Very brief note on the step-back. By Alberto Moreiras.


I am reading the proofs for an old essay, “Infrapolitical Derrida,” and thinking that both Heidegger and Derrida are fundamentally thinkers of the step-back. This step-back is explicitly understood by Derrida as a liberation of historicity, which in Specters he calls the condition for “another concept of the political.” It struck me that the discussion of the last few days in these pages (and attendant spaces) goes back to that previous discussion, early days, ACLA 2014 in New York, on the invitation of Erin Graff Zivin. In any case, here goes a little paragraph from three years ago, just to remind myself if no one else:

“I will call, more or less provisionally, the Derridean attempt to find an incipient
articulation for his thinking of a new historicity to be revealed in the wake
of the ontological difference infrapolitical: not a thinking directly on or
of politics, rather the thinking of that which conditions politics, without
which politics could not be thought. For me an infrapolitical perspective,
which also seeks to understand the unthought of politics, would be the site
from which to pursue initially the possibility of a new politicity, informed
by the ontological difference, and by the attempt to think of it not metaphysically:
to think of it, also, or indeed, politically.”

Infrapolitics is, in that sense, also a thinking of the step-back. That Heidegger called his step-back the ontological difference, and Derrida called it différance, saying that it is previous to the ontological difference (something I find quite controversial, by the way, from a certain reading of Heidegger, not the conventional one), should not blind us to the fact we ourselves are calling it infrapolitics. We need not be modest to the point of self-effacing.

That step-back–which is of course also recognizable in Geoffrey Bennington’s notion of “politics of politics”–might be the irreconcilable difference with so-called “althusserianism.” Those who argue “left-Heideggerianism,” whatever is meant by that other than just us, is a deadend are also arguing that the step-back as a thought practice is a deadend–empty nostalgia, I suppose, versus the heroic construction of the future from the ruins of the Marxist tradition, which is also the Hegelian one, etc.

So, my question: what is the mechanism that prompts contemporary piety to oppose the step-back as a proper and necessary practice of thought? Why is it, in fact, nothing short of intolerable?  Something other than a dialogue is pursued through the disqualification (“deadend,” etc.)

The answer has got to be in the kind of stuff Heidegger mentions in, for instance, the koinón pages of History of Beying.

In any case, another reminder to myself:  “Deconstruction is political only if the very concept of politics has mutated under its sign. An infrapolitical perspective—this is the risk of its definition—allows us to liberate the nonethical politicity deconstruction harbors as much as its impolitical ethics—both of which the critical tradition has somehow preferred to disavow, or at least to keep mostly silent about. I mean nonethical not in the sense of anti-ethical, in the same way that infrapolitics (or impolitics) does not refer to any antipoliticity. If there is a nonethical opening to ethics, and there is a nonpolitical opening to politics, then both ethics and politics, and infrapolitics in their double solicitation, must be placed in deconstruction.”   It is only a matter of being consistent, once one has resolved to take a particular path.

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