Glosses on Idris Robinson on Enzo Melandri’s logic of analogy. by Gerardo Muñoz

This is the final entry on the mini-series of interventions within the framework of the course that I am teaching at 17 instituto on contemporary Italian political thought. In this last fourth installment we had a very rich and productive conversation with Idris Robinson (University of New Mexico) on the philosophy of work of logic developed by the Italian thinker Enzo Melandri. Melandri’s work remains largely unknown, aside from the recent new editions of his major works at Quodlibet, and the recent monograph Le Forme Dell’Analogia: Studi Sulla Filosofia Di Enzo Melandri (2014) by Angelo Bonfanti. Idris’ doctoral dissertation (hopefully a book in the near future) will be a major contribution in a rising interest on Melandri’s work on logic, politics, and history, and its dialogues with the work of Wittgenstein, Foucault, and Agamben. As Idris Robinson recalled, the work of Melandri would have been entirely unknown if it weren’t for Agamben’s book on method, Signatura rerum, which uses Melandri’s work on analogy and paradigms as conditions for his own archeological method. This whole terrain remains to be explored, as Philippe Theophanidis suggested, given that it has been for the most part ignored in all the main works on the Agamben’s thought (including Villacañas’ otherwise excellent essay on method, history, and archaeology in the recent collective volume that I edited). But to the extent that Enzo Melandri’s work remains to be translated into English, Idris’ lecture serves as an important introduction to some of the key elements of his work, even if there is a lot to fill in and discuss from now on. All of the questions regarding Agamben’s method should emerge from this terrain, rather than the exhausted and ambiguous mantra of “critical theory”.

1. First, Idris Robinson suggested that Melandri’s central contribution departed from the distinction of two major path of Western logic: linear logic, which comes full circle in symbolic logic and formalization at the turn of the twentieth century (Russell, Frege, Wittgenstein); and analogical logic, which remains suppressed, but subterranean latency for problems of bivalence and the excluded middle against all preconditions of the identity-difference polarity. Like Agamben would later do with his rereading of energeia/dunamis opposition in Aristotle, Melandri was also a strong reader of Aristotle’s logic and the categories in order to advance a series of logical alternatives (not by any means the only ones, and not necessarily distributed equally): a) a different conception of the principle of identity (p / -p), b) gradations of contradictions (p / -p), c) inclusion of a middle or third as failure of bivalence, d) continuity and gradation, and e) the equivocity of meaning. All of these should not be taken at face value or even as complete abandonment of linear logic. Needless to say, these elements supply analogic logic an exit from linear reductions of formal logic and its presuppositions on the grounds of identity and negation to secure general ends and goods. By working within the paradigm of analogy, Melandri is said to account for indetermination and modality, which do not divide form and matter as opposites as in the linear model of the Aristotelian canons of medieval philosophy (Aquinas as its foremost representative) to the more analytical models of twentieth century logic.

2. The work of analogical logic allows Idris Robison to take up the question of form (he referred to it as morphology) as a problem of experience and specular observation of the world. Essentially this is the difference between Goethe and Newton in their explorations of colors, whereas the paradigmatic assumptions of Goethe aligned him with the logic of analogy by favoring deviations, gradation, and middle terms when thinking about the sensible problem of colors as an immanent series in nature (a method continued in Benjamin’s constellation images in his study of nineteenth century, but one could also think of Aby Warburg’s pathosformel as index of Western Art). Whereas Newton made an experiment and deduced the range of colors from a prism; Goethe was able to engage in observation (Idris alluded to his descriptions in his Italian diaries entries) in changing phenomena and organize it as such.

3. As a methodological question, what is important is how the paradigm becomes the unity for regulating (perhaps not the happiest of words) and constructing the indeterminate zone between thinking and the world, and in this way avoiding the abyss of pure relativism (or the arbitrary, I would also add). In this sense, the Goethe example stands for the problem of paradigm, but it does not necessarily entail – at least in my view – that his work is in itself free-standing for analogical transformation of life and thought. At the end of the day, Goethe is also famous for claiming that “All theory is gray, forever green is the tree of life”, which could explain why Giorgio Agamben in his most recent book on Holderlin’s final year juxtaposes the chronicle of Hölderlin modal and dwelling life (the parataxis is analogic poetics with respect to language) with the diplomatic and successful life of Goethe (the linear logic here could also be transposed with the ideal of destiny becoming ‘political’, as it is appears in his meeting with Napoleon). In any case, the logic of analogy and the reduction of paradigms becomes crucial to account for two distinct problems (at least this is my first reading, and I am in no way speaking on behalf of Idris Robinson’s thesis): to hold on to a stratification of history (open to configuration of mediums – images); and, on the other, a ground for logic, but only insofar as they are neither at the level of historical necessity and negation (philosophy of history), nor about linear logic that dispenses moral ends according to some “natural law”. From this premises, it should be interesting to explore Agamben’s archeology and ethics as a third path that diverges from both rationalization and the moral standing of understanding the just or the good.

4. Finally, I think two major problems emerge from a first preliminary confrontation with Melandri’s work, which we are only beginning to see how they “operate” in Agamben work, although at some point one should also confront the work on its own merits: on the one hand, the logic of analogy provides us with a truly historical method that is sensible to forms and stratification of the imagination that does not depend on conceptual history (in the manner of R. Koselleck), and even less on teleological historical progression. At the level of content, the analogical paradigm is consistent with trumping (suggested by Philippe Theophanidis) the hylomorphic conjunction of Western metaphysics, and thus contributing to a logical infrastructure for the form of life that abandons the primacy of ends and realization. What could this design entail for the transformation of our political categories? Does this necessarily imply that analogical legislating is always about political ontology! Does it require interpretation or a qualification of truth-validity? Or rather, does analogy favors the event instead of formal principles that have subsumed the grammar of politics and its negations (yes, also revolutionary politics, a problem also present in Della Sala’s paper)? Sure, extrapolating these questions to the field of politics is perhaps too hasty to fully repeal deontological concerns. Perhaps analogical analysis requires, precisely, a distance from the subsumption of political ontology at the center of thought. But to be able to answer these questions we need to further explore the work of Melandri. Idris Robinson’s lecture has provided us an excellent starting point§.

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Notes

§ Idris Robinson’s intervention on Melandri and the discussion should be available in the next days at the 17/instituto YouTube channel.

Glosses on Federico Della Sala on tragedy, comedy, and revolution. by Gerardo Muñoz

These are further notes on the mini-series of interventions within the framework of the course that I am teaching at 17 instituto on contemporary Italian political thought. In this third installment we engaged with Francesco Guercio and Federico Della Sala around the notions of comedy and tragedy in Italian theory, and the development of political reflection in Italy from the sixties onwards. Della Sala facilitated an excellent paper entitled “Tragedy and Comedy in Italian Theory: Notes on the intersection between literature and politics” (for the moment unpublished), which was extremely suggestive, elegant, and comprehensive in terms of its critical take on the horizon of Italian theory. These notes are by no means representative of the richness of Della’s text: rather, it just wants to highlight a few checkpoints to further the discussion of the seminar. Francesco Guercio participated in the conversation as a commentator who provided important insights on several of the essay’s critical movements.

