The Gnostic residue. On Mårten Björk’s The Politics of Immortality in Rosenzweig, Barth, and Goldberg (2022). by Gerardo Muñoz.

Mårten Björk’s The Politics of Immortality in Rosenzweig, Barth, and Goldberg: Theology and Resistance Between 1914-1945 (Bloomsbury, 2022) is a major contribution to the ongoing discussion on theology, politics, and life in our present. Indeed, this book of unmatched originality will radically change the coordinates that have structured these debates in and beyond the academic disciplines involved. First conceived as a longer dissertation entitled Life outside life and defended at Gothenburg University in 2018 (which included an voluminous and illuminating chapter on the work of German theologian Erik Peterson, not included in the published monograph and scheduled for publication in the near future) studies three figures of the German interwar period that confronted the civilizational catastrophe of the twentieth century and the rise of the regime of mass production. Through different conceptual elaborations in Franz Rosenzweig, Karl Barth, and the Oskar Goldberg Group (it also includes thinkers such as Adolf Caspary and Erich Unger) a unified thesis emerges: these thinkers crafted a fundamental response to the collapse of the legitimacy of the modern epoch through a radical imagination of immortality and eternal life (Björk 2022, 3). From an angular perspective, Björk’s book measures to Hans Blumenberg’s groundbreaking defense of the legitimacy of modernity through “self-affirmation” of the human; a philosophical anthropology predicament that today has become fully integrated into the arts of planetary destruction, although its genesis is to be captured in the first decades of twentieth century through the dawn of a new catastrophic politics (the term is coined by Erich Unger in his Politics and Metaphysics). In Björk’s account, these thinkers took the stance against the stimmung of the epoch, its historical closure as well as the immanence of nature in order to take up a historical collapse that was civilizational in nature.

It would be a common place to remind the readers of this book that the figures of the research (with the exception of Rosenzweig who in some corners has been taken as the greatest Jewish philosopher since Maimonides) have been unwarranted buried in the monumental and political historiographies of the period and in the edifice of normative Continental philosophies of the twentieth century. However, Björk’s monograph is no simple restitution of dead old men, as this would be too accommodating to the field of the history of philosophy. Behind these figures there are multiple strategic displacements that connect the destruction of biopolitics to the reformulation of ethics of the dead, as well as the revision of Judaic theological sources to execute an effective retreat from the collapse of civilization of the last 5000 years of the human species. In this quadrant there is also a timely gesture on the complicated relationship between Judaism and Christianity; a relation that the book never really solves, although it runs throughout the book flagged for possible future explorations. Methodologically, it is the field of “theology” (not of science of religions a la Weber) that returns to the center as a way to explored an unthought dimension of immortality – that Björk properly renders as life outside life, against all biopolitical saturation and ecological catastrophe of the natural world. It goes without saying that there is an untimely tone that directly speaks to our present. Indeed, it is the radical theological and cosmological presuppositions (outside the formalism of religion and the apocalyptic historical saeculum of the Church) where something like a radical new existence of what it means to live can be rethought. This is Björk’s fundamental invitation.

