Reform and Ecstatic Politics: Notes on Gramsci’s Prison Writings (VIII). by Gerardo Muñoz

Gramcsi’s turning away from economic primacy of the Third International meant that he had to endorse a robust principle of “politics” to suture the separation (and there crisis thereof) between theory and praxis, which is also a division of action and thought. In a certain way, going back to Machiavelli’s writings or Croce’s Hegelian Idealism is a way to introduce a total politics suture over philosophy and life. This becomes clear when in Notebook 8, while glossing Croce “Hidden God”, Gramsci asks rhetorically but with force: “In what sense can one speak of the identity of history with politics and say that therefore all life is politics? How could one conceive of the whole system of superstructures as (a system of) political distinctions, thus introducing the nothing of distinction in the philosophy of praxis? Can one even speak of a dialectic of distincts? (271). 

It becomes rather obvious that what has passed as the great Gramscian novelty – mainly, the emphasis on “superstructure” as a way to relax the mechanistic economic structure of capitalist development driving the laws of History – in fact, it rests on a metaphysical principle rooted in the total politics over life. In other words, Gramscianism means, if anything, a new totalization of political domination over the texture of life and every singular destiny. This conceptual maneuver is nothing original if placed in the epochal framework of what Alain Badiou called the “ecstatic politics” of the 1930s, in which politics (and later legality) became the instrument to suture philosophy and life. 

It is almost as if Gramscian political life becomes the new instrument for the age of total mobilization and the worker insofar as life is nothing but the site of immanence that must be reintegrated, conducted, and translated as co-terminus with full political activity. At the moment where “life” was fleeing from the organic reproduction of capitalist development unto autonomous forms (Camatte), the Gramscian emphasis on “superstructure” became the progressive technology to “contain” its eventual dispersion. Again, in the same section 60 of the eighth notebook this insight is explicit: “One must say that political activity is, precisely, the first moment or first level of the superstructures; it’s the moment in which all the superstructures are still in the unmediated phase of mere affirmation – willful, inchoate, and rudimentary” (271). The question solicited here is where does the “class struggle” fit in this picture, if at all? 

If superstructural political life is not the site of the horizon of the working class’ emancipation, this could only entail, as Jacques Camatte understood it very early on, that the conduction of the communist party in politics demanded that militants and the working class had to act as if the communist society was a “living fact”. In turn, this meant that there was a clear “reformist” transmutation, since one could discard (in fact, as later authors of the so-called post-foundational theory of hegemony demanded, it *had to be discarded*) the horizon of revolutionary emancipation. What is surprising is that even today a reformist declination of ecstatic politics is announced and branded as “true radical political thought”, when it is just a mere inversion and reorganization of capitalist value organization. On the contrary, the total politics of the superstructure over life could only mean, as Íñigo Errejón repeated recently, merely a “struggle between opposite values”; in other words, it is no longer a transformation of the world instead of interpreting it, but a mere gaming of values to facilitate the occupation of the state.  

This could explain why, many pages later in Notebook 8 Gramsci could define hegemony as the crystallization of morality. He writes univocally: “Hegemony” means a determinate system of moral life [conception of life] and therefore history is “religious” history along the lines of Croce’s “state-church” principle” (373). And of course, history is always “a struggle between two hegemonies”, whose main nexus is the unity of rulers and the ruled (373). Gramsci gives this unification without separation the label of “patriotism”, which amounts to a direct secularized form of the medieval pro patria mori. This is the vortex that organizes the ecstatic political dominium over life in every hegemonic order.  

Production as a total religion of man: Notes on Gramsci’s Prison Writings (VII). by Gerardo Muñoz

In an important moment of Notebook 7, Antonio Gramsci writes that production in the age of industrialization amounts to a “new religion of the common man”. This thesis conditions many aspects of Gramsci’s thought and fully exposes his thinking as determined by the epoch of industrialization. If so, this means that his thinking is fundamentally insufficient for our historical present as defined by stagnation and the end of growth. First of all, the condition of industrialization allows for the famous “war of position”, which is exerted as a moralization of politics (hegemony). It is important to note that the concept of hegemony is introduced only “after” the historical reduction to industrial productivity is rendered as the unity of all historical time.  In an explicit Hegelian fashion, Gramsci argues that: “The process of historical development is a unity in time, which is why the present contains the whole of the past and what is “essential” of the past realizes itself in the present, without any “unknowable” residue that would constitute its real “essence”. Whatever is lost….it pertained to chronicle not History, a superficial episode and, in the final analysis, negligible” (175). This is at the core of Gramsci’s thinking, not at the margins.

So, the Hegelian absolute movement of the philosophy of history as coterminous with the flattening of the “rational is the real” is the metaphysical ground in which Gramsci not only operates but the venue through which he offers us a “new religion of the common man”. A few sections later (§. 35), Gramsci confesses that “hegemony was also a great “metaphysical event”. Of course, one could suppose that Gramsci was delivering a new God within the gigantomachy of the age of production. The irony is, of course, that this strict “political theology” is only justified by the industrial regime that it seeks to overturn. Therefore, the question that the so-called contemporary Gramscians (or anyone taking up Gramsci today, say from the 1970s to the present) should respond is: how can the analytical conditions of Gramsci’s thought illuminate post-Fordism in the wake of the exhaustion of growth? 

If according to Jason E. Smith’s important new book Smart Machines and Service Work (2020) since the 1980s we are witnessing an ever-expanding service sector (in the US and the UK drifting well above the 80% of the GDP) as a compensatory for growth stagnation in the age of technological innovation, how could the Gramscian “new religion” on industry mobilize a horizon of emancipation, or even minimal transformation from said regime of exploitation? On the contrary, it seems (as I tried to argue recently here) that if we take Gramsci’s insight about the material conditions of “production” in any given epoch, the work of hegemony today can only open to a demand for exploitation as subjected to servant domination in the stagnant regime. In other words, if we accept Gramsci’s own analytical conditions (industrial production), this necessarily entails that we must move beyond hegemonic domination. To think otherwise – say, believing that a “temporal form of dictatorship” or “populist takeover”, now in ruins – amounts to a solution oblivious to the historical conditions, which can only blindly accept the “command” of a hegemonic principle. It is not a surprise that only the new nationalist right in the United States today can be properly labeled “Gramscian”, since they want to recoil political form to industrialization, organic community flourishing, and national “delinking” from globalization decomposition of the regime of total equivalence. But this is only a “storytelling” (a bad one, indeed) in times of stagnation.

More broadly, this speaks to the divergence between Gramsci’s faith in industrialization and Protestantism, as he defends it in section 47 of the Notebook. While glossing Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic, Gramsci notes that only the “spirt of the Reform” can produce reciprocal positions vis-à-vis grace and “good works”; whereas in Catholicism, activity and human action is not bounded by labor form, but by corporativism. On the surface this links Gramsci’s thesis with that of Max Weber’s; however, given the conditions explained above, it also shows that Gramsci’s thinking is really at odds with a commitment to thinking reform within the concrete conditions of a historical epoch. In other words, the political categories of Gramscianism (war of position, hegemony, production) are undeniably more on the side of reaction rather than in the production of new reforms. Of course, his position is not even a Catholic reaction; since, as Carl Schmitt observed in Roman Catholicism and Political Form (1923), at least the Church offered formal institutionality as a response to the total electrification of the world, whether in the hands of the Soviets or the American financial elite. But, as we know, the theory of hegemony is also oblivious to the problem of institution and the concrete order. 