1. In his paper, Della Sala offers one of the strongest critiques of Italian theory that I have read in recent times (perhaps the strongest), and it does so by engaging its own premises on alterity and historical restitution, which he defines as working within the paradigm of political modernity. As it emerges in the projects of Massimo Cacciari, Roberto Esposito, Antonio Negri, but also in the commentaries of the so-called Italian difference paradigm by academics such as Dario Gentili, the common terrain is to sustain a paradigm of alternative modernization rooted in difference and conflict. In a way – and I understand I risk of simplifying Della Sala’s layered argument a bit – Italian theory amounts to offering a paradigm that remains within the metaphysics of power and governmental optimization, even when it speaks the language of contingency, errancy, or the outside. Here Della Sala’s critique of Italian theory differs quite substantially from the normativist accounts raised against Italian theory, such as that of P. P. Portinaro, whose discomfort is really against political excess and its allegedly revolutionary principles. For Della Sala, on the contrary, Italian theory is a betrayal of thinking the transformative politics at the threshold of the ruins of modern principles of authority and legitimacy. Indeed, Massimo Caccari’s return to renaissance humanism in his Mente Inquieta: saggio sull’Umanesimo (2019), or Esposito’s Pensiero istituente (2021) that ends up defending human rights and anthropology of rights, ironically self-serve Portinaro’s critique of the “radical excess” as if inadvertently admitting the irreversibility of political modernity. Of course, this doesn’t get out anywhere. In fact, it is regressive, instead of moving thinking forward.

2. Della Sala credits Italian theory – specially from the 1960s onwards, perhaps from the work of Mario Tronti and autonomia more generally – with bringing the question of politics to the center debate, showing the limitations of political economy in Marxist thought and the insufficiency of the negative. But, at the same time, it has done so by remaining within a paradigm of crisis in which the ideal of struggle defines the meditation between politics and life. And this can only exacerbate the administration of a catastrophic of politics. It is through the “krisis” of negative thought (Cacciari, Vattimo, and Esposito) that something like a literature of Italian theory becomes tragic, amounting to a sort of reverse nihilism. Della Sala does not it claim it explicitly – and I wonder if he would agree with my own personal translation – but this tragicity results to a compensatory wager to the sacrificial horizon of the philosophy of history opened by Hegelian dialectics or the imperial romanitas conception of politics. So the sense of the tragic in modernity can live comfortably within the paradigm of the sacrifice of modernity, and it does not get us very far.

3. As Francesco Guercio also suggested it, the abyssal ground of modernity becomes tragic when it places life in the site of death, which entails that existence can only be understood as something to be administered and protected. It goes without saying that this is the overall project of positive biopolitics and immunity in the horizon of democratic legitimacy, whose final utopia, according to Della Sala, is to live at least one day like a King. This rings true given the operative function of King and “archē” (principle) that are needed to legislate the creation between politics and life, history and the anthropological sense of reality. Under this paradigm there is no space – or it is always parasitic, always subjected to the enmity of the species– to the question of existence, which becomes a generic aggregate of civil community. But can one subtract oneself from the seduction of a demonic politics and its negative relation to the tragic politics in the face of nihilism? The strong thesis in Dalla Sala’s paper is that Italian theory has not been successful to the task and that we must begin from scratch putting aside, once and for all, the mythical paradigm of crisis.

4. It is here where comedy enters. And it enters obliquely, although in resonance with Giorgio Agamben’s most recent argument in his book on Hölderlin, where the comic is understood as a retreat from the conversion of the tragic into the sacrificial suture of modernity. And for Della Sala, but also for Agamben, comedy has little done with the anthropology of laughter or the psychic drive of the Freudian slip. Rather comedy becomes the possibility of imagining a life that refuses the promise of living like a future king. On the contrary, the motto of the comic can be the early Hispanic (it was mentioned by Francesco Guercio in the conversation) “vivir desviviéndose” of the pícaro existence that allows for the mystery of life without political subsumption. Della Sala concludes his paper with a provocative assertion: “after all there has never existed nor will exist a tragic or unhappy revolution”. But would a “happy life” be consternated about revolution, or should it forfeit revolution to the trash bin of the modern political concepts? Isn’t comedy the abdication of revolution, either as the return to the same (think of Saint-Just naturalism) or the overcoming of the temporal order of the day after tomorrow? Perhaps comedy as the texture of life is a thorough abandonment not only of the tragic, but also of the efficacy of revolution as a residual messianism. And it is against the closure of revolution (because revolution depends on a principle of authority the exact moment that it triumphs) where the ongoing stasiological present should be thought.

Second thoughts on Giorgio Agamben and civil war. by Gerardo Muñoz

In a recent entry in his Quodlibet roster entitled “Sul diritto di resistenza“, Giorgio Agamben takes up once more time the question of civil war, but this time tested against the “right to resistance” (diritto di resistenza) as included in many Western constitutions. What is interesting in this note is that the for the first time – as far as I know, although it complements superbly an old intervention a propos of the publication of Tiqqun, along with Fulvia Carnevale and Eric Hazan – Agamben lays out quite explicitly how the “planetary civil war” tips the enumerated constitutional right of resistance on its head, making it indistinguishable from the management of civil war and the blurring of the category of formal enemy and that of the terrorist.

Indeed, the very notion of “planetary civil war” in an unified society without a strong discriminatory principle of enmity turns politics, as Carl Schmitt noted in his prologue to the 1971 Italian edition of The Concept of the Political, into something like a world police [1]. And the historical present has given Schmitt his due. Following Schmitt’s sound diagnosis, Agamben says nothing different, although this is the thesis that marks the limit of Schmitt’s modern categorical delimitations as well. In other words, if the unity of friend-enemy collapses, and now there is only the stratified value of association based on moral justifications, how can one speak of the “political” in this scenario (it is no longer about war, as we commented in a previous occasion). Is there even one?

And, if the political collapses so do the total sum of actions oriented as political resistance, and even resistance to the collapse of the political. For Schmitt it is very clear that it is even the internal exhaustion of the juridical order (ius publicum europeum) insofar as positivism is concerned, leading the way to the rise of what he called a world legal revolution consistent with what Karl Loewenstein already in the 1930s had termed “militant democracy” (1937). Once the modern state loses its monopoly on the legitimacy of authority, then anyone can establish an authoritative force; while, in turn, every enmity becomes a potential absolute enmity (even more so in legality, as we clearly see in the American context). In this sense, it is a misnomer to call a state “the state” if its function becomes a full equipped instrument of the optimization of civil war that rests on a sort of dual structure: on the one hand there is civil war at the limit of the collapse of legitimacy, but also the total domination that incorporates stasis as a functioning vector of its regulatory order.

In this sense, the advent of civil war after the collapse of the state is not a return to the confessional civil wars of early modern Europe, but rather the total unification of state and society without residue. So, if “right to resistance” presupposes not just the formal limitation of enmity but also the separation of society and state, it only makes sense that this category becomes defunct once the social emerges as proper site of the total administration: “the reunification gave us a new tyrant: the social” [2]. This entails that proper civil resistance is already subsumed in the process of civil war in the threshold of the political. In the context of civil war, resistances can mean both administration of the stasis, and the embedded position of a sacrificial subject, which has been costly (and it remains so) for the any calls for contestation, striking, or insubordination. Resistance here could only amount as a shadow apocalypticism. And sacrifice insofar as it is the fuel of any philosophy of history, merely relocates the energy of hostilities as measured by the factors of optimization.

It is only implicitly that Agamben concludes by suggesting that any “true resistance” must be imagined as a form of life in retreat from the social and its sacrificial idiolatry, from which one must draw its consequences or effects. This is the grounds of an ethical life, but also the way of reimagining another possibility of freedom, which in the brilliant definition of Carlo Levi, it means to live in freedom within our passions instead of being free of passions (precisely, because no principle can determine the true object of our passions, this demands a total reworking of modern notions of liberal and republican determinations of liberty) [3]. The time of the civil war, then, is best understood as a time of the affirmation of the conatus essendi, which rediscovers freedom through the sense of the event insofar as we are capable of attuning to the separability from any principle of socialization.

