Treasure of the earth: on Elizabeth Sewell’s The Orphic voice: Poetry and Natural History (2022). by Gerardo Muñoz

Written at a time when the sciences of biological life were becoming fully integrated to technological and procedural social experimentation, Elizabeth Sewell’s 1960 The Orphic voice (nyrb, 2022) dared to pose the question of poetic myth as the mirror of scientific transformation of the modern world. Given that myth reopens the question of poetry and the natural world, for Sewell the modern exposure entails a profound misunderstanding: it is not that myth has eclipsed from the developments of scientific regime, but rather that science is incapable of absorbing it through its formal explorations in a system of subdivisions, classifications, and applicabilities. But for Sewell, it is myth itself that conditions scientific activity, providing ground for the discovery of situations and play in the world of forms. In other words, it is the persistence of myth in biological imagination the real forgotten path in the crisis of the transmission of tradition in a world aligned by the movement of scientific objectivity. For Sewell’s understanding of myth, there is no positive dialectical movement between myth and calculative rationality; rather, myth is what stands for the irreducibility of life in the cosmos. It is the very mystery of the anthropogenesis of creation as pure metamorphosis of forms. Why Orpheus, then? For Sewell, the orphic figure becomes “myth as a living thought and the very type of thought in action, and for all those other self-reflecting forms; for the human organism as an indivisible whole trying to understand itself….for biology reflection on the whole span of life in which thinking man appears as the last enigmatic development” (41). Orphism is the natural prehistory of becoming. This implies nothing less than reminding modern science of its “mistaken mythology”; as it is poetry – not mathematics or a scientific theory of language – the proper site for the adventure of life.

The strange career of orphism in the modern age is one of struggle, according to Sewell. A “struggle” that accounts for change, process, organism, and life” in an epoch that thinks of itself as definite and irreversible; completing the demythologization of the old gods and the ultimate achievement of secularization. Unlike for Oskar Goldberg for whom the civilizational regime of fixation of humanity is a matter of thousands of years (at least since Cain); for Sewell it has only bern a couple of centuries that has led to an esoteric experimentation with natural history in the wake of his postmythical substitution. At bottom, her task is to bring together, once and for all, the voice of Orpheus and “natural history and poetry, had not parted company and it only remains to try to bring them, after their long and wintry estrangement, back to one another” (48). This is the central task of the modern poet, Sewell seems to tell us: to wrestle the potentiality of myth to craft the a “model of thought” that transfigures the logical framework of rational thought into a “flexible and plastic” (beweglich und bildsam) play between form and formlessness that becomes inalienable from the metamorphosis of nature. This does not mean that all modern poets are orphic; and, I am not sure that Sewell will go as far as to accept that all orphism comes in the form of poetry (this will be of scarce persuasion). What the Orphic voices are saying “is that the poet and his world is part of natural history…it is postlogic” (153). The postlogic stands a tenuous and loose term to avoid the supreme autonomy of reason of scientific modernity. Rather than a tool to understand the causation of natural processes, or a set of artificial strategies for representation, the postlogical poetics is the music of a world as being transformed through experience and immersion. It is no doubt strange that Sewell calls postlogical method to account for the permanent overflowing of the orphic voice; although it becomes clear that she wants to think of it as a utensil inseparable from the form that it makes. In other words, the “method” stands for the possibilities of use through the attunement with worldly phenomena. Postlogical method wants to give substance to how well we construct and tailor the potent infinity of form. As Sewell writes: “The method, the lute strung with the poet sings, consists in the use of the self, and mind, heart ,as well as intelligence, as an instrument of wider interpretation, with language assisting in the process” (168).

The free use of one’s own is surely the hardest task for the poet, as we already know from Hölderlin who grasped the crisis at the outset of Romantic modernity. The capacities of the orphic poet wants to wrestle the force of expression from the stage of history into the methodology of forms. This is what Sewell reads positively in Goethe’s Urworte and Urpflanze as the “methodology of transformations…the key to all the signs in nature” (274). It is noteworthy that Sewell does feel the need to revise Hölderlin’s poetological attempt at the insufficiency of the tragic poet embedded in the play of Empedocles mediation between the material craft of art and the aorgic excess of nature. And it is too bad that she does not (alas, Hölderlin remains the missing key for many of these problems). But it might be that for Sewell the orphic voice is not a transfigurative element, but rather the acoustic composition of the play between creation and decreation. In this sense, the bios orphikos is, not merely of this world, but also the immemorial journey to the infraworld sidestepping tragic overflowing. It is very late in her book that Sewell defines this pathways that transcends all form and contours of scientific vitality:

“The origins of all our bodily and mental powers are in an exact sense with the dead, in heredity and tradition; thus the dead are not wholly dead here within the living body. The heart and the center of the kingdom of the dead to which Orpheus goes in search of Eurydice is also the penetralia of the individual human life which pulsates and thinks…Anthropology suggest that the labyrinth of primitive man, the maze emblem and the real mazes of the caves, were capable also of being the body, and the site of a journey between the two worlds of living and dead. The orphic search here goes past Orpheus back into immemorial antiquity.” (326-327). 

Immemorial antiquity – these are the wonderful markers of everything that Sewell’s book does not accomplish or flesh out in its voluminous 400 plus plages. But, it is only at this point that we are capable of understanding that what Sewell calls “biological thinking” has nothing to do with the basic mental capacities that dispenses the anthropological density of the modern reserve to self-assertion (in Blumenberg’s unsurpassed definition), and everything with a tradition of the immemorial that is creation’s most intense point of bifurcation between the living and the dead. The passage to this region becomes testament to the validity of one’s experience. This is also why the orphic voice cuts through the the subdivision of the polis and the modern autonomy of art; as it takes life through the fleeting instance of the freedom of forms in its non dependency with historical necessity and domestication, as Gianni Carchia lucidly reminded us [1].

The orphic immemorial will not appeal to a morality of nature based on its fictive aura of normative order, but rather, it will supply the potentiality of the taking place of language. Hence, it is no surprise that the taking place of the voice (its postlogical status) lifts the human outside of itself, at the same time that it retains its most absolute nearness to the symbolic strata of myth. Commenting on Wordsworth, Sewell writes: “…the first provisional conclusion on method in the poem: that each language is a treasure of the earth but that poetry is the more valuable (as if our word, postlogic, might here receive additional justification)” (358-359). The voice has never been an organ or a specific faculty that belongs properly to the human; it is the passage between humanity and its constitutive exteriority in the world. Like the harmony of the spheres, the voice registers tone in the wake of the impossibility of communicating in the murky waters of physis.

If at the turn of the century Aby Warburg had shown how modern technical civilization had ended up soaking the mythical force of the serpent from the stormy sky of the Pueblo Indians (and thus the luminous space of contemplation of man in the cosmos); Sewell’s extremely idiosyncratic essay shows, between lines and amidst rhetorical inflation, that the echoes of the mythic imagination are still an integral part of the sliding amore fati, whose “aim is the discovery of the world” (405) [2]. The lesson in our epoch becomes easily adapted: the ethical standard does not prove itself by appealing to norms and substitute fictive authorities, but rather in terms of how well one is able to attend to the incoming vibrations of forms. One can even go as far as contradict Sewell post factum and say that this is no longer a request to be made on science, which has fully ascended to the place of prima philosophia as prima politica. So, it is perhaps love (that figures so poorly in Sewell’s book in relation to the centrality of cerebral intelligence, barely making an appearance in the very last page) the symbol of the highest riches transfiguring myth into a voice that outlives the specter of humanity and the futility of the machine. If orphism means anything, it is that the voice implies withdrawing from the cacophony of a world that has imprisoned the living in the blistering entertainment of their own wrongdoing. “Flebile lingua murmurat exanimis”, signs Ovid — right, but who is still able to listen?