In “Yearning for a system: Franz Rosenzweig and the great paganism of life’, Björk offers an all-encompassing outlook to the work of the Jewish scholar whose famous Star of Redemption was also accompanied by an interest in European geopolitics of the first decades of the century. In the midst of the First World War, Rosenzweig witnessed the rise of a new paganism of the state as the acceleration of the struggle for life in the West reproducing forever war (Björk 2022, 29). For Rosenzweig modernity was not an authentic or unfinished secularization, but rather the institutionalization of a pagan order of depredatory confrontation that foreclosed the world without outside: absolute immanence now meant the subjectivation of new false gods of modern civilization ordered towards survival and struggle (Björk 2022, 25). Against this backdrop, Björk reads Rosenzweig’s Star as an original theosophy of redemption of the world that exceeds the national political counters, while offering a new planetary and universal dimension of salvation beyond the state as articulated in Globus. Furthermore, Björk notes that Rosenzweig saw himself as a sort of Jewish fighter in the defense for a new planetary community with “religion as an instrument for change” (Björk 2022, 53). Even though the language had residues of imperial imagination proper to the time, it is the theological vector that distorts the political register of the ground battle for survival. Here Judaism appears as a subtraction from conventional historicity by retreating to a prehistoric past where the ‘unity of the world’ had no nomoi, states, or borders (Björk 2022, 54). It should be noted that something similar was advocated in his 1922 booklet Die Staatslose Bildung eines Judischen Volkes about the stateless wandering of the Hebrew people, by Erich Unger who thought could show a way out of the decadence of Western civilization through the revitalization of ancient Judaism. The Jew had never been a member of the polis or a slave of the state, since the Judaic Kingdoms were ruled, as Björk explains, “by an antipolitical priesthood” or a “metapolitical priesthood and not political kingdoms” (Björk 2022, 61). The sharp contrast to the modern Judaic subtext is of importance: whereas Eric Nelson shows in The Hebrew Republic (2010), how the ancient Jewish sources influenced the constitution of the modern state theories of Thomas Hobbes and John Milton; the work of Unger and Rosenzweig centuries later, in the wake of the Weimar era, seeked to radically alienate the command of Judaic prophecy from the regulatory political and geopolitical techniques of anthropological modernity. The gap between the two, for Rosenzweig, would be the hope for eternal life against the management of survival to which modern political grammar succumbed without return (Björk 2022, 66).

But theology offers the route to imagination and vocabulary of restitution, and infinite recapitulation. To grossly synthesize Björk’s thesis: life is best understood as an endless dialogue with the dead. The second chapter “Abundance and scarcity” glosses aspects of Reformed theologian Karl Barth’s thought against the materialism of scarcity of the world and the principle of abundance proper to eternal life. By tracing Barth’s critical dialogue with Feaubach’s sociology of religion of the species-being (which radically impacted the way Marx and Marxism came to understand theology), Björk’s theology puts paradisal life at the center of the mission of salvation; a heretical notion that exceeds the predestination theology of grace deployed in the organization of the modern kakedomonic public powers of modernity (Björk 2022, 88). In this sense it is insufficient to define the capitalist religion as merely a cult without dogma or atonement; it is also, perhaps more fundamentally, an axiomatic system that accentuates the two-dimensional positionality of death and life without residue. For Barth, Björk reminds us, theology is a way out from the cultish axiomatics of the countable and measurable of the visible world: “Theology….seeks to open the believer to the belief in the invisible side of the reality of the world. Theology must become an investigation of this invisible world to which further posits that the visible world is related” (Björk 2022, 103). And Barth’s lifelong interest in the theology of resurrection was precisely a way to insist on the invisible register that conflates nature, morality, and survival of the living within the objective normativity of the world.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Barth’s theology discussed by Björk comes by way of the opposition of ethics and morality – this is elaborated as a rejection of the predicament of natural law’s imago naturae and its dependency on rationality – where the second is discarded as merely finite life unto directive command of the natural good. On the contrary, an ethics suspended by the postlapsarian stage is guided by the principle of suum cuique (Björk 2022, 114). The suum cuique (‘to each its own’), although prima facie echoes the Thomist epikeia, it is also free standing for something more: it is a limit to the irreducibility of life in relation to God, which cannot be inscribed in a system of balancing of moral principles in the hands of a sacerdotal authority. Whereas the moral principle of equity (epikeia) organizes the government of this world through principles and moral reasons for action; the suum cuique is the limit set upon our finite life and the eternal in the scope of the saeculum. Björk connects the notion of the suum cuique to the Barthian figure of the “strange saint” who “with tears and laughter provides God and in this provocation is obedient to the election that forms death into life” (Björk 2022, 116). The suum cuique, accepting the postlapsarian condition rejects the instrumentalization of original sin in order to become a “vast eon of the cosmos itself…temporal and finite but also eternalized as that which once was” (Björk 2022, 117). In this way, the suum cuique prepares the paradisal affirmation of every unlived life, an anathema to the thomist substantiation of merely personal dignity and the exceptional mechanism of individual mediation with the economy of election and grace.