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Notes

1.  Carl Schmitt. “Premessa all’edizione italiana”, Le categorie del politico (ll Mulino 1972), 34.

2. Tiqqun. Introduction to Civil War (Semiotext, 2010), 61.

2. Carlo Levi. Paura della libertà (Neri Pozza, 2018), 45.

Glosses on Rodrigo Karmy’s Averroes and Italian theory. by Gerardo Muñoz

These are just a few notes on Rodrigo Karmy’s excellent presentation today on Averroes and averroism in Italy in the framework of a two-month course that I am teaching at 17 instituto on contemporary Italian political thought. And this series is a way to supplement and contribute to an ongoing discussion. So, these notes have no pretensions of being exhaustive, but rather to leave in writing some instances that could foster the discussion further in the subsequent interventions with Philippe Theophanidis, Francesco Guercio and Idris Robinson. There are two subtexts to this presentation: Rodrigo Karmy’s essay on Averroes and medieval theology of the person published in the new collection Averroes intempestivo (Doblea editores, 2022), and his preface to my own Tras la política on Italian thinkers forthcoming at some point this year (this text is unpublished at the moment).

1. Rodrigo Karmy is interested in advancing an averroist genealogy of Italian theory, and not just a matter of historical influence or history of ideas. The genealogical central unity for Karmy is the “commentary”, which I guess one could relate to the gloss, but also to philology (in the broad sense), and to the concrete practice of translation and incorporation of a way of thinking about life and the life of thought. Averroes is the signatura of a strong reading of Aristotle (the strongest argues Karmy against Renan). However, there is no academic ideal here, but rather a force of thought.

2. This force of thinking for Karmy is to be found in Averroes’ unique contribute on the Aristotelean text: the common intellect is substance. This will have important and decisive consequences for anthropology and the anthropological determination in Medieval philosophy (the absolutization of the person in Thomism, for instance). So, for Karmy it is no coincidence that Italian theory is heavily invested in the “common intellect”: from Mario Tronti’s elaboration on the autonomy of the worker to Antonio Negri’s general intellect when conflating Marx and Spinoza, but also in Esposito’s thought on the impolitical up to Giorgio Agamben’s self-serving averroism and its relation to experience of language and poetry as a form of life. The common intellect in Averroes allows, then, the separation of the the nominal subject from the genus of Man or Human. For Karmy this signals a fracture of the theological-political paradigm.

3. Why does Averroes emerge in Italian theory, and not, say, in French philosophy or German hermeneutics? Karmy relates this to the Italian tradition as a laboratory of translation, sedimentation, and the commentary. To which I responded that this is consistent with Bodei’s emphasis on fragmentation of the Italian tradition, Esposito’s idea of contamination of Italian living thought, and even Agmben’s most recent emphasis of diglossia and bilingualism in the Italian language from Dante onwards (in fact, Agamben is the editor of the Ardilut series on Italian poetry at Quodlibet). I tried to add to Karmy’s thesis the following: the notion of the “commentary” is far from being just a standard glossing over the corpus of an author, it could be very well taken as a sort of problem of language – a poetics, not a politics – which expresses a dynamic of the living that is prior to grammaticalization and political separation of power, for instance. This is the event of a language as such (una voce). It occurs to me that Karmy’s notion of the commentary could be analogous to the vocative in poetry (formidable present in Andrea Zanzotto’s poetics, for instance).

4. Finally, Karmy insisted that Averroes is, indeed, a sort of step back from the modern foundation of politics and the res publica. I suggested that this must entail a decisive step back from Machiavellian politics, or the ‘Machiavellian moment’ (JGA Pocock), insofar as Machiavelli inaugurates the sequence of technical nihilism from the force the political to the force of the worker (ways of arranging the administration of power). This is very neatly stated in Martin Heidegger’s seminar on Jünger’s The Worker. So, Averroes insofar as it gestures to a step back is something other than political republicanism, and this forces us to rethink the genealogy of politics. That seems a heavy but important task at the core of contemporary Italian theory.

Four positions of refusal. by Gerardo Muñoz

A friend recently suggested that the refusal is at center of multiple critical positions against the moralization of politics. And I agree. In fact, I would go as far as saying that the strategy of refusal is something like a common denominator in positions critical of political mediation. Although the refusal could take many forms, I would also add that the refusal is directed against hegemony broadly understood (culturalist, political, logistical, etc.). Primarily, the refusal awakes from the dream of hegemony as contributing towards any real substantive transformation anchored in “political realism”. Realism today is mostly deployed as a freestanding argument aimed at political traction, although it merely contributes to stagnation and paralysis; it is a katechon to any concrete transformative movement of the actual moment.

It is telling that the notion of ‘refusal’ was first developed in the French political context by the likes of Maurice Blanchot and Dionys Mascolo in the journal Le 14 Julliet, a project obscured by the monumental historiographies of May 68. In his short text “Refusal”, Maurice Blanchot defines the notion as the gap in representation between an event and language: “accomplished by neither us nor in our name, but from a very poor beginning that belongs to those who cannot speak” [1]. The refusal denotes a limit to representation. Similarly, in “Refus Inconditional”, Dionys Mascolo understands refusal as the constitutive possibility of silence so that true communication can indeed take place [2]. For both Mascolo and Blanchot, the notion of refusal was the condition for the possibility of friendship preceding subjectivism. By way of refusal, the realization of a “community of the species” is guarded against the socialization of alienable classes. I think one could name four positions of refusal against the closure of hegemony as the organization of secondly separations (alienation). These might not be the only positions – and many a time there is a clear overlap of the problem at hand.

1. The refusal of culture. First, there is Mario Tronti’s “The Strategy of refusal” (Operaio e capitale), which grasps the refusal in classical Marxist terms by way of criticizing culture as resistance against capitalist form. In fact, for Tronti culture amounted to a mediation of social relation of capitalism uncapped expansion. And for Tronti, “oppositional culture does not escape this fact; rather, it merely states the body of the worker’s movement ideologies in the common clothing of bourgeoisie culture” [3]. Hence, for Tronti, refusal meant disengaging from “becoming of intellectuals” as disengaged from the practice of the class struggle. The critique of culture functioned as an inversion of mediation with no transformative leverage whatsoever. However, for Tronti ‘refusal’ was still understood as a political strategy, which necessarily needed to engage with the “subjected” force of class and organized in the party form. In other words, the refusal in Tronti’s early work was the rejection of cultural mediation by intensifying the antagonism of the autonomy of the political. There is not yet a rejection of politics, but rather the assumption that the refusal can lead the way in the destruction of capital production given the “pagan force” of the proletariat. 

2. Refusal and fugitivity. Second, there is a clear and direct strategy of refusal in Afropessimism aimed at the totalization of the social bond organized around the destruction of black existence. Hence, for Afropessimism refusal takes the form of an archipolitics that seeks fugitivity from logistics of social death [4]. As Moten & Harney argue in All Incomplete (2021): “The Undercommons is the refusal of the interpersonal, and by extension the international, incomplete in the service of a shared incompletion, which acknowledges and upon which politics is built. To be undercommon is to live insists the inoperative condition of the individual and the nation as these upon brutal and unsustainable fantasies and all of the material effects they generate oscillate in the ever-foreshortening interval between liberalism and fascism. These inoperative forms still try to operate through us” [5]. Against all forms of bondage subsidized by hegemonic sature, the afropessimist refusal opens up a fugitive life in errancy that points to a new central antagonism now framed between black life and the world. In Wayward Lives (2020), Saidiya Hartman puts it in this way: “To strike, to riot, to refuse. To love what is not loved. To be lost to the world. It is the practice of the social otherwise, the insurgent ground that enables new possibilities and new vocabularies; it is the lived experience of enclosure and segregation, assembling and huddling together. It is the directionless search for a free territory; it is a practice of making and relation that enfolds within the policed boundaries of the dark ghetto; it is the mutual aid offered in the open-air prison. It is a queer resource of black survival. It is a beautiful experiment in how-to-live” [6]. The refusal of the total circulation of social relations allocates Black existence at the threshold of politics. This negative community refuses any hegemonic social rearticulation.

