Afropessimism and Posthegemony. A Note.

The huge thing about Afropessimism is, I think, that it turns slavery into a condition of society, obviously against the Marxist tradition and against every form of Enlightenment thought (not in an anti-Marxist or anti-Enlightenment way, perhaps in a post-Marxist and post-Enlightenment one). So that even intra-systemic relations, that is, relations that take as a structuring condition of the social total exclusion—what Afropessimists present as the social death of the slave as the foundation of social life–, are still marked by commodification. If the prime example of commodification is chattel slavery, this does not mean that the specter of chattel slavery is to be excluded from, say, relations between white and brown, or husband and wife.  And this would be consistent with life as ruled by the principle of general equivalence, which has on its dark side the rule of inequality. In other words, there are general consequences to Afropessimism, which is not just a particularist take on things.

As an example:  One of the intimately disturbing things I get as a consequence of reading what our Afropessimist friends say is that, given the racial divide that in the United States is a direct consequence of slavery, no matter how overdetermined, friendships across the color line are constantly fraught with the danger of asymmetrical gaming. So, in any relationship between, say, a white and a non-white (Afropessimists would say this relationship becomes qualitatively different and radicalized when the non-white is black, but even if so it still has consequences for the rest of us), the white structurally tends to instrumentalize, that is, to consider her or his friend an object, a piece of property. So that, say, betrayal across the color line becomes easy and does not carry the usual shameful connotations. The thought is horrible: given hegemony, commodification is the true name of (any) friendship across the color line. Certainly between white (and “junior partners”) and black. But is it not also the case between whites and “junior partners”?

The issue is asymmetrical gaming, and whether such a structure belongs exclusively to the white-black relationship or not. Even allowing for maximum specificity and exceptionality to the black experience of social death, I don’t think it does. The more general issue is equality, which is something hegemony does not allow. Any hegemonic configuration of society ends up considering the (racial, sexual, etc.) other a commodity, and a discardable one as such. Which is a good reason never to fight for hegemony. Or better: always to fight against it.

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