No Peace Beyond the Line

On Infrapolitical An-Archy
The Work of Reiner Schürmann
University of Texas A&M
January 11-12, 2016

Reiner Schürmann. Anarchy as an End to Metaphysics
Preliminary observations
In what follows I shall attempt to do three different things.
1) A short presentation of the main lines worked by Reiner
Schürmann’s confrontation with western philosophy. 2) A brief
commentary on how Schürmann reads Heidegger and why this
reading seems relevant today. 3) An interrogation related to our
specific occasion or why reading Schürmann today could be a
decisive intellectual initiative for us -and who is this “us” that seems
so natural, anyways? Of course, the complexity and richness of
Schürmann’s thinking could not be reduced to a single
presentation, because what is at stake is not just a particular idea or
system of ideas, concepts, formulations, hypotheses, but a reading of
the whole philosophical tradition in order to make possible, even
logical, his particular intervention. To read Schürmann is to read,
through him, the western philosophical tradition and to punctuate
this tradition, its history, according to his emphases.
I would say that here we have already a first problem: how
the history of western philosophy, as the constant forgetting of
being (and this is already an interpretation we have consented to
even if not actively), reaches its own “realization” and how this
realization allows us to ask again the question of being in a nontraditional way? Furthermore, how, in its most radical moment, the

 

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history of metaphysics opens itself, through its realization that is also
its exhaustion (a withering away of principles) to being? In other
words, what is the logic of this apparent paradox and what are its
mechanisms? Do these mechanisms belong to reason and its
strategies, critical practices, “subjects”? Finally, what does it mean
that metaphysic reaches its own finality in and as modern techné, not
only technology to be sure, but the Cartesian constitution of
philosophy and subjectivity as the kernel of modern thinking? Let
me proceed then according to my plan.
*****
Reiner Schürmann is a consistent thinker. Besides a series of
articles that have been incorporated into his main books -or are
waiting for a critical edition, we can consider five relevant books: his
memories (Les Origins 1976); Wondering Joy (1978); Heidegger. On
Being and Acting. From Principles to Anarchy (1982), his posthumously
published Broken Hegemonies (1996), and the recently published
volume entitled On Heidegger’s Being and Time (2008), which
corresponds to an unfinished manuscript on Heidegger’s Sein und
Zeit and two complementary pieces by Simon Critchley that attempt
to “en-frame” Schürmann’s interpretation of Heidegger’s main
book.
It is a fact, therefore, that the main reference in his works is
Martin Heidegger. But, it wouldn’t be fair to reduce Schürmann to
the condition of a “Heideggerian scholar”, even if one of the most
important in the 20th century. His engagement with western
philosophy moves from Aristotle to Aquinas, from Meister Eckhart
to Luther, From Plotinus to Shelling, from German Idealism to
Heidegger, and from Nietzsche to Foucault, Derrida, and Hanna
Arendt. From his first publication to Broken Hegemonies, we perceive

 

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a double movement of deepening and expansion of his particular
understanding of philosophy as an epochal organization of the
history of being; where a philosophical epoch is organized around a
series of first principles that work as nomic injunctions or
hegemonic configurations of meaning, articulated by a fantasmatic
referent (The One, Nature, Consciousness). Most important than
these historical-transcendental referents is the very mechanic of the
hegemonic articulation of meaning which reduces the history of
being to a sort of “logic of recognition” that bring to presence the
heterogeneity of being through the hermeneutical and normative
force of those referents. For Schürmann, the force of the referents
consist in their ability to give sense, to give reason if you like, to a
particular historical reality; but this donation is also a translation of
the diversity -even, the radical heterogeneity- of being to the
principial economy that norms such an epoch. This is the force of the
principle of reason, the labor of professional philosophy. But here lays
also the tragic component of philosophy, which is the sacrifice of
the singularity of what it is to the condition of “a case”, that is to
say, the conversion of the singular to the particular that is already
meaningful thanks to its constitutive relationship with the universal.
In fact, this universal is no other thing than the process of
universalization of the nomic injunction that articulates the
hegemonic order of an epoch.
In that sense, Schürmann’s confrontation with the
philosophical tradition is in tone with the Heideggerian task of
destruction of metaphysics. This destruction then moves in the
following way: first, identifying the principles articulating a given
epochallity or moment in the history of being, say, the principles
that reduce being (its singularity) to a problem of meaning and
knowledge (to the relationship between particular and universal).
Second, understanding the way these principles work as productive
devices that give language to that epoch (in a way, these referents or

