take on, “What is Metaphysics?”

Via the approach to the nothing, Heidegger ultimately unveils the “deconstruction” of God via a manifesto for the de-fetishization of the idols (God, Christ, philosophy, the common, the koinon, and, presumably, humanism) by attuning thinking to the originariness of the nothing. Heidegger does this by taking Nietzsche at his word (Twilight of the Idols and The Anti-Christ) and then taking on the question of concealment and unconcealment in relation to the two emergent modern sciences:  the Hegelian (and, as such, Marxist) legacy (the nothing-negative relation) and Freudian psychoanalysis (the nothing-uncanny relation), both of which are overturned, or de-naturalized, by the originary nature of the nothing, though, it must be said, Heidegger seems to be closer to Freud’s death drive than he is to the dialectic of negativity, even though he only ever says that Hegel is right, though the implication is that Hegel is right to the extent that he is more a sociologist of the ontic (a thinker of the world inverted) than he is a thinker of the question of metaphysics.  The essay offers a dismantling, or an attempt to dismantle, Hegelian negativity and its understanding of history/time, in conjunction therefore with Marxism as the science of historical understanding.

The question of science could perhaps be questioned now, as outdated, since if the definition of science is that of the concealment of the nothing via logic and “exactness”, or as the rejection of the nothing, then one would now have to take a serious look at the way in which astrophysics, for example, is indeed science confronting and striving to grasp the nothing. Though that would be too fast.  Of course, the Heideggerean response would be that it is science striving to instrumentalize the nothing, once again striving to camouflage the nothing itself.  It is no longer that science wants to know nothing of the nothing: in the contemporary world it wants to know absolutely everything, even about the nothing. Fundamental shift in the world/science relation in full blown techno-globalization?

As such, via the legacy of the positing of the subject-object relation (techne, science), can one encounter the nothing that is with us in our daily chatter (the problem of the unavoidability of the word “we”—the koinon– here appears to be fundamental) yet that is more originary:  “The nothing is the complete negation of the totality of beings” (in which case, the God of the Ten Commandments would be the nothing reconverted, into the word, as the merely negative; the sociological, as opposed to the “fundamental experience of the nothing”).

It is here that Heidegger begins to turn toward the ontic world of the inexact (perhaps the world of a certain zone of the affective, but at a distance from all will to power) that begins to emerge through words such as boredom, attunement, feeling, anxiety, and then the uncanny: in the shadow of the world of techne, in which the mathematical reigns supreme even as “mere exactness”, language both conceals and unconceals the silence of the hovering of the nothing in the everyday of speech. In this encounter, what is required is “the fundamental attunement of anxiety” (I would call this attunement poetry, art, music, thinking etc). It is here that we encounter Heidegger’s manifesto:  to “actively complete the transformation of the human being into the Da-sein that every instance of anxiety occasions in us, in order to get a grip on the nothing announced there as it makes itself known” (89); to give language to the presencing towards knowledge (“as it makes itself known”) of the nothing, attuned to the fact that “anxiety is no kind of grasping”.  To dwell, then, in the non-grasping of the nothing, that’s the only question.

It is this non-grasping of the nothing for thinking that keeps thinking open to the essence of the nothing:  nihilation (perhaps here, against Hegelian negativity, which is only every about grasping and instrumentalizing, Heidegger comes closer to the death drive), to the “unconcealed strangeness” of being-towards-death understood as the coming to presence of the uncanny, which “brings Da-sein for the first time before beings as such”.

It is here, in the nihiliation that anxiety is, that Heidegger utilizes the words “selfhood” (rather than subject) and “freedom” (rather than “emancipation”). It is also here that we can see the way his thinking would circumvent the philosophies of life (bios/zoe, the whole Italian tradition), turning toward an attunement to existence: “Must we not hover in this anxiety constantly in order to be able to exist at all”?

So what can be understood by “attunement”?  Heidegger notes that originary anxiety “only seldom springs, and we are snatched away and left hanging”. But neither is it exceptional. It is everywhere.  Attunement is the never-ending preparation for the snatching away (from logic, exactness, calculation, negativity); it is thinking dwelling in the hanging—the being held out in the nothing—that makes the human being a lieutenant of nothing” (dismantling, as such, of every humanism). Again, poetry would be the ground of concealed anxiety and the site of its unveiling simultaneity. Attunement would be the work of the work of art and of its thinking with a view to existence.

If the nothing is “the counterconcept to . . . God” then the nothing is not a mere secularization of God, but the destruction of God, and of the ontological difference itself; and the releasement into the nothing is a liberation from “those idols everyone has and to which they are wont to go cringing”. This is the turn toward the de-fetishization of, and the distance taken in thinking from, God, Christ, the common, Capitalism etc; in such a way as to be the lieutenant of the nothing, attuned to the nothing that compels (existence; being toward death, the experience of finitude etc). Heidegger says (without saying) that Nietzsche was spot on, but didn’t go far enough.

For all of the above “philosophy can never be measured by the standard of the idea of science”. And no university can control the savagery of attunement toward existence, toward the unconcealed strangeness of the nothing, though it can certainly silence it in the name of common sense, hegemony, exactness, calculation, means and ends etc.

Notas (de trabajo) a “¿Qué es metafísica?” (1929), de Martin Heidegger.

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Lo que sigue es documento de trabajo, no resultado de nada. En todo caso el ensayo que estas notas comentan contiene una reflexión esencial para la infrapolítica, que es la idea de que la infrapolítica–el lugar práctico que la infrapolítica mienta–abre la posibilidad de libertad.

Que el que pregunta metafísicamente esté incluido en la pregunta–esta es la innovación heideggeriana: se pregunta solo siempre “desde la situación esencial del Dasein que pregunta” (traducción de Helena Cortés y Arturo Leyte, 93), sea eso explícito o no. Si no lo es, el coste es la ceguera. Así Heidegger es fiel a su intuición de 1922 (en un texto sobre Aristóteles), “la filosofía es la explicitación de la facticidad.”

[la infrapolítica toma como punto de partida esa guía: el preguntar, el pensar, está siempre remitido a la propia facticidad y ocurre desde ella.]

El desvío a propósito de las ciencias y su “nada”–creo que su interés contemporáneo reside sobre todo en que Heidegger muestra que esa “nada” que “el método científico” deja fuera puede tener otro nombre: el ser. La “nada” de la ciencia ocupa el espacio del “ser” en el pensar heideggeriano. La forma en que esto puede formularse más ajustadamente será dada más tarde.

El problema: si pensar es pensar sobre algo, la nada no es algo. Así pensar la nada se convierte en un problema. El ser no es tampoco “algo,” porque el ser no es un ente. Ese problema es el problema constitutivo del pensamiento heideggeriano, y su contribución a la destrucción de la metafísica.   Si no puede pensarse el ser, porque no es algo, ¿cómo relacionarse con la diferencia “óntico-ontológica,” que es la diferencia entre algo y “nada”? Es aquí que salta el hegelianismo y que en Heidegger empieza a pensarse “otro comienzo.”

“la nada es más originaria que el no y la negación”–porque el no y la negación no plantean ese problema en el límite de lo pensable.

“Negación de la totalidad de lo ente”–la totalidad de lo ente, entendida como la suma exhaustiva de todo ente. Eso es lo negado por la nada como condición de su presentación misma.

¿Cómo accedemos a la totalidad de lo ente? No es una cuestión de imaginación. Accedemos a ello mediante estados de ánimo. Uno es el aburrimiento (el aburrimiento del domingo por la tarde, dice Heidegger en otro lugar: el aburrimiento terminal, ante la totalidad de la vida, en general, no por una cosa o por otra, no porque esperamos y el tren no llega y no porque no tenemos nada que decir ni que escuchar en la maldita reunión del departamento, etc.). También la alegría ante la presencia de alguien (cuya presencia produce alegría: un amigo, un amor): esa alegría ilumina la totalidad de nuestro mundo, o del mundo en general.

Intrigante que Heidegger pase a decir que el “desvelar” del estado de ánimo es “el acontecimiento fundamental de nuestro ser-aquí” [el estado de ánimo que es cabalmente aquello que la infrapolítica precisa para ser, o aquello que la infrapolítica interroga]. Pero esos estados de ánimo no revelan la “nada” sino que solo iluminan la totalidad de lo ente. ¿Qué estado de ánimo niega esa totalidad o más bien permite entender su incomparecencia, su retirada, su reserva?  La angustia. En su radical Unheimlichkeit, que es experiencia de retirada, de reserva, de in-determinación. Nos angustiamos por “nada.”

