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On the Politics of Politics,

Texas A&M University

March 24, 2017
Sergio Villalobos Ruminott

Passive Decision

Let me start by thanking Alberto Moreiras for the organization of this workshop,

and Geoff Bennington for being part of it.

I want to begin by stating the relevance of Scatter 1. The Politics of Politics in Foucault,

Heidegger, and Derrida (Fordham 2016), a book not only remarkable in its

articulation, rigor, and deep engagement with contemporary post-Heideggerian

philosophy, but also a book that has as one of its many merits the configuration of

a systematic, yet not conventional, horizon of thinking, a constellation. His

readings of Foucaults Parrhesia, the co-belonging of Aletheia and Pseudos, the

complications of Daseins Entschlossenheit, the configuration of the quasi-

transcendental in Derridas engagement with Kant and Heidegger, the relevance of

Kierkegaard understanding of time and the Momentum to Heideggers early

thought, the incompleteness of sovereignty, the folding of dignity and majesty, the

problematization of the continuities between the eschatological and the theo-

teleological, and so on. Issues that in the book are carefully articulated and

masterfully presented to the reader. I have not doubt when I say that this is a

fundamental book not only in the general context of contemporary scholarship but

also in the most appealing context of the humanities and the future of

deconstruction and/in the American university.

Therefore, my few observations now are to be read just as a preliminary reaction to

the gift of this book, a reaction that could never be misunderstood as a critique or as

an attempt to appropriate the inner complexity of the thinking at stake here.

Certainly, the rigorous crafting of its arguments, the meticulous archival work

feeding them, the detailed reading and persecution of some key ideas through

Heidegger and Derridas writings, and the obvious command of contemporary

scholarship relevant to its problems, should not conceal the fact that this is also a

risky articulation of Heidegger and Derrida relationship. This is a risky book and I

should say that there is not thinking without a risk; that the risk taken in its

elaboration is proportional to the degree a book departs from merely reproducing

what is already known, what has already been said, even if not heard yet. Somehow,

hearing what others cannot hear is also risking in a non-conventional way of


I wanted to dwell here because what matters to me is not just the narrative of the

book, rather the way in which the author positions himself in the series of

problems that configure the relationship between Heidegger and Derrida. And

right here it is evident to me that the understanding of the books arguments will

change as we have access to Scatter 2, a complementary volume that not necessarily

will complete the project, but rather will emphasizes, I want to believe, the

scattering effect of its architecture, an architecture, if I may say, that is not an

architectonic configuration of the fundaments for a new kind of philosophy, for a

new philosophical foundation of politics and history. There is not, I dare to say, a

minimal politics enabled in this architecture, in this scattering, mimicking the

Grand Politics enabled by the architectonic founding the Critique of the Pure

Reason. The politics of politics presented in the book is, on the contrary, an

indication of the distance, or better, a way of distancing itself from the onto-

political structure of the metaphysical demand imposed on thinking as political

thinking, as political philosophy. Moreover, it is not just a deconstruction of

political philosophy and its categories, it is a more integral, radical if you want,

interrogation of political philosophy as a disciplinary mechanism oriented to

control, to give reason, to organize, to en-frame, the scattered condition of the real.

In this sense, the politics of politics is not anti-political, neither a-political, but a

sort of suspension of the political demand that seems more related to our own

infrapolitical insistence.

In other words, the difference between the scatter and the architectonic models

of thinking should not be overlooked, because it expresses one of the books main

claims, the difference between Kants regulative idea and Derridas understanding

of the time venir, which is also reflected in the relationship between thinking and

writing. Thinking as writing, since Bennington is able to dwell in the complexity of

contemporary thinking without repeating the conventional gesture of reading it as a

system, as a gestell, as an already finished and closed moment, as an epoch. Indeed,

his work with the authors, and with some minimal and overlooked problems

present in these author, problems that seems to be irrelevant to philosophy and to

the history of thought, questions the very organization of philosophical work

(concerned with Being) as epochality. To put it in other terms, if Schrmann (Broken

Hegemonies) is interested in criticize the onto-theo-logical organization of philosophy

by bringing to the fore the principial economy that is always articulating and

feeding a particular epoch through a donation of language; Bennington, in a more

Derridian way, is less concerned with the epochal organization of thought, or with

the principial economy articulating and feeding the texts of a particular moment of

the onto-theo-logical tradition, and more concerned with the inner and unresolved

battle of forces at the core of these texts. And this is an important point to which I

should come back in another moment, but it seems to me relevant to point here

that what is at stake in it isnt just a matter related to philosophy and its history,

but also to the practice of reading.

