Auto-Theory

What is auto-theory? The notion comes up, but is only named, and perhaps enacted in some secret place between the lines of the text, in Frank Wilderson’s Afropessimism. I would claim it is a practice in the marrano register. Through double exclusion the marrano is consigned to a radical non-productivity. Marrano productivity is always melancholy, because it always happens as the consequence of a disavowal: “you don’t want me, so want this,” they say improbably. Auto-theory, which depends also improbably on the friendship of wayward subjects (as Saidiya Hartman calls them), yes, it always takes two, three is better, is a practice of infrapolitical releasement leading nowhere except to unnameable jouissance. Which is better than nothing. It could be the contemporary name of (subaltern) happiness.

Naming Politics

In 1998 Alain Badiou published a short book entitled Of an Obscure Disaster.  On the End of the Truth of the State (Paris: Editions de l’Aube).  The book has been read as a confirmation of Badiou’s communist militancy, but I think it is fair to say it is both less and much more than that.  Its core is certainly not a sponsoring by any means of communism as a state practice nor is it a mere denunciation of the sophistry of the rule of law in capitalo-parliamentarist states, otherwise known as liberal democracies.  It is rather something else, which may probably be captured without abuse in the following five propositions:

  1. “The essence of politics is the emancipation of the collective, or again, the problem of the reign of liberty in infinite situations.  Now the infinity of situations, in which the destiny of collective thought is played out, is not commensurate either with the authority of the rule [of Law] or with the authority of a part, or a Party” (139 in the English edition, which is the second part of Can Politics Be Thought?, Bruno Bosteels transl. and ed., Durham: Duke UP, 2018). 
  • “There is no way of deciding politics in the framework of a preference for the law, which is only a (legitimate) statist preference.  The history of politics, made of decisions of thought and of risky collective engagement, is entirely different . . . from the history of the State” (140).
  • “The end of this monster, State communism, in its fall carries with it and takes the life out of all political subjectivity that would pretend, either under the revolutionary theme or under the theme of law, to solder the statist constraint onto the liberating universality” (140).
  • “The history of politics commences.  It barely commences.  The ruin of any statist presentation of the truth opens this commencement.  Everything remains to be invented . . .  The de-statification of the Truth remains for us a program of thought” (140).
  •  “Politics begins inasmuch as it is the effective thought-practice of the withering away of the State.  The point at which a thought subtracts itself from the State, inscribing this subtraction in being, makes the entire real of a politics.  And a political organization has no other end but that of ‘holding the step that was won’” (140-41).

Pages 139-41 in the English edition are the final pages of the essay, where all five propositions are found.  Those pages are not so much a “program of thought” as the announcement of a program, whose conditions are thought’s self-removal from its sophistical (relativist and skeptical) possibilities as well as from police despotism (embodied by Stalinism as the figure of the suture of philosophy to politics and of politics to philosophy—a definition which is food for thought: all reciprocal suturing of philosophy and politics finally falls under the Stalinist designation, there are many more Stalinist ideologues and police officers than we think out there).   Badiou clearly says, on the one hand, that the name “democracy” has been ruined in advance by its contemporary history, which links it to the Statist rule of Law and to sophistry in general.  And he prefers to preserve the name “communism” insofar as the name is or can be delinked from the monster of State communism, as proposition 3 confirms.   

But he also says this:

“What does “communist” signify in an absolute sense?  What is philosophy able to think under this name (philosophy under the condition of a politics)?  The egalitarian passion, the Idea of justice, the will to break with the compromises of the service of goods, the removal of egotism, the intolerance toward oppression, the wish to put an end to the State; the absolute preeminence of multiple presentation over representation; the tenaciously militant determination . . . the proposition of a singularity without predicate, an infinity without determination or immanent hierarchy, what I call the generic, which is—when the procedure is political—the ontological concept of democracy, or of communism, which is the same thing” (115)

So democracy and communism are the same thing, once delinked from their historical statist sutures.  “Rebellious [political] subjectivity,” he calls it at some other point (116).  The history of politics commences, or commences anew, as a history of rebellious political subjectivity, once historical events, or obscure events, obscure disasters, among which we must count the current state of the economy in or after the Coronavirus pandemic, have made it clear that the “entire real” of a politics begins in State subtraction, which primarily means: in a practice whose end-goal is not and cannot be the storming of the State, the acquisition of State power, any new statalization of life.  Politics begins, Badiou claims in proposition 5 above, in the “withering away of the State.”  And, then, yes, how can we think of it? What does that even mean?

If both “democracy” and “communism” are soiled names, names perhaps terminally contaminated by their statist subsumption, what is wrong with proposing an alternative name, which is also an alternative naming of the enigma of present and future emancipatory politics: posthegemony?  Posthegemony would then be that which philosophy is able to think in the withering away of the State: the name of an emancipation that abjures the acquisition of State power.

In concrete terms this means that a politics that “holds the step that was won” will enact a practice oriented neither toward the upholding and control of a system of rules whose very precondition is the market economy, or capitalism, nor the “privileged relationship to truth” of any particular subset of the social, whether the national(ist) citizen or the proletarian, much less the organic intellectuals and their minions.  Posthegemony does not aim to (putting itself in a position of) the management of the State.  It abjures both the sophistical relationship to the non-truth of the State and the despotic relationship to any “true State.”

Which does not mean it therefore gives up on any conceivable administration of the social.

De-statalizing the truth (of politics) is also de-substantializing it.  The truth of politics as emancipation is desubstantialized posthegemonic truth.  And there, as Badiou says, the history of politics “barely commences.”  And everything must be invented anew. 

