Recoloco aquí dos textos míos de otro blog en vista de que, gracias al texto inmediatamente anterior, de Sergio Villalobos-Ruminott, se abre la posibilidad de una discusión sustancial sobre estos temas.

Solo añadiría que ese segundo texto, en la medida en que sugiere que la anarquía pertenece al corazón de la democracia desde los mismos planteamientos de Derrida, aunque Derrida no dijera tal cosa explícitamente, que yo sepa, puede ahora, retrospectivamente, dedicarse a los que protestan contra el asesinato de George Floyd, y a la memoria misma de George Floyd. También ahí la persecución y la obsesión actuan en nombre de una democracia por venir.

Modo intelectual y “aprender a vivir.”

Anarquía y pasión absoluta. Diálogo con Gerardo Muñoz, “¿Democracia o anarquía?”

Notes for Gramsci Reading Group Discussion (first 100 pages in Antonio Gramsci’s Pre-Prison Writings.  [Cambridge UP, 1994]).

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(This is the first posting.  The idea is for some of us to read systematically the Gramscian oeuvre.  Those in the reading group who so desire will post 500-word comments, just notes for discussion, with an aim to accurate understanding, and there might be discussion follow-ups in this space, although we mean to have the primary discussions through Zoom every three weeks or so. We begin with the Pre-Prison Writings, which, we understand, do not necessarily represent the mature Gramsci in every respect.)   

The Hegelian ethical state, accomplished through the bourgeois revolution, is not enough.  We must move towards the construction of an organic state, which only the Party, as the shadow government of the proletariat, can prepare.   It is a matter of culture over economics:  culture enables the proletariat to know itself, that is, to accomplish self-consciousness through the “disciplining of one’s inner self,” through the “mastery of one’s own personality,” through the “attainment of higher awareness” that will lead to understanding the place of the proletariat as universal class in history.  That will naturally determine “our function, rights and duties” (9-10).

History is therefore “the supreme reason” (13).  And history teaches us that the unleashing of productive forces, a “greater productive efficiency” that will eliminate all the “artificial factors that limit productivity” (15), will bring about communism.  It is therefore a matter of “exploiting capital more profitably and using it more effectively” (16).  Yes, towards equality and solidarity, love and compassion (90).  This is the truth of history, and “to tell the truth, to reach the truth together is a revolutionary, communist act” (99).  This will be “the final act, the final event, which subsumes them all, with no trace of privilege and exploitation remaining” (48).

Thinking is being, and being is history.  There is an “identification of philosophy with history” (50).  This is why Marxism is “the advent of intelligence into human history” (56), which is equal to “identifying [historical] necessity with [man’s] own ends” (56).  This is the task of the Party.  “Voluntarism” is the task of the Party, and it is “about the class becoming distinct and individuated, with a political life independent, disciplined, without deviations or hesitations” (57).  Until it can, not conquer the State, but “replace it” (62).

The Party is all, but it is only the vanguard of the all.  “Most people do not exist outside some organization, whether it calls itself the Church or the Party, and morality does not exist without some specific, spontaneous organ within which it is realized.  The bourgeoisie is a moment of chaos not simply where production is concerned, but where the spirit is concerned” (72).

When Gramsci discusses the Italian liberal Constitution existing in 1919 he notes that Italians have been living under a state of exception for several years.  The exception reveals the rule, he says, and the rule is the rule of domination by bourgeois interests as expressed by liberalism.  The situation post-state of exception, in the wake of the Russian Revolution, might enable the unleashing of true history.  “The proletariat is born out of a protest on the part of the historical process against anything which attempts to bog down or to strait-jacket the dynamism of social development” (88-89).

The Party will lead, by submitting to history and its unleashing, the people in order to create, through “ceaseless work of propaganda and persuasion,” an “all-encompassing and highly organized system” (99).  Freedom is party discipline (26).

Con pies de paloma y corazón de serpiente: Tercer espacio: Literatura y duelo en América Latina. Por Gareth Williams.

(A petición del distinguido público y con el permiso de la autoridad competente cuelgo aquí este prólogo de Gareth Williams a la 2a. edición de Tercer espacio, ahora revisada y aumentada y titulada Tercer espacio y otros relatos.  (Por publicarse en Madrid:  Escolar, 2020.  El prólogo es prólogo a los materiales incluidos en la primera edición, antes de las adiciones que ahora serán una segunda parte del libro.)

 

En el trabajo del duelo no es el dolor lo que opera; el dolor vigila.[1]

Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster.

 

El pensamiento se abandona a su apertura y alcanza así su decisión, el momento en que hace justicia a esta singularidad que lo excede, excediéndolo incluso en sí mismo, incluso en su propia existencia y decisión de pensar. Así también le hace justicia a la comunidad de los entes.  Esto quiere decir que el pensamiento no puede dictar ninguna acción práctica, ética o política. Si pretende hacerlo olvida la esencia misma de la decisión, además de abandonar la esencia de su decisión a favor del pensamiento.  Esto no quiere decir que el pensamiento da la espalda de una manera hostil o indiferente a la acción.  Al contrario, significa que el pensamiento se comporta anticipando la posibilidad más propia de la acción.

 

Jean-Luc Nancy, “The Decision of Existence”.

 

 

————————————

 

El dolor pesa mucho en el corazón de la decisión por el pensar.  Si el dolor revela la experiencia singularmente pasiva e inoperante de estar frente a la muerte, de vigilar silenciosamente lo que no se puede nombrar, lo que es siempre anterior y en exceso del abandono del pensamiento a su propia apertura y decisión, entonces desde el lenguaje el dolor es el otro originario e innombrable que en su vigilancia se comporta no solo en anticipación de la apertura y posibilidad más propia del duelo, como la búsqueda de cierta comprensión, sino también en anticipación de la posibilidad de toda acción. El dolor es el otro originario del lenguaje, la pasividad afectiva que se comporta en anticipación de todo acto responsable del pensamiento y de la escritura. Es por esta razón que se le puede considerar la fundación infra-estructural de todo pensar y escribir.  Pero el dolor en sí nunca puede ser político.  Más bien, sólo puede reflejar el cuidado infrapolítico por la profundidad del abismo del ser para la muerte, o por la dolorosa aceptación de cierta responsabilidad hacia el límite y la posibilidad existenciales.  Por esta razón el trabajo del duelo, la búsqueda laboriosa de un lugar asignable para la muerte, o para la muerte del otro, atraviesa el pasaje pre-político del dolor a cierta sintonización en el pensamiento por la responsabilidad hacia el límite y la escritura, hacia la posibilidad de dar cuenta de la libertad y de la existencia.  Como dice Jacques Derrida en Dar la muerte:  “La preocupación por la muerte, este despertar que vigila la muerte, esta consciencia que se enfrenta con la muerte es otro nombre de la libertad” (15).

“La pérdida”, observa Maurice Blanchot, “va con la escritura” (84).  Pero continúa el autor, “una pérdida sin ningún tipo de don (es decir, un don sin reciprocidad) siempre es propenso a ser una pérdida tranquilizante que garantiza la seguridad” (84).  Tercer espacio: Literatura y duelo en América Latina (1999) de Alberto Moreiras—un libro dedicado a la memoria e imagen de una madre muerta y de un padre superviviente (dedicado por lo tanto a la doble herencia Nietzscheana), pero un libro que es también una consciente meditación no sobre (puesto que esto no es un trabajo de representación) sino mediante la pérdida auto-gráfica de la raya que divide Portugal y Galicia; de la movida de Barcelona después de la muerte del dictador Franco; de un idioma originario perdido y transformado por la experiencia nomádica de la re-institucionalización académica en los Estados Unidos; de los impulsos identitarios de la izquierda latinoamericanista antes y después de la caída del muro de Berlín, y todo esto acompañando la decisión de pensar desde dentro de la clausura de la metafísica tan persistentemente anunciada por Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida y otros—es todo menos la escritura de una pérdida tranquilizante que garantiza la seguridad.

Tercer espacio fue concebido y escrito en la intersección de tres registros simultáneos de duelo:  “El registro de la literatura latinoamericana a ser estudiada, el registro teórico propiamente dicho, y el otro registro, más difícil de verbalizar o representar, registro afectivo del que depende al tiempo la singularidad de la inscripción autográfica y su forma específica de articulación trans-autográfica, es decir, su forma política” (14). En un inquietante gesto hacia el lector situado más o menos cien páginas antes del final del libro, Moreiras presenta la variabilidad e inestabilidad de los nombres del duelo mediante una especie de sobreabundancia orgiástica de designaciones utilizadas para darle algún tipo de consistencia al lenguaje innombrable e inconmensurable que nadie habla, es decir, a la eterna recurrencia de la no-ocurrencia del dolor y de la agitada experiencia de la pérdida que la escritura revela y oculta simultáneamente:  “La escritura del duelo va hasta aquí acumulando nombres:  escritura del tercer espacio, escritura de la ruptura entre promesa y silencio, escritura lapsaria, escritura que repite lo indiferente, escritura de la anormalidad ontológica.  Todos estos términos mentan un mismo fenómeno, cuyo carácter fundamental es el intento de sobrevivir a una experiencia radical de pérdida de objeto” (291-2). A estos intentos de supervivencia en la escritura el lector actual puede sumar la cuestión del ‘regionalismo crítico’, del ‘punctum’ o de la crítica subalternista al postcolonialismo como designaciones suplementarias que también vienen a la mente en un acercamiento al libro veinte años después de su publicación original.