1. Gianni Carchia. Orfismo e tragedia: Il mito trasfigurato (Quodlibet, 2019), 

2. Aby Warburg. “A lecture on Serpent Ritual”, Journal of the Warburg Institute, April 1939, 292. 

Can holistic politics do the heavy lifting? On Michalis Lianos’ Direct Democracy: The Change Towards Holistic Politics (2022). by Gerardo Muñoz

Michalis Lianos’ Direct Democracy: The Change Towards Holistic Politics (2022) defines itself as a social manifesto to confront the transformation of the nature of political power, public institutions, and the tradition of political representation inherited from the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. This is something that Michalis Lianos – one of the most interesting sociologists of social control of his generation – had already alluded to in his writing during the cycle of revolts of the Yellow Vests in France [1]. In more than one way, Direct Democracy: The Change Towards Holistic Politics (2022) is an expansion of this intuition; although, unlike most manifestos, the book does not take up the tone of denunciation and rupture, but rather of extreme prudence to construct and adequate itself to the complexity of our contemporary societies to a new regime of power distribution and individual empowerment. The total political alienation from public deliberation and participation is, according to Lianos, what stands in the way of people’s common interests. Institutions, political parties, the formalist separation of powers, and the legislative bodies (now in the hands of administrative agencies and corporate firms) have been radically disconnected from people’s lives to the point of becoming endogamic in its practices of decision making and public governance.

No one today can doubt the univocal distrust on all things political (a sentiment dating back to the Romantic age if we are to believe Carl Schmitt) which reminds us that the most interesting social insurrections in recent times have been against the democratic neutralization of the specific metropolitan and capital organization of administrative power. In the face of this schism, Lianos proposes a move towards direct democracy that can short circuit these institutional actors and partisan interests in order to revitalize people’s empowerment. The realization of direct democracy presupposes – and this Lianos’ propositional reinvention of the unity of politics – what he terms a new ‘Holistic Politics”, which he understands as a new civic attitude and a culture between citizens in a “holistic away, as a whole” (Lianos 2022, 2). The aim is to empower and lower public and private decision making at the scale of people’s life consistent with “social trust as the key for a happy collective life” (Lianos 2022, 3). The operative notion of Holistic Politics is, then, both a model of institutional design through the problem of scale; and, at the same time, a reassessment of the epistemological grounds of social action. In other words, for Lianos Holistic Politics should not be oriented towards putting the right answers in any social project, but rather to “ask society the right questions each time” (Lianos 2022, 9). We presume that what is “right” in the “right questions” point to an existential need of the whole, since given the plasticity of Holistic Politics, it cannot appeal directly to neither social facts (since these are always changing) nor a stable legislative agenda of higher representatives (there are inexistent for direct democracy). Regardless of these specificities, Holistic Politics does impose a need that the direct democracy will demand a greatest individual and community participation on fundamental issues raised by the social assembly list of objectives as raised by anyone in the community.

Lianos defines the problem of mitigating social issues within the framework of Holistic Politics in this way: “Holistic Politics recognizes that the most basic political process is the equal right of anyone to put forward issues for discussion and decision. So it is constantly vigilant to ensure, with specific measures that wherever exercises power is required to give answers as to the issues and priorities raised but never to ask the questions or influence how they are put. Issues are raised and ranked in order by the citizens themselves” (Lianos 2022, 15). Lianos is aware that every form of established institutional behavior ends up becoming a social habit (it has what some political scientists called, at least years back, “institutional stickiness”) , and this is why rules for immersion in social interaction must change on a regular basis (Lianos 2022, 17). It is true that rules are the infrastructure to limit social actions (this is, in fact, its unlimited possibilities); although, it begs to ask to what extent the regular change of social rules do not become in itself a habit within the very logic of exchange that defines structurally the social. To put it in different terms, it is insufficient to think, as Lianos does, that capitalism is a concentration of all entities into money form; rather, it is because there is an anterior civil form of exchange that the problem of value always emerges as an indirect force against the unit of the political (Lianos 2022, 21). If one changes the lens from strict capitalist exchange to the problem of value, then it becomes clear that what first appears as an alteration of rules in social facts could, potentially, constitute itself as an aleatory imposition of values, where the “happy life” of some could amount to the valorized “hellish life” of others. Holistic Politics in the same way that it does not say anything about values, it remains silent about the problem of institutions, even though institutions are far from being part of the stagnation of representative democracy that Lianos wants to surpass.

The central question for Holistic Politics is whether it can do the heavy lifting that it promises to accomplish. Can Holistic Politics really open up a way out of the current poverty of the species in the wake of social and civilizational collapse? Lianos seems to be aware of this question if only in passing, as he writes on the subdivision on “Foreigners”: “Holistic Politics is an approach for the entire human species at its present stage of development” (Lianos 2022, 41). This ‘present stage of development’ of the human species remains largely unqualified, and Lianos takes the route of geopolitics and the necessity to overcome the classical separation of powers. But to the extent that we are taking recourse to the human species, there is a fundamental topological and territorial dimension that we are sidestepping too quickly. At bottom the human species is a creature that steps on the Earth crust, and which today have been designated in relation (whether included or excluded) to the metropolitan regime of concentrated and amalgamated reserves for production and consumption [2]. We can say that this is the last expression of civil nihilism: the capability of putting to work; or rather, of the power to put into energy certain elements in any given structure of exchange. And we are barely raising the question here that lingers from Lianos’ assumption. It suffices to say that the spatial composition of the human species today is erased from Lianos’ Holistic Politics, which is raises enormous doubts as to whether a social assembly, the rotation of social rules, and the redesigning of democratic voting can really do the heavy lifting for what is required for this “moment” of the human species. If this is so, then Lianos’s Direct Democracy has not moved past the Atlantic republicanist tradition that placed voting and participation at heart of the democratic polity (this is the heart of the Federalist, as Sanford Levison argued a few years ago). Holistic Politics in this outlook is probably the last residue of modern politics now grafted into the regime of social organization. But we would like to be as precise as possible about this affirmation.

Towards the end of the manifesto Michalis Lianos argues that Holistic Politics brings the individual and society face to face (Lianos 2022, 114). But if this is endgame of Holistic Politics it is also where we found ourselves in the gridlock of social denomination as an extensive (and intensive) regime of adaptation; of forever changing norms, of arbitrary rule making and rule erecting, and governing through contingent situation through the balancing of cost and benefit rationality of social cohesion. In this sense, the conception of the “overall point of view of the social experience” can describe the social composition, but it cannot transcend, as alteration and changing based on needs and values is already folded within it (Lianos 2022, 90). I take it that something analogous could be said of the problem of equity and proportionality in relation to adjudication and the rule of law in the paradigm of Holistic Politics, since what has triumphed in advanced societies of the West is not the fossilized conception of the separation of powers and the empire of judges and courts, but rather the expansion of equity and balancing of principles based on a cost & benefit rationalization to adjust and transform always already mutating social facts (Lianos 2022, 105).

Insofar as it is committed to the primacy of principles of equity and balancing, Holistic Politics does not breach the current framework of value distribution for specific ends of social reproduction (Lianos might say that his ends are better and stronger since he has done away with political representation, but we are also aware that there is an autonomy of value that can be operative on the borders of the political, in fact, it no longer depends on the political unit). There is an interesting discussion by Lianos on the question of failure and social expectations in Holistic Politics – to take up failure beyond the economic penalties and social mortification of the current neoliberal regime – that open up new possibilities only insofar as we move then from and against the infrastructure of the civil exchange principle for social action. Perhaps the realism that Direct Democracy (2022) appeals to has also something to tell us here, since the current collapse of the social regime is one in which failure is abundant, regularly optimized, and rendered productive through forms that accrue greater and intensive force of valorization. But can the irruption of failure in Holistic Politics be taken as a hole within the scheme of valorization? Perhaps it is in this schism where the question of the present stage of the human-species and a politics of experience can be posited against the grain of total social subsumption. The task of a different democratic imagination should depart from this void.




1. Michalis Lianos. “La política experiencial o los chalecos amarillos como pueblo”, traducción & introducción por Gerardo Muñoz, eldiario, Noviembre 2019:

2. Amadeo Bordiga. The Human Species and the Earth’s Crust (Pattern Books, 2020), 30-31. 

Police and Schools: two vectors of American civility. by Gerardo Muñoz

The conservative journalist David French has recently reported an interesting empirical fact about the social reality in the United States: according to a recent Gallup survey that measures public confidence in American public institutions, there are two institutions defended and discredited by both left and right: those on the conservative right expressed confidence in the police (about 70% or so), and those on the progressive left expressed confidence in schools and higher education (about the same percentage). This is an interesting fact only for the reason that it reveals with immense clarity – very much against French’s political idealism of overcoming the caesura – the two effective vectors of American civil society: police and schooling. In fact, aside from their divergent emphasis, progressives and conservatives agree fundamentally that policing and schooling are the indispensable elements in this moment of civil society. Let’s call it the “high modernist moment of the metropolis”.

