Apache Refusal.  Lectures 1 and 2 on Heidegger’s What is Called Thinking. (Glenn Gray trans.  New York: Harper Colophon, 1968.).

(First Lecture)

We are within the region of what we discussed in class as the difference between “conventional” and “essential” thinking along Heideggerian lines–this is the crucial question of the class.  The CHALLENGE: to bring that distinction to bear on historical issues, and on our relation to historical issues: in our case, the Apache Wars.  My THESIS: the Apache Wars give us a hint as to what is to be thought, what is thought-worthy, and even most thought-worthy. 

Conventional thinking keeps within the bounds of social ideology, of established custom and tradition, of the accumulation of truisms and common-sensical opinions, of political agreements and disagreements, of everydayness.  It may and does appeal to historiography and technology, to ideas for progress, to suggestions that may have to do with how to improve something or other, even how to look for happiness, or for a “better,” in the sense of a more comfortable, life.

Essential thinking: it may start with the realization that, always already, “we have lost our tongues in foreign lands.”  Conventional thinking, our everyday shelter, our customary ways of relating to the world, our mottos and inspirations and clichés–all of that is no longer cutting it for us, can no longer sustain us.  All of that comes to be seen as a form of narcosis that is killing us, and something needs to be done.  But what? 

If conventional thinking is essential distraction, then essential thinking is essential attention.  Attention to what?  To what withdraws, to what remains concealed, to what protects itself in its essence and, in a sense, fears us. 

Heidegger says: What is most thought-worthy?   And he responds:  what is most thought-worthy is that we are still not thinking.  And Heidegger hints that things may be worse now than at any other historical time.  “Most thought-provoking in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking” (6).  And why not?  What is keeping us?

“That we are still not thinking stems from the fact that the thing itself that must be thought about turns away from the human, has turned away long ago” (7). 

And yet it is near us.  It calls for thinking, it still and always calls for thinking.  And yet it withdraws.  It keeps withdrawing.  It beckons and hides.  It is difficult.  It is the simplest. 

“We can learn thinking only if we radically unlearn what thinking has been traditionally” (8). 

“What must be thought about turns away from the human. . . Withdrawal is an event.  In fact, what withdraws may even concern and claim the human more essentially than anything present that strikes and touches them” (8-9). 

“Drawn into what withdraws, drawing toward it and thus pointing into the withdrawal, the human first is the human.  The essential nature of the human lies in being such a pointer” (9). 

A break is needed.  Heidegger calls it “the leap.”  “The leap alone takes us into the neighborhood where thinking resides” (12).  “The leap takes us abruptly to where everything is different” (12). 

We should think about this leap.  It is a leap into nearness.  “What withdraws in such a manner keeps and develops its own, incomparable nearness” (17).  “Thinking itself is the human’s simplest, and for that reason hardest, handiwork, if it would be accomplished at its proper time” (16-17). 

The Apache Wars can be understood as a gigantic confrontation between Western humans and the earth.  The West took it upon itself to conquer the world.  The Western subject turned everything else into objects, and objects are there for the taking, for dominion, for exploitation and gain.  The Western subject designed and took upon itself a particular fate, a fateful confrontation with the planet.  But there was much in that enterprise that remained unthought. 

At the beginning of his second lecture Heidegger quotes the German poet Hölderlin again: “Who the deepest has thought, loves what is most alive.”  In a different seminar, a seminar taught in the Summer of 1944 on the Greek thinker Heraclitus, Heidegger also referred to that line by Hölderlin.  And he said:  “This makes it sound as though the love for what is most alive is a consequence of thinking, as though this love activates itself once thinking has been consummated.  Yet, the truth is otherwise: it is rather the case that thinking is itself the love, the love for what is ‘most alive,’ for that in which all that is alive has gathered itself in life” (Heraclitus 161). As it turns out, then, love and thinking are conjoined in essential thinking, but “not as an indistinct monotony, but rather as a conjoined simplicity whose unity as thinking and life is named but nevertheless remains unsaid” (161). 

Given recent discussions on philosophy and politics, given philia tou sophou, as love of what is fateful, love of what-is-to-be-thought, love of what is most alive, indeed if philosophy today can still be considered essential thinking in those senses (most philosophy departments are innocent of all of it), the question is also a question about infrapolitics: is infrapolitics not the love of what is “most alive” in politics, namely, that which, in politics, belongs not to the technical, not to the will to will, not to will to power, but to something else whose nature today we may have forgotten, has withdrawn from us, given what goes under the name of politics everywhere, every time?  The demand concerning that excess from politics, and springing from it, is always in every case an infrapolitical demand. 

I will not belabor this too much.  Only to propose to you, preliminarily and only in an approximate manner, that essential thinking may be connected to infrapolitics, to what I am calling infrapolitics.  So our question about the Apache Wars will become a question regarding the infrapolitics of the Apache Wars.  Perhaps that is also thought-worthy. 

