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.

Inside the Industry of the Senses: on Carlos Casanova’s Estética y Producción en Karl Marx. (Gerardo Muñoz)

casanova-marxCarlos Casanova’s short book Estética y Producción en Karl Marx (ediciones metales pesados, 2016), a condensed version of his important and much longer doctoral thesis, advances a thorough examination of Marx’s thought, and unambiguously offers new ways for thinking the author of Das Kapital and beyond. Although the title could raise false expectations of yet another volume on ‘Marxism and Aesthetics’, or, more specifically, a hermeneutical reconstruction of a lost ‘aesthetics’ in Marx, these are neither the concerns nor aims of Casanova’s book. Instead, he does not hesitate to claim that there are no aesthetics in Marx’s thought derivative from German theories of romantic idealism, conceptions of the beautiful, or the faculty of judgment in the Kantian theory of the subject and critique.

Forcefully, Casanova situates his intervention apart from two well-known strands of thought: those that have sought to extract an aesthetics in Marx (of which Rose’s classic Marx’s lost aesthetic is perhaps a paradigmatic example), and those who have wanted to produce ‘a Marxist’ social theory for art (Lukacs and Eagleton, but also De Duve or Jameson). Casanova argues that Marx’s aesthetic can be located in a modality of thinking through an anthropological conception of man and the human (although, as we will see, perhaps ‘anthropogenic event’ is more accurate, than the claim for an anthropology). The anthropogenic event in the early Marx of the Manuscripts of 1844 is closely examined in light of the concept of praxis displacing the problem to the economy of potentiality and actuality inherited from the Aristotelean tradition. According to Casanova, this informs Marx’s concept of “exteriorization” understood as the capacity of use in the human. In Casanova’s conceptualization ‘use’ refers to potentiality, and not to a compensatory measurement of ‘value’, as it appears, for instance, in Bolivar Echevarria’s culturalist reading of the status of accumulation in Marxist theory. Challenging the Althusserian structuralism, which authorized the reduction of a heterogeneous corpus into two phases relative to the epistemological break; Casanova suggests that the early Marx inhabits the threshold of thinking the potentiality of Humanism as always producing the disruption of the apparatus of property and the person. What is at stake in Marx is an ‘industry of the senses’ in the constitution of the singular. Hence, Casanova writes early in the book:

“Vale decir: lo que hay en Marx es un pensamiento del limite, no del fin del humanismo, sino de un pensamiento de lo humano que consiste en un pasaje al límite del humanismo donde este se vera menos suprimido que suspenso, desfondo en su “raíz”. Digamos que, utilizan una expresión de Esposito y de Nancy, lo que hay en el pensamiento de Marx es más bien una “división/interrupción” del mito del humanismo” (Casanova 16).

Marx’s ‘aesthetic industry’ crashes the humanist onto-theological machine, which opens the inoperativity of man’s praxis as irreducible to the concrete and abstract extraction of value and production. This displacement pushes Marx away from the humanist machine of universality or particularity as the two poles of a locational dispute of the “subject”. Further, what follows from this claim, are two ways of liberating Marx from the constraints of the Marxist principial tradition and the opposition ‘structuralism vs. the subject’ towards a new use of man’s praxis. In the first part of the book, Casanova takes up the inoperativity of Marx’s humanism (“Humanismo del hombre sin obra”), and in the second section (“Tecnologías de la producción”), the analysis shifts towards a polemical scrutiny of the question of technê against the theorizations of telecratic instrumentality, but also from the phenomenological interpretations that have understood Marx’s thought as the consummation of the epochal technological enframing. Of course, Casanova’s book, and his own reflection on Marx, is situated in the wake of a reconsideration of the technology of the sensible, that allows him to read Marx beyond the humanist onto-theology as a messianic principle that propels the Hegelian philosophy of history as stasis for mastering the logic of revolution.

Casanova’s Marx is an-archic or aprincipial in Reiner Schürmann’s sense, as it avoids the substantialization of a ‘marxist politics’ to assert a stable ground for action over thinking. The Marx endowed in Estética y Producción is also an-anarchic in yet another sense: it offers no productive horizon of philosophical knowability as a new vanguard of intelligence, a technology of critique, or even a practice of restitution. Casanova makes no concessions to epochal nihilism, and there is no attempt in crafting Marx as an archē for militant hegemony or the invariant procedure of truth. His intervention is situated at the crossroads between Agamben’s archeology of potentiality, J.L. Nancy’s deconstruction, and more esoterically, a Chilean critical constellation, which includes, although is not limited to Pablo Oyarzun’s Anestética del ready-made (2000), Miguel Valderrama’s La aparición paulatina de la desaparición del arte (2008), Federico Galende’s Modos de Producción (2011), and Willy Thayer’s Tecnologías de la crítica (2010). This list could go on, and although none of these names are directly confronted, it would be interesting to read his intervention as a radical conceptual abandonment of the “aesthetic” in this specific cultural field.

