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“Tragedy and Comedy in Italian Theory: Notes on the intersection between literature and politics” (for the moment unpublished), which was extremely suggestive, elegant, and comprehensive in terms of its critical take on the horizon of Italian theory.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

Glosses on Philippe Theophanidis on community and obligation. by Gerardo Muñoz

These are further notes on the mini-series of conversations within the framework of the course that I am teaching at 17 instituto on contemporary Italian political thought. This second installment we had the opportunity of discussing a few ideas with Philippe Theophanidis on Roberto Esposito’s notion of community and its general horizon of inscription within contemporary discussions on immunity, the commons, and communication (a topic already explored with Philippe a couple of months back a propos of the publication of Dionys Mascolo’s La Révolution par l’amitiè, in which he participated). Although Philippe recommended reading and focusing on the first chapter of Roberto Esposito’s Communitas, his presentation intentionally exceeded the mere philological and description exposition. He suggested, perhaps too prudently, that the vocabulary of Italian theory or contemporary political thought is expressively ambivalent. This is already food for thought, as it puts pressure (at least in my reading) to the ‘conceptual’ register of Italian theory, while reminding us of the necessity of thinking against every moral or ideological political analysis. This also seems to traverse all of contemporary Italian theory regardless of what P.P. Portinaro claims on this ground. But I would like to register a few movements of Philippe’s talk in order to provide continuation in the upcoming discussions.

1. Theophanidis began insisting on the relationship between community and language. Because we are speaking beings, capable of saying, we are in the common of language regarding what or how we speak. Beyond and prior to any substance of community and its predication, there is a koine of language as sayability. This of course connects to the vulgar language or the poetics that marks the Italian tradition and that it enters into crisis with the acceleration process of modernization in Italy the postwar scenario, and to which names such as Pasolini, Zanzotto, Morante, or Levi will respond to. The crisis of community is, first and foremost, the crisis of the commonality of language in its rich materiality of the living community of beings. Here I am reminded that in the same way that there is no “theory” of language – as it remains purely inconceptual before grammar – there is no theory of substantive community, nor can there be one. To posit the community in the economy of predication is already to instrumentalize the very need to liberate it from whatever is done in its name.

2. For Theophanidis the conversation about community emerges in the wake of the collapse of 20th century communism and the absolutization of individualism due to the rise of economic management. But this does not imply restitution; it rather points to an ambivalent sense by which the very separation of the modern installment of individual and collective, community and substance, the person and the law, collapses. The unity of ‘munus’ in Esposito is a way to think the irreducibility of what is common between more than one without a securing a principle of mediation. Now, this unbridgeable gap is the negative foundation of the community in Esposito after Bataille, and the French tradition of the 50s.

3. However, Theophanidis assesses Esposito’s insistence in notions such as debt and obligation as an attempt to escape the nihilism of equivalence and the modern delegation of state sovereignty to fully become individuals capable of accumulating the spiritualization of freedom. However, what to make of Esposito’s dependence on categories of the Christian metaphysical tradition such as obligation? I mentioned to Philippe that this registered could be contrasted to the position of natural law, which also emphasis on foundational obligations as to delimit a set of normatively public goods (this typology is most clearly expressed in John Finnis classic Natural Law and Natural Rights). From this it follows not only that Esposito would be close (even if residually) to natural law principles but inscribe his conceptual grid in tension with the mediation of obligations on the one hand, and the reality of a concrete community on the other. In other words, it seems to me that if Esposito cannot guarantee a mediation for the notion of “obligation”, then this notion insofar as it is freestanding concept cannot do the job for any community. It could only stand as such: that is, a merely conceptual. This is something that has reemerged somehow in Esposito’s most recent work in institutions, human rights, and political anthropology in his Pensiero istituente (2020) where mediation does play a role, suggesting that he does not want to be taken as merely conceptual. Of course, I agree with Theophanidis that munus is void, a schism that Esposito does not want to suture, and so in this sense (also as a critic of personalism and the persona) he differs fundamentally from the general ends of iusnaturalism. However, it seems to me that the difficulty regarding the operativity of obligation in Esposito’s renewal of community does not disappear, quite the contrary.

4. A question emerged as to whether community can transform the crisis of political form, or whether any talk about community had to be done ex politico or infrapolitically. Theophanidis defended separating community and politics, if by politics we mean a return to the classical principles of sovereignty and representation; but also, if by politics we imply a general morality that would inseminate direct consensus and legislation across the members of the community. Any reworking of the political has to be done from a counter-communitarian perspective insofar as what is ruined is precisely the community of salvation guaranteed by those that confess or by those that assent to a principle of representation that marks our crisis. Perhaps the negative community (the community of a poetics of language and use) is what remains the fiction of socialization that drags the collapse of political representation. Otherwise, community is a sort of aggregate form of administration that exist comfortably well within the regime of biopolitics (another ambivalent term for Esposito).

5. Finally, Theophanidis expressed, rightly so, some skepticism at the famous Thomas Müntzer’s motto Omnia sunt communia, which on the surface established a totalization of the commons, but in actuality it rendered a moral legislation of what is understood as commons on behalf of a consent of total ownership of property. In this sense, the communitarian claim of Müntzer was a precursor to Carl Schmitt attack against humanitarianism: whoever says Human wants to fool us, since the outermost limit becomes the inhuman or the uncommon that must be obligated, erased, and destroyed whether it is in the name of the Human or the Commons. This is ideology at its finest, and it explains why the itinerary of both humanity and community have experienced such a happy voyage well into our present: it has consolidated a dominating morality veiled under the guise of a contingent good of and for the community. Of course, the price to be paid, just like Thomas Müntzer had to pay, is that the price of one’s head: the figure of acephaly now funds the differential structure of equivalence. Any reworking of community must be thought from and against collective equivalent execution, which is the real truth latent underneath every consensus and every morality.

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.

