(Lecture presented at the Abstraction Conference, Department of Comparative Literature, University of California-Irvine, March 11-12, 2016)
My intention is to present to you a precise definition of what I call marrano infrapolitics, a definition that I can sum up in the phrase “becoming homely in the unhomely,” in the context of the epochal ruin of politics, the end of community, the vanquishing of the principle of general equivalence, and the abandonment of nihilism. All of it goes through an acknowledgment of the tragic condition of the human, but also through an immense task of architectonic destruction. I hope you bear with me. As I was listening to so many great papers yesterday I could not help but think what I have thought also at other times: that something like a new frame for thought was becoming increasingly necessary. I do not know if you would find that fact all that surprising at this point. For better or for worse, I hope not in any kind of arrogant or presumptuous way, marrano infrapolitics does wish to provide it, and wishes to do it through the establishment of a difference between the polis and the political that may orient an existential position today. Call it the infrapolitical difference, and let us see what you think. Yes, it is an attempt to bring everything back from abstraction into the most concrete thing you have: your life. What I will read is about half of a text that I finished only last week. I hope the drastic cuts still make things understandable enough. I can send the complete paper to those of you who might become interested.
Some of you at least will have seen the first season of the Better Call Saul television series, or the serial documentary Making a Murderer. I think a claim can be made that both texts enact a certain marranismo, infrapolitical in nature, although they do it of course in very different ways. At the end of the season, Jimmy, the protagonist of Better Call Saul, decides that “doing what is right” is no longer going to hold him. He seems to make that decision on the basis of the betrayal by his brother, Chuck, a character defined by Jimmy’s friend as “a stuck-up douchebag.” Chuck does not consider his brother a good enough person to become a lawyer in the firm he is a partner in. So Jimmy, dejected, perhaps having lost his last mooring, gives up on his sustained attempt to become an upstanding citizen within the law. In the talk to the bingo crowd, in the last episode, when Jimmy makes his decision to go rogue, he emphasizes his brother’s betrayal. He had stopped being “slippin’ Jimmy” and spent ten years as a mailroom clerk in his brother’s firm and getting an online law degree from the University of American Samoa. He passed the bar exam for the State of New Mexico at his third attempt. His brother ought to be proud, since Jimmy did that for himself, certainly, but also to (re)gain his brother’s trust. To no avail, since Chuck still considers Jimmy a villain, slippin’ Jimmy indeed, and refuses to let the firm hire him. On that basis Jimmy makes his decision. His heroic subjectivity goes out the window in the very decision to break away from the law.
Now, there is a problem in Jimmy’s story. I can understand how a betrayal by “the system” may drive somebody into piracy, not even out of a need for revenge, only out of a need for freedom: you cannot make it within the system because the system is rigged and corrupt, so you abandon the pretense, and from then on it is only a matter of getting away with whatever you do for your own advantage. But can a betrayal by a member of your family trigger the same effect? Is it not the case then that you in fact continue to subordinate your life to the little family drama that perhaps caused you to become slippin’ Jimmy in the first place? This is an Oedipal drama that will keep you in the bounds of unfreedom: you want to succeed outside the law only to confirm your brother’s ideas about you and show him what can be done with them. We need to keep in mind that collapsing the family into the system and the system into the family, although a tradition in rightwing thought, has a price: a symbolic break with the law that happens through a thorough absorption of the Oedipal triangle is perhaps merely an inversion of the relation to the law. Jimmy’s decision may not be infrapolitical enough. It will not lead him home.
I myself have only seen three episodes of the terrorizing, deeply uncanny documentary Making a Murderer, partly because it scares me, partly because I live out in the country and my internet connection is through satellite, and I do not have enough gigabytes to watch everything I want in a given month. But the documentary tells the story of Steve Avery, a poor devil from Wisconsin that was falsely accused and convicted of a crime he had not committed, and condemned to thirty-four years in jail. The first episode—things get much more complicated later—explains that he was released from jail after eighteen years, when new DNA-analysis techniques exonerated him and showed his innocence. His lawyers’ appeals had by then been exhausted, the Wisconsin Supreme Court had confirmed the ruling against him, and Avery could have gotten out of jail on parole much earlier if only he had declared his guilt: he had nothing to lose, or almost nothing. He only had to say “yes, I did the deed,” and he could have been out resuming his life. But he did not want to do it, preferred not to. Why? He thought he would not say “yes, I did it,” because he had not done it. He faced the most terrifying—a life in jail—because his truth was his only possession, his only possibility of not losing himself forever.