El gesto sostenido de Tercer espacio hacia la posibilidad de una reciprocidad futura—hacia un acto de posible responsabilidad, de una decisión y por lo tanto de una respuesta al otro ante lo imposible—se repite en las últimas líneas del libro en un adiós  formulado apropiadamente desde la novela de Tununa Mercado, En estado de memoria. Al final Moreiras observa que la “sorda demanda de restitución desde la destitución . . . es . . . el resto abierto de este libro expuesto a la demanda literaria que ahora llega a su fin” (397).  Una invitación y una doble demanda por una conducta intelectual o un futuro comportamiento conceptual, por una respuesta, a raíz de la destitución literaria—es decir, del emergente y continuo abandono de la literatura como alegoría nacional compensatoria —que el mismo Tercer espacio ha consumado y llevado a cabo.

¿Y ahora qué hacer?, pregunta Moreiras.  Mientras el dolor es el don originario y singular que nadie puede recibir como tal, Tercer espacio es la exploración solitaria y trans-autográfica de los contornos del duelo. Es la búsqueda de una posible reciprocidad, de un velatorio colectivo sin el cual no puede haber ninguna política común sintonizada con la clausura de la metafísica y con la caducidad del valor asignado históricamente a “lo literario”.

Veinte años después de su publicación inicial en Santiago de Chile en quizá la única editorial del mundo hispanohablante de aquel momento que podía recibir con hospitalidad un libro así (pero también una editorial que quizá selló su limitada distribución), ahora está claro que la casi nula reciprocidad del campo de los estudios literarios y culturales latinoamericanos tanto en Estados Unidos como en América Latina confirma una preferencia constitutiva por la seguridad tranquilizante de la identidad y la diferencia, por encima de cualquier demanda inquietante de pensar desde una posición que no sea la de la metafísica del sujeto (porque el objeto del duelo aquí es nada menos que la metafísica misma).

Mientras hacia los finales de los años 90 Tercer espacio fue una invitación a un velatorio colectivo a la luz del cierre de la metafísica y del deceso concomitante del Eurocentrismo literario—del agotamiento mismo de lo literario—el campo ha respondido en las últimas dos décadas con la vehemente demanda por una metafísica cada vez más humanista llevada a cabo en nombre de la “opción decolonial” avanzada por Walter Mignolo, Enrique Dussel, Anibal Quijano y sus innumerables acólitos, por la política populista de solidaridad con el Sur Global, por la militancia subjetivista, y por la banalidad del historicismo, la antropología cultural y la sociología que han secuestrado a los estudios culturales en nombre de la interdisciplinariedad institucional.

En vez de acercarse a la compleja apostasía que ofrecía este libro herético y demoníaco el campo divulgó, enfatizando vehementemente los protocolos y el sentido común de su autoridad, ortodoxia, dominio y doctrina, la veneración por la tradición cultural y política criolla.  El papismo postcolonial (con toda la fe en la conversión subjetiva, la redención y el sacrificio que esto implica) desplazó activamente una forma de pensar que suponía, para el nihilismo de la herencia identitaria criollista y la seguridad tranquilizante de su conocimiento universitario, el don de la muerte, la destitución, o el auto-sacrificio transformador. Gracias a este éxito superficial la posibilidad de un re-inicio de lo ético-político se ha quedado cada vez más truncada, y así sigue.

Tercer espacio es una obra herética que en los años posteriores a su publicación chocó casi completamente con oídos sordos. No existía anteriormente ningún claro en el campo que posibilitara o explicara la existencia de un libro así, y cuando se publicó en 1999 todavía no existía ningún espacio hospitalario para él.  En este sentido es una obra de una libertad singular y destructiva, un bienvenido e irresponsable llamado por la posibilidad de otra responsabilidad intelectual.

A finales de los 80 y comienzos de los 90 el campo de los estudios literarios y culturales latinoamericanos todavía estaba dominado por la formación y los protocolos de sus tradiciones literarias nacionales; por las alegorías nacionales del modernismo literario latinoamericano (el ‘Boom’) y todas las otras alegorías nacionales que siguieron (el así llamado ‘post-Boom’).  Pero también lo caracterizaron esporádicas discusiones sociológicas  acerca de las exclusiones sobre las que tales sistemas estéticos y nomenclaturas se construían, además de una apreciación generalizada por las técnicas de la transculturación narrativa y de la ‘ciudad letrada’ que había coreografiado Ángel Rama en los primeros años de los 80. El Hispanismo latinoamericanista de los Estados Unidos existía firmemente a espaldas de las renovaciones teórico-políticas que habían ocurrido durante los años 80 en los campos de la literatura comparada, en los departamentos de inglés o francés, en los estudios de cine, de geografía, etc. Cualquier cosa que oliera un poco a filosofía, psicoanálisis, deconstrucción, postcolonialismo o post-Marxismo se recibió como mera importación inauténtica (“¿Por qué leer a Foucault cuando nosotros tenemos a Rama?”). Cualquier discusión de la postmodernidad a comienzos y mediados de los 90 se reducía a un puñado de jóvenes lectores perspicaces, pero el fenómeno de la globalización era ampliamente descartado porque se decía, en contra de toda evidencia emergente, que el estado nacional todavía proveía el ímpetus histórico de la cultura nacional y que seguiría haciéndolo. Nadie en los círculos culturales hablaba ni del neoliberalismo ni de la ascendencia del capitalismo financiero.  A comienzos de los 90 Beatriz Sarlo intentó dar cuenta de las escenas transformadoras de la postmodernidad pero básicamente acabó lamentando el fin de las metanarrativas tout court.  A raíz de las guerras civiles centroamericanas de los años 80 la izquierda latinoamericanista adaptó como estandarte el género del testimonio como un contrapeso “real” frente a las formas culturales elitistas de la literatura del Boom y el post-Boom. A comienzos de los 90 emergieron por primera vez gestos menores hacia la deconstrucción cuando un pequeño número de latinoamericanistas entrenados en la Universidad de Yale empezaron a reconocer la técnica literaria del suplemento, por ejemplo.  Pero mientras la clausura de la metafísica misma seguía siendo una zona prohibida para el pensamiento hispanista el archivo del humanismo criollo y de sus ontologías regionalistas podía persistir sin repercusiones, y la deconstrucción podía etiquetarse como una torre de marfil dedicada al ejercicio vacuo y elitista de juegos de palabras e de indecidibilidad política.  Y en eso se consensuaron tanto la izquierda como la derecha. En la estela de la caída del muro de Berlín el Grupo Latinoamericano de Estudios Subalternos siguió una política populista de solidaridad desde el Norte, publicando en 1993 su “Manifiesto” como un intento de corregir el hecho de que los debates postcoloniales en la academia anglohablante habían pasado por alto la existencia de América Latina.  Mientras tanto, después del Quinto centenario conmemorando la colonización española de las Indias se detectó un “lado más oscuro del Renacimiento”, haciendo caso omiso sin embargo al hecho de que ese lado más oscuro de la historia de la expansión territorial eurocéntrica es de hecho la realización histórica y conceptual, el ancla y garantía metafísica misma, del Logos.  Es desde este constitutivo impasse conceptual y político anunciado por primera vez a mediados de los 90 que la “opción decolonial” revela su dilema central e irresuelto, a saber, que en la historia reciente del campo ningún otro discurso académico ha girado tanto alrededor de su relación de dependencia en la perpetuación de la metafísica eurocéntrica (la identidad y la diferencia) como la “opción decolonial”. Esta es, al fin y al cabo, la mercantilización académica del logocentrismo “occidentalista” en acción. Hasta hoy día, tal es el estado del campo postcolonial en su versión latinoamericanista.

Y luego, con resonancias del Zaratustra Nietzscheano (“con pies de paloma y corazón de serpiente”), llegó Tercer espacio: Literatura y duelo en América Latina, un libro que coincide en su momento de publicación con el desarrollo y finalización de The Exhaustion of Difference (2001), y en el que también se ve claramente el núcleo de las obras posteriores Línea de sombra (2006) y Marranismo e inscripción (2016).