 We have seen an example of conventional, albeit humane, enlightened thinking in the work of Spanish Army Corps of Engineers Lieutenant José Cortés.  The issue regarding Uncle Ethan in The Searchers is more complex.  Indeed, the question regarding him would be whether he accomplishes a leap from conventional to essential thinking at the end of the film.

(Second Lecture)

“The essence of technology is above all not anything technological.  The essence of technology lies in what from the beginning and before all else gives food for thought” (22).

Technology has been the destiny of Western science.  Heidegger claims this destiny is part of the first beginning of the West, in the language and thought of the ancient Greeks.  An ineludible part, a fateful part. 

Technology, which today rules the world, not just the West, makes demands of its own.  We can see the danger there.  Technology, in its present configuration, in its will to power and sway over the social, no matter how innovative, how brilliant, how productive it may be, does not belong in essential thinking.  It is on the other side of what we have called “the twofold.” 

Essential thinking is also thinking about what withdraws in technology, which is nothing technological. 

Could we not consider the full array of Western techniques of dominion part of Western technology?  Is the “Conquest of the West” not primarily a technological accomplishment?  Self-deploying technology—it moves because it must.  Whatever it takes, wherever it leads.  “And that such matters have remained unthought is indeed first of all due to the fact that the will to action, which here means the will to make and be effective, has overrun and crushed thought” (25).

Can we then learn listening (to what withdraws)?  Can we teach listening?  Teaching means let learn. 

Or should we give ourselves over, thoroughly and completely, to the “one-track thinking” that characterizes our society and which is, according to Heidegger, thoroughly ruled over by the technological imperative?   Even psychotherapy is today a technology of the soul, which is why most practitioners prefer pills.  It is easier.  Narcosis is always easier. 

“And when man no longer sees the one side as one side, he has lost sight of the other side as well” (33). 

But is the other side one of catastrophe?  Should we be pessimistic, critical, merely destructive?  No.  The other side is neither optimistic nor pessimistic.  Which does not make it a matter of indifference.  On the contrary, there is nothing “indifferent” about it.  “What is most thought-provoking—especially when it is man’s highest concern—may well be also what is most dangerous.  Or do we imagine that a man could even in small ways encounter the essence of truth, the essence of beauty, the essence of grace—without danger?” (31). 

In fact, there is narcosis because it is less dangerous.  Except that, at some point, narcosis becomes infinitely more dangerous. 

What if the entire history of the West were interpreted as the history of a monumental narcosis?  Heidegger only says: we need to awaken to what is most thought-worthy.  These are dangerous times. 

“the thing that matters first and foremost, and finally, is not to drop the tree in bloom, but for once let it stand where it stands.  Why do we say “finally”?  Because to this day thought has never let the tree stand where it stands” (44).

Pages on Nietzsche follow.  Nietzsche is presented by Heidegger as the last thinker of the West, in a sense: the man who summed it all up for our age, and collapsed with a mental breakdown before he could finish his work.  He said: “the wasteland grows” but he could only see himself as the thinker of a transition.  Interestingly, Nietzsche’s times were also the times of the Apache Wars.

We need, Heidegger says, to encounter Nietzsche, to “find him” first so that we may then “lose him.” 

Nietzsche would be, for our age, Heidegger says, “the representative of traditional thinking” (55).  The highest representative.  And something else: “Nietzsche sees clearly that in the history of Western man something is coming to an end: what until now and long since has remained uncompleted.  Nietzsche sees the necessity to carry it to a completion” (55).

He proposes two figures: the “last man” and “the overman.”  Who is the last man?  (You should take this as a joke, but in terms of jokes we couldn´t do better: say, Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz are last men).

At the time, the end of the 19th century, when “man is about to assume dominion of the earth as a whole” (57), or thinks he can (and we know better now: our “dominion” is leading the planet to catastrophe), “the last man is the man who is no longer able to look beyond himself, to rise above himself for once up to the level of his task, and understand that task in a way that is essentially right” (57). 

Against the last man Nietzsche thought of the overman as a transitional figure: somebody who could in fact take all the consequences of his own position: “The superman is the man who first leads the essential nature of existing man over into its truth, and so assumes that truth.  Existing man, by being thus determined and secured in his essential nature, is to be rendered capable of becoming the future master of the earth—of wielding to high purpose the powers that will fall to future man in the nature of the technological transformation of the earth and of human activity” (59). 

And is this not in a deep sense the way the United States in the late 19th century, at the time of the Apache Wars, thought of itself?  The United States: the overpower, the power that could in fact accomplish total dominion over the earth: the West of the West.  The Apache Wars were in that context a minor nuisance, but also a necessity, a necessary nuisance. 