“La nada no atrae hacia sí, sino que por esencia rechaza. Pero este rechazo de sí es, en cuanto tal, una forma de remitir a lo ente que naufraga en su totalidad, permitíendole así que escape. Este remitir que rechaza fuera de sí y empuja hacia la totalidad y remite a eso ente que escapa en la totalidad (que es la forma bajo la cual la nada acosa al Dasein en la angustia) es la esencia de la nada: el desistimiento” (101).  Desistimiento es “Die Nichtung.” Desistir: “nichten.” Desistimiento–no algo que hace el Dasein, sino algo que hace “la nada.” En ello el Dasein recibe, en el modo de su retirada, lo ente como tal.

La articulación aquí es crucial: el Dasein está inmerso en la nada, aunque también esté olvidado de su inmersión en general y por la mayor parte. Pero esa inmersión “originaria,” immer schon, siempre de antemano–sin ella, dice Heidegger, no habría ni mismidad ni libertad.

Heidegger está a punto de establecer la vinculación entre ser y nada, está a punto de dar “la respuesta a la pregunta” que formuló al principio del texto. La respuesta es:

“La nada no es el concepto contrario a lo ente, sino que pertenece originariamente al propio ser. En el ser de lo ente acontece el desistir que es la nada” (102).

En el desistimiento del ser (que es la nada) o en el desistimiento de la nada (que es el ser) experimentamos conmoción, como la de la angustia, o también: una “actuación hostil” contra mí mismo, un “desprecio implacable,” “el dolor del fracaso,” la prohibición, el abandono, “la amargura de la privación y la renuncia.”

En todo ello entendemos el carácter de arrojado del Dasein, que debe soportar o padecer.  Ese carácter de arrojado atraviesa completamente al Dasein, que debe vivir por tanto siempre en cada caso en una “angustia originaria” más o menos “adormecida.”   Con ello el Dasein se define como “lugarteniente de la nada” (105). Siempre y en cada momento, excepto que “tan finitos somos que precisamente no somos capaces de trasladarnos originariamente delante de la nada mediante una decisión y voluntad propias” (105) y así en general nuestra finitud nos adormece. Pero ese estatus–lugartenientes de la nada (adormecida)–: trascendencia.

En la trascendencia entendemos cómo la nada pertenece al ser de lo ente, y no es su negación (como habría pensado la tradición metafísica.)

“Ser y nada se pertenecen mutuamente, pero no porque desde el punto de vista del concepto hegeliano del pensar coincidan los dos en su indeterminación e inmediatez, sino porque el propio ser es finito en su esencia y sólo se manifiesta en la trascendencia de ese Dasein que se mantiene fuera, que se arroja a la nada” (106).

Que la filosofía sea la explicitación de la facticidad, esto es, la explicitación del estado de arrojado–eso implica, dado lo anterio, que “la filosofía solo se pone en marcha por medio de un salto particular de la propia existencia dentro de las posibilidades fundamentales del Dasein en su totalidad.   Para dicho salto lo decisivo es, por un lado, darle espacio a lo ente en su totalidad y, después, abandonarse a la nada, es decir, librarse de los ídolos que todos tenemos y en los que solemos evadirnos” (108).

[Es aquí que entendemos que la filosofía es uno de los nombres de la infrapolítica, igual que la infrapolítica es uno de los nombres de la filosofía.]

 

 

 

 

Spain’s New Populist Left: An Impossible Hegemony.

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“The recent populist rise could perhaps be a desperate attempt to conceal, once again, or to turn one’s back on, the true depth of the conceptual abyss at the political level that accompanies the closure of metaphysics.  It may perhaps be suggested that the rise itself is the nihilist manifestation and actualization of will to power.  On the other hand deconstruction is not just conscious of such nihilism; it rather attempts to traverse it and to effectuate in the act of thinking a turn in a direction other than dominant nihilism”  (Gareth Williams, “¿Qué es el populismo?” 20).

Spain’s New Populist Left: An Impossible Hegemony.  Lecture at U of Michigan Center for European Studies, February 2018. (First Draft Version.) By Alberto Moreiras.

I am grateful to the Center for European Studies, my host, for this invitation.  Let me tell you briefly that, really, all I want to do here today is to gloss my epigraph, which comes from a recent yet unpublished text by Gareth Williams.  Let me read it to you.  But, in order to gloss it adequately, I will have to unpack it first or to show its context.   I am also anxious to tell you about a trend of thought I am only starting to explore, which is a sort of political Lacanianism of a non-Hegelian vein, Heideggerian is more like it, that is being articulated by Latin American scholars such as Jorge Alemán, Nora Merlin, Gibrán Larrauri, and others.  I think there is a lot of promise for political thought coming from that direction.

I will divide my remarks, which will be brief, into two parts.  The first part will focus on what I think are the main features of the present political situation in Spain and will suggest an analysis, almost a narratological analysis of possible open options for political development.  In Spain, that is.   But all through that first part I will keep a secret card hidden up my sleeve, which I will only play in the second part.  It is the card of what I have been calling posthegemony together with some of my friends, including Gareth Williams himself of course, and Sergio Villalobos, and a couple of other people in the audience, to rather little avail.

My posthegemony is the reason why I have subtitled this paper “An Impossible Hegemony.”   It is not that I do not believe in hegemony.  I think hegemony exists, I think societies are hegemonized by a dominant sector, I think some actors under some circumstances are able to challenge a given hegemonic situation and propose or even act upon hegemony from a counterhegemonic position that, in some cases, changes the coordinates of the situation.   I will not contest any of that.  What I would like to maintain, really (rats, I am already showing you my secret card), is that, if hegemony means domination through persuasion, if hegemony designates always and in every case a voluntary servitude towards the dominant, and if a hegemonic change signals a change of valence, from minus to plus, for non-hegemonic social groups, then hegemony is a rather banal political phenomenon that will solve nothing.  In other words, and insofar as politics has a particular dignity that should never be reduced to the servicing of the goods, to use the Lacanian expression, the real political problem starts after hegemony has been established, or even when it is still ambivalent, undecided, uncertain, in flux.  The political problem is always in every case a posthegemonic problem, since a change of hegemony by itself guarantees nothing: say, in the Spanish political situation today, blocked, paralyzed as it is, since the 2015 elections, an independentist hegemony in Catalonia would solve nothing in the same way a constitutionalist hegemony would solve nothing; a popular hegemony in Madrid would not by itself restitute equality against the casta hijackers or guarantee an effective redistribution of economic, social, and political resources.  In every case a lot more than the political implementation of hegemonic change through the application of a program is needed if the goal is to do something other than the servicing of the goods.

Hegemony is an inflated idea in its conventional use—yes, there is an unconventional use of it that I will comment on later—, and it is time to relegate it to its proper worth.  The left cannot afford to continue to think that taking power, that is, that constituting a hegemony led by it, leading hegemonic change, is all there is or should be to the political struggle.  Democracy is not best served by dreams of majority rule, which really is all the idea of hegemony, as traditionally understood, can offer.  To that extent, continuing with Jacques Lacan’s vocabulary, hegemony, as conventionally understood, is indistinguishable from capitalist discourse and its principle of general equivalence, which forecloses the subject’s enjoyment or throws it into a perverse enjoyment having to do with will-to-power and the technical accumulation of resources, or lack thereof.

Of course you may think that the proper end of politics has nothing to do with capitalist discourse or general equivalence; that those two concepts belong elsewhere, in philosophy perhaps, or in political psychoanalysis, but have nothing useful to contribute to everyday and even not so everyday political practice within liberal-democratic or parliamentarian systems.  We will see later that some economists think our major political problem today is social inequality, which can only be fixed with adequate redistribution, which is certainly a good form of servicing the goods.  But is that our major political problem, or is that problem only a symptom of a much vaster, deeper, certainly more hidden configuration of affairs, as Gareth Williams intimates?   I do not necessarily want to pontificate along those latter lines here, or to convince you of anything in particular.  My interest is much more modest.  I notice that the name of your series at the Center for European Studies is Conversation on Europe.  Perhaps my contribution could simply be to hint at the notion that a conversation on Europe today must transcend conventional political vocabulary and look for a discursive outside Europe seems to have lost (although some thinkers are trying to bring her, Europe, that is, back to her senses.)  Are European politics today totally caught up within capitalist discourse and the principle of general equivalence, to such an extent that even left populist options can do nothing but helplessly accommodate themselves to them, and repeat them?   This is the question for me: is contemporary populism yet another form of servicing the goods?  Is European populism, or Spain’s left populism, a new direction for politics or is it rather a terminal phenomenon testifying to political exhaustion at a civilizational level?  Can politics in fact survive, and challenge, capitalist discourse?  This seems to be the question Williams asks.

