La sinousia de Platón. Por Gerardo Muñoz.

Plato laws Penguin

En el intercambio que acabo de terminar con Giorgio Agamben (de próxima aparición en el número monográfico sobre su obra editado en la revista Papel Máquina), el filósofo italiano vuelve a insistir, luego de una pregunta mía sobre L’uso dei corpi (2014), sobre la necesidad de pensar una “institucionalización de la potencia destituyente”. Esta operación es completamente contradictoria, dice Agamben, ya que el poder destituyente es, en cada caso, lo que permanece irreducible al derecho y lo que se desprende de cualquier cuadratura jurídica. Agamben cita el término platónico synousia, que no es fácil de traducir, pues consta de varios sentidos técnicos en los diálogos socráticos. Sinousia puede significar “estar-juntos”, pero también “estar-con” o “juntarse” (recogimiento de más de una persona), y a veces “vivir juntos” o “aprender juntos”.

Al final de L’uso dei corpi (2014), Agamben lo emplea en la designación que aparece en Leyes de Platón (y no en la “Carta VII”, que es el otro lugar con el que se le suele asociar): metà synousia pollen. Pudiera traducirse como “perdurar estando-juntos”. Parecería una definición más o menos convencional de la institución política entendida como la descarga de pruebas para “aliviar” los hábitos de los hombres ante la realidad.

Pero Agamben pasa a recordarnos que la sinousia de Platón no es una institución política, ni puede pensarse en función de la esfera del derecho, ni tampoco como instrumento jurídico. Esto tiene sentido en la obra del filósofo italiano, para quien la concepción de institución política en Occidente es ya una figura caída a la dinámica del gobierno (oikonomia) en cuanto administración del mal, tal y como ha sido expuesto en su ensayo sobre Benedicto XVI (hace algún tiempo reseñamos ese libro aquí). Por lo tanto, la sinousia platónica es de otro orden.

Este orden Agamben lo relacionada con la harmonía musical. Una metáfora que implícitamente alude a la concepción de la kallipolis, o de la belleza de la ciudad griega que integra la singularidad como exceso de la politización. La sinousia produce belleza en la polis, pero esa belleza no es ni puede ser una belleza política. Claro, una práctica sinousyal produciría mayor rango de Justicia, que es, al fin y al cabo, la posibilidad de rebajar la dominación del hombre por el hombre. Pero la kallipolis no es un agregado de ‘diferencias culturales’, ni se vincula a la metaforización de identidades en equivalencia. Se prepara una kallipolis desde la sinousia.

En cualquier caso, la sinousia nos remite a un singular en relación que, sorprendentemente, tiene un parecido a lo que Jorge Alemán ha llamado una soledad-común. La soledad del singular evita dormirse ante el anhelo de una totalidad sin fisuras. Es llamativo, por ejemplo, que en varios de los diálogos platónicos (Teages, Teeteto, Epístola VII, o Apología), Sócrates emplee la sinousia para referirse a dos cosas opuestas: al trabajo de una partera que acoge al recién nacido, y al maestro (Sócrates) en relación con sus discípulos.

Una primera intuición nos haría pensar que la sinousia es una vía para “formar personas” o dar “entrada al sujeto”. Sin embargo, sabemos muy bien que Sócrates es un filósofo que no sabe nada. Por eso es válida la distinción entre Sócrates y el platonismo, así como entre Jesucristo y el Cristianismo. En el diálogo Teages, por ejemplo, el discípulo Arístides le confiesa que él no ha aprendido absolutamente nada. La sinousia es una renuncia a la relación de subordinación al discurso maestro, y solo así está en condiciones de inscribir un quiebre en el saber que ha dejado de cumplir las tareas de “epistemizar” contenidos y producir formas.

La única manera en que la sinousia innova es cuando deja madurar al daimonion. Estamos ante el trabajo de un filósofo-analista que descree de las ingenuidades de la conciencia y rechaza administrar el goce del otro en nombre de una comunidad nómina. Por eso la sinousia platónica apunta a algo más allá de la subordinación a la ley del maestro o de una ‘voluntad colectiva’. Me atrevería a decir que la institucionalización que estaría pensando Agamben, aunque él no la hace explícita, es la de un anarco-institucionalismo, contra la supremacía de los teólogos (punto ambiguo en Leyes), que cuida de un proceso transformativo del singular más allá de lo propiamente político o antipolítico. La sinousia es índice de la separación en toda relación de co-existencia.

Es llamativo que Foucault en el curso de 1982-83, oponga la sinousia a la mathemata. Mientras la segunda da “forma” y vuelve “formulaicos” los contenidos del saber, la sinousia es destello de luz y “secreto lubricante del alma” en la absorción generativa de la filosofía. O en palabras de Sánchez Ferlosio, el “fondo de un punto ciego por el que entra la noche. Ese nadir es la aporía de una Razón completa”.

A Merciful Reason: on David Soto Carrasco’s España: Historia y Revelación, un ensayo sobre el pensamiento político de María Zambrano. By Gerardo Muñoz.

In the new book España: Historia y Revelación, un ensayo sobre el pensamiento político de María Zambrano (Círculo Rojo, 2018), David Soto Carrasco has given us a systematic treatment of Zambrano’s philosophical project in a double interpretative frame (in the sense that he considers both the philosophy-political implications of her work for Spain and European modernity simultaneously) of her oeuvre. According to Soto Carrasco, Zambrano’s originality resides in a highly unique modality of thought that goes well beyond the confines of Philosophy (the metaphysical tradition), which produced a speculative critique of European history as it descended into political nihilism. In fact, Zambrano, very much like Simone Weil or Judith Shklar, writes from the abysmal non-place of the ruin of the political, and the rise of new tempting fears and pieties. Her confrontation with liberalism and democracy, at least since her vocational years as a student of Jose Ortega y Gasset, expands thinking to the turbulence of those historically defeated. Indeed, Zambrano never stopped reflecting upon what she perceived as the sacrificial structure of history and the need to open up to a non-imperial relation to politics in the name of democracy.

España: Historia y Revelación fills an important gap in contemporary thinking about the origins of the political, which remains unsteady if not failing in confronting the complex philosophical inheritance of the great thinker from Malaga [1]. Quite to our surprise, and very early on in his book, Soto Carrasco advances a downy version of his thesis, in which he calls for Zambrano’s thinking as that which bends towards an infrapolitical relation to sovereignty against the liberal foundation of politics. Carrasco states:

“…[Zambrano] pretenderá abandonar todo intento de política soberana, esto es, de establecer lo político sobre la base de un concepto infrapolítico de soberanía. De este modo, nuestro ensayo plantea que hay un mesianismo impolítico que recorre toda la obra de Zambrano. Desde esta perspectiva, la historia consistirá en que haya siempre victimas e ídolos” (Soto Carrasco 19).

Taking distance from the Schmittian critique of liberal neutralization from the friend-enemy divide integral to unity of political theology, Soto Carrasco identifies that Zambrano’s “infrapolitics” (which he only mentions once without specifications of a narrow sense of the term) announces a solicitation of democratic community against a thwarting of sacrificial history and the subject of sacrifice. This is fair enough. Soto Carrasco has in mind Zambrano’s categories of “el claro”, “la vida sin textura”, and “razón poética”, which prepare the path for an athological gnosis and arranges the conditions for what the philosopher termed the “person of democracy” [2]. Zambrano’s project for the interwar and postwar period was undoubtedly an extraordinary meditation for the Liberal interregnum and its modern political ideologies. In what follows, I would like to assess the limits and reaches of Zambrano’s project in Soto Carrasco’s reading, which in our times, due to the conditions of global and the effective disintegration of inter-state sovereignty, could allow us to think beyond some of the impasses of the valence of reason and poetics, which are still latent in contemporary thought.

Zambrano’s thinking took off in the 1930s in books such as Horizonte del liberalismo (1930) and Hacia un saber del alma (1934). This is a period of a strong readjustment of European politics and parliamentary democracy. It was a period that went through the rise of fascism, totalitarianism from the right and the left, but also of instances of restoration (conservatism), revolution (left-wing communism), and welfare containment (United States). As Carrasco reminds us, Zambrano not only wanted to make these epochal shifts legible. She also wanted to assume an “insalvable distancia”, or an “irreducible distance” from a politics that had “shipwrecked into scientism and the most mediocre form of positivism” as the justification of dictatorship and ius imperi. This is a position that Zambrano shares with the Heidegger of the Parmenides, who understood the imperial inheritance of the hegemonic domination under the sign of the Roman falsum. Zambrano was highly aware of the calculative operation of the politics that we now associate with the principle of general equivalence as the ontology of modern civil society. In this sense, fascism and communism were two ends of the continuation of absolutism.

But so was liberalism, which in Zambrano’s view, failed due not just to its foundation on a “moral economy”, but because it eluded to the sentimental dimension of man, making him a human, but not a person. The modern foundationalism of the political ran in tandem with a process of the absolutization of the logos. This meant that reason was opposed to myth, a component that had always helped the psychic balance to battle the different external absolutisms of reality. In this way, Zambrano’s definition of conservatism – “it wants to not just have reason, but absolute reason” – could well apply across the ideological spectrum to identify the nihilism of politics. This dead end leads to a philosophy of history, whose horizon of sacrifice undermines the res publica as well as the separation of powers of democracy. The notion of person, in a complete reversal of Simone Weil’s impersonal characterization of the sacred, was the condition for democracy as a livable experience in Zambrano’s own propositional horizon in light of the crisis of liberalism.

Against a politics of domination and sacrifice, one would expect Zambrano to turn to philosophy or tradition. But it is here, as Soto Carrasco argues, that we find a poetological turn in her work as a retreat from the imperial-theological drift of modernity. Carrasco asserts: “La poesía se reivindicará como género para evadir la sistemática razón moderna y rememorar un orden sagrado perdido. La poesía será su más clara revelación” (Soto Carrasco 51). It is at conjuncture where Zambrano’s Spanish context should be taken into account, says Carrasco, since due to the insufficiency or absence of a philosophical tradition in the Iberian Peninsula, there was no concept to find refuge in, but rather, the Spanish ethos was to be found in poetry or the novel. In authors like Machado, Bergamín, Unamuno, or Galdós, Zambrano will clear a path for what she calls an “intuition of a world and a concept of life” (Soto Carrasco 55). In this turn, we arrive at a substitution of Philosophy for the Poem with the promise that it will grant a “verdadera vida” or a true life, at least at the level of intra-national Spanish topoi. This strategy is more or less repeated for the European space in the essays published between 1943 and 1945, such as La agonía de Europa or La confesión, género literarios y método, which for Soto Carrasco complements her critique of logos in the tradition of the West that runs from Plato to Heidegger (Soto Carrasco 73). It is difficult to accept Heidegger as a thinker of logos; a task that became the central operation for the destruction of Western onto-theology and the new beginning of philosophy for an authentic life. Soto Carrasco never fleshes out this complex discussion, and I suspect whether Zambrano herself engaged in a thorough way with Heidegger’s work after the 1930s. But there is an important distinction that Carrasco makes in the last part of his book in relation to Heidegger. When commenting on Zambrano’s notion of “claro”, he writes:

“Por ello, el claro [de Zambrano] no es un Lichtung. Si para Heidegger la “apertura” va a actuar como sorge, como una luz que ilumina la verdad la acción desde la capacidad interrogante, para Zambrano, el “claro” es luz opaca, donde la Palabra surge a las “entrañas” porque en ellas se padece con pasividad. De ahí que el filósofo se oponga al bienaventurado” (Soto Carrasco 125).