In the first section “Humanismo del hombre sin obra”, Casanova complicates the early Marx of the Manuscripts by suggesting that the notion of the “generic being” takes place in a double-bind as part of the historicity of the human’s sensible organs that are both conditions and products of a “sensible activity” of the exteriorization of abilities. If both idealism and alienation are the forgetting of the material forms of production, Casanova is quick to underline that it is not just a mere extraction and division from a point of view of ‘functional socialization’, in terms of Alfred Sohn Rethel (although this is not explicitly thematized in the book), but an activity that is the very ‘mediality’ of life as the potentiality in which man can exercise a direct and unmediated relation with nature. In a crucial passage, Casanova writes:

“Los órganos humanos son las capacidades desarrolladas, esto es, el poder ser actual de los individuos al igual que los medios o instrumentos a través de los cuales esas mismas facultades se ejercen. Al mismo tiempo, ellos son los productos, el mundo objetivo del trabajo de toda una historia pasada: son los sentidos de una actividad productiva, entendida como “la relación historia real de la naturaleza (el “mundo sensible”) con el hombre. Son, en suma, los órganos de la industria del hombre” (Casanova 31).

What capitalism stages in the figure of the proletariat, as a result, is a series of divisions that obfuscate the taking place of a praxis constitutive of the industry of man; that is, of the life of the generic without work. In this intersection, Casanova is very much dependent on the Aristotelian’s definition of man’s essence as an-argos, or without work [1]. Hence, Marx’s “real humanism” entails necessary praxis of the industry of the senses, which capitalist humanism divides and codifies in terms of exploitation, alienation, rule of law, and private property. However, and more importantly for Casanova, is the privatization of the sensible transformed into an aesthetic apparatus that governs over life (Casanova 44-45).

The modes of production are in this way already a semblance and reduction of the overflowing of the senses in the praxis of man, which necessarily posits poesis as what cannot amount to work through the unlimited process of accumulation. The labor of the proletarian, understood as the industry of the generic being, enacts an undefined potentiality, in which action and thought, singularity and commonality, sensing and reason, collapse in a heterochronic plane of immanence with no remainder.

The becoming of man corresponds to the becoming of the world beyond the principle of equivalence as the structural circuit through which global spatialization of capital replaces the possibility of ‘earth’. Marx’s humanism without work is situated against this ruinous and fallen world confined to the logic of exchange and appropriation. The proletariat stands here less than a subject for and in history, as the site where an excess to productivity and equivalence is latent as a multiplicity of singular potentialities: “Ya no hay nada que apropiar mas que lo inapropiable – el libro uso de común de las fuerzas de producción – de una apropiación no capitalizable, es decir, excesiva respecto del marco económico politico de productividad, por ende no mensurable de acuerdo a la medida del valor, es decir, no gobernable bajo el principio o ley universal de la equivalencialidad” (Casanova 53).

To appropriate the inappropriable is the stamp of Marx’s industry of the forms of life as the turn towards what is an excess to equivalence. But Casanova’s Marx as the thinker of the inappropriable cannot escape the function of appropriation in the event of a modality of work, which constitutes, perhaps to the very end, the aporia’s of Marx’s thinking [2]. The function of positive appropriation of force in Marx is still tied to “esta producción multiforme del globo entero” (Schöpfungen der Menschen)” (Casanova 52).

Casanova forces Marx to say that a relation always implies the production with its own potentiality. But is not appropriation of production haunted by the unproductivity that is deposed in every praxis? That is, only because praxis is use, there is no longer an appropriation of wealth, which remains on the side of vitalism as a productive entelechy disposable for work. However, Casanova affirms that Marx’s communism was perhaps the first (sic) in taking into account how labor and property are economic categories of policing and subjecting the organization of life. In fact, all subjectivization is already a movement capture of immanence as a regime of equivalence in both the apparatus of modern sovereignty and in the capitalist form of exchange of the commodity. Marx’s communism is thus not a movement that trends towards the transformation of the actual state of things, but a deposition of a self-relation of one’s potentiality.