Como ya he mencionado, antes de la publicación de Tercer espacio ningún otro libro que se ocupaba de los estudios literarios latinoamericanos había identificado como su punto de partida la clausura de la metafísica. Esto indica que ningún otro libro se había acercado al concepto de la finitud como el Ab-grund esencial mediante el cual el pensamiento solo puede revelarse como un trabajo infrapolitico de duelo, más que como una búsqueda dialéctica por la revelación del Espíritu Absoluto. Ningún otro libro había manifestado tanta sensibilidad ante los cambios de la época en la que se concibió, posicionándose en el umbral de la globalización capitalista financiera que ahora domina todo.  Ningún otro libro había lidiado con la herencia cubana no desde el ortodoxo lenguaje identitario del anti-imperialismo Bolivariano sino desde la heterodoxia laberíntica de Lezama Lima, Sarduy y Piñera, asumiendo en el camino la destitución no solo como una meta en sí sino como un singular modus operandi para el desmantelamiento del conformismo político.  Ningún otro libro había calado tanto las limitaciones conceptuales y políticas de la así llamada “opción decolonial” incluso antes de que se convirtiera ésta en el sentido común del campo.  Ningún otro libro se posicionó tan claramente al comienzo del agotamiento de las vanguardias y de la continuada insolvencia de la categoría y destino institucional de la “literatura” , haciéndolo sin embargo abriendo nuevos contornos para el trabajo del duelo desde dentro de la clausura de la metafísica misma (por esta razón las lecturas de Borges presentadas en Tercer espacio son hasta hoy sin igual en el campo).  Ningún otro libro había cuestionado con tanta eficacia las formulaciones superficiales de las políticas de solidaridad latinoamericanistas que emergieron a raíz de las guerras civiles centroamericanas de los 80 (en este sentido la lectura de la dialéctica Hegeliana o del involucramiento de Cortázar en Nicaragua presentadas aquí permanecen sin par). Ningún otro libro en el campo del humanismo latinoamericanista había demostrado el más mínimo interés en la cuestión de la realidad virtual, el techne, y la distopía ciberpunk, y en los últimos veinte años no ha cambiado gran cosa, desafortunadamente.  Finalmente, entre tanto hablar de la transculturación y de la hibridez cultural, ningún otro libro había conseguido amalgamar de una manera tan creativa el campo de los estudios literarios y culturales latinoamericanos con las fundamentales renovaciones teóricas de los años 80 y 90 en la universidad norteamericana (coincidiendo, claro, con la renovación conceptual chilena de los mismos años). Esto significa que mediante la des-territorialización bibliográfica del campo producida por Moreiras en ese momento, Finnegans Wake, Duchamp, Blanchot, Bataille, Kojève, o Allucquére Rosanne Stone (ampliamente reconocida ahora como co-fundadora de los estudios de transgénero) cabían tanto en el campo como cualquier sociólogo o crítico literario nacido en Arequipa, Montevideo o Córdoba.  Tales cosas eran inauditas . . . y por lo general siguen siéndolo.

“Ya todo es póstumo” había observado Severo Sarduy poco tiempo antes de morir (citado en Moreiras, 311).  A raíz de esta grata e importante iniciativa para re-publicar esta obra verdaderamente singular dos décadas después de su divulgación original, esperemos que la posteridad que el libro vigila—el cuidado que manifiesta al dejar que el ser para la muerte salga a la palestra mediante el lenguaje de la tradición—ya no sea objeto del silencio tranquilizante e inmunizante de la metafísica del olvido, sino de una sostenida reciprocidad que una obra de esta peculiaridad solicita y merece.

Sin embargo, a lo mejor, prefieres no esperar mucho . . .

 

Works Cited

 

Blanchot, Maurice. The Writing of the Disaster. Translated by Ann Smock. Lincoln, U of Nebraska U, 1995.

Derrida, Jacques.  The Gift of Death. Translated by David Wills.  Chicago, U of Chicago Press, 1995.

Moreiras, Alberto. Tercer espacio: Literatura y duelo en América Latina. Santiago de Chile, LOM Editores, 1999.

Nancy, Jean-Luc. The Decision of Existence”. In Birth to Presence.  Palo Alto, Stanford UP, 1993:  pp. 82-109.

[1] Todas las traducciones del inglés son mías.

Invitation to Two Working Groups: #TheEreignisTexts and #LacanianTheory.

You know how it is with social-network groups–they are frustrating more often than not, and many of them have to be dismantled after a while for lack of participation and related issues.  Not so many people are generous enough with their time and ideas to want to participate in working groups that might expose them to real conversation, and we need to take that into account and keep it in mind.  Still, provided I know you (I do want to keep trolls and spam away from this), I am inviting you to join one or the other of them, or both.

Those two groups are important to me for the following reasons: it seems to me the future of critical theory at least in the US is at stake. Things are looking bad, from where I am, and that includes several dimensions of the problem: the lack of ideas and the thorough routinization of the contemporary theoretical field, the lack of investment in the humanities by institutions that ought to know better, and the complicity of so many professionals (our own colleagues, ourselves) with the dire state of affairs. And I believe, looking at things, that there will be no salvation coming from biopolitical thought, no salvation coming from robotics or a.i. and singularity studies, no salvation coming from political philosophy or Marxism or neo-Marxism, no salvation coming from any kind of identity-powered studies, or from science studies or new media studies, etc., etc., and even if we are not looking for salvation—I am not–we can at least look forward to having some fun and some interesting moments in coming years. It seems to me either we create them for ourselves or they won’t come into existence. In any case, there is a conversation to be had. I am inviting you to it.

I think we are at the verge of what we could call the resurgence of an existential turn (certainly beyond conventional subjectivism, I am not talking about repeating the previous one)—partially as a result of the ruin and loss of momentum of everything else. It seems to me there are two main references from the tradition that stand in need of attention and care when it comes to an existential turn: Lacanian analysis and late Heideggerianism. I do not want to dismiss other very important aspects of contemporary thought, i. e., certain developments in Marxism, the ongoing publication of Derrida’s seminars or, indeed, theoretical developments in the African American field, but I think the Lacanian text and the late Heideggerian text are essential for a new and exciting theoretical avatar—if, indeed, we can have it (not at all clear to me at this point.)  You may have of course the impression that other things could be cited here, that I am reducing too drastically the field of productive discourse. You may be right, but all I am proposing is that those two fields of engagement–late Heideggerianism and Lacanian theory–need attention.

One more thing: I am inviting you to working groups. They will not be particularly work intensive, if only because we all understand that all of us have, if not excessive, at least demanding work constraints, and we do not totally dispose of our own time (although I do try to dispose of as much of it as I can for free intellectual engagement.) But, to the extent this is an invitation to working groups, of course a minimal investment in work is expected from every member. Otherwise, frankly, you should not be a member, you should not join.

This is not at all whimsical. Those of us who have experience in virtual conversation know very well that the presence of more than a few silent or inactive members in any given group has a paralyzing effect on the active members—I do not know the technical reason for it, but it is intuitive enough: if I expose myself and share my ideas with you, I expect at least minimal reciprocity and recognition. If you do not provide it, I start feeling like I am in some Amsterdam shop window acting up and you are looking at me from the street. It is no good. Even the Amsterdam mayor recently forbade the practice. It is ok if there are, say, twenty members, and four or five fall silent for a while because of whatever reason, provided the other 15 are reasonably active. But if we were to have four or five active members and fifteen inactive ones, the group would collapse in a matter of weeks. So we want to avoid it.

Looking forward to hearing from you if you are truly interested. I do not expect many, and membership of course will not be limited to people who read this blog.  If you are interested, please let me know through private channel (email, etc.), and I will send you a registration link.  The groups are #The EreignisTexts and #LacanianTheory.

On Presentiment.  The Anticipation of an Other Beginning. Ankhibasie.

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Everything is now strictly bound in planning and control and in the exactitude of a sure course of action and a domination ‘without remainder.’ Nonbeings, under the semblance of beings, are brought by machination into the haven of beings, and human desolation, which is ineluctably compelled thereby, finds its compensation in ‘lived experience.’ (Martin Heidegger, Contributions322)

———————–

The future ones stand in sovereign knowledge as genuine knowledge.  Whoever attains this knowledge cannot be subjected to calculation or compulsion. Furthermore, this knowledge is useless and has no ‘value;’ it does not matter and cannot be taken as an immediate condition for a currently ongoing business.  (Martin Heidegger, Contributions314)

On Presentiment.  The Anticipation of an Other Beginning.  Ankhibasie. Draft Paper for BeiträgeWorkshop, Indiana University, April 12, 2019. By Alberto Moreiras.