The differences are set straight here: Heidegger, in Carrasco’s reading of Cacciari’s reading Zambrano, remains tied too deep into “philosophy”, where Zambrano opens a clear path for a poem that instantiates itself in the divine and recognizes the blessed in ‘thy neighbor’. Zambrano will be on the side of the poem of salvation, but also on the side of ethics. Whereas Heidegger is situated in the threshold of a philosophical project that demands the question of being to be asked; Zambrano’s poematic offering opens an inter-subject mode of care. Again, Soto Carrasco thematizes the differences: “Si para Heidegger pensar el olvido del ser era pensar una posibilidad no-imperial de lo político, para Zambrano, toda posibilidad de lo política fuera de una historia sacrificial solo puede pensar desde el olvido de lo divino, de la relación abismada entre el hombre y Dios, que el bueno de Molinos definió” (Soto Carrasco 83). Zambrano’s “new beginning” is not properly existential, nor can we say after this description that it is one of an infrapolitics of existence, but rather that of an ethics for a human history based on errancy and exile. But it is also an exile that finds is meaning in opposition to the loss of country.

It is in this aporetic limit of Zambrano’s project that I would like to derive a few consequences from Soto Carrasco’s intelligent and important reading. Just a couple of pages before this allusion to Heidegger, Soto Carrasco quotes from La agonía de Europa that reads “in the Roman imperial dominion, existence is lived like a nightmare” (Soto Carrasco 77). If existence is liberated from imperial politics, but substituted to the ethical determination of the poem, isn’t there a risk of assuming that the endgame of the “poetical reason”, based on “misericordia” and “un saber de salvación y sufrimiento” is only capable of being moved by the delirium of the suffering of the world, but not properly achieving a transformative freeing of existence against the transparency of the concept (“la claridad de la idea”)? And does not the inverted messianic and redemptive time posited by a gnosis arrangement against political gigantism, give us yet another chapter in the history of salvation of the onto-theological tradition and its historical productivity? If, as Soto Carrasco does not fail to remind us vis-à-vis Nietzsche, we need History but “History otherwise”, what follows is that any messianic poematic history has unfulfilled this promise as it remains tied to an account of subjection to salvation in detriment to existence, and hence within the walls of imperi and its economy of “novelerías” (Soto Carrasco 105) [3].

It makes sense that the occlusion of existence paves the way for an explicit affirmation on “life”, which Carrasco systematically teases out in the last chapters of the book. He quotes Zambrano affirming that “la vida resulta ser, por lo pronto…un género literarios”; or in relation to Galdos’ characters “una vida habiendo conocido la extrema necesidad acaba libre de ella” (Soto Carrasco 107-08). It is not difficult to find in this concept of life the texture of the Franciscan form of life that, while shredding off the goods of commerce, it still carries the vestiges of an ethical rule of an ontology of the totality of the living (in fact Zambrano in a moment writes “una totalidad desconocida que nos mueve”). This becomes even more present in Soto Carrasco’s defining moment of “razón poética” for Zambrano as based on “love”:

“Es la razón poética hecha razón misericordiosa o piadosa. Amor que solo puede emerger de la revelación, desde un nuevo nacimiento. Es fundar una “comunidad de corazones”. Ante las Palabras de Juliana, se nuestro este eros…”. Yéndose de sí misma seguía sirviendo a la Piedad sin ser devorada por ella, en la verdad de su vida” (Soto Carrasco 113).

Poetical reason offers a communitarian symbolization for a more “ethical Christianity” against the dark night of imperial politics in the name of a new salvation. Zambrano’s mysticism sought in the Spanish tradition of symbols that could mobilize a détente against the force of philosophy and politics, and the hegemony of reason spiraling downwards. The question is whether Zambrano’s poetical and merciful reason can provide us with an authentic exodus from onto-theology and alternative foundations. Or, if on the contrary, the articulation of a substitute ethical condition to the sacrificial horizon of history is really an exception that is already contained within the dual machine of modern historical development that hampers singularization from community and as well as from the negative structure of the political. That is why it remains puzzling why Soto Carrasco states at the very end of the book that Zambrano’s thinking is also a “political philosophy” that is tied to history (Soto Carrasco 134). If Zambrano’s poem produces a reification of political philosophy, then there is no question that the ius imperi is still haunting a counterhegemonic practice even when it wants to speak in the music of democracy. No political philosophy can open a path for infrapolitics, and no infrapolitics can amount to the closure of a political philosophy.

But then again, much could be said about ethics and Zambrano, but also about the ethical traction in contemporary thinking today as politics enters an irreversible crisis for conceptual renovation. In his recent book Karman (2018), Giorgio Agamben interestingly makes the claim that Alain Badiou’s recourse to the “event” amounts to a substitution for the general crisis of modern Kantian ethics, upholding an ethical determination while repeating the antinomies of being and acting proper to the fractured political foundation [4]. I suspect that the same duality can be registered about ethics and politics, or the poem and the logos. There seems to be no other pressing problem today in contemporary thought than to move, for once and for all, beyond the ethico-political axis without any reservations to messianic and poetological substitutes. What is at stake, as Soto Carrasco reminds us, is an originary sense of being. But this would require us to move beyond the mercies of lovable life and the reassurances and prospects of a glorious subject too comfortable in the pieties and mercies that cloak modern ethics. The astuteness and intensity of Soto Carrasco’s brief essay on Zambrano’s thinking asserts the need for us today to push beyond the community and the political into a region that draws out an infrapolitical fissure unbinding the temporalities of singularization in the outlook of a politics that never coincides with life.

 

 

 

Notes

  1. Roberto Esposito has juxtaposed two different ontologies of the political by contrasting Arendt and Weil’s projects in relation to imperial and totalitarian politics. See The Origin of the Political: Hannah Arendt or Simone Weil? (Trans. Gareth Williams, 2017).
  2. See Alberto Moreiras, “Last God: María Zambrano’s Life without Texture”. A Leftist Ontology: Beyond Relativism and Identity Politics (2009). 170-184.
  3. For a dual critique of the modern Hegelian philosophy of history and its messianic reversal, see Writing of the Formless: Jose Lezama Lima and the End of Time (2016), by Jaime Rodriguez Matos.
  4. See Giorgio Agamben, Karman: A Brief Treatise on Action, Guilt, and Gesture (2018). 42.

Beyond rigorisms: notes on Martin Heidegger’s “What is Metaphysics?” (1929). By Gerardo Muñoz.

A preliminary note: it is important to have in mind that Heidegger understood metaphysics as onto-theology. This means that metaphysics was not anevent among others in history, but rather the event that allows the dispensation of the history of the forgetting of being as such. This is why it is always insufficient to take up the mission of founding an “alternative metaphysics” or an immanentization of the metaphysical horizon, which is, at the end of the day, the high price that Averroism has to pay for reenacting absolute aristotelianism against Christian dogmatics. Already in the opening line of “What is Metaphysics?” (1929), (“The question awakens expectations of a discussion about metaphysics…” 82), we encounter the gesture of awakening from the sleepwalking that is the essence of metaphysics as constituted by figures of the supreme (those “idols” that Gareth Williams already brought up to our attention in his commentary) on the one hand; and by the logic reconstruction of identity and difference of historical time on the other.

The engagement against all metaphysical rigorisms must open to a region of factical existence that clears a distinctive path that does not coincide with the demand for “exactness” in the wake of modern scientific development and the legitimacy of the ‘spiritualization of technology’. This spiritualization grounds the objectivity of scientific knowledge as its self-legitimation: “Today the only technological organization of universities and faculties consolidates this multiplicity of dispersed disciplines; the practice establishment of goals by each discipline provides the only meaning source of unity. Nonetheless, the rootedness of the science in their essential ground has atrophied” (82-83). Thus, the question of Da-Sein must necessarily move away, in a counter-universitarian fold, from the demand of exactness of mathematics and the rigorisms of inquiry that is only capable of establishing grounds. The techno-universitarian machination vis-à-vis exactness and rigor ascertains legitimacy through being understood as unveiled will-to-power and reserve for transformation, production, and distribution-organization.

But how? Of course, Heidegger not once speaks of legitimacy in this essay, and I would leave it open to whether the ontological difference and existence is a path that could be thought as an otherwise point of entry into the inquiry for legitimacy in the modern age. (A long parenthesis: this question seems pertinent, in my view, in order to bypass the recurring indictment of Heideggerianism as a “mystical step back” to the antiquity of the Greeks, to the inhumane hypsipolis apolis of the city, or turn to dichtung as the stamp of the German genialismus destroyer of the Enlightenment. I would bracket this question here for future investigation. I must clarify, however, that I pose this question not in the order of intellectual history, but as someone interested in the problem of the genesis of modernity. Also at stake here is the crucial debate with Ernst Jünger regarding the “crossing over the line” as the condition of nihilism, as well the unexplored relation between Lacan’s psychoanalysis, anthropological deficiency, and the ontological difference). In “What is Metaphysics”, Heidegger suggests that any real confrontation must be done through the nothing. The question of nothing for science and the techno-spiritual constellation is “an outrage and a phantasm”, a sort of suppository for transparent rationality (84). Indeed, Heidegger writes: “Science wants to know nothing about the nothing.” (84). But the nothing is never sutured, and that is why it takes a spectral figure; it returns whenever science fails to bring to unity of its own ground.

The question regarding nothing must be cleared from the logic operation of ‘negation’, which for Heidegger is “a doctrine of logic and a specific act of the intellect” (85). Here, Heidegger not only wants to break away from all forms of the Hegelo-Marxist dialectical philosophy of history, but with a deeper anthropological assumption that resides in the insistence of the condition of anticipation (86). (Note for future elaboration: a central kernel of philosophical anthropology – from Helmuth Plessner to Arnold Gehlen, from Hans Blumenberg to Odo Marquard – has been the story of finding ways to institute conditions of anticipation to discharge the absolutism of phenomena and organizing symbolic reality through compensatory and manageable partitions of spheres and actions). But I agree with Gareth Williams that what is at stake in the non-grasping of the question of the nothing is sustaining thinking as nihiliation to an “unconcealed strangeness” that opens up the condition of finitude. Originary attunement is what “makes manifest the nothing” (88), for Heidegger, the possibility of the closest proximity and near true distance. The unwelt of attunement (which never constitutes the idealism of a weltanschauung) is said to be found in boredom or anxiety that rips a hole in language, since “anxiety robs us of speech” (89). Boredom puts us in relation to the animal.

Now, this ur-stimmung knows no hypokeimenon (the pure “that is” of the subject, what subjects the pre-supposition), and that is why it is an instance where the “nothing is manifest” as the clearing of being as a sort of black sun in the open of nothing. “Nihiliation will not submit to calculation in terms of annihilation and negation. The nothing itself nihiliates” (90). This original attunement is what allows for freedom completely disintegrate “logic itself in the turbulence of a more originary questioning” (92). The digression on freedom is important. That is, the freedom that is evoked here is necessarily detached from the freedom of the subject of dialectical thought, the two conceptions of freedom in classical Liberalism (positive and negative), and freedom understood as a conatus of experience engrained in the subjective fabric of affects and habits in the tradition of immanence and philosophies of vitalism, etc. Let’s bracket it in a schematic form: freedom against liberty (liberalism):: attunement against affect (life). A question at this point: is the emergence of the freedom in this early text as a vortex of the attunement of anxiety and boredom, later displaced in Heidegger’s insistence on the Galassenheit as the fundamental mood of a suspended topology? Or is the Galassenheit an adjoined mood as the attunement with the nothing? The question of freedom emerges again at the end in an important passage:

“We are so finite that we cannot even bring ourselves originally before the nothing through our own decision and will. So abyssally does the process of finitude entrench itself in Dasein that our most proper and deepest finitude refuses to yield to our freedom” (93).

The question of freedom as posited here runs all absolute rigorisms amok, whether ethical or political, which ultimately makes their propositions fall within the regime of the “legitimacy of the dominion of “logic” in metaphysics” (95). I would like to call the freedom that opens up in this region where philosophizing takes place infrapolitical freedom. But philosophy here is trans-formed; this is thought. The dismissal of the nothing “with a lordly wave of the hand” as science does, or through an accumulation of facts as it is done in historiography, cannot guarantee freedom in the originary sense that is housed in existence.