The mediality exposed in humanism without work is juxtaposed and analytically enlarged in the second part of the book when thinking the question of technology as originary technê, which Casanova also calls ‘co-constitutive’ of the generic being. Challenging Kostas Axelos’ standard reading of Marx as an epochal product of the complete exposure of the age of technology, he polemically advances a production of technology that is never reduced to instrumentalization, nor to the clarity of the concept in philosophy as a secondary tier of appropriation. Following Nancy, Marx’s thought is registered as one of finitude, as it opens to the mundane and profane dimension of the material conditions of sensibility:

“Un pensamiento de las condiciones denominadas “materiales” de existe es un pensamiento que necesariamente vincula, como cuestión ineludible la deconstrucción de la metafísica de la presencia con la pregunta por la condición material, económica, y social de los hombres. Un pensamiento así es, por otra parte, un pensamiento que se piensa en “la ausencia de presencia como imposibilidad de clausura del sentido o de acabada presentación de un sentido en verdad” (Casanova, 79).
Marx’s critique of political economy appears as a translation of his critique of religion as the deconstruction of the onto-theology of capital and the subject as coterminous with the principle of general equivalence. Equivalence is what renders abstract the industry of sense, capturing every singularity in a regimen of equality in exchange value and the commodity form. As such, the technology of capital equivalence is what separates and articulates for “work” the co-constitutive modal ontology of originary technê. More importantly, the originary technê allows for the emergence of politics in Marx that Casanova does not shy away to call “politics of presence” (política de la presencia) as the force that un-works the labour apparatus of labour. But, even in its appropriative force, is not production what thrusts the ‘absolute movement’ towards non-work?

Casanova is aware of this aporia when at the very end of his book he asks: “¿Continúan siendo las fuerzas en este movimiento metamórfico, fuerzas dispuestas dentro del marco de la productividad? ¿Siguen siendo las fuerzas del hombre fuerza de trabajo, o más bien, se transforman en fuerzas humanas en cuanto tales…” (Casanova, 118)? Could the limit of Marx’s thought be inscribed in the way in which concrete industriousness in the essence of man, only dispenses what is proper and productive in the anthropogenic event? Why is the status of “force” in the becoming of the sensible of the singular?

At the very end of the seminar Heidegger: The Question of Being and History (U Chicago, 2016), Jacques Derrida posits the existential analytic as what precedes anthropogenic event based on labor and its force of the negative [3]. But this is only the Hegelian telling of the ‘story’. Casanova grapples to make Marx a thinker of the originary technê in a metamorphic movement that brings to a zone of indistinction thought and action, whose appropriation is always that of the excess of the proper. Could this entail that communism in Marx rejects the notion of “equipementality” (verlässlichkeit) for a program of emancipation in the movement of appropriation of work? If so, then the labor of stasis at the heart of the sensible industry fails at being formalized into a ‘politics of presence’.

What opens up is an infra-political relation, a necessary fissure within any articulation of the common in the event of appropriation. In repositioning Marx to the improper site of desouvrament and the ungovernable, Casanova stops short of offering a Marxist ‘politics’. But perhaps no such thing is needed: the task of freedom is to abandon any metaphoricity as a new nomos of the senses. Bresson captured this freedom in a remark on Cezanne: “Equality of all things. Cezanne painted with the same eye, a fruit dish, his son, and Mt. Sainte-Victoroire” [4]. The ‘grandeur of Marx’ resides in that the sensible machine is never ontology of art; in the same way that hegemony never constitutes a phenomenology of the political. At the heart of Marx’s industry there lays, always and necessarily, a life without “work”, something other than politics.


1. This pertains to the passage from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (1098 a7) in which the philosopher argues that the musician has a particular function that defines his work, but the human to the extent that he is human, is born without work.

2. This is what Agamben detects in Use of Bodies (Stanford University, 2016), as the insufficiency of Marx’s oeuvre in terms of the fixity to the modes of production: “One-sidedly focused on the analysis of forms of production, Marx neglected the analysis of the forms of inoperativity, and this lack is certainly at the bottom of some of the aporias of his thought, in particular as concerns the definition of human activity in the classless society. From this perspective, a phenomenology of forms of life and of inoperativity that proceeded in step with an analysis of the corresponding forms of production would be essential. In inoperativity, the classless society is already present in capitalist society, just as, according to Benjamin, shards of messianic time are present in history in possibly infamous and risible forms.” 94.