3. Refusal of logistics. Thirdly, in the work of the Invisible Committee the refusal entails destituting the social bond, although the emphasis is placed in infrastructure as the concrete and operative terrain of domination. For the collective the refusal becomes twofold: on the one hand, blocking the logistics of circulation and production of subjection; and on the other, separating the form of life from the regime of subjective domestication. At bottom, the refusal in the Committee’s takes aim against the mystification of the social as a site for autonomous gain from political struggle. For both Tiqqun and the Invisible Committee one needs to refuse the artificiality of the subject (Bloom) in the name of the form of life and reject politics of class antagonism favoring the civil war as a generic science of desertion (what remains after the collapse of the authority of modern politics).

4. Posthegemonic refusal. Finally, posthegemony refuses the codependency of politics and domination, and favors their non-correspondence; it refuses politics as hegemony, and hegemony as newcomer after the closure of metaphysics.  In this sense, posthegemony favors the exit from the total structure of socialization ordered through the equivalence of demands. One could say that posthegemony affirms the “realistic option of non-cooperation” with hegemony. But the space of non-cooperation allows the exit from subjective limit of the political. The posthegemonic separation, therefore, is the refusal of cooperation on the basis of refusal of conditions of obligation (what Eric Nelson labels being “stuck on the boat”), whether predicated on a distributive conception of social justice, or as the maximization of indirect interests proper to liberalism [7]. In this sense, the posthegemonic refusal abandons the temptation of establishing a new civilizatory principle with politics as its auxiliary and optimizing tool of order [8]. 

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Notes 

1. Maurice Blanchot. “Refusal”, in Political Writings (1953-1993) (Fordham U Press, 2010). 7.

2. Dionys Mascolo. “Refus inconditionel”, en La révolution par l’amitié (La Fabrique éditions, 2022). 27-30. 

3. Mario Tronti. “The Strategy of Refusal”, in Workers and Capital (Verso, 2021).

4. Alberto Moreiras. “An Invitation to Social Death: Afropessimism and Posthegemony, Archipolitics and Infrapolitics”, Tillfällighetsskrivandehttps://www.tillfallighet.org/tillfallighetsskrivande/an-invitation-to-social-death-afropessimism-and-posthegemony-archipolitics-and-infrapolitics

5. Fred Moten & Stefano Harney. All Incomplete (Minor Compositions, 2021). 29.

6. Saidiya Hartman. Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments (Norton, 2019). 227.

7. Eric Nelson. The Theology of Liberalism: Political Philosophy and the Justice of God (Harvard U Press, 2019). 163-164.

8. Gerardo Muñoz. “Posthegemonía, o por una retracción de los principios de la civilización”, Infrapolitical Reflections, 2020: https://infrapoliticalreflections.org/2020/08/03/posthegemonia-o-por-una-retraccion-de-los-principios-de-la-civilizacion-por-gerardo-munoz/

Homo Lupus Felix: Against Civilization. Notes for a presentation in the Eckhardt S. Program, Lehigh University. by Gerardo Muñoz

There is no question that Alice Rohrwacher’s Lazzaro felice (2018) is a marvelous cinematic work insofar as it measures up against the epoch by radically questioning the principles that have upheld what we know as civilization. This slight adjustment is critical given that ideology, political economy, or subject oriented frameworks of analysis have become insufficient to deal with the crisis of civilization. As a matter of fact, they have become functional (mere deployments of technique, to put it in Willy Thayer’s vocabulary) to the infrastructure, and its specific philosophy of History that promotes the maintenance of Order after the liquidation of its legitimacy. I would like to clarify that I am understanding civilization in a twofold register: as a genetic process of human anthropology based on the matrix of “appropriation, distribution, and production” of the world (a techno-political grid popularized by Carl Schmitt); but also as the total realization of an economic or political theology, which we can directly link to the function of “credit” (and the process of abstract dialectic between credit and debt, as a ground of a new “faith”) that is deployed as the medium of the total sum of social relations that commands beings in the world. Civilization is the general matrix of a process of optimal rationalization of the events that take place in the world, making us potential reactionary agents of the time of its phenomenality.

Aside from all the Christian and religious imaginary, Lazzaro felice is a theological film, but only insofar as it takes the irruption of the mythical remnant very seriously. There is something to be said here – and I think the film stresses this in several parts of the story – between religion and theology, dogma and the spiritual (anima), and the sacred and the commandment solicited by faith (pistis). In other words, Lazzaro felice enacts a destruction of a political theology by insisting on the civilizatory decline towards reproduction of as mere life of survival; a life that is delegated to the abstract faith of credit. In this sense, it is no mistake that Lazzaro’s homicide takes place in a bank and executed by the community of believers (capital, in the end, has already been incarnated; it is the Subject). The laboratory where this takes place is the metropolis, which as I have argued elsewhere is the site of devastation and optimization life in our epoch, which unifies world and life putting distance into crisis, in a suspense of the experiential [1]. The consumption of the new political theology of unreserved equivalence between humans and objects is what Rohrwacher interrupts through the fable of the beatitude of Lazzaro as a life to come in the threshold of the highest phase of the metropolitan stagnation. I will limit my commentary here to three nodes that allow the Lazzaro felice to expand this critique of civilization and the principle of the “civil society”, a notion that we will return to.

First, there is the fable, a capsule of an ancient gnostic wisdom. The fable is what can radically alter evil by tipping its objective realism into a real of the imagination against the grammar of order. Avoiding the order of narration based to account for the history of progress and developmentalism from the rural to the civilization of the metropolis, Rohrwacher’s strategy resorts to the ancient craft of the fable. This is fundamental for a number of reasons. First of all, because the fable allows to withdrawal from pure counter-narrative of historical development and its justifications that allow for the interruption of the time of development, while offering a possibility of an otherwise transformation of the world. This is the gnostic texture of the fable that Hans Blumenberg identified in this form, since obscuring of the distinction between humans and animals relaxes the burden of proof of the absolutism of reality as predicated in the matter of facts [2]. It through fables that something escapes, because there is always an image that escapes the narration of the events of this world. But the fable also offered something else: the beginning of myth as the site of legitimation for foundations of social relations. This is why, as T.J. Clark has reminded recently, Hegel associated the fable with the origin of master and slave dialectic, as a new form of domination of world once the world’s enchantment and mystery was dissolved: “In the slave, prose begins” [3]. The end of a paractical poetics? Perhaps. This means that the price to be paid to enter into the prose of “civilization” is to assimilate the unfathomable and invisible contours of the world into the polemos of storytelling; to be a subject of a story, and as a result, of historical transition. This is what civilization mobilizes through the fable as its posited legitimacy. It is in the fable where the abyss that separates us from the world becomes animated, ordered, and narrated in order for the apparatus of production to commence. It seems to me that Alice Rohrwacher goes to arcanum of civilization when she treats the fable of the wolf, which has functioned to legitimize the passage from the state of nature to the modern concept of the civil in Hobbes’s theory of the state. We should remember the brief fable in Lazzaro felice:

“Let me tell you the story of the wolf. A very old wolf had become decrepit, he could hunt wild animals anymore. So, he was excluded from the pack…and the old wolf went to houses, to steal animals, checks and sheep. He was hungry. The villagers tried to kill him in every way possible, but they didn’t succeed…as if he were invisible.”