But there is a danger that the overman is a fantasy, that the overman is only the projection of the last man—a desperate projection, whatever the last man projects ahead in a blinking dream. 

If that is so, should we not attempt an altogether other thinking?  A new beginning for thought? 

It starts with attempting to pass to the other side of the two-foldness.  In a dialogue with “traditional thinking” that will eventually become a confrontation with it.  That already is a confrontation with it. 

This is the ambiguity in Nietzsche: who is the overman?  A ridiculous projection of the last man, or something else?  Altogether something else? 

“It is a most important part of Nietzsche’s way of thought to go beyond man as he is so far, beyond man in his as yet undetermined nature, into the complete determination of his whole nature up to this point.  Fundamentally, Nietzsche’s way of thought does not want to overthrown anything—it merely wants to catch up to something” (68-69).

But what if . . . ?  If we could conceive of the overman in the context of essential thinking.  

The overman—the human that goes over what historical humanity has produced so far. 

“the thing that the overman discards is precisely our boundless, purely quantitative nonstop progress.  The overman is poorer, simpler, tenderer and tougher, quieter and more self-sacrificing and slower of decision, and more economical of speech” (69).

Incidentally, even in that description, or precisely in that description, the overman is starting to sound to me like the overwoman. 

And who is to say certain representatives of historical humanity who were annihilated and laid waste to by dominant historical humanity did not have in themselves the real possibility of essential thinking?  Say, the Apaches.  Who is to say? 

Is Psychoanalysis Still a Psychology? A Question to My Lacanian Friends.

Is psychoanalysis still a psychology?  How is it not?:

“psychology, in essentially arising out of Christian thinking, is of one and the same metaphysical origin as modern historiography and technology, and is only today entering upon the path toward unfolding its historical determination and toward becoming that which, at its very core, it is: namely, psychotechnics” (Heidegger, Heraclitus 215).

How do we turn that around?  According to Heraclitus, the limits of the soul (psiché) are unreachable since the soul, as breath, as drawing in and drawing out, and as drawing out in drawing in, and viceversa, connects to being in its profundity–outo bathin logon exei (Fragment 45).  Being fore-gathers (versammelt) and the psiché fore-gathers, and this not as anthropomorphism, rather as the originary relation of the human to life. So liberating the soul from its metaphysical capture and restituting its connection to the ontological difference–could that approach the Lacanian analysis?

As a break from psychotechnics?  (Isn’t psychotechnics what Lacan meant by ego-psychology?  Americanism.).

“Love—a Kind of Thinking?”  An Infrapolitical Demand.

In his 1944 seminar on logos in Heraclitus Heidegger quotes one verse in Hölderlin: “Whosoever has thought what is deepest, loves what is most alive.”  He then says: “This makes it sound as though the love for what is most alive is a consequence of thinking, as though this love activates itself once thinking has been consummated.  Yet, the truth is otherwise: it is rather the case that thinking is itself the love, the love for what is ‘most alive,’ for that in which all that is alive has gathered itself in life” (Heraclitus 161). 

This speaks to the difference Heidegger discusses in other sections of the seminar: that between conventional thinking and essential thinking.  As it turns out, then, love and thinking are conjoined in essential thinking, but “not as an indistinct monotony, but rather as a conjoined simplicity whose unity as thinking and life is named but nevertheless remains unsaid” (161). 

My question, preliminary to concluding my own reading of the entire seminar:  is essential thinking then what pertains to episteme logiké, to the knowledge of the logos?  Or is essential thinking part of episteme ethiqué, the knowledge of dwelling, of the human sojourn? 

Given recent discussions on philosophy and politics, given philia tou sophou, as love of what is fateful, love of what-is-to-be-thought, love of what is most alive, indeed if philosophy today can still be considered essential thinking in those senses (most philosophy departments are innocent of all of it), the question is also a question about infrapolitics: is infrapolitics not the love of what is “most alive” in politics, namely, that which, in politics, belongs not to the technical, not to the will to will, not to will to power, but to something else whose nature today we may have forgotten about, given what goes under the name of politics everywhere, every time?  The demand concerning that excess from politics, and springing from it, is always in every case an infrapolitical demand. 

On Praxis and Technology. Discussions in the Gramsci Group.

