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“Tragedy and Comedy in Italian Theory: Notes on the intersection between literature and politics” (for the moment unpublished), which was extremely suggestive, elegant, and comprehensive in terms of its critical take on the horizon of Italian theory.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.

Clandestine life in the open. by Gerardo Muñoz

In the very last article that Maurice Blanchot wrote for the collective publication Comité in the wake of May 68, he draws a scenario that is still very much with us in the present. The “realism” is almost outstanding when Blanchot writes the following: “…from now on I will hold onto an exigency: to become fully conscious that we at the end of history, so that most of our inherited notions, beginning with the from the revolutionary tradition, must be reexamined and, as such, refuted. Let us put everything into question, including your own certainties and verbal hopes. The revolution is behind us: it is already an object of consumption, and occasionally, of enjoyment.” [1]. There was no question that the crisis of the very foundation of modern political thought has collapsed, including, as it couldn’t be otherwise, the generative principle of revolution. Blanchot did not even attempt to convince himself that the revolution could be brought back in an astronomical sense to revitalize a naturalism previous to Rousseau’s social contract.

So, for Blanchot the revolution was over, and yet, whatever it was that followed had no name. What was left, then? In order to avoid paralysis, Blanchot toyed during those months at the Comité (September-December 1968) with two possible maneuvers. The first position resided in what he called the “movement of possible speech” in order to establish an ardent and rigorous relation between the sequence of the French May and the Czech May, Soviet domination and Gaullian State. Blanchot called for (in the spirit of Bataille) a “transgressive speech”: “the impetus of outrageous, ways speaking beyond, spilling over, and thus threatening everything that contains and has limits” [2]. But we know that transgression is still within the logistics of the administration of order and temporal containment of the regulated exception. This was, in fact, the very rupture of the revolutionary break that was in crisis.

But Blanchot was up to something along with his friend Dionys Mascolo in thinking through language and communication as a path towards the outside. Hence the second option, which is really a third option (after the sleepwalking of ideological revolutionary ‘racketing’ of voluntarism); mainly, what he calls, although does not get to tease it out, the “clandestine resistance in the open”. Blanchot only tells us what he is thinking about through a recent example: some members of the Czech resistance when law was suspended had to confront the raw enemy military power, but they also experienced a freedom “through words and through writing than ever before”, tells us Blanchot. But this still does not explain much, given that if there is a naked military power threatening us, how could something like a clandestine form of life take place in the open? And at what risk?

I think one way to read this incorrectly or insufficiently would be to think of Blanchot’s suggestions as a sort of martyrdom or self-immolation. But it is no less true that Blanchot wanted to avoid a sort of Batallian “inner experience” or monastic xeniteia. Thus, he “refused” the fiction of self-clandestine life as sponsored by the Situationists; while, at the same time, also rejecting subjective revolutionary militancy. A third way emerges: the clandestine life into presence by way of friendship. A new “estilo de vida”, which I think could be read in the way that cryptojews and averroists lived in early Modern Spain: “a modo de sociedades secretas o semi-clandestinas, deben haber concebido la filosofía como un estilo de vida para sus iniciados…” [3]. Unlike the bogus image of the secret society as an alienated community of knuckleheads, I think what emerges in the clandestine open region is a form of shared friendship that does not retreat from the world, but rather that is capable of living in it. This was most definitely the transformative practice that during these years, Dionys Mascolo, dared to call the communism of thought that for him belonged to Hölderlin rather than to Marx. If open conspiracy is an act of the sharing and participating in language without meaning or command dependence, then this is already a poetic practice. After all, for Hölderlin the poets reveal an originary loss from nature. It is no surprise that Hölderlin favors a world opening even after the destruction of the leader-figure of the poet (Empedocles).

