Notes on “Passage I: Contemporary Turmoil. Posthegemonic Epochality, or Why Bother with the Infrapolitical?,” in Gareth Williams’ Infrapolitical Passages.

(The following notes continue a previous blog entry on Infrapolitical Passages.)

The notion of an “intervallic period,” which for Badiou refers to the accomplishment of “true life” through the mediation of an Idea, is taken up again towards the end of this first passage in Antonio Gramci’s notion of the interregnum.  There is a sentence by Gramsci that has been quoted ad infinitum, everybody knows it by now, and everybody holds on to it in ways that resemble how one would hold a talisman or a personal fetish.  The sentence is, of course: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear” (quoted by Gareth, 100).  The notion that we are in an interregnum is at once hopeful and appeasing.  Well, it does not much matter how badly things are going, it seems to say, because, at the end, we will witness a new dawn, there is promise, there is a light that we have not reached yet.   And that may very well be—we do not know the future.  But that is precisely the point: we do not know the future, and there is, therefore, no basis for prophecy.  Calling the present moment an interregnum is mere prophecy.  What if we give up on prophesying power?  We would then come to recognize that we have no idea what awaits us, to such an extent that it is already an illegitimate idealization to call whatever morbidities there appear in our present a symptom if what we mean is that there are symptoms of a disease that will be overcome.

Gareth sticks to the perishing: yes, we are in a time, the time of modernity, the time of the second modernity, the time of the political katechon, the time of containment, that is dying.  What we have around us is a perishing, Gareth prefers to say,that involves the main categories of the architectonics of political modernity.  It is a long perishing, protracted in time: “The perishing of that time is extending its force everywhere in the form of a generalized turmoil and perplexity while also inaugurating the demand for a different nomenclature indicating something so post-epochal and so post-sovereign in nature” that it would seem to consist of an “infinite ruination” (100).  Gareth names this, which is the deep political structure of our time, “post-sovereign decontainment” (101).  Our time is a time where capitalist discourse has intensified in ways that have overflown every possibility of a katechontic restraint in political and economic life.  Globalization does not promise, and it is therefore simple delusion for us to prophesy, “a new destiny, a new epoch of representation” (101).  Nothing guarantees it.  On the contrary, “it is capital’s gigantic quest for the ultimate spoils of [planetary] self-destruction that allows us to glimpse the unrestrained world of an absolutely decontained civil war (of stasis fully unleashed on a planetary scale), which is nothing more than the ongoing perishing, the very form of ending, of modern political space itself without an alternative sovereign order or topographical arrangement in sight, and, hence, with no enduring location from which to anchor negation, transgression, or transcendence” (98). 

Lest you jump to the conclusion that, therefore, this is a pessimist book, a book about sad and hopeless endings, read this: “to reduce our nihilist subjectivist legacies to rubble, to a point of suspension or inoperativity, is to think and write in preparation for a clearing, a renovation and potential turn in our thinking that might be capable of clearing away the subordination of freedom to the ontology of subjectivity and to the modern history of its katechontic and biopolitical deployments” (96).  The relationship of thinking and acting cannot and should not be mediated by ruined legacies, which means something else is needed.  The thematics of the closure of metaphysics, of the exhaustion of onto-theology and its categories, among which the category of the sovereign subject is or has been politically crucial, opens onto something else, an alternative quest.  This other quest is what previous sections of the book announced as both inconspicuous and tremendous, “where there might be absolutely everything at stake” (32).    

Passage I describes “a potential terminus that can take us immediately and without any apparent mediation of any kind from what Badiou calls ‘the end of the old world of castes’ . . . into the stark realities of potentially catastrophic upheaval, turmoil, and violence” (36).  It is a terminus because, rather than constituting a crisis that will pass, prompting for an adjustment in tactics and strategy, prompting for a reconstitution that will surely work and accomplish yet another moment in the linear story of progress towards a properly just and human future, this time we seem to have lost the tools, the tools are rusty and inefficient and no longer work, or they have been turned into magical tools that do the job they are not supposed to do and hammer us ever deeper into upheaval, turmoil, and violence.  This clearly involves a critique of the left in the face of “the possibility that what might be at stake now is the uncovering of a thinking of existence and world that has remained for the most part concealed within the dominant tradition of political thinking from the late 1960s onward” (37).  Why has it remained concealed?  Partly because Marxism has not been able to move from the analysis of the ontology of the commodity form and the principle of general equivalence reigns supreme even within leftist procedures and presuppositions.  “Contemporary turmoil is essentially the actuality of ongoing unconcealed and bottomless political-theological perishing experienced as the perplexity caused by the continuation of the closure of metaphysics and of the globalization of the ontology of the commodity” (42). 