Un cuarto paradigma de desocialización. Sobre Pensiero istituente. Tre paradigmi di ontologia politica de Roberto Esposito. por Gerardo Muñoz

La publicación de Pensiero istituente. Tre paradigmi di ontologia politica (2020) de Roberto Esposito consolida el giro más reciente del pensador italiano por establecer con firmeza conceptual una postura afirmativa que ya venía asomándose con insistencia en Due (2013) y Da Fouri (2016), dos ambiciosos libros en favor de una teoría italiana de la afirmación que propen dejar atrás las condiciones de pensamiento de la French theory (Deleueze, Foucault, y el postestructuralismo) y la filosofía alemana heideggeriana y post-heideggeriana. En cierto modo, la crítica que Esposito elabora en Pensiero instituyente contra las dos ontologías políticas fundamentales – la constituyente arraigada en la inmanencia absoluta que peca de exceso de politicidad, y la destituyente que peca de una relación abismal entre vida y política, y por lo tanto insuficiente para ser afirmativa – es una continuidad de un diseño metacrítico que Esposito ha elaborado de manera sistemática en estos últimos años traspasando sus propios trabajos sobre lo impolítico, la comunidad y la tercera persona. Por lo tanto, no hay por parte de Esposito una desvinculación de la ruta de su proyecto, aunque tal vez sí un exceso de afirmación, tal vez motivado por las propias críticas de P.P. Portinaro en la medida en que ahora para Esposito es Maquiavelo quien estaría en el “corazón del paradigma instituyente” [1]. Este tercer paradigma desde el cual Esposito busca refundar una nueva ontología de lo político se asume como una ontología del equilibrio, incluso explícitamente la sitúa bajo la figura del “orden” social, ajena a los déficits inertes del paradigma destituyente pero no tan intensa como el paradigma constiyente de la inmanencia. Y para Esposito, entonces, una praxis instituyente es la única opción posible y deseable para volver a sacar de la crisis terminal a la filosofía política contemporánea (13).

Un lector suspicaz habrá notado (además es uno de los hilos que recorre todo el libro de Esposito) que esta tarea solo es posible si se acepta enmarcar el problema en la filosofía política, cuyo horizonte final es la legitimidad; un punto infranqueable y que Esposito alude hacia el final de su libro y no del todo de manera satisfactoria para su propio argumento, como veremos más adelante. En primer lugar, resulta llamativo el diseño de Pensiero instituyente, pues a pesar de ser un libro que propone la rehabilitación de una filosofía política instituyente los paradigmas políticos (el constituyente y el destituyente) no son tematizados desde sus traducciones políticas en tanto tal, sino desde las condiciones filosóficas que dan lugar a sus formas posteriores. Así, es Heidegger quien aparece como el representante del paradigma destituye y no las elaboraciones de Giorgio Agamben, Reiner Schürmann, Comité invisible, o Marcello Tarì. Y lo mismo sucede con el paradigma constituyente, en el que no es Negri & Hardt, las teorías de la sociedad civil de Arato & Cohen, o la obra monumental en torno al poder constituye del republicanismo de Skinner a Ackerman quienes aparecen tematizados, sino exclusivamente la obra de Gilles Deleuze. Lo curioso de este diseño es que en el paradigma instituyente que propone Esposito ya no es una categoría fundamental la que orienta la noción de institución (a pesar de que Hauriou o Santi Romano aparecen glosados hacia el final del libro), sino que es una traducción propiamente de la filosofía política cifrada en el pensamiento de Claude Lefort. Deberíamos preguntarnos de qué modo este diseño ‘asimétrico’ de Pensiero instituyente registra una interface en el molde de Esposito; o si, por el contrario, Lefort es una figura hiperbólica de toda la praxis instituyente que recoge las mediaciones entre vida, y política, y estado derecho más allá de la teología politica.

Sabemos que para Esposito ir más allá de la teología política, o de la sombra teológica-política de la persona y sus inversiones (la potencia destituyente también estaría caída a ella, así como todo mesianismo paulino derivado del trabajo desplegado por Agamben tras los estudios de Taubes, el paradigma trinitario, y la fenomenología de la religión de Heidegger) ha estado en el centro de su impronta teórica, aunque tal vez, como ha mostrado Alberto Moreiras, siempre desde una dependencia comunitaria que necesita de una biopolítica afirmativa para poder realizarse [2]. De alguna manera la biopolítica afirmativa es el presupuesto de Esposito detrás de esta deriva afirmativa ahora como un sustrato antropológico capaz de articular la socialización con realismo. En efecto, en Pensiero instituyente Esposito no es que tome distancia de la comunitas previamente adjudicada a la biopolítica positiva y a la “gran política”, sino que la política instituyente supone nada más y nada menos que una nueva lógica de la socialización misma. Por ejemplo, escribe Esposito: “Si no hubiera sociedad, ya no habría politica tampoco, ya que la política está orientada hacia la relación entre seres humanos. Y al revés también: sin política no se podría definir la sociedad…” (157). Y más adelante incluso con mayor énfasis y de la mano de Lefort: “…de la mano del discurso antropológico, Lefort ensena que es mediante la negación del a naturaleza, o bien a través de un modo reflexivo del saber con ésta que los seres humanos pueden conquistar la dimensión de la historia” (169).

La praxis instituyente de la democracia coincide, en un sentido preciso, con el proceso abierto de la socialización infinita que pasa a ser instituida por una política afirmativa. Lo que se busca es un sentido de nuevo realismo político, pero a cambio de aceptar la socialización como gramática central de lo político. Pero al hacerlo se desatiende el hecho de la crisis de lo social como lógica subsidiaria al principio general de equivalencia. Esta es su crisis actual de legitimidad. En cualquier caso, es importante notar que esta antropología de la donación y del regalo – Esposito llega incluso a citar a Mauss sobre la forma del intercambio y obligación – no nos lleva a una salida de nihilismo actual de lo social como avatar de la lógica cambiaria, sino que nos atrapa en el paradigma fundamente de la época fordista. No podemos olvidar aquí que el propio Kòjeve había desarrollado la teoría del ‘colonialismo donante’ con el propósito de agilizar la universalización de lo social para hacer a los sujetos de lo político mejores clientes. Este es el proyecto de la universalización hegeliana. ¿Y no este el paradigma de toda antropología política basada en una reproducción infinita de “realización en la que los seres humanos afirman su propia socialización? (178). ¿Es posible seguir pensando que el fordismo, la mediación de lo social, y la hegemonía política puede todavía constituir un horizonte instituyente para una tercera posición afirmativa?