In Conversations on a Country Path Martin Heidegger talks about devastated life as, among other things, life deprived of what is unnecessary for it.  He refers to some Chinese dialogue about the necessary and the unnecessary.  The Chinese sage says that the only necessary thing is a square foot of earth where one can plant himself and stand up.  But if someone were to come and remove all the unnecessary dirt that surrounds the necessary square foot, then one could no longer ever take a step without falling into a fairly radical Abgrund.  I am sure everyone of us will have their own opinion as to whether the world in general is increasingly moving in the direction of devastated life, that is, of bare life for the human in general (and of no life for many species, as we know).  But we can narrow it down a bit, to make it manageable: Is the Chinese parable not a good parable of the contemporary public university, both for teachers and for students?  It could be the case that the ongoing reduction of the unnecessary, particularly in the humanities, in the name of good business practice, is threatening the necessary.  We will always find out too late.  Once we do, we may become vigilant as to whether the tendencies toward devastation to which our administrations happily subscribe (with the passive complicity of the faculty, obviously) reach absolute success or whether a reaction against them may thwart them.   But then of course we need to ponder the reach of the possible reaction, and whether the reaction is and can be anything other than devastating itself.  At this point there are no ideas, there is no program, whether in the left or in the right, to salvage the situation.  Ongoing devastation seems to be what everybody wants. To that extent and for that purpose we can certainly trust our university leaders.

Let me state that the structural site of thought today, such as it is, is the university.   If the university, as structural site of thought, is moving towards the elimination of everything unnecessary, perhaps in the name of business (or is business the name for something else yet unnamed and unnameable?), then it may be time to ponder the unnecessary as the toposfor a breakaway, at the unstructured center of the structure: can we see there, in the inconspicuous unnecessary, the “clearing of a self-concealing,” as Heidegger would put it?  The clearing of the university, following the logic of the parable, must then be a clearing from the university, a move away from the university, ex universitate.  Let me accept beforehand that such a move will be politically useless, and entirely without value.  No business will be done.

I have been reading Heidegger all my life, more or less, on and off, yes, but not professionally.  For me that means I was not reading him to quote him, not reading him in order to write about him.  Until recently.  He was a private pleasure, formative, yes, but in pretty much the same way my favorite thriller authors, also a reading passion of mine, were formative: they offered me an intriguing show of style, thoughts to lose myself into, and even, secretly, perhaps a way to model myself, a prop for my own path, the idea of a master to follow, something not to share, something others would have to find on their own.   Friedrich Nietzsche, Jacques Derrida, and a few others, at different times, were also that for me.  For god’s sake, I was in Spanish, not even a literary critic, not even a cultural studies fellow, not even a historian of ideas, somewhere in between, as I tried to accumulate, through the rest of my writings, a necessary knowledge, or experience, or guts, or permission, to write about the unnecessary authors within my academic field that were really important to me: Valente, Benet, Goytisolo. Which I have not done yet.   This is not a disclaimer, just an explicitation of what is the case, of facticity.  And I thought that my contribution to this workshop on Heidegger’s Beiträge, a fairly inexhaustible “unwork,” in my opinion, could come directly from that facticity, from that modality of Weg-sein, of being thrown into what is the case, of being-away, which happens to be mine.  I have no pretensions to expertise, therefore, but let me tell you something: I do not believe in expertise any more, not in the humanities, I no longer seek it.  The only game for me is to manage to say something to you, here and now, that might prompt a conversation, in this case in relation to Heidegger’s Beiträge.  Oh, this has nothing to do with modesty.  I do not claim modesty.  I will claim, I do claim, that I am following an imperative of thought that Beiträgeitself seems to suggest to me, co-suggest, prompt me into.   Let me call it, for short, the transport into an existential clearing.  And I will offer my own context for it.  The last thing I feel I can do is to utter an exegetic or paraphrastic account of Heidegger’s own attempt at transitional thought.  I will try to say something about my own transitional thought, indebted to Heidegger, if you want radically indebted to Heidegger, and grateful to him.  But I do not particularly want to speak as a Heideggerian (this sentence may become meaningful only at the end of my paper, through the mention of the death drive.)

What moves the transition?  What moves movement?  This is of course an old question.  Thomas Sheehan has linked the Heideggerian conception of ex-sistence to Aristotle’s notion of kinesis, movement, as energeia atelés. Through kinesisa thing achieves itself, completes itself, or at least does so when its dynamisdisplays. According to Sheehan, Heidegger’s notion of Eignungtranslates dynamis, which would be the thing’s (force of) appropriation to the thing’s own telos.  In terms of the human being, Ereignisbecomes for ex-istence what Eignungis for things: existential kinesis, move toward self-appropriation, which in Beiträgewill several times be named “selfhood” in a non-subjectivist sense, i.e., the “selfhood” of Da-sein, Da-sein’s appropriation into the “there.” Sheehan reserves the word that Heidegger used in what was perhaps a slightly different context, ankhibasie, an extant word from Heraclitus meaning “ever approaching” (to Logosin the Heraclitean sense, to the Da of Seyn in the Heideggerian one), to name this “asymptotic condition of ex-istence” (Sheehan 1), that is, a condition of ex-sistence according to which ex-sistence can never fulfill itself but can come closer and closer to such a fulfilment.   Ankhibasieis therefore an existential practice of radical transition into a “there” that receives several names in Beiträge: “the other beginning,” “the clearing self-concealing,” “the essence of truth,” “the sheltering,” even “the last god” among others.  What interests me at this point is the imperative dimension of ankhibasie, not present in the Heraclitus fragment: that fact that, in the Heideggerian-Sheehanian way, it names a drive that is a drive for Da-sein, an existential drive somehow explicitly situated beyond the drives of animal rationale.  If the animal rationalemeans to be left behind, and with it the “sheer, insatiable riot of blind drives” that Heidegger refers to at one point in his text (196), it is not as if Da-sein were to be deprived of dynamic movement. In fact, we could probably, and impossibly, sum up Beiträgeby saying that it marks the attempt to establish a blueprint for a transformation or transfiguration of animal rationaleinto Da-sein.  What does this mean?  It means that there is no “closeness to life” that may rescue us, that an intensification of life, a recuperation of life, a redemption of life is not what Da-sein seeks.  But, if the inversion of animality is spirituality (rationalehas meant “spirit” all along the history of metaphysics), then no spiritual transformation is being invoked here: neither spiritual transformation nor life’s redemption.  Da-sein’s drive is a drive of desire otherwise, an ex-istential desire, a form of jouissancefor which I am happy to accept Sheehan’s suggestion and call it ankhibasieAnkhibasienames Da-sein’s dynamic movement forward.

In the section of Beiträgeentitled “The Future Ones” the connection between the seeking of transitional thought and what Conversations on a Country Pathwould name ankhibasiebecomes almost explicit: “Seeking is intrinsically futural and is a coming into the nearness of being.  Seeking brings the seekers to themselves for the first time, i.e., brings them into the selfhood of Da-sein, wherein the clearing and concealment of beings occur” (Contributions315).   It is also important to point out that, in that section, Heidegger marks a difference between those he calls “the future ones,” of whom he will say that “there are already a few” without further precisions (317), and those of us who live in our own hour:  “Our own hour is the era of downgoing” (314), which is “the path to the reticent preparation for what is to come, i.e., for the movement in which and the site in which the advent and the remaining absent of the gods will be decided.  The downgoing is the utterly first beginning” (314).   In another section, Da-sein is defined as “the crisis between the first and the other beginning” (233).  The first beginning is our history, which our downgoing consummates.  There is a way in which Da-sein, that is, not the human being, certainly not the animal rationale, but the human being that has leaped into Ereignis, that is, the human being who has accepted the need for a transitional thought into his or her own asymptotic condition of ex-sistence, is opposed to what Heidegger calls Wegsein, being-away.  In its first mention Being-away presents itself as a rewriting of the notion of inauthenticity in Being and Time(cf. Contributions238). It is a “denial of the exposure to the truth of beying” (239), and it is as such “the ordinary way of being human” (256): a way of living, in history, away from history, distracted from it. If so, then there is a way in which Being-away also grounds Da-sein: “To the ‘there’ belongs, at its extremity, this concealment in its most proper open realm, i.e., the ‘away’ as the constant possibility of being away; the human being is acquainted with the ‘away’ in the various forms of death” (256).  Hence, Da-sein must incorporate the concealedness of the ‘there’ into the steadfastness of enduring the truth” (257).   Such incorporation, the accomplishment of what Being and Timecalled “Being toward death,” is the passage into Da-sein, and the leap toward the other beginning.  Which consummates our history in an alternative sense, precisely by opening it up again.  Ankhibasieis Da-sein’s dynamic movement toward another history, which is history itself.