This is why to any attentive observer of American reality, police and schooling are so intertwined and mingled with each other that it becomes impossible to separate them, and not just because there is police presence on university campuses or because the police articulates a discourse of “community” and educational instruction in their daily practice. Police and Schools are two vectors in the structure of civil society in the wake of the collapse of modern politics. In other words, what emerges after the end of politics in America is the intersection between police and school as two intersecting poles that sustain, nurture, and reproduce the axiomatic organization of civil society.

The zone of convergence of police and school is culture. Now culture should not be understood as symbolic distribution of mass consumption and public goods, but more specifically as a flexible regime of adaptation whose proper end is the optimization of the civil order. Hence, the fascination and continuous arousal of “cultural battles” in the public spheres is nothing but empty chatter of the same end: the acceleration of techniques and symbolic amalgamations in a social roundup of self-governance. When Sir Ernest Barker defined the necessity of civility as the precondition of the commonwealth, he took for granted that culture was meant to maximize singular character and conduct [1]. On the contrary, today the maximization of culture presupposes a paideia that revokes every character in the name of a flattening conduct that must be adaptive to the ends of abstract civil organization of values. If civility for Barker was condensed in the figure of the “gentleman”, in contemporary America, the figure is the nowhereman: an all-capable human-species that must adapt to the latest marching order and its temporal justifications. In this context, the police and school are elevated from social institutions to productive vectors of civil cohabitation.

It is still striking today to read what theologian Karl Barth wrote in 1928: “In paradise there were no schools and no police. Similarly, and in view of its intensity we must say specifically there was no gentleman unseen, and all the more penetrating “they” of costumes” [2]. And for Barth, it is only in the wake of Romanticism – in this way confirming Gianni Carchia’s important thesis about the consolidation of a subjective romantic modernity – that the police and the school was unleashed against every costume and against everything that stood in its way. Social abstraction is incapable of grasping this stealth transformation. And it cannot see it due to the fact that romantic civility offers, in return, a fundamental oblivion: eternal security within a hellish reality. All things considered, this is also why the United States remains the beacon of endless optimism – while being a deadly playground. The vectors of policing and schooling grammar of force expulses any possible ethical notion of paradisal life.




1. Ernest Barker. Traditions of Civility (Cambridge University Press, 1948), 137.

2. Karl Barth. Ethics (Wipf and Stock, 2013), 390.

Barbarism and Religion: Rome and the civil concept. Introduction for a seminar. by Gerardo Muñoz

Thomas Hobbes famously wrote towards the end of Leviathan that “Papacy is no other than the Ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof” (Hobbes 1985). The long shadow casted by the Roman political tradition, however, is still peripheral to the current debates on secularization and political theology, and even in the most sophisticated analysis of the emergence of the fragmented public powers of the twelve century (Bisson 2015). In this seminar (one in a series of three) we will study the relation between Rome and the emergence of political modernity by attending to the multi-volume series Barbarism and Religion (1999-2015) authored by the Cambridge School historian J.G.A. Pocock, who has arguably undertaken the most serious attempt to provide an answer (however incomplete) regarding the passage between Rome and our modern political foundations.

Through a mannerist and highly idiosyncratic reconstruction of Edward Gibbon’s magnum opus, Pocock draws a large canvas of the Roman metapolitics, shedding light on the ongoing process of economic constitution and mutation. In this first seminar we will attend to the first two volumes of the series attending to the “civil” concept as an operative mediation of public order. Our wager is that the civil is at the crossroads in the ongoing crisis of authority and global civil war. Indeed, we tend to forget that the civil is operative in the notion of “civil war” used to describe the exhaustion of institutional and political forms.

Secondly, although we will consider the historiographical and conceptual constructions in Barbarism and Religion, the main focus of the seminar is to furnish an original understanding of the civil dimension from Rome to the modern legitimization of the political. In this sense we ask: to what extent does the concept of the civil discloses a specific genealogy from the decline of Rome and into the modern state? If so, how can one understand the polarity between barbarism and imperium (politics) as the two vectors of modern imagination about public order and the rule of law? And more ambitiously: can one mobilize (departing from Pocock’s historiographical project) the concept of the civil as a historical a priori – as the historical excess to every concept (Cooper 2022) – situated in the intersections of public law, modern commerce, and the rise of the state? What accounts for the event of the civil?

Getting ahead of ourselves, Pocock writes in the last volume of his series: “…so long powerful at the meeting point of imperium and barbaricum, who after defeat became the semi-autonomous subjects of the new kingdom. This is a moment in world history” (Pocock 2015). All things considered, this seminar looks to understand “this moment” in a present in which the civil has resurfaced as the principle of a total encompassing barbarism in the wake of the flaring up of Western civilization. If after concluding the six volume series we are capable of saying something to this end, we would have found ourselves lucky.

Three comments on Michele Spanò’s lecture on patrimony as a legal institution. by Gerardo Muñoz

One of the most illuminating talks at a recent workshop at Kingston University (hosted by the Centre for Modern in Modern European Thought) on institution, legal philosophy, and political thought, was Michele Spanò’s archaeology of the institution of patrimony entitled “Patrimony and the Legal Institution of Subjectivity”. Spanò’s work for some of us has been of extreme importance in thinking about roman law, the historical school of the German legal tradition, as well as the work of Yan Thomas whom he has edited and translated for Quodlibet. Although Spanò’s lecture was based primary on notes and part of a larger project on the ‘invention of subjective rights’, it made a few transitions that thematized the legal infrastructure of property that will be perhaps fundamental to understand, and radically transform, the problem of political economy and the logic of the capital coding that Katharina Pistor has recently explored in our post-sovereign present (I have discussed some aspects of imperial coding of capital here). But it is in the invention of “patrimony” in Roman law, where for Spanò a new epochal conception between things, persons, and reality (-res) was established as a relational matrix that he termined, following the Italian legal philosopher Riccardo Orestano, a conception of law without a subject [1]. This infrastructure of a relation without a central subject of authority – a problem too complex to analyze in this simple side note – revises and displaces the more modernist-style discussion on natural law and positive law, but also intra-conceptual determinations such as the subjects and the impersonal, between rights and obligations, which are part of the long dure Roman-modern matrix of the patrimonial foundation. For me there were at least three important elements that derive from Michele Spanò’s work, which I will leave here for some future elaboration in upcoming writing project on the problem of patrimonial and civil as roman categories of modern juristic-political thought and the American context.

1. The relationality or nexus of the conception of the patrimony (a. every person has a patrimony, b. all patrimony belongs to a person, c. there is a relation between obligation and patrimony) is an early form of exchange value; in fact, it is the equivalent structure that designs the total apparatus of social reproduction and the passage from the polis to the domus (housing / domestication). In this sense, Roman law of patrimony is not about substance or morality, but about the circulation, organization, and exchange of metaphoric value codified. This ensemble appears very similar to what will later be Ernesto Laclau’s theory of hegemony. If this is so, then hegemony is not about political “articulation”, but rather its “politics” is a mere veneer for a spectral patrimony. There is no patrimony without the work of hegemony, and the form of hegemony is a reduction of value that keeps it off from the autonomy of the political. In this light, it makes sense that even a Marxist political economist like former Vice-President of Bolivia, Álvaro García Linera, understood statecraft as the development of and from “patrimonialism”, which entailed necessarily the devastation of the ecological life world [2]. The patrimonial form will ultimately transform the exteriority of the natural world into an object at the service of value.

2. Spanò offered a typology of patrimony in two phases: a. For whom is the patrimony (the personalist type), and b. For what (the functionalist type). In a certain sense, we are now in a term phase of legal adjudication: c. what are the costs and benefits of the management of a patrimony? This entails the logistics of ‘creative destruction’ (Schumpeter) into the very interiority of the legal rationality based on balancing and equity functions. For the paradigm of the cost & benefit equity the problem is no longer posed as a question of function or proprietary, but rather of thorough administration and optimization: to what extent can the risk and security of a patrimony can render X costs in relation to Y benefits of Z of the social body? Here the abstraction of the regulation of patrimony coincides fully with the domination of the social space into the juridical logistics. The distinction between private and public law spheres of the European legal traditions (ius commune and Common Law) collapses. As we have suggested in recent investigations, this collapse today is expressed on the rise of administrative law as a restituted Lex Regia.

