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.




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:

La izquierda aglutinante y el corte. por Gerardo Muñoz


Hay una máxima de Jean Gratien sobre Saint-Just cuya contundencia sigue latiendo en nuestro presente. Escribía Gratien: “La “inhumanidad” de Saint-Just radica en que no tuvo como los demás hombres varias vidas distintas, sino una sola”. Toda la miseria del izquierdismo político puede despejarse desde aquí. ¿En qué sentido? A primera vista esta máxima es una enmienda a toda la teoría de las esferas de acción del hombre moderno cuya saturación antropológica ha acabado dispensando al ‘sujeto deconstruido’ de la metrópoli. Pero no deseo recorrer este registro. En un segundo nivel, lo que Gratien buscaba elucidar era algo así como un ethos de la existencia capaz de cortar las compensaciones de toda política ideológica. Pensemos por un momento en qué significa esto hoy. Pensemos por un momento en la izquierda. ¿Tiene la izquierda hoy un programa solvente para la época que no sea sumatorio?

Mirando a diversas realidades es casi imposible divisar cuál es. Y sin embargo lo que sí tiene es lo que una vez el periodista militante Horacio Verbitksy (un ideólogo profesional) llamó una “aglutinación subjetivante”. Es una expresión notable porque condensa la cultura sumatoria de la izquierda. De ahí que el giro “tradicionalista” de la izquierda contemporánea tenga la forma de una bolsa de juguetes: leninismo, socialdemocracia, liberalismo, zapatismo, comunitarismo horizontal, sesentayochismo, filología marxiana del sur, movimiento de movimientos, latinoamericanismo, decolonialidad, etc. La lista es contingente a las demandas del presente. Como en la dogmática eclesiástica, lo importante no es definir un programa o asumir una postura en nombre de algo, sino fijar la jerarquía en el retablo. Para volver a Gratien: de lo que se trata es de retener esas muchas vidas compensatorias en lugar de una vida.

Esta actitud ante el mundo no es banal ni fortuita, al contrario, es la fuente misma de la mala fe que oxigena la idolatría. Y es una postura trágica en el sentido más fuerte de la palabra, puesto que una política que abandona “una vida” es una política que ya no tiene destino. No es casual, entonces, que la izquierda de la aglutinación termine encandilada con el principio de la “hegemonía” puesto que el hegemon es precisamente lo que ordena y gobierna sobre la dispersión de los fragmentos, lo que los vuelve lisos, y lo que termina garantizado el trámite equivalencial. En realidad, no hay diferencia alguna entre el partido de la aglutinación y la teoría de la hegemonía. La hegemonía es su último avatar.

Lo tragicómico de todo es que la hegemonía habla de “revolución” constantemente. Sin lugar a duda, en todo exceso retórico hay una compensación a un impasse práctico. Por eso la definición entre izquierda y revolución acuñada por Dionys Mascolo en un momento de casería de brujas sigue siendo tremendamente actual: “Todo lo que se designa como de izquierda es ya equívoco. Pero lo que se designa como «la izquierda» lo es mucho más. El reino de la izquierda se extiende desde todo aquello que no se atreve a ser franca y absolutamente de derecha, o reaccionario (o fascista), hasta todo aquello que no se atreve a ser francamente revolucionario” [1]. De nada sirve invocar infinitamente una tradición revolucionaria si se quiere ejecutar una revolución. De nada sirve llamarle al otro contrarevolucionario. Por eso hay izquierda por todas partes, pero ni de lejos una teoría revolucionaria. Pero sabemos que un corte contra la hegemonía es la apertura a otra cosa. Esta es la invitación a otro viaje.



  1. Dionys Mascolo. Sur le sens et l’usage du mot “gauche”. Paris: Nouvelles Èditions Lignes, 2011.