Final Notes on Gareth Williams’ Infrapolitical Passages. On “Passage II: Narco-Accumulation. Of Contemporary Force and Facticity.”

The Endnotes to Infrapolitical Passages could by themselves be another book or lead to several.  As getting into them would make this review too long, let me just signal their importance by prefacing the following comments with two of them, corresponding to the book’s Introduction.   In the first one Williams quotes Jacques Derrida: “a passage, to be sure, and thus by definition a transitory moment, but whose transition comes, if one can say that, from the future.  It has its provenance in what, by essence, has not yet come-from (provenu), still less come about, and which therefore remains to come.  The passage of this time of the present comes from the future to go toward the past, toward the going of the gone.”  And, Williams adds, “The name of the to-come is the infrapolitical” (Williams 195). In the second, Williams says: “we are now situated not in the age of the experience of consciousness but in the civilizational expiration of each and every arché.  This is the epoch of the closure of metaphysics” (195).   

No interregnum means that the interval leads to no new principle of rule, no new nomic structuration of the earth.  The time of posthegemony, the time of postkatechontic decontainment, provides for no future regnum.  If metaphysics constitutes in its several epochs the proper hegemony in the West and of the West, the closure of metaphysics inaugurates a principial void.  If there is a promise to be extracted from it—but there is none–, it is only the promise of a time to come, in-different, unqualified.  Williams calls it the time of infrapolitics, the infrapolitical time: a time when politics has yielded to violent turmoil.  We can deny it and insist upon propping up the ruins of the past, as if nothing had happened that a few screwdrivers and a proper coat of paint could not fix.  We could say, for instance, that a new national hegemony, or a thousand new national hegemonies, can be reconstituted by and for the people.  Or we can assume it and take our chances in the resolute acceptance of an-archic time.  What would the latter mean?

Passage II attempts a response through what is still an analysis in the register of diagnosis.  It focuses on narco-accumulation, understood as a radical enactment and deployment of the ontology of the commodity form.  “On one level, narco-accumulation is just one more name for the contemporary will to power of capitalism in which capital projects itself, as always, in two directions simultaneously: 1) towards the absolutization of commodity and surplus value and, 2), toward the minimization, within the passage toward value, of the value of labor” (111).  As a pattern of force, in consequence, narco-accumulation overwhelms and destroys, and condemns the lifeworld of those touched by it to an active perishing:  “of dialectical consciousness, of the hegemonic apparatus, and of a teleology of progress capable of neutralizing violence and of converting it into a social reason, or power, other than that of the nihilist immanence and forceful extension of global techno-capital” (119).  This is the way in which the closure of metaphysics abandons its site in the philosophical text in order to become a biting, ruinous loss at the level of social and political experience: “This loss is the definitive consummation of onto-theology that haunts and traverses everything in the epoch of the end of epochality” (121). 

The analyses that follow pursue a critical understanding of the political economy of narco-accumulation through the reading of some of the major texts that have grappled with it, from Dawn Paley’s Drug War Capitalism to Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera’s Los Zetas Inc.:  Criminal Corporations, Energy, and Civil War in Mexico, but with close attention devoted to the arguments made by Rosanna Reguillo, Rita Segato, Sergio González Rodríguez, and Ioan Grillo among others.  The fundamental question here is whether the paradigm of civil war, which all of these authors elicit in various ways, is minimally adequate.  Civil war seems to be the extreme categorial limit of critical reflection, but the answer Williams offers is that it falls radically short.  Once again, even if civil war, in its liminal relation with war as such, configures a fundamental political paradigm in the history of the West, from early Greece to the present, it is a paradigm that becomes obsolescent and unproductive in narco-accumulation.  Williams references Nicole Loraux, for whom “what we understand as stasis, or civil war, in contrast to adversarial unification (polemos), is actually a Platonic misnomer for diastasis, that is, for mere separation, or perhaps for the pathological split that is prior to and underlies the formation of the common and therefore of the political community itself” (140).  Williams latches on to diastasis by defining it as “an originary, infrapolitical separating movement or momentary lapsus prior to and beneath all force” (141). 

We are approaching perhaps the core, the very vortex of what the book proposes.  That our epoch is diastatic is another way of saying that the modern concept of the political is ruined and will no longer do.  “Herein lies a terrible conundrum and an opportunity for thinking.  This double loss we refer to here as decontainment, a term that certainly carries the splits and divisions of stasis along with it but does so in the context of global post-katechontic, or post-territorial, endemic war, discloses the originary, infrapolitical separation that underlies the diastasis-polemos/stasis relation and the force it generates” (142).  And it is this situation that, finally, offers the opportunity for “addressing the very possibility of a register for thinking other than that of a dialectical or legislative political consciousness” (128). 

A naïve or blind reading of infrapolitics has tended to place it as some kind of abandonment of the political terrain, a flight into a netherworld of personal, idiotic existence.  Infrapolitics is, however, not a craven or immature resistance to politics, as if politics were somehow the natural space of real men and women.  Rather, for infrapolitics, politics is today the site of an empty and ineffectual gesticulation, at a remove, abstract and vacuous.  Politics is to be thought, then, as we can see everywhere, as the space of a paradoxical resistance to politics, massive, thoroughly ideological, and ultimately deluded: nothing, or little else but, the field of superstructural expression for the ontology of the commodity form.  So no macho assertions of politics as the real thing, no facile dismissals of infrapolitics as a weak refuge from the storm: infrapolitics is, rather, politics times two, the very politicization of the ruin of politics, which our times inherit under the sign of an urgent, if necessarily untimely, demand for thinking.  This demand for thinking—hyperpolitical and at the same time other than political, but other than political through its hyperpoliticity—comes to be specified through the close reading of three texts whose political status in the conventional sense nobody would ostensibly contest.  But Williams shows how that conventional reading must open itself to the infrapolitical dimensions of the texts lest it remains bumbling and ineffectual.  The best purpose of a review is naturally not the presentation of an argumentative summary, so I will limit myself to mentioning those texts.  They are: Cormac McCarthy’s screenplay for the film The Counselor, Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 novel, and Diego Quemada Díez’ film La jaula de oro.  Through them, Williams says, it makes itself possible to read the fundamental displacement of politics towards a thinking of existence, not for the sake of a flight away from politics, but, on the contrary, for the sake of the exposure of politics to its constitutive underside, which allows—only it allows—for a deconstruction of the ontology of the commodity form that rules over politics at the time of its metaphysical ruination. 

I will conclude with a passage that makes it clear enough for those who want to read.  It is the passage that introduces the last section of the book, “The Migrant’s Hand, or the Infrapolitical Turn to Existence,” devoted to a forceful analysis of La jaula de oro:

While it is true that coercion and subjectivist force found, protect, and expand political space, it is also true that political space is never fully saturated by or fully reducible to the actions of coercion and subjectivist force.  It is in this subtle yet fundamental threshold at the heart of the permanently violent splitting that is the market-state duopoly and its nonpolitical extension of endemic conflict, or post-katechontic diastasis, that the infrapolitical can beseen to operate and to leave its indelible existential mark.  It is finally toward this existential mark that we can now turn, as the final move in the passage toward the infrapolitical.  (167)

Subtle yet fundamental, indeed.  Inconspicuous and tremendous. 

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