We had a very rich and productive conversation this week with Josep Rafanell i Orra around the new and updated edition of his book En finir avec le capitalisme thérapeutique (éditions météores, 2022). But here I just want to entertain an early moment in the book that has some importance for some ongoing discussions. In the introduction that he writes for the new edition, Rafanell engages in a rare and honest exercise in self-critique. This is what he writes:
“Dans mon livre, je défendais une politique du soin. Onze ans après, je me livrerai bien volontiers à une autocritique rétrospective : la politique me semble destinée, irrémédiablement, à devenir une métapolitique, si nous entendons par là l’inévitable ré-institution d’identités qu’il faut représenter. Retour éternel de la police avec la violence de ses abstractions. Je pense que la politique, le politique (que vaut-t-elle encore aujourd’hui cette distinction?) nous condamne à nous absenter des mondes pluriels de la communauté et à neutraliser les effectuations de la différence” .
A lot could change in a matter of a decade. Indeed, a lot has changed for some of us, and it seems that for Orra it is no different. He is willing to admit it. He is no longer interested in defending a “politics of care” (or a hyperbolic politics), and not because it has become a recursive cliché in the empty chatter of governing metropolitan progressivism (I think of NYC or Colau’s Barcelona), but more fundamentally because the full affirmation of politics today can only contribute to the ever expansive calculative scheme of representational politics; a representational enframing that has become defunct and emptied out with the rise of administrative rationality evolving from the internal premises of political liberalism. It is true that the liberal democratic project from its inception was too weak to deal with indirect powers, and its long-lasting solution has been to engage in practices of optimization and value dispensation. But no amount of social representation can minimize effective domination. No one could defend this except in bad faith. The destiny of politics now transformed into metapolitical saturation can only muster social existence into predatory lines.
But there is another sense in which the metapolitical collapse could be understood. At least this is where I would like to displace Rafanell’s lucid intuition: the metapolitical destiny of politics emerges in the wake of the fault line between the metapolitical conditions of politics and political representation and mediation as such. Obviously, this is the problem that, already in the 1960s, the German jurist Ernst Böckenförde had to confront in his now famous theorem: the liberal state lives through conditions that it can no longer guarantee or promote.
In other words, the metapolitical conditions required for secularization have evolved (now fully realized through the West with different intensities and semblances) into the collapse of society-state mediations, turning to police powers to maintain the ‘one piece garment’ of social life. Theoretically, the dissociation between politics and its metapolitical conditions has led to attempts at generating sedative hegemonies that are always furiously defended – even at the expense of their failures – through rhetorical bravado. So, the decline of metapolitical condition entails the passage from the conditions of social contact to the endgame of the flexible and coercive management of indirect powers.
1. Josep Rafanell i Orra. En finir avec le capitalisme thérapeutique (éditions météores, 2022), 21.