Both Jimmy and Avery are uncanny creatures, in the sense that they opt for the uncanny, they assume a radical unhomeliness, they embrace the unfamiliar out of a sense of home. And, in a sense, they opt out of politics altogether. Jimmy himself makes everything depend on his brother’s approval, but perhaps it is Mike, another character in the series, who metonymically emphasizes whatever is homely in the most unhomely decision: While a detective in Chicago, Mike had to kill the cops who had killed his son. He flees to New Mexico to be near his daughter-in-law and his granddaughter. There he works as a parking attendant, reads the newspapers, does the crossword puzzles, and waits for a phone call from the remains of his family. Yes, in the meantime he does odd jobs and passes no judgment, he does what he is paid to do, but what matters to him is the return home, what remains of it. And Avery makes his truth the only home he has, his agalma, his treasure.
One thinks of Sophocles’ Antigone. And of marrano fates. Take the historical marranos: they were never a social class, only a group without group of individuals accused of being marranos, that is, accused of judaizing in a society where such an accusation meant imprisonment, ruin, torture, even death. To be a marrano then was a factical condition one could not survive. Direct repression by the state (or by “the power in the State superior to the State itself,” the Inquisition) made it not just a social but also a political condition. What we can call marranismo today is of course a tropology, a metaphoric extrapolation, and refers to an infrapolitical condition. It is a not directly political condition of existential displacement from hegemonic social conditions at the very point of their hegemonic articulation (a criminal is also displaced as such, but the condition of the criminal is not strictly comparable to the marrano condition: they are mutually heterogeneous). Marranismo, as an infrapolitical condition in the present, is intellectual dissidence and existential internalization of such a dissidence. At the limit, it can be referred to Antigone, whose act, misunderstood by Creon as political, is a marrano act in the sense that it expresses a radical difference from political conditions. Antigone was not looking for inscription, rather for de-inscription. She is the person, as her first conversation in the play with her sister Ismene reveals, who does and is going to do what she has got to do, regardless of the consequences. Why? Because it is due; but due to whom or to what? That remains concealed. What is due, perhaps, is due to a destiny, or to a character, to the way things are. Creon cannot tolerate it. Antigone’s persistence turns her into what the play calls dein[a], terrible, uncanny, unhomely, unheimlich. But she becomes unheimlich out of a need not to be left thoroughly homeless, radically destitute. We can see here, in the background, in the difference between the two senses of home that Antigone or any marrano factically appeal to, what Martin Heidegger in Introduction to Metaphysics was still calling the “ontological difference,” of which he said: “The originary division, whose intensity and originary disjunction sustains history, is the distinction between Being and beings” (218-19). (By the way this is a good moment to say that David Lloyd proposed to us yesterday, with great elegance and flair, what he called a “red republicanism” through a number of supplementations to Hegelianism; and that what I am trying to do is to propose the conditions for what I call a marrano republicanism, very much dependent on the possibility of retrieval of the ontological difference as an essential matter for thought.)
If Being is home, what is at stake for Antigone or marranismo is the deep existential contestation of nihilism in the Nietzschean sense. For Nietzsche nihilism was “the most unheimlich of all guests,” and marranismo apotropaically incorporates the most unheimlich position for the sake of a counterturning: the marrano, not the one accused of being such, but the one who has internalized and assumed his condition in the rejection of a fallen home, of the social home, of the political home, in the rejection of compromise, the law, or hegemony, invokes a secret truth, another home that opens the ontological difference within singular history. In his commentary to Hölderlin’s “Homecoming/To Kindred Ones,” Heidegger says that “homecoming is the return to the nearness to the origin. Only he can return home who previously, and perhaps for a long time, has wandered as a traveler and borne upon himself the burden of the journey . . . the essence of nearness appears to be that it brings near that which is near, yet keeping it at a distance. This nearness to the origin is a mystery” (Elucidations 42). The mystery remains such, neither Antigone nor the marrano claims to unveil it. Which is why ontic namings will not do the trick. It is not a matter of religion, it is not a matter of ethics, certainly not of politics, and it is not a matter of following any alternative principle. Heidegger also says: “What is most characteristic of the homeland, what is best in it, consists solely in its being this nearness to the origin—and nothing else besides this” (42). We do not have to appeal to any fatherland or ideology. We can discount all the rhetoric: what Heidegger is saying is that in the only sense that matters home or the hearth are the relation to Being understood as the essence of Dasein: the human is human in and through an originary relation to something that escapes ontic nominations but which, for the human, can only happen historically. There is an originary relation that marranismo claims, which is the absolute limit of the place where politics can be narrativized. I call it infrapolitics, and risk the thought that it has everything to do with the difference between the polis and the political.