3. Jacques Derrida. Heidegger: The Question of Being & History (U Chicago, 2016), p.194-96.

4. Robert Bresson. Notes On The Cinematographer. New York: NYRB, 2016.

La suspensión de la filosofía de la historia: sobre Spartakus, de Furio Jesi. (Gerardo Muñoz)

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En el apéndice que da cierre a la nueva edición de Spartakus: the symbology of revolt (Seagull Books, 2014), a cargo de Andrea Cavalletti y Alberto Toscano, Furio Jesi advierte que este manuscrito no intenta reconstruir los sucesos de la revuelta espartaquista alemana de 1919, sino ofrecer una documentación dialéctica de los sucesos a partir de figuras que explicitan la divergencia entre el tiempo del historicismo y el ascenso de la posibilidad figurativa del mito. En efecto, Spartakus es mucho más que un argumento sobre una terrible masacre de la Spartakusbund; es también una forma de intervención intelectual luego de la euforia del 68 francés, y más específicamente para Furio Jesi, se trataba de hacerse cargo del pensamiento en torno al mito y la política de su mentor Karoly Kerenyi.

Pero no se puede afirmar que la intervención de Spartakus quede restringida meramente a una polémica entre dos estudiosos de la función social del mito en el interior del “evento 68” y su posibilidad en el horizonte democrático. Este valioso ensayo, pensando y escrito a partir de inflexiones visibles con la metodología en Walter Benjamin (el montaje y la constelación) o Aby Warburg (la nachleben y la imagen en la secularización), ofrece para nosotros un importante lugar donde es posible pensar un modo de suspender el historicismo y la filosofía de la historia en diversos registros metafóricos; que incluye (aunque no se limita) a la teoría marxista aun a servicio de principios como la ‘lucha de clases’ o la ‘revolución habilitada a partir de la base economicista del valor social’. Por otro lado, Jesi confronta el principio de equivalencia del mundo ético burgués al cual define como aquel sometido a la “ley eterno del retorno” (sic), que hace posible la relativización como eje del universo intelectual burgués.

Para Jesi, la revolución como concepto fáctico de la teoría marxista se debía a ese productivismo valorativo social (espejismo de la lógica capitalista en cuanto equivalencia), y que además reproducía su misma estructura temporal; a saber, la revolución es posible en la medida en que es llevada a cabo por quienes (léase la vanguardia) son capaces de capturar y reducir una serie de principios en el presente y llevarla hacia adelante, tal y como se produce en los términos leninistas de la dictadura del proletariado.

Es imposible no ver aquí una forma consumada de la heliopolitica del historicismo, plenamente restituida al tiempo desarrollista del progreso de la historia y a la matriz del cálculo político por excelencia. En cambio, la revuelta para Jesi ofrece no otro tiempo histórico posible, sino la suspensión misma del principio de la historia en cuanto tal; siempre en retirada hacia una indeterminación espacial de una política nocturna o de la oscuridad (figura recurrente en la mitologizacion de la revuelta a lo largo de Spartakus):

“Cada revuelta puede ser descrita como una suspensión del tiempo histórico. Gran parte de aquellos que han sido parte de una revuelta comprometen su individualidad a una acción cuyas consecuencias no pueden saber o predecir. En el momento del enfrentamiento solo pocos están concientes de la concatenación de causas y efectos…en el sueño antes de la revuelta – y presumimos que la revuelta comienza en la aurora! – puede ser tan plácido como la experiencia del Príncipe Conde, sin poseer el momento paradójicamente tranquilo del enfrentamiento. En el mejor de los casos, pudiera parecer un momento de tregua para aquellos quienes han ido a dominar sin sentirse como individuos” [1].

Luego Jesi pasa a una descripción bellísima sobre la co-habitación de la ciudad que, por momentos recordando las reflexiones de Simone Weil, logra dejar atrás los efectos de la alineación moderna en el momento en que irrumpe la revuelta, puesto que aparece allí otro tiempo de relación interna. Así, la ciudad emerge no como espacio de identificación colectiva horizontal (lo cual seria una antropología de la multitud o del pueblo), sino como negatividad: una salida de la soledad hacia la entrada de un retiro hacia una noche de un Dios oculto. En este punto, para Jesi, el pensamiento político tiene su fundamento en el mito y su forma moderna de propaganda (una convergencia simbólica inaceptable para Kerenyi y que interrumpió el diálogo Jesi-Kerenyi tras el 68), y que solo puede entenderse a contrapelo de la instrumentalización de la sociedad de consumo y el espectáculo moderno.