3. Finally, the collapse implies a chiasmatic movement in the history of the archaeology of Western domination: Roman law and modern positivist law, subject and object, production of rationality and extraction of resources for production of life, the limitations of Roman Law on property and Canon Law on statutes and morality. If medieval canon law of the Church was quenched in the wells of Roman Law, then the question regarding the modern state (its presuppositions, its conditions, crisis, and collapse) amounts to the problem of institution of patrimony as a regulatory of principle of rationality and network of the legislation between spheres (legality, economic, political, rational, instrumental, etc). If there is something to be today against and beyond “hegemony” (no longer an index of politics or culture), then the problem of the patrimonial framework must be understood as a juridical-economic paradigm in which “politics” is incapable of responding to. On the contrary, it could well be that the crisis of politics is an effect of this complex archaeology that, for some of us, Spanò’s work has already started to grasp in light of the return of ‘principles’ for social maintenance.




1. Riccardo Orestano. “Diritti soggettivi e diritti senza soggetto”, Jus: Rivista di Scienze Giuridiche, 2, 1960.

2. Alvaro García Linera. Geopolítica de la Amazonía: Poder hacendal-Patrimonial y acumulación capitalista (Vicepresidencia del Estado de Bolivia, 2013).

The regime of adaptation. by Gerardo Muñoz

The collapse of the categorial and formal mediations proper to the foundations of modern politics open up a regime of adaptation as optimized administration. In a concrete sense the well-known Böckenförde formula comes to a closure as it is realized: the liberal secularized state draws its life from preconditions it can no longer guarantee. The fulfillment of secularization entails, paradoxically, a re-theologization of the separation between the species and the experience of the world already leaving behind the temporality of the saeculum. It is no coincidence that three excellent new books recently published and discussed – Conspiracionist Manifiesto (2022), The Politics of Immortality (2022) by Marten Björk, and Adapt! A New Political Imperative (2022) by Barbara Stiegler – share a common thread: the emergence of the regulatory system of adaptation in the wake of the end of political liberalism.

In other words, the marginalization of the logic of representation, the erasure of institutional mediations, and the depolitization of life (which also entails that everything becomes measurable to the value of the political) entails the intensification of a process of abstraction that is deployed on the surround of the human species itself, increasingly optimized given the contingent transformations and irruptions. The Conspiracionist Manifiesto goes as far as to claim that the current articulation of domination should be understood as a full restitution of the nineteenth century project of positivism as the integration of science and life. Comte and his followers, in fact, thought of positivism as a world religion concerning the reproduction of life whose aim was the general crafting of society as an plastic integral organism.

The acceleration of adaptation presupposes the triumph of immanence that was already exerting its force as an indirect power in the nineteenth century drift by romantic subjectivism and expansion of conditions for action in civil society. In the regime of adaptation, the realization of action, devoid of institutional justified reasons, becomes allocated in the processes of production fitted to the incessant demand for adaptation. It is obvious that the acceleration of immanence – first expressed in the subject’s will to power and now folded into the willing slave of adaptation – has intensified in the last years or so, coinciding with the pandemic event and the generic systematization of health understood as a set of coping techniques of behavior.

Already in the 1990s, in an unpublished lecture in Hannover, Ivan Illich described adaptation as an systematization of health: “Adaptation to the misanthropic genetic, climatic, chemical and cultural consequences of growth is now described as health. Neither the Galenic-Hippocratic representations of a humoral balance, nor the Enlightenment utopia of a right to “health and happiness”, nor any Vedic or Chinese concepts of well-being have anything to do with survival in a technical system” [1].

Insofar as it is concerned with the captive reproduction of life, the regime of adaptation puts to rest any believe in positive biopolitics or the community as exception to the social. Yes, this includes even the “community of friends” that Carlo Michelsteader, in his Il dialogo della salute thought as too much of a rhetorical illusion predicated on the exclusion of suffering and death: “In the friendly communities that emerge in light of common vanity, every one lives thanks to the death of those outside the community” [2]. In short, the regime of adaptation solicits nothing else than the task of coming to terms with the principle of the civil (truly the condition of state’s authority), which in even as far as in Roman law made possible the extraneous movement of the subjectum iuris as total equivalence. The predicament of the regime of adaptation – and its irreversible apparatus of administrative law – obliges us to imagine something other than civility (the principle from the Roman Empire to the modern to put it in Cooper Francis’ terms) but without sidestepping into the barbarism of ergonomic processes that are now at the center of what is understood as life. Barbarism and civility’s straight line now bends towards adaptation.




1. Ivan Illich. “Health as one’s own responsibility. No, thank you!”, Speech given in Hannover, Germany, September, 1990.

2. Carlo Michelstaedter. Il dialogo della salute e altri dialoghi (Adelphi, 1988).

On the dispensation machine. On Monica Ferrando’s L’elezione e la sua ombra: Il cantico tradito (2022). by Gerardo Muñoz

Monica Ferrando’s short but dense book L’elezione e la sua ombra: Il cantico tradito (Neri Pozza, 2022) refines our understanding of the secularization debate in the wake of the epochal crisis of modernity and planetary domination. For Ferrando this current domination is rooted in a specific retheologization that must be grasped at face value, no abstractions allowed. The force of theological domination, which has become a proper religious imperialism, expresses itself as a true corruptio optimi pessima, which Ferrando locates in a very precise intersection: the passage from the suppression of dilectio to an instrumental manifestation of electio that will culminate in the unleashed power to dominate not only the relation with the world, but the very existence of the species. If the Ancient covenant of early Judaism was a prophetic covenant with God, the force of predestination will suppress the mysterious relationship of blessed life to render a “selective process” of theological election [1]. It is only with the rise Protestantism, and Luther’s specific hermeneutical efforts to neutralize the messianic message of Paul’s Letters to Romans that election becomes the paradigm of a new government of the soul in this world, which will ultimately find its material legitimacy with the advent of the reproductive logic of capital. Implicitly building on the thesis of economic theology, for Ferrando the advent of the machine of election materializes in the theological reform that translates the universal salvation of the prophecy into a never before seen economy of the dispensing grace through wealth retribution for human labor [2].

The reformation based on dispensation (oikonomia) differed fundamentally from the Church’s idea of change rooted in the ius reformandi. As Gerhart Ladner shows, if the “idea of reform” up until modernity presupposed periods of spiritual reform through monastic experience in relation to wordly profane time, the apparatus of dispensation of election was oriented at securing an integral government rationality combining law, economy and subjective production without reminder [3]. In this light, the operation of the dispensation paradigm is twofold: on the one hand, it promotes an anti-Judaic operation of reducing Jews to a people of this world that will ultimately will be identified with political Zionism; and, on the other, it dismisses the coming of Christ as worthless, and in the best case as merely postponed [4]. For a reformed theologian like Karl Barth – at odds with the economic evangelism that ultimately triumphed in the United States and that now it extends across the global – there was only a ‘great dispensation’ putting end to the abstraction of value and the homogeneity of the time of production [5]. But more importantly for Ferrando, the triumph of the dispensatory paradigm entails a new fundamentalism of judgement based on “election” (in the broadest sense of value equity and competition) will appear as the only immanent force capable of considering every other religion and confession exterior to itself as “merely pagan and idolatrous” [6]. It would amount to the triumph of the self-made ‘gentleman’ over the outward message of Paul.

The dominance of dispensation meant a full convergence between salvation and profane economic life that will bring exteriority into a crisis in the deepest sense. This is why for the reformist mentality, its own modern image initiates the epoch of irreversibility; that is, the pure historical progress guided by the will of election and the work of grace as an exception to universal salvation. If the modern reform has been at times understood as the new regime of social pluralism and system of indirect separations (between Church and State, civil society and religion, the public and the private, etc) for Ferrando it is on the side of the theological presupposition where its most terrifying arcanum must be found: a dispensational theology whose main unity is the recurrent intrusion, training, modification, and discipline of the forum internum, that is, the administration of the consciousness of man. Whereas the felix culpa allowed for the mystery of repentance and universal salvation; the political meditation of election through accumulation and economic benefits will legitimize the new discourse on toleration, “liberty”, and even democracy as the distribution of surplus value. In this sense, Liberalism (with Locke and other thinkers of the English and Scottish Enlightenments) was born, as later understood by Carl Schmitt, with the structural weakness of “individual freedom” and maximized autonomy that will require the expanding checks of police and governmental penalties to cope with the production of effects. Of course, every deviation or movement that could put a halt to the fiction of election will find itself on the side of illegality, or turned into a remnant of a surreptitious past that must be overcome at all costs. This implied, as Ferrando reminds us, nothing less than a novel modification of the anthropogenesis of the human species.