Let me offer you a thesis, as clearly as I can do it at this point, so that you may agree or disagree with it. The marrano must, and existentially has no choice but, to invoke a nearness to something without which life would be unlivable. That something is not politics, it is precisely not politics. That is also Antigone’s need, which is not to say that Antigone is a marrana: rather that marranismo is necessarily antigonic in that sense. I think the thought of the ontological difference—the difference between beings, in the usual sense, and Being, which establishes the horizon of appearance and presencing—opens itself essentially as the appeal to that something. That is of course the role of the ontological difference in infrapolitics. And this seems consistent to me with the Heideggerian interpretation of Antigone, in its second manifestation, in the 1942 text we will talk about, as “becoming homely in the unhomely.” “To assume a distance” is an empty gesture, and doubly terrible if that assumption is not already looking for something other than the distance itself. We assume a distance for the sake of a nearness. And the nearness matters the most.
If it is true that the history of thought in the West is a history of the progressive voiding out of Being until, with Hegel, which brings to an end the inception of philosophy started by the Greeks, Being is substance and substance is the subject, and Being becomes the most abstract and general of words, substantial exhaustion turns into a final point of abstraction, and abstraction, having reached a point of no exit, an end, having become aporos, turns into distraction. We live in distracted times, in aporetic times. Reiner Schürmann begins his monumental text, Broken Hegemonies, in reference to Oedipus’ nocturnal knowledge. “The tragic condition” is the specific infrapolitical condition of our aporetic time: “To think is to linger on the conditions in which one is living, to linger on the site where we live. Thus to think is a privilege of that epoch which is ours, provided that the essential fragility of the sovereign referents becomes evident to it” (Schürmann 4, 3). The “singularizing withdrawal” that opened the tragic in pre-metaphysical times through its conflict with “the universalizing impulse” of “political” or historical principles is again with us. Both instances cannot be reconciled through any appeal to higher principles. This “kenosis” of the principle opens a new time of tragic an-archy (4). Founding speech gives way to “insurmountable silence” (17). Ours is a “pathetic site” that once again reveals, against all abstraction, “the tragic condition” of being (532). Infrapolitical marranismo understands and assumes such a condition, dwells in it, as Jimmy or Avery sufficiently show.
In the astonishing pages of Hölderlin’s Hymn ‘The Ister” (1942) where Heidegger reframes, in what I will considerately call an anti- or non-Nazi sense, the interpretation of the first choral ode of Antigone he had offered in Introduction to Metaphysics (1935), he speaks about the polis as the site of a turning-counterturning that organizes the historical existence of the human being: “Perhaps the polis is that realm and locale around which everything question-worthy and uncanny turns in an exceptional sense. The polis is polos, that is, the pole, the swirl [Wirbel] in which and around which everything turns.” (Hölderlin 81). For Heidegger the polis, as “the site of being homely in the midst of beings as a whole” (82), is also the site of a counterturning: “what properly characterizes the unhomely is a counterturning that belongs intrinsically to its essence” (84). The polis: the homely-unhomely site, the originary site, the founding site of any and all historical appropriation, and by the same token of any and all historical disappropriation. But this means that “the polis is and remains what is properly worthy of question in the strict sense of the word, that is, not simply something questionable for any question whatsoever, but that with which meditation proper, the highest and most extensive, is concerned” (85).