Este un problema que Esposito no logra resolver mediante el uso de las teorías de Claude Lefort sobre la antropología política, la institución de lo social, y la mediación con el derecho. A mi juicio, es sumamente insatisfactoria la deriva de Esposito sobre la concepción de los “derechos humanos” de Lefort cuya incepción crítica-política pudiera haber sido importante en la matriz general de la Guerra Fría, pero que ya no puede serlo en una época en la que la humanitarización del derecho se ha constituido como un paradigma para la reproducción imperial de hegemonías en curso y sus formas bélicas (muy recomendable aquí son los últimos libros del jurista e historiador Samuel Moyn sobre los derechos humanos en la justificación de una guerra infinita). La restitución del paradigma de los derechos humanos no puede ser sino una abstracción de fondo al menos que se especifique los modos de su legitimación en un orden concreto. De otra forma, ciertamente, ‘quien dice Humanidad busca mentir’. El problema del arribo del derecho en el pensamiento de Esposito-Lefort, sin embargo, no tiene como consecuencia última usos geopolíticos en la escena internacional contemporánea. En realidad, este es el menor de sus problemas. El dilema fundamental es que si Esposito busca promover las condiciones “maquiavelianas de la política” – desde la producción de apariencia e inestabilidad del conflicto (187) – para las cuales una práctica instituyente tendría la tarea de mediar estas dos condiciones de lo político, entonces la centralidad del derecho, aunque necesaria, estaría repitiendo la misma lógica hobbesiana que funda el positivismo en la modernidad política liberal. Y si es así entonces no nos hemos movido ni un ápice de la crisis actual tras el agotamiento de las mediaciones entre ontología de lo político, autonomía de lo social y génesis del derecho. Como sabemos gracias a los estudios de Adrian Vermeule, el propio desarrollo interno del derecho, incluso en sus casos más robustos, ha abdicado a las formas administrativas de la delegación, donde la lógica procedimental está marcada por una crisis del positivismo y del ascenso de formas discrecionales basadas en valores contingentes [3]. Esta latencia aparece en las últimas páginas del tercer paradigma que defiende Esposito en una conceptualización ad hoc de la justicia desde la “negatividad” del derecho contra toda positivización (al parecer aquí sí necesita de excesos de negación). Si entiendo bien lo que dice Esposito, el tercer paradigma instituyente de lo político estaría marcado paradójicamente por una deriva anti-institucional en la medida en que es antipositivista, y para la cual los jueces ya no aplican el derecho, sino que asumen barómetros interpretativos para ejecutar el carácter legítimo de un ordenamiento jurídico. En cualquier caso, esta concepción antipositivista del derecho no es fuente de una nueva legitimidad, sino que se convierte (como se ha convertido) en una politización moral de la jurisprudencia cuyo espíritu, como vio Carl Schmitt, es íntegramente anti-institucional en virtud de su subsistencia en valores [4].

¿Es posible revivir el positivismo jurídico tras la caída a la crisis de autoridad? Esta es la salida de Portinaro, ciertamente. Es probable que la negativa de Esposito al respecto sea sintomática de la aporía de su propio paradigma instituyente mediante una teoría anti-institucional del derecho. En efecto, Esposito termina el libro glosando cómo para Lefort la ontología vista desde el derecho agota la totalidad de la realidad. (207). Y podemos decir que el triunfo del administrative law es el cumplimiento total de la sutura entre vida y derecho como neutralización política para una época de juristocracia de valores. La sutura entre vida y administración del derecho es ahora la legitimidad fundante, para volver al inicio de nuestra discusión del comienzo. Hay un impasse entre Portinaro y Esposito que tiene todo que ver con la crisis del positivismo. De manera que habría necesidad de un cuarto paradigma – asumiendo la tarea de Esposito de un pensamiento instituyente – que podríamos llamar infrajuridicidad, o una separación entre derecho administrativo la producción del conflicto político de lo social, que separa a su vez teología y política (valor y aplicación) para no derivar un sentido legalista de la autoridad [5]. Desde luego, mantener una separación entre derecho administrativo (como diseño thin aunque capacitado desde las competencias técnicas) y vida es otra manera de evitar la caída a la totalización de lo social desde la artificialidad de las instituciones que fundan el presupuesto realista desde el concepto y no desde la facticidad administrativa. Esta separación dejaría el vacío constitutivo de la desocialización de lo social como condición previa a una legitimidad en la crisis jurídica contemporánea a partir del dominio abstracto del valor (y que algunos juristas han llamado “la revolución silente de la “cost & benefit rationality”). De momento no tenemos un vocabulario adecuado para reinventar otra legitimidad, a pesar de la necesidad de pensar una práctica instituyente entre los seres vivos. De ahí, entonces, la necesidad de tomar distancia del principio de legitimidad para la elaboración de una filosofía política concreta.





1. Roberto Esposito. Instituting Thought: Three Paradigms of Political Ontology (Polity, 2021), 11.

2. Alberto Moreiras. Infrapolítica: instrucciones de uso (La Oficina, 2020), 169.

3. Adrian Vermeule. Law’s Abnegation: From Law’s Empire to the Administrative State (Harvard U Press, 2016). 

4. Carl Schmitt. La tiranía de los valores (Hydra, 2014).

5. Recientemente esta disyunción entre el dominio de la jurisprudencia y la vida es lo que hemos defendido en el ensayo “Amy Coney Barrett: la revolución legal conservadora y el reino” (2020):

“Decontainment, Standing Reserve, the Central American Migrant, and the Question of Dignity”. Paper presented at “All’ombra del Leviatano: tra biopolitica e postegemonia”. (Universitá Roma Tre, May 2017). By Gareth Williams.

In this presentation I will focus on a recent essay by Carlo Galli, titled “Left and Right: Why They Still Make Sense” (Sovereignty in Crisis, 2017) in order to underline what strikes me as being an important inconsistency in the relation between that recent essay and Galli’s previous theses on global war, and, as such, on the question concerning contemporary technology and violence. In particular, Galli’s work on global war is predicated on the ongoing demise of modern political space, yet his recent distinction between left and right appears to uphold the historicity, state-form and Enlightenment tradition that allows for the continued understanding and experience of modern political space. This will then allow me to examine the question of the “equality of dignity” that Galli upholds in relation to the sustained biopolitics of the left. In light of Galli’s biopolitics of the left, I will then contrast Simone Weil and Marx’s ideas on labor and dignity in order to suggest an infrapolitical turn toward existence. My proposition is that all of the above is particularly pertinent for understanding the regional problematic of technics, death and space in the relation between the U.S., Mexico and Central America at the current time.