Tres apuntes sobre Neoliberalismo como teología política (NED Ediciones, 2020), de José Luis Villacañas. por Gerardo Muñoz

Neoliberalismo como teología política (NED Ediciones, 2020), de José Luis Villacañas, es el resultado de un esfuerzo de pensamiento histórico por sistematizar la ontología del presente. No está mal recordar que este ensayo no es una intervención puntual sobre el momento político y el mundo de la vida, sino que es otro ‘building block’ en el horizonte conceptual que Villacañas ha venido desplegando en libros como Res Publica (1999), Los latidos de la poli (2012), Teología Política Imperial (2016), o los más recientes volúmenes sobre modernidad y reforma. A nadie se le escapa que estamos ante un esfuerzo mayor en lengua castellana que busca la reinvención de nuevas formas de regeneración de estilos capaces de impulsar una ius reformandi para las sociedades occidentales. Neoliberalismo como teología política (NED Ediciones, 2020), nos ofrece una condensación, o bien, una especie de “aleph” de un cruce particular: una fenomenología de las formas históricas junto a la reflexion en torno a la normatividad propia del principio de realidad. En este apunte no deseo desglosar todos los movimientos del libro, sino más bien detenerme en tres momentos constitutivos del argumento central. Como aviso diré que los dos primeros problemas serán meramente descriptivo, mientras que en el tercero intentaré avanzar un suplemento que conecta con un problema del libro (la cuestión institucional), si bien no es tematizado directamente (la cuestión del derecho). 

Legitimidad. Los comienzos o beginnings son entradas a la época. Y no es menor que Villacañas opte por poner el dedo en la crisis de legitimidad que Jürgen Habermas ya entreveía en 1973. Esta crisis de legitimidad suponía un desequilibrio de los valores y de la autoridad entre gobernados y el sistema político en la fase de la subsunción real del capital. El mundo post-1968, anómico y atravesado por nuevas formas de partisanismo territorial, anunciaba no sólo el fin de la era del eón del estado como forma de contención soberana, sino más importante aun, un proyecto de reconfiguración del psiquismo que ponía en jaque a las formas y mediaciones entre estado y sociedad civil. Habermas detectó el problema, pero no vio una salida. Villacañas nos recuerda que el autor de Crisis de legitimación insistió en un suplemento de socialización compensatorio arraigado en la comunicación, la deliberación, y la razón; aunque, al hacerlo, obviaba que el nuevo capitalismo ilimitado operaba con pulsiones, energías, y “evidencias prereflexivas propias” (29). Habermas no alcanzó a ver, dado sus presupuestos de la sistematización total, algo que Hans Blumenberg sí podía recoger: la emergencia de la composición “técnica” previa a la socialización que, posteriormente, se presentaría como el campo fértil de la biopolítica. La nueva racionalidad biopolítica, ante la crisis civilizatoria de la legitimidad, ponía en marcha un nuevo “ordo” que operaba mediante la energía de libertad y goce. En este sentido, el neoliberalismo era un sobrevenido gubernamental tras la abdicación de la autoridad política moderna. El nuevo ‘discurso del capital’ suponía el ascenso de un nuevo amo que garantizaba libertad infinita a cambio de una subjetiva que coincidía con el rendimiento del Homo Economicus (fue también por estos años que el filósofo bordigista Jacques Camatte elaboró, dentro y contra el marxismo, la controvertida tesis de la antropormofización del capital) (72). Si la “Libertad” es el arcano de la nueva organización neoliberal como respuesta a la crisis de legitimidad, quedaría todavía por discutir hasta qué punto su realización histórica efectiva es consistente con los propios principios del liberalismo clásico (minimización del gobierno, y maximización de los intereses) que, como ha mostrado Eric Nelson, puede pensarse como un complexio oppositorum que reúne una doctrina palegiana (liberalismo clásico) con un ideal redistributivo (la teoría del estado social de Rawls) [1]. No es improbable que los subrogados de la nueva metástasis neoliberal fueran, más que un proceso de abdicación, la consecuencia directa de una teodicea propia del liberalismo. Tampoco hay que elevar el problema a la historia conceptual y sus estratificaciones. La concreción libidinal puede ser verificada en estos meses de confinamiento, puesto que el psiquismo ha logrado mantenerse dentro de los límites del medio del goce que no se reconoce en la pulsión de muerte. Esto muestra la absoluta debilidad de una ‘economía del actuar’ en el presente; al menos en los Estados Unidos donde las revueltas han sido, mayormente, episodios contenidos en la metrópoli. De ahí que el arcano de la ratio neoliberal no se limite a la policía, sino que su textura es la de un nuevo amo que unifica goce y voluntad. Esto ahora se ha intensificado con el dominio cibernético de Silicon Valley (Eric Schmidt). 

Teología política. Desde luego, hablar de arcano supone desplazar la mirada a la teología política. Una teología política que es siempre imperial en un sentido muy preciso: busca impugnar la cesura de la división de poderes mediante una reunificación de los tiempos del gobierno pastoral (85). La operación de Villacañas aquí es importante justamente por su inversión: el monoteísmo integral que Carl Schmitt veía en el complexio oppositorum de la Iglesia imperial (Eusebio), entonces fue realizable mediante el principio ilimitado de la razón neoliberal (91). Ciertamente, no podemos decir que Schmitt ignoraba esta deriva. Al final y al cabo, fue él también quien, en “Estado fuerte y economía sana” (1932), notó que, solo aislando la esfera económica del estado, podría activarse el orden concreto, y de esta manera salir de la crisis de legitimidad del poder constituyente. Pero Villacañas nos explica de que la astucia del neoliberalismo hoy va más allá, pues no se trata de un proceso “que no es económico” (92). Villacañas escribe en un momento importante del libro: “En el fondo, solo podemos comprender el neoliberalismo como la previsión de incorporar al viejo enemigo, la aspiración de superar ese resto liberal que impedía de facto, la gubernamental total, aunque ara ello la obediencia no se tuviera que entregar tal Estado” (92). ¿Dónde yace ahora la autoridad de obediencia? En la aspiración teológica-política de un gobierno fundado en el principio de omnes et singulatim. ¿Y no es esta la aspiración de toda hegemonía en tanto que traducción del imperium sobre la vida? Villacañas también pareciera admitirlo: “[el neoliberalismo] encarna la pretensión hegemónica de construir un régimen de verdad y de naturaleza que, como tal, puede presentar como portador de valor de universalidad” (96). Una Humanidad total y sin fisuras y carente de enemigos, como también supo elucidar el último Schmitt. Sobre este punto me gustaría avanzar la discusión con Villacañas. Una páginas después, y glosando al Foucault de los cursos sobre biopolítica, Villacañas recuerda que “donde hay verdad, el poder no está allí, y por lo tanto no hay hegemonía” (103). El dilema de este razonamiento es que, al menos en política, la hegemonía siempre se presenta justamente como una administración de un vacío cuya justificación de corte moral contribuye al proceso de neutralización o de objetivación de la aleturgia. Dada la crítica de Villacañas a la tecnificación de la política como “débil capacidad de producir verdad de las cadenas equivalencias” (en efecto, es la forma del dinero), tal vez podríamos decir que la formalización institucional capaz de producir reversibilidad y flexibilidad jamás puede tomarse como ‘hegemónica’. Esta operación de procedimientos de verdad en el diseño institucional “define ámbitos en los que es posible la variabilidad” (108). Yo mismo, en otras ocasiones, he asociado esta postura con una concepción de un tipo de constitucionalismo cuya optimización del conflicto es posible gracias a su diseño como “una pieza suelta” [2]. 