 

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fantasms work in Schürmann as the Kantian categories1 ). Third,
identifying the way in which professional philosophical discourses
work as translations and adjustments of the diversity of the sensible
experience, the world (facticity and thought), to the normative
configuration donated by the principles (the philosopher, and
Schürmann means the professional philosopher, bring to the fore
the principles as referents that enable the rationality of the real, its
legibility). In this sense, the work of the professional philosopher is
not just the corroboration of the hermeneutical force of the
principles, but also, and critically, the adjustment of reality to those
principles. Heidegger’s destruction of metaphysics becomes in
Schürmann a crucial interrogation of philosophy as a professional
practice of power, the power of a “donation” that is always a
“reduction” of being to “meaning”.
Accordingly, his understanding of destruction or
deconstruction (Abbau, and he tends to translate it as
deconstruction over dismantling) implies a new task for thinking, or
if you want, a new tension between philosophy and thinking (as a
practical activity an-archically articulated around the constellation of
being). To put it in other words (and keeping in mind Heidegger’s
1966 piece entitled “The End of Philosophy and the Task of
Thinking”), if the task of thinking is the deconstruction of
principial economies that capture normatively the being of be-ing, in
                                                                                                               
1

We should consider, however, that this is just an analogy since in Kant those
categories “mediate” between the noumena and the phenomena, producing the
synthesis of knowledge. In Schürmann the referents are constitutive or
configurative of the real, but do not respond to a transcendental eschematism,
which is already a hypothesis, a subjective hypothesis introduced by Kant. The
same thing should be said regarding Structuralism and Foucault’s epistemes, even if
there are some similarities, Schürmann claims that they refer to a particular
region of being and not to being as a permanent tension between concealment
and unconcealment.
2
This is, in other words, the historical modulation of the ontological difference
that is problematic in Schürmann’s work. Not only the question of the ontic
status of this ontological an-archy is what matters here, but also the very
articulation between the ontic-ontological question and the problem of the co-

 

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order to access a sort of releasement of “being without a why”, this
thinking is not concerned with the history of thought or with the
meaning of that history, neither with a critical engagement or with
an exegetical readings of the main texts of the “tradition”. On the
contrary, thinking thinks being, and being is not an entity, neither the
first nor the more important referent, but a constellation of
presencing that unconceals or discloses itself in our confrontation
with the “world” (in effect, Schürmann’s destruction leads to a
topology of being). Thus, the world as the constellation of being
does not point toward a hidden structure, a final reason, a secret
teleology, but to its an-archic presencing to Dasein. The task of
thinking therefore is not the “clarification” of Dasein’s existential
conditions to access the transcendental site of a rational subjectivity
(the line that goes from Descartes to Hegel, and from Kant to
Husserl), and this would be the difference between the
phenomenological epoché and the destructive epoché. In Schürmann
the epoché opens to an-arché and this an-arché interrupts the pros hen as
a distinctive philosophical operation. This is possible, of course,
because Schürmann reads the Heideggerian epoché as an inversion of
the Husserlian epoché, an inversion of the parenthesis that was
meant, in the first case, as a suspension of the natural attitude. With
that inversion, the parenthesis now suspends the philosophical
subjectivity and its transcendental intuitions, freeing the world from
the infinite tasks of the rational consciousness (translation and
adjustment) and freeing thinking from the subject (transcendental
consciousness).
In this sense, Schürmann dwells at the end of professional
philosophy which task was, among others, the elucidation of the
history of philosophical knowledge according to epochal principles.
But to dwell at the end of philosophy is also to suspend its
professional task (elucidation), understanding that every new
moment in the philosophical history of being produces, through a
particular idiom, its own fantasmatic reverse. In fact, to dwell at this

 