It is here that Heidegger pronounces some fateful words we have not yet thought through. There is no politics without the polis, and yet the essence of the polis is not political. There is a difference, uncanny in nature, between the polis and the political, and yet that difference is also a logical one. This is the logic: “if ‘the political’ is that which belongs to the polis, and therefore is essentially dependent upon the polis, then the essence of the polis can never be determined in terms of the political, just as the ground can never be explained or derived from the consequence” (85). What determines the essence of the polis? Politics cannot explain the polis, even if the polis determines the political. The political may have always already started, but the polis finds its beginning, its origin, in a realm that cannot be reduced to the political. This region, this site prior to any site, this chora, is the originary site of the nearness, hence also the possibility itself of any distance whatsoever.
I understand Spanish philosopher Felipe Martínez Marzoa’s own meditation on the polis in this context—and let me suggest that Marzoa’s work is perhaps entirely contained in such an effort. He says, for instance: “We call polis [the site] where the game that is already being played aspires to become relevant as such, that is not a doctrine on the polis but precisely the polis itself; we could refer to the fact that such a relevance means at the same time the loss [of the polis] by pointing out that the polis dies not through the attack of the barbarians, rather precisely because it stands” (Marzoa, Heidegger 28, my translation). The loss of community, through politics, is a direct result of the self-recognition of the community. As a “community” the polis binds the homely, but as a “community” that explicitates its own game it opens itself to the unhomely. This is the first historical inception, a thematization of the game of common life as a game of binding loss that opens, as such, the space of the political. But we can also bring the history of the polis to our own times. “Distance” is for Marzoa “the distance or reserve that irretrievably remains at the root of the modern project itself, the irretrievable secondariness of the modern, irremediable in the sense that recognizing it is in no way going back to the primary, rather only attempting to understand what is secondary as secondary” (111). The political is a thematization of secondariness in respect of the very question-worthiness of the polis itself. But the political is also a secondary, always belated reflection on the loss of the turning-counterturning relation to being that first makes the polis historical as such. For Marzoa only distance can bring up, minimally, the very difference between the primary and the secondary that organizes the very possibility of a step-back from contemporary politics. Such a distance is infrapolitical distance.
If marrano history, as the history of the marranos, can testify to a situation of double exclusion—the marranos are simultaneously excluded from their originary provenance, Jewish, and from their secondary provenance, Catholic—, a metonymic projection makes of the marrano a figure of displacement and homelessness. A marrano inscription is countercommunitarian and singular, cats on a roof, but also besieged and precarious, cats chased by dogs. A marrano position is never immune to politics, but it relates to politics para- or posthegemonically: hegemony kills it. It prefers not to be killed. It dwells infrapolitically, as a survivor, in its secret, which it inhabits as one inhabits an ethos, knowing there will be no protection except chance. Chance is its tragic condition. If, as Michel Foucault says, “one is ‘in the true’ only if one obeys the rules of some discursive police” [Foucault, Archeology 224], then the marrano’s untruth stands aside, in a disobedience that makes it a perpetual target. From it, it dreams of a relationship to history that will not be Hegelian or Nietzschean. Can that relationship be established? Or is marrano infrapolitics structurally an opting out of history, an abandonment of history’s script for the sake of an untimeliness beyond measure? Let us once again remember Antigone, or Jimmy, or Steve Avery.
In Introduction to Metaphysics, a 1935 text, pertaining therefore still to the years of commitment to some kind of hypernazism, Heidegger attempts to establish what he calls the essence of the human in its first inception or beginning in the history of the West in reference to Oedipus, in powerful words that I find hard to deal with. Those words are:
Oedipus goes to unveil what is concealed. In doing so, he must, step by step, place himself into an unconcealment that in the end he can endure only by gouging out his own eyes—that is, by placing himself outside all light, letting the veil of night fall around him—and then by crying out, as a blind man, for all doors to be flung open so that such a man may become revealed to the people as the man who he is.