More on that later.  Let me now start with my Part One.

I.

Only last week the Center for Sociological Investigations, which is a semi-official organism in charge of running polls on political and social issues in Spain, published the results of the latest research on voting intentions.   As we are only concerned on this occasion with the populist left, I will spare you the general analysis and will only comment on the fact that Podemos, the left-populist party that broke into Spanish politics in January 2014, fell from second to fourth place, out of four places, within only one year, and in fact from first place to fourth place if we start the count from the Spring of 2104, when Podemos won the polls in the wake of enthusiastic expectation, until this winter of 2018.   Podemos seems to be registering a catastrophic loss of energy and popularity that has brought it from a genuine possibility of taking over the government of Spain and reaching the power of rule to what seems now to be stabilizing itself into a rather marginal political position, still very important for a national party, but a position that will doom it to be a perpetual sidekick, or a lonely and functional antagonist, since, at this point, nothing seems to indicate that any of the other three parties would want to seek a serious alliance with the Podemos leadership.

I am sure you have your own ideas, but for me this, even if predictable in hindsight, perhaps, is also very bad news.  And it is very bad news because we have a certain number of signs not just in Spain but in Europe in general, and also elsewhere, including the United States, although it all started in Latin America years ago, that the historical cycle of neoliberalism is probably coming to its demise and that a new politics for a new political and perhaps even economic epoch will have to be developed.   The harbinger of this situation beyond Latin America was of course the economic crisis of 2007 that hit Europe a little later, starting in 2008.  Ten years later the feeling of political exhaustion is still with us, or has increased.  And the traditional parties seem incapable of offering any kind of relief whatsoever, and certainly no democratic invention.  If populism does not offer it, then who will?   You may argue that populism has always been around, it is nothing new, and you would be right; but there is also a case to be made that this new populism, post-2008 and, in Spain, post-15M 2011, that is, a populism that rose in the wake of a substantive popular revolt that took the major squares of Spanish cities in 2011 by storm and terrified the political class, there is also a case to be made that this populism was the condition of possibility for a new democratic invention, that is, for a reinvention of Spanish democracy, for a new democratic promise.

And yet, now, just a few years into it, such new populism may have ceased to offer it, by reverting to the same old tired leftist attitudes that have not produced much success over the last thirty or forty years in Europe, and, more importantly, perhaps have not deserved any success.   We have to abandon the annoying idea that leftism is still good as some kind of bastion of essences that looks back to the early 20th century for its inspiration.  That historical moment is dead and gone.  Some of us thought only a few years ago that something else was clearly developing for the future.  Were we wrong?  Spain is only, in this sense, a particular case.  The political question goes beyond Spain and affects or may affect the entire West.

The political question, it seems to me, has a lot to do with what an important Spanish economist, Antón Costas, has called the establishment of a “new social contract.”   This means the old social contract has broken down and is no longer effective.  Politics runs the risk of evolving into civil war, which, in the case of Spain, has emerged as a phantom possibility, clearly radically symptomatic, in Cataluña; I am not suggesting that there could be civil war in Spain—I am rather saying there is one already, a low intensity one, non-lethal yet, bloodless yet, which only emphasizes the radical urgency of a situation for which we need to find anticipatory solutions before it becomes all too seriously too late.   And yet, so that you see the depth of the problem, the self-identified populist party, Podemos, and its conjunctural ally in Catalonia, En Comú, only received votes for 8 deputies out of 135 in the Catalan Parliament in the December 2017 elections.  Eight deputies out of 135 for the party who claimed to have a radical solution to the Catalan situation—not a good result, not a hopeful result. (It could and probably should be claimed that the pro-independence coalitions and parties are radically populist options, but they have offered nothing so far in terms of new democratic invention and have instead played a radically old Machiavellian and illiberal politics for the last five years: they also promise a paradise provided they become free from Spanish interference, but who is to believe them who is not already deluded by their enmity towards Spain, which is the only ascertainable element in the game?  Catalan populism, as it has been orchestrated by the Catalan government with full use of governance resources over the last several decades, is also, one should be clear about this, a populism from above, a populism of the dominant, in Ernesto Laclau’s characterization, no matter the relative popular support it may also gather.)

So, a new social contract: on what should it be premised?   That same economist, Costas, has insisted quite effectively that the problem in Spain is equality, that is, inequality, and the solution is redistribution.  As I have suggested, I do not think inequality and redistribution mark the beginning and the end of the problem, but let us play with this idea for a few minutes.  The breach of the old social contract—in Spain, the social contract known as the Regime of 1978, in reference to the constituent process that took place after Franco’s death; the idea being that the Regime of 1978 reached its exhaustion with the economic crisis of 2008 and is surviving on toxic fumes only—is a breach because it has elevated to an intolerable height the levels of economic inequality among Spanish citizens, it has created unemployment and poverty for many, precariousness for many more, and insecurity for yet many others even if the 15% richer has continued to flourish to unprecedented levels of wealth; it has devastated an entire generation and it has endangered, structurally endangered, the remnants of the social democratic welfare state the Regime of 78 attempted to put in place by reducing expectations that social security can be maintained at adequate levels in retirement pensions, unemployment subsidies, education financing, medical coverage.  A new social contract is needed, with or without a constituent process, but redistribution must be promised and implemented.   For Costas there is no doubt this must happen, so the question for him remains: who will do it, and how?   Let me suggest that Costas’ proposals are a minimal condition of political reconstitution: they are economic measures that must be decided and politically implemented, but they attempt no particular change at what we could call the ideological level of the social.   We could call Costas’s proposals something like a zero-degree structural adjustment, the creation of a new social contract based on redistribution: a technical measure or set of measures for which political energy and indeed political power must be found.   I think to that extent we should all agree with him.  Costas is recommending the best possible servicing of the goods—not that he is not worried about something more than redistribution.  The fear and insecurity, the anxiety he attributes to a population radically uncertain about their future prospects for life, given the ongoing thorough technification of the economy, is for him one of the most egregious issues—trans-class, also—in the current climate.

Costas identifies what he calls “the four types of social contract” that are currently competing, not just in Spain, rather in the entire West, so definitely also in Spain.  He says they are “the cosmopolitan [social contract], the right-populist, the left-populist, and the Europeanist liberal-social-democratic” (Final del desconcierto 33).   The “cosmopolitan” social contract is the neoliberal one, which for Costas is still contending, not yet completely out of steam, indeed apparently triumphant or still in power in many places.  It calls for, as you know, unrestricted globalization; an uneven European integration; free market; low taxes; no redistribution; and a reduction of state intervention (Costas, Final del desconcierto 314-15).   And yet this is the model that catastrophically collapsed in 2007 and brought on the largest financial and economic crisis to the West since 1929.  The solution to the problems created by the cosmopolitan social contract is not going to be found in more cosmopolitanism, it must rather be found somewhere else, it seems.

The Trump presidency in the United States incorporates features of this neoliberal social contract, but also features of right-populism, which would include antiglobalization and nationalism, identity politics, an illiberal democratic structure willing to sacrifice minority rights and willing to undo the separation of powers, and political authoritarianism, among other perhaps less defining features (Costas, Final del desconcierto 315).

Both of the previous models would have little interest in redistribution—they are models based on so-called trickle-down assumptions.  Against trickle-down, that is, in favor of redistribution, we have what Costas rather awkwardly calls “liberal social democracy,” characterized by a compensated globalization, a balanced European integration, a belief in free enterprise and the self-regulating virtues of the market and of economic competition; a personalized, that is, not based on identity-defined social groupings welfare state; and the development of the state in the direction of higher institutional density in order to secure the parameters for a stronger economic redistribution (Costas, Final del desconcierto 315-16).   But also against trickle-down we have the last of the social contract figures, namely, the left-populist one, which consists partially of not so attractive positions in the face of them, such as antiglobalization, a definite reluctance to trust the market, entrepreneurial competition, or private enterprise, interventionism at every level of the economy, high taxes and high public expenditure, even authoritarianism at all levels and a low institutional density, but all of this is to be radically compensated by a strong commitment to equality and a universal welfare state (Costas, Final del desconcierto 315).