Más sobre Nietzsche

Hay una película muy mala circulando en Amazon Prime, The Mercenary, en la que un soldado particularmente brutal y capaz de imponerse por sí solo a múltiples enemigos cae herido y viene a ser salvado de su muerte por un sacerdote colombiano.  En un momento de la película el sacerdote le dice al mercenario: “hay una razón para cada cosa.”  Esa es quizá la verdad última de la estructuración religiosa de la existencia, o el lugar en el que la estructuración religiosa de la existencia se identifica con la estructuración metafísica de la existencia, que es la formulada por Leibniz con su principio de razón suficiente:  nihil est sine ratione.  Supongamos que la destrucción de tal principio sea la tarea del pensador antimetafísico o postmetafísico, Nietzsche por ejemplo.  Su tensión más íntima habría sido la de liberar la vida de todo sacerdocio hermenéutico, en apelación al “filósofo Dionisos,” ya no un dios, solo un filósofo radicalmente antisocrático.  Querer ser Dionisos, Dionisos contra el Crucificado, implica autopostularse, desde el tiempo religioso por más que en su agonía efectiva, como el propio precursor.  El filósofo postmetafísico es un autoprecursor.  La tarea es la de buscar o perseguir el momento en el que la temporalidad metafísica—la temporalidad caída en la facticidad de un más acá todavía excesivamente hermenéutico, todavía excesivamente crítico, que busca el más allá del cese interpretativo, la absoluta liberación del azar—quede cancelada.  Ese es el matema, el acto propiamente filosófico, es decir, antifilosófico, si es verdad que la filosofía ha buscado desde su inicio suplementar la estructuración religiosa de la existencia. En ese momento ya el antifilósofo no podrá contarse más historias, pero no como limitación o imposibilidad sino como emancipación respecto de una narrativización esclava que, en cada caso y en todos los casos, responde a una pulsión hermenéutica negadora de la vida en su espontaneidad azarosa e ininterpretable.  La antifilosofía prepara la absoluta afirmación de la vida como azar—el momento en el que podría volver a ser posible afirmar que “lo mismo es pensar y ser,” para citar la vieja palabra parmenídea cuya torsión genera la metafísica en su totalidad histórica tal como la conocemos. 

La antifilosofía aparece así como el gesto más íntimo de la filosofía, no su contrario: en la antifilosofía la filosofía se potencia como autoprecursora.  Todo es preparación, la labor de pensamiento atiende a adelantar, desde la temporalidad metafísica, su suspensión última. 

Ese es el secreto de las obras que Nietzsche compuso en los meses anteriores a su colapso psíquico.  Tanto El crepúsculo de los ídolos como Ecce homo como Nietzsche contra Wagner como El Anticristo serían prolegómenos, actos de limpieza y de establecimiento de un claro en el cual operar esa última obra que partiría en dos la historia del mundo y que no llegó a escribirse (con respecto de la cual, en principio, El Anticristo habría sido un anticipo efectivo, un primer capítulo en cuanto tal sujeto a revisión). 

No fue por lo tanto el colapso psíquico sino la interrupción, no la culminación, de ese proceso.  El colapso interrumpió la suspensión antifilosófica de la temporalidad filosófica o metafísica o residualmente religiosa.  El colapso fue un accidente provocado por la sífilis terminal, provocado por un proceso fisiológico que la “gran salud” a cargo de la labor de pensamiento no fue capaz de conjurar.  Nunca sabremos cuál habría sido el acto antifilosófico nietzscheano, y no cabe sin impostura dar gato por liebre, pretender que el colapso mismo lo fue. 

Pero: concebir la tarea del pensamiento como la entrega a un proceso de preparación, de limpieza de todo residuo religioso, de desestructuración de la estructuración metafísica de la existencia, ¿no viene a ser en sí misma la estructuración más propiamente metafísica del tiempo?  Estructuración desestructurante, el proceso de autoprecurso todavía legitima un más allá que interpreta el más acá fáctico y existencial.  El proceso de autoprecurso todavía es moneda falsa.  Todavía depende secretamente del principio de razón suficiente. 

¿Cuál es la alternativa?  ¿Cómo concebir pensar fuera de la trampa hermenéutica?  ¿Cómo dis-torsionar la palabra de Parménides sin incurrir precursivamente en un fin de los tiempos que restituya la filosofía religiosa de la historia? 

Are things like this for everyone? Will people tell?

Looking for something else I encountered the text that follows, “Mentoring Past the Ruins,” which I published in 2008 in the LASA Forum.  I am both stunned and embarrassed.  I am stunned because, in 2008, I was depressed and in a very bad place, but I can barely find any traces of it in the writing.  Which means I repressed my anger at the time, which probably means I am or was at the time way too nice, that is, also a little stupid.  And I am embarrassed because I cannot relate to what I wrote then, which probably means it was all a lie, even if it was a lie I could not myself understand as a lie.  So that being stunned and embarrassed can be reversed: I am stunned at the lie, embarrassed at my inability to tell the truth at the time. 

Still, those are only my subjective positions, and there are perhaps a few marginal truths that still emerge in the text.  Not that I care.  Read it and see what you think.  For me all of it has darkened, retrospectively, from our present. I do not see it happening today, or in the future. So it must not have happened in the past. It was all a lie.

I spent my graduate school years trying to read everything, as much as I could, trying to study, preparing myself for a career that could justify having left my country for professional reasons.  Having made the choices I had made.  My professors and my institution treated me very well, and I thought everything was on track.  I spent several years, as an assistant professor, learning a few unpleasant things about my colleagues, about fights and conflicts I wanted to have nothing to do with, about spite, and jealousy and envy as an endemic state of affairs; indeed, about persecution and harassment.  But I was lucky enough to be able to abandon that place, where I was able to have marginal fun only thanks to some of the students in the place. 