I would even say that this is coherent with the problem the book gives to itself as its

main concern: temporality as the only quasi-transcendental dimension of

existence, and here the book could already be read not only as an elaboration of the

ambiguities of the kairology and the Pauline understanding of the event, the

Momentum, and the resolution as radical decision implied there, but also as a

continuation of one of the main issues Derrida identifies in Heidegger and his

unsatisfactory elaboration of temporality beyond what he called the metaphysical

or vulgar conception of time.

Let me put this in another way. One of the merits of Scatter I is the suggestion of

Heideggers existential analytic as the unavoidable place in which any relevant

thinking today should dwell. But it does not mean that thinking should just

conform itself with Heideggers presentation of Dasein whereabouts; on the

contrary, if Being and time is read in the context of Heideggers early writings, the

problem Bennington is working here takes him beyond Heidegger to Derrida. And

not in an easy way, because this elaboration of the Derrida-Heidegger relationship

should first of all overcome the many resistance one finds in Heideggerian scholars

today, people that still consider deconstruction as a postmodernist passion, while,

at the same time, should overcome the resistance to engage Heideggers philosophy

and its Nazism. Not Heidegger without Derrida, not Derrida without Heidegger.

And this is the worth of this book, its problem and its reason. Whether we agree

with Benningtons reading of Heideggers decisionism or not, with his subtle

emphases on Heideggers shortcomings and problematic privilege on Being over

beings (scatter), or, alternatively, we oppose to this the later Heidegger and the

reworking of the ontological difference as something else than the Poem of Being

(and all this nomenclature of conservative Heideggerians), what is certain is the

relevance of Scatter I in focusing the problem on this unresolved relationship that

marks the singularity of our historical occasion (Heidegger-Derrida).

As I already said, there are many important elements to consider here, and I cannot

do justice to any one properly in these preliminary comments, but I will just

mention two o three of the most appealing questions I have after reading the book.

These, of course, are not questions addressed to Geoff, but the mere indication of

what would be the topics of a more sustained engagement with the book in the


1) The status of philosophy and the problem of power. Let me refer to Derrida

seminar of 1964-5 on Heidegger (a seminar which translation we owe to Geoff),

when Derrida makes clear that the destruction of the onto-theological tradition is

not just the destruction of the classical ontology in order to articulate a new or

fundamental ontology organized by the restitution of the question of Being. On the

contrary, the destruction of the tradition, of the history of the knowledge about

Being, is both, the destruction of all sorts of ontology and, at the same time, the

destruction of philosophy as the discourse concerning the traditional disposition of

Being. The destruction of philosophy (and one should keep in mind the positive

dimension of Destruktion more than the critical one) is the suspension or

weakening of its traditional role concerning Being, a role of over-codification that

limits every time again, the crucial problem of being as historicity. In this sense, the

subtle yet powerful reading of Heidegger performed by Geoff could be interrogated

in his unwillingly restitution of Heidegger thought as a system (at least in the

systematicy of his mistakes). This is, again, why confronting this reading with the

reversed hypothesis of Shrmanns Heidegger on Being and Acting: from Principles to

Anarchy (1987), might be telling for our infrapolitical reflections. What is the

relationship of philosophy and power, more than politics, implicated in Scatter I?

How to avoid re-philosophizing Derridas deconstruction of some philosophical

moments without renouncing philosophy as such, in an un-thoughtful

philosophical anti-philosophy? I am thinking in Derridas comments on

Heideggers destruction of philosophy as the history of ontology; comments that

emphasize how the destruction of philosophy was, besides everything else, an

unavoidable engagement with philosophy, the primary place to understand the

ontological capture of being. I am also thinking, along this way, in Derridas

understanding of philosophy as a weak institution, nothing to do with the Italian

pensiero debole, an institution that is both necessary but always problematic. (I add

here what Alberto and Maddalena also commented on this point: not just, what is

the status of philosophy in relation to thought? But also, how to avoid in dealing

with the tradition of philosophico-political thought being snared by its emphases

and economies?)