Our Gramsci group met yesterday to discuss Gramsci’s Notebooks 16 to 18.  I want to share a page from Heidegger I have just run across which bears heavily on yesterday’s discussion, and this in reference not just to Gramsci and his uncanny representation of the integral State (in Notebook 17), defined by Gramsci himself as a totalitarian endeavor indistinguishable from a “total world conception” akin to religion and from the Party (the jointure of Party, State, and World Conception [itself organized by the philosophy of praxis and its pedagogical projections] is the integral State), but also in reference to Marx’s notions in the Preface to Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy, which means, indirectly, to whatever is meant by “practice” in the Theses on Feuerbach—that is, practice as the endless enactment of material forces enabled by a historical unfettering, which might for the first time produce history, as opposed to the pre-history of the former modes of production.  And it will be productive practice or no practice at all.  The historical-materialist reduction of the notion of praxis, far from being a break with and from metaphysics, is in fact the attempt at a fateful enactment of the will to will, before Nietzsche came up with his own formulations regarding the last doctrine of Being (“imprinting Being with the stamp of Becoming,” etc.).  From this perspective, particularly when we understand the philosophy of praxis as the political mobilization of living, productive labor, we understand that the agency here is not really the Communist Party, but rather that the Communist Party is itself a configuration of metaphysical Being, one of the configurations of the will to will in modernity, perhaps one of the most effective (except that it failed everywhere). But then of course its cold-war alternative, which ended up reconfigured as neoliberalism, has also failed and is now driving our planet into self-destruction.  Here is the quotation from Heidegger’s 1944 Seminar on Logic (Heraclitus’s Doctrine of the Logos):  

“the sciences of inanimate and animate nature, and also the sciences of the historical and its works, are ever more clearly developing themselves in a manner akin to how the contemporary human uses explanations to gain mastery over the ‘world,’ the ‘earth,’ ‘nature,’ ‘history,’ as well as all else, in order to then use these explained sectors according to plan (or need) for a securing and bolstering of the will to become master of the world in the sense of ordering it.  This will is the ground and essential domain of modern technology: a will which, in all planning and examining and in all that is willed and attained, only wills itself, all the while equipped with the ever-increasing possibility of this self-willing.  Technology is the organization and the enactment of the will to will.  The varied forms of humanity, peoples, and nations—these groups and the individual members of whom they are comprised—are everywhere only what is willed by this will, and not themselves the origin and caretaker of this will.  Rather, they are merely its often unwilling enactors” (Heidegger, Heraclitus 147). 

For a long time I was puzzled by Heidegger’s seeming unwillingness to take on the task that in Letter of Humanism he claims as our most important task, the most important task of the age: a confrontation with Marxism.  I am now coming to realize that, from a certain perspective, Heidegger did nothing else.  It is up to us to extract the consequences. 


The word “narcosis” keeps recurring in Sergio González’ transfixed meditation on the sinister effects of narcotrafficking in Mexico (El hombre sin cabeza, Barcelona: Anagrama, 2009).  “Lo siniestro es aquello que, debiendo permanecer oculto, se revela” (97).  There is a paradox, then: narcosis prompts the flourishing of evil at the same time that narcosis is, in a sense, an attempt to ward danger off, to disavow and negate it.  For González the image of evil as maximum danger is the beheading: “Las decapitaciones, mutilación suprema, materializan lo siniestro como concepto y como fuente del arte de figurar” (97).  There is a narcotic drive that responds to the business of narcosis.  Narcosis, as business, creates the drive, and the drive is devastation itself.  Narcosis is for González the business of capitalism, or capitalism is the business of narcosis. 

Within narcosis there can be no waking up.  It leads to increasingly deeper slumber.  Narcosis is an image of thought today.  Or, rather, narcosis is the unthought in the image of thought today.  It is only fitting that decapitation stands for that paradoxical image, that non-figural figure: “fuente del arte de figurar” in the narco world that is our world.  Narcosis beheads. 

At the end of his essay “Logos (Heraclitus, Fragment B 50)” Martin Heidegger says “everything today betrays the fact that we bestir ourselves only to drive storms away.  We organize all available means for cloud-seeding and storm dispersal in order to have calm in the face of the storm.  But this calm is no tranquility.  It is only anesthesia; more precisely, the narcotization of anxiety in the face of thinking” (Heidegger, Early Greek Thinking 78).  Narcosis is thoughtless thought, beheaded thought.  Can a class on narco change that?  Can a class on narco break away from narcosis? 

It is doubtful.  One would rather not station herself “in the storm of Being” (78).  Narcosis is cozier, even if it decapitates.  We narcotize anxiety in the face of thinking.  Thinking is to be warded off.  But what is thinking?  Can a class on narco be a class on thinking? 

“The word of thinking rests in the sobering quality of what it says.  Just the same, thinking changes the world.  It changes it in the ever darker depths of a riddle, depths which as they grow darker offer promise of a greater brightness.  The riddle has long been propounded to us in the word ‘Being.’  In this matter ‘Being’ remains only the provisional word” (78).    Being against narcosis: anxiety has to be undergone for the sake of a greater brightness. 

But first we need to establish that narcosis is the primary phenomenon in our world.  Only then can we hope to understand the need to break away from it.  With clear eyes so that we may begin to see the lightning in the storm. 