The question, again, is: what social contract would you aim for, or how would you propose to get there?  Is it not the case that the liberal social-democratic social contract has had its chance already, in fact an extraordinary chance over the last three quarters of a century?  Can we trust a model that ran out of steam and yielded its terrain to neoliberalism and so-called cosmopolitan globalization?  Are there genuine second chances in history or in life?  Would we not be better off rejecting all failed historical solutions, including by the way the communist one that called for a total or quasi-total socialization of the means of production?  But, if so, then left-populism seems to be, perhaps not the final candidate, but at least the way to go, that is, the way to start going, let us start there, at least that way we can move on towards something new, a new invention, new developments, in the wake of social mobilization and democratic energy, that we could later correct if proven inadequate.  Let us move toward a new social contract for social and political redistribution, since only social and political redistribution will generate economic redistribution.  And let us do it through supporting, indeed, through constituting a left-populist option for power in Spain.  And that was the idea for Podemos and its supporters, starting in January 2014, when the party was first convoked.

We have been talking about four models, and I confess that my intention was to guide you towards the understanding that only the left-populist one should be left standing as a possibility, that is, unless we want to hold on to the old, to the pre-crisis situation, and go into a mood of political salvaging rather than one of democratic invention.  Or perhaps I am being too cruel to so-called liberal social democracy; the problem is, it is the old PSOE that would be in charge of implementing the liberal social-democratic new social contract, if they can find the newness of it; or perhaps it would be given to or gained by another new party, Ciudadanos, the winner–in the sense of the most voted party–in the December elections in Catalonia and the winner of all recent polls on voting intentions at a national level.  It is certainly not a solution that should be discarded, although my impression is that, as a solution, it is hardly seen even by the very people on whose shoulders the implementation would rest: the PSOE seems quite out of anything but their old routines, and Ciudadanos has only proposed vague liberal social-democratic enticements of too smooth and imprecise a kind.  The truth is, disappointing as the trip may have been, it has proved quite difficult to sustain political fascination for anything but Podemos over the last four years of Spanish political life.  I do not quite see how that could change.

Let us admit, then, that we are caught, in terms of producing a new social contract capable of a redistribution (economic, social, political) that would restitute equality, at least a measure of equality, between the left-populist and the liberal social-democratic option, persuaded by neither, skeptical about both, but at the same time certain that the solution, if there is to be one, will come from no other quarter.  So now I would like to propose that there are three main narratives that deal with precisely that situation of doubt and anxiety: we cannot trust them, and yet we must.  Not good.  Three narratives, that is, unless you would prefer to add to them and propose a serious denarrativization in the wake of the Catalan situation: it is possible that the Catalan separatists, together with whatever errors their antagonists may commit, may cause, in a not too far-off eventuality, the destruction of the Spanish state, which will certainly put an end both to the three narratives and even to the idea of a new social contract, as there will be other urgencies.   Although, to tell you the truth, there is another possible denarrativization from the left, which would be a fifth option: we could assume, we could think, we could advance the thought that the three narratives I am about to describe in a summary form are self-cancelling and will never result in a leftist exit to the situation at hand, will not result in the production of any new social contract whatsoever.   This is not a narrative, but what remains as default, in the absence of any narrative: the situation will stagnate into a political stasis, in the wake of the Catalan conflict and its promise of long duration; the Popular Party will keep its relative simple majority and will continue to govern Spain as they do; that is, Spain or whatever may be left of it for the foreseeable future.   This is a rather desperate option, as far as political life goes, that can only base its projections on an exit from politics altogether.   And yet . . . Is an exit from capitalist discourse not necessarily an exit from politics, or at least from epochal politics?

But let us not overrun ourselves.  Let us hold off on denarrativizations.  We still have those three positive narratives.  They are variations of the same function.  For the first one, we would have gone from the exhaustion of the old, Regime of 78 social contract to a populist eruption that is now in reflux and will continue to evolve and adjust until it finds its truth in a federal republicanism.   This is a narrative that calls for more institutionalization, for more democratic procedure, for an adequate redress to whatever excesses the populist mobilization may have promoted.  It hails and welcomes the populist rise but only in order to hope for its end, but from the inside, as it were.  In other words, it wants to break through to a non-populist formula from an initially populist configuration of the social.   There is an important segment in Podemos that seems to think this way.[i]

For the second one, we would have gone from the relative exhaustion of the political field given a structural economic crisis that had a powerful but not terminal impact to the hijacking of the popular field by a sort of Leninist populism that has now vanished to the fringes of political life, hence producing in its very wake the chance for a restitution of the social contract as a variation of the liberal social democracy that was the basis of the Regime of 78.  This narrative considers the negative impact of populism—the fear it has caused—as in fact salutary, and tends to think that the best populism is a past or dead populism, provided it has in fact taken place even if only phantasmatically.  It has cleared the air and created a new playing field.  This could in fact be, or would be, the general position of the Ciudadanos political party, but it is in no way limited to them only.   Segments of the PSOE are also invested in it, but again: not them only.

And the third narrative says that we have indeed moved from the collapse of neoliberal democracy to a populism that has not yet found its maturity but will—the solution will not come from a riptide of populism that clears the flotsam and the jetsam, as in the second narrative, and it will not be a growing out of it into popular democracy as federal republicanism, as in the first option; rather it can only be more populism, a new and better chain of equivalences that will hegemonically control the social towards the production not of a new social contract but rather of a permanent mobilization that will offer, for the first time since the early days of the Spanish Civil War, but now in conditions of peace, the return of popular democracy so long lost in Spain.

The first and the third of these narratives come from the Podemos ranks—certainly not from the same people in Podemos, rather from different factions within it.   The second comes from sectors of the older left, of the older social democracy, from people like Antón Costas himself, and from a large part of the intelligentsia and the Spanish establishment.   Which are certainly not grounds to dismiss it.   In any case, which narrative do you prefer?  Which narrative do you think adjusts better to the historical real and is less driven by ideology?  I think these questions are the questions that we should discuss, as they are the essential questions in today’s situation, certainly for Spain.  But this brings me to the second part of what I wanted to share with you today, and to invite you to discuss with me.  Bear with me for a few more minutes, I promise I won´t be long.

 

But I suspect that, in spite of what I already said at the beginning of my talk, and whatever you think of the three narratives, whether you favor more institutionalization or more mobilization and direct democracy linked to a passionate attachment to the leader, whether you favor the ongoing rule of populism or its role as a vanishing mediator for a better dispensation of the political, I suspect you are pretty much still stuck in hegemony discourse, whether you know it or not, and are still of the opinion that, hey, whatever your ideology is, at the end of the day political rule has to do with being on the side of hegemony, holding hegemonic power, that is, in every case, being on the side of the dominant, even if you have had to change the dominant and you are now occupying a position that never belonged to you until you managed to access it—through some successful counterhegemonic maneuvers of course.  Hegemony means power and power means hegemony, and no amount of theorization will change that fact, because a fact is a fact.  Right?   But what if we were to say that there may already be a problem at the core of that conventional understanding that could be expressed with the notion that either you go for hegemony or you go for power, but you cannot do both.  Yes, either hegemony or power, they are two different things.  Power is on the side of the social mass, on the side of the majority, on the side of capitalist discourse and its potent apparatus of control.  Hegemony, however, provided we change its conventional understanding, is in every case a leftist procedure for political invention, and a radical one at that.  Does that make sense?

As I said earlier,  my name for it is not hegemony, conventional or unconventional, but posthegemony.  Let me proceed with some care to make sure I do not lose you, which would be my fault.  I think it is a simple idea, but it is a bit counterintuitive.  Posthegemony is the supposition that, at the political level, the real problem starts once a given hegemony is constituted as power, once hegemony has abandoned its constituent force and has moved on to constitute a given configuration of rule, which happens in every case, which is unavoidable except when there is nothing but failure.  I could put it this way: posthegemony loves hegemonic failure, the failure of hegemony; posthegemony thrives through hegemonic practices insofar as they give rise to failure, but not insofar as they give rise to constituted power.   Put that way, it may already be clear to you that posthegemony would be a fairly happy party, under some conditions, to any of the three narratives proposed above.  Posthegemony cannot love populist hegemonic success, but it would be comfortable with hegemony’s failure as registered in options one and two, both of them understood as responses to failure, and it would be equally comfortable with an ongoing mobilization organized precisely through an impossibility of arrest, that is, through the very failure of stasis.