So, there is only clandestine life in the open when the sharing of language among friends take place (an event). This use of language is always harboring on the threshold of the last word to come. In short, the clandestine form of life has nothing oblique with respect to the world – it is not necessarily the space of an infinite night of contemplation, and it is also indifferent about fugitivity – it demands a return to appearance by way of experience. This might explain what Gilles Deleuze tells Dionys Mascolo at the end of their correspondence about friendship and thought: “it is a question of what we call and experience as philosophy” [4]. This form of experiential thought against the dissatisfaction of political domestication points a way out. For Blanchot this was a “fragmentary, lengthy, and instantaneous” path; a conspiratio unlocked by philia.

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Notes

1. Maurice Blanchot. “On the Movement”, in Political Writings 1953-1993 (Fordham University Press, 2010), 106.

2. Maurice Blanchot. “Clandestine resistance in the open”, in Political Writings 1953-1993 (Fordham University Press, 2010), 106.

3. Francisco Márquez Villanueva. “El caso del averroísmo popular español”, in Cinco Siglos de La Celestina: aportaciones interpretativas (1997), 121-134.

4. Gilles Deleuze. “Correspondence with Dionys Mascolo”, in Two Regimes of Madness (Semiotexte, 2007), 332-338.

The schism of the species: theses on Dionys Mascolo’s La révolution par l’amitié (2022). by Gerardo Muñoz

1. Remembrance without restitution. The publication of Dionys Mascolo’s essays in La révolution par l’amitié (La fabrique, 2022) opens a path to a singular thinking that refused to conform to a master thinking, and even less what has come to us as political theory, or radical critique. Theory and critique have shown their resilient adaptiveness to university discourse. Thinking, on the contrary, moves annexes a relation with the missing word. This caesura negates the closure of both politics and community, it shows its insufficiency. In a letter to Maurice Blanchot regarding his ceased friend Robert Antelme, Mascolo comes to terms with this specific question: the remembrance of what loss in the actual word is – the voice of his friend Robert Antelme – what cannot be posited as a restitution of representation, but rather as effective effort to transcend mutism and silence that would have sunk writing into a pathos not short of a “miserabilist” stance [1]. The exigency of language is absolute. In an analogous way, we can say that the writing in La revolution par l’amité (La fabrique, 2022) is not a matter of restituting the history of Marxism, the intellectual debates of French theory, or even the burial site of a thinker that rejected repeatedly the metaphysical function of the public intellectual (a sort of captain at the steering wheel of public opinion, a cybernetician); but rather the remembrance that thinking is the irreductible site of common to the species. Remembrance has no “archive” and it does not produce anything; on the contrary, it invites a path to thinking in order to bring the absolutism of reality to an end.

2. The irreducibility of the species. For Mascolo – as for Nicola Chiaromonte – the stimmung of the modern age is not a lack of faith, but a bad faith subscribed by the subject of knowledge, a guardian of the nexus of legitimacy. In his practice of writing, Mascolo explored something like a countermovement to the rationality of the intellectual posture, in which communication ceases to be a common means in order to become a production of ends and instrumentality. Hence, what Mascolo called the “part irreductible” – and its “doubt in any system of organized ideas in sight” – is the only intuition of the unity of the species in communication. And if the intellectual is an organic unity of hegemony that replaces the function of the priest in the Church bureaucracy and its paideia (recall Antonio Gramsci’s “organic intellectual”), for Mascolo irreducibility in the sharing of thought in communication is “not political” as he states in Autour d’un effort de mémoire – Sur une lettre de Robert Antelme (1987). This step back from the production of modern politics thoroughly imagines another figure of communism. It is at this point where the whole Cold War polemics between humanism and anti-humanism is destituted internally: the species finds a way out of political domestication.

3. Communism of thought. We can understand why for Mascolo “the word communism really belongs more to Hölderlin than to Marx, as it designates all the possibilities of thought; that which escapes in thinking, and only that can constitute its work (oeuvre)” [2]. In other words, communism for Mascolo is not a matter of doctrine or an Idea, nor about philosophy of history and its inversion; it is not about a political subject or a unity of organization of political force; communism is a use of thought in language in proximity with what escapes in every communication. The inoperative communism, hence, is only possible in friendship, as a continuous experimentation of taste that cannot coincide with a community form. As Mascolo writes in his essay on Antelme: “We did not live in community. This is a deceptive word…we existed in a sentiment of mutual gift of freedom” (53). Any reinvention of a politics to come after the collapse of authority must commence with this rejection of a compensatory communitarian closure. Today only a conspiratio between friends can animate a new field of intensification for renewal.