As Heidegger says at the very end: “no amount of scientific rigor attends to the seriousness of metaphysics. Philosophy can never be measured by the standard of the idea of science” (96). Not fully abandoning Husserl (or at least that is my wager here, briefly crossing to a late essay on the question of “Earth” beyond science), the philosozing occurs in the measureless earth, an earth that does not move, and beyond any conception as a ready-made idea of measurement. The moment that philosophy raises the question of our existence, it embarks in a decisive removal of all rigorisms of truth (be it ethical, logical, political, anthropological, or historical –hegemonikai or guiding faculties) as well as the absolute trepidations of the negative. Only when positing being at the proximity of the fissured ark, there is the possibility of a bringing the questioning of the nothing. It is here where all rigorisms collapse and good theories end.

Bibliography

Edmund Husserl. “Foundational Investigations of the Phenomenological Origin of the Spatiality of Nature: The Original Ark, the Earth, does not move”. Shorter Works (University of Notre Dame, 1981). 222-233.

Gareth Williams. “First Take on “What is Metaphysics” by Martin Heidegger”. https://infrapolitica.com/2018/02/18/first-take-on-what-is-metaphysics-by-martin-heidegger-by-gareth-williams/

Martin Heidegger. “What is Metaphysics” (1929), Pathmarks (University of Cambridge Press, 1998). 82-97

Stories or fiction? A footnote to Derrida’s The Question of Being and History. By Gerardo Muñoz.

Arguably, one of central problems in Heidegger: The Question of Being and History (2016) is the radical destruction of storytelling proper to onto-theological history. For instance, if we are to take the question of historicity seriously, Giorgio Agamben’s recent efforts on a ‘modal ontology’ provides yet another form of storytelling principled on henological absolutism. A similar gesture appears in Reiner Schürmann’s late work on the possibility of an outside of metaphysics vis-à-vis Plotinus’s hypostases of a “One” prior to all differences and intellect [1]. Although Schürmann points to Derrida’s suggestions on Neo-Platonism as an exception to onto-theology, one should bare in mind that any effective destruction of storytelling would also bring to ruin the henological difference under the critique of the trace. This is the crucial passage delivered very early in the seminar:

“The writing that tells stories is easy, narration is easy and philosophy, in spite of appearances, has never deprived itself of it. The point is to break with the philosophical novel, and to break with it radically and not so as to give rise to some new novel. The philosophical novel, philosophical narration, is of course, but is not only, the history of philosophy as doxography that recounts, reports, gathers and lays out the series of philosophical systems. “Telling stories,” in philosophy, is for Heidegger something much more profound and that cannot be so easily denounced as doxography. The Novelesque from which we must awaken is philosophy itself as metaphysics and as onto-theology“. [2]

As it becomes usual throughout the seminar, telling stories is not just an intellectual operation of the history of philosophy and the philosophy of history. The gesture of going beyond storytelling entails an affirmation of the ontological difference. This leap is not to be understood as a way of entry into a higher kingdom of speculation. Rather, it implies an invitation to radically confront history without exceptions or absolutes. In a way, this is the opposite end of philosophical anthropology’s task, which for Blumenberg amounts to a nonconceptual metaphorics capable of man’s self-affirmation against the absolutism of reality.

But I wonder if one could make the case that the deconstructive operation already in the 1964 seminar vis-à-vis the destruction of storytelling opens to a new conception of fiction. It is telling that ‘fiction’ as such is never brought in the seminar. This displacement, however complex and aporetic, should point to a minimal difference between Heideggerian destruction and Derridean deconstruction when it comes to dismantling every effective onto-theological operation. Should one, then, distinguish between storytelling and fiction? For one, if storytelling belongs the realm of the sleepwalking of philosophy and ontology, then it would be productive to think whether the shift after destruction takes place between thinking and fiction. I am still unable to grasp (if it is indeed possible and consistent) if fiction could effectively be understood as an excess of storytelling. It is not a question of form or even truth.  Should fiction point to the distance between politics and infrapolitics in thought? Could we say that infrapolitics is the dissemination of singular fictions announced after the destruction of onto-theological storytelling? Fiction: a non-metaphorical essence over existence after the end of metaphoric translation.

A negation of fiction puts us in a position of anomy. Here the fiction of law is a productive site for thought, because it is a discipline in which we find that fiction (fictio) is an operation that organizes and brings about a nebulous domain. According to Yan Thomas, who is arguably the central scholar on the fictive nature of Roman law: “The fictio is, from the point of view of Western history, without precedent. It only arrives as an operation of law to fix and keep within its boundaries the limits of reality, and the possible distances that it could trace with the fictive Nature” [3]. Roman law’s artificiality is a second-degree fiction that can no longer represent the state of things, but only the ‘as if’ of every probable manifestation. Fiction is always double, aware and checking its own artificiality. Agamben has appropriated Yan Thomas’ hermeneutical notion of ‘operations of law’ in an opportunity to ‘render inoperative’ the ‘politico-theological machine’ of Western governance. But this non-contained negation of principles speaks to Agamben’s anarchy, which differs from Derrida’s democracy to come. Later on in his life Derrida will establish a coterminous relation between fiction and justice as hyperbolic conditions of democracy.

I think an important moment appears in Rogues, where Derrida endorses a notion of democracy in possession of an “essential historicity” [sic] well beyond the subject and natural rights. Derrida also seems to be grappling with an evolving and transformative notion of democracy that cannot be subsumed either as vulgar historical as principle (arche) nor as reversed impolitical an-archy. One cannot evade history, but can one evade the fiction of democracy?

Back to the seminar. At the very end of the last session, Derrida reasserts that “it is not a matter of substituting one metaphor for another, which is the very movement of language and history, but of thinking this movement as such, thinking metaphor in metaphorizing as such, thinking the essence of metaphor (this is all Heidegger wants to do). There is thinking every time that this gesture occurs, in what is called science, poetry, metaphysics, and so on.” (Derrida 190).

So fiction cannot amount to a mere substitution for storytelling. Fiction should name the process of uncontained de-metaphorization within an evolving economy of democracy that has no political arche. The end of philosophical storytelling will open to a contamination of the turbulence of fiction by which the legal operation is always insufficient, but never deposed. The shift from the absolutist negation of the Roman fictio (the political as roman ratio according to the Parmenides lecture) to democracy as an essential historicity, retreats politics in the shadow of fiction. Couldn’t we say, assuming all the risks involved, that infrapolitics is also a reflection on the nature of fiction as a condition for democratic reinvention?

 

 

 

Notes

  1. Reiner Schürmann. “The One: Substance or Function”. Neoplatonism and Nature (ed. Michael F. Wagner). State University of New York Press, 2002.
  2. Jacques Derrida. Heidegger: The Question of Being and History. University of Chicago Press, 2016.
  3. Yan Thomas. “Fictio legis. L’empire de la fiction romaine et ses limites médiévales”, Droits, no 21, 1995.

Is There an Infrapolitical Dignity Worthy of the Name? By Gareth Williams.

Rome dignitas

Geoffrey Bennington, Scatter 1: The Politics of Politics in Foucault, Heidegger and Derrida. New York: Fordham University Press, 2016.

My presentation is framed as a question, but is simply an attempt to think alongside scatter, with no definitive response to the question itself. I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude to Alberto Moreiras for this gathering, and my admiration to Geoffrey Bennington for Scatter 1, which, via the “politics of politics” in Foucault, Heidegger and Derrida, posits a thinking not of the political per se, but of a certain autoimmune distance from the political, which is, of course, a distance from politics understood as the dialectical orientation and administration of force. Bennington proposes a dismantling of the hermeneutics of the political, and, as such, a deconstruction of the originary polemos/polis relation. He does this in such a way as to unveil—that is, to loosen and scatter—just some of the originary concealments that lie at the heart of the political. Bennington presents us with what one might call, perhaps a little inappropriately, a form of anticipatory resoluteness that is extended, however, not in the name of power over Dasein’s existence, as in Heidegger’s not so surreptitious decision, but in the name of autoimmunity. This movement uncovers a “modest falling short of the transcendental”; the potentiality of a turn toward a thinking of autoimmunity that traces the contours of a thinking without mastery; an opening to a certain environmentality within thinking that remains at a significant remove from the dialectic of reason and the certainties of political consciousness that animate every teleology.

We could understand Scatter1, therefore, as a protocol of reading that highlights, and animates, a certain trembling at the heart of the political; a trembling that is covered over, concealed, and systematically rendered oblivious in the name of teleology. Bennington’s is a protocol that is extended with a view to dispersing all fugitive Self-Other concealments. This is obviously not the work of a card carrying Heideggerian, however. Quite the contrary, the author proposes the detours of scatter in such a way as to open up a task for thinking that does not regurgitate Heidegger’s troublesome metaphorics of proximity and gathering; a metaphorics that Derrida in May ‘68 (“The Ends of Man”), but also in his lectures from a few years before On the Question of Being and History, had already outlined as a thinking of “simple and immediate presence, a metaphorics associating the proximity of Being with the values of neighboring, shelter, house, service, guard, voice and listening” (“Ends, 130). As Derrida highlights in reference to Heideggerian metaphorics, this is “not an insignificant rhetoric” (130).

With this in mind, Scatter 1 takes aim at the underlying problems of the “moment of vision” (Augenblikt), which Heidegger developed with a view to anchoring and holding together the factical and the transcendental, the existential and the existentiell; the gathering together of all thrownness, dispersal and ek-sistence. In contrast to Heidegger’s moment of vision, Bennington invites us to approach the politics of politics in the absence of such a problematic metaphorics, in the process raising the question of metaphoricity in general, and along with it the very conceivability of plurality, coexistence and simultaneity.

Echoing Derrida’s “differance”, Scatter 1 offers its readers the tomb of the proper, the death of the tyranny contained in Heidegger’s metaphysics of gathering and proximity (Derrdia, 1972, 4). As such, the politics of politics unveils an economy of death that lies at the heart of the metaphorics of the familial and the proper. Rather than positing presence, scatter loosens, breaches and breaks open in a movement toward the politics of politics; politics in its autoimmune self-difference, or alter. The politics of politics marks not the sign politics, but the sign of the sign, and therefore the opening to the unveiling trace of the erasure of the trace itself. As a result, Scatter is the movement of an autoimmune destitution of political presence that moves in the name of an economy without reserve, always preceding and differentiating itself from the political.

In these movements the politics of politics governs nothing. If it is anything, scatter is the name for that which “lingers in the expanse of unconcealment” (Derrida,”Ousia and gramme), and, as such, in the expanse of the trace of the erasure of the trace. Scatter is a thought of lingering and of falling short. Making the unveiling of oblivion the issue not of politics, but of the politics of politics, scatter suspends teleology from the start, in the name of always, humbly, and necessarily, falling short of gathering. As such, it remains at all times without a kingdom and without an epoch; as Derrida observes in reference to differance, which remains at all times the underlying movement of scatter, it is an “affirmation foreign to all dialectics” (27). As a result, there is no philosophy of bios and zoe available to us here; there is no affirmative biopolitics in scatter. Rather, it is thinking in the name of blind tactics, empirical wandering (Derrida, 7), and the circumventing of the willful politics of the decision, of any specific political consciousness, and of the operation or action of a subject on an object. In scatter sovereignty is nothing and the only democracy worthy of the name would be an-archic.

This is, of course, a fundamental project for our times, understanding our times as our atrocious, forced familiarity with a seismic shift in the coordination of teleology and eschatology that we have come to call globalization. Half a century ago, in “The Ends of Man”, Derrida first approached the question of dignity and democracy, highlighting the following limit: “What is difficult to think today is an end of man which would not be organized by a dialectics of truth and negativity, an end of man which would not be a teleology in the first person plural” (121). Fifty years later our phrasing would have to be slightly different, since that limit evoked by Derrida has been displaced by the globalizaton of techne and the determination of humanity as standing reserve. In these dire circumstances, we might now have to say that what is difficult to think is an end of man that could possibly be organized by a dialectics of truth and negativity, an end of man that could possibly be a teleology in the first person plural, other than that which leads to the eschaton of complete nomic collapse, of course.