Der Brauch: A Note on Transfigured Infrapolitics

“In the conflicted essence of Aletheia is concealed the thoughtful essence of Eris and Moira, in terms of which Physis is also named.”  (Heidegger, “Anaximander’s Saying 265)

After the publication of Infrapolítica.  Instrucciones de uso (Madrid: La oficina, 2020) and now its English version Infrapolitics. A Handbook (New York: Fordham UP, 2021) I receive occasional queries regarding infrapolitics.  The most pressing question takes the form of wanting to know about the unsaid: “what is it that you are holding back?,” as one person put it.  It is a complex question, and the answer is even more complicated, as I myself do not yet know it and can only guess, or push, or imagine.  Nobody thinks in a void, and for me the challenge has for a long time been to take Heideggerian and Derridean thought to an extreme, insofar as I can or know or could learn how to do it.  Not because of doxographic interests, rather because I find both of those thinkers particularly attuned to what is worthy of thought in an eminent sense today. And this is already getting into secrets and exposing myself–to my own incompetence, to start with, but not only. 

In any case this might be the time to start thinking not about factical infrapolitics, the massive factum of its presence in practical reason, common to everyone, but about what I have sometimes called transfigured or reflective infrapolitics: the attempt to think, and to live, making it explicit, explicitating that facticity, in each case one’s own, as a praxis of existence. I think that the guiding issue is a particular take on the very notion of thinking as a form of “passive decision,” which could in fact be Jacques Derrida’s translation of Eckhartian, and then Heideggerian, Gelassenheit.  Which has to do with letting things be, not in the sense of abstaining from interaction, rather in the sense of opening to them and caring for them.  Another no less complex way of putting it: if “the work of mourning” is the very motor of Hegelian dialectics, if Aufhebung is in that sense the (bogus) word of Being, then the radical interruption of mourning, which leads to a different relation to death, which lets death be rather than appropriate it, is the motor of infrapolitics.  What could we make of a notion of thought, therefore of existential practice, that rejects mourning as a structuring principle?  It opens a different understanding of time, and of the time of life. 

I keep going back to Heidegger’s 1946 extraordinary essay “Anaximander’s Saying.”  Heidegger concludes that essay–itself published as the conclusion to an extraordinary collection of essays, Off the Beaten Track (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002), from 1950 in the original German–by proposing a translation of Anaximander’s word to khreon, which is usually rendered as “the necessary,” with the German word der Brauch.  Brauch includes the notion of use, or usage.  Heidegger means to propose that as a good word to translate the “presencing” of what is present, that is, the first term of the ontological difference.  The “use” of something “hands it over to its own essence” (277).  If “to khreon is the oldest name in which thinking brings the being of beings to language” (274), then to khreon names the trace, what is for us a trace, of a forgetting: “The oblivion of being is oblivion to the difference between being and the being” (275). 

Use retains a trace of the ontological difference.  Say, the use of existence (Eris and Moira) is everyone’s apportionment, for a while.  Let us keep in mind the double genitive in that expression, “the use of existence.” There is existence, and then there is the use of existence. When did the use of existence take on the primary meaning of production: the production of existence, and existence as production?  Heidegger refers obscurely to the fateful rendering of Aristotle’s energeia as actualitas.  From actualitas we eventually move to objectivity.  But the use of existence retains an older meaning.  Can we retrieve it?  Is that not what infrapolitics proposes? 

There is a bifurcation.  That production is to be connected to the work of mourning is shown not just in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit but also in Marx’s mature work, from The German Ideology to Capital.  But what if we were to understand the imperative to “transform the world,” which Marx offers in the eleventh thesis on Feuerbach, not in the sense of ergon but in the sense of khreon, use, usage? 

The use of existence, transfigured into a passive decision, prompts an interruption of the work of mourning: death is also to be let be, and not at the end of life, not just at the end of life.  In another essay from the same period, in fact a lecture that remained undelivered in the seminar devoted by Heidegger to What Is Called Thinking?, in the early 1950s, “Moira (Parmenides VIII, 34-41),” Heidegger concludes in a thoroughly enigmatic manner, as they are words that cannot be immediately connected to the rest of the essay: “As the outermost possibility of mortal Dasein, death is not the end of the possible but the highest keeping” (Heidegger, Early Greek Thinking 101). 

It seems to me, obscurely at this point, that the relation of the use of existence, in the bifurcated sense of the genitive, to death as highest keeping ciphers the secret of infrapolitics, if there is one.  But I wouldn’t know how to reveal it. 