4. Refusal and friendship. Even in his earliest stages of writing such as “Refus incoditionnel” (1959), the condition for friendship for Mascolo is to refuse the current state of things; to retreat from the demand of reality in order to survive in the imagination of the shared word. In this sense, the thematic of friendship does not make subjects of duty towards a social bond, but rather a secret in the word designated by separation. Friendship floats high above symbolic representation, as it moves to an inclination that is singulare tantum. If modern politics thought itself as a repression and administration of the hostis; for Mascolo the practice of friendship is the sacred space that is never inherited, but, precisely the dwelling of those who “seek” after in the wake of the homelessness of man and nature. This is analogous to Hölderlin’s allowance of thought which moves in passion while accounting for the abyss of our relationship with the world (aorgic) of originary detachment.

5. Revolution as style. In a brief text on the Cuban revolution of 1959, originally written for the collective exhibition Salón de Mayo in Havana, Mascolo says a new revolution in the island could potentially offer a the opportunity of a new style [3]. Of course, as soon as Fidel Castro supported the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, it was clear that such promised crumbled, and that the Revolution will fall well within the paradigm of the metaphysics of historical project and the subject (“a new man”). But what is style? Once again, this speaks directly to Mascolo’s passion for the irreductible outside of the subject, and for this reason never alienated from the schism of the species. The notion of style relates fundamentally to our exposition to the outside, to the event of expropriation, which defines our fidelity to the invariant dimension of our character. A new style, therefore, is not something to be produced, an effect of the subject, but rather the unit of an ethical practice in our encounter with the outside. If the apparatus of the revolution was instituted as a the production of a civilization; the fidelity to a style names the modes of life that cannot be oriented towards a specific work. A new aberrant freedom emerges.

6. Saint-Just’s ethos. Mascolo never ceased to reflect on the ethical determination of politics, against politics, and for a transfigurative notion of a politics for the here and now. And he dwelled on this problem in his writings on the ethical figure of Saint-Just during the French Revolution (“Saint Just” and “Si la lecture de Saint-Just est possible”). Unlike the monumental historiographies – both left and right, revolutionary and conservative, historicist or revisionist – that situated the revolutionary under the sign of Terror and Revolution, of will power and the emergency of Jacobinism; for Mascolo Saint-Just stands a figure that keeps an important secret. And this is it: “the inhumanity of Saint Just is that unlike many men, he does not possess many lives but only one” (130). This is a concrete definition of a ethos that is irreducible to the “monstrous arts of government” in an epoch where the political had become the secularization of fate. In the same way that Hölderlin turned his gaze towards the impossible and concealed distance of the moderns in relation to truth of the Greeks, for Mascolo’s Saint-Just the legitimacy of the modern universalization (in the State, the Subject, the Social) does not have the last word. The ethos of life keeps the remembrance of an abyss of the monstrosity of historical universality and the social equality.

7. Borrowed existence. Dionys Mascolo lived at the dusk of the modern arch of the revolution, whether understood as eschatology or a conservation of the natural order of the species, as Saint-Just proposed against the Rousseaunian social contract and the Hobbesian mechanical Leviathan in exchange for authority. We have already crossed this threshold, and we are in the desert of the political, retreating on its shadow fallen into administration of fictive hegemonies. Hence, the question of an ethos of existence becomes even more pressing from Mascolo’s thematic of friendship in order to refuse what he calls in “Sur ma propre bêtise et celle de quelues autres”, a “borrowed existence in a comedy that feels as if we are being watch by God alone” (219). Indeed, as some have diagnosed with precision, the religion of our time is absolute immanence, the full disposition of the tooling of our means [4]. A cybernetic dreamworld, whose pathetic figure is the “influencer” (a few strata beneath the luminosity of the intellectual). This can only fix us into the stupidity of intelligence of the species: specialized intelligence, in other words, prisoners in the sea of nihilism. The intelligence of the species, on the contrary, is the cunning (methis) of the fox: a way out in spite of the swelling tides. But against the nihilism of a borrowed life of immanence (beatitude of the impersonal, and iconicity of things), Mascolo’s thought insists stubbornly in friendship as the initiation in an uncharted path to reenter the world once again.

