Invention of Tradition. By Alberto Moreiras.

Over the last several days, in other forums, there has been talk about something like a tradition of infrapolitical thought.  This is important on several counts, and we are only just beginning to discuss it.   But it is also important not to push too hard, not to invent a gallery of characters forced into the dubious position of predecessors or founding fathers.  We are not into developing a doctrine here, only into tracing a style.

Part of the discussion had to do with the issue of logics, and whether binary logics can ever hold as infrapolitical.   And perhaps the obvious thing to say here, the point to be made, is that infrapolitics is neither an attempt to institute a new polarity (infrapolitics vs. heliopoliitcs) nor an attempt to claim some tertiary logical space beyond binarisms.  In Erin Graff Zivin’s formulation: “what if marranismo, illiteracy, posthegemony, infrapolitics were to be thought *not* as concepts that oppose or critique Inquisitional logic, literacy, hegemony, politics, but rather as principles of anarchy always already at work *within* these concepts, and as such inseparable from them?”

I might want to use an expression alternative to “principles of anarchy,” to elude the ambiguity there, and talk about “an-archic displacements,” for instance, but otherwise I think Zivin’s formulation holds.

Another way to think about it, perhaps the same way after a number of historical mediations, is to say that, once Hegelian dialectics announce the advent of Absolute Knowledge, there is no longer a way of opposing masters and slaves, natural life and historical life, self-relation and spirit.   Mauro Senatore said:  “there is no concept left [no archic principle] to transit into,” so that the slave is not looking to become a master, and the naked life no longer aspires to historical existence.

So, is there a way to claim infrapolitical reflection prior to post-Hegelianism, or to the end-of-history radicalization of Hegelianism in French thought from the 1930’s through 1950’s?    Or is infrapolitics directly a type of reflection that finds its primal scene in that context?

I think the answer is: yes and no to both.  It all depends on the focus.  On the one hand, infrapolitics is free thought, that is, thought that connects to life as self-relation as opposed to calculative-representational thought that follows a program or seeks the development  and implementation of a truth, and that has gone on forever, since thought is thought.  On the other hand, infrapolitics has specific contexts of appearance.

French existentialism is one of the latter, which doesn’t mean every aspect of French existentialism is infrapolitical.   Melville’s filmography is infrapolitical, and Raúl Ruiz’s filmography is infrapolitical–and those are two filmmakers directly influenced by French existentialism at an early moment of their trajectories.  There are others.

But there is, for instance, an infrapolitical Benjamin, not the messianic-teleological Benjamin committed to redeemed humanity, but the Benjamin of the destructive character, whose formalization is an early depiction of infrapolitical life.

As in the previous entry, I would like to call for conversation on these issues here, as the blog can hardly be sustained without explicit interaction.

7 thoughts on “Invention of Tradition. By Alberto Moreiras.

  1. The set of associations, for me, around a “genealogy” (which is utterly non-genealogy, so I use the word out of habit only) for me would have to articulate itself around a rather specific (and for me also profound) definition of the infrapolitical dimension of politics: suspension of war, refusal of war (I think this is a formulation you developed for it earlier on). Here Foucault is more and more important to me, for this refusal he calls “rebellion” which in turn is a key signifier for Mao (“One is right to rebel against the reactionaries”) for whom, in turn, the key preparatory work of politics (politics understood in the weak sense and thus nearly infrapolitically) is its turn towards war. Thus, infrapolitics would be on the verge of war or close to and within war but not “of” war, and thus an occupation of war (or to return to the French mid-century example: a détournement of the war at had).


  2. Sam, this is good, because that is your project–thinking war. The way I formulated it earlier was as an exception to war, in a context in which politics is war, ontology is war, everything is war except for the sabbatical peace offered by the exception, which for Levinas sinks into the immemorial illeité, the godly. I did not want to take it in that direction, which is important but also, it seems to me, reductive, preferring to think of an exception to war otherwise. Infrapolitics is the terrain of that exception not reducible to ethics or to its necessary supplement, monotheism. But this also means: infrapolitics is not pre-politics. It is political by offering itself as an exception to politics-as-war. In a sense, it lives with its back to politics, and not looking at politics as the terrain of its ultimate manifestation or vindication. This also marks a fundamental difference from the Levinasian project, it seems to me, to the extent that, for Levinas, in the same way that ethics is an exception to politics, politics is an exception to ethics. But I think the point is that politics is not infrapolitical exceptionality. One can dwell infrapolitically in politics, no doubt fucking it up every time, but what else is there?