But we should not see Oedipus only as the human being who meets his downfall; in Oedipus we must grasp that form of Greek Dasein in which this Dasein’s fundamental passion ventures into what is wildest and most far-flung: the passion for the unveiling of Being—that is, the struggle over Being itself. Hölderlin, in the poem “In lieblicher Bläue blühet . . . ,” speaks this seer’s word: “King Oedipus has perhaps one eye too many.” This eye too many is the fundamental condition for all great questioning and knowing as well as their sole metaphysical ground. (112-13)
I wonder if the eye too many Oedipus grows and was made to grow is also our own eye today. The eye too many that Oedipus has enables him to distinguish seeming from being, but does not spare him from errancy. Errancy, defined as “the space . . . that opens itself up in the interlocking of Being, unconcealment, and seeming” (115), is a state of being that includes the fight against errancy. This fight against errancy seems to define whatever remains in the Heidegger of 1935 of the notion of authenticity exposed in Being and Time (1927). It is a tragic fight that will eventually lead Heidegger into a meditation on the possible end of errancy, into a meditation on Bodenständigkeit, “earthiness” or “rootedness,” into a meditation on a form of dwelling not or no longer dependent on gouging out one’s own eyes or other people’s eyes, into a form of historical life no longer sacrificial. This is poetic dwelling, developed through his readings of Hölderlin through a process and a number of years that take Heidegger from a clear commitment to violence and to political violence into something else—this something else is or would become eventually Heidegger’s abandonment of Nazism, and with it of the region of politics, of the very idea of politics, as the site of historical salvation.
For Heidegger, referring to Hölderlin, poetic thought, as opposed to technical, violent thought, refers to something that abides and endures. The something that abides and endures is home or the hearth, only retrievable in shy remembrance: “This shyness . . . is more decisive than all violence” (153).
A slow path towards a nearness to the origin, a homecoming that is more decisive than all violence: this is the eye too many through which Oedipus, and all dwellers in the tragic condition, must attune to the experience of a homeliness “more decisive than all violence.” I think it is fair to say the beginnings of such a meditation can be found, still in a preliminary form, in the analysis of the first choral ode in Sophocles’ Antigone that Heidegger works out in the 1935 text. But he would come back to it and establish a fundamental correction a few years later. Even later, towards the end of his life, other corrections would ensue.
The first choral ode of Antigone says “polla ta deina kouden anthropou deinóteron pélei,” “manifold is the uncanny, yet nothing uncannier than man rises beyond him” (quoted in translation in Heidegger, Introduction 156, translation modified). If nothing is uncannier than the human being, then the human being is the uncanniest. For Heidegger, “the saying ‘the human being is the uncanniest’ provides the authentic Greek definition of humanity.” (161). Oedipus, we recognize, was also uncanniest, as the struggle against seeming undid him, and by undoing him turned him into the man he was. This is the tragic condition of the human in the Greek way.
There are three passages in the ode that merit special attention from Heidegger: verses 360, pantoporos aporos ep’ouden erchetai, 370, hupsipolis apolis; and 372-73, met’ emoi parestios genoito met’ ison phronon. Pantoporos aporos is translated by Heidegger as “everywhere trying out, underway; untried, with no way out he comes to nothing.” Hupsipolis apolis is translated by Heidegger as “rising high over the site, losing the site is he for whom what is not is always for the sake of daring.” And verses 372-73 are rendered as “let him not become a companion at my hearth, nor let my knowing share the delusions of the one who works such deeds” (158). Pantoporos aporos and hupsipolis apolis are presented by Heidegger as interpretations of the uncanniest in the human (deinótaton) (162). As such, they are characterizations of the human in the context of the explicitation of the originarity unity and disjunction of being and thinking. If thinking means apprehending (noein as Vernehmen), apprehension is, Heidegger says, “a happening (Geschehen) in which humanity itself happens” (150). How does it happen? Thinking is a relation to being that is channeled, at the time of the inception, as reciprocal violent appropriation. If the human can dispose of the sea and the earth, of animals, of language and passion, it is because it is disposed to them and by them, through the violent prevailing of Being. And so humans ultimately look at their own perdition in various ways: they are aporos and apolis because “they stand in the no-exit of death” (169) as essential, constant limitation—a limitation that rules over the fact that human techné clashes against diké. This confrontation, techné–diké, which he finds clearly expressed in Antigone’s first choral ode, is also at the same time what, at the end of his book, Heidegger would claim constitutes the “inner truth and greatness of National Socialism,” the historical confrontation at the end of metaphysics that could restitute the possibility of a resolutive “encounter between global technology and modern humanity” (Introduction 213). This is 1935 (although the phrase about the encounter was added later, in 1953).