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end is also to resist the temptation of transitioning to a new -most
modern- language, to a new categorical institution, even if the
transition is done in the name of Humanity (reason, justice, peace,
etc.).
This is, therefore, his question: what is to be done at the end
of metaphysic? Which is not to be understood as a naïve question
that takes for granted this end as an empirical phenomenon. The
end of metaphysic is not a fact; it is, on the contrary, the historical
moment in which the modern principles articulating the hegemonic
order of thinking breaks away or, even better, withers away. This
sort of exhaustion of the hermeneutical and normative force of the
principles interrupts the ability of the philosophical discourse to
reproduce ad infinitum its meaningful configuration, and opens up
to an-archy as a new relationship with being. This is the moment
when thinking topologically the pre-sencing of being leads to a sort
of radicalization of Heidegger’s existential analytic, that is to say, to
the analytic of the ultimate quasi-principles (among them, the
principle of equivalence).2
On the other hand, before addressing the complex status of
this anarchy, it would be important to understand Schürmann’s
project as a very idiosyncratic confrontation with metaphysics that
                                                                                                               
2

This is, in other words, the historical modulation of the ontological difference
that is problematic in Schürmann’s work. Not only the question of the ontic
status of this ontological an-archy is what matters here, but also the very
articulation between the ontic-ontological question and the problem of the cobelonging of being and its multiple “worldly” manifestations. If this an-archy were
to be read only at the ontological level, we would be re-introducing an ontological
hierarchy even if only to break away with it. But, if ontology as first philosophy is
deconstructed (which was the task of destruktion), then the homologation of anarchy and politics needs more elaboration. This is attested by the tension between
Lefort-Castoriadis-Abensour’s savage democracy and the idea of an an-archic politics
one could read in Schürmann, but this is also the tension between biopolitics (as
a politics still articulated around the “given” condition of life and the selfpresencing of power) and infrapolitics.

 

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cannot be reduce to Heidegger’s destruction, Nietzsche’s genealogy
or Foucault’s archeology. Schürmann himself makes clear his
resistance to the general endorsement Derrida’s deconstruction has
received in France and elsewhere, and of course, this is already a big
problem we need to address at some extent one day, particularly
because of their (Schürmann and Derrida’s) different relationship to
Heidegger and to Husserl. However, let me just quote him briefly
here:
To deconstruct hegemonic fantasms, one cannot trust in
interpretative throws of the dice, nor let this be produced by
a fortuitous collision of signifier and significance, nor attack
the texts from their margins. It is necessary to go straight
into the ticket-to the theses upon which a text as well as an
epoch rest, theses that get themselves twisted up as soon as
they are declared to be legislative. (BH 15)
Instead of entertaining oneself by playing with the flexibility of the
signifiers, with the polysemy of the text, the archi-writing and the
trace of meaning in the a-grammatical order of history, Schürmann
proposes to assume the almost impossible task of deconstructing the
hegemonic organization of metaphysic as history of thought. And
right here one might wonder up to what point this hegemonic
configuration is, itself, already a fantasmatic insemination necessary
to trigger the task of thinking. I am not only thinking in the
difference between différance and hegemony, between the fantasmatic
referent and the specter (as the incalculable or excessive remainder
of presence), but also in the way in which the hegemonic
configuration of metaphysic could be read as a retro-projection done
form the modern ontological anarchy as a strategy to justify a
historical-transcendental hypothesis about the realization of
metaphysics. This “realization”, not a vulgar teleology to be sure,
however, imposes itself as a particular economy of reading, a
particular reading of the tradition, the texts of the tradition,

 

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emphasizing in them the principial articulation of meaning and not
what we might call the heterogeneous play of signification dwelling
at the absent center of every text. For this heterogeneity complicates
the principial organization of meaning, bringing to the fore the
counter-forces and resistances that are always working through the
text and its different interpretations. These resistances distort the
conventional identification of the text and the principles, perverting
the philosopher’s “donation” of meaning while opening the texts to
another donation, to another an-economic economy, which does
not take place in the continuum temporality of the tradition,
neither within the margins of professional philosophy.3
Let me dwell here for one more minute. The hegemonic
articulation of metaphysic would be itself nothing else than a
reading enabled from the post-hegemonic condition of anarchy.
But, if the texts themselves are always something else than just the
economy of principles that articulates them, if the texts present
resistance to the main law of interpretation that articulate them,
wouldn’t this then imply that post-hegemony is nothing else than an
a hypothesis formulated to control, to conjure, to exorcise another
fantasm, the specter of différance?
To be sure, I am not claiming that philosophy is an openended battle of interpretation, a battle that implies leaders and
                                                                                                               