Tendríamos que matizar también la diferencia entre el mito en el pensamiento de Jesi, y el que Schmitt abogaba en la década del treinta mientras glosaba la tesis de Sorel junto al fascismo italiano. Según Schmitt, Sorel había penetrado el momento de la nihilziacion mundial a partir de un nuevo mito de la violencia que podía, en efecto, hacerle frente al economicismo de la clase burguesa, así como al parlamentarismo democrático. Por lo que para Schmitt, el mito era el dispositivo político para la concreción de una principio de legitimidad contra la legalidad positivista.

En esa línea, Schmitt evocaba a Mussolini como forma de una nueva posibilidad de mito, por encima de la gran maquinaria del Estado moderno liberal partícipe de la distribución del valor y la neutralización de lo político [2]. Para Jesi, en cambio, la necesidad del mito nace de un exceso con lo político, así como lo político es el vacío mismo en su instanciación con el mito. Si tanto Schmitt como Jesi comparten cierto desfundamento de la ontología y representación política, la diferencia irremediable radica no en la ideología, sino en la potencia de destrucción y retirada de lo político que el segundo extrae de la lección de la revuelta como “forma pura” del poder destituyente o de la destrucción.

Es así que Jesi argumenta que la revuelta es la forma hiperbólica del mundo burgués, pero en tanto tal también la excede, ya que no busca el poder ni tampoco la aurora del mañana como consagración de la victoria. La revuelta solo puede concebirse como una interrupción de la hegemonía, o para pensarlo en términos de Sergio Villalobos-Ruminott, como una soberanía en suspenso capaz de arruinar la filosofía de la historia y su eje que sostiene la ontología del capital [3].

Es importante ver cómo, tanto Jesi como Villalobos ponen en el centro de sus proyectos el concepto de ‘suspensión’ más allá de la obvia entonación benjaminiana, para desmovilizar la filosofía de la historia como otro de los nombres corrientes de la metaforización de la máquina historicista. Y al igual que Villalobos-Ruminott en Soberanías en suspenso (La Cebra, 2014), para Jesi ese movimiento interno del pensamiento solo es posible a través del estatuto del poema, la imagen, y la literaturas como zonas donde se articula la potencia de la imaginación. Aunque lo que lo que la revuelta espartaquista es en la adjudicación de Jesi al historicismo; el Golpe de Estado de 1973 es para Villalobos en cuanto la destitución de la soberanía como principio de lo político.

Pero también es fundamental que el sentido que Furio Jesi le otorga a la revuelta no queda atrapado por las lógicas del evento – formas de soberanía invertida, como ha argumentado recientemente Villalobos-Ruminott – en donde el movimiento entre lo nominal y lo genérico estructura lo que pudiéramos llamar una antropología del nombre bajo la condición de una equivalencia dualista – entre el realismo y nominalismo – que dota las luchas de sentido en la secuencia de la Historia [4]. En el Spartakus de Jesi no trata de recomponer una “invariante de la revuelta”, sino de hilvanar algunas imágenes en la oscuridad de los sucesos sin la restitución fetichista del nombre propio del líder o de la inscripción del sitio como permanencia en la memoria. Incluso, se pudiera decir que la crítica a la memoria que aparece en los dos últimos capítulos del libro dan cuenta del desinterés de Jesi por trazar una historia general de la revueltas, así como su distancia por atender una estructura genérica del evento. En su reverso, la revuelta espartaquista es la figura que excede la política porque destruye todo historicismo (sic) , y cuyo mito solo puede encontrarse en su uso singular más allá del tiempo vulgar de todo principio de equivalencia general.

De esta manera, Jesi postula la definición de la revuelta espartaquista no solo como un exceso al mando de la forma partido, sino como una mitología a medio camino entre el eterno retorno y el de una vez por todas. La dialéctica que co-pertenece al mito y al tiempo histórico, no es la que ocurrirá con la certeza del mañana, sino la que deviene sin cálculo alguno hacia el día después de mañana. Glosando al Nietzsche de Más allá del bien y el mal, Jesi sugiere:

“Lo que tengo en mente cuando defino la revuelta espartaquista a medio camino entre el de una vez por todas y el eterno retorno – no la superposición del tiempo histórico por encima del tiempo mítico, como en el pensamiento de Mircea Eliade – sino el día antes de ayer y el día después de mañana….en lugar de asegurar la libertad como decisiva en la justificación del a estrategia de victoria, identificamos la libertad como aquello que ocurre después del día de mañana” [5].

Habría que pensar, sin buscar homologar o establecer una equivalencia, hasta que punto la indeterminación entre eterno retorno / de una vez por todas, pudiera ser contraída a la formula de el ya-siempre y no todavía que busca pensar infrapolitica como solicitación de un abandono imposible de la metaforización de la historia, tal y como ha sugerido Moreiras en una lectura reciente del seminario de Jacques Derrida sobre Heidegger y la Historia de 1964 [6].