It is one of Ferrando’s most daring and surprising tasks to show how the machine of election does not merely occupy the economic-political sphere, but that it will eventually also imply an aesthetic imperative in Northern European culture; specifically with the rise of German romantic response to the crisis of the Enlightenment and the question of “classicism” of the classical Greece. If according to Gianni Carchia the aesthetic dimension of modernity should be read as a compensatory answer to the futility of the romantic revolution in subjectivity; Ferrando’s complementation to the thesis brilliantly shows how this attempt was meant to fail at its original ground due to the mimetic appropriation and metaphorization of the Greek historical past in the aesthetics program of Winckleman and German Idealism (with the exception of Hölderlin’s fugitive position) [7]. The mimetic “hellenization” of German romanticism and its posterior afterlives (one thinks of the Stefan George Circle, and Max Kommerell’s Der Dichter als Führer) gave birth to a notion of “culture” that hinged upon the separation of the aesthetic and the religious spheres that had to sacrifice the appearance of beauty in order to attest for the dialectics of objective and subjective forms of the “Spirit”, and thus leading to the triumph of the grotesque and the aesthetic imperative of uniformity and museification. For Ferrando the German spirit of genialismus had as a mission the overcoming Latin, Mediterranean and Mesopotamian forms of life where the distinction between beauty and life never understood itself as a “culture” or objective project of enlightened intellectuals and artists on the mission to transform the contingency of poesis into the realization of the Idea [8].

Displacing this aesthetic dimension to the present, for Ferrando the intrinsic disconnect between appearance and substance of art’s truth emerges today in the predominant social morality of today’s global bourgeoisie: hypocrisy. It is in hypocrisy where today one can see the inflationary hegemony of discourse over the true organization of life that is proper to the dominant metropolitan class of the West, and its maddening obsession with identity politics or “race” oriented discourse as a moral inquisitorial abstraction (it is in this process that the notion of election appears in the least expected of places: sky color, language use, demands for inclusivity, and hyperconscious towards an invented past). The work of hypocrisy, in fact, appears as a secularized form of the dispensation paradigm that aims to normalize and domesticate every form of life that challenges its specular regime. This is why according to Ferrando – and I do not think she is incorrect in saying so – the possibility of art (especially that of “painting”), as the undisclosed of truth will disappear from human experience, as it has no place in the moral functionalism of ‘contemporary art’ nor in the discursive struggle over global communication and opinion battles (the so-called ‘cultural wars’) [9]. The aesthetic museification of the world liquidates the possibility of art’s truth. Paradoxically, in this new scenario everyone must declare himself “an artist” of their own emptiness: the nowhere men that stroll in the works of Robert Walser or Franz Kafka – who never declared themselves to be anything – in our present are flipped on their heads becoming informers of the regime of a universal politics of recognition and moral judgement [10]. These ‘bloomesque figures’ confirms in the last epochal dispensation of the Reformist revolution that the premises of subjective freedom, economic gain, and autonomy of value have culminated in a new aesthetic imperialism that is anthropological and rooted in the triumphant religion of immanence and the sacralization of ultimate values. The endgame has been dispensed in the creation of a “new man” through the sacrifice of every exteriority in man, that is, of the invisibility outside the fiction of his personality.

The paradigm that Ferrando is describing vis-a-vis the operative force of “election” is also one of profound irony, since the mechanism of predestination and election, by betraying prophetic dilectio (love), the “free election” of the moderns entails that everything can be elected at the expense of losing dilectio: the only path towards the mystery of life. This is what the epoch of irreversibility and the arrogance of historical progress has foreclosed and it is incapable of considering. But for Ferrando life remains an ethics, which she links to Eros, whose appeal to the law of the heart is neither religious nor political, but rather an instance to the disclosure of truth. As she beautifully writes towards the end of L’ elezione e la sua ombra (2022): “Occorre osservare che qui si tocca una sorta di grado zero teologico, che scivola nel mero «biologico» solo a patto di esautorare la sapienza della madre o, detto altrimenti, la sapienza come madre, custode di una legge non scritta, di un nomos del cuore, che non necessita di alcun mandato esterno per esercitare la conoscenza che gli è propria. Si apre insomma quello spazio, costantemente e variamente negato, ma imperturbabile, di cui solo la madre, in virtú di una sapienza propria della natura umana, può custodire la legge.” [11].

The foreclosure of the acoustic relation to prophecy documents the recurrent political interest in the subordination of music to the moral captivity of the reproduction of humanity [12]. On its reverse, the law of eros, prior to the moral domain of natural law and the authoritative domain of positive law, is the protection of the indestructible region of the human soul where no political, moral, or economic dispensation can exert its force. This is confirmed today by the monstrous techno-scientific interventions and dysphoric alterations in the life of children as the last utopia in the long dispensation of the anthropomorphism of capital legitimized by rhetorical force of an unending sermo homilis [13]. In this sense, what Ferrando accomplishes in this wonderful essay is to remind us that the event of theology remains outside the dominion of priests and bureaucrats and situated in the prophetic dimension of Eros (love) that guards the inclination towards beauty and the disposition to attune oneself to the prophecy of the world’s fulfillment [14]. Hence, it is not in the community or in an integralist Christian traditional family order where the sacred dimension of humanity can be retrieved; rather, for Ferrando it is in the non-knowledge reserved by the eros of the mother who never decides nor choses before law, whose nonverbal “tacit authenticity” (“tacita autenticità del legame materno”) unconceals a true experiential depth away from the the delirious cacophony of our world.




1. Monica Ferrando’s L’ elezione e la sua ombra: Il cantico tradito (Neri Pozza, 2022), 8-9.

2. Ibid., 22.

3. Gerhart B. Ladner. The Idea of Reform: Its Impact on Christian Thought and Action in the Age of the Fathers (Harvard University Press, 1959).

4. Monica Ferrando. L’ elezione e la sua ombra: Il cantico tradito (2022), 24.

5. Karl Barth. “The Great Dispensation”, Interpretation, V.14, July 1960, 311.

6. Monica Ferrando L’ elezione e la sua ombra: Il cantico tradito (2022), 30.

7. Gianni Carchia. “Modernità anti-romantica”, in Il mito trasfigurato (Ernani Stamptore, 1984).

8. Monica Ferrando. L’ elezione e la sua ombra: Il cantico tradito (2022), 60.

9. Ibid., 91-92.

10. Ibid., 94.

11. Ibid., 106.

12. On the controversy of music as a tool to tame human’s passions, see John Finnis’ “Truth and Complexity: Notes on Music and Liberalism”, American Journal of Jurisprudence, Vol. 62, 2017, 119-124.

13. Gianni Carchia. “Eros y Logos: Peitho arcaica y retórica antigua”, in Retórica de lo sublime (Tecnos, 1990), 29.

14. Gianni Carchia. “Dialettica dell’immagine: note sull’estetica biblica e cristiana”, in Legittimazione dell’arte (Guida Editores, 1982), 21.

Operative determinations in Carl Schmitt’s concept of the enemy. by Gerardo Muñoz

If the modern state presupposes the concept of the political, then the notion of the political presupposes the concept of the enemy. And if in Political Theology (1922) Schmitt claimed that the modern ethos was predicated as a struggle against the political, a decade later The concept of the political makes the case as to why the political could have only emerged in the wake of the crisis of the modern liberal state aggravated by the rise of the total state and the politization of the economy. All things considered, what Schmitt claims about “politics as destiny” (quoting Walter Rathenau, although the original is handed to us by Hegel quoting the Napoleon- Goethe conversation) has been misunderstood: “It could be more exact to say that politics continues to remain the destiny, but what has occurred is that economics has become political and thereby destiny” [1]. The total politization of economic relations – social contract as structured in value transaction and production – does not imply that Schmitt thinks that politics is destiny. If the ‘concept of the political’ is suppressed and subsumed by economics and techno-administration, then this implies that every sphere of human activity becomes political including one’s destiny. But no destiny can be fully administered or it ceases to be one.