Un principio hegemónico fuerte – cerrado en la autoridad política de antemano en nombre de la ‘totalidad’ o en un formalismo integral – provocaría un asalto a la condición de deificatio, puesto que la matriz de ‘pueblo orgánico’ (o de administración de la contingencia) subordinaría “la experiencia sentida y vivida de aumento de potencia propia” en una catexis de líder-movimiento (150) [3]. En otras palabras, la deificatio, central en el pensamiento republicano institucional de Villacañas, no tiene vida en la articulación de la hegemonía política contemporánea. Esto Villacañas lo ve con lucidez me parece: “…entre neoliberalismo y populismo hay una relación que debe ser investigación con atención y cuidado” (198). Esta es la tensión que queda diagramada en su Populismo (2016) [4]. Y lo importante aquí no es la diferenciación ideológica, sino formal: todo populismo hegemónico es un atentado contra la potencia de la deificatio necesaria para la producción de un orden concreto dotado de legitimidad y abierto al conflicto. Si la ratio neoliberal es el terror interiorizado; pudiéramos decir que la hegemonía lo encubre en su mecanismo de persuasión política [5]. 

La abdicación del derecho concreto. Discutir el neoliberalismo desde los problemas de déficit de legitimidad, el ascenso de una teología política imperial, o la liturgia de una nueva encarnación subjetiva, remiten al problema del ordenamiento concreto. En este último punto quisiera acercarme a una zona que Villacañas no trata en su libro, pero que creo que complementa su discusión. O tal vez la complica. No paso por alto que la cuestión del orden jurídico ha sido objeto de reflexión de Villacañas; en particular, en su programática lectura de Carl Schmitt como último representante de ius publicum europeum después de la guerra [6]. Y las últimas páginas de Neoliberalismo como teología política (2020) también remiten directamente a este problema. Por ejemplo, Villacañas escribe el problema fundamental hoy es “como imaginar una constitución nueva que de lugar al conflicto su camino hacia la propia construcción” (233). Y desde luego, el problema de la “crisis epocal” también tiene su concreción en el derecho, porque coincide con la lenta erosión del positivismo hacia nuevas tendencias como el constitucionalismo, el interpretativismo, o más recientemente “constitucionalismo de bien común” (neotomismo). Desplegar una génesis de cómo el “liberalismo constitucional positivista” abdicó hacia la interpretación es una tarea que requeriría un libro por sí sola. Pero lo que me gustaría señalar aquí es que lo que quiero llamar la abdicación del derecho positivo a la racionalidad interpretativista o neo-constitucionalista (Dworkin o Sunstein) probablemente sea una consecuencia interna a la racionalidad jurídica. (Al menos en el derecho anglosajón, pero esto no es menor, puesto que el mundo anglosajón es el espacio epocal del Fordismo). En otras palabras, mirar hacia el derecho complica la crítica del armazón económico-político del neoliberalismo. O sea, puede haber crítica a la racionalidad neoliberal mientras que el ordenamiento jurídico en vigor queda intacto. El problema del abandono del positivismo jurídico es justamente el síntoma de la abdicación de la frontera entre derecho y política (o teoría del derecho, como ha explicado Andrés Rosler); de esta manera erosionando la institucionalidad como motor de la reversibilidad de la división de poderes. De la misma forma que el populismo hegemónico es débil en su concatenación de demandas equivalenciales; el interprentativismo jurídico es la intromisión de la moral que debilita la institucionalidad. En otras palabras, el interpretativismo es un freno que no permite trabajo institucional, pues ahora queda sometido a la tiranía de valores.  

Esta intuición ya la tenía el último Schmitt en La revolución legal mundial (1979), donde detecta cómo el fin de la política y la erosión de orden concreto (mixtura de positivismo con formalismo y decisionismo) terminaría en la conversión del Derecho en mera aplicación de legalidad [7]. Schmitt llegó a hablar de policía universal, que es mucho más siniestra que el cuerpo de custodios del estado, puesto que su poder yace en la arbitrariedad de la “interpretación en su mejor luz” dependiendo de la moral. Como ha señalado Jorge Dotti, esta nueva sutura jurídica introduce la guerra civil por otros ya que la “sed de justicia” convoca a una “lucha interpretativa abierta” [8]. Aunque a veces entendemos la excepción permanente como suspensión de derechos fundamentales o producción de homo sacer; lo que está en juego aquí es la excepcionalidad de la razón jurídica a tal punto que justifica la disolución de la legitimidad del estado. En esta empresa, como ha dicho un eminente constitucionalista progresista se trata de alcanzar: “un reconocimiento recíproco universal, lo que implica que comunidad política y común humanidad devienen términos coextensivos” [9]. Del lado de la aplicación formal del derecho, se pudiera decir que el “imperio de los jueces” (Dworkin) ha cedido su ‘hegemonía’ a una nueva racionalidad discrecional (y “cost-benefit” en su estela neoliberal) de técnicos, burócratas, agencias, y guardianes del aparato administrativo que ahora asume el principio de realidad, pero a cambio de prescindir de la mediación del polo concreto (pueblo o institución) [10].

Al final de Neoliberalismo como teología política (2020), Villacañas se pregunta por el vigor de las estructuras propias del mundo de la vida (230). Es realmente lo importante. Sin embargo, pareciera que las formas modernistas de la época Fordista (el produccionismo al que apostaba Gramsci, por ejemplo) ya no tiene nada que decir a uno ordenamiento jurídico caído a la racionalidad interpretativista. Al menos que entendamos en la definición de la política de Gramsci una “moral substantiva” donde no es posible el desacuerdo o la enemistad, porque lo fundamental sería unificar política y moral [11]. Pero esto también lo vio Schmitt: la superlegalidad o la irrupción de la moral en el derecho es índice de la disolución de la política, funcional a la ‘deconstrucción infinita’ del imperio y policial contra las formas de vidas [12]. Otro nombre para lo que Villacañas llama heterodoxias, en donde se jugaría la muy necesaria disyunción entre derecho, política, y moral. 

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Notas 

1. Eric Nelson. The Theology of Liberalism: Polítical Philosophy and the Justice of God (Harvard U Press, 2019). 

2. Gerardo Muñoz. “Como una pieza suelta: lecciones del constitucionalismo administrativo de Adrian Vermeule”, 2020:  https://infrapolíticalreflections.org/2020/11/09/como-una-pieza-suelta-lecciones-del-constitucionalismo-administrativo-de-adrian-vermeule-por-gerardo-munoz/

3. Alberto Moreiras. “Sobre populismo y política. Hacia un populismo marrano”, Política Común, Vol.10, 2016: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/p/pc/12322227.0010.011/–sobre-populismo-y-política-hacia-un-populismo-marrano?keywords=…;rgn=main;view=fulltext  

4. Gerardo Muñoz. “Populismo y deriva republicana”, Libroensayo 2015: http://librosensayo.com/populismo-la-deriva-republicana/

4. Alberto Moreiras. “Hegemony and Kataplexis”, in Interregnum: Between Biopolitics and Posthegemony (Mimesis, 2020). 102-117. 

5. José Luis Villacañas. “Epimeteo cristiano: un elemento de autocrítica”, en Respuestas en Núremberg (Escolar y Mayo, 2016), 169-201. 