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Notes 

1. Dionys Mascolo. Autour d’un effort de mémoire: Sur une lettre de Robert Antelme (Maurice Nadeau, 1987). 

2. Ibid., 50.

3. Dionys Mascolo. “Cuba premier territoire libre du socialisme”, in A la recherche d’un communisme de pensée (fourbis, 1993).

4. Lundi Matin. “Éléments de descivilisation. Partie 4”, Lundi Matin, 2019: https://lundi.am/Elements-de-decivilisation-Partie-4

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/

Rough Notes on Antonio Gramsci’s Pre-Prison Writings. by Gareth Williams

  1. What Gramsci is, or appears to be:
  2. “Gramscianism” (here between October 1914 and June 1919) is an orthodox humanist Hegelianism.

Gramsci’s geopolitical world comprises Turin, Italy (as object of political commentary and an under-developed ethical state-form), Germany (as ethical state-form), England (as ethical state-form), France (as ethical state-form), and Russia (as revolutionary process and challenge to the previous ethical state-forms).

  1. The overall dispositive of writing in these pages is comprised of three essential historical determinations:
  • World War I:  shifts in the extension, dimension, and form of the capitalist mode of production.
  • The Russian Revolution, as apparently the least suitable (“Anti-Capital”) of environments for revolution. And yet . . .
  • The understanding of “socialist history” in relation to organization, consciousness, and the regional/national conditions of the capitalist mode of production, the coming revolution etc.
  1. The last of these three (c) is perhaps the most important for reading pre-prison Gramsci, since it leads to the question of how, and whether, Gramsci comprehends historicity in general, and the historicity of capitalism in particular. At this point there are a number of questions and problems herein, which Gramsci himself extends, naturalizes, and does not resolve.
  2. Why? Because he is a card-carrying orthodox Hegelian who puts the cart of Absolute Spirit (that is, his conclusions; the coming into being of the revolutionary dialectic of consciousness) before the horse (of historicity, or of analytic method etc). He does this in the name of objective commentary, knowledge, and therefore science. Socialist history remains internal to the dialectical relation between knowledge and Spirit; it is this enclosure and presupposition that establishes the “actuality” of the ground of his thinking, and also the idea that socialism, or communism, raise political thinking to the level of science. Absolute Spirit is the presupposition and structuring principle of Gramsci’s understanding of the entirety of Enlightenment history and of the coming politics. But does this not mean that Gramsci’s understanding of history is in fact groundless, or at the very least, myopic? Gramsci, like Hegel before him, and, indeed, like Marx to an extent, had already decided in what direction history was flowing and why.  “Spirit” is the moving forward of the new shape of the new era.  It is this glaring contradiction alone—between the claim to method and having decided on a prior conclusion regarding finality, or Absolute Spirit—that informs Gramsci’s understanding of a socialist epochality. While the proletariat is the determined negation of the bourgeoisie, the dialectical passage by which the proletariat ceases to be merely a negation of the bourgeoisie and becomes entirely Other is never really elucidated, other than by claiming the absolute reconciliation of the State-society relation at some point in the proletarian overtaking of the State and the full achievement of consciousness; the entirety of humanity coming into its own (humanity achieving its destinal completion). The signifier “Russia” is almost itself a stand-in for this constitutive lack, or absence.  As a result, the proletariat as the determined negation of the bourgeoisie is the positive content of (bourgeois-socialist-communist) progress in the direction of Spirit. The proletariat in the unfolding of its consciousness is the “not that” of the bourgeoisie; it is the bourgeoisie’s inverted positive, which, in Hegelian terms, could only ever be recognized as such from within the bourgeois dialectic of recognition, the dialectic of Lord and Bondsman in which both are recognized by the other, in their self-consciousness.