My new institution gave me hope, and confidence that things were not so bad after all, that it was worthwhile to work not just at the institution, but for the institution.  And I did, and I gave it everything I had, at some personal cost but what the hell.  And it was fun, although it was also hard, and it lasted for years, and there were compensations.  We had conversations, we had money to organize things, we could invite people over, and we could visit with the others who were inviting people over. There were new thoughts being produced. There was friendship. There was generosity. There was a sense of future. It was the university, and it was our place, and we tried to make the most of it, indeed, we made the most of it, or was it just I that made the most of it. It was glorious. Until spite, jealousy, envy caught up with me again, and I left, and leaving—it was home, and I left–led me to a spiral of despair and dark thoughts which my new institution did nothing to relieve.   Yes, I am sure you are thinking “how about you?  Were you a saint?  Were you not bad to others?”  I have no sympathy for saints, but I can tell you I never did anybody any harm, that was not what I wanted, or that was what I did not want, what I had always wanted to avoid.  In other words, it wasn’t me, whatever you think. 

But now, as far as the professional world goes, I find myself not actually caring, living a certain manner of disembodied life, going through motions without any real engagement.  I teach my classes, and do what I am told, which is not much, I am asked and expected to do almost nothing else, other than publishing, maybe, or that is the rhetoric (my suspicion is, nobody cares, it is all fake).

Looking at my senior colleagues, it is not out of the question that I still have about fifteen years of active professional life ahead of me. So it is not that I am thinking of retirement.  So, if we leave retirement aside, is it normal to expect nothing at all from my professional field, literally to have no expectations or, as Nietzsche would perhaps put it, to expect nothing rather than not to expect?  Is that the way other people live their lives at the university nowadays?   Is that the way people live their working lives in general, for the most part?

Obviously my life is by now not as dependent on my labor, that is, on the institution, as it was during my years at Duke.  I have learned to protect myself.  But I do not think I could have survived as a relatively sane person had I not had the pleasure of the Duke years when the Duke years were good, that is, until they became bad. 

So I am very curious about others.  I suppose this is of general concern.  Or am I totally wrong?  It would not be a surprise, as I have been totally wrong in the past, like when I wrote the text that follows, which I can now understand as a total fantasy. 

But why was it a fantasy?  That is a harder question. 

Mentoring Past the Ruins by ALBERTO MOREIRAS | University of Aberdeen/State University of New York at Buffalo. 

In the humanities proper a disciplinary crisis opened in the wake of geopolitical changes that might yet make the old area-studies divisions obsolete. It has been happening, but it is not over yet. What needs to be done? U.S. Latin American Studies within the old configuration was a multidisciplinary space whose intersection was perhaps not very deep, but had to do with a tenuous Latin Americanist cultural love. As a literary scholar concerned with the novelistic boom in the 1970s, for instance, one spent most of her or his time reading up on all the novels from the relevant authors and then following up on the criticism that came conveniently summarized in the Latin American Studies Handbook or in the MLA bibliography for Spanish. Everybody understood, besides, that they were supposed to know something about history and politics as well, in order to contextualize their own work, but also for reasons of honest concern for the region and its people. If one read a sociology book in that context, it was either because one wanted to know more about a specific society or because the sociology was thought to be useful to the task of literary interpretation, but not necessarily because one made it a professional concern to open up to a sociology/literature hybrid. One’s discipline was still paramount, and one could thus know what one knew. The 1980s threw a wrench into that comfortable arrangement, and forced many scholars into some kind of symbolic (that is, socially imposed) obligation to read up in other fields beyond Latin American Studies if still for the sake of disciplinary advancement. These are the years of the rise in literature departments of so-called theory, which developed into a generational commitment for many of us who went to graduate school then. Literary theory evolved rapidly into a diffuse poststructuralist field and loaded us with the burden of having to study anthropology, linguistics, philosophy, psychoanalysis, political economy, history of religion, feminism, queer studies, ethnic studies, and everything else as well. Being a literary Latin Americanist became a demanding task—the French program people could largely stay within their own library, since a lot of the texts we were all reading could be considered French literature after all, but we in Spanish had to know our archive or archives, including what was to be known of the indigenous, and the French archive, and the U.S. archive, and the German archive, and everything else as well. How did this come about? No matter how much work we did, our colleagues from other departments still thought our knowledge was inferior to theirs. The game had expanded for us, but not so much for them. Or so they thought. The 1990s are perhaps the time when all of this came together briefly under the configuration of Latin American cultural studies. The name seemed inadequate, as it had already been appropriated by a different set of characters in Britain and later for American studies. What evolved as Latin American cultural studies was not really similar, or only vaguely, to the English-based endeavors. Most of the Latin Americanists who became engaged with the new denomination had been trained as literary scholars, with significant exceptions. What was primarily at stake, I think, was the need to open up the field of engagement, to abandon the literary text as the main horizon of our work, and to include text in general, that is, the testimonial text, the political text, the visual, the postdictatorial, the indigenous, the urban, and so forth. It was an opening to culture as the real horizon of humanities work in a situation in which literature was no longer considered the queen of the humanities; in a situation in which, to all effects, the queen of the humanities was now the critical text, the text of critique. We formed students. At Duke we organized many working groups that did the radical interdisciplinary work (but it was an interdisciplinarity mostly done by us from the Spanish and Literature programs, with an important couple of historians, and the occasional anthropology visitor) our normal seminars still could not do. Graduate student mentoring became complex, as one could no longer point to the past and say “hey, it is clear, do as they did.” What needed to be done was open and in the future, and it was collective, and a given student had as much to say about it as anybody else, and everybody had opinions, but nobody really knew what it was. But it was good because those students found jobs, and there was in the field a certain tolerance to hire people who were doing something new, and we had many good discussions at LASA, and at MMLA, and at our own many conferences, and there was excitement and joy and a certain solidarity across different ideological positionings and across the mostly minor, some of us thought, political differences, and people said “perhaps Latin American Studies now, at least in literature or in post-literature, has something to say or will have something to say that people in other fields (other than literature) might have to learn from.” And it was true, because good books were published and good dissertations were written, and conversations had, and there was no shame. But it did not last. A few years before Néstor García Canclini memorably said in one of the Latin American cultural studies LASA panels in September 2001 that the Latin American cultural studies alliance had ended (“Esto es el fin de la alianza,” and he was angry!), destructive fights had started a labor of systematic demolition of the future of the field of engagement. Was it Néstor or