In his 2013 book Campo de guerra the Mexican journalist Sergio González Rodríguez presents us with an interpretation of recent techno-militarist and security infrastructures in the Mexican-Central American arena that resonate directly with a number of the basic premises of Carlo Galli’s theses on global war. In particular, González Rodríguez examines Mexico’s technological absorption into the U.S. military security apparatus, as exemplified in the legal ratification in 2008 of The Mérida Initiative, or “Plan México”, which in the last 8 years alone has led to $2.5bn in military and security appropriations destined for the Mexican state. In this book, González Rodríguez strives to examine the “twilight of sovereignty” (Marramao) at a time in which the Mexican state has come increasingly into focus as one of the prime perpetrators of extra-legal narco-violence. González Rodríguez speculates that the absorption of Mexican sovereignty by the U.S. military apparatus indicates that the extreme, un-absorbable violence of the last decade on Mexican soil is already being re-converted into new forms of securitized domination in the sphere of the economic and political elites of the North. There is a lot to criticize in this book. However, what can be said, when taken in conjunction with Galli, is that the current indistinction between war and peace is simultaneously post-katechontic (indicating the twilight of the modern nation-state understood as the restraining force against uncontrolled civil conflict within and across borders), and neo-katechontic (indicating that the very perpetuation of the dissolution of the modern nation-state is the force that globalizes as a katechontic principle of our times). More than ever, surplus value and the force of the ontology of the subject that seeks and guarantees its extension reign supreme as both spatial decontainment and katechon simultaneously. The process of post-katechontic re-conversion of Mexican sovereignty into the U.S. military-security complex ultimately upholds the sovereign performance of the Leviathan, but locates its restraining force exclusively in the United States intelligence and military apparatus (the DEA, FBI, Pentagon, CIA, The National Security Agency, The Department of Homeland Security etc).

Without doubt, it is still too premature to consider the military technological absorption of Mexican sovereignty into the U.S. military-security apparatus as a definitive, unquestionable historical process of post-katechontic re-alignment of hemispheric proportions. Having said that, it is certainly the case when we look beyond the U.S.-Mexico border—that is, toward the militarization and securitization of Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala and Belize ( “Programa Frontera Sur”)—that we can glimpse the absorption of Mexican national territory into a new security and spatial architecture: that is, we can perceive the re-definition of Mexican national territory as a military and paramilitarized zone of security and self-defense beyond the boundaries of the U.S. state proper, yet extending the unique interests of the United States.

This southern geographical arrangement of homeland security establishes a military and paramilitary territory of fixed and mobile immigration checkpoints from Chiapas and Tabasco to Oaxaca, Veracruz and beyond, via the installation of a security network characterized by formal and informal patterns of surveillance, espionage, intimidation, fear, harassment, racism, abuse and extortion, as well as by new protocols for the illicit, increasingly sophisticated and cut-throat industry of drug and human trafficking from Central America to the southern states of the United States.

“Programa Frontera Sur” (2014) is, in rhetorical terms, a humanitarian program. However it also extends the security-intelligence agendas of the DEA and U.S. immigration, customs and border protection all the way down to the Mexico-Guatemala border and even into Honduras and El Salvador. In the process it transforms Mexican territory into the place of execution of U.S. homeland security. It does this by essentially converting national territory into a buffer zone, an architectural network for mass arrest and deportation. What was formerly guaranteed legally as national territory is reconverted into the ritualized performance, living geography, and paramilitary end-game of postkatechontic force, thereby realigning Mexico’s military-economic relation to the north, while also redefining and intensifying Mexican paramilitary force’s relation of dominance over the impoverished political spaces, and the migrant bodies that flee from the social violence of, the south. The national territory of Mexico becomes the new border, the tomb of the proper, the negation of space by the formalization of technological indifference in the relation between the spatial and despatialization.

It is in this sense that “Programa Frontera Sur” inaugurates the pure techne of a new form of Mexican post-katechontic nonsovereignty, or active sovereign abdication. With this, I wish to indicate that this recent humanitarian Program highlights a fundamental double shift in the relation between the principle of sovereignty, post-territorial dominium, and the standing reserve. By becoming absorbed by U.S. security agendas Mexican sovereignty relinquishes authority, yet, in the renunciation itself, increases its regional military and paramilitary strength over Central America under the banner of (non)sovereignty.

I begin with this transnational techno-military landscape precisely because it attests directly to Carlo Calli’s formulation of global war and techno-military force, in particular relation to the ongoing dismantling of modern political space. In contrast, in his 2017 essay “Left and Right: Why They Still Make Sense” (Sovereignty in Crisis, 2017, 64-99), Galli presents ‘left’ and ‘right’ as two ways in which the modern, Enlightenment tradition still manifests itself (75). For our purposes today, I wish to highlight what is for me a constitutive short circuit in Galli’s defense of the precise sense of left and right. Specifically, I wish to highlight the moment in which Galli affirms that the Left “cannot go against the impulse for the free flourishing of subjectivity”, because, he continues, “praxis, which is obviously central to the world of politics—prevents it” (85). But why does praxis pre-empt absolutely everything (including the crisis of the modern understanding of political space and state-form) except the flourishing of subjectivity? Galli continues: “It is precisely the presence or absence of the political centrality of the subject and its equal dignity that makes the difference. This is the case”, he says, “regardless of the awareness of the epistemological crisis of subjectivity” (85). Ultimately, in order to offer a “new vision of the world” (97), Galli affirms, “the left must dynamically incite the power of populism” (97) in the name of the “equal dignity” of the subject, for this is what “makes the difference regardless of the awareness of the epistemological crisis of subjectivity”. Therefore, for Galli “the left has the task of taking on the existence and value of individuals as they ought to be, and of firmly articulating the rights of the subjectivities, but not in an essentialistic, identity-making way; in other words, not to turn the individual into a weapon against the other, but rather to arrive at it in all its concreteness” (97). Ultimately Galli wants a new populist biopolitics of the left capable of administering an “equality of dignity” that is neither identitarian nor constructive of antagonisms. In this privileging of praxis or the centrality of the subject, Galli appears to conflate subjectivity and existence, but does so explicitly sanctioning the active concealment of one of the essential determinations of our times: that is, “the epistemological crisis of subjectivity”.

Against crisis, then, the concealment of crisis in the name of leftist populism. Is this a short circuit created by the primacy of politics? It is striking that in order to reach these conclusions Galli has fallen short of addressing a number of constitutive factors, such as the Christian underpinnings of the “equality of dignity”; the question of historicity, other than that of the already collapsing Enlightenment teleology of progress; and the question of contemporary technology that we see, for example, in the double shift I’ve just traced in the relation between the principle of sovereignty, post-territorial military dominium, and the standing reserve, which is another way of referencing global war in a specific, cross-regional context. These are not insignificant absences in Galli’s essay. Indeed, it might appear that the essay is at least partially predicated on their absence.

In the end, however, one is left wondering whether in the current conditions of techno-militaristic globalization there could really be any difference between the “equality of dignity” in Galli’s modernist formulation, and Heidegger’s definition of the standing reserve as the place assigned to human doing—to praxis, for example—in a world dominated by techne (Heidegger, 1977, 17). For example, I wonder in what way the equality of dignity that Galli wishes to extend—an equality that appears to remain sutured to the modern teleology of progress—would not also be constitutive of technology’s order “to stand by, to be immediately at hand, indeed to stand there just so it [that which is allowed to have a standing] may be on call for a further ordering”. Jacques Derrida recuperates the question of the modern standing reserve and its relation to equality in the following terms, highlighting the constitutive concealment—the person, the unique self— upon, and against which, it is erected: “The individualism of technological civilization relies precisely on a misunderstanding of the unique self. It is the individualism of a role and not of a person . . . Equality for all, the slogan of bourgeois revolution, becomes the objective or quantifiable equality of roles, not of persons” (1999, 37).