Y no es casual que, en el momento en que aparece esta formulación en Spartakus, Jesi distinga entre mito y metafísica. Corriengiendo una rápida y equivocada yuxtaposición entre mito y metafísica, Jesi apuesta a definir la instanciacion mítica como aquella que no participa de la metasifica tal cual, sino aquella vinculada a un Dios oscuro (deus absconditus) que, antecediendo la antropología del sujeto moderno y el cogito, encuentra una morada apotropaica más allá de la separación entre muerte y vida, abriéndose hacia la supervivencia en retiro existencial irreducible a la ética o la política [7].

Si el historicismo capitalista es otro nombre para la metafísica en tanto participación de un continuo proceso de metaforizacion de la esencial transcendental del valor; entonces, solo atendiendo al mito como instancia de sobrevivencia singular puede devolver el estatuto de la finitud a la vida fuera del aura sacrificial de la militancia política, o de la promesa iluminista de la revolución comunista. Lo que esta en juego para Jesi no solo es pensar fuera de la equivalencia de la “ley del retorno” que articula el mundo burgués, sino pensar en el nachleben de Rosa Luxemburgo y Karl Liebknecht sin subscribir las tesis del sacrificio heroico de una voluntad consumada por el “ideal político”.

De modo que si el activismo político de Luxemberg & Liebknect no es reducible a la militancia política ni al evento, ¿cómo explicar que hayan decido permanecer en Berlín sabiendo las consecuencias nefastas para sus vidas? La respuesta que desarrolla Jesi aparece en uno de los momentos más decisivos del libro, donde la escritura ha derivado hacia lúcidas glosas sobre Goethe, la novela Immensee de Theodor Storm, y el concepto de la renuncia en Kierkegaard. Conviene citar este fragmento en su integridad:

“Cuando Reinhard renuncia a la luz y espera en las sombras de la tarde, el ignora que pasará; y sin embargo una fuerza que coincide con su voluntad lo lleva a actos rituales que preceden esa invitación – la oscuridad y la soledad. Un rayo de luz de la luna se hace presente y se deja oír el eco del nombre: ‘Elizabeth!’. Voluntad y destino ya son inseparables. Es aquí donde aparece el sentido pleno de Immensee…pero, ¿qué significa renunciar? Renunciar es un gesto y en tanto tal – como diría Kierkegaard – es la realidad en términos de la forma de vida; de vida como absoluto y verdad. Esto significa que allí se abre, ante quien renuncia, el laberinto del ser. Y esto ocurre porque los que ejecutan un gesto están destinado a confrontar las ilumiacones y terrores de las epifanías de lo verdadero. El ha conseguido la verdad, pero que en tanto verdad solo puede ser como un abismo, y a su frente yace solo la nada, la oscuridad” [8].

Este momento de Immensee es hiperbólico a la renuncia de vida ante la lucha de Luxemburgo y Liebknecht. El gran gesto de la revuelta no solo aparece abstraído, entonces, al principio de la suspensión de la historia, sino en distancia próxima de un gesto singular intuido hacia la forma misma de la vida. Este gesto impolítico no solo busca su retirada en la sombra abismal de una libertad sin valor, sino que se sostiene a partir de ese estado del despertar que supone vivir en lo común de la singularidad, tal y como Jesi sugiere citando uno de los fragmentos de Heráclito hacia el final del ensayo. De esta manera, vemos que para Jesi la radicalización del mito contra la metaforizacion de la metasifica no pasa por un vórtice transcendental – tal como sucede en el pensamiento de Schmitt o en el pensamiento contemporáneo de Alain Badiou – sino en el movimiento de la vida como supervivencia, esto es, mas allá de la equivalencia en nombre de una comunidad o en su relación jurídica con la esfera del derecho.

Si decíamos que Spartakus fue un ensayo que intenta pensar la condición de posibilidad de un suceso como el 68, en diálogo cruzado con La verdad de la democracia de J.L. Nancy, Jesi pareciera sugerirnos que lo que yace en el espíritu de la revuelta es la estructura incalculable y singular de una democracia por venir. Aunque, a diferencia de Nancy, pensar la salida de la trampa de la metafísica exige que también nos detengamos en la supervivencia de los mitos en su co-pertenencia con las singularidades de la existencia.