7 lasaforum SPRING 2008 : VOLUME XXXIX : ISSUE 2 8 MOREIRAS continued…

was it rather John Beverley who said that “cultural studies proper” was now very different from the postcolonial studies tendency, and those two very different from the proper subaltern studies tendency, and the latter very different from deconstructionist cultural critique—none of which had anything to do with Marxist cultural studies? The field that had sustained some promising Latin Americanist intellectual ambitions in the past decade had shattered. Now we had the priests and preachers of the different tendencies, but the churches and temples were about to become mostly empty out of fear and disenchantment. Many academic bats came over (and some buzzards, junior and older), and took over, and closed the doors, and perhaps now we are all sorry. Or not. Things pass. Now you ask, how do you form junior scholars in Latin American studies? And the question for me is, how do you form them among the ruins of Latin American cultural studies as they were then, before the “end of the alliance?” I suppose we must be glad that we succeeded for a decade or so, and I suppose those very junior scholars (not the bats, who will remain silent) will come up with an appropriate generational answer to your question. No, we must not blame it all on the internal fights. A bigger fight hit the ground just a few miles from the LASA convention site only a couple of days after we all left, and that bigger fight has literally altered the conditions for intellectual labor today in ways that we are only beginning to realize. The old configurations of knowledge are not enough now. The Latin American cultural studies paradigm from the 1990s, as it was developed in the United States, was bound to run out of steam. The point is, in the wake of everything, “¿y ahora qué?” You will remember, since you are Latin Americanists, the end of Jorge Luis Borges’s “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.” The narrator, who is waiting until “mere Spanish” vanishes, together with English and French, from the face of the earth, spends his quiet days in Adrogué engaged in “an indecisive translation” of baroque epitaphs on gravestones, but we don’t have to be quite so melancholy. As to myself, in a new context now, I am doing my best to develop with my new colleagues at the Aberdeen Centre for Modern Thought and particularly with my old Duke Latin Americanist colleague Danny James an institutional research structure that I understand as a resolute translation of the problems the Latin American cultural studies paradigm could not accommodate within its parameters. I consider dealing with these problems the necessary prolegomenon to any conceivable attempt (conceivable by me) to reinvent a theoretical task in the Latin Americanist humanities for the next generation—of which, given my second birth, I am very much a part. We include them all under a structure that we are calling “Political Thought,” and that specifies seven research subfields. I can only enumerate them for you, for reasons of space: New Paths in Political Philosophy, Comparative Imperial Histories, the Converso-Marrano Tradition and Spinoza’s Political Thought, Populisms and Constraint, Republicanism, Psychoanalysis and the Common, and Hispanic Wars. If there are any junior scholars out there who want to come to Aberdeen and do that, they will be more than welcome! They only have to write to me. ■

On Hegemonic Intrusion. An Attempt at Clarification.

The recent publication of Samuele Mazzolini’s essay, “Populism Is Not Hegemony: Towards a Re-Gramscianization of Ernesto Laclau” (Theory & Event 23.3 [2020]: 765-86), gives me an opportunity to move quickly past a number of prolegomena in order to be concise in what I want to attempt.  I think Mazzolini’s analysis is highly useful, which means I recommend it without trying to summarize it except on very narrow grounds.  Substantially, Mazzolini’s point is that Laclau’s theory of the political is reductive, particularly as it concerns hegemony theory.  And that it therefore needs to be “re-gramscianized.”  Mazzolini rejects Laclau’s claim about the identification of populism to hegemony to politics, and calls for a restitutive de-identification of the three terms.  Fundamentally, for Mazzolini, Laclau’s notion of hegemony is too simple, or excessively simplified, as it points towards an ever punctual and contingent bid for power without the necessary social depth.  This is the reason why Laclauian hegemony is doomed to pass every time, that is, politically to fail, as it has happened both to Podemos in Spain and to the different Latin American pink tide governments, who were unable to capitalize on any properly constructed socially hegemonic depth.  For Mazzolini the only half-successful hegemonic articulation from the left in relatively recent times was the one accomplished by the Italian Communist Party in the years after World War II and until the 1970´s.  Yes, the PCI ultimately failed, for other reasons, and did not accomplish its political objective.  In the process, however, it was able to sustain a long and almost successful hegemonic struggle.

Hegemony, then, for Mazzolini, who is following Gramsci, is and can only be the long pedagogical march towards communist society, always led by a minority elite, an intellectual class, whether it is communist party cadres or the duly committed members of the academic intelligentsia and its pedagogy of the politically correct.   Only through a long and successful internalization of the awareness of good politics could we ever accomplish proper hegemonic change, and such an internalization can only be a function of sustained pedagogic interventions cutting through time, institutions, and social classes.  The rest is perhaps populism, as a fleeting and unrooted or ungrounded quick political change that will leave, alas, the underlying structures unchanged, thus dooming itself.