6. Carl Schmitt. La revolución legal mundial (Hydra, 2014). 34.

7. Jorge Dotti. “Incursus teológico-político”, en En las vetas del texto (La Cuarenta, 2011), 275-300.

8. Fernando Atria. “La verdad y lo político II”, en Neoliberalismo con rostro humano (Catalonia, 2013).

9. Adrian Vermeule. Law’s Abnegation: From Law’s Empire to the Administrative State (Harvard U Press, 2016). 

10. Gerardo Muñoz. “Politics as substantive morality: Notes on Gramsci’s Prison Writings VI”, 2020: https://infrapolíticalreflections.org/2020/12/05/politics-as-substantive-morality-notes-on-gramscis-prison-writings-vi-by-gerardo-munoz/

11. Tiqqun. “Glosa 57”, en Introduction to Civil War (Semiotext, 2010). 145.

Politics as substantive morality: Notes on Gramsci’s Prison Writings (VI). by Gerardo Muñoz

In section 79 of Gramsci’s Notebook 6 we are offered a strong definition of “politics” that I think illuminates the core of the Gramscian program fundamentally as a substantive morality. Gramsci writes the following against the “particularism” of normal associations (say the aristocracy, the elite, or the vanguard): “[an universal] association does not set itself up as a definite and rigid entity but as a something that aims to extend itself to a whole social grouping that is itself conceived as aiming to unify all humanity. All these relationships give a universal character to the group ethic that must be considered capable of becoming a norm of conduct for humanity as a whole. Politics is conceived a process that will culminate in a morality; in other words, politics is seen as leading towards a form of sociality in which politics and hence morality as well are both superseded.” (30). It is an astonishing definition, given the precise way it mobilizes the content of this new politics. Of course, there is the explicit the Hegelianism of the ‘universalist’ translation through the dialectical conflation between state and civil society, which just a few sections prior to 79, Gramsci deploys in order to posit the ultimate goal of communist society. 

But in this section he goes further, since it becomes clear that the state and civil society, as they march towards an ‘integral state’, dissolves politics into pure morality. But Gramsci immediately clarifies that it is not just a “morality” of a new dominant class (which could still be contested vis-a-vis other values), but rather a “morality that is superseded”. This is an absolute morality beyond value disputes. In other words, it is an absolute morality that needs to be so because state and civil society have become a unified whole. Concretely, this means the dissolution of politics and of any concrete order of the republican tradition, which recognizes that, precisely because civil war is the latent in the social, no morality can be granted hegemonic status. At bottom, this is the reason why we need politics and institutions to mitigate conflict. The Gramscian moral universe frames a world in which the conflict not only disappears, but rather it becomes pure morality towards a “substantive common good” in which every person is obliged to participate. Indeed, one could claim that the theory of hegemony as morality has never appeared as strongly as in this fragment. I think it is fair to say that the telos of hegemony is, in every case, a drive towards the consolidation of this uncontested morality. 

Needless to say, this is a frontal assault on positive law, which aimed, from Hobbes to H. L. Hart, to clearly differentiate between politics, institutions, and morals. In a surprising but direct way, Gramsci’s definition of politics as substantive morality is closer to the tradition of “Thomism” in at least three compartments of Aquinas’ thinking. First, because it posits a substantive morality as a unified conception of aims, which negates any competing positions between values. Secondly, the substantive morality of politics informs the Gramscian theory of the state, which, very much like the Thomist subsidiary structure, understands institutions not as a concrete order of conflict (stasis), but rather as a depository for the reproduction of civil society (that is why Gramsci also in notebook 6 will speak about the “state without a state”) in the image of the state. However, if we are to be fair to the natural law tradition, I think we can claim that Gramsci is really an archaic and not a “modern” (or revolutionary) Thomist, since even John Finnis in his Natural Law and Natural Rights (Oxford, 1980), in an attempt to square natural law with modern liberalism, countered Hart’s objection of unified moral aims in this way: “…there are basic aspects of human existence that are good leaving aside all the predicaments and implications…all questions of whether and how one is to devote oneself to these goods” (30). Finnis distinguishes between general principles and personal elaborations of aims. However, Gramsci is not interested in establishing generic “principles” for plural aims, but rather he seeks the actualization of a morality that is substantive because it is understood as “superseded as morality” as such. The kingdom of the Gramscian integral state is only realized if the heterogeneity of the social is captured by the hegemony of a supreme morality of Humanity. 

The distance between Gramscian moral politics and the modern natural law foundation (Fuller, Finnis) is driven home when later in section 88 of notebook 6 he claims that: “…one should not think of a “new liberalism” even if the beginning of an era of organic freedom were at hand” (76). This confirms that Gramsci is interested in crafting a morality tied to the efficacy of immanent individual ends and desires, and not at the level of generic principles of a common order. If one takes this moral politics seriously, then it becomes difficult (impossible, in my opinion), to square the primacy of this morality with positive law and the republican tradition at large. At its “best light”, the Gramscian absolute morality can only yield a faith in “Humanity”, which feeds from the production of enmity (turning dissent into ‘inhumanity’) in a civil war, as it cannot be otherwise.

The technification of thinking: Notes on Gramsci’s Prison Writings (V). by Gerardo Muñoz

In the “Fourth Prison Notebook”, Gramsci offers a treatment of the science of “historical materialism”. A science that is not to be understood as a region of thought, but rather as a totalization and condition of possibility of the very opening of a new epoch. At some point in the notebook, Gramsci writes the following (which is also exemplary exposition of the reduction of his program): “As a matter of fact, historical materialism has no need for extraneous support: it is itself so robust that the old world turns to it to supply its own arsenal with some more effective weapons. This means that while historical materialism is not subjected to hegemonies, it has itself stared to exercise a hegemony over the old intellectual world. (156). We do not want to put too much pressure on the term “intellectual” here, but it is a notable expression. There is a dual logic of “hegemony” at play: hegemony is both the archê that can sustain an epoch phantasmatically never fully closing it; while, at the same time, it is also the opening of the epoch of the “reign of freedom”, which is the discovery of historical materialism as a science of totality. When Gramsci writes that historical materialism has potential hegemony over the totality of the intellectual world, he is strongly positing a civilizational principle as a new conception of the spiritualization of the world. From this basic condition of transitional political thinking, it is difficult to see how Gramscianism can ever be freed from Hegelianism, given that Hegelianism is what informs substantially the theory of hegemonic reduction. Hegemony: what reduces the world.

         At the same time, and in order to secure this transition to this new epochal principle, another operation comes to the forefront: to obtain hegemony over the totality of the old intellectual world requires a technified form of thinking as such vis-à-vis its intellectual class as an active player in the process. A few pages later after he treats the exception to epochal hegemonies, Gramsci writes that: “…the importance of the technique of thinking in the construction a pedagogical program; here, again, one cannot make the comparison between the technique of thinking and the old rhetorics…the technique of thinking cannot be compared to these things, which is why one can say that it is as important to teach this technique as it is to reading and writing.” (160). This thematizes the political hegemony that harbors above the alleged organic development of the new epoch; as if, the menace of the deviation from hegemony is a “bad adventure” in thought, a derailing of intensity that needs to be straighten out by the force of pedagogic reinforcement. Gramsci recognizes that thought does not have a technique, but it is in virtue of said absence that its instrumentalization must be set tightly. There is no doubt that this is catastrophic. This is the internal catastrophe of any thought when reduced to hegemony. By positing thought as pedagogical techne, Gramsci cancels any possible relation to the world. The world has already been annihilated, since it has been taken to the limit of its realization, making it only accessible from the condition of the specie’s alienation with reality. To a certain extent, pedagogy and the “common school” program stands for the performance of the laws that make up the new science of history. Hegemony becomes the accessory that guarantees the entry into a theoretical totality that pushes out any relation with the world. 