It is a remarkable fable that inverts the political fiction of the wolf in Hobbes; mainly: a man is an arrant wolf to another man (homo homini lupus), which justifies the exodus from the state of nature as the “miserable condition of civil war” between men. The stakes are clear: by repressing civil war (stasis), civil society emerges as a divided but unified body under a sovereign principle of authority [2]. The wolf is first established as creature of fear and depredation in order to allow for the principle of civilization to emergence as uncontested and necessary. The fable of the wolf is the protofigure that guards the history of perimeters of civilization as a way to pacify and repress the latency of civil war. Rohrwacher, against the Hobbes political fable, gives us a fable of the wolf that not only is uncapable of waging life as war, but that it enacts full refusal and desertion to be hunted; that is, to be invisible, which ultimately entails a life not outside of a politics of hunting and the secondary pacification by which the end of hunting mutates to the enclosure of domestication [4]. 

If the wolf stands for the invisible it is because it occupies the excess of total legibility of a new civil order, that is, of a world administered by technique of order. The wolf is a prefiguration of the invisible that is improper to every life (and thus to all biopolitical domestication proper to civilization) in the passage from the organic community of the living to the civilizatory topos of the metropolis. The wolf condenses the instructive character in every life; that is, what cannot be reduced to the fiction or the depredatory total war of the civilization nor the fiction of the community lacking an open relation to the world.  This fable, then, is not just what unveils the fictional grounds of the legitimacy of civilization (its “black magic” under the light of rationality and control) but also what reprepares another community. A community in which what we have in common is not an attribute, a substance, or an identity, but an irreducible ethical relation in which civil war cannot equate total hostility and what establishes an absolute difference between life and the “principle of the civil” that formalized the aspiration of isonomic equality:

“The immemorial bad reputation of the wolf (wolf bashing) informs us about one of the oldest tricks of civilization. This consists of bearing the weight of predation on what is heterogeneous to it. To be able to say that man is a wolf of man, the wolf must first have been disguised as a “predator.” We do not mean that the wolf is gardener of daisy flowers, we mean that he behaves neither as a tyrant nor as a bloodthirsty animal, and even less as an individualist (the famous “lone wolf”). In fact, the wolf may have taught communism to humans. The cub that opens its eyes among humans recognizes them as part of its clan. Two lessons: 1) friendship ignores categories; 2) the common is the place where we open our eyes to the world. What the human, for his part, has “taught” to the wolf – like an angry father yelling at his son “I’ll teach you!” – is the servility of the good puppy and the good cop”. [5]. 

               The end of the film comes full circle with the only condition of finding a way out, producing a break in the infrastructure of the domestication, opening a path within and against the metropolis. It is almost as if the film, like in life, was a preparation for the moment of exodus and retreat. In fact, the wolf deserts the metropolis passing through and beyond the highway in plain rush hour. According to Alice Rohrwacher, the wolf leaving the city and not being seen was a reinforcement of the invisible ethical dimension that is proper to every life (an ethos, which in the old Pindaric sense that refers not only our character, but also, and more fundamentally to our abode and habits that are world-forming), and that is devastated by the anthropological crisis of the species in the wake of the process of civilization [6]. However, the wolf exit from the metropolis is not an abandonment of the world in the manner of a monastic communitarian retreat; but rather the pursuit of liberating an encounter with the events of the world foreclosed by topological circulation of credit that amounts to borrowed life without destiny. 

Now to the question that signals an instance of construens in what follows the desertion: what about happiness? It is here, it seems to me, where the beatitude of Lazzaro could be thought as an ethical form of life – as preparation to learn to how live a life against the abstract processes of domestication – that exceeds the two hegemonic paradigms of happiness offered by Western civilization: on the one hand, happiness understood as an equilibrium operative to virtue (aretē); or, on the other, the community of salvation as a compensatory effect for the structural gap of the fallen subject, original sin (felix culpa). One could clearly see that politics at the level of civilization could now be defined as the instrument that manages the production of happiness as a temporal exception in life, but never a defining form of our character.

The wolf that is Lazzaro’s form of life – at a posthistorical threshold that dissolves the anthropological divide man and animal – offers us a third possibility: happiness understood as the refusal to partake in the promises of civilization in order to attune oneself to an errancy of life that allows itself to be hunted by an experiential imbuing of the world. Happy Lazzaro? Yes, but never a Sisyphus who is incapable of experiencing the vanishing horizon between earth and sky in infinite divisibility of the world. The wolf unleashed traverses a geography against domestication, revoking the phantasy of home (the oikos). I will let the last words be made by some fellow-travelers contemporary American thinkers: “Civilisation, or more precisely civil society, with all its transformative hostility was mobilized in the service of extinction, of disappearance. Fuck a home in this world, if you think you have one.” [7].

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Notes

1. Gerardo Muñoz. “Dix thèses sur Lazzaro felice” en tant que forme de vie”, Lundi Matin, May 2019: https://lundi.am/Dix-theses-sur-Lazzaro-felice-en-tant-que-forme-de-vie

2. Hans Blumenberg. “Of Nonunderstanding: Glosses on Three Fables” (1984), in History, Metaphors, Fables (Cornell University Press, 2020), 562-566.

3. T. J. Clark. “Masters and Fools”, LRB, vol.43, No.18, September 2021. 

4. Thomas Hobbes. Man and Citizen (De Homine and De Cive) (Hackett, 1991), 11.

5. “Éléments de descivilisation” (part 2), Lundi Matin, april 2019:  https://lundi.am/Elements-de-decivilisation-Partie-2

6. Jerónimo Aterhortúa Arteaga. “Creer en las imágenes: entrevista a Alice Rohrwacher.”, Correspondencias, May 2021: http://correspondenciascine.com/2021/03/creer-en-las-imagenes-entrevista-a-alice-rohrwacher/

7. Stefano Harney & Fred Moten. The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study (Minor Compositions, 2013), 132.

Revolutionary becoming and infrapolitical distance: on Marcello Tarì’s There is no unhappy revolution: the communism of destitution (2021) by Gerardo Muñoz

Marcello Tarì’s book There is no unhappy revolution: the communism of destitution (Common Notions, 2021), finally translated into English, is an important contribution in the ongoing discussions about politics and existence. It is also an exercise that pushes against the limits of contemporary political thought in the wake of the ruin of the grammars and vocabularies of the modern politics and the rise of the techno-biopolitics of governmentality. More importantly, the operation of Tarì’s book escapes the frame of “critique”, abandoning any false exits to regain the legacy of the Enlightenment and of “judgement” in hopes to reinstate the principles of thought and action in the genesis of the legitimation of the modern social contract. But the radicality of the horizon of destitution – which we have come to understand vis-à-vis the work of Giorgio Agamben, and the Invisible Committee – is first and foremost a thematization of the proximity between thinking and politics against the historical stagnation of a historical subsumed by the total technification of value (the principle of general equivalence). Since Tarì’s book is composed of a series of very heterogenous folds and intersections (literally a toolbox in the best sense of the term), in what follows I would like to sketch out a minor cartography to push the conditions forward that the book so elegantly proposes in three registers: the question of “revolutionary becoming” (the kernel of Tarì’s destituent gesture), the hermeneutics of contemporary domination, and the limits of political militancy.