This is the heart of both Hegel and Gramsci’s essentially topological imagination (topos of recognition, the proximity of the common, friend-enemy relation etc; question: how could planetary revolution be imagined from within such a topological imagination?). One is left wondering, moreover, how a “true” revolution can be created by the dialectic of an inverted positive alone (again, the mere signifier “Russia” might appear to stand in as the resolution for that problem [?]). This might be why “true” revolution appears to be akin to the collapse of all mediation itself, in the name of “reconciliation”, or “Spirit” as the unity of all the different independent self-consciousnesses which, in their unification, enjoy perfect freedom and independence via the I that is we and the we that is every I (however, a world in which both I and Other disappear, it might be said, is no world; the world of absolute spirit can only be no world, because it has no movement). “True revolution” is the vanishing of mediation itself that has come about, somewhat mysteriously, via the (disciplined, disciplinary, moral) desire for absolute mastery. Is this a desire for an objectless world? To be master in the absence of the object—of the Other—? Can such a thing be possible? Obviously not. No language is given to the status of the object within the epoch of the collapse of all mediation, which is also referred to as “perfection”. From with the advent of “true revolution”, how could anything be grasped, dialecticized, actualized? Can there be a world in which the object—the Other—has no status? And yet Gramsci says that this arrival is inevitable, underway, realistic, already in the process of coming into being in consciousness.

  1. What Gramsci is not (or at least, not yet):
  • He is not a thinker of value, of surplus value, of commodity fetishism per se. He is a thinker of exploitation of the masses by the capitalists, and the place/role of these groupings in the overall terrain of national politics. Capital Volume I does not appear to be here in any specific way, though the Manifesto clearly is (perhaps excessively so).
  • He is not a thinker of anything that might be behind, beneath or beyond consciousness. He maintains no critical, or even agnostic, relation to the cogito. The proletariat exists internally to the epochality of the bourgeois cogito, as its negation. By definition, the proletariat does not think for itself (yet). Gramsci is a thinker of the proletarian amelioration of the cogito, but the cogito itself remains untouched. His thinking appears to be profoundly Cartesian (I think, I am).
  • He is not a thinker of language, of the signifier, metaphor, or of metaphor’s limits or decomposition(s)
  • He is not a thinker of the drives. Rather, he is a moralist. A thinker of the law, of mastery.
  • He is not a critic of “police thought”; on the contrary, “emancipation” is a variant manifestation of the police (discipline, order, morality, confession, self-other improvement, single-mindedness, organization of the army of the masses etc)
  • He is not a thinker of the decision
  • He is not a thinker of the relation between capital and the body; of gender; sexual difference (there is no reason to expect him to be so either).
  • He is not a thinker of the economy.
  1. Up to now, is there anything here to be salvaged for 2020, a “Gramsci for our times”?

Reality, or the social, is exactly the same at Gramsci’s point of departure in any given writing as it is at the point at which his thinking lands again at the end of any given writing. The real itself remains unquestioned. Perception remains unquestioned (faith in the cogito). In this sense, he is a 19th century realist thinker of the political, or, rather, he would be, if it were not for his faith in the Hegelian dialectic of Spirit. He is an astute commentator of the political conditions of his place and time.  But I cannot yet see anything for our times, since, as said at the beginning of these notes, Gramsci is an orthodox humanist Hegelian, a thinker of humanity’s movement in the historical direction of Absolute Spirit.  What we now comprehend as the modern historicity of capitalism itself circumvents Gramsci’s understanding; his secular faith in modern history—in temporality itself—as the bourgeois-socialist-communist teleology of human progress and development is unconvincing, though it remains the structural principle of his reading, and understanding, of both history and capital before, during, and in the wake of World War I and the Russian Revolution.