There is a “genetic problem” that can be contested even at the level of its own “scientific” assumptions. Already Hans Blumenberg in The Genesis of the Copernican World (1975) argued that the configuration of a totality of knowledge is impossible given its heterogenous conditions and “inherent pressures of its workings”. There problem of epochal hegemony, then, it is not that it elevates a supreme and all-inclusive principle; but rather that, as a concept, it cannot name a process of rationalization required to advance a civilizatory principle. Indeed, Gramsci calls “the conquest of the historical world, a new civilization” (164). This is why Gramscian appeals again and again to Catholic ecclesiastical administrative capacities for the formation of the new communist integral state. However, whereas for Weber “bureaucratic rationalization” was an organic process within history; for Gramsci, on the contrary, it is conceptual and pedagogical. In other words, it is a mimesis that transforms itself as a command of the Party, the militant, and disciplinary orientation. The Gramscian cosmos of production is a secular form of angeology for the intellectual class that must guide the working class (203). Of course, as we know, angels are not mere mediators between God and the sublunar world, they are also the keepers that glorify the dogma. And dogma here is the secular science of historical materialism. 

One last point about the date of this notebook (1932). This is most certainly a Gramsci that is no longer the one writing in the 1910s full of enthusiasm and good convictions; a Gramsci that could sense the trembling of gates of the revolution conquering the world. On the contrary, the Gramsci writing in the wake of the 1930s is one that is already noticing that “workerism” is dominion and form, or form that is already the byproduct of total mobilization. It is no coincidence that Ernst Jünger’s The Worker is published this year. At this point the worker is no longer a fixed transcendental category of the philosophy of history, but rather an energetic gestalt driven by mobilization and will to power. This means that formation – giving form – is always infinite, while the world remains objectivized into this total encompassing movement. Gramsci would mobilize intellectuals – but also thinking and imagination – to accomplish the labors of hegemonic politics.

The problem, already in 1932, should have been contested at the level of the form of life and distance between domination and world that I call post-hegemony. The false exit was taken: the multiplication of the modes of production, including the production of an “intellectual class” in an attempt to tilt the bourgeois order towards true hegemony. By 1930s it becomes clear that Gramsci cannot stand up to a problem oriented at the level of the critique of metaphysics. By adopting the science of historical materialism, Gramsci seems only capable of giving us a regional political practice masked by the metaphyisical pretensions of universality and totality. It wasn’t enough then, and it is most definitely not enough today. 

¿Qué pasaría si dejáramos de obedecer órdenes? Sobre El estandarte de Lernet-Holenia. por Gerardo Muñoz

La gran novela El estandarte (1934) de Alexander Lernet-Holenia trabaja con una tesis extremadamente sencilla, pero de enormes consecuencias políticas: ¿qué pasaría si se dejáramos de obedecer órdenes? Ciertamente, El estandarte tiene lugar en un interregnum, hacia el final del imperio Austrohúngaro y la disolución de la clase militar aristocrática. A lo largo de su desarrollo El estandarte recoge, sin muchas pretensiones, el anacronismo entre forma y acontecimiento, entre los hábitos de una sociedad terminada y la textura de un mundo cuya temporalidad muta hacia otra cosa. El sentido de lo visible y lo invisible pierde su estructura compensatoria. De ahí surge todo un malestar del cual la política y la economía serían solamente síntomas secundarios. Leemos muy temprano en la novela una nítida definición de esta crisis epocal: “Lo visible permanecía igual, pero lo invisible era distinto; en el interior de las gentes el mundo cambiaba, se disolvía, se hundía; cada uno lo sentía, aun no siendo más que un campesino polaco que nunca había visto nada del mundo, o si lo había visto no lo había observado. Era un fin del mundo.” (114). Así, la crisis de una época se verifica en la cesura asincrónica con el afuera. Estar de espaldas a él supone el ascenso de capacidad mimética de las formas ante la sublimación de la desconfianza. La absolutización de la descreencia implica dos cosas: descreer en la región de lo invisible, así como de las legitimidades en las cuales hemos sido arrojados para mitigar nuestros conflictos. 

Lernet-Holenia plasma esta crisis en un episodio que es también el trasfondo de la novela: batallones completos de tropas del imperio Austrohúngaro ya no obedecen órdenes de los generales y capitanes de los regimientos. Herbert Menis, personaje central de la novela, es incapaz de comprender este desbalance metafísico hasta mediados del relato. ¿Cómo puede ser que batallones enteros desobedezcan la orden de un capitán? Lernet-Holenia muestra que la crisis imperial tiene lugar cuando una orden ya no dice nada; en el momento en el que carece de autoridad; y cuando la existencia llega a reconocerse en la desnudez que supone vivir en el fin de una hegemonía. Emile Benveniste nos recuerda que la “hegemonía” (hēgéomai) guarda el viejo sentido de un mando supremo, ya sea un individuo o de una nación, que luego pasará a ser más o menos sinónima de la noción romana de imperium [1]. De ahí que podamos decir que cuando las órdenes ya no transmiten auctoritas, aparecen como demandas vacías, entregadas al dominio de una fuerza oscura. Pura expresión de voluntad de poder. Este es el núcleo fuerte de El estandarte: una vez que el imperium ha perdido su legitimidad, crecen las demandas de hegemonía. Traduciéndolo al presente diríamos que el incremento de la policía es proporcional a la carencia de legitimidad de organizar lo social. El intento hegemónico radica siempre en lo mismo: ficcionalizar la “unidad” desde la multiplicación de los archēn. En otras palabras, las órdenes apelan a la hegemonía ante la desficcionalización que produce el incumplimiento de una orden. Lernet-Holenia escribe en una insuperable estampa de este suceso de desficcionalización del ejercito imperial que ya no se atiene a las órdenes:

“Era como si los cascos y uniformes, las distinciones de los suboficiales y las águilas imperiales de las escarapelas se desprendieran de la gente, como si se desvanecieran caballos y sillas y no quedaran mas que nos cientos de desnudos campesinos polacos, rumanos o ucranianos que no veían el sentido de llevar, bajo el centro de una nación alemana, la responsabilidad del destino del mundo” (179). 

La hegemonía busca establecer una fantasía objetiva ante la caída de la autoridad imperial. Pero sabemos que desde Grecia el problema siempre ha sido el mismo: el archē no es un basileus supremo, sino la efectividad de una mediación y delegación que encierra a la individuación [2]. La hegemonía gobierna sobre lo irreductible. Destituir una orden implica literalmente detener el mundo, puesto que ya no hay fe en la simbolización ordenada. En reiteradas veces Lernet-Holenia nos dice cómo las miradas de los soldados persiguen la nada. Ya no hay un trazo de horizonte, hay solo abismo. Toda la simbología pierde su eficacia de transmisión de jerarquía. Por eso el gran símbolo de la novela – el estandarte que llevan los oficiales al frente de un batallón – pasa a ser un emblema que irradiaba gloria a un pedazo de tela insignificante, o como escribe Lernet-Holenia, un mero “atado de ropa mojada” (199). La desficcionalización es absoluta: ni el actuar ni sus símbolos (su representación) quedan a salvo. En efecto, el estandarte es una bisagra entre el mundo que se escapa y aquel que ha acontecido en la historia.

En manos de Menis, el estandarte pierde la eficacia gloriosa del orden para convertirse en un símbolo de un juramento existencial y secreto ante la inhumanidad de los muertos. Es decir, lo que en su momento representaba valores imperiales (gloria, Dios, rey, imperio) es reducido a un paño que solamente puede acompañar una fe singular que excede a la visibilidad del humano. El estandarte, con su águila y bordado carmesí relumbrante, se vuelve condición de verdad y resto de un mudo que ha acontecido en la historia. El estandarte ya no “exige” hegemonía ni es compensación ante el abismo; es insignia de lo que resta del otro lado de la vida. Desde luego, para Menis el estandarte es símbolo de los muertos, un comodín que condensa el mito de una posible transfiguración de la vida. 