The theological exploration of modality of being – this is one of Björk’s implicit lessons in the book – never truly disappears in modernity, but rather reemerges in unexpected spheres. The politics of immortality does not pretend to exhaust this problem. But it is in the last chapter on the enigmatic figure of Oskar Goldberg where this theme is best explored as the true meaning of a life outside life at the center of the book’s conceptual development. Oskar Goldberg is one of the most enigmatic figures of the Weimar era; a magnetic personality that gathered diverse personalities from all corners of the intellectual milieu. He was looked with high suspicion by Thomas Mann, who portrayed him as a mystical undemocratic thinker in Doctor Faustus, but also dismissed by Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem (it only suffices to look at the correspondence collected in Scholem’s Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship). A scholar with strong and sedimented knowledge in the Talmud and Ancient Judaism, Goldberg developed a highly sophisticated and speculative theology of the transcendental organism, to put it in Bruce Rosenstock’s terms, which provided an original formulation of a transcendent being based on the Torah in the wake of the new biological theories of the species (the work of Driesch, Uexküll, Spemann, among others) [1]. The biological and mystical vocabulary of Goldberg aroused immediate skepticism from the German intellectual class, but Björk convincingly shows that Golberg’s project was not an arabesque of a madman, but rather a very peculiar modal speculative system that seekd to confront the 5000 years of the civilization of fixation of the Western transition from the society of myth to the civilization of production and psychic energy imbalance (Björk 2022, 127). For Goldberg the passage from the prehistoric stage of myth to the inauguration of the religion of the state meant the sedimentation of a civilizational regimen oriented towards production, devastation, and positionality (Theophanidis recently expressed the proximity between Goldberg’s fixation and Heidegger’s Gestell, unexplored in Björk’s book). Björk is attentive to the fact that Goldberg was not just a proper name but also the constitution of a sort of ‘metapolitical university’ that gathered diverse figures, such as the economic historian and political thinker Adolf Caspary or the philosopher Erich Unger, both who developed their own critique of technological domination under the shadow of Goldberg. Thus, the critique of civilization is not to be taken as an abstract mysticism; for Björk, the concrete effects can be read in Caspary’s forgotten The Machine Utopia (1927), which criticized the utopia of machine civilization proper to both Soviet Bolshevism and Western capitalism – two social orders that shared the same the same historical horizon: reproduction and accumulation of surplus value (Björk 2022, 142).

In this framework, and against the historicist analytics of Marxism, for the Goldberg circle class antagonism and division of labor was not oriented towards emancipation, but rather towards the realization of a global total state. For the Goldberg circle to escape the civilization of the Behemoth of the industrial state required nothing short than a politics of errancy (defended by Unger in his Politics and Metaphysics of 1921) and the reversal to a modal relation with YHWH as an effective and potential dimension against the imbalance of an impoverished reality. Björk claims that for the Goldberg circle there were three possibilities of existence of coming to terms of the modern decline towards: civilizational fixation, myth, or Torah (Björk 2022, 154). And in different ways, they opted for the Torah, which implied not an identitarian reversal to a territorialized Volk but rather an infinite task of becoming immortal, given that our modes correspond to the nature of God and the world (Björk 2022, 166). The task was to depose the production of evil and suffering here and now as mobilized by the incarnation of historical progress. This infinite retreat from the materiality of the finite of the species was a way to open a new polytheism to the Ancient Hebrew metaphysics elaborated in Goldberg’s book, The Reality of the Hebrews (Die Wirklichkeit der Hebräer, 1925). In other words, to exit from the fixation of the 5000 years civilization required a passage to immortality as a way to “make us unadapted to the normal laws of evolution” and to the objective world (Björk 2022, 178).