The suppression- expansion of the political allows for the destruction of the enemy, who turns a mere protuberance in a pacified world order. In other words, for Schmitt (unlike what is usually said on his behalf) proposes a concept of the political to achieve a separation from politics that doesn’t amount to ‘critique of politics’ (allegedly what Liberal epoch offers), in the same way that the figure of the enemy is not to be understood normatively as the telos of political activity, but rather an operation that indicates degrees of association and dissociation given that the modern theory of the state is inseparable from plural conflict. In fact, as Schmitt states, the concept of the political as operatively defined by the enemy does not turn its back to pluralism, but rather wants to produce (“yield other consequences” is the language used) pluralism without suppressing the political unit itself [2]. And to yield “space of recognition” for friend-enemy divide does not entail war is neither the end nor the continuation of politics, as it has been understood, but rather an optimal effect whenever there is the existence of political units [3]. In this sense, the notion of enemy as presupposed in the concept of the political is not a substantive and personalist notion, but a particular operation that tries to contain domination while providing breathing space for a non-suppressive practice of politics (a counterpoint to fleeing from catastrophic techno-politics, suggested by Erich Unger’s Politics and Metaphysics during the same time).

One could outline at least four operative determinations of the enemy, which support the thesis of Schmitt’s effort to amend the conditions of the liberal state not negating them: a) the enemy is always a public enemy (hostis) and not a private one (enemicus). Here Schmitt retains the modern juristic conception of positive law. As Schmitt recalls in Ex captitvate salus, for the theologians the enemy is something to destroy, but he thinks as a jurist and not a theologian [4]. b) the hostis is not reducible to a person, but rather to a political unit, although the political could amount to an existential condition. If the “enemy is one’s own question as figure (Gestalt)”, as Schmitt quotes from Däubler, this also means that enemy is a principle of differentiation and mediation rather than a substantive essence, ideological or otherwise [5]. This is why it could be a mistake to confuse the gestalt formation with the unity and relative homogeneity of society required for the modern state.

c) If any political thinking is a thinking oriented towards optimization of the extreme case (this presupposes a negative anthropology), then it follows that the enemy is also the “enemy” in a concrete conflict. And it is clear why Schmitt taught that the suppression of war in the wake of the Kellogg Pact 1928 meant, as least tendentially, that enemies cease to be taken as a unit of differentiation transforming politics into a world police as the dominant practice of managing partners that eradicate the hostis. d) Finally, the notion of the enemy allows the state to recognize concrete threats and dispose of capabilities to respond to a crisis (here the polarity between decision and discussion comes to light), but also without discarding the basic principles of the rule of law such as nulla poena sine lege. In this final determination, the concept of the political is directed at displacing the separation of state and civil society, which according to Schmitt was incapable to offering a concrete response to the rise of neutralization posed by totalization of the “society” superseding the authority of the state (this is a variant of the economic primacy). The notion of the enemy is thus understood best as an optimal operativity that seeks to relieve politics from this polarity (totalization and repression) laying bare at the origin of the modern state.




1. Carl Schmitt. The Concept of the Political (University of Chicago Press, 1996), 78.

2. Ibid., 45

3. Ibid., 34.

4. Carl Schmitt. Ex Captivate Salus (Polity, 2017), 135.

5. Ibid., 136.

6. Carl Schmitt. “Premessa all’edizione italiana”, Le categorie del politico (Il Mulino, 1972), 39.

La dificultad de la tesis de la secularización hoy. Sobre Religion, Law, and Democracy (2022) de Ernst Böckenförde. por Gerardo Muñoz

Acaba de aparecer en inglés el volumen Religion, Law, and Democracy (2022) de Ernst Böckenförde que recoge sus ensayos sobre religión, política y derecho escrito a lo largo de tres décadas, pero solo me gustaría limitar este comentario a solo uno de estos ensayos. Me refiero al bastante celebrado “El ascenso del estado como proceso de la secularización” (1967), que marca un punto de inflexión central en el debate sobre la teología política y la secularización de cara al agotamiento de la legitimidad moderna. La fuerza de la intervención Böckenförde – y que la sigue teniendo, a mi parecer – es que además de interesarse por el proceso histórico de los poderes de la génesis de la secularización, propone tomar la pregunta de fundamento de cara al eclipse de la modernidad política tras el reconocimiento universal del derecho y la acumulación de la libertad individual; un proceso que en nombre de “liberar” a los hombres de la potestas indirecta del cristianismo, anuncia la crisis de la autoridad política del estado que garantizaba homogeneidad y unidad de toda comunidad política concreta (para Böckenförde, la noción de homogeneidad es autonomía civil, y no aplanamiento del hecho del pluralista).

Ahora bien, el triunfo de la secularización implicaría una re-teologización absoluta en la medida en que lleva al límite y liquida la separación entre poder espiritual y poder temporal, estado y sociedad civil, forma del derecho y valores; la seperación que dio lugar el proceso de secularización queda borrada. La sombra oscura de la secularización infinita es que, en nombre de la acumulación de libertad, solo puede producir un escenario de crisis de guerra civil, desintegración, o administración “objetiva” de valores que termina por mimetizar los conflictos del estado confesional previo al ordenamiento del estado moderno. De ahí que el diagnóstico de Böckenförde sea tajante hacia el final del ensayo, que intento traducir del inglés:

“La pregunta sobre las fuerzas que cohesionan [a la sociedad] por lo tanto dan lugar al ascenso de su verdadera esencia: el estado liberal secularizado vive de las condiciones que el mismo no puede garantizar. Esta es la gran apuesta que ha efectuado en nombre de la libertad. Por un lado, el estado liberal puede sobrevivir si la libertad que le otorga a sus ciudadanos es regular la sustancia moral interna y la homogeneidad social. Por otro, ya no puede garantizar estas fuerzas regulatorias mediante sus propuestos – esto es, solo con los instrumentos de la coerción legal o de mandatos autoritativos – sin al mismo tiempo abandonar su dimensión liberal, retrocediendo, aunque de forma secularizada, a una forma totalitaria que en su momento había tomado distancia durante las guerras civiles confesionales.” [1].

La crisis del principio de separación de la génesis política de la secularización implica, de este modo, formas que solo pueden apelar al “orden” como único mecanismo de gobierno. En efecto, podríamos traducir la tesis de Böckenförde en términos más enfáticos: el estado liberal no puede asegurar las condiciones que promete hace que su única finalidad sea la de una forma de administración del gobierno. Por eso la autonomía civil colapsa en su co-extensión con la forma estado. Y no es menor que la administración gubernamental sea la forma teológica de la oikonomia como filtro de la potestas indirecta, que, en su eficacia flexible y mutante, solo puede ofrecer un efecto de verosimilitud de homogeneidad mediante la lógica del valor como intercambiabilidad de la autorregulación de los fenómenos (para estos efectos, basta pensar en el paradigma de costes y beneficios en la jurisprudencia tecnocrática contemporánea). Como tampoco es menor que, ante la crisis epocal de la separación del estado, el derecho público haya terminado implosionando internamente en la motorización del derecho administrativo, y su comedido en el balance jurisprudencial de principios.

La pregunta medular para Böckenförde en 1967 dado el diagnóstico era la siguiente: ¿hasta qué punto puede seguir existiendo una comunidad política ordenada bajo una autoridad (forma estado) sin una fuente sólida de garantías y libertades? Creo que la respuesta que busca Böckenförde no era simplemente normativa, desde la perspectiva externa de los poderes públicos, sino de alguna manera también deontológica: pues no se limita a cómo podrá el estado ejercer obligaciones mediante sus mecanismos de fuerza, sino dónde encontrar el principio de separación ante la totalización comandada por el gobierno. A más de cinco décadas del ensayo de Böckenförde, creo que estamos en condiciones de decir que el estado administrativo (como “caso concreto más fuerte” del gobierno en Occidente) ha tomado las riendas en la tarea de ofrecer unificación, homogenización, y reproducción del ordenamiento, aunque a expensas de la liquidación de la separación. La ironía es que el concepto mismo de “liquidación”, alguna vez bisagra del cambio constitucional, ahora se expresa como déficit institucional en la extensión de la fuerza administrativa y constitucionalista [2].