3

Wouldn’t this be the defining relationship deconstruction establishes with the
tradition and its texts? Not an exegetical or critical reading, neither a reading in
which the text becomes monumentalized and homogenized according to a
principial economy, since in each text, in each occasion of reading, a singular aneconomy of forces, resistances, significations and counter-significations would
always take place. Deconstruction seems to differ, and to defer, from the
principial reading of the tradition while also differ and defer from “disciplinary”
criticism (from the conversion of deconstruction itself in a practice of liturgical
criticism). Nonetheless, Schürmann’s critique of the principial economy of
metaphysics and deconstruction seem to converge in the same post-hegemonic (or
an-hegemonic) topology, which is, of course, something that we need to explore to
a greater extent.

 

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generals, caudillos and pastors of being, since this is, precisely, the
history of metaphysic from which Schürmann, through Heidegger,
wants to depart. But, what I am questioning is the very relationship
between the finality, the realization of metaphysic, its temporal
status, and the notion of “post-hegemony” that produce the idea of
an “after” hegemony. I would even dare to say that the way out of
this problem lays in the problematization of the question of an-archy
and its relationship to techné. Since it is in the technical (not only
the technological) subsumption of life where we also find its
disarticulation from principles. Technic as the realization of metaphysic
already contain an indomitable anarchy. Therefore, when Schürmann
reads the tradition, there is always a double register, a double reading:
one pointing to the way in which principles work through the texts,
enabling them, giving them language; the other reading, performed
from anarchy, always reads the suffering of the texts, the way the
principles extort and conjure texts and thoughts according to their
laws of constitution and interpretation. If destruktion’s positive
aspect is always more important than its negative one, then in
Schürmann’s double register what matters most is not the critique of
the principial economy that works as an hegemonic articulation of
metaphysics, but the releasement of that reading into a Gelassenheit or
serenidad, which implies a relation to being other than the
metaphysical (being without a why).
Clearly, I have just presented this problem without giving a
convincing solution, but I did so on purpose. Instead, I just wanted
to show how the reading of the so-called tradition is already a crucial
issue in Schürmann’s works. This leads me to my second point, his
reading of Heidegger.
*****

 

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Of course, his backward reading of Heidegger is totally
consistent with his reading of the whole philosophical tradition. But
not just consistent, it is a distinctive characteristic of his operation.
In fact, one could organize a reading of Schürmann in the same
way, and more than one of his colleagues have done so. It does not
matter, what actually matters for me here is what I would call a
prismatic reading of his works, a reading articulated in three main
centers or circles from which it disseminates everywhere. 1) His
reading of Being and Time (On Heidegger’s Being and Time). 2) His
reading of Heidegger’s oeuvre (Heidegger. On Being and Acting). 3) His
Heideggerian reading of the western metaphysic (Wondering Joy, Broken
Hegemonies). Whether you move from the general to the specific
contents of his works, or from the punctual to the widest reach of
his elaborations, the circles seem to overlap each other. At the same
time, one should be attentive to the decisions enabling such
readings, since Schürmann is not an exegete neither a historian of
philosophy. In this sense, he brings to the fore a new relation with
the tradition, from Aristotle to Hanna Arendt, a relation expurgated
from lineal narratives and away form the idea of progress. For the
sake of time, I will contain myself here with making three points
regarding his reading of Heidegger. Regardless, it should be clear
that when Schürmann interrogates the tradition of western
philosophy he is not just reading it backwards, but he is also
bringing the whole tradition to a place in which the conventional or
“vulgar” conception of temporality is suspended. Reading Heidegger
in that way is like reading the eventful condition of thinking once
this thinking reappears, de-articulated or re-activated, beyond the
normative nomos of the professional history of philosophy, in a time
other than the time of metaphysics.
I have used this term, re-activation, intentionally, to refer to
Schürmann’s emphatic break with a transcendental phenomenology
and with the infinite task of a rational subjectivity that is able to
decipher the sense of the world. This is the insuperable distinction