So it seems to me that Mazzolini’s diagnosis is good but the prognosis (that is, “without an endless Gramscianism nothing real will be accomplished”) is not just boring but also misguided.  Witness the state of play in the North American university, where there has been an obvious dominance of the politically correct left since the 1980s, only to get Trump forty years later.  And counting.  So pedagogy be damned, that cannot be the way to go.   And yet, the more I read in and about current Gramscians, the more convinced I am that is the only thing they can come up with. 

I am myself starting to get tired of the use of the concepts I have been proposing along some of my friends: infrapolitics and posthegemony.  They seem to come up against an invincible wall of inertia bordering on antagonistic hostility.  But, before giving them up altogether and moving on to something else, it might be worthwhile to attempt yet another brief clarification of what might be meant by them in the context of current political discussions.   What is summed up in or by infrapolitics is at the same type the analysis and the subversion (hence “deconstructive infrapolitics”) of the myriad micropractices of everyday life in every region of life, at the existential and the social level, which are levels that are obviously not independent from one another.  Politically, what is summed up by its companion concept, posthegemony, is an operationalization of political practice in every case, whose primary object is not persuasion, not generalized persuasion, not pedagogy of any kind, not the move towards any accomplishment of genuine or deluded consensus.  Instead, posthegemony proposes a practice of general dissensus, that is, a refusal of hegemonic intrusion in singular life (whether personal or collective), wherever it comes from.  This results, or should result, in political practice understood as the permanent negotiation of conflict on ever pragmatic, that is, tactical grounds, and in view of whatever is possible at every given conjuncture, and at every step in the conjuncture. 

Posthegemony gives up on hegemonic pedagogy, which it denounces as only ever committed to domination, whether it is the sedimented pedagogy of the status quo or the politically correct pedagogy of the converted.  It postulates an emancipation from the state apparatus, which includes an emancipation from any counterhegemonic inversion of the state apparatus.  To that extent it affirms or presupposes a “communism of intelligence” in Jacques Rancière’s terms.  Pedagogy is for the birds. 

Posthegemony is an operational indicator for political practice, not a political doctrine.  Its strategy is the accomplishment of democratic equality both now and for the future, but tactically it prescribes nothing beyond the permanent use of thought at the service of a (pragmatic) refusal of domination, formally defined as hegemonic intrusion in singular life.

Posthegemony is therefore perfectly capable of unleashing a new political sequence based upon the equalitarian symbolization of the social.  But only as a result of the abandonment of the policies of hegemonic intrusion that seem to be all the left is capable of providing us with nowadays (paradoxically prompting, not consensus, but a radical if not terminal dissensus, as the recent results for Podemos in Galicia and the Basque Country show).  If an example of posthegemonic thought and practice were needed, the example I can adduce is Afropessimist practice.  More on this will eventually follow.   

La silla de Basilea

La frase en la correspondencia tardía de Nietzsche, cerca ya del desastre, cuando Nietzsche dice que preferiría ser profesor de Basilea que Dios, es todo lo contrario de arrogante, es verdad.  No es que Nietzsche se crea Dios, sino que sabe que su itinerario le lleva inexorablemente a un acto filosófico, o existencial, o subjetivo, que, si bien por una parte puede romper en dos la historia del mundo, puede también romperlo a él en múltiples fragmentos.  Y eso le excede.  No puede, por probidad, más que seguir su destino, pero le gustaría no tener que hacerlo y quedarse tranquilo.  En su silla de Basilea, abandonada hace tanto tiempo, desde la que podría haberse entretenido con pensamiento muerto, como tantos académicos.  

Pero ese no es su camino.  Su camino está marcado por la cada vez más cercana posibilidad de un acto de afirmación, cuyos hitos fueron el superhombre, o el eterno retorno, o la voluntad de poder, que ahora quedan atrás porque se abre ante él una posibilidad más nítida, y en esa medida tanto más peligrosa.  La afirmación total de sus condiciones de existencia, su acto de subjetivación final, puede tener en su contrapartida la más terrible desubjetivación, la locura, el desastre.  Su apuesta no es tanto por la dificultad de pensamiento—un pensamiento, en verdad, a 6000 pies por encima de todo lo académico, un pensamiento que lo aisla y lo arrincona y lo aparta de toda comunidad, un pensamiento cuya principal condición es el endurecimiento o la firmeza personal, de la cual depende su supervivencia–, sino solo por la búsqueda de una acomodación, una consistencia.  Por eso habría dicho en algún prólogo de La gaya ciencia que la filosofía era un malentendimiento del cuerpo, la filosofía de los sacerdotes, la filosofía nihilista.  ¿Cómo entender el cuerpo propiamente, cómo convertir el cuerpo en el lugar del pensamiento?  Su cuerpo doliente y maltrecho, en el que el pensamiento ocupa la posibilidad misma de salud, de gran salud, de salud no nihilista.  No es ni apuesta: solo aceptar su propia demanda, solo sustraerse a la prohibición de hacerlo, que es la que sigue todo el mundo.  No ceder en su propio deseo como probidad y modestia exorbitante del pensamiento—solo eso.  Apartando las consecuencias.