La muerte del Decano. (Plata o plomo II)

Se trata de una novela de Gonzalo Torrente Ballester de 1992.  Yo la tengo en edición de bolsillo publicada por Planeta en 1999.  La debí de comprar en algún verano en España en 1999 o poco después, y nunca la leí.  Ayer, buscando en mi biblioteca el Sepharad de Antonio Muñoz Molina, que voy a incluir en un curso el semestre próximo, me la encontré y empecé a leerla.  Ocurre en Santiago de Compostela a finales de los años cuarenta del siglo veinte, y cuenta la investigación que sucede a la aparición del cadáver del Decano de Filosofía y Letras y Catedrático de Historia Antigua en sus aposentos en uno de los Colegios Mayores de la universidad gallega.  Los personajes relevantes son el Juez, el Comisario, el Fraile, don Enrique y Francisca, casada con don Enrique.  El pobre don Enrique es el asistente o auxiliar del Decano, un hombre joven, de alrededor de treinta años, que acompañó al Decano a Santiago desde Barcelona y está preparando sus oposiciones.  Don Enrique le debe todo al Decano, pero en la novela se presentan indicios de que el Decano prepara su propia muerte para hacer aparecer a don Enrique como su asesino. 

No quiero estropearle la lectura de la novela a ningún incauto lector de este blog, así que no revelaré nada referente a conclusiones.  Lo extraordinario (para mí, por esa coincidencia en la que no creo) es que el texto de Torrente Ballester incide de forma un tanto siniestra en la nota que redacté ayer para el blog, la llamada “Plata o plomo.”  En respuesta a una pregunta de Edwin Culp en los comentarios a esa nota, yo decía:  “Dado que no es posible eludir la opción plata o plomo, solo cabe encontrar una relación a ella. El abanico de opciones ofrece algo así como una fenomenología psíquica–desde la opción más abyecta, que es el sometimiento puro al imperativo llamémosle institucional, sin residuo, hasta la opción del que no quiere renunciar al propio deseo y pasa su vida tratando de encontrar resquicios de aire en lo abrumador del imperativo. Hay más de lo primero que de lo segundo, sobre todo porque sabemos que esa primera opción de sometimiento se camufla tantas veces bajo diversos disfraces. Vivir en lo segundo, en cambio, es difícil y doloroso y no siempre puede ejercitarse sin fracaso. Yo le llamaría a la primera opción Torquemada, mientras que la segunda sería la opción marrana. Entre ellas estamos todos.”  Lo que me resultó intrigante fue pensar qué posición ocupa don Enrique en esa fenomenología psíquica a partir de las siguientes palabras de Francisca al Juez instructor: “Nunca creí que Enrique pudiera alcanzar un sometimiento y una ceguera tales.  Su identificación con el Decano llegó al punto de no darse cuenta de que quien pensaba era él, y no el Decano.  El Decano era hombre agotado desde hace ya tiempo, pero mi marido no se dio cuenta.  Uno dejó de pensar, pero pensaba el otro” (113-14). 

Ese sometimiento auto-identificatorio de don Enrique parece colocar a don Enrique en una posición abiertamente torquemadesca.  Don Enrique, aun sin darse cuenta, canibaliza el cuerpo institucional hasta el vampirismo, aunque todavía no ha pasado las oposiciones a cátedra, o quizá justamente por ello.  Y es curiosamente esa autoidentificación extrema la que le llevará al presunto fracaso.  El Decano no puede sino reaccionar con violencia insólita e insólitamente autodestructiva ante la pretensión o la práctica excesiva de don Enrique, que ha conseguido engullir simbólicamente su pensar mismo: ya no piensa el Decano, solo don Enrique piensa.  Así, el Decano encarga a don Enrique, o eso dice don Enrique y corrobora Francisca, que le compre un poco de cianuro en la farmacia para matar a una rata, y se hace visitar por él la noche de autos, con la consecuencia de que don Enrique es la última persona de la que se sabe que vio al Decano, en cuyo estómago la autopsia encuentra cianuro, en vida.  La misma tarde del suceso el Decano le cuenta al Fraile su sospecha de que su asesinato es inminente.  Pero ¿es asesinato o suicidio?

Hay torquemadismo en don Enrique, consciente o no.  Las condiciones en la España de los años cuarenta no permitían demasiado marranismo activo.  Aunque quizá, desde otro punto de vista, el marranismo activo fuera precisamente todo lo permisible, lo únicamente permisible.  No sé si han cambiado tanto las cosas.  Don Enrique no podía permitirse la mínima disidencia intelectual o vital con respecto de su maestro y mentor, su protector institucional.  Y entonces elige la máxima identificación simbólica con él.  La pregunta que parece insinuar Torrente es entonces la de si esa máxima identificación simbólica no implica por lo tanto un marranismo también máximo y así máximamente denegado.   Ese marranismo podría entonces fácilmente evolucionar hasta el parricidio patente y grosero.   La investigación, por otro lado a cargo de un Juez y un Comisario de poca experiencia, este último, aunque alférez provisional, habiendo aprendido de las novelas policíacas que leía en el frente casi todo lo que sabe sobre homicidios y asesinatos, debe establecer si eso fue lo que pasó.  O si pasó alguna otra cosa.    