Esto podría explicar porqué hoy la función de la política – la unidad de la demanda política que en la teoría de la hegemonía se expresó como sutura sobre el vacío de fundamento – ahora pocas veces suele entenderse como una unidad de separación, mas como una unidad de “integración” entre moral y obediencia (el conflicto ‘populista’ es secundario a ambas condiciones). Hablar desde ideologías hoy explica menos de lo que oscurece, por lo que esta estructura radica en la unidad de trono y altar, imperium y sacerdotium que el mismo Böckenförde explica en un ensayo sobre los usos substantivos de las formas católicas militantes durante la República de Weimar [3]. Y la ‘integración’ mediante un concepto activo de lo político asciende como nexo en la crisis de la tesis de la secularización [4].

Aquí llegamos al concepto de lo político de Schmitt que reluce en el fondo en el ensayo de Böckenförde, que hoy pondríamos a prueba (o más bien, es la realidad la que lo pone a prueba). Pero vale la pena recordar que el propio Carl Schmitt en su monografía sobre Hobbes, escrita como panfleto contra el movimientismo nacionalsocialista en 1938, le crítica a Hobbes que su pensamiento político se agote en un pensamiento de la neutralización del estado y de las “razones para actuar” de los ciudadanos de la sociedad civil [5]. Eso era insuficiente para una crisis de emergencia, puesto que una teoría de la acción (y ni hablar de la fuente del derecho natural) no puede apelar a la concreción del concepto de lo político. Aunque tal vez el propio Schmitt en el prólogo a la edición italiana de El concepto de lo político también fue consciente ante la debilidad de la unidad de lo político ante la fuerza policial de una revolución legal que invitaba a una auténtica ius civile bellum.

Por eso lo político se expresa incluso en los espacios menos visibles, o supuestamente nuestros, secuestrados por la fuerza de la potestas indirecta, sin capacidad de contestación. Por eso asciende el pretor romano, cuya militancia pública se demuestra como consecuencia directa de la homogenización administrativa. Ya no son necesarios partisanos o militantes ‘políticos’. Y su lógica expresa la fragmentación del orden concreto hacia la elevación de una bona particularia como bonum commune en la axiomática del orden [4]. Así, la guerra civil ya no es un fenómeno externo a la forma política, sino que emplea lo político como excepción alojada en las formas subsidiarias del ordenamiento pública. Esto hace imposible distinguir nítidamente entre amigo-enemigo, o bien dar respuesta a una crisis de integridad sistémica. Esta es la novedad de los discursos principialistas o biencomunistas en el presente.

Leyendo la dificultad a la que apuntaba Böckenförde en 1967, hoy nos quedan dudas si la política (en primera o última instancia, como acción o reacción) puede ofrecer una posible garantía de separación ante la dominación; o si, más bien, se requiere de una separación de lo político como matriz de integración entre moral y politica. Pero ya lo sabemos, separar también implica delimitar un nuevo territorio. Para Böckenförde en 1967 el residuo de la astucia hegeliana lo impulsaba a un retorno de las fuerzas religiosas hacia una esfera pública “post-secular”, que luego regresaría en el intercambio Habermas-Ratzinger de 2005. Allí Habermas saludaba la dificultad de Böckenförde como admisible en el proceso cognitivo de la racionalización postsecular [6]. Pero el paradigma comunicacional “integra” la religión como forma cultural, aunque tampoco avanza en la dirección de la dificultad de la crisis de secularización a la cual alertaba Böckenförde. Sin embargo, si ponemos el énfasis en la crisis del concepto de lo político – o su incorporación “integral” en la administración sobre lo civil – es difícil creer que lo teológico pueda ser otra cosa que un principio de promoción de valores en el terreno abierto de la guerra civil en curso. Y esta dificultad sigue siendo la nuestra.




1. Ernst W. Böckenförde. “The Rise of the State as a Process of Secularization”, en Religion, Law, and Democracy: Selected Writings (Oxford U Press, 2022). 167.

2. William Baude. “Constitutional Liquidation”, Stanford Law Review, 2019:

3. Ernst W. Böckenförde. “German Catholicism in 1933: A Critical Examination”, en Religion, Law, and Democracy: Selected Writings (Oxford U Press, 2022). 77-105.

4. Carl Schmitt. The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes (Greenwood Press, 1996). 85.

5. Ernst W. Böckenförde. “German Catholicism in 1933: A Critical Examination”, en Religion, Law, and Democracy: Selected Writings (Oxford U Press, 2022)., 98.

6. Jürgen Habermas & Joseph Ratzinger. The Dialectics of Secularization (Ignatius Press, 2006).

Hidráulica de los poderes: sobre El fantasma portaliano (2022) de Rodrigo Karmy. por Gerardo Muñoz

En un largo ensayo sobre Carl Schmitt, Hugo Ball decía que si bien es un error tocar el violín mientras arde Roma, es absolutamente adecuado estudiar la teoría de la hidráulica mientras arde Roma, y por lo tanto Schmitt era un estudioso de la hidráulica. Hoy pudiéramos decir lo mismo de Rodrigo Karmy, cuyo El fantasma portaliano: arte de gobierno y república de los cuerpos (Ufro, 2022) realiza un retrato hidráulico sobre uno de los arcanii del poder político chileno que no ha cesado de mutar y reproducirse a lo largo de la modernidad republicana. El trabajo de la hidráulica, que siempre trata de una arqueológica de arcanos, es una tarea lenta y sutil que se interesa por iluminar zonas de problematización y variaciones por los cuales se ha tramitado una pragmática específica de la dominación. En el ensayo de Karmy hay algo de puntillismo pictórico, puesto que si bien en prima facie el ensayo es un perfil que recorre momentos de la obra epistolar de Diego Portales, en cada pincelada se nos muestra una unidad del aparato administrativo portaliano; a saber, un análisis de la heráldica nacional, una interpretación zoopoética de los símbolos, una lectura del himno nacional, una escena originaria de la violación en la fundación de la ley de estado, o una indagación sobre la persistencia de la fuerza administrativa, son algunos de los empalmes de una hidráulica que da vida a la fuerza fantasmal del portalianismo.

Para sus propósitos, el retrato es un artificio conceptual y una efigie escatológica que, siguiendo la buena lección de la emblemática estudiada por Ernst Kantorowicz y consagrada en el famoso frontispicio del Leviathan de Thomas Hobbes, no es en lo absoluto descartable. No hay posibilidad de estudiar el arcano sin atender al régimen de visibilidad y proyección, a su fantasmata siempre en tensión entre lo visible y lo invisible. Esta lógica de complexio oppositorum nos hace posible un panorama de fondo (conceptual e histórico), y distante de las demandas cegadoras del presente. La adopción formal para una arqueología hidráulica deviene fundamental no tanto para generar un verosímil a imagen y semejanza al prócer decimonónico, sino más bien para adentrarnos en los elementos de su eficacia a la medida de la capacidad de sus técnicas. Karmy organiza la exploración de cañerías portalianas en tres diferentes zonas de construcción:

“Denominaremos fantasma portaliano a la formación imaginaria e histórica o, si se quiere, a la maquina mitológica que no deja de producir imágenes y epifanías orientadas a transformar las potencias del deseo en le inercia y posibilidad de los cuerpos, proceso que se anuda en tres ámbitos diferentes y articulados: “una forma de saber….[…], una forma de producción de poder: ejercer un poder excepcional supuestamente legitimado en función de las propias circunstancias….y una forma de subjetivación: produce una forma del yo como cuerpo nacional extenso de fisuras y griegas internas que no soporta cuerpos marginales, residuales o, si se quiere, cuerpos del deseo” (Karmy 2022, 27). 

Esta maquinaria – hiperbólica de todo republicanismo regional expresado como irremediable colapso de hegemonía política, cuyos efectos siguen vigentes – es fundador ya no solo de un monopolio de la violencia, clave epigonal de la legitimidad moderna, sino de otro siniestro: una sutura entre sociedad civil y estado, dominación y violencia, sujeción y muerte que emerge como la ratio articuladora de un estado aparente y mágico. La dimensión vicaria y vaciada de este ‘estado’ remite, en última instancia, a la continuación imperial por otros medios (la deficiente res publica primero, y luego la evolución de la dictadura pinochetista y postdictadutra democrática). Las técnicas portalianas de estado no obedecen a legitimidad ni mediación alguna en tanto que poder constituyente, sino que orientan y comandan sobre el mar nocturno de una sociedad inerte y siempre parasitaria. Para el estado aparente el ser social se entiende como una reserva para el gobierno más absoluto, ya que existe en minoría de edad, y, por lo tanto, solo puede ser subsumido a la disponibilidad de una fuerza ulterior. En cierto sentido, la persistencia del principio monárquico hispano y su impostada complexio oppositorum es el resultado, siempre en cada caso, de no haber sido capaz de organizar una verdadera legitimidad política republicana desde los presupuestos de la anti-dominación y la división de poderes. La res publica portaliana es siempre la organización de una res stasis principial.