Y eso es lo intolerable.  Para los demás, pero también para él mismo.  Su insumisión a lo prohibido, de la que deriva su propio matema, su insurrección contra el sentido, su marranismo radical, es su sometimiento apropiativo a sus propias condiciones, y este es un movimiento que hace explotar la relación entre necesidad y libertad, que la revienta, dejando en su estela solo el rastro de un silencio inhumano.  ¿Última doctrina del ser?  Sí, última o penúltima, no importa, en la medida en que podamos entenderla como nudo borromeico: hay pensar, hay ser, hay cuerpo (y por lo tanto historia, y arte y política, ciencia, religión, amor, rencor), y la producción de verdad consiste en su precaria acomodación respectiva.  Por eso el acto de pensamiento en Nietzsche a un tiempo desubstancializa toda verdad y la sustrae a su definición, a su forzamiento en la lengua.  Sí, toca lo innombrable, lo indecidible, lo indiscernible, lo genérico—son esos los nombres del ser, sustraídos a su sacralización extática, sustraídos a toda interpretación, localizados en el nudo cuyo aflojamiento por cualquiera de sus lados implica su disolución, su ruina. 

No sé si conviene darle a ese acto el adjetivo “filosófico.”  Tampoco sé si la designación de “antifilosofía” le conviene.  Es un acto cuya radicalidad desmonta toda continuidad posible.  Es posible que la filosofía y la antifilosofía jueguen, en cuanto al acto mismo, el papel deslucido de comparsas. 

Mientras tanto los demás podemos aprender el precio de un exceso de consistencia, que no sería tan descabellado relacionar con el mal.  Toda consistencia es ya exceso, y así esa es una vía prohibida si queremos salvar la existencia propia, protegerla de su propia malignidad.  Pero ¿cómo hacerlo cuando ya no hay retorno posible a la silla de Basilea?   Nadie quiere ser Dios, y esa es la ventaja de lo demónico en nuestras vidas. 

De ahí la pereza, la desgana, el escepticismo. Mejor la reticencia cuando moverse en la palabra es moverse hacia el abismo. Aunque solo en ese abismo pueda encontrarse la posibilidad de averiguar por fin, pero a qué coste, por qué hay ser y no más bien nada.

El camino de la diosa

Tormento de la memoria o de la mala memoria.  ¿Cómo reconstruir en narración algo que pasó hace cuarenta y dos años, en agosto de 1978?  Lo sé no porque me acuerde directamente sino por la fecha que anoté en las primeras páginas de la edición de Mario Untersteiner de textos parmenídeos (Parmenide.  Testimonianze e frammenti [La Nuova Italia, 1958]).  La nota dice: “Catania, agosto 1978.”

Hoy, leyendo la transcripción del seminario de Alain Badiou de 1985-1986, Parménide.  L’être I – Figure ontologique (Fayard, 2014), vuelven tormentosamente imágenes y fragmentos de imágenes, sensaciones, de aquel viaje.  Cómo estuve a punto de perder el tren en el inmenso nudo ferroviario de Messina, por haberme distraído en la cafetería de la estación.  Tuve que correr entre vías y saltar a un tren ya en marcha, en el que me esperaba Teresa.  Ya en Sicilia nuestra primera meta era Catania, donde adquirí la edición de Untersteiner.  Pero antes de Catania y antes de Messina el tren nos había dejado bajar en Velia, en medio de una tarde polvorienta y calurosa.  Nuestra idea era ir de Velia a la excavación arqueológica de Elea, creo que tomamos un taxi o hicimos auto-stop y alguien nos llevó.  Pero eran ya las seis cuando llegamos y la excavación estaba cerrada.  ¿Qué hacer?  Era demasiado importante no perderse aquello, secretamente para mí la visita a Elea constituía el fondo del viaje.  Había estado leyendo en Barcelona la Introduzione a Parmenide de Antonio Capizzi (Laterza, 1975), que presentaba el Poema como un viaje chamánico, iniciático, en torno a su ciudad.  Era necesario para mí, imperativo, ver la puerta rosada, el lugar fundador de la filosofía, por el que pasa el camino de la diosa.  También los álamos, las doncellas del poema, que marcan el camino, y la fuente de la diosa.  También la acrópolis que apunta en contemplación a la esfera bien redondeada de la verdad.  Si lo mismo es pensar y ser, si el ser es lo mismo que aquello de lo que el ser es causa, era preciso marcarlo en mi retina y apostar por la revelación que no llegaría a producirse de aquello sin lo cual, eso sentía, toda mi orientación era pérdida de tiempo y de vida.  Pero la puerta de la excavación estaba cerrada y no parecía haber nadie a quien acudir.  Desalentados y fatigados por el calor nos sentamos en alguna piedra, hicimos algo de ruido, gritamos y para nuestra sorpresa apareció al otro lado del muro un guardia preguntando qué queríamos, qué buscábamos, si aquello estaba cerrado y no se podía pasar.  Yo tenía en mi mochila un folleto, que había encontrado en una librería de Nápoles, cuyo autor era un tal Mario Napolitano, dando noticia de la excavación en Elea.  No se me ocurrió otra cosa que identificarme falsamente como un estudiante del Professore Napolitano (¿era profesor el tal Napolitano?), aludiendo a alguna encomienda importante, el Professore me había mandado allí, teníamos que poder entrar, solo un rato, por favor.  Fue entonces cuando, por detrás de la cabeza del guardia, surgió alguien más, un caballero enjuto, con pelo blanco y barbita de chivo, que se dirigió a nosotros en francés, lengua incómoda para mí.  Contestamos en inglés y parecimos conmover lo suficiente al personaje, que le indicó al guardia con un movimiento de su mano que nos franqueara el paso.   Lo hicimos, y allí estaban la puerta rosada, los álamos, la fuente en la que bebimos.  También estaba un espléndido Mercedes descapotable que tenía dentro a una mujer con la que el hombre de la barbita de chivo habló en alemán.  Nos preguntó cuál era nuestro interés real, y adujimos la visión desde la Acrópolis.  Tenía en la mano una ridícula bolsita negra, de plástico, con el membrete de una compañía de seguros de Badajoz.  Confirmamos que también hablaba español, y en español nos dijo que toda visión desde cualquier acrópolis era en el fondo la visión de la laguna Estigia.  Tuve la impresión, fugaz pero fuerte, de que aquel hombre era Aqueronte el políglota.  Todo esto pasó.  Teresa y yo hicimos nuestra visita, y al pasar por una especie de caseta rudimentaria el guardia nos hizo parar, abrió la caseta y extrajo de ella lo que dijo que era la última pieza encontrada: un busto de Parménides con la inscripción iatrós physikós sophós, que me permitió examinar y sostener en mis manos.  Que le habláramos de ella al Professore Napolitano. 

