Chasing the Subject. By Alberto Moreiras.


Over the course of several days of meetings in Rome and Salerno, the members of the Infrapolitics project that made it to Italy were confronted with a great insistence on issues of subjectivity and subjectivation. This struck me as particularly interesting, since the meetings were meant to highlight discussions on biopolitics, posthegemony, and infrapolitics, which seem to be discursive fields where subjectivation as such would have no particular purchase. And yet: Marramao, Esposito, Tronti, the references to Galli, Lisciani-Petri, Tucci, Marianna Esposito, Micciarelli, Tarizzo, all of them, of course in different ways, seemed to center their own discourses around questions of subjectivation as their end-goal or dominant horizon. For instance, Roberto Esposito, in a very intricate and rich presentation in which he insisted on the “present crisis” as extreme, even “terminal,” said that the “invention of a new political language” should be oriented towards the construction of “a new political subjectivity.” Calls for re-subjectivation in the political space were in fact dominant in what we heard, or so it seemed to me.

One wonders why. Without of course dismissing in any way or manner the importance and the urgency of what our Italian colleagues were proposing, rather attempting to learn from it, one recalls that contemporary Italian thought has discussed “the end of the architectonics of modern politics” more forcefully than any other language tradition.   If posthegemony, for instance, takes them at their word, by suggesting that the concept of hegemony is itself part and parcel of modern politics, not a solution to its crisis, but itself part of the problem, I think the same could be said about the subject. In fact, the subject of modernity organizes the totality of modern political concepts, by occupying the very center of the political edifice. If the edifice is crumbling now, would that not ruin its ground as well?   Is the subject really salvageable from present ruination, and can it or should it constitute the founding stone for some new political constellation? Or is the subject, rather, the equivalent of the Roadrunner in the old cartoon where Wile E. Coyote chases him (her) with increasing desperation and to no avail? The final hour of the subject never tolls for the unfortunate coyote or for any one of us.

Say, Antigone, in the play where the very politicity of the polis is first founded for the West, is not looking for subjectivation through her actions.

I suppose infrapolitics stands or falls in its positing of an alternative field of engagement: not the subject, not subjectivation, but existence, and a modified grasp of existential facticity.   I cannot see how any possible reconstruction of the subject—say, the discovery of a new good subject as opposed to the bad subject of modernity—introduces into the political space anything but a totalizing hegemonic demand. If the good subject is discovered, all of us should subjectivize ourselves in it or through it, which is probably the main demand of hegemonic (or counterhegemonic) thought everywhere, and has always been.   But a modified grasp of existence introduces the possibility of a refusal of voluntary servitude, which is the only possible road to the end of politics as social domination.