It is in this context that Bennington returns to Derrida’s approach to, and distancing from, the Kantian stipulation that a dignity “worthy of the name” be returned to politics, in such a way that a new politics—a repoliticization, another concept of the political—be forged in which rational beings are treated always as an end, “and not merely as a means to be arbitrarily used by this or that will” (Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals). What is ultimately at stake (and this is inevitable in this proposition) is the aporia of a political re-instrumentalization of man as an end in itself, rather than as a value, even though dignitas is only ever an expression of value—of a certain auctoritas—and, as such, the expression of a certain property of the State. The question of force still, and perhaps only ever, haunts this attempt to make room for, and to distance oneself from, dignity in the politics, property and titles of the State.

Bennington asks: “Is it possible to think of a dignity that is not bound up in (and, one might be temped to say, compromised by) the teleological structures of the Kantian Idea?” It is this question that leads to the question of the structure of (in)dignity—the constitutive indignity—that upholds “the supposed dignity of [all] metaphysical concepts”. From an infrapolitical, rather than from a classical political perspective, what is at stake here is how to try to make room not for dignity in real politics, and therefore in the administration of force (auctoritas), but to let the dignity of a remove from the metaphysics of force (that is, a constitutive indignity) be involved in existence. With this question of constitutive indignity in mind, we are left to wonder if there is an infrapolitical inflection—an inflection that is without doubt akin at all times to the protocols of deconstruction, but that is not necessarily bound by the protocols of deconstruction—; I repeat, is there an infrapolitical inflection available to us that might allow us to reckon with the distance from auctoritas, from the property titles of the State or the dignity of metaphysics, from a site other than that of the Kantian inheritance that Derrida reckons with from “The Ends of Man” (1968) all the way through to the end itself in 2004?

At this point I will merely offer an example, and that, precisely, is the weakness of everything that follows (though in Specters of Marx Derrida notes that “an example always carries beyond itself; it opens up a testamentary dimension” (41). I wonder, then, whether in the example there lies the problem and possibility of an infrapolitical inflection that turns away from the political, and turns in the direction of allowing that the dignity of a remove from force be involved not in politics, but in existence.

Of all people, it is Cicero the elderly statesman who might exemplify such an inflection. In a brief essay published in 1960, the Oxford classicist J.P.V.D. Balsdon recounts Cicero’s return from exile and ultimate political capitulation in 56BC, when, in the face of “the prolonged triumph of gangsterdom which followed his exile” (49), Cicero found himself obliged to turn his back on the dignity and prestige of a public life. He had become an ineffective pariah in the motley world of populist resentment. What is at stake in Balsdon’s treatment of this moment in the history of the Republic are the slight shifts in Cicero’s uses of the terms dignitas and otium, together, at this particular time of capitulation and relinquishment.

In general, the term otium referred to the private or retired, as opposed to active public, life. However, in public life otium could also refer to peace and freedom from disturbance, or relief after war and internal disorder (47). It referred to a form of serenity or harmony in the wake of war. Upon Cicero’s political capitulation, Balsdon says, “the opening remark of the De Oratore, [signaling pseudos] which was finished in 55, introduces the new conception ‘cum dignitate otium’. ‘Otium’ is now retirement, the condition of the elder statesman who turns his back on the political. His active political life, his consulships and proconsulships are at an end (49). “Battling through the stormy seas of popular agitation”, observes Balsdon, Cicero had to “make for a different harbor . . . ‘cum dignitate otium’” (50). For the classicist Balsdon this is a harbor of studious relief from disturbance, freedom from agitation, and relief after war and internal disorder, for “persistence in opposition which was doomed to ineffectiveness would not, for the Roman world at large, promote “cum dignitate otium’” (50).

Learning to turn one’s back on the political in order to exist “cum dignitate otium”, learning to be without or in the absence of the dignitas of auctoritas, and, as a result, detouring back toward the constitutive indignity of the pre-political, and doing so while understanding at all times the agitations of the world of force, Cicero would have confronted and suffered the weight of a dignity uprooted from all titles of community. This would have been a dignity without dwelling in political life, and therefore not entirely worthy of its name, since at the same time it would have been a return to a constitutive indignity that was destined to always fall short of the political metaphysics of gathering, of majesty, or of any harbor.

Surely Cicero would have lived it as a “sad or sober pragmatic renunciation of some fuller version of dignity”, as Bennington puts it at the end of Scatter. But perhaps one could speculate that it is here—“cum dignitate otium”, in the infrapolitical turn back to a constitutive indignity that is exposed to real and symbolic death itself—that one could learn to exist, think, and write in an infrapolitical rather than a political fashion. It is there that one might have to learn to live with the without, in such a way as to exist not in the name of dignity or of a future politics or communal title anchored by the sublime or the general structure of “going beyond”, but in the name of a without that nevertheless lets the dignity of the remove from the public world of force be involved in existence. Perhaps it is cum dignitate otium’s passive movement of allowing to be involved in existence—of a care for that which comes at a remove from the biopolitical orientation and administration of forcethat forges the possibility not of a new democratic form, of a re-democratization built liberally on the logics of inclusion and exclusion, but of an infrapolitical scatter of mastery and title that casts freedom from among the ashes.

A partir de Marranismo e inscripción…, de Alberto Moreiras, Madrid: Escolar y Mayo, 2016. Por Juan Carlos Quintero Herencia.

I

La toma del tiempo

“¿Te gustó el libro, te parece que funciona?” me preguntas. Cuando contesto que sí, que me gustó, siento que la afirmativa es, de inmediato, la tachadura de toda la incomodidad e intensidad asociadas a los libros que he disfrutado. Y éste, como otros que me han gustado, me tomó tiempo. Los que me gustan, me toman tiempo, necesito acompañarlos —por razones que no sé ni quiero explicar— con otras lecturas, con otros textos. Por eso me tardo. Hace tiempo, mucho antes que se pusiera de moda la lentitud académica o universitaria, que abracé las consecuencias y la singularidad de mi “tardarme”. No hay nada que hacer. Además, evité leer las reseñas hasta haber terminado de leer el libro. No quiero que me dañen la película, ni me predispongan, ni me lo cuenten en ninguna dirección.

Ya que se trata de un libro eminentemente autográfico, me gustaría acompañar tu gesto en Marranismo e inscripción con las condiciones, algo del contexto desde donde te vengo leyendo hace un tiempo. Consignar aquí todo el ruido que tengo que poner al lado para poder leer(te).

No creo que nos hayamos dado las manos. No recuerdo un estrechón de manos. Es probable que hayamos coincidido en los pasillos de alguna conferencia profesional y recuerdo algunas fotos colgadas en un panel en el último LASA en Washington, DC. Tu nombre fue primero una cita, una referencia, un pasaje —de hecho recuerdo el uso de The Exhaustion of Difference (2001) en el libro de Juan Duchesne Winter, Fugas incomunistas (2005)— luego devendría parte de esa suerte de epicentro polémico, de chismes e incesantes rumoreos académicos. Esta última situación, de hecho, se convirtió en un escena que precisamente estorbaba o neutralizaba cualquier lectura o comentario mío sobre tus textos. Cuando en medio de alguna conversación con amigos —intelectuales, escritores o universitarios— mencionaba alguno de tus textos, en demasiadas ocasiones, se instalaban rostros, “peros” y muecas. La plantilla de adjetivos, juicios (morales), calificativos o descalificaciones que de inmediato procedían, tenían el efecto (en mi) de abrir ese estúpido “disclaimer” que no me interesaba mediar, que quién carajos va a saber lo que sucedió, que no sé lo que en verdad allí pasó, ni me interesaba, etc., etc. Este gesto mío tampoco ayudaba a mantener la continuidad de la conversación, pues pocos o casi ninguno parecían haberte leído o querían hacerlo. Para muchos, a pesar o quizás debido a su filiación o endeudamiento disciplinario, decir cosas como “ese tipo es un_____________” o “esa tipa es una _____________” es parte de una carga y descarga afectiva y moral que acompaña y firma su labor crítica, aunque dejen esto para el cotilleo y el aparte entre panas. Quería y quiero hablar de otras cosas que no pasan por ahí. ¿De qué estamos hablando, de los textos, de la labor de pensamiento que allí se despliega o de la “estatura moral de las personas envueltas”, de cuán humildes, simpáticos o arrogantes son? No creo que en estos asuntos existan víctimas y victimarios absolutos, impolutos. Ni me importa. En fin.

Creo que el “affaire en Z” o el ground zero que estalló con el “subalternismo” y “post-subalternismo” tiene los visos de un concurso de popularidad, de torneo político-institucional ante los administradores y ganaron los más astutos, los mercadeables, quizás “los más agradables”, los instrumentalizables, los que hablan o hablaron un mejor “Decanish” (la lengua del decanato). Me consta haber sentido y escuchado la “sospecha”, el pasarle la cuenta, el goce ante el —entonces— extraño “latinoamericanista”, al “antipático” español que para colmo no visitaba los santos lugares de la diferencia o la identidad “latinoamericanista”. Nada de lo que aparece entre comillas ni lo afirmo, ni me interesa desmentirlo, porque nada de esto, repito, me consta, ni me parece relevante, ni mucho menos ando por ahí buscando versiones o contra-versiones. De la misma manera, ya se pasea con nuevas vestiduras la “sospecha” y la paranoia ante el deseo infrapolítico por hablar de la esquemática histórica heiddegeriana de cara a América Latina.

Siempre he dicho que me parecen mucho más retadores e estimulantes los lugares de tu enunciación y algunos de tus textos que cualquiera de los textos de tus “enemigos”, adversarios o sus epígonos. Incluso los disfruto más aunque difiera de ellos o cuando todavía no los “entiendo” del todo. Para mi esta es la marca de un texto que “funciona”. By the way, la discursividad decolonial se me cae de las manos porque telegrafía, le sirve la mesa a la simplificación y reduce la diferencia o la complejidad desde la salida. Todo termina cayendo en su sitio y desde la salida se sabe cómo y qué se va a “concluir”.

Creo que mi distancia y desconocimiento íntimo asociados a los días convulsos en “Z” me ha permitido escapar tanto de la moralina institucional, del torneo citacional sectario, de la verbosidad teórica, como del fisiculturismo discursivo o del craso anti-intelectualismo que nuclea, en ocasiones, el bochinche sobre lo que pasó en “Z” y sus consecuencias. Con lo anterior ni niego, ni dudo de los dolores y sufrimientos realmente vividos durante esos años, como subestimo la “realidad” de movidas y maquinaciones que pueden “testimoniar” o negar cualquiera de sus participantes o testigos. En verdad, Alberto, me aburre el tema. Igual me siento como quien se asoma a una escena obscenamente íntima y no tiene manera de salir de allí. Esto en particular ni lo celebro, ni lo agradezco, lo doy por recibido. Sobre el sujeto que escribe Marranismo e inscripción este relato sobre “Z” parece una herida sin sutura. Espero, sin embargo, que esto sea lo menos discutido, leído o comentado de Marranisno e inscripción. O que por curiosidad malsana permita que otros lectores se acerquen al libro. Si se va a convertir en otra re-edición del dime-y-direte entre los que son y los que no son (algo), paso. Las reseñas que he leído ya enfatizan lo que me parece importante del libro.

Creo que la mejor funcionalidad de este libro, es esa funcionalidad averiada que tan productiva y dialogante me parece y que firma lo que me atrevería a subrayar como una singularidad de lo literario y, borgianamente, de lo teórico. Algunos de los aspectos me parecen contribuciones del libro son: 1) la inscripción decisiva del daño y regocijo anti-teórico que plaga la academia contemporánea. Necesitamos asediar la hegemonía de la pulsión anti-intelectual, anti-teórica que regentea la universidad tal y como la conocemos hoy. Fue toda una sorpresa, más que estimulante, leer en las páginas dedicadas al episodio en “Z” el espejeo de un momento efervescente en el campo intelectual puertorriqueño del pasado fin de siglo. Me refiero a las discusiones y debates, además de las histerizaciones de algunos ante el denostado corpus “post-moderno” en el Puerto Rico universitario de finales de los 1990’s y comienzo de los 2000’s, 2) la puesta en discusión de las posibilidades e imposibilidades críticas de la “infrapolítica como una crítica del giro político” (33) y 3) el abandono de la secundariedad intelectual, del enmarcado cientista de la labor crítica, en tanto ficción crítica o ficción teórica. La voluntad escritural, literaria del libro lo coloca serenamente, si se me permite, entre “nuestros extraños libros” latinoamericanos. Nada de esto merece meramente aplausos, sino discusión y deliberación amplios.