And I would add a supplementary dimension to this problem related to

Heideggers National Socialism, as we all somehow know about the unsatisfactory

way of dealing with this issue of people like Bourdieu, Faras, Faye; people who

cannot deal with the problematic of his thought and reduce, in a sociological way

(or just with a great dishonesty) its complexity. If we are to consider Nancys early

formulation as a common ground (the best way to confront National Socialism in

Heidegger is through his thinking, which is the one that better serves us to

formulate in a radical way -not just in a liberal way the very problem of National

Socialism), then we should be able to understand that the very question about the

role of philosophical discourses is not innocuous when talking about National

Socialism. To put it in a sentence (to which I need to comeback in another

moment) the question about the relationship between Heidegger thought and

National Socialism is also the question about the relationship between history and

philosophy, between historicity and ontology, and in so far as philosophy attempts

to condemn Heidegger mistakes or his whole thought without questioning the

role and functionalization of philosophy in general, it remains unable to deal

properly with such a problem, beyond the moralist and liberal way.

2) The question of eventful thinking and the amphibological understanding of

temporality Vis Vis Derridas venir as opposed to the arch-teleological

structuration of time in modern philosophy (Kant but also Hegel). Here, I would

like to mention what I have been calling for a while the Schmittianism (and the

inversed Schmittianism) of contemporary political thought, the thought mainly

concerned with the theory of the event (Badiou but also in a more sophisticated

way, Agamben and his elaboration of a modal ontology and his Schmittian reading

of Benjamin), since in the very conception of the event as an interruption of

temporality, what we have is the restitution of the eschatological or theological

messianicity of the final judgment that somehow works as a principle of reason

feeding what, with Heidegger and Derrida, we might call limited historicity. The

historicity that still depends upon a particular notion of agency and, therefore,

subjectivity, that is always already entrapped in the metaphysical understanding of

temporality (Schmitt is, therefore, and besides his anti-Hegelianism, a Hegelian

thinkers as his formulation of the political as the quarrel between the friend and

the enemy is still snared within Hegels powerful understanding of the Subject, and

so, most of the contemporary anti-Hegelian thinkers unable to think beyond this

particular agency and the political demand that is proper to Hegel, and besides

their appealing to multiplicities, multitudes, and so forth).

Benningtons interrogation of the Kantian regulative idea is crucial as it implies a

restitution of the question of time in a form that differs radically from the

philosophy of history of capital. But (and here I need to refer to Matas late-Friday

question which I wasnt able to respond properly, not because I can respond it

now, but because the question, as a gift, implies a interesting problem), what seems

relevant now is not just to correct the ambiguities of Heideggers in-famous

resource to the vulgar conception of time in Being and Time, but to think the

hegemonic predominance of the question of time in the understanding of the

event (something that seems already stated in Derridas Ousia and Gramme), which

will take us to the question of space and the Ereignis as an spacialization

(appropriation) of beings existential conditions. This, of course, points toward the

topological configuration of Heidegger later thinking, but remains an interesting

strategy to articulate the relationship between the onto-theological conceptions of

the event (the different kinds of contemporary excepcionalism, Schmittianism), and

the onto-political structuration of the political demand to which philosophy feels

the need to respond, again and again.

Radical contingency, immanence, event, decision, interruption, etc., are all names

that express more than a solution, the complexity of this interrogation. A

complexity that, beyond contemporary political thought, is also important to

understand, for example, the status of the quasi-transcendental foundation of the

pragmatic orientation of language as communicative reason, since this quasi-

transcendental foundation of communication, undeniably Kantian in its heart, re-

moralizes (and re-transcendentalizes) the immanence of communication itself in

Habermas and Apel. Not to mention the ambivalences of Laclaus understanding

of contingency as opposed to the logic of necessity that would have characterized

and limited Marxism, a contingency nonetheless still limited to the prerogatives of

the hegemonic articulation. Neither Luhmanns conception of recursivity and

complexity, as his theory of system (to which one needs to pay attention) is still fed

by an unproblematic theory of differentiation as adaptation that command, from a

secret place, the very logic of contingency that characterizes this elaboration. The

systematic condition of this contingency, the one he opposed to classical social

theory and to Frankfurt scholars, is still en-framed by a secret principle of

evolution, one that doesnt rest any longer on human agency, but in the systems

ability to adapt and evolve.