I must now make a quick reference—obviously to be developed: I promise it will not be so quick in the longer version of this paper—to some Lacanian thinkers whose work I have recently started to become familiar with.  I am talking in particular about Jorge Alemán and Nora Merlin, both of them from Argentina.[ii]  Both of them were close friends of Ernesto Laclau’s, and both of them take off from his work but, as Jorge Alemán puts it somewhere, “using Laclau against Laclau.”  The contender is the notion of hegemony.  I will admit—they have almost fully persuaded me—that Laclau’s notion of hegemony accepts a reading that is thoroughly non-conventional, that is, a reading that puts hegemony against the leader, hence also against the mass, against power, hence against accumulation, against equivalences understood along the lines of a principle of total exchangeability, and against the people as the subject of history.  I am not sure how effectively Alemán and Merlin deploy that new, revisionist notion of hegemony against the conventional one, or how much they rely—illegitimately, in my view—on the non-ambivalent, older rhetorical effect of a signifier that they themselves have made ambivalent.   But the fact is, their theory of hegemony revolutionizes, in my opinion, any contemporary thinking of politics.  From their oppositions—let us say, the people against the mass, hegemony against power, subjective destitution against capitalist subjectivity, and, finally, the Lacanian saint against the psychotic master of total jouissance—one can formulate a correction to populism that will guarantee, if nothing else, the latter’s impossible self-justification in the name of the power of the leader and everything that entails.

Alemán, and Merlin, make of an “emancipation from capital” the banner of their political position, hence moving well away from politics as servicing of the goods.  In Alemán’s words:

The power of capital is not hegemonic.  I am conscious this paradoxical proposal departs from the classic theorization of hegemony.  But hegemony in its logical articulation requires in the first place, at its very point of departure, heterogeneity, difference, an always-already failed subject and an always-already failed representation.  Different from the ruling homogenization in the order of capital, the political articulation of hegemony can only be instituted from the irreducible difference between the demands that institutions cannot satisfy, where their heterogeneity becomes ineliminable.  Hence the fragility and unstability of the equivalences that in a contingent manner can come together in a collective will.  The equivalences between the different demands never turn the space of hegemony into homogeneity.  This is a key distinction. (“Capitalismo” 3)

And it is key for me too.  For Alemán “without a hegemonic operation there is no popular field and there is only ‘mass psychology,’ that is, the voluntary servitude of mass individualism in the technical epoch” (“Capitalismo” 4).   Except that I would call such “hegemonic operation” a posthegemonic operation, to dissolve the ambiguity.

Finally, all I want to propose is that, were we to take a posthegemonic position vis-á-vis the three narratives presented above—remember, the federal-republicanist, the liberal social-democratic, and the popular-populist—there might be a reason for hope: a reason not to want to move into the desperate denarrativization of politics that would also mark a possible exit from capitalist discourse, but not one of a collective nature.

Alberto Moreiras

Texas A&M University

 

Works Cited

Alemán, Jorge. “Capitalismo y hegemonía: una distinción clave.”  http://www.eldiario.es/zonacritica/Capitalismo-hegemonia-distincion-clave_6_385721477.html

—. En la frontera.  Sujeto y capitalismo.  Conversaciones con María Victoria Gimbel.  Barcelona: Gedisa, 2014.

—.  Para una izquierda lacaniana.  Intervenciones y textos.  Buenos Aires: Grama, 2009.

—. Soledad: Común.  Buenos Aires: Capital intelectual, 2012.

Costas, Antón. El final del desconcierto.  Un nuevo contrato social para que España funcione.  Barcelona: Península, 2017.

Merlin, Nora.  Colonización de la subjetividad.  Buenos Aires: Letra viva, 2014.

—.  Populismo y psicoanálisis.  Barcelona: Letra viva, 2015.

Moreiras, Alberto.  https://infrapolitica.wordpress.com/2018/02/03/el-pensamiento-de-jorge-aleman/

Villacañas, José Luis.  El lento aprendizaje de Podemos.  Historia del presente.  Madrid: Catarata, 2017.

Williams, Gareth.  “¿Qué es el populismo?  Nosotros, ¿verdad?.”  Unpublished Typescript.

 

 

 

[i]   For what will probably become the classic formulation of this position see José Luis Villacañas, El lento aprendizaje.

 

[ii]   See https://infrapolitica.wordpress.com/2018/02/03/el-pensamiento-de-jorge-aleman/.  For Alemán, see Común, En la frontera, and Para una izquierda lacaniana among other books where he presents his radical version of Lacanian politics, from which we have a lot to learn.  For Merlin, see her two essential books, Populismo and Colonización.  I am aware of the summary treatment given to these two authors, and promise a more extensive one for the full version of this essay.

El pensamiento de Jorge Alemán.

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Es siempre una alegría encontrarse, leyendo, con el trabajo de alguien–cosa que no siempre pasa por mucho que uno lea.   El desencuentro es más normal.  Hacia el final de su libro de conversaciones con María Victoria Gimbel, En la frontera: Sujeto y capitalismo (2014), Jorge Alemán ofrece una descripción abreviada de su proyecto intelectual y vital: “el discurso analítico puede contribuir destacando qué aspectos estructurales en la constitución de la existencia hablante, sexuada y mortal no son susceptibles, por razones ontológicas, de ser absorbidos por el movimiento circular e ilimitado del Capital” (124-25).  Su apuesta–es una apuesta, entendida como apuesta, en la frontera del delirio; ante el dictum lacaniano de que hay que elegir entre la locura y la debilidad mental Alemán entiende que la opción está cantada de antemano–es proponer que el discurso analítico puede oponerse al discurso capitalista.  Y en el énfasis en el discurso analítico–que relee la plusvalía marxiana desde el plus-de-jouir lacaniano y el inconsciente freudiano desde la subversión del sujeto en Heidegger y Lacan–Alemán arriesga una apuesta política capaz de suspender el principio de equivalencia desde el que el capital produce subjetividad y así pre-decir una salida, que es tanto salida del capitalismo como salida de la metafísica; y así salida de tantas otras cosas que forman hoy subjetividad y no cesan de formarla.

Esa salida, dice Alemán, “sería otro nuevo discurso del amo” (121), donde el amo es el inconsciente o la filosofía, en su plena homologación.  Pero esto significa que la praxis política, al pre-decir o pre-figurar su salida del discurso capitalista,  puede abrir, improbablemente, la posibilidad de un registro de resolución de infelicidad–pero “el sujeto siempre es feliz,” dice Lacan; la infelicidad atraviesa al otro sujeto, al sujeto del inconsciente–en la creación de un nuevo lazo social que, por ser siempre en cada caso puntual y contingente, y nunca dado de antemano y nunca perdurante en lo eterno, solo puede ser “hegemónico,” que aquí significa: radicalmente abierto en su contingencia coyuntural, sostenido y sostenible solo en su catexis de fuerza, y por lo tanto siempre precario y siempre parcial.

Lo hegemónico es así entendido como la configuración aporética o imposible de una soledad y de un común que, al darse, subvierte al sujeto de la voluntad de poder, al sujeto de la técnica (el discurso capitalista es el discurso de la técnica).  Dice Alemán: “el discurso del amo puede ser interpretado como el concepto de hegemonía de Laclau.  Y ello porque si . . . no existe una voluntad colectiva a priori, ni un pueblo que ya esté constituido en su campo y en su ser, solamente la hegemonía, cuando aparece, permite la traducción, retroactivamente, a una voluntad colectiva” (En la frontera 121).

Alemán habla de política y de hegemonía–pero lo hace con una voluntad desfamiliarizadora radical.   Y es en esa desfamiliarización donde yo veo un encuentro más que posible entre el trabajo de Alemán y sus propuestas y el trabajo del proyecto de infrapolítica y posthegemonía que alimenta este blog.

Por decirlo más claramente: cuando Alemán dice que su intención es destacar “qué aspectos estructurales en la constitución de la existencia hablante, sexuada y mortal no son susceptibles, por razones ontológicas, de ser absorbidos” por el discurso capitalista, ese es un programa infrapolítico, en cuanto tal previo a cualquier configuración razonablemente reconocible como política por la mayoría del campo intelectual contemporáneo.

Y cuando dice que la hegemonía es todo lo contrario de la dominación, más bien la sustracción a ella, y que en cuanto tal configura un procedimiento político que solo compete a la izquierda, entendida como la búsqueda material de una posible salida de la metafísica contra todo “sueño conservador y nostálgico de un retorno al Padre simbólico” (En la frontera 107), esa es ya una práctica posthegemónica (sí, la hegemonía puede ser una torsión interna a la posthegemonía, de la misma forma que la posthegemonía es torsión interna dentro de toda hegemonía.)