Truth be told, immortality never disappears from modern political imagination and governmentality. Some of us still remember that one of the famous mottos of the Cuban Communist Party was: “Los hombres mueren, el Partido es Inmortal” (“Men die, but the Party is immortal”), which ultimately served to guarantee the idolatry of the state’s sacrificial principle through a continuous “lucha” (struggle) of everyday life under real-existing administrative communism. Likewise, in recent years Boris Groys has argued at length that immortality lives off in the topology of contemporary art, where archivization, spatial flexibility, and museification of the historical Vanguard stand in for the desire to become immortal [3]. This is, indeed, what Björk calls, following Blumenberg, the moralization of immortality whose political translation resulted in truly barbaric consequences that we are still suffering (Björk 2022, 186). Against all moralization and political instrumentalization of immortality, The Politics of Immortality in Rosenzweig, Barth, and Goldberg (2022) rises the theological mirror so that yet another anthropogenesis event through the “the Gnostic residue by insisting that the problem of evil could only be solved by God” (Björk 2022, 190). In other words, the problem of immortality restores the gnostic residue to its proper place beyond exceptionalism and anthropological humanism, since finitude (death) externalizes what is living, while “life” now becomes the meaning as its own otherness to the modes of God. Departing from the fourfold structure of the history of the modern error in Nietzsche’s typology, we could add a fifth: the error of conceiving the gnosis as worldly aspiration to domesticate exteriority as a forever postponed apocatastasis.

It is in the sense that Björk’s important book complements the unfinished elaboration on the gnosis undertaken by Giannia Carchia towards the end of his life: the exodus from the fiction of the subject and the person implies nothing short than the “resurrection of the human community capable of renewing the arc of history that appears so dramatically broken” [3]. Perhaps Carchia was a bit of an optimist here: the historical arch emanating from the potstlapsarian moment is now in ruins, but the gnostic residue remains once the darwinism of human-assertion has fallen flat into pieces across our planet (Björk 2022, 197). But Mårten Björk majestically teaches us that to keep insisting on life (on absolute life, on dignified life, or the monstrous “good enough life” recently proposed in a frank instance of academic nihilism) cannot but reproduce the civilization of calamities that has put the world in the road to extinction. In the current epochal implosion all these pieces are more apparent than in any other time in history. Yet, life is elsewhere, always escaping objectivity and immanence: “it is the invisibility of the wished, the desired and the dreamt. This is what human life entails. It is related to the wide world of what could have been or what should have been” (Björk 2022, 199). The modality of eternal life is also what value cannot apprehend, and for this reason what remains undialecticized, stubbornly disjointed from every unbearable fiction of the world. The Politics of Immortality (2022) is not only an exceptional book; it moves us to look to what always remains on the side of the invisible, to the unsaved in the exterior elan of every life, our lives.




1. Bruce Rosenstock. Transfinite Life: Oskar Goldberg and the Vitalist Imagination (Indiana University Press, 2017).

2. See, Boris Groys, Política de la inmortalidad (Katz editores, 2008), and “The Immortal Bodies”, Res, Vol.53-54, 2008.

3. Gianni Carchia. “Elaborazione della fine: mito, gnosi, modernità”, in L’amore del pensiero (Quodlibet, 2000), 150.

A memory of Jean Franco (1924-2022). by Gerardo Muñoz

Jean Franco, pioneer of Latin American Cultural Studies and witness to its Cold War gigantomachy, passed away a couple of weeks in December at age 98. She remained lively and curious even at the very end of her scholarly life, and for some of us that saw her in action she embodied the memory of the century. The photograph above is of Jean’s visit to Arcadio Díaz Quiñones graduate seminar in the fall of 2015 where she discussed some of the main arguments of her last book Cruel Modernity (Duke U Press, 2014), a cartography showing the definite closure of the Latin American insomnia for political modernity in light of its most oblique mutations: narcoviolence, the emergence of a dualist state structure, and new global economic forces that putted an end to the vigil of the revolutionary enterprise. I write “definite” purposely, since Jean’s own The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City (Harvard U Press, 2002) already hinted at a certain exhaustion (to borrow the strategic term of Alberto Moreiras also writing during these years), most definitely a thorough disillusion, in the sense deployed by Claudio Magris, of cultural substitution for the belated state-making modernization. The function of “culture” (and its hegemonic state apparatus) was always insufficient, dragging behind, or simply put, unintentionally laboring for the cunning of a project forever postponed in the sweatshop of the newest ideologue, or for the hidden interests of the “local” marketplace of moral academicism. All of this has come crashing down rather quickly even if the demand for culturalist janitorial or housekeeping services are still in demand to sustain the illusion sans reve et sans merci.