Old leftist pieties have fallen because they have been sustained on an inversion and secularization of ontotheology.  The analysis of Percy Bisshe Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound shows how political emancipation in the second modernity was “fully consonant with the emergence of Man as the nomos of a new epoch-making empire of humanity grounded in tyrannicide and perennial conflict over the mastery of the world” (47), in which “the hegemony of the Good, of the virtuous, is the impossible humanist transvaluation of God, now with Man as the highest value predicated on the metaphysical maximization of a shared moral value, or world picture” (48).   This will no longer do.  The modern assertion of politics as emancipatory has never been able to transcend, has in fact been part and parcel of, “the actualization of a modern nihilism—an eternal recurrence of the self-willing of the subjectum” (48).   The secularization of onto-theology is still onto-theologic, and no amount of voluntarism will surmount a self-created impasse.  When it comes to voluntarism, capitalist discourse wins every time, since it embodies it.  The political demand to counter the force of capitalist discourse remains embedded within capitalist discourse and is ceaselessly engulfed by it. 

Analyzing Massimo Cacciari’s position in The Withholding Power Gareth acknowledges Cacciari’s adequate and fundamental diagnosis: “Cacciari points . . . to the fact that the contemporary order of permanent crises that we refer to as globalization is no longer the consequence of hegemony.  On the contrary, it is the thematization of the exhaustion of hegemony and of the seemingly infinite indetermination and turmoil that extends as a consequence.  It is the basis of posthegemony in action” (50).  But Cacciari can only at the end lament the passing away of modern procedures of political enablement, can only mourn them, in an impossible and implausible bid to breathe new life into them.  This is actually the tragic predicament of the contemporary left in its dominant or conventional variants.  They know the problem, they acknowledge the problem, and they believe their good will will make the problem go away, will vanquish it.  But a dead horse never runs again. 

Gareth’s intent is therefore, not to move in the direction of an alternative political position that  will simply replicate conditions.  “It is already too late,” he says (65), because the metaphysics inspiring the Promethean task of humanism has been destroyed, not by Gareth himself, but by the movement of capital in its relentless quest for absolute surplus value: “post-katechontic decontainment is the uncovering, and in the uncovering the denaturalization, of the modern metaphorical functioning of the history of Christian metaphysics, its political theology, and its modern Promethean will to power” (65).  In the face of it, political containment against the decontainment of capital is impotent: “The ideological battle between Left and Right is now staged as a human destinal battle between the will to power of subjectivity versus the will to power of subjectivity . . . On both sides it is a battle to the death for the endurance of the subjectivism of the I of the I endure.  But the perishing that underlies all duration is manically—and unsuccessfully—concealed” (66). 

The analyses that show all this are too rich to be reproduced, even to be summarized: they can be read in the book.  They include a presentation of the idea of the katechon in Paul’s letters, and a sustained deconstruction of first Gramsci and then Ernesto Laclau’s notion of hegemony.   The idea is to move, through them, “to the possibility of an alternative place from which to think the limits of the political and the possibility of a turn away from the ontology of the subject” (52).  Imagine, then, that you are some version of Hercules at the crossroads, and a little Eros figure asks you to choose between the two Venuses, the one on the right, and the one on the left.   Imagine, even, that you have already given up on the notion of moving toward any kind of embrace of the rightist Venus, that the Venus on the right knows it, and that what she suggests to you is seducingly different.  Would you then choose the left Venus, and with it the path of the political demand that will take you into the endless rehearsing of an impossible hegemonic fight along voluntaristic lines, or would you rather choose the right Venus, who has disguised herself in sacred robes and promises, rather, total contemplation, total singularity, total privatization of existence.   But would it not be better to refuse the choice, to tell Eros to go jump in the lake, to call the two Venuses ugly, and to proceed to a step back and an interrogation of what the very alternative Eros proposed to you, already contaminated by its own disaster, conceals?  This alternative place of thought, and of action, is not the easiest.  It is uncertain at best, it is a leap.  But it is a leap worth taking: not a leap into the Hegelian rose of the world, which is a trap, the rose is populated by worms, but into an abyss—the unthought, the unseen—that brokers no presentation. 