What would I want you to retain from all of this? We are living in our own hour, in our own time, a time of downgoing that can solve itself into a time of permanent blockage, a time of devastation and of the deprivation of everything unnecessary for life, paradoxical as that may sound, or a time that can find in that very devastation an intimation and a presentiment of what Heidegger calls “the most intrinsic finitude of beyng,” “the last god” (325), understood as “the danger of something strange and incalculable” (322), simply the most extreme decision regarding that danger, and death as “the most extreme possibility of the ‘there’” (257).  There is a choice here, or rather than a choice, a decision, a decision for history, a decision for time, but it is unclear who decides, and even whether a “who” decides.  In any case, ankhibasieis the name for the exposure to the ceaseless imperative of the there, which means exposure to the decision of the last god, exposure to our own ongoing death as completion and Ereignisof our finite existence, and exposure to the “utterly first beginning,” to the end of the first beginning as abandonment of beying and overcoming of the metaphysical path: a decision for history, a historical decision.  They all may be the same.  This is the crisisof Da-sein as Heidegger presents it.  It is a crisis precisely as the site of a decision in favor of the asymptotic condition of ex-sistence that alone may enable us to understand the radical negativity of the abandonment by beying in the constellation of death and the advent or remaining absent of the most extreme god that may open up history again.

2.

The decision, between the Wegseinof the first beginning and the Da-sein of the other beginning, hinges on an intimation, a Wink(also called an Ahnung, a foreboding, a presentiment).  Who is receptive to it?  Or even: can there be receptivity?  In the first section of Beiträge, entitled “Prospect,” Heidegger speaks about the “long future” of transitional time (19) and mentions the need for a “basic disposition” that would attune the human being to it.  Heidegger calls it “presentiment,” Er-Ahnenor Ahnung, and says of it that it encompasses shock, and restraint, and diffidence (14), and that the presentiment is the “decisiveness” itself (20). This decisiveness is ankhibasie, Da-sein’s drive.  The decision for the other beginning, that is, for the not-yet, is grounded in a leap away from the first beginning, that is, the no-longer.   It is a decision that stems from a basic disposition, a Grundstimmungthat not everybody has—only “the transitional thinkers,” named such in the text.  Who are they?  Again, let us narrow the question down in order to make it manageable.

Who are they? Certainly not everybody in the university.  In fact, Beiträgeincludes a ferocious indictment of the German university in the late 1930’s.   We have become so familiar with Heidegger’s dubious exaltation of the institution during his rectorate in the early 1930’s that it is possibly worthwhile to quote him at length, since by the time of Beiträgehe had abandoned all illusion:

the universities, as “sites of scientific research and teaching,” . . . are becoming sheer business establishment.  In these establishments, which are ever “closer to reality,” nothing is decided.  They will retain the last vestiges of a cultural decorationonly as long as they must also and for a while still remain a means for “cultural-political” propaganda. Nothing resembling the essence of universitaswill be able to unfold out of them any longer: on the one hand, because the commandeering of everything into political-ethnic service makes such an unfolding otiose, and also because science itself as a business can hold its course more securely and easily withoutwhat is “proper to a university, i. e., without the will to meditation.  Philosophy, understood here exclusively as thoughtful meditation on truth, i. e., on the question-worthiness of beyng, and not as a historiological and “system”-building erudition, does not have a place in “universities” and certainly not in the business establishments they will become.  For nowhere at all does philosophy “have” a place, unless it is the place it itself founds, to which indeed no path could lead immediately, starting from an established institution.  (121-22)

We can no doubt split a few hairs and claim that our university of today, in the United States, for instance, does not do cultural-political or political-ethnic propaganda, which in Heidegger’s terms would mean that universities have lost their last vestige of “cultural decoration” value, that is, their last claim to symbolic prestige.  It is not quite so, as we all know, thanks in part to branding and propaganda techniques and to the residual prestige of social hierarchy, which means that a degree from Texas A&M University in the main campus of College Station is worth more than a degree from, say, Texas A&M Prairie View, or Stanford is worth more than California State at Fresno. But that only means that even the residual value of cultural decoration has been reduced to business–money rules the day in the university, and there is no longer even a pretense to anything other than the increasingly radical application of the principle of general equivalence, on which branding itself is based.    For university administrations, increasingly, at least in the public area, the university is an institution that should be handled according to the logic of so-called Customer Relationship Management–really, no longer an institution, only a corporate business where meditation, Besinnnung, what Heidegger calls philosophy or thought according to the imperative of ankhibasiefinds no place, no site, no mercy.   The logic of today’s university of excellence is exclusively the logic of machination, of which Heidegger said: “The hex cast by technology and its constantly self-surpassing progress is only onesign of this bewitchery that directs everything toward calculation, utility, breeding, management, and regulation.  . . . The average becomes better and better, and thanks to this betterment the average secures its dominance ever more irresistibly and unobtrusively” (98).   The principle of general equivalence can only fight himself–a generalized leveling of all ranks promotes of course the most extreme hierarchization.  “The constant raising of the average level and the concurrent widening and wide application of this level, until it becomes the platformfor all activity, constitute the most uncanny sign of the vanishing of the decisive places: it is a sign of the abandonment by being” (99).

What is to be done?  Does Heidegger advocate for an institutional change?  Does he ask for university reform? For something in the nature of an academic countermovement?  For a leftist correction to the hegemony of the right, or for a rightist correction to the hegemony of the left?  No.  In fact, he says: “Not a counter-movement, for all counter-movements and counter-forces are essentially codetermined by that which they are counter to, although in the form of an inversion” (146).  The possibility of what Heidegger calls “opening up the truth of beying,” that is, of a transitional thinking orientated toward the other beginning, “will not be made in previous domains (‘culture’ — ‘worldview’), ones still upheld by counter-movements” (147).  Thought is only possible today ex universitate.

What could we then say of university politics? Politics is overrated, I think, it has become another form of chatter.  Politics, either for business or as a counter-movement to business, that is, for more business, will not guarantee, will in fact cover over the very possibility of finding an existential clearing in the university. I take my authorization from Beiträge.  At several early points in the text Heidegger repeats the notion that he would like to have nothing to do with Existenz, as he does not want his project to be confused with Existenzphilosophie.  But in #179, admittedly a paragraph that stands alone and has no precedent or continuity, Heidegger will nevertheless say in black and white that “being-historical Ex-istence” is “steadfast transport into the there” (239).  There is therefore a clear reason, from Beiträge, to speak of the need for the return to a thinking and a practice of existence, to a meditation on existence that I will simply name infrapolitical.

Daniela Vallega-Neu has often called the reader’s attention to the passages in Mindfulnesswhere Heidegger discusses the three possibilities of the so-called “decision.”  According to the first possibility (but Heidegger says that “the order in which these possibilities are named here is not important” [Mindfulness204; I am using Parvis Emad and Thomas Kalary’s translation, and it will sound very different from the English terminology used so far, I apologize]), “whether in poets and thinkers ‘the thinking-ahead-remembering’ of the truth of be-ing enowns itself, that is, in those who have a burden to lift, whose weight escapes any and all numerical calculation” (204).   That is, the truth of beyng will come out of unconcealment in the word of the poets and thinkers, always the spokesmen for the essence of their people. According to the second possibility,

whether beings hold on to the claims and conventionalities of the hitherto historically mixed up and inextricable beingness and compel to a total lack of decision; whether within the sphere of this lack beings then pile upon beings in ever-newer arrangements and ever-faster controllability; whether under the guise of an intensified “living” a being chases another being, takes its place, and settles the haze of an amusement over all beings . . . until the end of this mastery of beings (of “actuality that is close to life”) has become endless. (204)

It is clear that, of the two possibilities, Heidegger favors the former and not the latter, and his wager seems to be for the former as the many paragraphs in Beiträgethat speak about “the essence of a people” and as the very fascination with Hölderlin, understood as the poet of the German fatherland, as one of “the future ones” would seem to indicate.  For us, indeed, eighty years later, and in spite of the hopelessly counterfeited resurgence of contemporary nationalisms everywhere, it seems as if that first option is already gone from the books, and the poets and the thinkers will never accomplish the feat of carrying the burden of their people and saving them all beyond, precisely, calculation, even if we make it merely political calculation.  At the same time, I assume we reject the second possibility as desirable–even if we cannot reject it in its sheer facticity.   What about the third possibility, then?  Heidegger writes: “whether the first possibility stays away, and though the second one does assert itself, and given their admitted appearance, beings dominate all being but still something else happens: whether the history of be-ing (the grounding of its truth) begins in the unknowable hiddenness-shelteredness within the course of the struggle of the ‘alone ones’ and whether be-ing enters its ownmost and strangest history whose jubilation and sorrow, triumphs and defeats beat only in the sphere of the heart of the most rare ones” (204-05). Surely the rhetoric is old, perhaps even distasteful.  Those lonely ones, the rare, the rarest, would have it on themselves to follow ankhibasie, to expose themselves to the end of calculation, to sound out the absent gods.   If so, something would be kept, and could be transmitted.