Todo tiene que ver con “unos papeles,” notas de escritura que el Decano le dice al Fraile haber mandado al archivo de la Academia de la Historia para que sean leídos solo veinte años después de su muerte.  “Entonces, usted supone que el Decano montó toda esta máquina complicada y confusa sólo para aniquilar intelectualmente al acusado” (179). El Decano quiere protegerse del robo de su propiedad intelectual–sus esbozos y notas de investigación, si es que eso es lo que son, demostrarían retrospectivamente el plagio indebido de cualquier impostor advenedizo, incluido el mismo don Enrique. “Algo referente a su pensamiento, así como un resumen.  Temía que se lo robasen. Pasados veinte años, al publicarse ese escrito, se vería que ciertas obras eran un plagio” (129).  El Decano, al final de sus posibilidades de pensamiento, en opinión de Francisca, encuentra fuerzas de flaqueza para pensar y tramar su propia vindicación póstuma.  Si es que es eso lo que está haciendo. 

La alternativa plata o plomo ya está insinuada en el intertexto, aunque de forma invertida.  El Decano, esa es su función, demanda y requiere sometimiento: plata o plomo.  Pero el excesivo sometimiento invierte la encrucijada.  Es ahora don Enrique el que le hace comer plomo al decano, prefigurado en la alarmante cena en Casa Ramallo, en la noche de autos del invierno gallego, en la que el Decano deglute dos raciones inmensas de empanada de lamprea (contra la ascética merluza cocida de don Enrique) sabiendo que le van a sentar como un tiro. 

Si es incapaz de demostrar su inocencia, don Enrique debe enfrentar cuarenta años en la cárcel de La Coruña.  ¿Es esa la intención oscura del Decano, que habría conseguido con ello la inversión de la inversión y así restituir la verdad primera de la alternativa plata o plomo?  Tu total sometimiento es falaz y marrano, rebelde, insumiso, diría el Decano, y pagarás por ello aunque yo también haya pagado con la pérdida de mi pensamiento por confiar en ti.  Más te hubiera valido ser un idiota abyecto.

Y eso así sería incluso si el Decano le dice la verdad al Fraile cuando le confiesa estar enamorado de Francisca.  Querer apropiarse de Francisca sería no más que una extensión de su prerrogativa, frustrada en este caso, y así sin duda ocasión de una terrible venganza.  Solo los Decanos tienen ese privilegio, contra todos nosotros.  Al menos este murió, justo antes de indigestarse de lamprea. 

Plata o plomo

Empezando a enseñar un curso sobre narco, y fijándome en la noción de “plata o plomo,” tan distinta de la opción más antigua, “la bolsa o la vida,” de la que habla Lacan.  Aparece desde las primeras lecturas del curso: en la versión nueva de Miss Bala de Catherine Hardwicke y en el libro de Sergio González El hombre sin cabeza.  Pero estará en todas o en casi todas las lecturas del curso.  Con “plata o plomo” la cuestión es: “entrégate o muere.”  Hay jouissance en la entrega, claro, pero también la hay en la muerte, esto es, en el “no.”  Eso es lo que los chicos del “lying flat movement” a la vez saben y todavía tienen que averiguar, y veremos cómo va. 

Mi pregunta es si es correcto pensar que “plata o plomo,” lema del mundo narco, es válido como alegoría general de la condición humana en el presente (quizá siempre, pero pensemos el presente de momento).  Sería una alegoría infrapolítica.  Por ejemplo, sin ir más lejos, el miedo general de los assistant professors a no recibir tenure los clava en una situación de la que muchos no salen ya jamás: internalizan el miedo, y encuadran su vida profesional en la pulsión de sometimiento.  Todo conformismo universitario es siempre ya de antemano consecuencia de un “plata o plomo” original.  La política empezaría entonces una vez hay un acomodo inmemorial con el “plata o plomo,” que es extendible, claro, a todos los trabajos asalariados.   En mi universidad esa estructura es tan visible que resulta imposible no verla.  Es explícita.  En Duke era menos visible pero quizás por ello todavía más insidiosa.  Las recompensas eran más obvias y así disimulaban mejor, o incluso exacerbaban, la violencia soterrada. 

El miedo–el miedo a que no nos reconozcan como suficientemente entregados, suficientemente listos a sacrificar nuestra libertad o nuestro deseo–es la condición bajo la que vivimos nuestra vida como ciudadanos productivos.  La reciente decisión de la legislatura texana sobre el aborto–el hecho de que a partir de ahora toda mujer que quiera un aborto puede ser denunciada por cualquier cazador de botines–es un síntoma significativo.  En ese sentido el mundo del narco es un espejo oscuro: nos devuelve una imagen de la existencia tal como es, contra las mistificaciones y las ilusiones de la existencia “legal.” 