  1. Furio Jesi. Spartakus: the symbology of revolt. New York: Seagull Books, 2014. p.52-54. Todas las traducciones al castellano de Jesi son mías.
  1. Refiero aquí al ensayo de Schmitt, “Irrational theories of the direct use of force” publicado en The crisis of parliamentary democracy (MIT, 1988).
  1. Sergio Villalobos-Ruminott. Soberanías en suspenso: imaginación y violencia en América Latina. Buenos Aires: La Cebra, 2014.
  1. Alain Badiou en “La idea del comunismo” restituye un principio equivalencia de la historia a partir de lo que Sylvain Lazarus llama una “antropología del nombre”. Por ejemplo, Badiou escribe: “¿Por qué Espartaco, Thomas Münzer, Robespierre, Toussaint-Louverture, Blanqui, Marx, Lenin, Rosa Luxemburgo, Mao, Che Guevara, y tantos otros? Porque todos estos nombres simbolizan históricamente, en la forma de un individuo, de una pura singularidad del cuerpo y del pensamiento, la red a la vez rara y preciosa de las secuencias fugitivas de la política como verdad”. Lo que está en juego en el pensamiento de Badiou es la multiplicación de metáforas como nombres “alternos” (nominales) a la “Idea” del Comunismo (realismo). Le agradezco a Sam Steinberg algunas conversaciones que sostuvimos recientemente sobre Badiou y esta problemática de la lógica del nombre.
  1. Furio Jesi, Spartakus, 139.
  1. Aunque el actual trabajo de Moreiras busca pensar el problema de la “desmetaforizacion de la Historia”, ya se pueden encontrar algunas elaboraciones preliminares en su ensayo “Infrapolitical Derrida” (inédito), y en las notas en este mismo espacio tituladas “Notes on Derrida’s Heidegger: la question de L’etre et l’Historie “(June, 2014).
  1. Furio Jesi indica en otro importante pasaje del último capítulo: “…the time of myth can be said to be the house of death inasmuch as it represents the eternity with which human being is comingled. It is the deep shelter, the secret room in which the spirit draws on its reality and comes to know the archetypes, the perennial forms capable harmony between the objective and the subjective. He who suffers and finds no justification for his suffering is obviously incapable of discovering the deep and authentic face of death; he comes to a stop before the mask of pain with which despair counterfeits the reality of death” (153).
  1. Ibid., 129.

Jean-Luc Nancy’s Critique of General Equivalence: After Fukushima. (Alberto Moreiras)

The critique of general equivalence has long been a tenet of the infrapolitical project.   See below “Infrapolitical Action,” for instance. We also had a working group on “Kapital y Equivalencia” in early days, about a year ago.   It is perhaps our more explicit connection to the later work of Karl Marx, and certainly also our theoretical bid for a critique of exploitation.   But it is more than that. Jean-Luc Nancy’s recent After Fukushima. The Equivalence of Catastrophes (Fordham UP, 2015) brings the point home.

In the “Preamble” Nancy says “Marx called money a ‘general equivalent.’ It is this equivalence that is being discussed here. Not to think about it by itself, but to reflect that the regime of general equivalence henceforth virtually absorbs, well beyond the monetary or financial sphere but thanks to it and with regard to it, all the spheres of existence of humans, and along with them all things that exist” (5).   The implication is clear: if general equivalence is today the totalizing principle of life administration, a subtraction from it destroys the totality.   Hence the importance of its thematization, even if it is just a conceptual and not practical thematization. But all conceptuality is practical too, as its elaboration belongs necessarily to infrapolitical life.

Nancy wants to situate equivalence today within a catastrophic horizon. Or rather, “it is . . . equivalence that is catastrophic” (6). Not all catastrophes are the same, and we cannot compare Auschwitz to Fukushima, or global climate change to the 2008 financial crisis. However, there is a comparison to be made, since equivalence is the catastrophe. General equivalence preempts the possibility of non-comparison.

This small book, originally a lecture, is powerfully premised on the later Heidegger’s critique of the technological gigantic.   The gigantic, which takes globality as inception, is interconnectedness. But it is the interconnectedness of that which has crossed a limit: “What is common to both these names, Auschwitz and Hiroshima, is a crossing of limits—not the limits of morality, or of politics, or of humanity in the sense of a feeling for human dignity, but the limits of existence and of a world where humanity exists, that is, where it can risk sketching out, giving shape to meaning. The significance of these enterprises that overflow from war and crime is in fact every time a significance wholly included within a sphere independent of the existence of the world: the sphere of a projection of possibilities at once fantastical and technological that have their own ends, or more precisely whose ends are openly for their own proliferation, in the exponential growth of figures and powers that have value for and by themselves, indifferent to the existence of the world and of all its beings” (12).  The indifference across the limit marks a threshold.   Within the catastrophic gigantic names do not pass beyond but rather “fall below all signification. They signify an annihilation of meaning” (13).

