Non-Catastrophic Practice of Non-Knowledge. By Alberto Moreiras.

If there exists something we should call infrapolitics beyond the critical text, in other words, if infrapolitics belongs in the real and is not merely a hermeneutic notion, simply a way in which we have imagined we could refer to certain phenomena that cannot be captured by any proper ethico-political understanding, we might want to assume that it invests a region of experience that must more or less overlap with the political region.   Infrapolitics would be below politics, or beyond politics, it would have consequences for politics, but it would be a bit, perhaps, like a double of politics, like politics´s shadow.   In a similar way, it would determine or inhabit habit itself, the original ethos, and it would be co-presential with ethics, while being ethics’ other side, ethics’s double, or the shadow of ethics.   And all of this is possible, and possibly productive: infrapolitical thought aims at investigating the obverse of the ethico-political relation, what the ethico-political relation leaves behind in every case.   We could remember Heidegger’s mention of the “invisible shadow” that falls upon everything once the human can only be considered a subject and the world can only be perceived in the mode of image.   Infrapolitics can only be the region of the invisible shadow. And infrapolitical thought would then be a theoretical practice in and of the shadow, a thinking of the withdrawal or in the withdrawal of the ethico-political relation.

But this very difference between infrapolitics as region and infrapolitics as theoretical practice raises many questions that may complicate the mapping. If infrapolitics obtains in the wake of the withdrawal of the ethico-political relation, we could ask whether the ethico-political relation is not in the first place an imaginary imposition on the immense and intractable real whose withdrawal opens up a region of experience that vastly exceeds mere obversity; if it is an “other side” it would be like the other side of the iceberg; if it is what the shadow guards or protects, and first of all from language, it could be an unimaginable and unprocessable monster.

So, infrapolitical practice would run the risk of dwelling on a nothingness, of setting its sights on a region that must by definition be excluded from capture, from any capture, also, therefore, from capture by the infrapolitical gaze.   Infrapolitical practice would have become a nice promise, thank you very much, but an unfulfillable one. Or only to be fulfilled in the form of catastrophe.

This is like Nietzsche’s Grenzpunkte: one can gaze into the abyss, but one would not like to fall into it.

So, why would one want to run that risk? First of all, because it is there, and because notice has been received of a facticity that cannot be merely wished away by the beautiful soul’s emphasis on handling only that which can be securely handled. If the totality of our language means to express, with a moderate degree of difficulty, only those phenomena that can be linked to the ethico-political relation, and if that is what our tradition calls knowledge, well then, there is a certain amount of hard-headedness, even of idiocy, in insisting that non-knowledge also beckons, and that it is not just interpreting the world but also transforming it that is at stake in the bid to move beyond more or less secure knowledge.

Who would want to do it?   Who is the subject of infrapolitical practice?   Perhaps a specific libidinal cathexis is required here.   It is not a practice for those whose secure essence precedes them. It is a practice of existence, a form of excess beyond discourse, an ongoing demetaphorization of existence for the sake of something that might always elude.   But how can it elude if it is at the same time always already there?

One thought on “Non-Catastrophic Practice of Non-Knowledge. By Alberto Moreiras.

  1. I remember a conversation we had in one of our seminars where Stefano Franchi reminded us that philosophy establishes itself in the Western tradition, at least in part, with Plato’s reflection on justice in The Republic – Foucault famously talks about this passage in favor of Thrasymachus – as a politics which is not simply the right of the strongest. So discourse becomes the field in which it becomes theoretically possible to keep at bay human animality, barbarity, of the passions and of the irrational, in favor of an order in which justice is, to be tautological about it, just. It is in a sense “just” justice, without excess or remainder. This is what I understand by what you are bringing up here. In the sense that infrapolitics actually aims to destroy this order which the last 2000 years of western thought has been trying to hold onto lest the barbarians at the gate of the polis should burst in, kills our brothers, rape our women (Dignity, Equality, Liberty) and take our children. The question is, what remains? Is infrapolitical thinking a thought of the right of the strongest? I think it is clear that this is not what it imagines at the “other side” of politics, nor the reason that politics’s shadow is so important, so un-ignorable. Yet how does it contain the monster? Does it seek to do so? Or is it rather that we have mis-recognised the monster all along?


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