Habrá en las próximas semanas o meses mayor encuentro, más detallado, tendrá que haberlo, con el pensamiento de Jorge Alemán, crucial para el proyecto que aquí se ventila.

 

Old Schemes, Old Pieties.

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It is clear for anyone who follows the social networks even only to a certain limited extent that, in the case of Spain, there is a huge half-disavowed half-acknowledged dispute in place as to whether Podemos has already exhausted its real potentiality, which, we should not forget, was not that of providing a safe political refuge for 16 to 18% of the electorate with a focus on the precariat–it was rather to take over the government of Spain.  The extremely poor results in the latest Catalan elections of the left in general (Podemos was one of three contenders for that position, since ERC was really only focused on its nationalist idea and nothing else was at play for them) seem to point in the direction of, that is, to confirm, the catastrophic collapse of such pretensions, and probably deservedly so, given the great errors made by the party leadership over the last year and a half.   Given that situation, one wonders whether it is wise for that very left to persist in the same theoretical schemes and old pieties, both rhetorical and practical–which is pretty much all one sees anyway.  Sorry, but I do not think so.   I think even less of the position of those who think that, in bad times, the only important thing is to maintain unity, which primarily means that the dissenters should just shut up.   I happen to think Podemos started off with poor theoretical presuppositions that have taken, only three years later, a huge toll, as it was bound to happen.  Of course I have no illusions as to the extent or impact of the discussion I want to propose, which will probably continue to be limited to my few friends and colleagues in the United States and half a dozen or so people from other countries.  Still one has to say what one has to say.

Some time ago, in October 2016, I posted a blog entry which was a sort of review of a little book by Alain Badiou, True Life. The book was only available in French then, but now it is available in English. So I post the comment again to see whether there is any discussion (some customers here may have read it already!). Essentially, what I was proposing was that Badiou’s notion of the “central conflict today,” the conflict between general equivalence and a new equalitarian symbolization, is also what infrapolitics sees as the central conflict in political terms–that is, infrapolitics presupposes a posthegemonic democracy understood as a communist democracy of equality. It is an equality not subsumable under the principle of equivalence. This means, this infrapolitical communism goes through a destruction of actually-existing communism and actually-existing communist or so-called communist politics. So, to be provocative, infrapolitical communism against hegemonic communism (whatever the latter means, but those who continue to claim themselves at the specifically political level Gramscians and Laclauians must know)–and this is what some of us would like to propose.  As a way of expanding the theoretical commitments and presuppositions of the Spanish left, if nothing else.  

Here is the old post:

https://infrapolitica.wordpress.com/2016/10/14/comunismo-o-infrapolitica-comentario-a-la-vraie-vie-de-alain-badiou-paris-fayard-2016-por-alberto-moreiras/

 

One Definition of Infrapolitics.

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Cf. the Lacanian thought that every private grammar is a “fundamental fantasy,” hence it refers to no substantive “truth,” only to a kind of working, to a structuration. And that the same is the case for collective grammars that regulate our ideas of any community, from the elementary school soccer team all the way to the nation or indeed to humanity as a whole. The fact is, no collective grammar could function without support in a private grammar (the organizer, for every one of us, of the cogito as “true fiction”), and no private grammar could function without support in a common language. And yet, the gap between private and collective grammar is irreducible. When it is filled up, it gives rise to kinds of fascism in every case. To the extent that politics thinks of itself as the attempt to respect the impossibility of filling the gap between the private and the public, politics is democratic. To the extent that politics thinks of itself as the attempt to bypass the impossibility of filling the gap between the private and the public, politics is fascistic, or at the very least falsely democratic.   All of this is the foundation of Davide Tarizzo’s forthcoming book Political Grammars: The Unconscious Foundations of Modern Democracy.

I would then add that infrapolitics is the name for the space of the gap between private grammar and collective grammar; it is a khora. It sets itself up between fundamental fantasies, it is the space between fundamental fantasies, itself not a fundamental fantasy. Affirmative infrapolitics refers to a strong or militant position on the impossibility of the closing of the gap.   In that sense, critics are right–infrapolitics refers to a nothing, hence to nothing.   It is the nothing of politics, upon which politics consummates its own permanent catastrophe.

This definition is not a new one–it is consistent with the rest of them.   But I think it has the advantage of clearly delinking from Cacciari and Esposito’s “impolitical,” from Dubreuil’s “refusal of politics,” from Viriasova’s “unpolitical,” even from Bennington’s “politics of politics.”

A Note on Posthegemony.

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Not to belabor the point, but, in spite of received criticisms, it seems to me posthegemony has not been dealt with, it has only been swept under the carpet, quite conveniently.   This is a bit frustrating.  It is not that many ignore the term that bothers me–what bothers me is, rather, that many who know the term choose to ignore it when they write about issues and contexts that call for the deployment of the thought posthegemony was meant to elicit.   It is more like censorship, really.

The way the term developed, in the context of discussions in the late 1990’s on subalternity, it meant to say (this covers, I think, all versions of it, including the most famous one by Beasley-Murray; but posthegemony is quite differentiated internally, so critiquing one or the other version of it is not the same as critiquing the whole thing) that hegemony does not and cannot exhaust the political field; that hegemony cannot and should not become the central focus of a (total) theory of the political (although of course there can be a theory of hegemony); that hegemony is not a necessary condition of politics; and, certainly, that hegemony is not a sufficient condition of politics.

More proximally, posthegemony came up as a term for what we thought was a necessary critique of Gramscianism (in the 1990s: the necessity of it has only increased exponentially); for a radical critique of “actually-existing” communist politics, even if by “actually existing” we refer for the most part, nowadays, to the politics of those who declare themselves communist in academic discussions; and for what we thought was a necessary critique of post-Marxism as it came to us from Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe and others.

The silencing is so loud that, naturally enough, those who would otherwise be inclined to get into discussions about it decide in advance it is too damned dangerous to use it.  This is, ironically, what hegemony does to thought.

 

Denarrativization.

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Denarrativization: A Return.  (Draft Paper for Rethinking Form in Latin American Literature and Visual Art Workshop, University of Texas-Dallas, January 19, 2018.

Many years ago, in a book called The Exhaustion of Difference, I associated the notion of “denarrativization” to a historical break, or to the tendency towards a historical break, with what I was then calling, following Louis Althusser, “melodramatic consciousness” (see Exhaustion 51, 56, passim).   I am not sure I would use the notion of “historical break” so resolutely nowadays, or I am sure I would not.  Those were the days of subalternism for me, and I was following the thought that subalternity can rely on no narrative, subalternity is the very explosion or termination of narrative safeties, of narrative homes, of narrative harbors.  So the idea was that there could be or there was a more or less phantasmatic “historical break” in our times, the times of interregnum, between hegemonic and subaltern spaces, organized around the notion of narrative, or what this conference might want to call the notion of “narrative form.”

I offered a couple of possibly inadequate examples of denarrativizing moments in the Latin American postcolonial literary tradition—the suicide of José María Arguedas, which was for me an organic part of the writing of El zorro de arriba y el zorro de abajo, being one of them (Exhaustion 206); the other was the total randomization of life in Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Lottery in Babylon” (181).  But the general theoretical point I was trying to make was possibly not clearly made until the very end of the book.  Please forgive my self-quotation, only justified because I will use it to say as a point of departure to say quite something else, all these many years later.

The subalternist position undoes hybridity thinking, that is, the hegemonic thinking of the passage to empire, by sharing in a savage hybridity with is, in Spivak’s words, “the absolute limit of the place where history is narrativized into logic” (“Subaltern Studies” 16)—and therefore also an absolute refusal to narrativization itself.  But from this refusal, from the nakedness that results, something like a force able to confront “the central axis of conflict” begins to emerge.  I think Latin American cultural studies is in at least as good a position as any other discursive field to open itself to it—provided that we do not tell ourselves stories. (299)

Of course there are several things wrong with that paragraph. Let me quickly mention three, starting with the least controversial:  Latin American cultural studies, as it turned out, was not the place to rehearse any kind of historical break with melodramatic consciousness, since Latin American cultural studies soon revealed itself, terminally I should say, as melodramatic consciousness itself.   In other words, Latin American cultural studies was no site for denarrativization; it was rather the last and rather fallen bastion of mythmaking in the melodramatic vein.  Big mistake.  The second big mistake was to invoke the notion of an “absolute refusal” of narrativization.  That is not subtle enough: there is no “absolute” refusal of narrativization for the very good reason that an absolute refusal of narrativization can only be expressed in narrative form, even if it is the minimal narrative of negation (negation always implies a negated instance, and the relationship of negation to the negated constitutes a minimal narrative without which it could not produce itself.)   And the third mistake I want to underline was of course the notion that subaltern denarrativization could generate the conditions for a grand politics able to engage and perhaps even to overturn “the central axis of conflict,” whatever that was (I no longer remember).   I am not sure there is a “central axis of conflict” in our world precisely to the extent I increasingly see conflict, in myriad forms, everywhere—I must confess the old counterposition hegemony-subalternity is not very persuasive to me any more as a platform for thinking (there is of course an antagonism there, but it does not explain our world, and it is probably not a particularly useful door towards improving it. To that extent I am no longer a subalternist, needless to say.)