In a slightly different though intimately related register, Jean-Luc Nancy (2007) echoed the standing reserve in his notion of “general equivalence” beyond the specific money-form, to the extent that global capital operationalizes—biopoliticizes—humanity itself: “If globalization has thus a necessity—the necessity that Marx designated as the ‘historical performance’ of capital and that consists in nothing other than the creation by the market of the global dimension as such—it is because, through the interdependence of the exchange of value in its merchandise-form (which is the form of general equivalency, money), the interconnection of everyone in the production of humanity as such comes into view” (2007, 37).

Derrida and Nancy’s formulations lead to a question regarding Galli’s recuperation and understanding of the equality of dignity: For example, if biopolitics is the technological production of life that places itself (life) in the role of self- production, and if it does this as a means of re-appropriating social roles in such a way as to accomplish politics, then is there anything in Galli’s equality of dignity other than the biopolitical concealment of the unique self, or person, which accompanies the production of the subject? Within Galli’s formulation, it appears that the thinking of the left is necessarily a thinking of biopolitics—a thinking, that is, of the standing within the order of the social that is sutured to capital in such an intimate way that it preconditions and orients every hegemony, determining our understanding of praxis.

But what if, in the epoch of global war, the question were no longer exclusively that of producing life and reproducing the centrality and will to power of the subject? What if we were to confront the possibility of thinking at a distance from biopolitics, (at a distance, for example, from the technological anthropologization of “equal dignity”) in the name of freedom from the standing-reserve that every biopolitics presupposes, and naturalizes. Can our understanding of the political, and of its limitations, only ever be immanent to the brutal perpetuation of techno-economic force and the ontology of the subject that perpetuates it? Or is there available to us an infra-political turn or distancing from the ontology of the subject? Let us not forget Reiner Schurmann’s fundamental insight in Broken Hegemonies, when he observes that “A thinking of being, which has been disengaged from subjectivism—if such a thinking is at all to come within our reach—forces one to think the political in another way”.

It is with this in mind that I would like to approach the distinction between Simone Weil and Marx, who had fundamentally interconnected though in the end different conceptions of the relationship between dignity, freedom and praxis. Technology lies at the heart of this distinction, as does the relation between attentiveness, or contemplation, and the decision. Weil was correct in highlighting that Marx “had failed to give sufficient attention to the degree to which science and technology themselves tend to reinforce alienation” (Sparling, 92). She was also correct to think that Marx had failed to see that inequality could not be erased “through the abolition of bourgeois property because it was an inherent part of technological life itself” (92-3). Clearly, Weil and Marx are very close (Weil notes, for example, that “the idea of labor considered as a human value is doubtless the one and only spiritual conquest achieved by the human mind since the miracle of Greece” (106). But Weil was certainly closer to Heidegger in her insistence on technology.

Whereas for Marx praxis emancipates man from his alienated, contemplative existence, for Weil it is attentiveness that liberates, opening labor up to the dignity of thinking, which she would also equate with attentiveness to God. In Weil, in other words, labor—the ontical experience that takes place only at the level of the ‘they’ and nowhere else—cuts through to something that is not political, and even lets come forth the possibility for an existence. Whereas Marx sought to turn contemplation into creative activity, thereby transforming philosophy into praxis and, as such, into a form of self-creation akin to un-alienated labor, Weil sought to transform labor into a contemplative activity; not into a means for, or another zone of, instrumentality, but as the forging of an unforeseen path toward the un-concealment of a dignity of thinking that extracts labor from mediocre banality. In Marx philosophy becomes the creative action of the subject, who alters reality; in Weil labor—the creative action—becomes a form of contemplation that alters the relation between thinking and world. Marx’s is a thought of life that produces a common auto-production or auto-creation whose vitality accomplishes politics in itself. In contrast, Weil holds to the possibility of a becoming that is not necessarily subservient to auto-production or self-creation. Her thinking of becoming exists in a register that is slightly different from that of self-creation as the sole pathway toward praxis: “Nothing on earth can stop man from feeling himself born for liberty. Never, whatever may happen, can he accept servitude; for he is a thinking creature . . . the time has come to give up dreaming of liberty, and to make up one’s mind to conceive it”, for, Weil continues, “in order to cease being delivered over to society as passively as a drop of water is to the sea, he would have to be able both to understand it and to act upon it” (83-97).

Perhaps we could say that what distinguishes Weil is a decision for thinking not as manufacturing, not as surrendering passively to the sea of biopolitics or to the standing reserve. For Weil, what is at stake is the possibility of un-concealing a beyond to the productivist suture of biopolitics, an un-concealment in which what is disclosed as previously concealed is the fact that existence cannot be produced entirely through politics, while politics is only ever produced within, and against, existence. In Weil, the purely ontic experience of labor can be uprooted from the disclosedness of the ‘they’ in order to be exposed to the undecidability that is existence.

In contrast, and perhaps in a relation of proximity to Carlo Galli’s notion of the ‘equality of dignity’, Giorgio Agamben ends his essay on stasis by noting that in global civil war “the sole form in which life as such can be politicized is its unconditional exposure to death—that is, bare life” (nuda vita). There is no doubt that this is currently the common sense politics of the left in relation to human rights and the politics of inclusion. Consider, for example, the relation between dignity and the standing reserve in the following rendering of the Central American migrant, which is designed to inspire in the reader both humanist respect and the equality of dignity:

There’s an image from the migrant trails that I’ll never forget. A man missing his right leg, a crutch under each arm, stepping into the darkness toward the train tracks. It was 2009. Before leaving, the man told me: It has stolen so much from me, I don’t think there’s much more to take. It was the train, which sliced his leg off two years before I saw him step toward the tracks in Ixtepec . . . the train—The Beast—devoured his right leg . . . When I saw him, he was about to catch his second train of the trip. Two years and one mutilation later the man had the same goal: make it to the United States to work . . . I write this scene to explain something to the reader: undocumented migration to the United States will not stop. (Martinez, 269-70)

This is the humanist dignity not of an exodus from biopolitical reproduction, but of the journey from one form of bare life to another; a journey traversing the differential conditions of the standing reserve, from subordination to subordination, from will to power to will to power, across the geographies of global war. But bare life’s perpetual inscription of its exposure to death is never a thinking that can be disengaged from subjectivism. In other words, it never forces us to think the ontical experience of labor (such as reading and writing) as a possibility for uprootedness, or exscription, from the political in the name of existence (Nancy, 107), (in which case exscription would announce the problem of the text exposed to labor). Rather, bare life reinscribes the metaphysics of subjectivism as the primacy of politics.