But it is better to let Gareth speak for himself:

The task . . . is no longer to remetaphorize the katechon and therefore metaphysics, but to learn to become attuned to where the perishing of the modern katechon leaves us; to think not counter to the space of permanent crisis without respite or amnesty, but in light of it.  The task is not to rile against the shattering of the bond between God and man in the name of law and order.  It is to accept the death of God and of the Promethean humanism that has only ever been God’s enlightened cultural sojourn on earth.  This allows us to understand the closure of metaphysics as the unleashing of limitless turmoil at the level of the signifier and obliges us to take that destructive/creative energy seriously in order to think from within it, as opposed to thinking in denial of it, or in spite of it, in the utopian hope of its pacification or in the neo-fascist turn against it, which is actually its glorification. (73)

Jean-Luc Nancy’s Critique of General Equivalence: After Fukushima. (Alberto Moreiras)

The critique of general equivalence has long been a tenet of the infrapolitical project.   See below “Infrapolitical Action,” for instance. We also had a working group on “Kapital y Equivalencia” in early days, about a year ago.   It is perhaps our more explicit connection to the later work of Karl Marx, and certainly also our theoretical bid for a critique of exploitation.   But it is more than that. Jean-Luc Nancy’s recent After Fukushima. The Equivalence of Catastrophes (Fordham UP, 2015) brings the point home.

In the “Preamble” Nancy says “Marx called money a ‘general equivalent.’ It is this equivalence that is being discussed here. Not to think about it by itself, but to reflect that the regime of general equivalence henceforth virtually absorbs, well beyond the monetary or financial sphere but thanks to it and with regard to it, all the spheres of existence of humans, and along with them all things that exist” (5).   The implication is clear: if general equivalence is today the totalizing principle of life administration, a subtraction from it destroys the totality.   Hence the importance of its thematization, even if it is just a conceptual and not practical thematization. But all conceptuality is practical too, as its elaboration belongs necessarily to infrapolitical life.

Nancy wants to situate equivalence today within a catastrophic horizon. Or rather, “it is . . . equivalence that is catastrophic” (6). Not all catastrophes are the same, and we cannot compare Auschwitz to Fukushima, or global climate change to the 2008 financial crisis. However, there is a comparison to be made, since equivalence is the catastrophe. General equivalence preempts the possibility of non-comparison.

This small book, originally a lecture, is powerfully premised on the later Heidegger’s critique of the technological gigantic.   The gigantic, which takes globality as inception, is interconnectedness. But it is the interconnectedness of that which has crossed a limit: “What is common to both these names, Auschwitz and Hiroshima, is a crossing of limits—not the limits of morality, or of politics, or of humanity in the sense of a feeling for human dignity, but the limits of existence and of a world where humanity exists, that is, where it can risk sketching out, giving shape to meaning. The significance of these enterprises that overflow from war and crime is in fact every time a significance wholly included within a sphere independent of the existence of the world: the sphere of a projection of possibilities at once fantastical and technological that have their own ends, or more precisely whose ends are openly for their own proliferation, in the exponential growth of figures and powers that have value for and by themselves, indifferent to the existence of the world and of all its beings” (12).  The indifference across the limit marks a threshold.   Within the catastrophic gigantic names do not pass beyond but rather “fall below all signification. They signify an annihilation of meaning” (13).

Not all catastrophes are the same, but the inevitability of catastrophic comparison based on equivalence turns the principle of equivalence into the principle of the annihilation of meaning.   Within the principle of general equivalence all words and all bodies fall below signification.   Calculability fights the incommensurable, which alone grants meaning. “Forces fight each other and compensate for each other, substitute for each other. Once we have replaced the given, nonproduced forces (the ones we used to call ‘natural,’ like wind and muscle) with produced forces (steam, electricity, the atom), we have entered into a general configuration where the forces of production of other forces and the other forces of production or action share a close symbiosis, a generalized interconnection that seems to make inevitable an unlimited development of all forces and all their interactions, retroactions, excitations, attractions, and repulsions that, finally, act as incessant recursions of the same to the same. From action to reaction, there is no rapport or relation: There is connection, concord and discord, going and coming, but no relation if what we call ‘relation’ always involves the incommensurable, that which makes one in the relationship absolutely not equivalent to the other” (26).