Fue imposible no ver la laguna Estigia desde la altura de Elea.  El sol estaba bajo ya en el horizonte y emitía destellos de crepúsculo entre los que se mezclaba una luz negra.  Fue esa luz negra con destellos rosáceos la que recordé hoy leyendo en Badiou “c’est l’impossibilité du non-être . . . comme création de la possibilité de la pensée de l’être.  La pensée ne peut être pensée . . . qu’au régime d’une interdiction: il faut qu’il y ait une interdiction pour qu’il y ait la pensée en tant que pensée de l’être.  Mais l’interdiction . . . constitue la pensée elle-même” (109). 

En Catania teníamos alguna amiga, amiga de amigos más bien, y cenamos con ella esa noche: erizos de mar, recuerdo, y pizza.  No volvimos a ver al hombre de la barbita de chivo, ni a su amiga alemana, pero al volver al hotel, en la gran plaza de Catania, un perro se cruzó con nosotros y nos miró al hacerlo.  El aviso en su mirada me asustó.  ¿Cómo no entenderlo ahora como referencia a la prohibición parmenídea?  No seguir el camino del no-ser, porque el no-ser no es, y eso es condición de pensamiento, y así condición de existencia.  Pero, dice Badiou, “il faut un point d’insoumission à l’interdit” (111). 

¿Cómo vivir esa insumisión?  Los recuerdos de hoy me hacen pensar que los últimos cuarenta y dos años no han sido mucho más que la vivencia desgarrada de esa insumisión, para bien y para mal: una errancia a veces extática y feliz, otras veces densa y oscura, de la que no cabe echar cuentas, pero lejos del camino de la diosa, al que no puedo saber si hay retorno.   Nunca llegué a leer la edición de Untersteiner, pero todavía tengo ese libro, milagrosamente, porque casi todas mis cosas de aquella época acabaron en manos de algún trapero de Les Glóries, que las compró a precio de saldo. 

Afropessimism and Antiphilosophy

I will first copy pages 227 and 228 of Saidiya Hartman’s Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments in order to follow up with a comment on them. 

“Wayward, related to the family of words: errant, fugitive, recalcitrant, anarchic, willful, reckless, troublesome, riotous, tumultuous, rebellious and wild. To inhabit the world in ways inimical to those deemed proper and respectable, to be deeply aware of the gulf between where you stayed and how you might live. Waywardness: the avid longing for a world not ruled by master, man or the police. The errant path taken by the leaderless swarm in search of a place better than here. The social poesis that sustains the dispossessed. Wayward: the unregulated movement of drifting and wandering; sojourns without a fixed destination, ambulatory possibility, interminable migrations, rush and flight, black locomotion; the everyday struggle to live free. The attempt to elude capture by never settling. Not the master’s tools, but the ex-slave’s fugitive gestures, her traveling shoes. Waywardness articulates the paradox of cramped creation, the entanglement of escape and confinement, flight and captivity. Wayward: to wander, to be unmoored, adrift, rambling, roving, cruising, strolling, and seeking. To claim the right to opacity. To strike, to riot, to refuse. To love what is not loved. To be lost to the world. It is the practice of the social otherwise, the insurgent ground that enables new possibilities and new vocabularies; it is the lived experience of enclosure and segregation, assembling and huddling together. It is the directionless search for a free territory; it is a practice of making and relation that enfolds within the policed boundaries of the dark ghetto; it is the mutual aid offered in the open-air prison. It is a queer resource of black survival. It is a beautiful experiment in how-to-live.

Waywardness is a practice of possibility at a time when all roads, except the ones created by smashing out, are foreclosed.  It obeys no rules and abides no authorities.  It is unrepentant.  It traffics in occult visions of other worlds and dreams of a different kind of life.  Waywardness is an ongoing exploration of what might be; it is an improvisation with the terms of social existence, when the terms have already been dictated, where there is little room to breathe, when you have been sentenced to a life of servitude, when the house of bondage looms in whatever direction you move.  It is the untiring practice of trying to live when you were never meant to survive.”

Without in the least minimizing the problematics attendant on the very word, let me ask: can we then speak of the “wayward subject”?  We may want to cross out the word “subject,” put it under erasure, since there is inevitably a dual distortion linked to the word: on the one hand, certainly in modernity, the equivalence of subject with citizen, on the other hand, the pretense that the subject rules absolutely over the object.  The wayward subject (under erasure, crossed out) would reject both determinations—there is no claim to mastery, and there is no vindication of citizenship, which is always premised on subordination to the sovereign. 

In a recent interview Fred Moten says that Frank Wilderson could be taken to be the “last great theorist of the subject.” If I read him correctly, Wilderson’s position would be that blackness is the site of the non-subject that makes subjectivity possible: all subjectivity is parasitic on the black (non)subject. It would then seem that Wilderson’s theory of the subject is rather more like a countertheory, a theoretical destruction whose momentum might well come from waywardness as existential projection. This goes, it would seem to me, beyond the Lacanian theorization of the split subject—the wayward (non)subject does not accumulate in the last instance, does not recoup or redress, finds no passage to itself. 