In contrast, the infrapolitical register for thinking the decision for existence, rather than for exposure to death, is a decision for thinking not in light of bare life or the equality of dignity. This would be a completely different register of decisiveness, of decision-making, and of dignity, beyond the biopolitical administration of life and the subjectivity that underpins it, and most certainly beyond the primacy of politics or the centrality of subjectivity and the preconceived notions of praxis that accompany it. It would be an infrapolitical register in which the decision would be “the own-making event of the disclosedness” of existence as “fundamental ownlessness” (Nancy). This infrapolitical register would be an opening to the thinking of the singular—to Being as ownlessness—and, as such, to the thinking of a fundamental modification in our understanding of praxis that would never cease to uncover the question of the relation between justice and the community of beings, certainly, but would do so in light of Being and the ontological difference, rather than in light of the biopolitical administration of life and its assignation of social roles, general equivalence, and the standing reserve, for the latter are only ever indicators of the history of a certain subjectivist nihilism that always underlies both hegemony and counterhegemony.

Ius imperii: on Roberto Esposito’s The Origin of the Political: Hannah Arendt or Simone Weil? By Gerardo Muñoz.

Vicenzo Binetti and Gareth Williams’ translation of Roberto Esposito’s The Origin of the Political: Hannah Arendt or Simone Weil? (Fordham U Press, 2017) fills an important gap in the Italian thinker’s philosophical trajectory, connecting the early works on the impolitical (Categorie dell’impolitico, Nove pensieri) to the latest elaborations on negative community and the impersonal (Terza persona, Due, Da Fuori). Origins is also an important meditation on the problem of thought, and Esposito admits that had he written this work today, he would have dwelled more on this question central to his own philosophical project up to Da Fouri and the turn to “Italian Thought” (pensiero vivente). Nevertheless, The Origin of the Political is a unique contribution that crowns a systematic effort in mapping the rare misencounter and esoteric exchange between two great Jewish thinkers of the twentieth century: Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil.

In a sequence of thirteen sections, Esposito dwells on the question of the origin of the political in light of western decline into nihilism, empire, and modern totalitarianism. He is not interested in writing a comparative essay, and this book could not be further from that end. Rather, Arendt and Weil are situated face to face in what Esposito calls a “reciprocal complication”, in which two bodies of work can illuminate, complement, and swerve from instances of the said and unsaid (Esposito 2). Albeit their dissimilar intellectual physiognomies and genealogical tracks, which Esposito puts to rest at times, the underlying question at stake is laid out clearly at the beginning. Mainly, the question about the arcanum or principle of the political:

“Does totalitarianism have a tradition, or is it born of destruction? How deep are its roots? Does it go back two decades, two centuries, or two millennia? And ultimately: is it internal or external to the sphere of politics and power? Is it born from lack or from excess? It is on this threshold that the two response, in quite clear-cut fashion diverge.” (Esposito 4).

Whereas for Arendt the causes and even the texture of the political is extraneous from the totalitarian experience that took place in the war theaters of the central Europe, Weil’s response solicits a frontal interrogation of the ruinous catering of the political, going back at least to the Roman Empire. But Esposito does not want to exploit differences between the Weil and Arendt too soon. In the first sections of Origins he brings them to common grounds. First, Esposito notes how important Homer’s Iliad was to both Arendt and Weil in terms of the question of “origins”. In fact, the Iliad does not only represent a ‘before of history’, a poem that cannot be reduced to the narrative of the event; it is also an artifact that allows for truth. Esposito writes: “It is precisely the defense of truth through the name of Homer that most intimately binds our authors” (Esposito 8). Whereas totalitarianism emerges once politics is only a legislative instrument for seeking ends, truth for the an-archic Homeric poem praises both accounts; that of the victor and the defeated. Thus, any an-archic (beyond or before origin or command) is always, necessarily, a history of the defeated, which remains a demand in the order of memory. This is what Arendt’s admires and defends in “Truth and Politics” regarding the Homerian telling of both Hector and Achilles. But it’s also what Weil in her pre-Christian intuitions accepts as the survival of the Greek beginning in the commencement of Christianity without mimesis. To recollect truth in history beyond arcana (origins and commanding force) is to take distance from the force of philosophy of history, and its salvific messianic reversals. This is far from the negation of history; it is the radicalization and the durability of the historical, which Esposito frames with a cue from Broch:

“How can something conceived in terms of a caesura lay the foundations for something enduring? How can one derive the fullness of Grund from the emptiness of Abgrund? How to stabilize and institute freedom when it is born literally from the “abyss of nothingness” This is the question that returns with increasing intensity in Arendt’s essay on revolution…However, revolution cannot be an inaugural caesura and constitutio libertatis simultaneously” (Esposito 17-18).

This explains, perhaps only implicitly (Esposito does not say so openly), Arendt’s convicted defense of the American Founders over the Jacobinism of the French Revolution, which has only been an achievement in history due to the enduring progressive force of living constitutionalism. Esposito does not take up the fact that, Weil also responded critically to the Jacobin rule in her influential “Note sur la suppression générale des partis politiques” (1940). Esposito does claim, however, that any historical an-archy, insofar as it remains incomplete and evolving, must not resolve itself in genesis or redemptive messianism of the “now-time” [1]. This clearing allows for a passage through the origin that brings to bear the proximity of war to politics, which for Arendt delimits the antinomy of polemos and polis, as well as the difference between power and violence elaborated in her book On Violence.

Esposito lays down three different levels of Arendt’s positing of the origin of the political: a first one predicated on the space of the polis for the action of the citizen (polis becoming a theater); a second one, in which the agon is manifested without death; and a third, a Romanization of the Greek physis into auctoritas. For Arendt, Rome becomes a sort of retroactive payment for what was lost and destroyed. It is an after Troy in order to experience “beginning as (re)commencement” (Esposito 31). Rome is the possibility of another polis after the incineration, a tropology for amnesty within the historical development of stasis or social strife. Once again, the hermeneutics of memory over forgetting is placed above a philosophy of history that absolutizes the valence of the political. But it is in this conjuncture where Weil’s thought announces itself as an interruptive force in Arendt’s ontological conversation of the polis.