3) Finally (for now), in considering the co-belonging of aletheia and pseudos as an

originary experience of Dasein, the book suggests the pseudos not as a derivative but

as a constitutive element in Dasein confrontation with facticity. Even more, there is

not way to separate, convincingly, both elements, which implies that the rhetorico-

political is not a secondary dimension to immediate facticity but rather it is

constitutive of it (the authentic and the inauthentic are always co-dependent and

co-belong). The political, that cannot be just a politics of truth (which is always a

politics of principles and, therefore, is always already articulated by a particular

economy of signification), is, at the same time, to put this in a more challenging

way, always already (Immer Schon) originary. Here then the main point, the politics

of politics is not only the renunciation to the political demand that is always a

moral demand, but its also the affirmation of the political as an originary

experience of Dasein. Renouncing to the political demand (and to the emphases of

political philosophy) is not to assert the secondary character of the political at all.

Infrapolitical is a desistance to the political demand, but not to the political as such,

however, infrapolitical does not have as its main concern the reformulation of any

sort of political thinking as it is concerned with the existential dimension of life.

But if the existential dimension of life is always already rhetorico-politically

constituted, how to explain the infrapolitical desistance without appealing to a sort

of unpolluted conception of Dasein. How infrapolitics thinks Daseins existential

decision without falling into solipsism and decisionism (ipseity)? The answer, I

would like to suggest, will start by considering the relationship between historicity

and the onto-political demand as an ontological over-codification of historicity as

such, something one can explores in Derridas seminar of 1964-65.

On the other hand, the existential decision formulated by Nancy, as we have been

discussing it these last days, would have to be interrogated again to determine

whether it is a decision that presents itself and pretend to be something other than

politics or not; something before the political experience or a kind of experience

related to a politics otherwise. And here, what is at stake is precisely the reception of

Heidegger thought in Derrida and the Derridian constellation that Benningtons

book brought to the fore. This is where Ronalds paper matters and where I believe

we all have a productive disagreement. This is an important disagreement as we

all agree -it seems to me, particularly after Derridas own reading of Heidegger

during the 64-5 seminar- in considering any reposition of ontology (whether lax,

bland, plastic, historical, etc.) to be unsatisfactory. So, the limiting effect of

ontology over historicity, the metaphysical formulation of historicity as depending

on a notion of reason, consciousness, subject or science (Hegel, Marx, Husserl, et

al.), and the inescapable problem of ipseity and alterity, otherness, incompleteness,

and so for, beyond any anthropological reduction of the otherness (to

multiculturalism, pluralism, multiplicity, etc.) and / or to a closed referentiality (the

face, the sexual difference understood as an identitarian issue, etc.,) is the main

issue at stake here. Is the politics of politics an attempt to deal with this

metaphysical but also, onto-political problem? If so, how are we to think the fold of

infrapolitics in the opening of the politics of politics? This is not a problem we may

resolve by just opting to still dwell on Heidegger thought or, alternatively, by

repeating what seems to be Derridas decision regarding Heidegger, a decision

that is radically problematized by the publication of the 64-5 seminar. Since we are

here not to vote and decide, but rather to practice a sort of passive decision, to

dwell in the complex problem of the undecidability and the potentiality, a

potentiality other than the one realized in the act, we still might take some time to

ponder theses issues carefully; after all, to think, as well as to love, is a matter of

time, is to give what one doesnt have.

So I want to finish these preliminary comments to Geoffrey Benningtons book,

Scatter 1, a book worth of a more elaborated engagement, a book that brings with it

the possibility of a new academic exchange, beyond narcissism and the principial

economy informing our disciplinary emphases. If this is possible, as it seems to me

when listening to all of you, then lets take this occasion to celebrate what

Maddalena has called a good book. Thank you.

College Station, March 2017