Revolutionary becoming. Marcello Tarì correctly identifies the problem the epoch as fundamentally being about the problem of revolution. However, the notion of revolution must be understood outside the continuation of the modern horizon of the Leninist technique of the revolutionary vanguard nor party, the “revolution within the revolution”, and any appropriation of the “General Intellectual”. At the end of the day, these were all forms of scaling the desire as cathexis for the matrix of production. On the contrary, the problem of revolution is now understood in the true Copernican sense; mainly, how to inscribe an excentric apositionality within any field of totalization. When this is done, we no longer participate in History, but rather we are “freeing a line that will ultimately go down in History, but never coming from it”. Tarì argues that the field of confrontation today is no longer between different principles of organizing revolutionary strategies and even less about ideological critique; nor is communism an “Idea” (as it was thought just a decade ago in discussion that were philological rather than about thinking communism and life); the new epochal exigency is how to put “an end to the poverty of existence” (3). The potentiality of this transformation at the level of factical life, is what Tarì situates under the invariant of “communism”: “…not as an idea of the world, but the unraveling of a praxis within the world” (35). This communism requires a breakthrough in both temporal and spatial determinations, which prepares a dwelling in absolute relation with the outside (49). This revolutionary tonality is one closer to messianic interruption of historical time capable of destituting “actual state of things” governed the metaphysical apparatus of production and objetivation of the world, which depends on the production of the political subject. In an important moment of the book, Tarì writes: “…. only the revolutionary proletarian dimension can grasp the political as such, the true break from the current state of things. The real alternative to modern politics is thus not to be ground in what we usual can an “anti-politics”, which is merely a variation of the same there, but instead in a revolutionary becoming” (50).

The revolutionary becoming is a transformative intensity of singularization, which ceases to become a subject in virtue of becoming a “non-subject” of the political (67), which about a decade ago Alberto Moreiras announced to escape the dead end of the hegemony-subalternity controversy (one should note here that the fact that the Left today has fully subscribed the horizon of hegemony is something that I think it explains many of the deficits of the different experiments in a realization of a progressive political strategy). And this becoming revolutionary, in virtue of ceasing to be a subject (person, vanguard, multitude, worker) entails a new shift from action to use, and from technico-rationality to an opening of the sensible and singular means (metaxy). Again, Tarì’s continues as follows: “Becoming revolutionary…. means utilizing fantasy, freeing the imagination, and living all of this with the enthusiasm of a child” (75). The notion of “happiness” at stake in the book it is played out against the determination of the subject and the processes of incarnations (Karmy) that have haunted the modern revolutionary paradigm as always-already integrated into the metaphysics of the philosophy of history. 

 Metropolitan domination. Secondly, Tarì’s book locates the metastasis of domination at the level of a new spatial organization of the world in the apparatus of the metropolis. As we know the metropolis is not just an urban transformation of the Western form of the urbs and the polis, but rather the force of appropriation of the world into interconnectivity and surface in order to optimize, administer, and reproduce flows of the total fictionalization of life. The gesture towards the outside that crosses over Tarì’s book entails an exodus from the metropolitan structure that makes uninhabitable experience. This takes place by a process of domesticating its possibilities into the order of sameness (crisis of appearance) and translating our proximity with things into the regime of objects. What is stake in the metropolis – if we think of the most recent revolts in Santiago de Chile, Paris with the to the hinterlands of United States and Italy – if not precisely a response against the metropolitan machination “aiming at the destruction of every possibility of having any experience of the world and existence itself” (84). This why the intensity of any contemporary revolt today is proportional to the experiential texture of its composition and modes of evasion. Of course, Tarì correctly identifies the metropolis as an expanded field of cybernetic inter-connectivity, which, as I would argue is not merely the production of “bad substance” (to use Tiqqun’s Bloomian lexicon), but also a recursive dominion over the medium (metaxy) in which experience and the singular autopoiesis labors for the optimization and hylomorphic regimes that administer civil war. In this sense, destitution names an exodus from the metropolitan technical order and the sensible reproduction of the medium. It is in the outside the metropolis that the ongoing process of communization can free an infinite process of communization and forms of life.

Residual militancy and infrapolitics. But does not the exodus or the destitution of the metropolis – opening to singular experience, love, friendship, and the use of one’s disposable means and inclination – presuppose also a step back from a political determination, in other words, a fundamental separation from coterminous between existence and politics? At the end of the book, Tarì claims that “whenever anything reaches a certain level of intensity it becomes political” (117). But is the intensification of thinking or love or friendship always necessarily political? Tarì writes a few pages later that: “love is continually traversed by a line of extreme intensify, which makes it an exquisitely political affect” (126). But does not the politization of love depends on a certain commitment (a “faith”) to a residual militancy, even if it is a militancy posited as the principle of anarchy? But perhaps this is the difficulty at stake: since anarchy is only entails the “anarchy of phenomena” in reality, postulating a political principle as counter-exposition, however tenuous, might not be enough. For this reason, the crisis of appearance today needs a step back from the heliopoliticity of exposition. In an essay written a couple of years ago, Alberto Moreiras thematized this difficulty vis-à-vis Scürmann’s principle of anarchy, which I think is worth quoting: “The Schürmannian principle of anarchy could then be thought to be still the subjective reaction to the epochal dismantling of ontology (as metaphysics). But, if so, the principle of anarchy emerges, plainly, as principle, and principle of consciousness. Anarchy runs the risk of becoming yet another form of mastery, or rather: anarchy, as principle, is the last form of mastery.  At the transitional time, posited as such by the hypothesis of metaphysical closure, metaphysics still runs the show as consolation and consolidation” [1]. 

If politics remains the central condition of existence, then it follows that it depends on a second-degree militancy that can govern over the dispersion of the events and this ultimately transfers the force of steering (kubernates) to mitigate the crisis of thought and action in the sea of “absolute immanence”. But immense is also a contemporary fundamental fantasy [2]. Against all “faith” in absolute immanence we need to cut through in its letting be (poein kata phusin) of the abyssal relation between existence and politics. This originary separation is an infrapolitical step back that solicits a distance an irreducible distance between life, events, and community form. The commune would be a secondary condition of political organization, but the existential breakthrough never coincides with community, except as a “common solitude”. Secondly, the infrapolitical irreducibility between politics and existence wants to reject any compensatory temporal politico-theological substitution, which also includes the messianic as a paradigm still constitutive of the age of Christian community of salvation and the efficacy of deificatio. The existential time of attunement of appropriation with the improper escapes the doble-pole paradigm of political theology, which has been at the arcana of both philosophy of history as well as the messianic inversion. A communism of thought needs to produce a leap outside the politico-theological machine which has fueled History as narrativization and waged against happiness [3]. Attuning oneself to the encounter or the event against the closure of the principle of reality might be a way out from the “hegemonic phantasm” of the political, which sacrifices our infinite possibilities to the logistics of a central conflict. If civil war is the side of the repressed in Western politics, then in the epoch of the ruin of authority it opens an opportunity to undue the measurement (meson) proper to the “Social”, which is now broken at the fault lines as Idris Robinson has put it [4]. It is only in this way that we can move outside and beyond the originary positionality of the polis whose “essence never coincides with politics” [5]. The saving of this irreducible and invisible distance prepares a new absolute proximity between use and the world. 

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Notes 

1. Alberto Moreiras. “A Negation of the Anarchy Principle, Política Comun, Vol. 2017: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/p/pc/12322227.0011.003?view=text;rgn=main

2. Lundi Matin. “Éléments de decivilisation” (3): “It is also about the creed of the dominant religion: absolute immanence. Doing itself, designed to obey the modes of proceeding from production, is in advance conforming and consecrated. On this sense, no matter what you do, you bend the spine in front of the cult dominant. If all things count, none has a price, and everything is sacrificeable.”. https://lundi.am/Elements-de-decivilisation-Partie-3

3. This is why Hegel claims in his lectures on the Philosophy of History that: “History is not the soil in which happiness grows. The periods of happiness in it are the blank pages of history”. The revolutionary overflow of happiness is only possible as an exodus from the theological political structure of historical production. Here the question of style is emerges as our defining element. 