II

Asociaciones libres y preguntas. Asocio y pregunto recordando las palabras de mi madrina santera quien me decía, cuando veía venir una pregunta sobre el secreto: lo que se sabe no se pregunta. También porque aquí, tal vez, expongo, no sé, algunas de mis resistencias o confusiones ante MI. Uso MI autorizado por el gesto indigerible, indigesto con el que Brett Levinson presentaba la performance de tu pensamiento en Marranismo e interpretación: “Marranismo e inscripción, henceforth MI, is both a performance and explanation of its own undigestibility, which is to say, the undigestibility of Moreiras within Hispanism as well as within, let us call them, the theoretical humanities.” Recordé que MI es también la abreviatura utilizada por los productores de la película-franquicia de acción y espionaje Mission Impossible protagonizada por Tom Cruise. Y más que cualquier extrapolación efectista o el relleno del vacío que desaloja lo imposible con la proeza visual, me gustaría seguir pensando el carácter imposible de tu crítica al “latinoamericanismo del yo” y el “llamado de una lengua no metafórica”.

En tu lectura del “latinoamericanismo del yo”, éste parece ser consecuencia de una movida cartográfica, de haber padecido una “cartografía” donde se te convirtió en personaje capturado por dicho mapa. Más o mejor que una concepción cartográfica del “yo” ¿podríamos repensar lo “yoico” desde otras coordenadas? Que al igual que la resistencia a la experiencia psicoanalítica se manifiesta con ese “psicoanalizarse es lo que siempre necesita el otro”, también pudieramos evitar la trampa de que “más yoico eres tú” y responsabilizarnos por ese estar implicados hasta el tuétano en la opción de la primera persona. Creo que MI expone un “yo”, tal vez indigesto pero también en vías de fuga, abandonándose a otros placeres y por lo mismo, ojalá, camino a otra interlocución. Ahora bien, más o menos que el diseño o una captura cartográfica lo “yoico” me parece un privilegiar, un totalizar la presencia y el actuar del “yo”, volverlo escenario y protagonista indispensable de la labor crítica, la reducción de lo personal o de lo íntimo a la primera persona. ¿El “no hay un nosotros” que exhibe la infrapolítica sería una marca de su carácter post-yoico, infrayoico, su posibilidad imposible?

III

La espalda de lo imposible-lo posible del pensar (:) Deconstruir, desmetaforizar, desnarrativizar ¿des-equivalenciar? “Despertar en el pensamiento”

“No sabemos lo que podría ser una vida sin metáforas, pero sabemos o podemos intuir lo que la metáfora traiciona. Marranismo e inscripción (135)

Me consta, por varias instancias, lecturas e intercambios por Facebook, tu deseo reflexivo por continuar o asumir la tarea de-constructiva derrideana como un despertar del sueño sonámbulo del metafísico —a diferencia del, pero relacionado con el sonámbulo poético (sobre el cual dices poco)— pues el sonámbulo metafísico es quien sueña “sin romper el carácter metafórico de la lengua” o citando a Derrida  despertar como la escucha de la «llamada de una lengua no metafórica imposible» (278).” Es casi seguro que aquí y ahora pulse mi condición crónica, poética, o mi inhabilidad para elucidar, o habitar la lucidez del sujeto de la luz (si se me perdona la redundancia) que ha despertado. Romper la metáfora es producir otra metáfora o al menos suspenderla por un instante. ¿Qué haría posible políticamente esta lengua-no-metafórica-imposible? ¿Con qué tipo de oído escuchas ese “llamado”? ¿O escuchas tal vez el llamado desde una viscosidad literalizante en la que creerías como escritor, como marrano y que nunca deviene discurso en tanto expondría tu secreto? ¿Por qué no lidiar, des-obrar con ese tacto, con el pálpito con “lo real” que también recorre lo meta-phorein como escape de lo dicotómico, como transferencia a otro o cualquier lugar?

Si la metáfora “traiciona”, falta o delinque, sino es leal, ¿cuál es el problema de este “sueño”, cuál es la naturaleza de su deslealtad y qué o quién decide su “politicidad? A veces me parece —puedo, sin duda, equivocarme colosalmente— que si “desmetaforizar es deconstruir” bajo el signo de lo imposible, este des-obrar el trabajo de la metáfora tal vez arrastre una noción muy específica, quizás muy parcial o limitada de lo metafórico que todavía transporta un binario y sólo percibe y reconoce espasmódicamente la potencialidad múltiple, abierta de lo metafórico. ¿La infrapolítica “sospecha” de toda voluntad, más bien de la inevitabilidad-potencialidad metafórica? ¿Insiste alguna voluntad equivalencial, alguna ideologización en el trabajo de la metáfora?

Espero que estas notas (menores) te hayan sacado de las “ascuas”, de allí donde mis salidas o silencios en el pasado te habían colocado.

Gracias por el libro y en cuanto me lleguen ejemplares de La hoja de mar te paso uno firmado. Un abrazo.

Juan Carlos Quintero Herencia

20 de marzo de 2017, Silver Spring, Maryland

An explanation for ‘deconstructing the administrative state’. By Gerardo Muñoz.

A few weeks ago at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), when Steve Bannon, Donald J. Trump’s White House chief strategist, laid out the principle of “the deconstruction of the administrative state” as one of the immediate objectives of the Trump administration, there followed a storm of commentaries. For academics in the humanities, it was a perfect setting to mock ‘deconstruction’, and assert the un-political character of this so called “theoretical trend” in the academia, easily linking Derrida with Bannon’s strategic plan.

Just to cite one of many examples, French writer Alain Mabanckou twitted: “Steve Bannon, le mentor de Trump parle de “deconstruction” du povuir de Washington. Deconstrution? Srait-il un lecteur de Derrida?”. Many more followed on social media and in academic groups. These witty remarks were, of course, written under the sign of irony, which is certainly a central stimmung of our time. But irony is also one of the most serious genres to discuss a serious affair, of which I would like to briefly contemplate. Of course, my intention is not to defend Derrida, or even worse, to prove that Bannon has not read Derrida. I am sure that Bannon has not read Derrida, and even if he has heard of him, or someone told him a few things about deconstruction as a critical strategy of contemporary thought, this is irrelevant.

Bannon’s usage of deconstruction of the administrative state is correct, although in another sense. For one thing, deconstructing the administrate state is a technical term used in sociology and political science analysis as it relates to the fiscal state. In his new book Democracy against Domination (2017), Sebeel Rahman discusses the deconstructive force of computative fiscal logic over institutional structures and governmental regulatory bureaucracy [1]. In a good portion of the literature, whenever the notion of deconstruction of the administrative state is used, it refers directly to the dismantling of the fiscal regulatory apparatus (see Norris 2000). Whereas it might, at first sight, seem that Bannon is misinformed or just downright clownish, he is deeply versed in the specific discipline that he wants to target; mainly, political science of the welfare state as it has been discussed from the New Deal onwards.

One could press this point even further: the idea that Bannon wants to ‘deconstruct the administrative state’ does not merely amount to ‘more neoliberalism’ as cultural critics seem to reduce the problem. This is part of the truth, but not the whole truth. The attempt to attack the administrative state entails a serious assault on the rule of law, since as the most intelligent constitutionalists have recently noted, the administrative state is today the legal structure that has supplanted legitimacy over the deficit of presidentialism of the executive branch. Adrian Vermuele (2016) makes it clear that the administrative state is the law’s greatest triumph after the weakening of the separation of powers. This ultimately entails, that perhaps Bannon is well aware that it is not enough to destroy a democratic society from the standpoint of a sovereign executive, since it must be done from the very place where the rule of law resides, and this is where the administrative state plays a fundamental role. Bannon’s deconstructive gesture goes to the heart of the rule of law, which we have already started seeing as a check mechanism to Trump’s rampant executive unilateralism. Hence, the rumor that says that Bannon is a Leninst should be taken very seriously: Leninism seeks the destruction of the state and rule of law in order to create a dictatorship of the proletariat, which is Bannon’s civilizational response to globalization [2]. Bannon is a full-fleshed anti-institutionalist who admires not only Lenin, but also the decade of the thirties that he has called “exciting”.

At this point, it is perhaps almost unnecessary to say that Derrida’s deconstruction has little do with Bannon’s loaded attack on institutions of the welfare state. However, what is important is to note that Bannon’s articulation of deconstruction is inequivalent to Derrida, and a comparison becomes only possible if one subscribes to a transparent conceptual reservoir of the linguistic turn in order to abuse it. Thus, whenever a linguistic component is emphasized as hyperbolic of intellectual thought, the latter is suspended to favor an easy advantage in tandem with anti-politics.

Derrida emphasized that deconstruction was a condition of democracy, and that democracy could not take place without deconstruction. Democracy is really not a political concept in Derrida’s thought. It is not reducible to a tradition of “intellectual history”, and not even to the primal causation of life as predicated in the political. Such was, for Derrida, the exemplary nature of Mandela [3]. But to the extent that it solicits unconditional hospitality, it alters the alterity of the singular that is never reducible to political finality. This coming of friendship or non-enmity is another way of thinking through an infrapolitical existence. It is this demotic existence beyond the political what Bannon wants to destroy and obstruct in a move that is both fully ultra-political and non-political.

Notes

  1. K. Sebeel Rahman. Democracy against Domination. Manhattan: Oxford University Press, 2016.
  2. “Steve Bannon, Trump’s top guy, told me he was ‘A Leninst’ who wants to ‘destroy the State’. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/08/22/steve-bannon-trump-s-top-guy-told-me-he-was-a-leninist.html
  3. Jacques Derrida. The Politics of Friendship. London: Verso, 2005. P.102-106. “Admiration of Nelson Mandela, or The Laws of Reflection”, Law & Literature, Vol.26, 2014.

Infrareligion in the abyss: on Jaime Rodriguez Matos’ Writing of the Formless: José Lezama Lima and the End of Time. By Gerardo Muñoz.

writing-of-the-formless_2017Jaime Rodriguez Matos’ Writing of the Formless: José Lezama Lima and the End of Time (Fordham U Press, 2016) is an ambitious and truly mesmerizing mediation on the Cuban poet José Lezama Lima in light of contemporary theoretical debates concerning the status of the political in the wake of Modernity’s decline into nihilism. Rodriguez Matos’ sophisticated intervention attempts to accomplish several objectives at once, and in this sense, the book does not pretend to be an exegetical or philological contribution to scholarly debates on the poet. Rather, in the book, Lezama is taken as a poet-thinker of the informe, whose main import into Western history of writing and thought is that of a ‘writing of the formless’ (Rodriguez Matos 171). In its totality, the whole book is a groundwork for such a claim, and it works through a series of tropologies, figures, and debates that extend from Lezama’s specific cultural Cuban context and its readers, to a set of wider debates pertinent to Left-Heideggerianism, political theology, or the event (although by no means, is the complex set of debates reducible to these three philosophical indexes).

If one were to describe the project in its most far-reaching ends, Writing of the Formless is important yet for another reason: by handling several topologies of Lezama Lima’s oeuvre, we are offered an in-depth analysis of the intricate conceptual wager in infrapolitics, or in infrapolitical-deconstruction, which as Rodriguez Matos suggests, is the provenance of Lezama Lima’s contribution as a critical task. The book is divided in two parts. In the first one, four chapters grid an explication of the problem of time, as well as that of the formless, revolution, and nihilism. In the second, Rodriguez Matos engages in an innovative reading of different zones in Lezama Lima that evidence the destruction of principial politics, and the opening towards an (infra)politics of the void. In this review, I can hardly do justice to a book that I truly consider a masterwork of contemporary thought. In my opinion, this monograph comes as close as it gets to being flawless in establishing conceptual premises and argumentative deployment. In what follows I will map some provocative elements of his exposition, in hope that it will be a starting point for a discussion with those critically engaging Latin America, the political, and the stakes of thought in our time.