Esposito immediately tells us that for Weil the “origin” of the political does not run astray due to accumulation of historical catastrophe. According to Weil, the Fall is already original in the sense of being grounded in the event of creation (Esposito 36). Here Weil’s neoplatonic Christianity carries the weight. Weil posits an understanding of contradiction in Christian Trinitarian thought, although unlike the Carl Schmitt of Roman Catholicism and Political Form (1923), she does not substantialize this split through the reciprocity of its division into decision in the name of legitimate order. Weil, as it is well known, affirms a moment of creation grounded in its own abnegation. This revolves in the concept of de-creation that Esposito defines as: “a presence that proposes itself in the modality of absence, as a yes to the other expressed by the negation of self in an act fully coincident with its own renunciation” (Esposito 39). Conceptually consistent with Eckhart’s kenosis and later in modernity with Schelling’s philosophy of revelation, decreation is the Weil’s stamp of unoriginary foundation.

At stake here is the question of impersonal life, which in different ways, Italian thinkers as diverse as Giorgio Agamben, Elettra Stimilli, Davide Tarizzo, or Roberto Esposito himself have articulated in multiple ways in a debate that has come to us under the label of biopolitics. To the extent that decreation is an an-archy of this neoplatonic theology, Weil remains a thinker of the non-subject or of the trace of the finite that is irreducible to any modality of the political [2]. At this point, Esposito exposes the problem of force. Without fully embarking on a phenomenology of the concept in Weil’s reading of the Iliad, Esposito notes that force has the character of a total encompassing sensation that strips life unto death, belonging to no one, and viciously bypassing all limits. Here Weil cuts away from Arendt’s agonistic impulse of the polis.

The maximum distance with Arendt also emerges at this point: whereas Arendt conceived the Iliad of glory and claritas, for Weil it is “a nocturnal canto of mortality, finitude, and human misery” (Esposito 52). The uncontained force, the true and central protagonist of Homer’s epic, unfolds a negative community that Esposito calls, after Jan Patočka, a community “of the front”. Although Weil’s utmost divergence from Arendt becomes effective in the question of Roman politicity, which for her amounts to a juridical idolatry and a theologico-political glorification, as well as a prelude for the modern totalitarian experiment. In a key moment of this treatment of Weil’s critique of Roman law, Esposito writes:

“But what is even more significant for Weil’s arguments, and this is in contrast to Arendt, is that Roman law – ius, whose intrinsic nexus with iubeo drags the entire semantic frame of iustitia far from the terrain of the Greek dikē – is annexed to the violent sphere of domination. While the latter alludes to the sovereign measure that subsides parts according to their just proportion, the Roman iustum always belongs to he ho stands higher in respect to others who for this very reason are judged to be inferior, or, in the literal sense of the expression, “looked down upon”. This is the principle of a “seeing” that in the roman action of war is always bound to “vanquishing”…” (Esposito 56).

For Weil, Rome was representative of imperium and ius that subordinated the transcendence of its uncontested rule above citizenship equality, such as it existed in the Greek polis through isonomia. Devoid of citizenship, the Roman ius imperii is necessarily a dependent on slavery. Esposito notes that Weil’s anti-roman sense is more consistent with Heidegger’s critique of the falsum of the Roman pax as well as with Elias Canneti’s understanding of roman perpetual war, than with the Romantic anti-roman verdict. In its decadence, Roman politics as based on fallare opens up Christian pastoral power in a long continuum that later reproduces the basis for supreme hegemony. At the same time, Rome never truly stands for war, since it negates by declining conflictivity to peace in the name of domination. That is why for Weil the greatest discovery of the Greeks was to abide by strife as the mother of all things, while realizing its destructive nature. This makes Weil, as Esposito is aware, a figure of ignition, and a “combative thinker”. There is a sense in which the imagination of warring also colors Weil’s reading of Love in Plato’s Symposium, which positively informs her deconstruction of Roman ius.

But is this enough to leave imperial legislative domination? Should one accept Love as contained in war, as a form of warring and as a sword? (Esposito 72). The question that emerges at the very end of the Origins is whether Love can be at the center of a elaboration of a third dimension of the political, traversing both Weil and Arendt’s thought, and establishing perhaps a new principle for politics. It is to this end that Esposito argues: “…justice – love and thought, the thought of love – requires that what appears to others be sacrificed to what is, even if it remains obscured, misunderstood, or despaired (and this is precisely what Weil’s hero also proposes)” (Esposito 77).

Esposito writes just a few pages before that perhaps only Antigone succeeded in facing this differend, but only at the highest possible cost of destruction. It is at this crossroads where we find the last attempt to reconnect Weil and Arendt. However, love (eros) stops short of being a legislative antinomy and premise for a politics of non-domination beyond sacrifice or the payment with one’s own life. One should recall that Arendt’s doctoral work on Saint Augustine and love sheds light on Weil’s pursuit of love in facticity of war [3]. And if love always retains a sacrificial and Christological trace, then it entails that at any moment the condition of eros could dispense towards the very falsum that it seeks to undue. Could there be a politics predicated on love as an origin, capable of obstructing imperial renewal?

This is the question that Esposito’s book elicits, but that it also leaves unanswered. While it is surprising that the question of ‘the friend’ goes without mention in The Origins of the Political – the last twist in the book is on the figure of the hero or the antihero – it begs to ask to what extent friendship, not love, becomes the “deviation of the political” into an post-hegemonic region irreducible to the negation of war? This region is not possible to subsume in the impersonal reversal of the lover, the enemy or the neighbor. Perhaps the “He” that Esposito analyzes in Kafka at the very end of the book cannot be properly placed as an amorous figure, since the friend always arrives, quite unexpectedly, at the game of life. We abide to this intimate encounter beyond ethical and the political maximization. Moreover, we care for him, even when we do not love him. It is the friend, in fact, a figure that finds itself in a hospitable region, in a city like Venice so admired by Weil, where “he can rest when he is exhausted” (Esposito 78). This is a region no longer ruled by imperial politics, nor by its exacerbated modern perpetuity.





  1. The target here is messianism as represented mainly by Walter Benjamin and other representatives of salvific philosophies. Esposito notes that Hannah Arendt was critical of Walter Benjamin’s messianism in her “Gnoseological Foreword” of Benjamin’s Origin of German Tragic Drama. For a devastating critique of messianism and philosophy of history as a dual machine of political theologies, see Jaime Rodriguez Matos’ Writing of the Formless: José Lezama Lima and the End of Time (Fordham U Press, 2016).
  2. For the non-subject, see Alberto Moreiras’ contribution to the debate of the political in his Línea de sombra: el no-sujeto de lo político (Palinodia, 2006).
  3. Giorgio Agamben makes the claim that love in Heidegger, as informed by Arendt’s early work on St. Augustine, stands for facticity. See his “The Passion of Facticity”, in Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy (Stanford U Press, 1999). 185-205.