So what I want to do today, necessarily very briefly, is to rethink the notion of denarrativization, in the context of the conference question about “form,” and away from any recovery of the notion of culture and from any recovery of the notion of a contestatory or overturning grand revolutionary politics of subalternity.   Instead, I will invoke the more modest notion of infrapolitical investment.   I will move rather telegraphically in reference to four texts that I have recently read or reread more or less randomly: Jacques Derrida’s 1964-65 seminar entitled Heidegger: The Question of Being & History (2013) and Derrida’s 1974-75 Théorie et pratique seminar (2017); Isak Dinesen’s Last Tales (1955), or rather two stories from the first division of Dinesen’s Last Tales, which have given me the basic intuition of what I want to offer (or of what I will eventually want to offer, since time is very short now).  And Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost (2000), a novel on the Sri Lanka turmoil of the 1990’s.  My apologies if not everything becomes too clear in the few minutes I have.   The comments on Derrida are to be taken as an enframing and introduction to what Dinesen says.  Ondaatje’s novel is one signal example, I think, of what I mean, although showing that would take more time than the time I have.

In the first sessions of the 1964-65 seminar on Heidegger Derrida discusses proximity and distance in a rather provoking way.  He reaches no conclusions, just elaborates on the theme, which is of course related to the Nietzschean theme of the narrowest abyss (the harder to cross), and to the proverbial notion that what is closest is sometimes very far off.  But it also points to the ontico-ontological difference and our difficult relationship with it.  In the 1975-76 seminar on theory and practice (really on Althusser and Heidegger), in the final sessions, Derrida brings up the French word “incontournable,” unavoidable, and claims that Heidegger says or intimates that thinking is the ceaseless attempt to access what is barred to access and is however at the same time unavoidable.  Thinking would be to seek access to a symbolically forbidden inevitability (as the real).  Such would be the tense structuration of thought–always looking for the inaccessible inevitable, which calls or beckons as such.

And then Derrida, in full reference to Heidegger, provides some examples that may be polemical:  science seeks access to physis, but science will never reach physis; Historie seeks to enter Geschichte, but Historie can never enter Geschichte; grammar wants to capture language, but grammar is incapable of capturing language; the human wants to become Dasein, but Dasein is not reachable through will.  The labor of thought is the engagement with that great difficulty.  It is carried out through metaphorization.  The tense structuration of thought is itself the purveyor of metaphor.  Metaphor is in every case a response–a compensation as well–to the impossibility of reaching the “incontournable.”  So metaphor is in every case a pharmakon, a medicine that is also a poison.  Take “house,” for instance.  We could claim that the relationship between house and Being is of the same order as that obtaining between science and physis, human and Dasein, Historie and Geschichte, etc.

But, and here is the crux, does that not enable us to invert the terms and say, for instance, that not only is “house” a metaphor for being, but “being” is also a metaphor for “house”?  In other words, given a general field of metaphor as the compensation of thought, the remedy of thought, then the ontico-ontological difference could also be understood, and related to, as a necessary field of demetaphorization.  The practice of thought would be the tracing itself, in every case, and according to whatever metaphorical chain, of the difference between being and thinking.   For me, that is, very precisely, infrapolitical practice as existential, that is, always embodied, always situated, practice of thought.

The 1964-65 seminar incorporates specific comments on “not telling ourselves stories,” which is a Heideggerian phrase in Being and Time.  You must take my word for it that for both Heidegger and Derrida the refusal of what I will call diegesis is connected to the thoughts on metaphorization just summarized.   Diegesis, as, in fact, narrativization, is to be taken, in fact, as the first or original metaphor in every case, metaphor at zero degree, the “vehicle” for a transposition, for any transposition, into an order of sense.    This is of course a strong thesis, my apologies.  Diegesis is form, ultimately aesthetic form, which can in this sense be seen as the particular structuration of metaphor in any given object of human activity.  Form is, in every case, not in itself but as soon as it is apprehended, metaphor: form is always already understood on the way to sense (let us not forget that “metaphor” means “vehicle,” from the literal, if it is ever given, to the figural, supposing we are not always already there.)  This complex notion is, remarkably, precisely what is questioned in the passage to the ontico-ontological difference, which is also a passage towards the unavoidable, towards the inaccessible inevitable: the passage to infrapolitics.

But, in that very sense, narrativization, like metaphorization, can never be the object of an absolute refusal—there is only ever a punctual  refusal of narrative, there is only ever a specific refusal to “tell ourselves stories.”   Because every refusal of narrative is based upon an alternative narrative, and diegesis is irreducible.  Form is irreducible, and there is no non-form even in chaos, since there is a chaotic form.   The game, then, and this is the infrapolitical game, or the game of deconstruction, or the subalternist game against every production of melodramatic consciousness, call it what you will, is the existential exposure to what calls but does not present itself, the necessary but concealed (non)object of sense (perhaps some version of the Lacanian objet a).

The first seven tales in Dinesen’s Last Tales were meant for a novel, “Albondocani,” that was never completed.   At the end of the first one, “The Cardinal’s First Tale,” there is a conversation that sets up an enframing metanarrative for what follows.  In it the Cardinal says: “Within our whole universe the story only has authority to answer that cry of heart of its characters, that one cry of heart of each of them: ‘Who am I?’” (Last Tales 26).   The last story, “The Blank Page,” enables us to understand the relationship between the authority of the story and the position of the story-teller: “Where the story-teller is loyal, eternally and unswervingly loyal to the story, there, in the end, silence will speak.  Where the story has been betrayed, silence is but emptiness.  But we, the faithful, when we have spoken our last word, will hear the voice of silence” (100).   Dinesen is of course conveying the thought that the loyalty of the story-teller is his or her aesthetic prowess—the composition of form, without which the story is betrayed and silence is emptiness.  But I am more intrigued by the notion that, in a story that has been told with loyalty, it is silence that speaks: silence is therefore “the voice” that can respond to the cry of heart regarding the who question, which I think we should interpret not in an identitarian but rather in an existential sense.  How is one to understand this?

I think the answer—an analysis of “The Blank Page” would confirm it, but I have no time for it—is that every story, like every subjective position, is at the same time enabled and destroyed by its silence, which is at the same time constitutive and deconstituent.  An instance of denarrativization is inscribed at the heart of every narrative, without which the narrative could not be produced: inevitable and at the same time elusive, concealed, opaque.  It speaks from its very concealment, silence speaks from silence itself, but only when a particular stasis of form has been reached.  In every other case silence is mere emptiness.

Does this not mean loyal stories are the very opposite of melodramatic consciousness?  So many stories are little but the crust, the fixation, the frame for a disloyal word, for a lying word, for a treasonous word.  So many, for instance, of the stories told to us by Latin American cultural studies as academic discourse, or by Latin Americanism as such.  Let us prefer stories that denarrativize, that speak through their silence.  One of them—and Ondaatje says it could have been written about Guatemala; it could indeed have been written about the Mexico of narcotráfico—is Anil’s Ghost, probably one of the most signal achievements of contemporary postcolonial literature.   I want to finish this very short presentation in reference to it just to mark its powerful abandonment of the political as the final horizon of the word.  And to invite conversation.  Anil’s Ghost accomplishes what no Latin American novel except perhaps for Bolaño’s Los detectives salvajes has accomplished, but less explicitly: a politically sustainable abandonment of politics for infrapolitics as the register of form and thought.   For all the reasons given.  And this is yet another one not to let ourselves be confined, in our narrative practices, in our practices of denarrativization that are also our practices of thought, to the registers of an inadequate and necessarily failed Latin Americanism.

 

Alberto Moreiras

Texas A&M University

 

 

 

Works Cited

Derrida, Jacques.  Heidegger: The Question of Being & History.  Geoffrey Bennington

transl. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2016.