 

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between his reading and Simon Critchley’s reading of Heidegger.
For Schürmann Heidegger parted waters with Edmond Husserl by
the publication of Being and Time, and his existential analytic, more
than just a continuation of Husserl’s phenomenology, is rather a
radical reorientation of philosophy. This is a reorientation that goes
from phenomenological investigation to what he calls a
fundamental ontology -fundamental in the sense of the founding
economy of principles and not in the sense of the classical question
about the fundament. Thus, it is this displacement from the infinite
task of the transcendental subjectivity (from Descartes and Kant to
Husserl) that Schürmann emphasizes in Heidegger’s finitude, which
makes it possible to move from the question of being to the
question about the meaning (truth) of being, where the meaning of
being not longer lays with the subject’s critical abilities. At this point
Schürmann introduces the idea of an ontology constituted by a
historical modality, a modality of presencing that cannot be reduced
to transcendental syntheses and subjective operations. Obviously,
Schürmann is able to read Being and Time in this way because of his
emphasis in the turn and the radical reorganization of Heidegger’s
work after Being and Time.4 In other words, Schürmann somehow is
de-emphasizing the influence that Husserl, Dilthey, neo-Kantism
and historicism has had on Heidegger in the 1920s. (I would just
add here the need to consider Derrida’s initial reading of Husserl as
a matter of interest for our discussion).
Thanks to all of this, Being and Time does not appear as a
failed attempt to break away from metaphysic, an attempt that
Heidegger would later abandon in the name of The poem of Being,
                                                                                                               
4

I would dare to say that for him Heidegger’s turn (die Kehre) is not associated
with a particular moment or text, but is something that, in his backward reading
of the Heidegger’s oeuvre seems to be always taking place, right after the mid-1930.
This explains the emphasis and the contrast Schürmann attempts to do in regard
with the first reception of Heidegger in America, headed by William J.
Richardson and his seminal book, Heidegger: Through Phenomenology to Thought
(1974).

 

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On the contrary, this idiosyncratic reading makes it possible to
understand the condition of that seminal book (Being and Time) not
by the logic of the evolution and development, but as a book which
questions would be ever present in Heidegger’s thoughts. Of course,
what is at stake here is the status of the “meaning” of Dasein’s
existence. Not the meaning in itself, but its status, whether it comes
from the infinite task of phenomenology or, alternatively, from the
worldly confrontation of Dasein with the historical conditions
defining its existence.
In this sense, the whole metaphysical tradition appears as a
permanent attempt to reduce the radical historicity of being to a
normative injunction emanated from the principles that organize
the epochs of being’s history. It is a history that is subsumed to an
ongoing spacialization of temporality that would have reached its
realization in the modern age. What this realization means is
precisely the point here, since the full spacialization of temporality is
also the moment in which the very principial economy that
organizes metaphysics seems to wither away. The epoch of the
realization of metaphysics, the age of the image of the world, is not
the epoch of its overcoming in a naive, analytical way, but it is the
epoch in which that very epochality enters into a radical crisis, a
demonic disjunction between the granted relationship of theory and
practice. Actually, the demonic crisis of principles is an-archy, and
this an-archy is not a state that happens at the end of metaphysics,
but something that happens to the whole history of being, bringing
it to presence. Of course, we are talking about a presence that is not
the illusory aspiration for plenitude, but a presence (beyond the
metaphysics of presence) in which the world, the being of the world,
happens without a reason, without a why. By the same token, this
demonic crisis, this interregnum, does not lead either point towards a
new economy of principles, a sort of reconfiguration of a even better
hegemony, attuned to the modern “being”; on the contrary, this
demonic crisis is the very suspension of the transitional logic that

 