Good riddance! Apuntes sobre Marranismo e Inscripción. (Sara Nadal-Melsió)

Marranismo e Inscripción (Escolar y Mayo, 2016) traza un itinerario en tres estadios, cada uno marcado por efectos narrativos de sujeto que se descomponen en cada uno de sus tramos, como huellas borradas: la autobiografía/autografía intelectual, la entrevista-conversación, el ensayo teórico, la lectura interesada. En su centro aparece un dispositivo y un cálculo en los que el pensamiento se narra como huida para terminar convertido, en su tránsito por la escritura, en causa y razón, en militancia incluso. La autografía, la escritura como inscripción, permite a Moreiras, permutar la narrativa de un sujeto académico plenamente interpelado por la institución por una práctica de lo propio desde su afuera. Su propuesta se nos presenta como una táctica de apropiación de lo que se mantiene externo a la institución: la existencia y su facticidad, lo absolutamente singular en su contingencia.

Así la escritura de propio, el autografismo del marrano, se externaliza para convertirse en herramienta de transmisión no circunscrita ya ni a la enseñanza ni al saber; enfrentada a la producción de consenso a la que tiende el aparato académico y a su reducción de la transmisión a enseñanza, saber y disciplina. La institución no puede interpelar a lo propio, en tanto lo propio es un ejercicio de singularidad que no pertenece a la narrativa de sujeto. Lo propio funciona en el texto como un enigma estructurante. Moreiras es el enigma y el no-sujeto que se escribe frente a nuestros ojos mientras se descose como académico, como miembro de la institución y acatador de sus leyes.

Lo que transmite aquí Moreiras es la fidelidad a una idea impersonal que excede al sujeto. Se trata de un cálculo que está ahí desde el principio como intuición y que sólo puede vivirse como error o falta. Diría incluso que esa impersonalidad está en el centro de la tragedia académica a la que se alude como trauma del sujeto. La academia solo acepta y produce sujetos plenamente interpelados, todo lo demás simplemente no existe. En ese sentido es una estructura schmittiana de gobierno, no solo de amigo/enemigo, sino de sujeto y no-sujeto. El no-sujeto de lo impersonal no tiene cabida en su seno pero es también justamente el exceso impersonal lo que sobrevive a su tragedia, a la pérdida del cobijo académico y su producción de identidades.

Esta impersonalidad, anclada en el centro de un texto personalísimo, reclama un más allá de la voz que nos habla, nos cuenta y reflexiona sobre su insomnio, su desenganche del sujeto académico y de su falso cobijo. Maurice Blanchot tenía muy claro que escribir equivale a pasar de la primera a la tercera persona. Y esa tercera persona es también el lugar que Roberto Esposito describe como “la vela alucinada del insomnio” en Tercera persona: política de la vida y filosofía de lo impersonal. Cito:

“…no el yo que vela en la noche, sino la noche que vela dentro del yo despojándose de su rol de sujeto, de su identidad de persona, de su capacidad de imputación. Un acontecimiento, llegado desde afuera y dirigido hacia fuera, que se sitúa en un nivel completamente exterior respecto a la esfera personal de la conciencia.” (Esposito, 187).

El insomnio que acecha el subtítulo de Marranismo e inscripción: ‘Más allá de la conciencia desdichada’ alude a una escena originaria en la que la pérdida es aún solo eso. La lucha agónica y especular entre la primera y la segunda persona de “Mi vida en Z”, su tragedia, queda a lo largo del texto definitivamente desplazada en favor de una tercera persona que es a la vez singular y plural, ya que se relaciona con el mundo a través de su diferencia y nunca de su identidad interpelada. La solución está no solo en asumir la pérdida sino en celebrarla. El proceso no es reversible porque la lógica ternaria es irreducible ya a la binaria. No hay vuelta atrás: adiós a la conciencia desdichada. Good riddance!

El dispositivo teórico de Marranismo e inscripción demanda una estructura triple, liberada finalmente del agonismo trágico del diálogo a dos bandas (la lucha a muerte entre el tú y el yo que la institución demanda). A mi personalmente este dispositivo me recuerda un poco a la passe lacaniana, que es también la inscripción de la voz de la tercera persona, un salto de la tragedia a la política de la comedia, a su picaresca, a su ‘make-do’ con lo dado. Así, la relación central del texto, la relación entre vida y pensamiento, bios y logos, deja también de ser binaria una vez aceptamos que ni la una ni la otra coinciden con la subjetividad y sus trampas. La vida pensante que ejerce el “moralismo salvaje” propuesto por Moreiras solo puede ser impersonal, cómplice con la facticidad del mundo y su exterioridad.

En la textualidad misma de Marranismo e inscripción se produce otra no coincidencia, esta vez entre la letra y la voz, la aporía en la que texto se instala. El desborde producido por la voz propia amenaza con descoser la continuidad de la letra y su capacidad de construir una opción de lenguaje subjetiva. La singularidad de la voz es un índice de su exterioridad: la voz es siempre otra. Y escuchar la voz en la letra es desdoblar su identidad y su identificación monológica. La voz es siempre marrana y la cuestión es cómo sostener esa tonalidad en el acto de la escritura. Es ahí donde la picaresca de la voz de Alberto actúa como soporte de su marranismo, como antídoto a la institucionalización de su escritura.

Asimismo, asumir el accidente del marranismo (el “no querer estar nunca allí donde lo ponen”, 49) es un acto de voluntad política y una entrada en un mundo más allá del yo que demanda la incorporación de lo ajeno como propio. Se trata pues de un acto retroactivo que señala la extraversión como momento de inflexión; inscripción que transmuta la necesidad en elección, lugar al que sólo se llega después de pasar por el desierto y verse de bruces enfrentada a lo que no es “ni inagotable ni subsumible” (Moreiras, 56): la existencia como resto y como supervivencia. Algo que convierte a la precariedad de la superviviente, que sabe bien de la fragilidad del sujeto como cobijo, en condición voluntaria desde la que iniciar un ergon propio. Una práctica de no-sujeto que ponga a trabajar el tiempo exterior de la existencia, su singular facticidad, la de una vida no intercambiable con ninguna otra.


*Position Paper read at book workshop “Los Malos Pasos” (on Alberto Moreiras’ Marranismo e Inscripción), held at the University of Pennsylvania, January 6, 2017.