—.  Théorie et pratique.  Paris: Galilée, 2016.

Dinesen, Isak. Last Tales.  New York: Vintage, 1991.

Moreiras, Alberto.  The Exhaustion of Difference.  The Politics of Latin American

 Cultural Studies.  Durham: Duke UP, 2001.

Ondaatje, Michael.  Anil’s Ghost.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

 

 

 

 

Una invitación posible.

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Este otoño, por primera vez en treinta años, no uno sino tres estudiantes míos–dos peninsularistas, una latinoamericanista–en su último tramo de doctorado me hicieron saber que no tenían interés en postularse a puestos de trabajo en Estados Unidos, sino que preferían volver a sus respectivos países para vivir allí al albur de lo que saliera, sin perspectivas claras de ninguna clase.   Después de cinco años de trabajo y de preparación. Algo está fallando en algún sitio, y no me parece que sea necesariamente la “América de Trump,” entre otras cosas porque la crisis universitaria en humanidades es claramente adjudicable a los tiempos de la Administración Obama, que no hizo absolutamente nada por impedirla.   Aunque es posible que la “América de Trump” acentúe la sensación de anomia desorientada que hoy siente en el estómago un hispanista en ciernes expatriado de su país y en trance de decidir cómo orientar profesionalmente su querencia, y que no ayude un carajo.   Yo he firmado como director alrededor de cuarenta tesis de doctorado, y me alegra poder decir que, a estas alturas, todos mis estudiantes están haciendo una buena carrera, en algunos casos magnífica (y para mí “magnífica” no incluye ir a parar a universidades ricas, sabemos demasiado de tantos de esos departamentos, sino pensar y escribir adecuadamente, y poder vivir con decencia, sin lo cual todo es caca).   Pero por primera vez, y a pesar de todo, debo confrontar la realidad de que hay un campo profesional ahí afuera, el mío, que ya no resulta atractivo, y que lleva a gente a renunciar a él por temor a darse de narices con lo más irreparable: con el tedio y con la destrucción vital. ¿Qué está pasando?

Desde luego no tengo mayor interés en hablar aquí de causas sociológicas; no hay tiempo para ellas. Ni lo tienen (el tiempo) mis estudiantes ni lo tengo yo. Lo que ocurre, en última instancia, y si se me permite eludir las divagaciones y la paja, es que nuestro campo no ofrece ya, o no suficientemente, un estilo de existencia, no ofrece ya una imagen de vida. Esto es serio, porque sin una “estética de la existencia,” como la llamaba Foucault, que pueda sostener nuestra vida es difícil vivir satisfactoria o alegremente. A mí cuando era pequeño ser piloto de altura me parecía un oficio interesante y vistoso, y ahora ya creo que no hay en él más que la pesadez perpleja de Tom Hanks en la película de piratas somalíes.  Igual: cuando yo empecé mi carrera, ser hispanista in partibus infidelium, haberse sacudido el polvo infame de la universidad que quedaba atrás y entrar en una institución de prestigio, poder dedicar la vida entera a la producción de intelectualidad, ser un intelectual y no un experto, tener medios, poder pensar en libertad y no según los arcanos de las jerarquías anquilosadas de nuestra siempre frustrante licenciatura, no tener que obedecer, no tener que tener cuidado, no tener que doblar la espalda, no tener que vivir de becas del ministerio, poder leer y escribir sin medida y enseñar solo y todo lo que uno quería y no otra cosa–todo aquello era la promesa de una institución que, a pesar de los defectos que fueron haciéndose visibles en años posteriores, era inmediblemente mejor que la que dejábamos atrás, y de la que uno quería hacerse miembro con orgullo y placer. Y hoy ya no hay conciencia de eso, ya la cinta de medir no aprecia particular diferencia, ya todo tiene un rasero semejante, y ya ha dejado de merecer la pena. Sí, las bibliotecas siguen siendo mejores. Pero ya no basta. ¿No es así? ¿Por qué lo es?

Creo que el modelo que ofrecemos es un modelo caduco. Si en España interesara todavía “preservar”–es decir, seguir dándole vueltas–el archivo cultural hispano, es necesario entender que esa labor necesaria no convoca por doquier como podía convocar hace treinta o cincuenta años, cuando el interés, digamos, en Benavente o Juan Ramón o Baroja se entendía como interés nacional; si en México hay interés en dictaminar con precisión sobre la calidad respectiva de uno de los poetas o novelistas sobre otro, o sobre la relación entre revolución y literatura, o sobre los méritos de Reyes y Paz, hay que reconocer que esos asuntos no se ejecutan ya en olor de multitud académica y son más bien ocioso y voluntarioso asunto de muy pocos. Si los argentinistas quieren seguir haciéndonos creer que solo ellos entienden a Borges porque solo ellos tuvieron a Piglia, bien, que sigan radiando lo que les parezca que a nadie le va a importar gran cosa. Los problemas reales son otros, y el hispanismo, o el latinoamericanismo, o cualquiera de sus variantes regionales, no está capacitado ni siquiera para nombrarlos. En todo caso, podríamos dejar que las diversas universidades nacionales se sigan ocupando de esos inmortales asuntos, y reclamar en cambio que el hispanismo internacional tire por otros derroteros. ¿Para qué mudarse a California o a Illinois–o a Berlín–y seguir estudiando en Illinois o en California, en Berlín, lo que uno podía más disciplinada y provechosamente haber determinado en Sevilla o en Bogotá?

Yo pienso que el hispanismo internacional tiene hoy dos misiones concretas que son ya sus únicas misiones relevantes (podrá tener más, no quiero excluir nada ni a nadie, pero la relevancia de esas otras tiene que enfrentarse a limitaciones internas): por un lado, tiene que asumir la necesidad de elevar la capacidad conceptual de la lengua, y eso significa: innovar en el terreno del pensamiento. Esto no es fácil y no hay recetas que seguir que permitan garantizar el resultado. Solo puede prepararse un terreno, y esa es al fin y al cabo la misión universitaria por excelencia. Es claro que tal cosa no puede conseguirse desde el ghetto del español, pasando de García Lorca a Vallejo para tirar desde allí al neoindigenismo o a la teoría del duende, y no porque en cuanto poetas García Lorca o Vallejo no estén o puedan estar entre los más grandes. Pero su grandeza no puede determinarse en cualquier caso endogénicamente. La lectura tiene que hacerse salvaje y una necesidad comparativa tiene que abrirse también más allá de la literatura, hacia la filosofía, hacia la religión, hacia las ciencias sociales, hacia la historia y la antropología. Innovar en el terreno del pensamiento no es en absoluto prerrogativa de la filosofía. Por eso es tan corto de miras creer que la reflexión “teórica” es de alguna manera antiliteraria o está reñida con las prácticas culturales cotidianas.   Hay formas de pensamiento que la literatura y el arte conocen, pero que la crítica hispanista aún tiene que empezar a vislumbrar.

Y la otra misión relevante del hispanismo internacional es consolidar, ya no necesariamente desde la innovación, sino desde la técnica, una capacidad de interlocución histórica que no remita a la subordinación secular de lo hispano; tiene que consolidar interlocución en pie de igualdad con tradiciones culturales y discursivas en otras lenguas, y en todos los terrenos: periodístico y político, artístico y literario, científico y deportivo. El hispanismo internacional consolida la capacidad de la lengua para hablar con otras lenguas y en otras lenguas. Y esto implica también abrirnos a otra formación, a otra educación, a programas que ya no tengan como pieza de resistencia poder decir algo sobre este o aquel dramaturgo uruguayo o cantautora periférica; o sobre la decolonialidad o sobre el imperio; o sobre la política o el sexo. Aunque sea como especialistas o futuros especialistas.

Cuando consigamos un autoentendimiento distinto de la tarea del hispanista o del latinoamericanista no vernáculo, entonces quizá estemos en disposición de volver a invitar a la gente a venir a estudiar con nosotros y a usar la institución que este país puede querer seguir poniendo a disposición de extranjeros. No sabemos por cuánto tiempo.

Pensemos un momento: ¿qué espera de nosotros, por lo pronto, una estudiante del suroeste norteamericano, mexicana de segunda o tercera generación? ¿No espera la restitución genuina de una dignidad cultural basada en la relevancia directa de la lengua y de la historia?  Pero nuestros programas actuales no pueden dárselo.

A menos que ya sea eso lo que estemos haciendo, secreta pero lealmente. Y en ese caso quien quiera venir a trabajar aquí debe ya darse por invitado.