¿Cómo vivir, entonces, una vez reconocemos que “plata o plomo” es el imperativo categórico real de nuestro presente?

A Subtractive Critique of Politics

It is sometimes said that infrapolitics is subtractive, and it is said as a critique–in other words, to be subtractive would be bad in the context of the necessary commitment to the onward march of history, the need to push forward in the name of the people, the vanguard representation of subaltern interests against their hijacking by capitalism, and so forth. But recent movements, still not particularly self-aware, still inchoate, such as what the New York Times recently called the “lying flat movement,” that is, a particular kind of work refusal connected to the experience of the COVID pandemic in the US, brings up the question “what if the people chose subtraction?” It is a simple question. I am not sure the contemporary conventional left is prepared even to hear it.

A recent book by Ian Moore, Eckhart, Heidegger, and the Imperative of Releasement (Albany: SUNY Press, 2019) brings the question home. The theme is Gelassenheit, that is, releasement, or in Spanish, dexamiento, which is the word chosen by the 16th century Spanish alumbrados to describe their practice. Dexamiento would be a fancy word to refer to the goals of the lying flat movement but, in my opinion, not an inadequate one. Dexamiento is very much a form of refusal, and it certainly is a subtractive critique of contemporary politics, including the participatory and representational politics of the left.

This note does not intend to be a review of Moore’s book. Only to notice that it exists, and that it is a great read. So I will limit myself to a very partial comment on a particular issue.

At the very end of the book, that is, before the three appendices, Moore makes the connection between Gelassenheit and death: “a matter of life and death,” he says (143). But, if the thought of releasement is a thought of death, and of life, it is so because it is connected to temporality, that is, to history as it conditions every one of us. Moore uses in this context the word “infra-historical.” He says that Heidegger, when engaged in Eckhartian thought, “tends toward a non-epochal or infra-historical sense of being” (141). I am not sure that is the case. This is the way I think about it:

It is politics, that is, the particular configuration of any given time, that determines, in every case and for whomever, their relation to history, not history that determines the relation to politics. Infrapolitics would then be the critical subtraction from the historical relations that impose a specific political framework. As a subtraction from historical relations (releasement is releasement from history and to an alternative form of life, to be found in the practice of releasement itself) infrapolitics is eminently historical, even if in the negative form of refusal.

If Gelassenheit, releasement, is a practical apriori, that is, an imperative dimension of thinking connected to a certain experience of death, linked to the ontological difference also because it refuses to think of death as a mere termination of productivity in the ontotheological sense, infrapolitics emerges as a necessary subtractive critique of politics not even in the name of justice, not even in the name of equality, rather in the name of what calls for thinking for any given epoch. What calls for thinking is historical, could never be otherwise than historical, but the response to it, rather than infrahistorical, would be infrapolitical.

The lying flat movement, the reference to slow time, the refusal of work and productivity under contemporary conditions, is a subtractive critique of politics absolutely conditioned by historical determinations. It is, as such, a thoroughly political, that is, a hyperpolitical movement. But of course one must have ears for it.

A Note on Fugitivity

The notion of “fugitivity,” which Fred Moten and Stefano Harney reconfigure in a positive sense in The Undercommons, must be anchored in a prior sense.  “Fugitive being” for Moten and Harney means its disentanglement from insistent hegemony, for the sake of a liberation.  But it seems to me there is a prior fugitivity, which is the fugitivity of insistence as such: the refusal to ex-sist, the absolute concern with in-sistence.  This could have been portrayed in the starkest terms with the Ethan character (John Wayne) in John Ford’s The Searchers.  Ethan is the in-sistent, his rage and tribal hatred, his obsession (which at the end redeems itself), are fugitive, they are fugitivity itself.  This is the fugitivity Moten and Harney invert, for the sake of freedom.  To be thought out is then the connection of primary or original fugitivity with the notion of revenge: such is Friedrich Nietzsche’s overwhelming concern.  At some point in the film Ethan tells the Reverend that he cannot swear himself in as a Texas Ranger, since there is only one oath given to any man, and he has already given his oath to the Confederate Army.  For Ethan this frames his essence as both fugitive and vengeful.  And he cannot escape (although at the end he does).  This final escaping, which no doubt Ford proposed as some kind of fantastic national allegory, is precisely a fugitivity from fugitivity, which I would argue is the one Moten and Harney propose (even if they never make it explicit.) There is a residual question, which is whether Moten and Harney’s inversion must still keep a reference to a national allegory of any kind, or whether for them any kind of national allegory is no more than in-sistent hegemony.