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put together the history of being as an evolving process. The
demonic condition of history is a topology of radical immanence
where there are no gods or salvation.
This is certainly a delicate moment, as it has already been
argued, since with this reading Schürmann is proposing a
historicized version of the ontological difference, a version in which
the ontological status of an-archy does not seem to be sound to
understand the political. Is Schürmann actually supporting political
an-archy? What is the status of the auto-nomos injunction at the end
of metaphysics? Let me just say that I am not concerned with asking
from Schürmann what has been infinitely demanded form
Heidegger, an ethic that regulates the being in the world. My
concerns rest in the way in which this ontico-ontological anarchy,
this wither away of principles, this exhaustion of the philosophy of
history, relates itself to the question of the political in a nonnormative way. I am thinking in what Alberto Moreiras has called
post-hegemonic democracy and, in what John Krummel elaborates
in comparing Schürmann’s anarchic ontology and Cornelius
Castoriadis’s instituting imagination. I would just add that here lays
the relevance of Aristotle and the particular emphasis Schürmann
places on the Physic rather than the Metaphysics. But, I am in no
condition to further elaborate this point here, as it requires a
confrontation with the nomos in its autonomy and its heteronomy, a
radical problematization of sovereignty’s double-bind. In a way, this
is the task of infrapolitical deconstruction or, at least, this is the way
this task appeals to me.5
                                                                                                               
5

Because of this double-bind, sovereignty is not something we can break away
from once for all, an institutional order, a juridical discourse. The suspension of
sovereignty is not the result of a methodological operation, a willing action, a step
into the long way of infinite criticism. There is, to be sure, the factual suspension
of sovereignty, the configuration of a world order that obliterates the modern
institutions and discourses of sovereignty, but sovereignty itself is always
something else than those institutions and discourses. The suspension of the factual
suspension of sovereignty leads us to dwell in its double-bind as a condition of

 

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*****
I would like to close my comments with this idea of a task
that appeals to me. The “appealing” and the “me” of this sentence
needs to be questioned since I do not want to introduce
surreptitiously a new infinite task for us, neither to reproduce a
relationship with philosophy based on an equally infinite debt.
What matter the most is rather the eventual intervention that we
are attempting to do in our professional field. What is the occasion
allowing us to interrogate the work of Reiner Schürmann and what
is at stake in such an interrogation? As I am running out of time, I
would content myself with a simple enumeration. This bullet point
list under no circumstances should be read as a conclusion, it is a
shy and precarious first enunciation of a work to come:

The first thing that comes to my mind is to say that
Schürmann, even if one can disagree in many aspects with
his thinking, is certainly worth studying as his works allow us
to question the archival, hegemonic, and metaphysical
configuration of our field, Humanities in general, and the
contemporary division of labor within the University.

The second problem I want to state here is what should our
relationship with philosophy be? Once Schürmann departed
from professional philosophy and the philosopher as a
public servant of humanity, how are we supposed to deal
with the history of thought and the end of metaphysic, in a

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
possibility to interrogate politics after the disjunction between theory and
practice, when philosophy of history withers away, opening the present to a radical
contingency, a contingency that is not the categorical inversion of necessity, but a
new relation to being and time, to the world.

 

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way that does not reproduce the infinite destruction of
metaphysic as the metaphysics of destruction?

The third problem is related to the tension between
Schürmann and Derrida’s reading of the philosophical
tradition. This is something problematic and necessary to
deal with. One could even add Deleuze and his nonprincipial, non-Heideggerian, and non-epochal relationship
to philosophy (for example, his critique of historicism and
philosophy as authority), as something that belongs to the
same constellation of problems opened by Schürmann and
Derrida. In fact, Schürmann himself points to the
relationship between aletheia and rhizome as conditions of
possibility for anarchy.

The last problem I wanted to share with you is precisely the
necessary elaboration of a political reflection regarding
anarchy and post-hegemony, a reflection that should go
beyond what we usually understand by those two names.
Schürmann refers to Heidegger’s uncertainty regarding
democracy as the best political system, and even if we might
be willing to defend democracy as the inalienable horizon of
our time, we still need to question the truth of democracy, as
Jean-Luc Nancy recently put it. What does infrapolitical
deconstruction mean in this context? Considering that posthegemony, what we mean by it, is not just an internal
movement within the logic of hegemonic, but something
different, an attempt to break away from the metaphysical
injunction of the will to power and the will to will.
Sergio Villalobos-Ruminott
University of Michigan
svillal@umich.edu

 

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