4. Gerardo Muñoz. “The revolt eclipses whatever the world has to offer”: a conversation with Idris Robinson”, Tillfällighetsskrivande, May 2021: https://www.tillfallighet.org/tillfallighetsskrivande/the-revolt-eclipses-whatever-the-world-has-to-offernbsp-idris-robinson

5. Gerardo Muñoz. “Some Notes Regarding Hölderlin’s “Search for the Free Use of One’s Own”, January 2019: https://infrapoliticalreflections.org/2019/01/14/some-notes-regarding-holderlins-search-for-the-free-use-of-ones-own-by-gerardo-munoz/

Four Theses on the Mujercitos Collective. Notes for a brief gallery talk, March 2021. by Gerardo Muñoz

1. Youth and persuasion. The originality and force of the Mujercitos Collective emerging from Cuba (2019 –) I think it feeds from a specific vortex: the youth. I will say this as an anecdote: at the beginning of the pandemic, I had the opportunity to exchange with the great Jacques Camatte (former founder of the PCI and early critic of the exhaustion of the revolutionary horizon and the Marxist praxis), and at the time he suggested something quite beautiful: mainly, that if the youth is continuously assaulted today it is because its texture lodges a vital process of inversion that puts pressure to the world of domestication (the absolutization of commodity form as an ongoing anthropological process). In this sense, the energy of the youth is always a counter-adult making of the world. When I found and I began exchanging with the Mujercitos Collective, I think that they had the same intuition: a desire to provide the youth with a “space in order to foment our discontent, because only the youth want liberation”, as Claudia Patricia, the designer of the collective told me. In a country (but it is also our epoch) of revolutionary stagnation, this is a tremendous insight, since liberation is no longer posited as a craft of History, but rather as a form of life. While the youth have world, the adult is the general process of socialization and political order. So, if the world of the youth is that of persuasion, that of the adult is guided by rhetoric. This means that if the youth can persuade with its body and movement; the rhetorical logos is a mere moral application of “duty” (this is how you should behave, act, accomplish this or that, become a self-commanded influencer, etc.). As Carlo Michelstaeader understood it a century ago, it is only in persuasion where one can relax the world of rhetorical closure (intention and signification and predication) in order to find a way out into the world. This is the gesture that traverses the Mujercitos visual and artistic constellation. 

2. Iconicity. Secondly, one of the ways in which I have tried to think what takes place in Mujercitos is by reflecting on what gets transmitted. Obviously, there is here something that I would like to call a “negative pedagogy”, in which experience thematizes a process of unlearning (this is a feature of the ongoing process against domestication of the Subject) of the elements that frame reality in a specific way while incarcerating other possibilities. In this sense, unlearning is the way in which one takes a step back from any attempt at “normalization of relations” within the Social. Now this disavowal of normalization necessarily multiplies conflictivity; mainly, conflict between images and modes of being. In Mujercitos Collective there is one specific tool to mobilize this momentum: the power of iconicity against the grammar and rhetoric of the Social. This is why the facture of design becomes important for the project; since iconicity becomes the suspension of the rhetorical construction of the adult world without recurring either morality, politics, or even “social imaginaries” (which is artistic extraction from the wells of History). Although Mujercitos has been labeled “virulent” or “sardonic”, there is no such a thing if analyzed at the level of the iconic practice, given that the icon is a way to explore the affective and medial dimension of the “thing”. This, in turn, radically suspends the fiction (and the –res, the original juridical form of “thing” in law). In this apparent simple iconicity, the preparation of a transfiguration and a new violence takes over reality. This profane iconicity is the poetic vanishing point of Mujercitos’ designs.

3. Countercommunity. Thirdly, Mujercitos offers a third way out a debate that we have inherited from the forms of political modernity: individualism and community. One does not need to remind anyone that the notion of “community” today enjoys a very good reputation; at times it seems that anyone who says “community” is already participating in a public liturgy that can pass uncontested. But what is community? Or, to put it in another way: can community as a form of socialization truly exhaust life and its encounters? For instance, does not every community produce exclusion as necessarily and permanent for its own thetic separation? In any case, as a friend would say, there are no communities but processes of communization. And where there is a community of wills and aggregated subjects, then there is a primacy of a substance that hinges upon obedience, normative legislation, and ultimately obligatory communion. Mujercitos Collective does not speak in the name of a community nor of unity, but rather it stands a counter-community without future (this is the Punk dimension to the project), that knows how to dwell in the desert of the present, because it knows that it is here where the true kingdom of friendship can happen and repeat itself in a double-time. If the community offers salvation in history; the counter-community offers no false promises, since it is only interested in modes of experimentation with the fragments of the world.

4. Totality is a ruse. I think I will end these brief notes quoting something Claudia Patricia told that, to my knowledge, best encompasses this visual-collective project: “The only thing we know is that today to play with totality is a ruse” (“El juego a la totalidad es la trampa de este mileneo”). There is a lot to unpack here, but I would just say without reading too much into it that the problem is how the sense of play becomes exhausted every time that there is a fiction of totalization. This is obviously a reference to the world of order and morality of adult symbolization. Now, a false exit is to cancel “play” in order to take a distance away from total morality. But, a more beautiful strategy is to liberate play at the level of our experiences and the materials and tonalities affecting life. To put play at the center of what takes place in life is, in turn, the most serious task of a a new ethics at the threshold of our epoch. 

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*Image: ArtCover by Claudia Patricia, February 19, 2021, Mujercitos Magazine.

An epoch unmoved (V). by Gerardo Muñoz

The intrusion of appearance in the world posits the question of the unlived in every life. This taking place that appears in the world descends temporal finitude; and, more fundamentally, it posits the caducity of its unlived possibilities. In a recent book on the history of citrus in Italy, the author says in passing that blood oranges, being from the lowlands near the Etna, mixes a variation of flavors that ultimately make this particular orange expire sooner than others of its kind. Heterogeneity is a marker of caducity. The shimmering crust of this orange reveals that something like the mystery of what has not happened yet (and perhaps never will) comes to us in the sensorium, in the open of the ambient, and in the time of decay: “It gave us pause for thought. How long does it take for a lemon to completely rot?” [1]. This sense of the unlived in life was thematized by Hölderlin in his late drama The Death of Empedocles, a figure intimate to the Etna volcanic topoi“In holy union each beloved clings to love, a love One thought was dead…To they are this! The ones we so long did without, the living; The goodly gods, declining with the star of life! Farewell!” [2]. We have yet to develop a theory of the encounter that opens the epoch. But the solicitation for an experience entails the seeking of an outside to reality, in which the unlived facilitates nearness to an escape route. As we know, Hölderlin thought of the fissure of unity as excess between outside and reality, in which the relation between object and subject, thinking and action, imagination and things come to a tragic diremption.  

In this light, the actualization of the unlived is the vortex against the immobility of the epoch in which life is rendered actual in its becoming. But this requires specification; or at least a certain amendment of the pure aorgic immanence. We know that centuries before Hölderlin, Angelus Silesius provided a point of entry: “The Sun gives movement unto all, and makes the stars dance in the sky: if I still stand immovable, no part in the great whole have I” [3]. The mystical kenosis is ground cero to attunement of life. However, Silesius also seems to be suggesting that even under the dress of nature, movement is the condition for any instantiation with the abode. If glimpsed from the interior of the site of the natural world, pure immanence appears as the interrupted image without partition; but if described from the exteriority of the unlived, then world and life now meet in a kinetic extraneous divergence. 

But what is the limit of an intensity? There are two ways of coming to terms with this problem: every process of intensification reaches its caducity whenever its violence is overcome by the seduction of possession in submitting to the absolutism of reality. On the other hand, every intensity is perturbed when it finds an obstruction in the formal orientation of the concept. Therefore, when the co-existence between the exogenic and ecstatic limits meet, the free playing of forms becomes flow (plynein).  In other words, we cease to become immobile to deviate from the obstruction of the suspended wreck of every encounter.