The point of departure of Writing of the Formless is the temporal question (in Latin America, although it is not localized here as a site of privilege) of Modernity, which is registered as a Janus face machine: on one end, the linear time of Hegel’s philosophy of history; and on the other, the teleological time of the messianic redemption and reservoir to many salvific political theologies. Early in the book, Rodriguez Matos sets up to establish the conditions that guide the development of his task:

“But it now it seems that in fact modernity, and not any possible redemption or liberation from its political and economic deadlocks, is itself a mixed temporality that is constantly battling between a circular and a linear time – a linear time of alienation and a circulation teleological time of redemption. The two need to be taken together, even in the very (im)possibility of such a synthesis. And this would mean that modernity is no longer the other of the revolutionary interruption of empty chronological time; rather, these are two sides of a single coin” (Rodriguez Matos 33).

By way of this dual apparatus of time, it becomes clear that linear time represents the time of alienation, where the eternal return marks its radical detachment only to become the engine of the theological messianic interruption. The two temporalities that frame Modernity, according to Rodriguez Matos, are a policing force, as well as “a residual effect or the symptom of the emergence of order itself” (Rodriguez Matos 22). And it is this formal legislation that synthesizes a duality that veil, in a variety of effective techniques, the formless of any foundation. Throughout the book the formless has different dispositions, such as the “intemporal”, “time of the absence of time”, or Lezama’s own “muerte del tiempo”. These all play key strategic functions and deconstructive relays. It might be the case, at least implicitly, that Rodriguez Matos knows that the history of metaphysics to cover up the void is, at the same time, the narrative produced by its apparatuses. What is important, however, is that by allocating these two times, Rodriguez Matos is able to set up what was otherwise obstructed: mainly, the time of void, which falls right beneath all principial politics, always in retreat and outside legitimizing messianic and developmental policity of Western modernity that governs both the time of the One and that of the multiple. Lezama is the figure that mobilizes a drift away from these two modalities:

“…beyond the politization of politics, and beyond the image of time as synthetic operation, what remains is the possibility of thinking with the poet beyond the current apparatus of academic-imperial) knowledge and all of its returns” (Rodriguez 25).

One would not exaggerate much in concluding that Lezama Lima as a thinker of the informe becomes the necessary antidote and hospitable dispensary against the philological exercises of the traditional belleletrism, but also of decolonial and neocommunist designs that, although attempting at the surface to break-away with imperial semblances, end up carrying the guise of principial politics as the highest flagpole for self-legitimation.

The reading of the informe allows us to move beyond the temporal dichotomy between revolution and conservation, messianic originalism (such as that of catholic, later convert post-socialist official poet Cintio Vitier), and the multiplicity of historical time (such as that endorsed by Rafael Rojas, Cuba’s most sophisticated neo-republican intellectual historian). It must be noted, however, that many other intellectuals and thinkers are tested on this basis. The common ground shared by diverse thinkers such as Rafael Rojas, Ernesto Laclau, Cintio Vitier, Walter Benjamin, Bruno Bosteels, Alain Badiou, and those that subscribe to post-foundationalism becomes clear: mainly, the assumption that the crisis of nihilism of temporality can be amended by always providing an adjustment for the abyss. In this way, Rodriguez Matos offers a frontal critique of any claim instantiated in hegemonic phantasms: “Our task remains to think time in all its radical complexity – that is, to think time as something other than a solution” (Rodriguez Matos 44). Writing of the Formless stands up to this deliverance.

There are many important elements that come forth in this argumentation, one of them being that the covering of the formless, or the lack of foundation, is usually articulated through a master and masterable political theology. It is not just Rodriguez Matos who arrives at this conclusion, but also Bruno Bosteels by way of observing the inscription of Christianity in many of contemporary thinkers of the Left. In a passage cited by Rodriguez Matos from Marx and Freud in Latin America, we read: “All these thinkers [Badiou, Negri, Zizek], in fact, remain deeply entangled in the political theology of Christianity – unable to illustrate the militant subject except through the figure of the saint” (Rodriguez Matos 44). It is even more perplexing then, that Bosteels’ own solution to this problem ends up being just more political theology by way of Leon Rozitchner’s reading of Saint Augustine, and merely exchanging the category of the saint for that of the militant subject, even though this is already part of the history of alienation of Christianity [1]. But the reason for this might be, as Rodriguez Matos thematizes a few pages later, that any predicament for politization as supreme value today needs to ascertain some sort of militant subject of the event in order to guarantee a consensus on “contemporaneity”, and in this way avoids what the present is or what it actually stands for (Rodriguez Matos 109).

The chapters 2 (“Sovereignties, Poetic, and Otherwise) and three (“The Mixed Times of the Revolution”) attend to how the question of time was conceived within the Cuban Revolution. This framing, one must first note, already dislocates the grounds of the discussion centered on the sovereign or the caudillo, a fetish so dear to both revolutionary and liberal imaginations when confronting the ‘Latinamericanist object’. Hence, in chapter two, Rodriguez Matos advances a demolishing reading of the temporality of foquismo, although not on the grounds that one could have imagined. From a historiographical standpoint, it is common to agree on the fact that that both Guevara and Debray’s formulations have little substance in historical experience, since they are theoretical fictions that develop to master a non-repeatable event (the Cuban Revolution), which was far from being successful solely because of the foco guerrillero in the first place. But this is not Rodriguez Matos’ critique. The argument is set up to make the claim that the Revolution, in order to become flesh and conceive the unity and sameness with the people, theory must be first discarded (Rodriguez Matos 60). Rather mysteriously, in foquismo it is the people that ‘act’, while Guevara becomes its narratological supplement. This is the inversion of the Leninist principle that alleged that in order for a revolution to materialize it needs a good theory beforehand.

Guevara, in Rodriguez Matos, takes the role of the anti-Lenin. In fact, in a strange way, Che appears as a sort of naturalist-philosopher: “…what Guevara is after is the same time that was at issue in Marti: the idealism of the Revolution has to become a force of nature, sprouting in the wind without being cultivated…in all its originary ontological stability, phusis) and the people, without the transubstantiation of the idea into flesh yielding intimate unity, and without this force of nature forging revolutionary ideology…this passage would be nothing but the declaration of one individual from Argentina who has recently landed in a foreign land…” (Rodriguez Matos 60). Guevara is a hopeless romantic, who recaps the Romantic ideal of the fragmented temporality in the pedagogical poem, only that for him the impolitical people are in a “time out of joint”. This is why they must also become a New Man. The catastrophe of foquismo, is thus not merely at the level of a massive historical evidence, but an afterfact of a metaphysics that is already one step away from thinking the void, while formalizing it through a dialectical moment. Rodriguez Matos stages the central problem, just after having glossed Guevara’s revolutionary thought:

“For the metaphysics in question already relies heavily on the form in which it makes multiple small narratives. For the metaphysics in question already relieves heavily on the form in which it makes multiple temporalities appears together. That is, modernity is fundamentally and internally committed to the constant confrontation of disparate forms of time. Instead, I suggest taking a closer look at the time of lost time, the time of the void, and what might happen when it is not filled in but, rather, allowed to resonate in all its formlessness.” (Rodriguez Matos 61).

How should we understand this echo? The turn to Celan and Heidegger’s immersion in noise and the ontological difference validates immediately any vacillation in the answer, since what is at stake is ultimately to think not the “standstill of all time” of the messianic force, but our being in time understood as our most basic and intimate relation that we have with time (Rodriguez Matos 70). It is only this absent time of the formless that will be one of majesty, capable of undoing sovereign authority and its governability over the singular.

The third chapter moves against the belief that Lezama Lima can be grasped in interested disputes regarding his intellectual provenance, political ideology, or assumed Catholicism (origenismo). This is an arduous task, but Rodriguez Matos makes it look easy through a threefold operation. First, Lezama is moved beyond the antinomies of secularization and aesthetics, placed in the proper site of the religion of the formless (we will come back to this). Secondly, Rodriguez Matos confronts Lezama’s own interpretation of the Revolution as parusia or Second Coming, which coincides perfectly with Guevara’s own model of the “ways things are” that folds revolutionary Cuba into globalization due an ingrained total administrate apparatus over life (Rodriguez Matos 93).

This entails that revolutions, if we take the Cuban experience as metonymic of the phenomenon, are always already biopolitical experiences, even though Rodriguez Matos does not frame it in such terms. Third, by understanding the ‘mixed’ temporality of communism and revolutionary politics as convergent with the temporality of capitalism, we come to understand that the second is always on reserve in the backdrop of the state and its institutions (Rodriguez Matos 96-97). In sum, the superposition of revolutionary times with the time of capital is here shown, once again, to be two sides of the same dual narrative of modernity that turns away from the abyss at the heart of politics. This complicates many, if not all, of the assumptions that Cuban transitologists have disputed with very futile outcomes, in my opinion, in the last decade.

Finally, the fourth chapter “Nihilism: Politics as the Highest Value” rightly places the question of nihilism at the center. This is a return to the question of political theologies discussed above. Whereas many of the thinkers on both sides, republicanist and communist alike, take up the question of nihilism, the result, according to Rodriguez Matos, is that it is presented as a fight against those that think the problem of nihilism. Thus, the “banality of nihilism must be dismissed or critiqued” (Rodriguez Matos 104). The operation rests on the fact that the question of being must be avoided at all costs. And this is achieved in at least two main forms: discarding nihilism by proposing a “multiplicity of times” (Rojas), or by proposing a “living philology” (Vitier, Bosteels) that would be able to restitute a truth of a text of the past to give proper political ground (Rodriguez Matos 115). Now the tables are turned, and those that seek to cover the void, as if that were an option, appear as agents of a true nihilistic force.

The second part of the book titled “Writing the Formless,” provides a roaming through Lezama’s conceptualization of the void against politico-theological closure, arriving at the unthought sites of the ontological difference after Heidegger and deconstruction, and moving into infrapolitics. This is an exemplary section in the sense that Rodriguez Matos warns that he is in no position to offer a transhistorical formal theory of Lezama’s writing, and in this way he calmly avoids the universitarian-Master demand for a totalizing expertise of lezamianos. This operation is undertaken not for the sake of confrontation against Lezama specialists, but rather due to a more modest motive: it is not the point that drives Writing of the Formless. Anyone to counter argue on this level is rather to sidestep its most important contribution of this book. Finally, Rodriguez Matos lays out what is at stake, which is tailored as a question that by far exceeds Lezama Lima as a single corpus:

“Ultimately what is at issue whether there is a difference between those texts of the Western tradition that forget the question of being and those whose starting point is the challenge and the difficulty that the question poses, the challenge and the resistance involved in dealing with the ground that is and is not there in its absence. What is at stake is whether or not it is possible to imagine a writing and a thought that do not simply fall silent in order to guarantee the continuity of the narrative of legitimacy and sovereign authority in the poem or in politics – but the link between these two is also at issue here. That is, whether or not it is possible for posthegemonic infrapolitics to be something other than the trace of politics” (Rodriguez Matos 136).

What immediately follows is a series of closely knit constellations of the writing of the formless as absent time in Lezama, which I can only register here without much commentary: Lezama’s own critique of T.S. Eliot’s notion of the difficult, a critique of Garcia Marruz’s reading of the aposiopesis as rhetoric’s hegemonic property, Lezama’s understanding of Aristotelian metaphoricity; Lezama’s philosophy of an atopical One, and finally Rodriguez Matos’ own conceptual position of Lezama as an infrareligious and infrapolitical figure that pushes politico-theological legislation of principles to their very limit into a ‘nonsynthesizable reminder’ [sic] (Rodriguez Matos 154). Further, Lezama’s vitalist response to the Platonist pros hen, unlike the immanentist modern reversal, concludes in a Platonist affirmation instead of an overcoming of Platonism (Rodriguez Matos 139). Rodriguez Matos intelligently resolves this bizarre multiplicity vis-à-vis a parallel reading of Paul Claudel, who rejects aposteriori knowledge in exchange for the cognizant objectification of God before the sovereignty of the Poet. Although I am left thinking about the status of Neo-Platonism as it relates to the discussion of Christian Trinitarian thought [2].

