Encounters Under Erasure

Today we were supposed to have a zoom meeting on Lundi Matin’s Elementos de descivilización, but only Gerardo and I showed up.  Which of course did not keep us from a conversation.  We ended up talking about the encounter or the notion of the encounter as it is displayed in some texts by Tiqqun and the Invisible Committee–and later in the evening I ran across the word in a particularly important chapter in Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus, which is where Zeitblom tells us how Leverkühn went in search of Esmeralda, who tells him she has syphilis.  Leverkühn accepts his fate and they make love.  My claim is that it is a false encounter, which makes it real: real because false, and it could not be otherwise.  I would make the same claim about Tiqqun’s encounter, and I would make the same case, say, about whatever is meant by the notion of general mass intellectuality “in the hold” in Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s The Undercommons. 

We were talking about encounter since there is so much mysticism about communitarianism, which is to my mind a particularly pernicious way of talking about the common.  For some, the encounter leads to community, and community is the site of encounter. So, I will elaborate a bit: there is no political encounter unless we place encounter under erasure.  For there to be a political encounter one must give up every notion of an encounter.  And that is all we get. This is a direct consequence of Lacanian teaching: il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel.  We could say: il n’y a pas de rapport politique, unless politics is already understood as always expressive of a lack of rapport, a lack of relation, a separation.  By the same token there is no political dialogue–politics is always essentially monologic, which is why it is always confrontational, polemic, and the more so when it attempts to cover itself up–when political depredation becomes a form of intended superdepredation.  To those who think that this makes democracy impossible–that community is a condition of democracy–we could respond that, on the contrary, separation is the hyperbolic condition of democracy.  I think it is simply untenable to think that an equivalential chain of demands in hegemony theory organizes a political encounter that justifies the hegemonic articulation in view of a fundamental antagonism.  There is no encounter in the antagonism, and there is no encounter in whatever equivalential relation allows for the formation of an empty signifier.  In fact, the equivalential relation and the empty signifier are only to be posited in the absence of every possibility of an encounter.  If then, community already fails in hegemonic democracy (hegemony theory is itself based on the absence of community), the fact is a fortiori true for posthegemonic democracy. In posthegemonic democracy there is only one (political) community: the community of those who have no community.

If the case were to be made that community is precisely not politics, but the absolute end of politics–well, then, perhaps the conversation would become more interesting.  Lenin says something similar in State and Revolution.  But–and this seems to me not to be dismissed: Lenin is not talking about community, he is only talking about communism. 

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