Perdition (Verderb) is the possibility that ensues from the oppositional relation of the two forms of the deinon, techné and diké. Perdition is the uncanniest. It does not come at the end of any failing activity, it “holds sway and lies in wait fundamentally” (173). Oedipus faces disaster because disaster faces Oedipus. If Heidegger also pays attention to the conclusion of the choral ode, which exclude the uncanny human from hearth and counsel, it is to say that “one who is in this way [namely, as the uncanniest] should be excluded from hearth and counsel . . . Insofar as the chorus turns against the uncanniest, it says that this manner of Being is not the everyday one . . . In their defensive attitude they are the direct and complete confirmation of the uncanniness of the human essence” (175-76). The determination of Greek humanity assumes its tragic condition in uncanny errancy and the necessary loss of the hearth and of the sharing of collective counsel, of communal thought. For Heidegger this is the first inception of the West as history, or of history in the West.
The uncanny, which translates into English the Greek deinon, is in German the Unheimliche, the unhomely. Heidegger says that the reciprocal relation of diké and techné is the same thing as the reciprocal relation of being (einai) and thinking (noein) (176). The relation is a violent relation. It makes uncanniness happen, that is, it makes homelessness appear. “The assault of techné against diké is the happening through which human beings become homeless” (178). Homelessness results, originarily, in the first historical inception, from the mutually appropriating relation of being and thinking. That the chorus will exclude the human from hearth and counsel confirms the unhomely but, at the same time, makes the home first disclose itself as such (178).
The question for a marrano infrapolitics has to do with whether the second inception, the other beginning, presumably to occur in the present, would stand in a similar relation to the unhomely. Heidegger frames his entire discussion of the choral ode in the context of an overwhelming confrontation between diké and techné whose outcome is violent and necessary perdition. Is homelessness a condition of marrano infrapolitics that discloses as if for the first time the need for a home? Or would marrano infrapolitics assume the uncanny, even the uncanniest, as its necessary constancy and prevailing? Are marrano infrapolitics a resignation to necessary, tragic violence? Are marrano infrapolitics an infrapolitics of perdition? We could, again, ask Jimmy, or Steve Avery. In terms of Heidegger, some scholars have noted an allegedly unrecognized difference in his treatment of the first choral ode of Antigone in Introduction to Metaphysics and in the 1942 lecture series entitled Hölderlin’s Hymn “The Ister”. That difference is for me an essential difference, and it sets Heidegger on the way to an infrapolitical project, out of and away from politics at the end of metaphysics.
An other beginning is presented as an overcoming of nihilism. This was so in the 1935 text and it will be so in the 1942 text on Hölderlin, which includes a central chapter in which Heidegger returns to the choral ode of Antigone. Some years mediate, a thorough engagement with Hölderlin has also occupied Heidegger in those years. The interpretation of the choral ode is the same, yet fundamentally different. Where is the difference? The difference is in the frame. Heidegger no longer emphasizes the historical confrontation between techné and diké. What interests him now is the relationship between the homely and the unhomely understood not in terms of the heroic and the violent, rather in terms of the hearth, and phronein. Once again, Heidegger focuses his commentary of the choral ode in an elucidation of the same verses Introduction to Metaphysics concerned itself with. But the interpretation now takes its departure from what is attributed to Hölderlin: “For Hölderlin, that essence [of history] is concealed in human beings’ becoming homely, a becoming homely that is a passage through and encounter with the foreign” (Hölderlin 54). Accordingly, for Sophocles too “human beings are, in a singular sense, not homely, and . . . their care is to become homely” (71). This is the difference: it is now caring to become homely rather than accepting the destinal character of uncanny violence that describes the essence of the human.
But the decisive moment in Heidegger’s reframing of his reading of Antigone must be found in the discussion of the first dialogue between Antigone and Ismene, which was absent in Introduction to Metaphysics. Heidegger focuses on Antigone’s words to her sister, announcing to her that she is willing pathein to deinón touto, in Heidegger’s translation “to take up into my own essence the uncanny that here and now appears” (103). To suffer the terrible, to bear the unhomely: Antigone takes it up, she does not flee from it: “within the most uncanny, Antigone is the supreme uncanny” (104). And then Heidegger asks: “What if that which were most intrinsically unhomely, thus most remote from all that is homely, were that which in itself simultaneously preserved the most intimate belonging to the homely?” (104).