Esto se confirma al final de la novela, pues Menis no se opone a arrojar a las llamas el flamante estandarte. ¿Cómo no hacerlo? No hacerlo es fetichizar el espacio de la ruina, y por extensión, domesticar a los muertos reduciéndolos a la estampa del mito. Aquí se define la primacía de la vida contra el reverso de lo mítico. La lucidez de Lernet-Holena llega con intensidad hasta la última página de El estandarte: la quema de las banderas es la antesala del recomienzo de la vida. “No me dejes solo” le dice Menis a su amada Resa, un personaje que llegamos a entender solo en las últimas líneas del libro (331). Una vez que la desobediencia de las órdenes ha iniciado un proceso de desficcionalización de la autoridad y el fin del mundo ha sido interrumpido entre sus formas y eventos, lo que resta es una existencia que se arropa con dos formas de lo invisible: la belleza y el amor. Más allá de la memoria y sus espectros, Lernet-Holenia pareciera insistir en la apariencia como posibilidad de recomienzo de la vida fuera de la vida (con sus valores, insignias, y mitologías) después del fin del mundo. 

Ahora el destino de una vida es irreducible a la política o al maniqueísmo de la hegemonía como “mal menor”. Toda la persecución por las catacumbas de Konak es una odisea por un submundo que contiene las ruinas de la hegemonía o del imperium. Y todo eso debe dejarse atrás. Lernet-Holenia pareciera incluso ir más lejos: todo eso debe quemarse. Si la hegemonía es siempre, en cada caso, una objetivación de nuestra relación con el mundo; su ruina apertura a un afuera donde acontece la vida. El estandarte también nos confirma otra cosa: no es cierto que la ontologización de la carne tenga la última palabra en la espera del fin, ya que el encuentro es posibilidad de transfiguración de lo invivido; un consuelo ante las descargas metafísicas de la historia. De la misma manera que no hay destino en un mundo reducido a la ficcionalización de la hegemonía; no hay posibilidad de una vida verdadera sin la experiencia de un encuentro. La amistad es la ceniza tras el fin de la hegemonía que se resiste a la alienación como secreto individualizado. Aunque para llegar a ello se necesita de una fuga órfica, lo cual implica dotar de formas adecuadas a lo que ya siempre hemos encontrado. 

*

Notas

Emile Benveniste. Dictionary of Indo-European Concepts and Society (Hau Books, 2016). xi.

Jean-Pierre Vernant. The Origins of Greek Thought (Cornell University Press, 1984). 43.

On Jesuit militancy: Notes on Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks (IV). by Gerardo Muñoz

As I continue the systematic reading of Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks, one can finally provide substance to the thesis that gramscianism amounts to a sort of new priesthood of the political. The question here is about the specific substance and form of the theological. Most definitely, Gramsci is pursuing a strong theological position that is not reducible to monasticism, nor his he interested in subscribing a counter-modern Christian ethos against the modern “gentleman”. In this sense, Gramsci is a modernist tout court. Now, it seems to me that underneath the secularization of his political subjectivation is Jesuitism. This makes sense for at least two reasons. First, Jesuitism is a modern attempt of deification in this world through discipline. But, secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Jesuitism is a practice that serves to expand the energy of political militancy. As Alberto Moreiras suggested a while ago in an essay on the onto-theology of militancy, the reduction of the subjection into action has an important point of inflection in the Jesuitical practice. 

So, what would happen if we read Gramsci when he claims that he prefers a politician that “knows everything” and that is the most “knowledgeable” not as a Machiavellian strategy, but rather as a Jesuitical exercise? Leaving aside the paradoxical instrumentalization of Machiavelli’s political lesson (paradoxical because if political virtue is about keeping the arcana of power at a distance, then why reveal it?), one could very well say that Jesuitism is not just about the management of contingent events, but rather about the administration of habits and practices of the subject in order to reduce any interference of the event. Jesuitism, then, is an instrument to block and reduce all exterior turbulence vis-à-vis the very capture of the heteronomic intrusion. This capture accomplishes two things at once: from the outside it initiates a process of controlling the irruption of heterogeneity; from the inside, it is a technique of subjective militant discipline. It seems to me that Gramsci was not unaware of this theological apparatus when, in the third notebook, he writes the following: 

“New orders which have grown up since then have very little religious significance but a great “disciplinary” significance for the mass of the faithful. They are, or have become, ramifications and tentacles of the Society of Jesus, instruments of “resistance” to preserve political positions that have been gained, not forces of renovation and development. Catholicism has become “Jesuitism”. Modernism has not created “religious orders”, but a political party – Christian Democracy”.  (332)

Now we are in a better position to state that Gramsci’s political theology is compartmentalized in the specificity of Jesuitism. Indeed, he himself reads the transformation of the Church into Jesuitical practice of resistance as parallel to the bourgeois Christian democratic party formation. Does not Gramscianism amount to the same, that is, a combination of party formation and disciplinary militant form? Indeed, Jesuitical practice contains the production of form. Here we see the dimension of Gramsci’s anti-populism, since the main strategy is not to “construct a people”, but rather to build an army of militant community of believers. Any study of Gramscian political theology has to begin by displacing the veneer of political Machiavellism to the concrete practices propelled by theological Jesuitism.

Thus, the gestalt of the “new priest” is profoundly Jesuitical. As Walter Benjamin noted in the fragment “Zu Ignatius von Loyola” (1920), the practice of “consciousness transformation” becomes the way to submit to the spiritual authority. This mechanic domestication of habits becomes the sacrament that regulates the interior life of the militant. A question emerges from all of this: is there a counter-figure to sacramental militancy? 

Friendship at the end of the world: On Frank Wilderson III’s Afropessimism (2020). by Gerardo Muñoz

The publication of Frank Wilderson III’s Afropessimism (Liveright, 2020) marks an important break in contemporary thought, which has been seating comfortably for too long in the pieties of identity, culturalism, and politization. One of the most immediate effects of Afropessimism is how it unmasks the way in which identity and cultural hegemonic discourses, far from constituting a different horizon of the existing cliché, actually mitigate a spectacle of devices for the domestication of other possibilities of thought. Of course, some were aware of said spectacle, but now with Wilderson’s experiential writing the allure of subaltern subject position is finally destroyed from within. Wilderson’s account escapes two routes of the witness position: that of the personal memoir that contributes to a narrative of redemption; and on its reverse, that of testimonio, which in the postcolonial debates of the 1990s solicited a politics of alliance with the subaltern voice for a new politics of truth. In this sense, Wilderson’s Afropessimism is a post-hegemonic work through and through insofar as it destroys the hegemony of the citizen-subject of Liberalism, but also that of subaltern as a mere stock in the production of hegemony. As Wilderson claims early in the book “Black people embody a meta-aporia for political thought and action”, as such, Afropessimism is a radically unstable force that brings to bear the unthought of the most predomination critical paradigms of university discourse (Marxism, Postcolonial theory, feminism) as aggregation of politics of the subject  (13-14). 

Afropessimism is first and foremost a dislocation of the toolbox of critical of theory as always already complicit with the general movement of the imperial policing of thinking. The strategy is always the same when it comes to administrating a regime of reflexive order: posit a paradigm of a subject position and then mobilize it against other subjects. There is nothing radical about this validation; quite the contrary, it coincides with the arbitrary hierarchization of values proper to Liberalism’s current designs. Wilderson wants to destroy analogy just like he wants to be done with narrative of redemption, or ethical alliance since all of these are forms of reductions of the true experience of living at the “end of the world”. This is the apothegm from Fanon that creates the apocalyptic circuit in the book. What does it mean to live at the end of the world? This the vortex of Afropessimism, the atopic site that inscribes the existential conundrum of the Black form of life. The apocalyptic “end of the world” must be read as a concrete inhabitation of life, that is, “being at the end of the world entails Black folks at their best”, writes Wilderson (40). This entails that there is no world without Blacks, but Black experience is an incessant drift at the limit of the world as captured by the entrapment of Humanity. I take it that Wilderson means that “Afropessimism is Black folks at their best” in relation to a form of life at the level of experience that is not only constitutive of sociability, but that it also an intensity that rejects any domesticating efforts into a more “democratic” or “hegemonic” civil society. Under the rule of equivalent demands, where subjects and objects are exchanged (or camouflaged in the name of “Rights”), the Black can only constitute a “social death” that breaks any equilibrium, or that sustains the hylomorphism of its others (102). This goes to the heart of the articulation of hegemony, which for decades has been the leftist horizon of a good and democratic politics, but which for Wilderson amounts to the very logistics of the democratic plantation. In an important moment of the book, Wilderson argues against the theory of hegemony: 

“In the solicitation of hegemony, so as to fortify and extend the interlocutory life of civil society, ultimately accommodate only the satiable  demands  and  legible  conflicts  of civil society’s junior  partners  (such as immigrants, White women, the working class), but foreclose upon the  insatiable  demands and illegible  antagonisms of Blacks. In short, whereas such coalitions and social movements cannot be called the outright handmaidens of anti- Blackness, their rhetorical structures, political desire, and their emancipatory horizon are bolstered by a life- affirming  anti- Blackness; the death of Black desire.” (240)

There is no hegemony that is not conditioned by a non-subject, an abyss that marks the aggregation of their equivalent subjective demands. This is why the non-demand of the Black, who has nothing for exchange, remains at the limit of hegemony, or rather what I call a posthegemonic fissure, in which democratic desire and hegemonic articulation enter into an incommensurable zone. Given that blackness is the site of “social death…the first step toward the destruction if to assume one’s position and then burn the ship or the plantation from the inside out. However, as Black people we are often psychically unable and unwilling to assume this position. This is as understandable as it is impossible” (103). This is consistent with Wilderson’s label of Afropessimism as an aporetic meta-theoretical paradigm. The question of the possibility of an experiential exodus to an outside, and not just an internal limit to the metaphysics of Humanity is most definitely one question that one could raise about its “epistemological void” as parasitical to the infinite production of subjectivity (164). It is clear that by rejecting hegemony, Wilderson also has to give up any liberationist horizon at the service of a political project committed to Black emancipation. For Wilderson the legitimacy is somewhere else: “Afropessimism is not an ensemble of theoretical interventions that leads the struggle for Black liberation. One should think  of it as a theory  that is legitimate because it has secured a mandate from Black people at their best; which is to say, a mandate to speak the analysis and rage that most Black people are free only to whisper” (173). It is a rage that one could counterpose as the opposite of the subaltern politics of truth; in order words, it is a rage experienced against the “gratuitous violence” that divides the antagonism between a singular life and the world of the state of things and its people. 

The vortex of Wilderson’s Afropessisism, however, is not just the rejection of hegemonic articulation or the benevolent solidarity as administrated domination, it is rather the emphasis of a new world caesura that he frames in this way: “…the essential antagonism is the antagonism between Blacks and the world: the centrality of Black people’s social death, the grammar of suffering of the slave…” (174). This essential conflict stages the antagonism at the level of the debates about the frontier of Humanism, for which the Black, insofar as it is a figure of the non-subject, already acts an archipolitics that frees the intensification of any politics of liberation now transfigured as a liberation from politics [1]. This archipolitics dwells in the intensification of a non-identity that is irreducible to any hegemonic fantasy that labors on solidarity, equivalency, unity, program, demand, projection. And why not, also against the democratic polity (insofar as democracy cannot be thought outside the jointing of two apparatuses of civil society renewal: citizenship and mobilization). This archipolitics of Afropessimism puts into crisis the general categories of modern political thought, I am also tempting to limit this claim to the very notion of democratic practice as previously defined. Here the “legitimacy” that Wilderson evokes is no longer at the level of a new democratic renewal – which is always within the spirit of the modern liberal design; indeed, recently some have made legitimacy and hegemony conceptual couples – but rather as a poking outside the democratic imagination, which ultimately feeds Black social death, even when sustained by the social contract of hegemonic alliances.

Is there something beyond the subjection to alliance? In other words, what if being at the “end of the world” is also the time to undue the mystification of solidarity in the name of friendship? I agree with Jon Beasley-Murray, also writing about Frank Wilderson III, that the idea should not be to win over friends, but rather to suggest that friendship is still possible flight [2]. I would go as far as to call friendship an event of thought. Indeed, friendship has no stories to tell and does not seek redemption; it also betrays normative ethics each and every time. This is not to say that there such a thing as an archipolitics of friendship, nor a political program for a friendship of community. We have enough of that in every community form. Perhaps if we accept the event of singular friendship, we can move beyond the logistics of antagonism and hostility that are constitutive of Humanity, but irreducible to the specie that confronts the destiny of the inhuman. As a great thinker of the twentieth century wrote: “there are infinite possibilities of inhumanity in each man. There is no external enemy; this is why the tragic exists. This simple maxim confirms the fundamental thought of Robert Antelme. The “no-man” in man, attentive to perfection is what allows the sedimentation of the concentration camps. […] Friendship for me is not a positive thing nor a value, but rather a state, a multiplication of death, of interrogation, a neutral site where I can sense the unknown, the site where difference only expands in the place of its contrary – in proximity to death” [3]. One question that must accompany Wilderson’s formative book is whether the “spirit of friendship” with inhuman can be something like solace without redemption at the end of the world. Friendship could be understood here as the marker for the disunification of forms of life outside the condition of hostility without falling into nihilism. At the point, perhaps psychological categories such as optimism or pessimism now lose their relevancy as forms of life realize that they are already dwelling at the of the end of the world. 

Notes

  1. The conceptualization of Afropessisism as an archipolitics I owe to Alberto Moreiras. See his note “Whiteness and Humanity”, July 2020: “https://afropessimismandinfrapolitics.wordpress.com/2020/07/07/whiteness-and-humanity/
  2. 2. Jon Beasley-Murray. “Afropessimism”, July 2020: https://posthegemony.wordpress.com/2020/07/06/afropessimism/
  3. Dionys Mascolo. En torno a un esfuerzo de memoria: sobre una carta de Robert Antelme. Madrid: Arena Libros, 2005. 57. The translation to English is mine. 

Sobre un artículo de Peter D. Thomas contra “posthegemonía”. por Gerardo Muñoz

El reciente artículo de Peter D. Thomas titulado “After (post)hegemony” (2020) termina con una conclusión muy triste, pero sintomática de lo que es la izquierda contemporánea con toda la carga de su impasse teórico. Escribe Thomas: “Posthegemony’s proposal to go beyond hegemony thus finally results in a return to precisely those political problems to which the emerge of hegemony in the Marxist tradition – as a concept and political practice – as designed as a response. The ultimate significance of this debate can therefore be comprehended in at least two sense, one textual and the other one political” (17). Es una conclusión lamentable en la medida en que incluso suponiendo que la “posthegemonía” indica una regresión a las condiciones previas a la teoría de la hegemonía elaborada por Antonio Gramsci, también se puede decir que el gesto filológico de Thomas no es otro que seguir empantanado en lo mismo. O sea, lo que Thomas propone al final no es otra cosa que una mera competencia de filologías.

Obviamente que no tengo porqué defender la teoría de la posthegemonía aquí – cosa que ya he elaborado en varios lugares y que desarrollo en el próximo ensayo La fisura posthegemónica (Doblea editores, 2020) – tan solo quiero indicar (algo ya tematizado por Alberto Moreiras) que la posthegemonía es otro estilo teórico de pensar la política en lugar de ofrecer una enmienda al concepto operativo de la hegemonía. No es para nada increíble que buena parte de la izquierda contemporánea (con raras excepciones), heredera de las esquirlas ideológicas de la modernidad, jamás haya podido hacer otra cosa que escarbar en los basureros de sus “archivos” con la triste misión de erigir un principio que les vuelva a oxigenar un horizonte de acción.

Nada nuevo. En realidad, incluso dentro de los debates de los 70 alguien como Giorgio Cesarano en un texto decisivo de 1975 escribía lo siguiente contra la insuficiencia de las aspiraciones gramscianas: “Frente a la totalización materializada que se opera en el dominio del capital, el momento teorético se ve obligado a representar la ausencia del sujeto revolucionario y de su violencia en la forma de un distanciamiento de la «totalidad», concebido como prefiguración «abstracta» (en positivo y en negativo) del comunismo que se realiza sin transición.” («Ciò che non si può tacere», Puzz, n. 20, 1975). En la medida en que no se busque pensar contra la abstracción epocal todo termina en juegos arcaicos desde la mediación del archivo, de los conceptos, de la tropología, de la “historia intelectual”, o de la Idea; toda una serie de variantes para evitar el pensamiento. De ahí que cuando escuchamos con reiterado énfasis que Gramsci es la “verdadera alternativa latinoamericana” al “marxismo realmente ortodoxo” porque se distancia del materialismo dialéctico o del socialismo nacionalista cubano esto es algo un poco más que risible. En el caso de Thomas, en una última acrobacia desesperada, la distancia la toma de Laclau & Mouffe con el fin de llegar a develarnos nada más y nada menos que la piedra filosofal del “estado integral” (revolución pasiva mediante) que nos garantizaría la salvación.

Pero sabemos que cualquier acto de circo en un parque de verano tiene más gracia y diversión. En realidad, todo esto atrasa (para el pensamiento), y como me decía un amigo recientemente, es un gesto que no debe ser entendido de otra manera que como el momento desnudo del leninismo: una forma de tomismo. El partido del Tomismo es el partido del orden, de la pedagogía (lo decía con lucidez Rodríguez Matos), del respeto sacerdotal al textualismo. Nunca como hoy el marxismo ha estado tan cerca de la deconstrucción académica y de lo que en la jurisprudencia norteamericana se llama el “originalismo”. Tal vez esto explica su éxito “programático” y litúrgico. De ahí que cuando en tiempos recientes hemos escuchado ciertas críticas a posthegemonía como formula “pre-leninista” en realidad están operando de la misma forma que el gramscianismo tomista. En otras palabras, el predecible gesto de siempre: neutralizar una intensidad de pensamiento y estilo para seguir bailando en la cuerda floja. Una cuerda floja que en un siglo no ha cesado de romperse. Pero claro, el hecho de que se rompa justifica el “providencialismo” de toda hegemonía.

On the metropolitan civilization: Notes on Gramsci’s Pre-Prison Writings (II). by Gerardo Muñoz

There is really not much that I can add about the young Gramsci writing in the L’Ordine Nouvo during the ’20s. I think Alberto Moreiras has already done a fabulous job of showing the underlying productionism of Gramsci’s knot around the Party, culture, subjects, and objects. Therefore, there is no need for me to gloss those arguments and their inscription in the context of Italian political history. Rather, I would only add a footnote to the question of productionism by focusing on some aspects of the short, albeit interesting, article “The Historical Role of the Cities” (1920). Here we are confronted with a Gramsci that appears as the defender of “urban civilization”, which is rather strange, but in any case, still very relevant. Insofar as today gramscianism is a cultural-political rhetoric of the enlightened metropolitan left, one could say that they are following Gramsci’s “original intuitions”. In this 1920 article, Gramsci argued that “the proletarian dictatorship will save the cities from ruin” (136). Like the foco guerrillero some decades later, this will to power will necessarily produce a “civil war in the countryside and will bind vast strata of impoverish peasants to the cities” (136).

Indeed, this is what historically ended up happing whether in contexts of “successful” revolutions or in instances of accelerated post-fordist capitalism. In other words, the destruction of what Carlo Levi called the communal form of life as an exodus to urban integration was, in the half of the twentieth century, one of the most radical spatial-political transformation of the dynamics of territorial power in the West. There was no modern revolution that stood “against the metropolitan domination”. On the contrary, every revolution was tailored as the full metropolitization of the national body. If we think about the Cuban Revolution of 1959 this is extremely clear: following the triumph of Fidel Castro & his men, there was a literal civil war in the Escambray highlands of the island that hunted any peasants that opposed the ‘integration process’ (hunted in the literarily sense, since the youth sent to the mountains to persecute the peasants were called cazabandidos). Parallel to the metropolitization as a total project, there was also a project of subjective transformation of the people into the metropolitan ethos. Hence, once again in the case of the Cuban revolution, all peasants were invited to the urban centers in a deescalating vector that ran from the countryside to the cities. When Gramsci defends the “modern industrial civilization” one must take him literarily: he is defending the a stealth metropolitization of public life.

Gramsci writes: “The decisive historical force, the historical force capable of creating an Italian state and firmly unifying the bourgeois class of all Italy, was Turin…but today Turin is not the capitalist city para excellence, but it is the industrial city, the proletarian city par excellence” (137). There are two movements here: on the one hand, Gramsci is anxious about the territorial fragmentation that is unable to make Italy a sovereign state that can coincide with its ‘people’. On the other hand, there is the assumption that any given city that holds the monopoly of production is already, sooner or later, the topos that will follow through with the revolution. This is true because, according to Gramsci, “the class of workers and peasants must set up  a strong network of workers and peasants to take over the national apparatuses of production and exchange, to acquire a keen sense of their economic responsibility and to give the workers a powerful and alert self-consciousness as producers” (138).

Of course, it follows that (and this is a teleology similar to what foquismo thought exactly forty years later), if there is a revolution in Milan, then there is a revolution at a national scale because “Milan is, effectively, the capital of the bourgeois dictatorship” (139). If for foquismo the starting point was a diffuse group of conscious revolutionaries in the highlands that will ignite the rebellion in the city; for Gramsci the rebellion in the city will allow for a revolt of the peasantry. Aside from having different starting points, what both Gramsci and foquismo have in common is the same teleological conception: this is a politics that is interested in “saving the metropolis” to reconstruct an artificial “national unity”.

The irony is that already in the 1960s the Gramscian dream of a metropolitan civilization was brought about in the post-Fordist regime of production which, as Marcello Tarì has shown in an important book about Italian Autonomia, realized a new systemic conception of power tied to a hegemonic metropolitan way of life. But perhaps this is specific to Italian Autonomia, since it speaks to the cosmos of socialism itself as a project tied to a “point de capiton” that regulates a “body” in the name of community. This operation, of course, seeks to suture fragmentation with the avatar of formal “social relations”. This is why the defense of the metropolitan city life is so important for Gramsci, which coincides with contemporary pseudo-radicals that propose a “democratic socialism” based on “this life”: it is a new form of domination that amounts to opening the flows of communication for “participatory subjects”. As Gramsci himself defines his communism in the article “The Communists Groups” (1920): “Communism as a system of new social relations can only become into being when material conditions are in place that permit it to come into being” (200). This is a good definition of a pastoral communism, “an integrated class” that has now become one with the metropolis.