It seems to me, such is my own transitional thinking, that the keeping of the unnecessary, to go back to the Chinese tale, as we let all machination pass us by without resistance (no counter-movement, no counter-politics: let them come to their own end), is the only possible promise of an existential clearing ex universitate.  It is not much, and it may be nothing.  We still have students, and we may owe them our presentiment, which is all we really have.  But let me not moralize, let me not end in a note of moralism: perhaps beyond students, what I am arguing for is the need to let ankhibasieflourish, to let it proceed to where it may lead, no spiritual transformation, no individual redemption, just a liberation of a certain drive, which could indeed prove to be a form of the death drive: Da-sein’s death drive, to be distinguished from the biologistic death drive of animal rationale.  How are we to think about it?

Alberto Moreiras

Texas A&M University

(Notes missing on Vallega-Neu, Polt, Ziarek, Dastur, Sheehan, Schürmann, on Country Path, etc. . . .  Note on the death drive in Freud, Lacan?)

 

Works Cited

Dastur, Françoise.  …

Heidegger, Martin.  Contributions to Philosophy.  (Of the Event).  Richard Rojcewicz and Daniela Vallega-Neu translators.  Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2012.

—.  Conversations on a Country Path.  …

—.  Mindfulness.  Parvis Emad and Thomas Kalary translators.  London: Continuum, 2006.

Osborn, James.  “The Overturning of Heidegger’s Fundamental Ontology.”  Journal of Philosophical Research41 (2016): 559-600.

Polt, Richard.  The Emergency of Being.  On Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy.  Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2006.

Sheehan, Thomas.  Making Sense of Heidegger.  A Paradigm Shift.  London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.

Vallega-Neu, Daniela.  Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy.  Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2003.

—. Heidegger’s Poietic Writings.  From Contributions to Philosophy to The Event. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2018.

—. “Heidegger’s Reticence: From Contributionsto Das Ereignisand toward Gelassenheit.”  Research in Phenomenology45 (2015): 1-32.

Schürmann, Reiner.  Wandering Joy.  Meister Eckhart’s Mystical Philosophy.  Great Barrington, MA: Lindisfarne, 2001.

Ziarek, Krzysztof.  “The Modern Privilege of Life.”  Research in Phenomenology44 (2014): 28-49.

—. “Image-less Thinking: The Time-Space for Imagination in Heidegger.” International Yearbook for Hermeneutics. . .

 

 

 

 

 

Respondant Comments on UC-Davis symposium on “Academic Brands: Globalizing, Privatizing, and Quantifying the University.” March 22-23 2019.

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This has been a wonderful conference, and I have learned a lot.  I found myself fascinated by many of the arguments that have been presented and really with few criticisms to make.  I am not sure there is a matter of agreement or disagreement here, everybody has presented things as they see them from their position and experience.  And for me in this brief response it cannot be a matter of asking questions from the paper presenters either.  I do have one question for whoever wants to pick it up: why did the state decide to de-fund public education institutions, did they have real or merely political, phony reasons to do so, and can that trend be reversed, and what would it take?

Other than that, I will try to make a general comment–on the somber side, I suppose, because I am actually very worried about the future of the university.  And I can assure you there was no one more committed to institutional development, no one who loved the university more than I did in earlier years.  No more–it is a fact.  But I will not say I am sorry about my own change of position.  I think looking at things as they are is still where the peculiar satisfaction academics can aspire to lies.  One can of course be mistaken–you can judge that.

It is one thing to try to present yourself, as an academic institution, in the best possible light in order to attract students.  I think institutions have a clear right to do that, and I certainly have no objections.  But I really do not think that is what we have come to call branding.  Of course fund raising is a legitimate activity, and so is merchandising, I have no particular objections to business in general, but I think branding, to the extent that it promotes the quality of a product by identifying it with a particular name, is about fake news, it is about fooling the potential constituency, it is about planting ideological mystification, and it is, finally, what I would call a practice of straight cold-blooded sentimentality meant to sell a product as a product, whatever it takes and regardless of what the customer needs.  The problem is that branding really has little to do with truth, or nothing to do with truth.  Truth is only at best instrumentalized at the service of branding, never the other way around.  Yes, you can tell me that branding is not a lie, since no reasonable person would ever believe its claims–it is a theoretical fiction, like all advertising.   But let us try to see through what this means when it is applied to the university.  Although Mario has already given us a clear example.

Branding has to do with products; education, like existential experience in general, is not and cannot ever be a product.  When you attempt to brand an intangible you first have to destroy the intangible as intangible and turn it into a commodity.  Branding the university–of course the university can sell t-shirts and props of all kinds, I do not care, and that is not what we are really talking about–branding the university as such is literally branding the students with a hot iron, turning them into submissive and subservient subjects, which they do accept for a reason of course, and it is a mercenary one, as they think it gives them symbolic compensation, symbolic power.  They do not realize what is stolen from them is much more valuable than the miserable gift that comes to them in the form of a fallen fetish, an opaque glimmer, an ultimately shameful distinction having to do with claiming superiority.  Let me offer a thesis, see if you have a problem or many problems with it:  branding the university–associating education with the consumption of a product that fills your gut with symbolic exchange value– is a direct attack on whatever in life exceeds calculability, whatever in life exceeds labor time; it is in fact an attempt to turn free expenditure into labor time; it is an attempt to commodify and instrumentalize what should be impersonal and holy for every human life.  Of course nobody has to fall for it (although most people do)–the system does not need for everybody to fall for it.  Just for the system generally to work in that direction.  As usual.

The university has been understood since the Enlightenment as a shelter against general equivalence, a shelter from (if not necessarily against) the commodification of the time of existence as living labor.  If the modern university is consistent with the rise of capitalism, it was also taken from the beginning to be an exception to capitalism, in fact a compensation for capitalism, a place protected from its ravages in the name of freedom.  It was, explicitly since the founding of the Humboldt University in Berlin in 1816, ideally a place for the free use of time in favor of non-instrumental activities, a place of Bildung, opposite to the biopolitical instrumentalization of the time of labor as commodified time, fetishized time, the time of reification, reified time.  There has always been, in modernity, a deep connection between university–the principle of the university, university reason, the time of the university–and freedom.  We can sum it up by saying that the time of the university has never been the time of labor.

Today all of that is under attack as we know very well.  We are in the middle of an epochal change, and of course the danger is that it will become irreversible.  The present generation of academics is witnessing the abandonment of the modern university in favor of a new organism, at this point still hybrid, that seeks to organize itself on the basis of what I will call the principle of general equivalence, which is based, already in the Karl Marx of the Grundrisse, on what he called the Gemeinwesen, the common substance, money.  We are witnessing the taylor-fordization of the university, the transformation of the time of knowledge into labor time, a radical biopolitization of the university, which of course hinges on the biopolitization of its denizens, students, faculty, administrators, alumni.  University life is today biopolitical life, a life increasingly under the claim of biopolitical rule.  General equivalence of course also means general hierarchization, general placement into the place where you belong: you have some chips, you have more chips if you are a UCLA graduate than if you are a Cal State Fresno graduate, more chips if you are a dentist than if you are a plummer, branding gives you some of the chips, but everything is about chips, you cash them, see where that puts you, you live your life.  You try not to run out of chips. If you do, where would you go?

The principle of general equivalence is also the principle of general calculability.  Life must be reduced to calculation, life must be calculated, and whatever in life remains outside the possibility of calculation is merely either disposable life or, more likely, life that has not yet come under the principle of general, which means total, calculation.

Let me suggest, then, that branding is an effort, one among others, branding is only part of a strategy, not its totality, to maximize calculability outcomes.  It is a partial strategy of capture that must be understood contextually.  It is part of a monumental, massive or gigantic endeavor or enterprise of submission, hence of domination, that we call biopolitical social engineering.  The goal of branding, consistent with the goal of biopolitical engineering, is totalitarian closure into an exhaustive, and exhausting, network of hierarchies that will dictate the conditions of existence for everyone in the future.  Think of it, to use Celia’s words, as a gigantic conversion of the time of existence into Customer Relationship Management.

In the light of what we have heard over the last couple of days, the question for us is, how do we inhabit the university today?  You may tell me it is a Romantic question–as if we had a choice.  But we do have a choice.  Please bear with me and consider the possibility–that I will not have the time to explain–that the corporatization of the university we have all heard so much about over the last two days is part and parcel of a generalized state-form that we could call a state of extraction–we are information, our information is exchange value, and our information needs to be extracted at the service of the production of surplus value and in the name of the principle of general equivalence.  Branding, trademark bullying, faking coauthors, negotiating cognitive dissonances–they are all forms of extraction for the production of money, which is the overall goal, and in fact the only goal (I will not mince words here–I think old university goals as represented by the Humboldt University are gone, are history, and that today’s university in the United States and in a few other countries such as the UK is interested only in money, in the general equivalent, to which all members of the institution must submit.)