Everything depends on the interpretation, within the context of the tragedy, of the last few verses of the choral ode, where the chorus affirms its rejection of the uncanny ones: “met’ emoin parestios genoito met’ ison phronon hos tad’ erdoi,” which Heidegger renders as “such shall not be entrusted to my hearth, nor share their delusion with my knowing, who put such things to work” (92). Are we to think that the chorus rejects Antigone, the rebellious, who will not conform to the laws of the city? If so, the choral ode would have become, in these last verses, “a song in praise of mediocrity, and a song of hatred towards the exception” (97). The tragedy does not support that. Heidegger returns to the thought that a difference is being sustained through those very words between the polis and the political, of which he adds “for the Greeks, the polis is that which is altogether worthy of question. For modern consciousness, the ‘political’ is that which is necessarily and unconditionally without question” (94-95). The interpretation according to which the chorus rejects Antigone, expels her from the hearth, can only be the interpretation of modern consciousness. But there is an alternative reading even for us.
Antigone’s willingness to bear the burden of the heart, to suffer any suffering in her commitment to honor the dead, must be understood otherwise. There is a stupid unhomeliness, which consists in “a forgetting and blindness” (109) of the hearth, but it is not Antigone’s—it is, rather, Creon’s. Antigone’s unhomeliness is of an entirely different kind, since it consists in a radical affirmation of the hearth: “The hearth, the homestead of the homely, is being itself, in whose light and radiance, glow and warmth, all beings have in each case already gathered. Parestios is the one who, tarrying in the sphere of the hearth, belongs to those who are entrusted with the hearth, so that everyone who belongs to the hearth is someone entrusted, whether they are ‘living’ or dead” (114-15). Antigone is able, that is her supreme action, to assume the passage through unhomeliness and death for the sake of taking up unhomeliness into her own essence. Antigone, says Heidegger, “becomes homely within being” (117). She is exempt from the rejection of the chorus because she herself founds the very sense of hearth the chorus enacts. “Becoming homely in being unhomely” (121) is Antigone herself, her essence. Heidegger calls this the “poetic:” “The unhomely being homely of human beings upon the earth is ‘poetic’” (120). Deprived of the simple recourse to homeliness among beings, Antigone’s decision appeals to the higher homeliness of being, which founds the polis as it founds any and every other possibility of historical dwelling for the human.
I prefer to call Heidegger’s “poetic” infrapolitical. The wrenching shift from an everyday engagement with things to a radical engagement with the darkness of the originary home, never to be reached, but approachable through nearness, could perhaps be described poetically, but becoming homely through the unhomely remains an infrapolitical task. The infrapolitical task is not a minor one: it has to do with establishing an existential attunement to the fact that everywhere today politics is nothing more than venturing forth with no way out, a siteless undertaking. Politics is today the uncanniest were it not the most ridiculous. Politics is Creon’s doing, the headless and errant assertion of unhomely power lost in non-being, lost in the nothingness of administrative claims. Is that the injustice of the world imagined by Zur Linde in Borges’s story? Or should we keep awaiting a new historical dawn, Hegelian or otherwise?
I also want to translate the notion that the polis is the most question-worthy, in its very difference from the political, into the notion that it is infrapolitics that is question-worthy when there are no longer any extant questions for politics: politics is technology today, in a context where diké is no longer overwhelming, because it has been thoroughly absorbed into political techné in the form of social administration under the principle of general equivalence. There is no longer a polis—it only remains as a ghost from the tradition. Its spectrality subsists in the form of infrapolitics as a dark memory of the origin; as a reminder of the fact that we too were historically appropriated once. But no more. We have all been unmoored as potential marranos, which is not without its promise.