Not just Auschwitz and Hiroshima calculate, not just Fukushima and the 2008 financial crisis are the results of catastrophic calculation. We live our entire lives, increasingly, with little margin, within a horizon of exhaustive calculability.   Even hegemony theory is little more than a methodology for political calculability at the service of an administration of the republic.   Even research today, at the university, is nothing but accumulation and quantification. Even our facebook posts are produced, or not, according to the number of projected “likes.”   Could we change our lives in favor of the incommensurable? “[The incommensurable] opens onto the absolute distance and difference of what is other—not only the other human person but also what is other than human: animal, vegetable, mineral, divine” (27).

For Marx of course the pure technology of calculation is money. “By designating money as general equivalence, Marx uttered more than the principle of mercantile exchange: He uttered the principle of a general reabsorption of all possible values into this value that defines equivalence, exchangeability, or convertibility of all products and all forces of production” (31).   So we calculate the incalculable.   If my post has less ‘likes’ than yours, we calculate respective values on the basis of the principle of equivalence. If your book sells more than mine, I calculate as well, and my resentment is based on a calculus that throws a deficit that happens to be mine.   “The incalculable is calculated as general equivalence. This also means that the incalculable is the calculation itself, that of money and at the same time, by a profound solidarity, that of ends and means, that of ends without end, that of producers and products, that of technologies and profits, that of profits and creations, and so on” (32).

But—and this marks our difference from Marx and any marxism—breaking away from general equivalence means abandoning the calculations of production.   There was no production at the beginning, and there can be no production at the end. There can be no demystification of production for the sake of a proper communist production—production is always necessarily its own mystification.   The real movement of things may be a movement of production, yet that is the movement that infrapolitics brackets and refuses. “The possibility of representing a ‘total’ human, free from alienation, emancipated from all natural, economic, and ideological subjection, has faded away in the very progress of general equivalence becoming the equivalence and interconnection of all goals and possibilities” (33). “This condition imposed on our thinking surpasses greatly what we sometimes call ‘a crisis of civilization.’ This is not a crisis we can cure by means of this same civilization. This condition algo goes beyond what is sometimes called a ‘change of civilization’: We do not decide on such a change; we cannot aim for it since we cannot outline the goal to be reached” (35).

So what is there to do?   Short of giving ourselves over to thoroughly accomplished general equivalence since there does not seem to be any other thing to do? What is there to do in order to suspend the sway of general equivalence, in order to subtract from the totalizing principle of civilizational life?

We call it infrapolitics, Nancy doesn’t.   But he says something we can use: “I can . . . assert that no option will make us emerge from the endless equivalence of ends and means if we do not emerge from finality itself—from aiming, from planning, and projectins a future in general” (37).   The difference between general equivalence and its critique emerges here as the very difference between politics and infrapolitics.

Infrapolitics would then be “the care for the approach of singular presence” (40).   Nancy refers to persons and moments, places, gestures, times, words, clouds, plants.   When they come, they come incommensurably.

Nancy’s “communism of nonequivalence” is our infrapolitics, where “democracy should be thought of starting only from the equality of incommensurables: absolute and irreducible singulars that are not individuals or social groups but sudden appearances, arrivals and departures, voices, tones—here and now, every instant” (41).

Like my encounter today in the aisle of the supermarket.   Moving, unforgettable, secret, and absolutely nonequivalent.

Althusser’s Machiavelli, 2. (Alberto Moreiras)

First of all, do take a look at Jon Beasley-Murray’s previous blog on Althusser’s Machiavelli:  What follows, and what antecedes in my previous post, are just an elaboration of it.

In “La récurrence du vide chez Louis Althusser,” another essay published as an appendix to the book edition in French of Machiavel et nous, Francois Matheron quotes a private communication from Althusser to some of his friends: “It so happens we have a certain number of definite means that we are the only ones to have. It just happens that, as a function of this transitory privilege, we are the only ones that can occupy, and that occupy, an empty space: the space of Marxist-Leninist theory, and more particularly the place of Marxist-Leninist philosophy” (224-25).   It is an intriguing text, where Althusser is saying “we are here, we might as well use it.”   Or even: “we are here. We must use it. If not us, then who?” Which means that the space Althusser and his friends occupy is the mere occasion to launch the possibility of a beginning, of a political beginning.   The occasion binds the political agent to the very extent that the political agent is only an agent seeking an occasion. It is a structural place, in the sense that it is a particular site within the general structure, but it is more than anything a conjunctural place.   From which to make a leap, were it the case that Fortune helped.   In the meantime, one is not in politics, but preparing for politics. Preparing the necessary virtue. Thinking under the conjuncture. Waiting in active waiting.