Untimely, this invites that we reconsider the status of happiness. As a contemporary philosopher that I admire has insinuated it: perhaps happiness is the unthought notion in our tradition. In a certain way, the unthought and the unlived depart from the caesura of their own evasion. There is perhaps no need to reconstruct how “happiness” has been subordinated to designs proper to politics or commerce; or, as in the more classical tradition, the moral virtue for self-regulation and privation. Everything changes if we locate happiness in the site of the unlived, insofar as now the violence that is constituted of the separation between form and event in the texture of life. The immediacy of happiness is not being able to conquer something like a state of “blessed life” but being able to release the unlived in every succession of deaths that traverse a life [4]. 

But the unlived exits not only to de-constitute the vital determination, but also, and more fundamentally, to escape the seduction of the negative that assumes that loss and tragicity are irreparable limits. Rather, because there is something like an unlived there is happiness in the way that we constantly move within the available set of unlimited possibilities. The unlived initiates a physics that cuts absolute immanence in virtue of the genesis of style, since it is only in style where the overcoming of the unlived shelters the soul in the face of caducity. Indeed, it is in this invisible texture where the color of our mobility approaches asymptotic twirl between divinity and the world.

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Notes

1. Ciaran Carson. Still Life. Winston: Wake Forest University Press, 2020. 16.

2. Friedrich Hölderlin. The Death of Empedocles. Trad. Farrell Krell. Albany: SUNY, 2008. 93.

3. Angelus Silesius. El peregrino querúbico. Madrid: Ediciones Siruela, 2005. 

4. Pacôme Thiellement. “Le Bonheur est un twist”, 25 june 2017: www.pacomethiellement.com/corpus_texte.php?id=326 : “l y a deux lumières: il y a la lumière d’avant la nuit et il y a la lumière d’après. Il y a celle qui était là au début, l’aube radieuse du jour d’avant, et puis il y a celle qui a lutté contre les ténèbres, la lumière qui naît de cette lutte : l’aube scintillante du jour d’après. Il n’y a pas seulement deux lumières, il y a aussi deux joies : il y a la joie d’avant la peine et il y a celle d’après. La joie originelle, la joie innocente, primitive, cette joie est sublime, mais c’est juste un cadeau de la vie, du ciel, du soleil… La joie qui vient après la peine, c’est le cadeau que tu te fais à toi-même : c’est la façon dont tu transformes ta peine en joie, l’innocence que tu réussis à faire renaître des jours d’amertume et des nuits de bile noire. C’est le moment où tu commences à vivre, mais vivre vraiment, parce que tu commences à renaître de toutes tes morts successives. C’est le moment où tu t’approches de la divinité ou du monde”.

Three ideas for a discussion on «Éléments de décivilisation» by Gerardo Muñoz.

[These are some preliminary notes for an ongoing discussion on Lundi Matin’sÉléments de décivilisation’’, a text that condenses a series of problems dealing with, although by no means, limited to infrapolitical reflection, the event, world, and the question of civilization in the wake of the ruin of hegemonic principles. This particular essay, more than content, raises the question of the status of the style of thought; and, in broad terms, I tend to link the notion of style to the constitution of an ethos. But let me offer three theses to open the discussion in very broad terms. What follows is the reconstruction of three brief points in a recent group meeting about this text.] 

i. The priority of the event. For me at least it is very important to consider that Éléments de décivilisation’’ moves away from at least two important precedents of a common intellectual orbit: messianism and the political theory of modern sovereignty. Of course, this is important for many reasons, but most it speaks to what I would call a strong opposition between thought and philosophy (favoring the first over the second). These two registers open important distinctions, such as, for instance, a displacement between historical temporality (messianism) to a notion of the taking place (the event or encounter) as exteriority. Whereas we were told that the “event is the enemy within Empire” (Gloss in Thesis 60 of Introduction à la guerre civile) , now we have a more through sketch about the way in which the form-of-life is not a category reducible to vitalism or the problem of the subject, but rather about the play between form and event. Here I think that Carlo Diano’s Forma ed evento (1952) is crucial as a backdrop that is not just philosophically (Aristotelian formalization against Stoic predication), but rather a sound position of thinking in relation to what has been passed down as “civilization”. 

ii. Civilization as a principle. Now, the question of civilization raises to a problem of thought insofar as is neither an ontological problem nor an operative idea in the history of intellectual concepts. Civilization becomes the apparatus by which the total regimen of production in any given epoch is structured to establish an order. And here order is both authority and police. To put it in juridical terms: the first secures legitimacy while the second posits the flexible energy of legality and execution. This is the same problem in the relation to the world. In other words, civilization means enclosing, domesticating, and producing. By the same token, civilization is the operative domain by which nomōs, history and the subject come together in virtue of their separation. Is not this the very issue in the Greek polis in the wake of the discovery of measurement, isonomy, and the distribution of the goods in which hegemony replaces the basileus (Vernant)? It is one of the merits of the text not having understood this problem at the level of an “archeology of Western political thought” (Agamben), but rather as an evolving transhistorical process that binds the axis of domination and power to the axis of anthropology and domestication. Civilization, then, would name the total apparatus of hegemony under which politics falls as a problem of metaphysical structure (I have tried this problem in recent positions here). Whether there is an assumed anthropological anarchy at the level of substance, capable of “inversion” (Camatte), is something that must be explored in further detail. 

iii. Happiness cuts absolute immanence. My last point. I would like to insist on something that Rodrigo Karmy mentioned recently: “Happiness is the unthought of the Weestern tradition”. I agree with Karmy not on the basis that there has not been any reflection of “happiness” in the tradition, but rather that this reflection has either been a) subordinated to politics or economics (Jeffersonian “happiness” conditioned by commerce); or, as a moral virtue of self-regulation and privation. But it seems to me that “Elements” wants to offer something else in a very novel way. It is here where the question of violence must be inscribed. A curious displacement since violence has been thought in relation to beauty, but not happiness. The violence at the level of forms puts us in proximity with the event at the end of life itself. In this sense, the Pacôme Thiellement footnote is important:

“l y a deux lumières: il y a la lumière d’avant la nuit et il y a la lumière d’après. Il y a celle qui était là au début, l’aube radieuse du jour d’avant, et puis il y a celle qui a lutté contre les ténèbres, la lumière qui naît de cette lutte : l’aube scintillante du jour d’après. Il n’y a pas seulement deux lumières, il y a aussi deux joies : il y a la joie d’avant la peine et il y a celle d’après. La joie originelle, la joie innocente, primitive, cette joie est sublime, mais c’est juste un cadeau de la vie, du ciel, du soleil… La joie qui vient après la peine, c’est le cadeau que tu te fais à toi-même : c’est la façon dont tu transformes ta peine en joie, l’innocence que tu réussis à faire renaître des jours d’amertume et des nuits de bile noire. C’est le moment où tu commences à vivre, mais vivre vraiment, parce que tu commences à renaître de toutes tes morts successives. C’est le moment où tu t’approches de la divinité ou du monde”. This position  – which I think it is prevalent throughout the text – allows the opening of a series of articulations:

a) it is no longer happiness an effect on the subject, which has only grown in the Spectacle or consumption; that is happiness as an exception to life.

b) it is not that happiness is a theological state of ‘blessed life’, which would presuppose the transmutation of sin and thus overcoming of the non-subject. This position depends on conditions of mythic-history and theology.

c) It is rather that happiness is the way in which the singular gathers his possibilities in use without enclosing the other possibles. To live a life among the fragmentation of the use of our disposed potentialities is a way to violently cut the seduction of absolute immanence in which style is diluted. Play could name the variations of use. But there is a second order risk in what constitutes “play”: a transfiguration of politic as civil war. The problem becomes how to think of ‘play’ (i. messianic abandonment, ii. political intensification – insurrection, or the separation between rhythm and voice, a poesis). I am interested in pushing for the third figure of play; a third figure in which the event and happiness impose a new division of souls, moving away from the separation from life.