Resisting the state of extraction–for instance, as embodied in the contemporary university–is to step back, from the university, against the university. Ex universitate salus. This is just an example. I am not claiming you should not cash the check you get at the end of the month or that you should not teach your students. You should do both things–as needed. But there are political and infrapolitical ways of living in the university, of living the university, just like there are political and infrapolitical ways of existing. Politics is overrated, I think, particularly for us, here and now. It has become another form of chatter, in a deep way. Infrapolitics may prepare a new political avatar–but of that, at this point, we are not prepared to talk. I am not prepared to talk.

I think my claim–try not to be an informant, try not to let them abuse you, try to resist the state of extraction, practice living in the secret, do not let yourself be coopted–means to prepare an existential clearing.  In the name of survival.  Infrapolitical survival is premised on a step back from the state of extraction, which is also, today, a step back from politics as chatter, from social-network politics, from institutional politics, from hegemony politics, from the farce all of it has become for the most part.  We could also appeal to the more hard-nosed Marxist positions of Fredric Jameson, when he claims that politics is really of little import, since political economy determines everything, not the will of the people, much less the will of bourgeois intellectuals.  In a situation like the one he describes, and I think he is more right for today than for any other time in history, infrapolitics is all we can (and should) focus on.

The comment I wanted to add has to do with an article I read a couple of weeks ago in El Confidencial, actually an interview with Israeli cybersecurity expert Nimrod Kozlovski.  It is an interesting and frightening interview, both, telling everybody what experts already know, which is, how corporate practices are moving in the direction of a complete colonization of life, of existence, of which Academic branding is very obviously part and parcel, and in it some unnamed Yale professor is quoted as telling Kozlovski something like “you could get a doctorate critiquing things and speaking for privacy, against data mining, against corporate and technological intrusion in your deepest dreams, and all that shit.  But you could also get on with the program, and you should, because it will be better for you.”  The whole point has now become to embrace all kinds of corporate transgressions, we need to love the university not in spite of what it now does, but because it does it, and we need to accept that we all have a more or less secret corporate score, which has to do directly with our relationship to branding, and that we must live our lives simply trying to improve on our corporate score–after all, they, that is, the system, the capitalist system that runs our lives, they do know much better than we do.  We need to submit completely.  The Chinese have made it explicit, and everybody else is working implicitly at it.

But I do think, I believe from the bottom of my heart, that the Yale professor who told the Israeli cybersecurity expert to get on with it, to give up on any resistance, any objection, any reluctance, should be given a low score and released into, I don’t know, a job as assistant manager at a NAPA auto parts store.  To be kind.  Give him some proper branding to do.  See how he fares.

From Leigh Johnson on State of Extraction and Secrecy.

http://www.readmorewritemorethinkmorebemore.com/2019/03/on-snitches-silence-and-secrecy-in.html

Leigh, thank you so much for your comments.  I have already posted part of this in your blog, but I add one reflection at the bottom.  I think there might be an only too logical misunderstanding in your critique, namely, having to do with my notion of infrapolitics, which of course there is no reason why you should be familiar with. But for me my argument rests entirely on infrapolitics (not on protopolitics–protopolitics is all well and good, so is politics, etc.: but my argument is on infrapolitics–neither on protopolitics nor on politics.) And infrapolitics is not a form or politics nor does it want to be. In fact, it is a step back from the political horizon, for the sake of something other, of a certain unnameable “nothing” that precedes politics and without which no politics would ever be possible. And it is a step back inspired by a deep suspicion of politics as such. I think, in the current predicament (let the notion of State of Extraction sum it up), politics has always already failed, and it is in fact complicitous with it–right or left politics, I am talking about politics as we know it at this point in history, and you should know I consider most if not all conceptions of politics in the left exhausted and obsolete.

So, my claim was not about the “right to remain silent.” It was really about the claiming of a radically infrapolitical space that drastically includes the practice of the secret. Having a secret is not automatically to be an informant, by the way, we may disagree there. Resisting the state of extraction–for instance, as embodied in the contemporary university–is to step back, from the university, against the university. Ex universitate salus. This is just an example. I am not claiming you should not cash the check you get at the end of the month or you should not teach your students. You should do both things–as needed. But there are political and infrapolitical ways of living in the university, of living the university, just like there are political and infrapolitical ways of existing. Politics is overrated, I think, particularly for us, here and now. It has become another form of chatter, in a deep way. Infrapolitics may prepare a new political avatar–but of that, at this point, we are not prepared to talk. I am not prepared to talk.

I think my claim–try not to be an informant, try to resist the state of extraction, practice living in the secret, do not let yourself be coopted–means to prepare an existential clearing. You mention Derrida in your entry: “learning to live” as living-on, as sur-viving. Infrapolitical survival is premised on a step back from the state of extraction, which is also, today, a step back from politics as chatter, from social-network politics, from institutional politics, from hegemony politics, from the farce all of it has become for the most part.  We could also appeal to the more hard-nosed Marxist positions of Fredric Jameson, when he claims that politics is really of little import, since political economy determines it, not the will of the people, much less the will of bourgeois intellectuals.  In a situation like the one he describes, and I think he is more right for today than for any other time in history, infrapolitics is all we can (and should) focus on.

The comment I wanted to add has to do with an article I read this morning in El Confidencial, actually an interview with Israeli cybersecurity expert Nimrod Kozlovski.  It is an interesting and frightening interview, both, and in it some unnamed Yale professor is quoted as telling Kozlovski something like “you could get a doctorate critiquing things and speaking for privacy and all that shit.  But you could also get on with the program, it will be better for you.”  The whole point has become to embrace all kinds of transgressions, accept that we all have a more or less secret corporate score, and live our lives simply trying to improve on our corporate score–they do know much better than we do.  The Chinese have made it explicit, everybody else is working implicitly at it.

I think the Yale professor should be given a low score and released into, I don’t know, a job as assistant manager at a NAPA auto parts store.  To be kind.

Comentario a la entrevista de Jorge Alemán a Iñigo Errejón en Punto de emancipación (Jorge Alemán, “Conversación con Iñigo Errejón,” Punto de emancipación, 25 de diciembre 2018: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVG8e7QO4E0&feature=share).

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Aunque entrevistador y entrevistado están de acuerdo de modo general en que la coyuntura contemporánea configura un “momento populista,” es decir, que la política hoy no puede eludir la lógica populista, hay una tenue alusión a un desacuerdo puntual en el asunto: para Jorge Alemán, el populismo es siempre de antemano de izquierdas, y no es posible concebir una política populista real desde reivindicaciones que postulan meros retornos identitarios y securitarios a fantasías de comunidad sustancial.  Esto es importante en la medida en que indica que, para Alemán, la política–el populismo que él abraza–solo tiene sentido como instrumento de emancipación, y nunca como instrumento de dominación.  Volveré a esto.

Para Errejón, sin embargo, hay populismo de derechas, pero acaba siendo en cada caso inviable–y justo en la medida en que el populismo de derechas lo es porque configura una formación ideológica excluyente.  La voluntad de exclusión, apoyada en una apelación al miedo del más débil, trama una política populista de derechas que podrá, dice Errejón, causar fuertes turbulencias, pero que a la larga no triunfará. Por eso, para él, la apuesta fuerte por lo que Alemán llama “la emancipación” es desde luego plausible y necesaria. Frente a la erosión generalizada de significación en los procesos sociales y en las vidas individuales causada por cuarenta años de neoliberalismo triunfante cabe todavía la apuesta por un proyecto de “renovación nacional” que se haga cargo de aspiraciones colectivas a justicia social.   Y ese proyecto, en España, no tiene hoy otro agente que Podemos si Podemos se olvida de proceder desde la “doctrina” y vuelve a su ímpetu inicial de atender al sentido común del país.  Y atenderlo es escucharlo y hacerse cargo de él.

Errejón, ya en campaña para obtener la presidencia de la Comunidad de Madrid, no  está interesado en sembrar polémica entre sus filas, pero no puede dejar de observar hacia al final de la entrevista que el proyecto de Podemos fue inicialmente un proyecto disruptivo que contravenía todas las piedades petrificadas de los manuales de izquierda, y que fue precisamente eso lo que funcionó en un primer momento: “cuando las izquierdas empiezan a darnos la razón,” dice,” es cuando empieza a “quitárnosla nuestro pueblo.” No podría ser más clara la defensa de una transversalidad esencial en el proyecto nacional que pase por hacer cortes tajantes entre sentido común y reificaciones metafóricas y doctrinarias–las últimas con frecuencia disfrazadas de inamovibles “principios y valores.”  La “renovación nacional” de la que habla Errejón pasaría por lo tanto también por una renovación de Podemos, y confiamos en que no sea demasiado tarde para ello.