This means, a political objective must be in place, which we need to understand under the figure of “determinate absence” (Machiavel 137).   It is not there, or rather, it is there but under the form of a void that must be filled.   And it will only be filled if an encounter were to happen that cannot be anticipated, only desired.   A political act is always an absolute beginning because its event is aleatory.

Althusser and his friends are therefore preparing themselves to take on the role of the New Prince, which they understand can only happen from within the Party.   The Party is seen as a necessary part of the conjuncture, as a necessary part of political virtue, but also as a necessary part of historical Fortune. In the name of a political objective, which is no longer, for Althusser and his friends, the constitution of a lasting national State, but rather the constitution of the state of communism. This complicates the notion of “determinate absence.” For Machiavelli, the determinate absence could only be filled by the absolute solitude of the New Prince.   But the absolute solitude of the Prince can hardly be translated to the solitude of the Party.   There is no solitude to the Party, witness Althusser’s own words to his friends.

Althusser has of course denied that Machiavelli must be understood as a democratic republican, and even more so that he has any secret or esoteric intentions.   Everything is out in the open if one cares to understand The Prince in the context of the Discourses.   What is at stake is the creation of a new political space, a lasting national Italian space, without tyranny, with laws that can protect the people. Against whom? Not just against foreign agents, but particularly against the grossi, the dominant class.   The dominant class is characterized by its desire to command, by its desire to oppress. The small people, the people as such, only care about their own safety. Freedom is for them freedom from oppression.   If the Prince must on occasion act as a scoundrel, well, it can be forgiven if it is done for the sake of a lasting national constitution without tyranny.   But it won’t be forgiven if it results in tyranny.

The solitude of the Prince is then compensated, at a second or later moment, by the Prince becoming the people.   This is the politics of the day-after, in other words, not the politics of the act of political irruption, not the politics of the aleatory encounter that might enable a change in the coordinates of the situation, even an impossible change (a change that only becomes possible after it happens, but could not have been predicted).   One supposes the Party must follow a similar course, since the Party is the new Prince. The Party must become the people, even if only after power has been taken, that is, starting the day after. This might be the task prospectively self-assigned to Marxist-Leninist philosophy and his agents, Althusser and his friends.  Discussing this, still allegorically, still in the name of an exegesis of Machiavelli´s work, is presumably the object of the last extant chapter in Machiavel et nous (which we know was left unfinished).

It has to do with the development of the Marxist State apparatus, and Althusser’s first interest is then showing the similarity between Machiavelli’s take and the Marxist one. For Althusser, Machiavelli would already be signaling in the direction of Gramsci’s definition of the state, “une hégémonie (consentement) bardée de coercition (force)” (147). Beasley-Murray is right, in his blog entry mentioned above, that what follows is a fundamental endorsement of hegemony theory through the analysis of the Machiavellian popular army, the function of base ideologies (religion) and secondary ideologies, and particularly of the Prince as state individual.

And it is in the analysis of the latter that a curious contradiction comes up. The Prince must “become the people,” but it turns out to be a fake becoming.   The Prince is before all, through his or her very virtue, a master of what Kant would have called radical evil, that is, a master at making political appearances look like righteous behavior. It is always a matter of fooling the people, then, either with the truth, that is, by conforming to the ideology that supports the state (religion, laws), or with a falsity meant to appear as a truth. That is, even the Prince’s righteous behavior appears as a form of deceit, once it is accepted that the capability of becoming evil is also proper to the Prince. Because the people, il volgo, want to be content, the Prince must do everything he or she can to keep them ideologically content—and this is of course the limit of the hegemonic model Althusser establishes Machiavelli proposes, and Althusser seems to sanction.   “Parmi tous les tromperies possibles, il en est une qui intéresse le Prince: la tromperie par excellence, celle qui présente aux hommes l’apparence mëme en laquelle ils croient, qu’ils se reconnaissent, oú ils se reconnaissent, disons oú leur idéologies se reconnaït en eux, celle des lois morales et religieuses” (169).