What always impressed me about Franco’s scholarship was her intellectual honesty to record, even if through an adjacent detours and academic finesse, the destitution of all the main categories of the Latin American modern wardrobe: developmentalism, state-civil society relations, the intellectual, cultural hegemony, revolutionary violence, the “rights revolution”, and the intra-national spatiality (rural/metropolitan divide). From now on it is hard to say that there is a “task of the critic”, if we are to understand the critic in the Kantian aspiration of sponsoring modern values and perceptiveness to an enthusiastic disposition (definitely optimistic towards action) to transforming the present. As a witness to the twilight of the Latin American modern epoch, Franco univocally resisted the inflationary, value-driven, demand for politicity and ‘more politics’. This is why her attitude remained at the threshold of any given effective political panaceas or half-baked illusions.

Does her biographical experience say anything to this particular inclination? It is difficult to say, although as a witness of the century Jean had lived through the coup in Guatemala in 1954, visited the Cuban Revolution during its most “intense years” of the sugar cane milestone (La Zafra de los Diez Millones), and followed with attentiveness the rise and transformation of the Southern Cone dictatorships in the 1980s coupled with the irreversible social transformation of neoliberalism in the 1990s signaling the effective end to regional integration in the face of planetary unity. All of this to say that I find it hard – at least leaving aside the many nuances – to see in Jean’s scholarly witness an enthusiasm for the Latin American Pink Tide, the communal state, or abstract regional historicizing that could finally bring about the moral universe of the national-popular state (as if said moral realization would be anything worthwhile, which we some of us seriously doubt). If Jon Beasley-Murray once said that John Beverley was the “Latin American unconscious”, I guess it is fair to claim that Jean Franco was an authentic Latin americanist realist; that is, someone that was up to task to see in the face of the tragic, the cruel, and the heinous as the proper elements of the interregnum. Or to better qualify this: she was a worldly realist, leaving aside utopias and its abstractions. At the end end of the day, Leninists are also realists, or at least claim to be so. What places Jean’s earthly realism apart from the Leninist realism is the subtraction from the seduction of Idealization, which even in the name of the “idea” (“the idea of communism”, say) or “immanent higher causes” must bear and render effective the logic of sacrifice at whatever cost, even the real sense of freedom if demanded by the party, the leader, or the community. This is why at the closure of Latin American modernizing enterprise communitarian arrangements, posthistorical subjects / identities, or grand-spaces that mimic the constitution of Earth are foul dishes for a final banquet. It is always convenient to refuse them.

Going back to my conversations with Franco at Princeton, and some exchanges a few months later in a cafe near Columbia University, for her there was remaining only the anomic geography of Santa Teresa in Bolaño’s 2666, a novel that charts the current ongoing planetary civil war in the wake of the crisis of modern principles of political authority. I can recall one remark from Jean during these exchanges: “¿Y quién pudiera mirar hacia otra parte?” This is the general contour of her witnessing: how not to look somewhere else? In other words, how not to look here and now, into the abyss that is no longer regional or national, Latin American or cultural specific, but rather proper to our own civilization? A civilization is, after all, nothing but the organization of a civis, which has now abdicated to both the metropolitan dominium, as well as the campo santo of sacrificed life at the hand of techno-administrative operators (the new praetorian guard) of a well lighted and fully integrated Earth.

There is no alternative modernity, decolonial state, or hegemonic culture that will not serve to the compensatory and sadistic interests of the cruel policing of death and value, as the only masters in town. We are in Santa Teresa as a species of energy extraction. Can reflection be courageous enough to look through and against them? This is the lasting and eternal question that Franco left for those who are willing to see. It does not take much, although it amounts to everything: mirar / to gaze – in an opening where human form is lacking and categories are wretched – is the the most contemplative of all human actions. Whatever we make of it, this practice now becomes the daring task of the coming scholar.

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. 




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://infrapolí

3. Alberto Moreiras. “Sobre populismo y política. Hacia un populismo marrano”, Política Común, Vol.10, 2016:–sobre-populismo-y-política-hacia-un-populismo-marrano?keywords=…;rgn=main;view=fulltext  

4. Gerardo Muñoz. “Populismo y deriva republicana”, Libroensayo 2015:

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://infrapolí

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