En realidad, la dimensión imperial de Portales supone el colapso de la política como mediación, a su vez que solo puede acelerar un proceso de “acumulación de fuerza originaria”; esto es, una versión secularizada de la dominación sobre la tierra y los hombres. En este sentido, el portalianismo es una versión acelerada de la función alberdiana “gobernar es poblar”, donde incluso la diferenciación entre soberanía y biopolítica pierde todos los contornos formales de diferenciación histórica. Y esto explica – ciertamente una de las tesis más importantes de El fantasma portaliano (2022) – porqué prima la logística gubernamental por encima de la arquitectónica moderna entre estado, orden concreto institucional, y autonomía de la sociedad civil que termina produciendo la consolidación de una lógica económica como arte de gobierno sobre su fundamento anómico. Incluso, si Carl Schmitt pensaba que la teología política debe orientarse hacia la perseverancia de su autoridad sin fundamentos, el presupuesto económico, en su reverso, consiste en modular el conflicto, gobernar sobre el terror, y multiplicar los procesos miméticos de las pulsiones arcaicas imperiales por encima de sus deberes y mediaciones constituyentes. De ahí la necesidad del dispositivo “modelo” que debe ser íntegramente impolítico y administrativo. Es más, el portalianismo es el paradigma de la suma total de los ángulos del modelo chileno, ya en su interior el propio orden jurídico, las leyes o la constitución, quedan supeditada a la administración de la anomia (Karmy 2022, 37). Esta pulsión de mimesis acaso cumple una doble función (como mínimo, habrían más, desde luego): por un lado, evacua toda posibilidad de mediación en el orden político, y por otro, regenera procesos flexibles y “creativos” de dominación y gobernabilidad sobre la vida. La compulsión mimética genera repetición y compulsión sobre el vacío, pero también un instrumento de gobierno que invierte el mysterium iniquitatis como hacienda infernal en el espejo del Edén. (El modelo es el Edén, la realidad un ‘infierno’ encarnado en la deuda).

En realidad, el modelo es la forma vicaria más extrema de la economía, puesto es mediante un dispositivo de este alcance que el abigarramiento social puede someterse a la fuerza de homogenización. Sabemos que la oikonomia en su dinámica de intercambiabilidad reproduce una homogeneidad total sobre las prácticas del mundo de la vida. De manera análoga, en el plano jurídico el modelo es un artificio que subsume el orden concreto positivo en formas laxas y negativas para garantizar efectos de la ratio gubernamental. Esta jurisprudencia principialista en realidad tiene su antecedente en juristas como Bartolo de Saxoferrato, para quien el “modelo” de interpretación jurídica solo se entendía como superior al derecho escrito con sus normas y reglas [1]. En este sentido, es que se pudiera decir que Portales no es un Founder atado a un documento constitucional (como lo son los Federalists norteamericanos), sino que es por encima de todo un representante del cual emana la “fuerza” de la virtù para administrar un estado de excepción que no conoce ley ni constitución (Karmy 2022, 84). Y por esta razón es que el derecho siempre puede ser violado una y otra vez, al punto de llegar a los propios cuerpos de sus súbditos. Así, el portalianismo no es un “originalismo constitucional”, sino una máquina stasiológica que se nutre de la excepción cuya materia prima es el cuerpo singular para impedir a todo coste una res publica y la traducción pública de la ius reformandi (siempre atada a las exigencias de los índices del valor). Como en “En la colonia penitenciaria” de Franz Kafka, la legalidad anómica chilena desemboca no solo en los calabozos clandestinos de la DINA, sino más siniestramente en Colonia Dignidad o en el principio subsidiario negativo: una comunidad de la muerte en la cual el cuerpo social es la materia prima para abonar la hidráulica de una dominación absoluta.

Pero el régimen portaliano nunca llega al momento de síntesis o de mediación institucional. Karmy nos recuerda que, en efecto, Portales no es Hegel (Karmy 2022, 68). Y no es Hegel porque no exista la separación entre sociedad civil y racionalidad de estado, sino porque la administración social se subsume a una axiomática de absolutización de la hostilidad. Y esta es la razón de ser de la forma angeológica del poder pastoral chileno que identifica El fantasma portaliano (2022). Los ángeles soplan sus trompetas como ejercicio de la glorificación del Uno, y donde no hay pueblo (laos) sino coextensividad entre sacerdotes y monjes en en un plenitud litúrgica, como enseña Erik Peterson [2]. La angelología es la forma de un control que mediante la aclamación gobierna sobre la anomia de la comunidad de los vivos. En última instancia, su función es bendecir y aclamar el “modelo”, enmendar cuanto agujero salga en cañería, y sublimar el coro integral del himno contra la singularidad de la poesía y de la voz. Si Pinochet puede autodefinirse como un ángel, es preciosamente porque es una figura fiel al andamiaje jerárquico de un poder administrativo que es ajeno al derecho y que solo atina a la consumación del cielo sobre la tierra (Karmy 2022, 72). En efecto, la dimensión angélica se impone contra el vector inmanente del principio de realidad, desatando sus fueros vicarios como optimización de todo posible desvío, irrupción política, o desencadenamiento del cántico glorioso. Si el ángel es una figura central en la hidráulica arcaica portaliana es porque en él se cruzan dos vectores: la mirada del Ziz (para Karmy es la carroña extraída de la zoopoética chilena) desde lo alto, y la coordinación de los servicios efectivos de una autoridad suprema como legibilidad especular de la tierra (Karmy 2022, 120). Si las aspiraciones del Leviatán constituyeron una forma de garantizar el orden jurídico moderno, la fuerza mítica del Ziz radica en regular la anomia desde un estado aparente que vigila al pueblo como reserva de extracción en un continuo banquete. El Ziz suministra el poder neumático sobre todas las almas. En cierto sentido, la secularización de la angelología chilena tiene como correlato terrenal el poder policial sobre los cuerpos. Esta fue la última agonía del fantasma portaliano y su puesta en crisis.

Rodrigo Karmy fecha esa crisis fantasmal con la irrupción de la imaginación común del octubre chileno, que en su intempestividad desatora los torniquetes entre imperio, gobierno vicario, angeología, y constitucionalismo tramposo. El temblor de la tierra hace que la tubería de la operación hidráulica colapse, asistiendo a un proceso de individuación contra los ejercicios de la administración de un mal. Pero El fantasma portaliano concluye ahí donde debería comenzar nuestra discusión. Hacia el final del ensayo, Karmy escribe: ‘La revuelta octubrista fue la suspensión parcial de resorte de la que irrumpió la revuelta…Al destituir parcialmente el resorte de la democracia portaliana, la revuelta enteró definitivamente al portalianismo de los últimos treinta años, que hoy busca desenfrenadamente su restitución” (Karmy 2022, 137-138). Se abre la pregunta: ¿Qué se puede contra un fantasma? ¿Cómo se puede contra un fantasma que ficcionaliza la sutura jurídico-social por abajo, y que totaliza su mirada de Ziz desde lo más alto? La incógnita reside, desde luego, en que, si el arcano de la modernidad fue cifrado en el theodrama escatológico del Leviatán y el Ziz, ahora sabemos que la bestia marina ha sido neutralizada a tal punto que ya no puede ofrecer amparo ni freno (Katechon) desde la auctoritas non veritas facit legem. Y si Hobbes pudo mirar la tumba del imperio romano a distancia fue porque existía un sepulcro, algo que Vico identificó con los procesos históricos: el dilema actual es que la persistencia de los fantasmas ya ha escapado las tumbas, lo cual requiere de destrezas hidráulicas en una agonizante filosofía de la historia cristiana. Así, los procesos de desmitificación de auctoritas solicitarán nuevas analíticas hidráulicas sobre todas contenciones principialistas que, ciertamente, no dejarán de acechar lo poco de vida que resta en la tierra.




1. Bartolus de Saxoferrato. Conflict of Laws (Harvard University Press, 1914). 

2. Erik Peterson. “The Book on the Angels: Their Place and Meaning in the Liturgy”, en Theological Tractates (Stanford U Press, 2011). 124.