  3. ( I am copying this from a thread over fb, in a discussion we were having between Gerardo, Sergio, Alberto and myself, just as a footnote to Alberto’s comment on Benjamin). Sin duda el Messianismus y el Elörsung (redención) signan parte de las mal llamadas “Tesis de la historia” (un texto personal, en diálogo con amigos, como se haría ahora en un thread de un grupo secreto de fb, o en un documento de word que uno continúa y no envía a nadie todavía), pero la tensión que desarrollan con el instante de peligro, la organización del pesimismo y la crítica al conformismo sitúa esos conceptos en un lugar distinto, al menos para mí, de su matriz talmúdica (Scholem), Paulista (Agamben), Marxista (Löwy), Mística (Wölfarth). Eso está ahí, pero de otra forma. La historia no historicista de Benjamin es una construcción desde presupuestos de montaje, ensamblaje, dialéctica en suspenso, detención, interrupción, destrucción, es decir, desde una práctica no soberana, no dramática, no aristotélica, ni hegeliana, ni kantiana, fuera de toda concepción socialdemócrata, como porvenir. Ahí radica para mí su fuga, no sé si infrapolítica o no, pero creo que al menos no heliopolítica, ni hipersolar. De acuerdo con Sergio sobre el acontecimiento sin excepción y el gatilleo , de acuerdo con el cáracter destructivo que trae Alberto. Ambas cosas están, yo creo, en su documento de 1940.


  4. “what if marranismo, illiteracy, posthegemony, infrapolitics were to be thought *not* as concepts that oppose or critique Inquisitional logic, literacy, hegemony, politics, but rather as principles of anarchy always already at work *within* these concepts, and as such inseparable from them?” I too like this formulation. It is a reminder that each of these critical concepts arises from the contradictions emerging from particular binary formulations themselves. As such, try as one might, one is never quite “done” with binaries/dualities/antagonisms. One can’t simply wish them away, they have a funny way of sneaking back in and totally changing the stakes of the game. We should remain sensitive to these movements and, at the same time, encouraging of them.


  5. What is the risk here (of inventing tradition, especially on the intrahistorical perspective)? Claiming for infrapolitics a metaphysical refuge from politics. Yet I still think–despite that risk–infrapolitics can also be considered (and it’s a risky consideration and one I will need more time to work out) an historical name for phronēsis. That would be one way to develop the yes and no answer you give, both a response to historical experience (post/inter-war) and the claim of practice on thought itself (from the beginning).


  6. Sam, thanks for picking that up. Yes, there is no question that phronesis is the crucial faculty, if we can call it that (the term is loaded with metaphysical implications), for what we could call active infrapolitics, within the state of our language. It means, according to Liddell-Scott (I only have the intermediate lexicon, so I might be missing crucial nuances), something like a minding, a concernful thoughtfulness, “prudence” in terms of a solicitous and careful anticipation of course of action, weary of the pitfalls, attentive. But the virtue, later classified by the Church among the four cardinal ones (along with justice, temperance, justice–one needs to remind people of such things today), is fundamental for all the regions of practical reason, hence also for politics, and for ethics. Aristotle of course calls it the fundamental virtue for rhetoric, which means it is not far from poetics either. And this is the problem: by citing phronesis, we aim too high at the same time we aim right. For instance, what is the phronetic dimension that, at a certain point, for a specific purpose, for some actors, alerts us away from the ethico-political relation and into an infrapolitical one? It might be the same dimension that calls for political intervention or for an ethical stance at other times. Then, we see that saying phronesis is not enough. We should look at crucial baroque moralists–Pascal, La Rochefoucauld, Gracián–to see what in them moved into infrapolitics away from the ethico-political dimension, this is work that needs to be done. But we should also try to understand whether, in Kant for instance, it is judgment rather than reason or the understanding that would regulate something like infrapolitical behavior. If so, then we have a problem, because the status of judgment to a certain extent exceeds the realm of practical reason (I have a friend in the Philosophy Department here, Kristi Sweet, whom I have been trying to talk into participating in this discussion, who would have a lot to say about precisely this, and I hope she does it at some point.) In any case, all of this is already a tradition, and then of course we can place everybody else in relation to it–what about the cynics? What about el Arcipreste de Hita, or Chaucer, or Boccaccio? What about Montaigne and Rabelais? Etc. We could even make strong, substantialist and identitarian statements, say: “as Hita, the author of Lazarillo, the author of La Celestina, and Miguel de Cervantes show, Spanish culture reaches its apogee in the infrapolitical dimension, etc.” But is that what we want? It should not be, I think.

    In any case, lots to think about, and thank you for contributing! We need to push this, but I don`t know yet what direction we should collectively favor, if any. Of course everybody will do their own writing. This is only preparatory work.


  7. Well soon enough I guess you’ll have me rereading Kant, because you’ve convinced me that the idealist line will have to be addressed (especially in its relation with Aristotle; I’m sure it’s not just Aristotle-Kant, but that would be a good place to start; we will also have to read–reread in your case–Heidegger’s books on Aristotle). Maybe at some point we will have time among the groups to provide structure for that (I’ve never been able to productively read Kant alone and perhaps your colleague will want to join us). But here, a few more superficial thoughts:

    There might be a strategic value in making what you call substantialist and identitarian statements, but they would have to come from “outside” of the infrapolitical dimension–it would already be politics–and in the cheapest sense. So I agree that is probably not what we want. On my view the infrapolitical is best put to work in exposure and in self-exposure, and thus, by engaging itself as something like the real movement within politics, that is, as what is never identical to itself. Thus perhaps your metaphor–infrapolitics turns its back to politics–could also be revised slightly to say that infrapolitics also takes politics by surprise, takes politics from behind (as Deleuze-Guattari said of philosophy).


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