La entrevista funciona en la medida en que trata con inteligencia y franqueza temas obviamente difíciles.  Empieza, por ejemplo, hablando de la dificultad de conciliación del trabajo teórico y la política práctica y concreta para trasladar ese asunto al viejo mantra weberiano, ya muy pasado de rosca, sobre las encrucijadas en las que se encuentran obligaciones de “responsabilidad” contra obligaciones de “convicción.”  Errejón acaba expresando cierta impaciencia con el asunto, sabiendo como sabe que un político ha resuelto ya de entrada ese asunto o no es político ni lo habrá sido nunca. La política real es, dice Errejón, una forma de “negociar la insatisfacción” buscando en cada caso cambios puntuales en la correlación de fuerzas, tanto más difíciles cuanto más equilibrio haya en la alineación de fuerzas en conflicto.  La dificultad del político tiende por lo tanto a estar más del lado del análisis correcto de la correlación de fuerzas que de las tensiones más bien eclesiásticas entre responsabilidad y convicciones.   Y lo decisivo en política es por lo tanto proceder a una construcción mayoritaria o “hegemónica” del sentido común que permita vehicular reivindicaciones democráticas–que siempre tienen que ver con los conceptos irrenunciables de libertad y de igualdad–contra su secuestro por poderes fácticamente excluyentes.  Por el camino se tocan temas de significación candente, tales como la noción de patria plurinacional, la formación de deseos securitarios y de pertenencia en la estela de la destrucción neoliberal, y la ausencia radical de elites políticas capaces de reconducir la situación a cauces democráticamente satisfactorios.

Yo me alegro de estar de acuerdo con casi todos los análisis de la entrevista, pero mi interés aquí es plantear, no un desacuerdo, sino más bien una dificultad para mí causada por lo que entiendo mal, o insuficientemente.  A menos que se trate de una contradicción no resuelta de hecho en los planteamientos respectivos de Alemán o Errejón.  Voy a ello.

Alemán interrumpe o parece interrumpir el hilo discursivo de Errejón para afirmar de manera algo sorprendente (para mí) que “la verdad” es “el combustible ético” de la operación política emancipatoria, y que no es solo por lo tanto cuestión de “hegemonía,” no solo cuestión de “construcción hegemónica.”   Ni Alemán ni Errejón aceptarían que haya valores objetivos que le den pauta a línea política alguna, no hay “metalenguaje” político como tampoco lo hay en el psicoanálisis, el compromiso político es últimamente “indecidible,” y la verdad política es en cada caso construcción colectiva de sentido, siempre precaria y contingente.  Y sin embargo . . . tanto Alemán como Errejón afirman que el par conceptual libertad-igualdad “permanece como núcleo del sentido.”

¿No hay una tensión aquí?  ¿Son entonces libertad e igualdad no solo ya “principios y valores” sino también “verdades” que no hay que confundir con las metáforas que las expresan (ni la bandera roja, ni el himno, ni la estampita bendita con la cara del líder) pero que aun así funcionan como referencia ineludible, es más, como referencia incondicional?

No quiero elaborar demasiado este asunto porque no estoy seguro de haber entendido bien, es decir, con exactitud, la posición de Alemán o Errejón, y no quiero pasarme en atribución errónea.   Pero me gustaría decir que creo que hay, efectivamente, una contradicción entre postular que no hay verdad en política, que la verdad es solo precipitado de un sentido colectivo, que se construye en la realidad temporal específica, en otras palabras, que la verdad es siempre en cada caso verdad hegemónica, por más que, por lo mismo, solo sea y solo pueda ser precaria y contingente verdad, y postular simultáneamente que esa construcción de realidad temporal específica debe hacerse desde las ideas o los valores o los principios o las verdades asociadas con la libertad y la igualdad, sin las cuales no cabe hablar de democracia.

En esa tesitura yo pienso que, efectivamente, hay verdades, aunque para mí tengan el matiz particular de que son verdades solo porque no hay o no es posible reconocer otra verdad: en la ausencia de legitimidad de ninguna forma de dominación, y en la ausencia de derecho efectivo de cualquier privilegio de opresión, solo la libertad y la igualdad adquieren carta de naturaleza.  Se trata para mí de una consecuencia lógica y universal.  No es que haya verdades que algunos individuos pueden alcanzar, o que todos los individuos pueden alcanzar:  hay esas verdades porque su presencia es consecuencia directa de la ilegitimidad de cualquier otra afirmación de verdad.  Por ende, su corolario es que la verdad de la libertad y la igualdad como elementos fundamentales e irrenunciables de la democracia es incompatible con la reducción de la política a procesos de configuración hegemónica del sentido común social.   Por eso yo prefiero hablar en cada caso de democracia posthegemónica, como Jorge Alemán ya sabe, y perdón, Jorge, por ponerme una vez más en el papel de mosca cojonera en este asunto, entendiéndola como un proceso que atiende a su lógica interna y no a su configuración en correlación de poderes.  Hay hegemonía, y la hegemonía construye política, pero la democracia busca en cada caso el fin de toda dominación hegemónica.   Hegemonía y democracia son contradicciones in terminis mucho más que conceptos mutuamente complementarios.  En todo caso, son conceptos suplementarios, en la medida en que se suplen mutuamente.

 

Razón militante y absoluto. 

Qué aburrido se hace todo cuando la razón militante se sale de sí y profesa que ninguna otra razón existe, solo se puede ser una cosa, solo se puede pensar una cosa, solo se puede hacer una cosa, y los demás–todos esos que, a su vez, se salen de la cosa, como la lamella se sale del cuerpo lacaniano–son “heideggerianos municipales” o alguna otra estupidez semejante.  De la cosa solo se puede salir la razón militante–en sí la cosa, la única cosa, y la única cosa que se sale para que nada más salga–para impedir que nadie permanezca con vida fuera de la cosa, solo en vidamuerte, en vida prostituida, en vida vendida, dice la razón militante.  Y se queda oronda, satisfecha, heroica, contenta de haber podido decir su cosa sin que nadie proteste, pues nadie quiere exponerse–da miedo, serían enviados al infierno–a refutar algo tan elemental–es necesario que la razón sea militante, somos todos soldados de la razón, todos debemos militar en la causa, pues no hay más cosa que la causa, y la causa es fácticamente la cosa.  No hay vida sin cosa, aunque la función de la cosa sea solo atrapar la vida, orientarla, ordenarla, darle una misión. Sin orden no hay milicia.  Sin milicia no hay orden.  Viva la militancia.  Viva la causa.  Qué coñazo.

Lo ético es lo universal, como decía Kierkegaard, y estos de la razón militante son siempre soldados heroicos de lo universal.  Su referencia es lo universal, su verdad es lo universal, incluso su mentira es lo universal, pues lo universal constituye su único horizonte de referencia.  Están llenos de lo universal, a lo que llaman política.  Son héroes, o poetas del héroe–preferirían ser héroes, pero a veces se agotan en twits apayasados o en pomposos comentarios en facebook que, al menos, glosan al héroe, hablan de cómo conviene ser, y de cómo fuera de ese orden no hay salvación, solo perdición, la perdición del crápula, del fascista (todos son fascistas excepto los que aceptan o callan las premisas de la razón militante).  Y así abundan más los poetas de lo universal en twitter y facebook que los héroes propiamente dichos, que aparecen solo de vez en cuando por televisión.

Lo ético es lo universal, ¿quién lo negaría?  Dejémosles que sean éticos, dejémosles que le dediquen a lo universal–la nación, la clase, la raza, el pueblo, la ley moral–todo aquello que conviene a lo universal.  Nunca entenderán que el mundo no acaba ahí, y que hay otra cosa, más cosa, a la que ellos no reconocerán el acceso.  Kierkegaard lo decía bien claramente para el que tenga oídos (pero ¿quién tiene oídos hoy?): hay una relación del individuo a lo universal, mediada, y esa es la ética, y hay una relación del individuo al absoluto, y esa no admite mediación.  Y como no admite mediación no admite tampoco compromiso, ni siquiera articulación: se hace, o no se hace.  Se da, o no se da.  Todos son capaces de ella, pero muy pocos se dan cuenta, todavía menos la buscan: casi todos la traicionan.  Esa relación singular al absoluto–sin ella no hay pasión, solo simulacro de pasión. Lo que no entienden los militantes que, al haber renunciado a un absoluto que siempre de antemano trasciende su militancia, absolutizan su propia patética solución al enigma del mundo es que, al hacerlo, sacrifican lo único que merece la pena mantener al margen de todo sacrificio, puesto que sin ello no hay sacrificio alguno, solo trampa.  Y sin ello no hay política, solo postureo. Son militantes cuya causa está vacía–por eso buscan llenarla de gritos militantes.  Ojalá les funcione, siempre que dejen espacio para que otros puedan respirar sin tener que negociarlo con ellos.