The fakely-becoming-people of the Prince is never addressed as such except as a political necessity.   But it marks a gap, or a “vide,” to use one of Althusser’s favorite words, in the very conception of politics proposed. Politics takes absolute priority, for the sake of its end, true (Althusser has argued earlier that the prevalence of the end makes Machiavelli´s theory anything but a form of pragmatism: “only results count, but it is only the end that judges the results that count” [161]), except that the end, politically speaking, is the necessary becoming people of the Prince, which is barred through the essential falsity of the Prince’s political action. When we transpose this situation to the actions of the Party, either before or after it takes power, we can see how unsatisfactory the theory becomes.   Just as unsatisfactory as the history we know.   If, as Althusser puts it, the Prince looks, not for the love, but for the “friendship” of the people (172), even as State individual, then the friendship gained in the political game remains a function not just of consent and coercion, but of duped concern sustained in the violence of the constant ruse (in addition to coercion based on force).   Bad friendship, which may be all hegemony can offer at best. Althusser calls it “ideological politics” (173).

It is clear that Althusser’s text does not manage to resolve the tension between politics as aleatory encounter, as the virtuous ability to seize the unforeseeable conjuncture and to keep itself within the rigor of the unforeseeable, and the hegemonic politics of the day-after, which are no longer aleatory politics, but a politics determined to gain and accumulate at the cost of perfectly foreseeable and presumably systematically organized state duping.   Critics have become accustomed to accepting something like two Althussers that can find no common ground. Beasley-Murray associates posthegemony to the Althusser of the encounter, to the extent that the notion of the aleatory encounter as master trope of political action excludes and must even denounce hegemonic procedures of constitution.

But does infrapolitics figure here?  Clearly, Althusser’s intent, whether it is the first or the other Althusser, is to theorize the political as such.   That it is an insufficient and broken theorization (and I do recommend Francois Matheron’s “’Des problèmes qu’il faudra bien appeler d’un autre nom et peut-ëtre politique’”), that politics ends up offering a disappointing result, may point the way towards the need for infrapolitical reflection.   So far we can only see it in the definition of il volgo as those who do not have the desire to command and opress but would rather be left alone in their everyday life, would rather reject the false friendship of the Prince who prides herself or himself in her or his capability for evil and ruses.

If we may understand infrapolitics as the region of historical facticity, the factical opening of historical space, that is, of spatial temporality for a life, for any life, infrapolitical reflection is first of all a destruction of political inconsistency, which ceaselessly hijacks both time and space (it is not only that, as Marx puts it in the Grundrisse, all economy is an economy of time, but all politics are equally a politics of time). It is as a destroyer of political inconsistency, which may be politics’ only consistency, that Althusser’s essay on Machiavelli may be claimed to be part of the infrapolitical archive.   When it comes to infrapolitics, perhaps the people will decide that they have better things to do than to prepare for politics, than to wait in active waiting for an event of beginning.   Perhaps, after all, thinking under the conjuncture may enable us to dismiss the conjuncture, and to look for something else.

Galli’s Lo sguardo di Giano: Passing Beyond Schmitt. By Alberto Moreiras.

The title words in Carlo Galli`s book, soon to be published in English, are a reference to the passage between form and the formless, chaos and order, war and peace. Carl Schmitt´s thought is said to carry a tremendous capacity to account for the radical reversibility of the political realm—ultimately, from form to crisis and from crisis to form. If the ability to experience both sides of the political, to see both, and to dwell in the ambivalence of political time is important for a thinker, then Carl Schmitt, who has that capacity to an eminent degree, is himself required passage for “whoever wants to think politics radically.”   Schmitt is a modern classic, and one of the last classics of modernity, through what Galli calls the tragic drift of his thought (based on the experience of the ultimate indetermination of political order, that is, of violence as the immanent destiny of the political).   But even Schmitt’s radical reach cannot reach beyond the historical limits of the modern as such. Today, that is, Schmitt’s thought needs to be abandoned, needs to be crossed through and left behind, in order to find cognitive access to new political spaces beyond the modern. We must pass beyond Schmitt’s theory of the passage: this is the core of Galli’s proposal in this book, which takes up and elaborates aspects of Schmittian thought that Galli’s previous Genealogia della politica. Carl Schmitt e la crisi del pensiero politico moderno had not covered.