Not all catastrophes are the same, but the inevitability of catastrophic comparison based on equivalence turns the principle of equivalence into the principle of the annihilation of meaning.   Within the principle of general equivalence all words and all bodies fall below signification.   Calculability fights the incommensurable, which alone grants meaning. “Forces fight each other and compensate for each other, substitute for each other. Once we have replaced the given, nonproduced forces (the ones we used to call ‘natural,’ like wind and muscle) with produced forces (steam, electricity, the atom), we have entered into a general configuration where the forces of production of other forces and the other forces of production or action share a close symbiosis, a generalized interconnection that seems to make inevitable an unlimited development of all forces and all their interactions, retroactions, excitations, attractions, and repulsions that, finally, act as incessant recursions of the same to the same. From action to reaction, there is no rapport or relation: There is connection, concord and discord, going and coming, but no relation if what we call ‘relation’ always involves the incommensurable, that which makes one in the relationship absolutely not equivalent to the other” (26).

Not just Auschwitz and Hiroshima calculate, not just Fukushima and the 2008 financial crisis are the results of catastrophic calculation. We live our entire lives, increasingly, with little margin, within a horizon of exhaustive calculability.   Even hegemony theory is little more than a methodology for political calculability at the service of an administration of the republic.   Even research today, at the university, is nothing but accumulation and quantification. Even our facebook posts are produced, or not, according to the number of projected “likes.”   Could we change our lives in favor of the incommensurable? “[The incommensurable] opens onto the absolute distance and difference of what is other—not only the other human person but also what is other than human: animal, vegetable, mineral, divine” (27).

For Marx of course the pure technology of calculation is money. “By designating money as general equivalence, Marx uttered more than the principle of mercantile exchange: He uttered the principle of a general reabsorption of all possible values into this value that defines equivalence, exchangeability, or convertibility of all products and all forces of production” (31).   So we calculate the incalculable.   If my post has less ‘likes’ than yours, we calculate respective values on the basis of the principle of equivalence. If your book sells more than mine, I calculate as well, and my resentment is based on a calculus that throws a deficit that happens to be mine.   “The incalculable is calculated as general equivalence. This also means that the incalculable is the calculation itself, that of money and at the same time, by a profound solidarity, that of ends and means, that of ends without end, that of producers and products, that of technologies and profits, that of profits and creations, and so on” (32).

But—and this marks our difference from Marx and any marxism—breaking away from general equivalence means abandoning the calculations of production.   There was no production at the beginning, and there can be no production at the end. There can be no demystification of production for the sake of a proper communist production—production is always necessarily its own mystification.   The real movement of things may be a movement of production, yet that is the movement that infrapolitics brackets and refuses. “The possibility of representing a ‘total’ human, free from alienation, emancipated from all natural, economic, and ideological subjection, has faded away in the very progress of general equivalence becoming the equivalence and interconnection of all goals and possibilities” (33). “This condition imposed on our thinking surpasses greatly what we sometimes call ‘a crisis of civilization.’ This is not a crisis we can cure by means of this same civilization. This condition algo goes beyond what is sometimes called a ‘change of civilization’: We do not decide on such a change; we cannot aim for it since we cannot outline the goal to be reached” (35).

So what is there to do?   Short of giving ourselves over to thoroughly accomplished general equivalence since there does not seem to be any other thing to do? What is there to do in order to suspend the sway of general equivalence, in order to subtract from the totalizing principle of civilizational life?

We call it infrapolitics, Nancy doesn’t.   But he says something we can use: “I can . . . assert that no option will make us emerge from the endless equivalence of ends and means if we do not emerge from finality itself—from aiming, from planning, and projectins a future in general” (37).   The difference between general equivalence and its critique emerges here as the very difference between politics and infrapolitics.

Infrapolitics would then be “the care for the approach of singular presence” (40).   Nancy refers to persons and moments, places, gestures, times, words, clouds, plants.   When they come, they come incommensurably.

Nancy’s “communism of nonequivalence” is our infrapolitics, where “democracy should be thought of starting only from the equality of incommensurables: absolute and irreducible singulars that are not individuals or social groups but sudden appearances, arrivals and departures, voices, tones—here and now, every instant” (41).

Like my encounter today in the aisle of the supermarket.   Moving, unforgettable, secret, and absolutely nonequivalent.