So, my question: does the wayward (non)subject, whose historical possibility is social death, constitute a “philosophical act”?  Or is it, radically, an act of antiphilosophy? 

In his 1992-93 seminar on Nietzsche Alain Badiou, who calls Nietzsche the prince pauvre et définitif de l’antiphilosophie, links Nietzsche’s final antiphilosophical act—he is talking about the last year of Nietzsche’s writerly life, before his plunge into silence—to the terrible accomplishment of an absolute reduction of the gap between “the one who says and what is said.” This accomplishment is premised on a thorough de-subjectification whereby the very name of Nietzsche becomes “a name without a name, an anonymous name, without the mark of nominal recognition.” The name is only what the name says, and if there is an excess it is only the excess of desire, and it cannot be converted into nominative capital, into subjective accumulation, into identity. But is that not, then, the name of every wayward life? Of every wayward (non)subject? 

I would not think we need to posit any kind of identification, no matter how remote, between Nietzsche’s waywardness, although it clearly existed, and blackness as subaltern form-of-life. Both of them could be forms of what I am calling anti-philosophical existence. Both of them insurgent.

Saying Black Suffering. A Comment on Frank Wilderson’s Afropessimism (Norton 2020).

It is not clear whether the indictment of narrative for Afropessimism refers only to political narrative or encompasses every kind.  In any case, if narrative is organically anti-Black, this has two difficult implications.  Political narratives would always be about contingent violence, not about the gratuitous violence that assails Black life.  For Blacks, violence is always already totalizing, which “makes narrative inaccessible.” If the Human is “a construct that requires its Other in order to be legible,” all narrative coherence evaporates:  Human narrative is inconsistent as it avoids and preempts, or falsifies, a thematization of the abjected Black other: this absence spectralizes and destroys narrative form even if narrative form remains unaware of its fundamental and constitutive exclusion or precisely because of it.  And Black narrative is also impossible because there can be no narrative of epistemological catastrophe.   There can be stories, but they will not be conceptually coherent.  They will be broken stories.  Or let us put it this way:  narrative subjects, particularly those in a political narrative, are always parasitic on Black suffering.  A liberation from all social fictions, but particularly from the one that constitutes the fulcrum of Human life, namely, Black social death, implies a radical denarrativization.  Narratives may be deemed to be always already (insufficiently) political, but this can only refer to Human narratives.  Saying the structure of Black suffering, that is, cannot be political.  “It actually takes the problem outside of politics.” It is infrapolitical. 

No wonder seeing this prompts a nervous breakdown.  There is “sadism” as “a generalized condition . . . in that pleasure, as a constituent element of communal life, cannot be disentangled from anti-Black violence.”  The exit from sadistic narrative is a difficult one, as it does require an epistemological catastrophe, that is, the end of world.   If so, then Afropessimism is an attempt to think, to use a phrase borrowed from Alain Badiou, “le reel impensé de l’epoque.”  Its condition is to undo shackles: “The Black people were shackled to the cognitive maps of their well-meaning masters.”  But undoing the shackle brings no redress, no redemption, as there is nothing (thinkable) to be put in place; there are no alternative cognitive maps.  The “absolute dereliction” of Black life “cannot be made legible through counter-hegemonic interventions.”  “Without the Black, one would not be able to know what a world devoid of redemption looks like—and if one could not conceive of the absence of redemption, then redemption would be inconceivable as well.”

This is what Afropessimism proposes to us non-Blacks:  Given hegemonic and counter-hegemonic terror, the latter no less “essential,” “if a social movement is to be neither social democratic nor Marxist, in terms of its structure of political desire, then it should grasp the invitation of social death embodied in Black beings.”

Even non-blacks, on occasion if not structurally, have had to contend or must contend with hostile and violent events that cannot be turned into any kind of conceptual coherence.  These are times when consignment to social death, if not the physical one,  is administered to you or to me because of some transgression, real or imaginary.  Still, those events, traumatic, are never under the principle of sufficient reason.  They exceed it.  Through a sadistic cathexis.  The claim is that a sadistic cathexis rules every moment of Black life and organizes ceaseless social death. 

Saying it, through which act the Blacks become “worthy of [their] suffering,” is something.  Once said, the issue of how it should orient our lives, politically and infrapolitically, is a matter of thought. 

Refrendo y prueba. Sobre el mecanoscrito pessoano de la caja de zapatos.

El editor, Yoandy Cabrera, tras consulta reiterada con acreditados archivistas, y con su acostumbrada pulcritud científico-filológica, refrenda la autenticidad de los folios pessoanos transcritos por mí en la entrada anterior de este blog, aunque lo hace con algún exceso atrabiliario menos mal que relegado a las notas.  Es, pues, de esperar que los escépticos de buena fe (a los otros los doy por perdidos) puedan a partir de ahora entrar en este peculiar caso con buen pie y ojos claros.  Sus implicaciones profundas atañen al corazón mismo de la cosa poética, del cual Jean-Luc Nancy dijo (lamento no tener a mano el original francés): “To leave behind all our determining, identifying, destining thoughts.  That is, to leave behind what ‘thinking’ usually means.  But, first of all, to think this, that there is something to think, and to think the some of this thing at the heart of thought.  This would be completely the opposite of ‘whatever’ thought.  This would be the thought–itself undetermined, included as it is in all thought–of what determines us to think: neither concept nor project, but rather thought brought up short against the heart of things.  Our history today is concentrated, suspended, at the point where this exigency piles up” (“The Heart of Things,” en The Birth of Presence, 174-75).

Aquí, entonces, todos los textos juntos: