On the community of friendship. by Gerardo Muñoz

There is no surprise that the growth of social fragmentation runs parallel to appeals to community and communitarian affirmations. For anyone today in the university (at least in the United States, but I am told that the trend is similar across parts of Europe and elsewhere) it is easy to see that all initiatives and justifications for actions (an art curatorial project, a library event, you name it) is almost always done in the name of the community. The communitarian affirmation emerges to help cure the otherwise too crude and unbearable wounds of the social bond and the community of the species (Gemeinwesen). A friend was on point recently in defining these communities of obligation, participation, and self-valorization as a minima societas; a mini society that helps to create the illusion that “Society”, somehow, is still here.

As we know, this is not far off from Edmund Burke’s famous theory of “little platoons” meant to orient humanity towards the virtues of public affections. The collapse of civil-society and state mediations realized the Burkean predicament to its integral idealization, which is why today radical Marxist, academic bureaucrats, postliberal nationalists, experts in mental health and psychiatric treatments, contemporary art curators and even special units of the police can all agree that community is the highest value that must protected and sustained. In this framework, there is no outside to the community, and every outside becomes integrated into the community as a value.

The community lodges the artificial allure to retract from catastrophe, but it does so by reproducing the catastrophic it seeks to avoid: that is, by negating the possibility of exteriority of every community sustained by the affective transmission of vanity and recognition. This is why to speak of community of friendship is a misnomer at best, which introduces a great amount of confusion between these two forms of contact. In a fabulous moment in his Il dialogo della salute, Carlo Michelstaedter goes as far as to write that: “In the communities of friendship that are born from a common vanity, every life off the death of those who are already outside the community. Everyone in its own solitude swallows with an empty stomach the sour implications of these lethal conversations. But these are the companies that please men”.

It is a remarkable passage that exposes the irredeemable position of a community of friendship, which ultimately subsumes the friend into the logistics of debt, obligation, and recognition and satisfaction. As in Mary McCarthy’s novel The Oasis (1949) about a group of disaffected antinuclear intellectuals who form a community in the mountains of New England, every community of friendship is destined to the worst catastrophe imaginable sacrificing both friendship and the world through the circulation of value.

Precisely, if friendship means anything, is that it is on the other side of valorization that permanently conflates language and directives of action. What happens in McCarthy’s The Oasis is precisely that language becomes a medium for directives and exchange, and friendship a hellish reality of ‘those who belong’ but now have nowhere to go.

The impossibility of separating community and friendship will only perpetuate the politics of catastrophe that has colored the entire course of Western political modernity. The Spanish political leader Pablo Iglesias recently captured the bad faith of our times: “Puede que la manifestación no tenga un impacto político inmediato pero del mismo que los católicos se encuentran en misa nosotros nos encontramos, nos abrazamos en las movilizaciones. Somos parte fundamental de una comunidad.”

For sure, a magnetic secularized religious liturgy lives on Iglesias’ candid heart. But we know that the partition of friendship is neither an offshoot nor a declension of a substantive community; it is what takes place on the other side of pathetic valorization.

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).