Reflecting on the polis, Martínez Marzoa notes: “either the community itself does not make itself relevant in any way, remains opaque as such, and then to a certain extent it can be said that there is no community, it does not take place, since it never becomes manifest . . . or else the community is not in a position to rest content with its own opacity, and the links, that is, the countersettings, always already taken for granted, are forced into becoming said, becoming relevant, and then the community certainly takes place, it certainly exists, but then it is to be seen whether what happens is not that the community explodes” (“Estado y polis” 106). Once the distance of the game becomes not just relevant, but obvious, once the distance has been naturalized and has assumed a patency, has become primary, then distance is all there is, but empty distance, distance that rules over a space that is no longer the space of community, but an indifferentiated and continuous space, an unlimited space where only arbitrary cuts are not just possible but customary. The consequences reach modernity in the following way: the “political problem” in modernity is that “consensus is limited to one thing only, which is not to seek any consensus; there is to be agreement only in creating and maintaining conditions so that it is possible to live without any agreement at all, not communing with anything” (“Estado y legitimidad” 88). This is the “democratic republic” or just “democracy” (“Estado y polis” 113). But the other side of this coin concerning the dissolution of consensus and communions in modernity is “what happens when those dissolutions and delinkings begin to be (partially) real and the State begins to find itself not even opposed to those things, but alone with itself; it would need to be seen whether there is some reason then for the State to feel panic before itself and to hurry and look for new reconciliations and syntheses with those other things” (89). The thorough emptiness of the political determination, its modern-democratic formulation, anchored in the principle of equivalence according to which every thing is exchangeable for everything else, and there is nothing outside the system of circulation, means there are no substantial, only formal, links, there is no possibility of a political home or a nearness to any kind of origin. But this also means: “that structure or formation that projects as its concept of legitimacy the absence of links, to the point where it cannot function otherwise, at the same time fails to function without constantly making up some or other supposedly given links, in the name of which, sooner or later, the set of conditions that the concept of legitimacy acknowledges is violated . . . Nihilism must above all avoid recognizing itself, it must always fabricate something to hold on to, and this is because precisely the recognition of nihilism would be the only non-nihilist thing” (100). But this is nihilism with a bite. In the state’s reaction to its own empty formalism, oppression ensues.
And yet it was Schürmann himself who said: “Only a wrenching of thinking allows one to pass from the ‘time’ that is concerned with epochal thinking to originary time, which is Ereignis—to agonistic, polemical freeings. So, it is not as an a priori that temporal discordance fissures the referential positings around which epochs have built their hegemonic concordances” (Schürmann, Broken 598). This wrenching of thinking—do we need to refer to it as capable of a new determination of the essence of the human being, a new determination of history, a new historical dispensation? The answer would have to be negative, particularly since those intended “agonistic, polemical freeings” would not coalesce into any new hegemonic concordance. Marrano infrapolitics is the mere possibility of the wrenching of thinking towards the nearest.
The originary logos of the West, the logos of the first inception, evolved through Platonic and later times into today’s cybernetics and logistics following a process of abstraction that has turned Being into the most general, hence empty, of concepts. I have made an effort to give some concreteness to Being by associating it to the home of infrapolitics. In a late lecture entitled “On the Question Concerning the Determination of the Matter for Thinking” old Heidegger maintained that the change from the dominance of the principles of modern subjectivity into the dominance of cybernetics, which stands for the total orderability of the world, consummates the final avatar of the history of presence, and it is no longer possible to go past it. In that impossibility, which is the confirmation of the hypothesis of metaphysical closure, the question of presencing in a verbal form, still a part of the Greek experience of life but covered over and forgotten, comes up once again as a hint for those able to understand today’s impasse. The total orderability of the world, which the present age and its politics will continue to bring on in an ever increasing manner, constitutes the final principle of metaphysics. Total orderability is general equivalence. But general equivalence as total orderability is also the end of politics—not its factical end, since there will be politics, but rather the end of politics as historical mediation. What is essential today is orderability as such, which cannot be fought politically. Orderability can only be fought infrapolitically, by developing a relationship to existence that dwells on and questions the other of orderability, which, as mere trace, is the remnant of the free historical being of the first inception. This is marrano infrapolitics: as another, even later Heideggerian essay puts it, the attempt to dwell in what “sustains and determines and lets us grow in the core of our existence” (Heidegger, “Messkirch” XX) against every imposition of conformity. If we are still truly capable of it.
Texas A&M University
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