And of course one cannot cross the thought of a thinker without experiencing it first in as intimate a proximity as possible. Lo sguardo di Giano is composed of five chapters where Galli discusses Schmitt’s relationship to State theory, to political theology, to the so-called global age, and to Machiavelli, Strauss, and Spinoza.   They are all masterpieces of critical exegesis.

The chapter on the State takes up the notion that Schmitt, without considering that the State is the core of the political, thinks of the State as the principal aspect of political modernity precisely as the very symptom of the inherent gap between form and reality, which at the same time the State attempts to mediate.   That the State can be or is at the same time the symptom and the cure is only paradoxical if one does not realize that the order of the State is never fixed, never static, but rather tragic, unpacified, transitory, mobile. The study of the perpetual mobility of the State can therefore only be undertaken through a simultaneously theoretical, historical, and utterly political, that is, local gaze. If in this analysis the history of the State is constantly undergoing an unstable passage from the God-State to the Machine-State, in the same way that the God of metaphysics comes to be substituted in modernity by technology as the referential center of reality, the liberal phase of the State starts to appear as a depoliticized State-form: in the liberal State politics are disavowed into a technical de-politicization that of course cannot survive its own neutrality. The rise of potentially catastrophic political myths is never far from that terminal point, after which, through conceptual necessity, a new world space opens up, post-state and post-modern, for which we do not yet have a concept.  [Infrapolitics, while itself not politics, is of course the name we are pushing as a precondition for a possible reinvention of the political in the post-Schmittian age.]

The chapter on political theology continues the previous story by pointing out how it is precisely the liberal pretension of a radical neutralization of political theology that must be subjected to deconstruction by Schmitt as a way of finding his own path into the epistemic and practical state of the political.   The modern neutralization of political theology is nihilism as such, to which we cannot oppose a reinvention of the Divine, but rather simply a radical objection to its efficacy: that neutralization is in every case a disavowal of forces nevertheless profoundly powerful can only be forgotten at one’s own risk. And the theory of the exception is the place where Schmitt sustains the possibility of an understanding of the political between abyss and reason, between arbitrariness and necessity. After all, a proper understanding of authority as factically decisionistic, and not based on rational mediation, not based on legal self-foundation, is the best protection against political blindness, hence disaster. But blindness acts today for the most part through the very automatism of neutralization, through the de-politicization that disavows any principle of political transcendence in the ostensible triumph of politics as technics.  And this goes not just for neoliberal or rightwing practices, but also for whatever it is the conventional left–today the pro-hegemony, populist left, in general terms–has come to understand it should do.  The end of political theology is also the end of any concrete stability for the modern State, hence the end of the modern State; and the beginning of something else for which the categorical apparatus deployed by Schmitt can only show its insufficiency.  We need to push further.

The chapters that follow, on Machiavelli, and then on Spinoza as mediated by the figure of Leo Strauss, are tours de force of intellectual history where the presuppositions of Schmittian thought are brought to bear on the work of two other seminal thinkers of modern political thought. Galli concludes that Machiavelli is not in fact a significant segment in Schmitt’s intellectual genealogy, but in the process a highly useful explanation of the difference between a theory of the State as virtue or force and a theory of the State as the friend/enemy stasis emerges (or, as Galli puts it, the difference between the State as immediacy versus the State as negated mediation).   In the same way Spinoza comes through as outside the purview of Schmitt’s understanding of what is central to modern political theory.   But can Spinoza really help today?  It is an open question.