But Rodriguez Matos goes further, and the Lezama that emerges from this destructive multi-level procedure is one that resists alleogrization, taking cue from Alberto Moreiras’ pioneering reading in Tercer Espacio (1999), as well as a privileged and secured position of a profane materialism over the question of form. And it is also in this very instance where Rodriguez Matos opens up to a complicated debate, which although unresolved, is the most striking and illuminating kernel of his book. In short: does ‘the roaming of the formless’ [sic] in Lezama offer something other than a trace of politics? I want to suggest, from my first reading of what is certainly a complex conversation, that this remains unresolved in Writing of the Formless. Let’s consider a key moment at the end of the book:

“For part of what I am calling attention to is the fact the staging of the formless in Lezama involves a thematization and an awareness of what should only be there as trace. This awareness goes beyond a more familiar claim regarding the self-deconstruction of discourses of their own accord – this is, after all, also what the trace is supposed to underscore. I would like to read this excess of awareness as a radicalization of deconstruction” (Rodriguez Matos 176).

This radicalization will entail leaving behind the moment of ecriture, which characterized the first wave of deconstruction in literary fixation and textual playfulness. Infrapolitics will be, programmatically speaking, post-deconstruction, or what Moreiras has recently called a second turn towards instituted deconstruction [3]. But the question remains: is infrapolitics then, a trace of politics? It is an unresolved question, but perhaps the most important one. Rodriguez Matos leaves us a clue at the very end of the book. When discussing the baroque – and let’s not lose sight of the fact of how late the question arrives, which is a merit and not a pitfall – Rodriguez Matos cites a letter of Lezama to Carlos Meneses: “I think that by now the baroque has begun to give off a stench” (Rodriguez Matos 181). The Baroque has come become an exchangeable token for the Boom, the last stage of identitarian transaction. But it is more than this: the baroque can no longer account for the informe at the heart of the image and rhythm.

Let’s probe this further. If the baroque is now exhausted, it is because all politics of the frame are insufficient to cope with the formless. The primacy of the critique of political economy today, for example, remains just one of its last formal avatars. But one could also respond to Rodriguez Matos’ final invitation, and say that while the aesthetic program of the baroque is demolished or turned into ashes, perhaps a trace of it remains in posthegemonic politics. To the extent that we understand the baroque as a political of self-affirmation against Imperium beyond hegemony, the baroque necessarily entails a republicanist politics [4].

In other words, while the infrareligious trace depends on the abyss, posthegemonic politics of republicanism sprouts from the baroque in early modernity against any imperial and counter-imperial conversions. Rodriguez Matos interchangeably speaks of infrapolitics and posthegemony throughout the book, therefore this nuance could be taken as a radicalization of the second term in line with the disclosure regarding the baroque. Post-deconstructive infrapolitics remains open. But if Lezama’s legacy is waged on having confronted the formless abyss of the absent time; perhaps, the author of Dador can also reemerge as a political thinker and existential representative not of Paradise, but of the secret Republic. This will entail a republicanism that, in each and every single time, does not longer participate in the eternal arcanum.

 

 

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Notes

  1. This does not mean that St. Augustine cannot be read against the myth of political theology. Such is the task that José Luis Villacañas has accomplished in his Teología Political Imperial: una genealogía de la division de poderes (Trotta, 2016). In my view, Rozitchner’s La Cosa y la Cruz (1997) is a flagrant misreading of Augustinian anti-political-theology in exchange for a superficial materialist affective analysis. Although I do not have space to discuss this at length, I must note that Rodriguez Matos’ discussion of contemporary materialisms is also a timely warning about the easy exists that the so-called “materialisms” offer today as an effective transaction in contemporary thought. For his discussion of materialism see, pgs. 104-108.
  1. The question of Neo-Platonism is a fascinating story by itself, which speaks about the multiple in the One. Pierre Hadot studied its influenced in debates of early Trinitarian thought in his work of Marius Victorinus; recherches sur sa vie et ses œuvres (Paris: Etudes augustiniennes, 1971). Now, it seems that Lezama Lima himself was not foreign to Plotinus and Neoplatonism, which he linked it to the emergence of the modern poem. In fact, while reading Writing of the Formless, I revisited my copy of Lezama Lima’s unpublished notes in La Posibilidad Infinita: Archivo de José Lezama Lima, ed. Iván González Cruz (Verbum Editorial 2000). It was interesting to find that in “Oscura vencida”, a fragment from 1958, Lezama writes: “Si unimos a Guido Cavalcanti, March, Maurice Sceve, John Donne, en lo que puede ser motejados de oscuros, con distintos grados de densidad, precisamos que sus lectores, puede ser los más distinguidos cortesanos, o estudiantes que versifican cuando la hija del tabernero inaugura unos zarbillos…Con una apresurada lectura de la Metafísica de Aristóteles, sobre todo su genial concepto del tiempo que pasa a Hegel (sic) y a Heidegger; con cuatro diálogos platónicos, donde desde luego no faltara el Parménides. Con algunas añadiduras de Plotino sobre la sustancia y el uno…ya está el afanoso de la voluptuosos métrica en placentera potencialidad para saborear una canción medieval, un soneto del renacimiento florentino, o una ingenua aglomeración escolástica que se quiere sensibilizar, o una súmala de saber infantil, regida por un pulso que no se abandonó a la plácida oficiosa…” (252). This does not necessarily dodge Rodriguez Matos’ discussion of Claudel, but complicates it, since the trinity also merges at different points throughout the book. My question is whether any discussion of Trinitarian co-substantialism is still embedded in metaphysical structuration as potentia absoluta, or if Lezama’s informe is a Parthian attack against this influential model of absolute potentiality by turning it into a monstrous infrareligion. At stake here is also the issue of ‘reversibility’ that is obliquely exposed at the end of the book (Rodriguez Matos 189).
  1. See Alberto Moreiras, “Comentario a Glas, de Jacques Derrida”. https://infrapolitica.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/comentario-a-glas-de-jacques-derrida-notas-para-la-presentacion-de-la-nueva-traduccion-espanola-clamor-publicada-en-madrid-la-oficina-2016-y-hecha-por-muchos-autores-con-copyright-de-cristina/
  1. The question of the republicanist politics, Imperium, and the baroque is studied in detailed in Ángel Octavio Álvarez Solis’ La República de la Melancolía: Politica y Subjetividad en el Barroco (La Cebra, 2015).

Acts of Engagement: on Marranismo e Inscripción. (Djurdja Trajkovic)

What is the relation between negative engagement and deconstruction? Negative engagement is a singular engagement of separation that instead of proposing a binary problem/solution proper to contemporary thinking, offers new questions and the possibility of pushing thought further. It is negative since it does not look for empathy nor compassion, neither redemption nor recognition. It is an engagement that abandons the “state of things”, only to open up thought to the unthinkable, and to the difficult experience of freedom. It is engagement as a form of life, since what is at stake is a relation to existence outside of hegemony, identity, and quality; that is, at the margins of institution (if there is such a thing anymore).

In Moreiras’ anti-book, Marranismo e Inscripción (Escolar & Mayo, 2016), we bear witness to such a difficult intervention. It is a book made up of heterogeneous writings, some highly intimate, others profoundly distant, which overwhelms the reader with their arduous insistence and demand for thinking. It is as if Moreiras is repeating the Heideggerian conclusion that we have not even begun to think. And what is there to think about in “times of interregnum”?

Firstly, the crucial task that Alberto offers up for thought is what cannot be said: the crisis of the Humanities. Suggesting that we do not posses even the concepts or language with which we could start this process, Moreiras is suspicious of returns to national history and grand (canonical) literature. If this is a crisis of crisis, how do we think about the Humanities within the eye of the storm? What kind of crisis are we bearing witness to? It seems that the Humanities has become sort of a bad word: it is a space where a fundamental interrogation on the state of humanity could have been put into question once, and that today increasingly mirrors only the loss of academic jobs of academics and its contingency. Global capitalism turns a necessity, the cultivation of thought and the letter, into contingency by naturalizing the status quo and refusing to recognize the conflict.

Important as it may be to address the contingency of academic work, however, the crisis is profound since what is at its heart is the very crisis of thought and intellectuality. It seems that the brutal acceleration and instrumentalization of life itself has surpassed our capability to rethink it without falling into nostalgia and melancholia and other “solutions” that lead nowhere. I am not suggesting here embracing all too quickly a “happy” form of living without really dwelling into the question of globalization. But does anyone really need the Humanities anymore, if anyone ever really did? Is the university, as a space of hospitality without condition, possible today? Can the Humanities offer once again a thought of/for transformation? How is transformation to be enacted irreducibly to wishful thinking and pure dreaming? Critical thinking stutters here, as it fears its own disappearance.

There is no room for cynicism or nihilism, however. And even if there is, we must reject it. The situation is difficult, unbearable. Inviting us to abandon recognition, Moreiras underlines the acknowledgment of finitude; the very possibility of doubt and doubting of decolonial and communist impulses (you may want to revise this last phrase, as it is difficult to figure out what you mean). He is one of the rare thinkers who trace the problem of the temporality of thinking itself. For example, he asserts that our accustomed “tools” fail us today as the exhaustion of modern (political) concepts is beckoning us. Perhaps we are bearing witness to the death of modernity. And yet, Moreiras does not offer to salvage those concepts but instead proposes without proposition a further deconstruction of politics. One must ask then what is left of politics and the political after deconstruction? What is unthinkable after deconstruction? Is deconstruction in need of deconstruction? Is deconstruction possible in the eye of a mass depolitization that the failure of neoliberalism made visible?

Infrapolitics, as something that happens, offers itself as the radicalization of deconstruction. It is a labor of difficult passion, of possibilization of the impossible, and a constant search, a desire, for the outside. Moreiras himself is hesitant to affirm if and when such a possibility might open up. Certainly not today when the conditions of possibility of/for thinking in the university of equivalence have closed even the possibility of putting into question the university itself and division of labor. Not even to mention the anti-intellectuality and anti-theoretical turn haunting the Humanities. After all, all is said and done, right? And yet, at the same time, Moreiras does not want to abandon the possibility of a new historicity, a new writing of history irreducible to instrumentalization and to the capture of history for supposedly progressive goals.

How to exercise such a demand? I believe that the question is not anymore ‘what is to be done’ but how to think the end of doing and the beginning of thinking. At the heart of his intervention is a thinking of radical democracy, a demand for a freedom of life liberated from the identitarian and hegemonic drives, a demand for other thought and time irreducible to the techno-political machine which captures experience and knowledge into another fetish and concept to be applied. In Moreiras we are distant from destruction, and what is being offered is the very possibility of experiencing freedom anew.

How so? He suggests in his reading of Javier Cercas’ El impostor that thinking is inseparable from freedom, not inseparable from love as for Jean Luc Nancy, but freedom itself. Thinking is irreducible to philosophy and literature is the risk one must take if there is going to be freedom at all. Thinking is sick thought. And only patient attention to this sickness (how could it be otherwise after the violence of metaphysics?) through the cultivation of other thought and letter could bring about the “cure”. However, the cure is not restoration of health but precisely the opening, the region, where freedom could appear. Moreiras uses here a curious word, “appearing,”- which is not appearance but “appearing.” For example, freedom appears when and if, a (wo)man opens herself to letting it be, when the character is separated from destiny, and when we consider what we are not and what we have not been able to be. Also letting it be so that the unknown can appear. Not doing but being. Is this the attempt to write a history of what has not happened and could have been? It is certainly a demand irreducible to “restorative nostalgia.”

This is a similar suggestion to what Sergio Chejfec exercises in his Los incompletos. We are not speaking here of mourning, but of the possibility of confronting the real as unforeseeable, as imperfect and inconclusive past. When we understand that, as Javier Marias reminds us, grace without use is also “la suma de todas las posibilidades no realizadas en nuestras vidas no como destino fallido”. Perhaps only then we will be ready to let freedom appear in its inexhaustibility. This is the task and promise of brave negative engagement for any Hispanist.

