From Leigh Johnson on State of Extraction and Secrecy.

Leigh, thank you so much for your comments.  I have already posted part of this in your blog, but I add one reflection at the bottom.  I think there might be an only too logical misunderstanding in your critique, namely, having to do with my notion of infrapolitics, which of course there is no reason why you should be familiar with. But for me my argument rests entirely on infrapolitics (not on protopolitics–protopolitics is all well and good, so is politics, etc.: but my argument is on infrapolitics–neither on protopolitics nor on politics.) And infrapolitics is not a form or politics nor does it want to be. In fact, it is a step back from the political horizon, for the sake of something other, of a certain unnameable “nothing” that precedes politics and without which no politics would ever be possible. And it is a step back inspired by a deep suspicion of politics as such. I think, in the current predicament (let the notion of State of Extraction sum it up), politics has always already failed, and it is in fact complicitous with it–right or left politics, I am talking about politics as we know it at this point in history, and you should know I consider most if not all conceptions of politics in the left exhausted and obsolete.

So, my claim was not about the “right to remain silent.” It was really about the claiming of a radically infrapolitical space that drastically includes the practice of the secret. Having a secret is not automatically to be an informant, by the way, we may disagree there. Resisting the state of extraction–for instance, as embodied in the contemporary university–is to step back, from the university, against the university. Ex universitate salus. This is just an example. I am not claiming you should not cash the check you get at the end of the month or you should not teach your students. You should do both things–as needed. But there are political and infrapolitical ways of living in the university, of living the university, just like there are political and infrapolitical ways of existing. Politics is overrated, I think, particularly for us, here and now. It has become another form of chatter, in a deep way. Infrapolitics may prepare a new political avatar–but of that, at this point, we are not prepared to talk. I am not prepared to talk.

I think my claim–try not to be an informant, try to resist the state of extraction, practice living in the secret, do not let yourself be coopted–means to prepare an existential clearing. You mention Derrida in your entry: “learning to live” as living-on, as sur-viving. Infrapolitical survival is premised on a step back from the state of extraction, which is also, today, a step back from politics as chatter, from social-network politics, from institutional politics, from hegemony politics, from the farce all of it has become for the most part.  We could also appeal to the more hard-nosed Marxist positions of Fredric Jameson, when he claims that politics is really of little import, since political economy determines it, not the will of the people, much less the will of bourgeois intellectuals.  In a situation like the one he describes, and I think he is more right for today than for any other time in history, infrapolitics is all we can (and should) focus on.

The comment I wanted to add has to do with an article I read this morning in El Confidencial, actually an interview with Israeli cybersecurity expert Nimrod Kozlovski.  It is an interesting and frightening interview, both, and in it some unnamed Yale professor is quoted as telling Kozlovski something like “you could get a doctorate critiquing things and speaking for privacy and all that shit.  But you could also get on with the program, it will be better for you.”  The whole point has become to embrace all kinds of transgressions, accept that we all have a more or less secret corporate score, and live our lives simply trying to improve on our corporate score–they do know much better than we do.  The Chinese have made it explicit, everybody else is working implicitly at it.

I think the Yale professor should be given a low score and released into, I don’t know, a job as assistant manager at a NAPA auto parts store.  To be kind.

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