The last chapter on Schmitt and the global age brings the antecedent to an intricate discussion of the specific status Schmitt holds in contemporary thought: as a deconstructor of political modernity, as one of the 20th century thinkers whose depth, in all its conflicts and tensions, and in his great, unforgivable errors, gives us more to understand about politics as such, and politics in the overall history of the West, and as someone endowed with the kind of intellectual power that can become conscious of its own limitations–hence make others conscious of their limitations as well.   Schmitt represents an “extreme deconstruction” of modern political thought as “architectonic nihilism.” As such, Schmitt illuminates or reveals the radical aporias of modern political thought, and brings us to the end of a history that we must now discard, as the “new destiny of the world,” which is that of the “global age,” can no longer be accounted for through modern categories.   A new nomos has taken root, but that means in the first place that we must bring ourselves to a position from which we can interpret it. Galli presents here some of his ideas on globalization as global mobilization, but suspends the answer as to whether global mobilization can eventually reveal itself as order-bearing.   For the time being, Galli sustains, global war is a form of conflictuality without a restrainer. This is no longer a Schmittian horizon, which means that non-Schmittian political categories must be developed. Our best tool is still the understanding of the end of the political categories of modernity accessible to us as the very reverse or the other side of Schmittian thought. Schmitt still works as a deconstructor, to such an extent that one needs to read Schmitt to get rid of Schmitt—which is the same as saying that an opening to the imperatives of contemporary political thought requires a successful passage through the Schmittian passage itself.   Now, to where?

Cabezas’ A-Positional Freedom. By Alberto Moreiras

“No infrapolitics without exploitation; no exploitation without infrapolitics.”   The Introduction to Oscar Cabezas’ Postsoberanía: Literatura, política y trabajo begins by stating that post-sovereignty would be the condition of capital’s “absolute sovereignty,” that is, a capitalism without restrainer.   The hypothesis, or thesis, is that such is the regime of rule today, in virtue of which there is no limitation to the slavery imposed by capital. Post-sovereignty would describe the political terrain of globality, understood as the political terrain of exploitation.

But in the first chapter we read that there is no formal or real imposition of sovereignty, as the history of modernity shows, without the simultaneous production of a “judaizing remainder” (22), the organizer of the marrano figure, or register, as a radical exception to the sovereign community.   The marrano exception is an error or errancy as such, and marks or provides the “enigmatic experience” of something that, interpellated and informed by the law, is never quite subordinate to the unity of command” (23): an overflowing or desbordamiento “before the law.”

If the “community,” certainly in its modern form as national community, but presumably beyond that, is always an invention of power, even of inquisitional power (in the same way that the marrano is a figure within the law that exceeds the law itself, its counterpart, the Inquisition, or inquisitional logic, is “a power within the state superior to the state itself,” in Henry Charles Lea’s definition), then the marrano marks a decommunitarian option or position that, towards the end of the chapter, Cabezas will indicate as an a-positional position, an exodus from position (81).

Cabezas corrects Heidegger’s Parmenides by insisting that it is not the Germans, precisely, who could mark the very possibility of a non-Roman, non-imperial understanding of the political, but rather the marrano, as inquisitional excess.   He links this to Derrida’s messianism without the Messiah, hinting at, without fully developing, the idea that Derrida was the first to thematize political de-capitalization for a properly counterimperial, non-Roman thinking of the political.

But I wonder whether, within the confines of this chapter at least, Cabezas’ move is really towards counterimperial politics and not rather towards infrapolitical decapitalization.   Perhaps the most moving pages in the chapter are the central ones, the section entitled “Sovereign T-error, Exile’s Truth.” In them Cabezas pursues notions such as “subjectivity without subjection,” “apátrida thought,” “erratic language,” and “sovereignty without sovereignty” in order to affirm that it is only in them that a possible “relation to freedom” opens up in modernity and beyond modernity (43).   The radical sadness of exile, of ex-communication, of de-communitarization, is a condition of freedom under every regime of sovereignty, which the marrano abhors.

But can a radical opposition to sovereignty be identified as a political position? The language of the marrano is always a losing language, a language of loss or in loss (51). “Only a language of unity turned sovereignty can fulfill the function of union” (51). There can be no union under a marrano register, only separation.   But this then means, “the marrano condition of language” (61) is never political, and can only be infrapolitical. Cabezas says “clandestine,” “subterranean,” “invisible,” that is, it never rises, because it can never do, to heliotropic regions.

Marrano a-positionality is always already infrapolitical, which is its condition of freedom.   Freedom is never defined, only invoked.   So this chapter powerfully raises a question that it is not easy to come to terms with: the answer would be, there is no political freedom, in the same way there is no good community in community. But there is something like infrapolitical freedom, invoked, never defined.

Cabezas concludes: “Exile unbinds freedom doubly, as an experience in the open, but also as the impossibility for it to take place in the name of any modern genealogy of sovereignty or its criollo variations. Freedom is the experience of exile, and the whisper of a marrano who blows into your ear the destruction of the images of idols” (91).