Undigestible Hispanism: reflection on Marranismo e Inscripción. (Brett Levinson)

Marranismo e inscripción, henceforth MI, is both a performance and explanation of its own undigestibility, which is to say, the undigestibility of Moreiras within Hispanism as well as within, let us call them, the theoretical humanities. Undigestible is MI not because it is too hard to read or understand; it is too hard to take. In Ecce Homo, Nietzsche explains “Why I write such good books.” In MI, Moreiras explains “Why what I write produces such indigestion.”

As to those who find Moreiras undigestible—I cannot enter into a detailed analysis, which I think is nonetheless important to one day carry out, of the number of figures who can’t take Moreiras because they do not know he is available for the taking, or who do know, but choose not to partake. I am referring to those who do not read Moreiras at all, yet who occupy prominent places within the institution of theory. This non-reading is not the result of some accident in which we can say: “Well, nobody can read everyone or everything; that is the nature of knowledge; we are doomed to specialization. One chooses a discipline to a large degree by accident; accidental too, then, are the books one is obliged to read to “keep up,” as well as the texts that even come to one’s attention. Non-Hispanists cannot possibly sift through a tome that is only partially about theory, deconstruction, Marxism, neoliberalism, mourning, and unhappiness, that is, non-Hispanic matters, even if to conclude that it, MI, is undigestible.

It is just not in the interest of, for example, Derrideans and Heideggerians to do so, even if they can read Spanish (and many, though not enough, in fact can).” This sort of un-digestion—undigestion as as non-reading—is no accident because the entire institution in which we dwell is oriented in such as fashion that a Spaniard, writing in Spanish or English about theory–the entire hegemonic apparatus of the theoretical humanities is organized in such a manner that this kind of person, one such as Moreiras, is not of interest to, does not work in the interest of, any component of institutional knowledge. MI does not serve theorists proper; they do not have the time. Thus, while such folks may be very good theorists, they are completely complicit with the state of the humanities which they pretend to “deconstruct”; Moreiras is the symptom (which, like many symptoms, such as a twitch, appears to everyone but the body of he or she who has it) of that complicity, which symptom remains un-analyzed because many of those who could analyze it—well, it is not in their interest to do so.   In this situation, Moreiras proves undigestible not because potential consumers, namely, those who do not consume Moreiras, do not have the time but, in fact, because they cannot be bothered to make the time.

I will concentrate instead on the engagement with Latin Americanism and/or Hispanism as a field which MI addresses, and which includes the chapter on communism, in which a Hispanist and a Bolivian are featured.   Before doing so, though, I want first to thank Jacques Derrida for casting stupidity as a project of philosophy that philosophy cannot turn into a concept of philosophy, cannot appropriate.   For, in doing so, Derrida allows one to call discourses stupid without insulting their authors, presenting the stupid as a most profound marker of the finitude of knowledge to which thought ought to turn. Indeed, thanks to Derrida, you can now safely turn to a colleague and say: “you fucking bestial idiot—and I mean that in the best of senses of course!”

By bête or betisse, of course, Derrida means the automaticity of the human—which automaticity is not merely technical but also animal and spiritual, of the soul—which repeats itself and repeats itself without being able to humanize the repetitions, which is to say, without (the human is without) being able to contain them within a rational, responsive and responsible, hence human framework.   The human is not bête, to be sure. Man is not animal; he is not the only stupid one necessarily, the only one who can be stupid (the rest are innocent, like a dog who barks too much: what can you do, a dog is a dog)—this is Derrida’s point, in fact: the human is and is not the bête.   For, the experience, sense or intuition of sheer nonsense is impossible without a framework or concept. That each thing be digested as just another stupid thing and another stupid thing, indifferent from all other things, hence undefined, nonsensical, is impossible, since the very concept of bête, disavows the bête, rationalizes it, humanizes it, precisely by grabbing it with both hands, which hands make consumption, thus digestion, conceivable.

Stupidity is too stupid to be theorized, for example, to be deconstructed. Thus, we can say, that Derrida himself, like Lacan in the seminar on Joyce, illustrates that the great thinkers—and Derrida and Lacan, with precious exceptions, only address great thinkers—include and disavow a bit of stupidity. That is to say, there is a bit of the bête in every humanist intellectual operation, which therefore is and is not human, responsive and responsible. The bête is the trace of the human, and the means by which the last Derrida affirms stupidity as the name of the opening to thought, politics, activism, ethics, fiction, and so forth, even though stupidity itself is neither good nor bad. MI is the history of Moreiras as bête and as not bête.

But—and here comes the undigestible component of Moreiras—Moreiras, given his field, given that he is a Spaniard and a Hispanist, in addition to whatever else he is, does not get to address Hegel; he is not granted that right by the institution that MI addresses to show how brilliant Hegel is—to show that Hegel anticipated everything Marx, Nietzsche, Deleuze, Lacan would later say if you just know how to read right, but that he also contains a little bête there where Hegel did not think, the bête by means of which one can demonstrate—those who have the right to read Hegel right—that Hegel did not think everything right, that his thought is finite, and therefore, that absolute knowledge bears a mark of stupidity: a chocolate stain on the tablecloth, food for thought. The double gesture of affirmation and unraveling that deconstruction and/or psychoanalysis perform on Hegel, and on any number of wonderful thinkers and artists, whose perfection, whose magnificent totality, is tainted by imperfection, and whose taint calls forth thought today, for us—Moreiras and MI cannot make this their project their project.

In sum Moreiras, a Spanish whitish guyish individual writing about Spanish things or writing in Spanish about non-Spanish things, cannot subsist writing about Hegel, for that writing is not in anyone’s interest, including Moreiras’s. Thus, Moreiras has to write about scholars who are really stupid as if they were Hegel, as if they could be both critiqued and affirmed. Moreiras, that is, must say what he does not say but that I will say for him, to wit, that the Jameson that he cites and reads so generously, desde luego con todo respeto, the discourses of Jodi Dean, Bosteels, Mignolo, Beverley, and so many others within MI, are stupid—I am not saying the people are stupid; I do not know them well enough to say that: their discourses are stupid, this I do know—and they cannot be affirmed and rescued in any way except by casting them as better than they are, which is to say, as stupid as Hegel is. But you cannot do it, which Moreiras’s previous Exhaustion of Difference showed: you cannot cast the stupid that is in fact fact stupid as smart so as then to say that it is stupid. You cannot deconstruct stupidity. You only end saying the stupid is stupid, which is undigestible to the stupid, and also, fortunately, itself a bit stupid, for it is a tautology.

Which, that is, the stupid, MI shows, is stupid for a reason: because it takes all concepts–rhetoric, destruction or deconstruction, Europe, the West, ghost, desire, drive, deferral, death, Dasein as el no sujeto, philosophy, Marx, de Man, Badiou, and so on—and converts them into brands that it, the stupid, can then reject as brands, taking concepts along with it. Either that or it, the stupid, can take the conversion of concept into brand and then, as competitor, critique it. The competitor qua discourse of critique of the concept-turned-brand (turned, that is, by that competitor himself) poses as the alternative to of capitalism or colonialism (which the brand represents). Of course this competition with the concept turned brand that academic politics undertakes has only one name: branding.   Academic politics (perhaps politics as such, if politics had an as such; yet that is the point infrapolitics: politics as such is naught) emerges, not as a set of concepts or actions but a choice for this or that brand, as an opportunism, brand against brand. And within that discourse the turning to ideas, concepts, and language emerges as a choice, a “buying in”: the choice not to be political but philosophical, textual, literary, historical.   To address concepts or language is the choice, according to politics, to be apolitical, hence not stupid. MI is not stupid, or not stupid enough, and that is perhaps its most objectionable quality, at least for those who find it undigestible.

Moreiras tries to make these points politely, in a digestible fashion; he tries to deconstruct his objects. But deconstruction presupposes concepts, and concepts are not at work in the objects to which Moreiras, as a Spaniard writing in English or an American writing in Spanish, is bound. So he does not deconstruct, intentions notwithstanding. He discloses the stupid, which stupidity cannot take its being “called,” as one calls the other in poker.

Indigestible finally also is infrapolilitics. For the sake of time, I will illustrate with my own example, stupid like all examples, and not at all like the examples in MI itself. In the film “Fences,” which reproduces almost to the letter August Wilson’s early 1980s play, which takes place in 1957 Pittsburgh, the son says to the father—and both characters are of course black—a father bitter about a denied career in major league baseball, that things have changed: “Dad, the Pirates have this black Puerto Rican player named Clemente!” The father’s response, a father who is blind to himself, blind as all tragic characters are blind, can be heard as an case of identity politics, although identity politics is rarely as eloquent as August Wilson. However, the space of that politics, whatever one thinks about, is not defined or determined by politics. It is defined and determined by the word “black,” which is linguistic not political, for it is a trope. Indeed, no skin color is actually black. The field of the politics is determined by blackness, which blackness is not political but rhetorical. There you have the beginning of an understanding of infrapolitics.

First, there must be a claim on politics, a specific claim, like the father makes about the injustice black people face; the claims outlines, forms the boundary, of the domain of politics–politics in the particular, factical circumstance. But the claim itself is not grounded in politics, but in blackness, which is rhetorical, though it could also, in another analysis, be seen as ideological, philosophical, ethical, religious, historical—the point is that is it not political. The claim on politics is impossible without the non-political that grounds the claim. The limit, the boundary, the border, the definition of the space of politics is not given; it happens when you claim it. When you claim politics, and all Hispanism and all theory does for reasons I cannot explain here, you expose the non-politics of politics, the irreducibility of politics to itself, that which is indigestible to any political as such, precisely because it denies the political as such.

Now, the son’s comment, “the Pirates have a black Puerto Rican player named Clemente,” pronounced in either 1957 and the early 1980s (depending on how you look at it) is also pronounced in the film, by Denzel Washington, in 2017. And in 2017, Roberto Clemente, were he alive as, say, David Ortiz is alive, would not be a black ballplayer but a Hispanic one. For African-American, the displacement of a biological referent, a skin color, black (which again is not a skin color but a trope), with an historical/cultural definition of a race, a race of people that came to America from Africa as so many slaves, overcame slavery, then overcame incredible injustices through the civil rights movement, and now faces and combats new injustices—AfricanAmerican now overdetermines blackness, though black and AfricanAmerican are, today, equally proper.

Thus, only African Americans, in the discourse of baseball, which in “Fences” is the discourse of every discourse, and certainly the discourse of justice, are black, while the Dominicans and Cubans and Panamanians and Venezuelans and Puerto Ricans, and so on, who one might have once called black, as the son calls Clements black, are Hispanic.   So the identity politics of baseball regarding race is now defined, at least in part, by the African-American/Hispanic division. Of course, again, the essence of an African-American politics is the definition “African-American”—which, by the way, is not a signifier without signified, a word without definition a la Laclau but definition itself, the determiner of the political space—which is not political; it does not come from politics. The essence of an African-American politics, “African-American,” indeed, is not itself politics but infrapolitical, inscribed into the political as that which is irreducible to it. Now, it ought be clear that any politics concerning race that might emerge in the project of baseball, or any other project, would form at the limit of the political, which is there where African-American and Hispanic meet, which is no place; for there is no place where the division between the two can be grounded.

The Hispanic, as other than the African American and other than the white, Native-American, indigenous, is nowhere to be found.   Its territory emerges only through the sociologiziation of knowledge and culture: everything with a place in its place. Even if other places bleed into that place, as in mestizaje—that is ok—but, for the sociologization of the knowledge to win out, first there must be a rightful place, so that there can be rightful politics, which is the conquest of place, or property, or concepts turned brands.   Politicization is both the exposure and erasure of the infrapolitical, the non-place or non-ground of any definition, in MI, of the Hispanic or Hispanism. And if you start a discourse on Hispanism from a foundation that says that Hispanism is not a place and has no place—well, that is undigestible for Hispanism and non-Hispanism alike.

 

*Position Paper read at book workshop “Los Malos Pasos” (on Alberto Moreiras’ Marranismo e Inscripción), held at the University of Pennsylvania, January 6, 2017.