A Minor Provocation. (Alberto Moreiras)

We are familiar with the old Gramscian division of the intellectual field between organic and traditional intellectuals.   Deleuze and Foucault have their own divisions.   Althusser, in Machiavel et nous, proposes his own: he talks about the litterateurs, whose mission is presumably the interpretation of a given state of ideology, the ideologists, whose mission is the reproduction of the system, and the political thinkers proper, whose mission is of course the transformation of the world.   The reference to the thesis on Feuerbach on transformation as the task of materialist philosophy was crucial for Althusser, as we know, and the proper content of his notion of epistemic break.   So, within that classification, what about infrapolitical thinkers?   Neither interpretation nor reproduction nor transformation—or rather, all of them, necessarily, but not as thematic for the endeavor.   Infrapolitics is inhabitation, and the infrapolitical thinker is a thinker of inhabitation.   We are far from the aesthetics of existence, or the ethics of existence, or the politics of existence, or the ideology of existence—or rather, those are all factors, but not thematic. We want to reflect on the conditions of existent dwelling on earth—no less, no more. This does not close off reading, it opens it to possibilities the critical tradition has mostly left aside. Overwhelmed with distraction as it has been.   Our contention: given that sad state of affairs, the infrapolitical thinker also dreams of a determinate absence, of an empty space one would hope to fill some day.

2 thoughts on “A Minor Provocation. (Alberto Moreiras)

  1. Alberto, this is not a reply to your problem, but a thought alongside it…for me, the overuse of Marx’s famous 11 thesis has provoked a negative effect which expresses itself today in the thoughtless call for compromise and, finally, for the re-articulation of the modern relationship between theory and practice. The most common accusation to deconstruction has always been its apparent lack of politics, not to speak about infrapolitical deconstruction or post-hegemony, which recently are denounced as reactionary due to the lack of support to the Latin American pink tide… we know the drill.
    However, I would differentiate Althusser’s new division from that of Gramsci, Deleuze / Foucualt and Derrida…of course, very briefly, but bear with me…

    1) I contend that Althusser reformulation of the role of intellectuals and theory and practice is symptomatic of an historical moment (more than Gramsci, who also could be read like this). It is a moment of radical disjunction between politics and history, a junction that has been enabled by philosophy (of history). One can read Gramsci in the same context as he was responding to the formalization of Marxism by the Bujarin-Stalinist version of historical materialism. Althusser then, insofar as he is criticizing the Hegelian syntax of history, is able to move forward in the questioning of the modern determination of politics by philosophy…but not totally, as he remained within the logic of the party and profited from the position of the “subject supposed to know”. For me, to read Althusser is not to believe him but to understand this particular problem.

    2) I would also say that what happened between Foucault and Deleuze, in their works and in their exchanges (including that famous dialogue about Intellectuals and Power), is a radicalization of this disjunction. If the so-called Lesson of Althusser still is a restatement of the figure of the intellectual, them in Deleuze and Foucault we see a reaction to this helio-political attitude. It is here were one sees one of the many alternative answers to the end of history and to the fulfillment of colonialism as proposed by Kojève…but this deepening of the disjunction should have taken us to the very question of historicity as the politics of being…

    3) And this is where the 64 seminar appears in its more radical dimension. In it, Derrida already understands the implications of the question of radical historicity and already decides to think without philosophy of history, which implies a politics whose translation into the conventional modern representation of politics is impossible.

    Now, to come back to your provocative question, I would say that the very question risks to re-inseminate the anxiety that defines most of the contemporary reaction to deconstruction (from Sartre to Jameson, from Zizek to Neo-coms)…not that you do not know this, but it is a good trap…


  2. Right, Sergio, and the latter issue is why I called the post a “minor provocation.” We have to assume the risk of misreading, but in any case this is the paradox: that politics today must be thought infrapolitically, or go unthought. Again, on the way to consistency, we must ruffle a few feathers, which I always like to do anyway.


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