An Introduction to the Dossier on Geoffrey Bennington’s Scatter 1. The Politics of Politics in Foucault, Heidegger, Derrida. (New York: Fordham UP, 2016.)

Alberto Moreiras
Texas A&M University

Volume 12, 2017

The meeting took place at Texas A&M on March 24, 2017. We had invited Geoffrey Bennington to present his next book project, “Scatter 2,” in the context of an ample discussion of Scatter 1. We regret the absence in this dossier of the position paper by Teresa M. Vilarós. Matías Bascuñán’s position paper will be published in a much longer form in a forthcoming issue of diacritics that will also include an interview between Bennington and myself done immediately after the panel discussion. I wish to express my gratitude to Geoffrey Bennington and to all the contributors to this dossier for their generosity. My mission in this introduction will not be to comment on their papers but rather to indicate a few threads of the discussion that followed the presentations, as a placeholder so that they may be picked up at some later point.

“Scatter” is in the first place a term that refers to the ruin of sovereignty, and that proposes democracy from the ruin of sovereignty. Problems begin when a democracy on the ruin of sovereignty has to be thought out: democracy will always be besieged by auto-immunity problems, which are irreducible. The auto-immunitarian dimension of democracy could perhaps be the heart of “the politics of politics.”

For instance Kant’s “perpetual peace,” Bennington reminded us, which obtains or would obtain at the moment of the historical accomplishment of the cosmopolitical constitution of a republicanism of the last human, could also be understood (and Kant himself saw it, as we know from his joke about the Dutch innkeeper) as the peace of the cemetery. Bennington’s proposal of the “demi-” structure (there is no democracy, only demidemocracy, sovereignty is always demisovereignty, and so forth) implies a (rational, logical) corrective to what we might very well understand as the structural (auto-immunitary) failure of rationalism. But the demi- structure, which in principle is presented as a structure that forces thought into an endless critical alert, depends on a previous issue—the issue of what remains, or of what remains as possible, at the moment of an interruption of political teleology—which is the politico-philosophical version of the end of metaphysics. What remains possible at the time of interrupted teleology, when any teleological thinking of politics can be immediately recognized as non-viable through its now non-concealable—no longer—auto-immunitarian drift?

Bennington says he has no claim on having answered that question. His politics of politics are only a necessary reference to the reflexive step-back at the historical moment of a politics in deconstruction, a politics in auto-immunitarian drift. The reflexive step-back has two consequences to start with: the first is an immediate politicization of word and thought since the rhetorico-political structure of thought , that is, the rhetorical structuration of politics, cannot be denegated through any postulation of an arkhé or telos that may contain it. There is, in other words, no recourse to any “politics of truth,” only a generalization of conflict. In that sense any partial arrest of the rhetorico-political drift—any hegemony project, for instance, any counterhegemony project— is immediately rendered an imposture. The second consequence has to do with whether such recourse to a permanent anti-archic politicization can organize a practice of existence—a livable one. We can answer already: only partially.

Conversation shifted to the issue of whether infrapolitics would be looking to fill that empty space—the obscure beyond of the politics of politics. What is the relationship between infrapolitics and the politics of politics? One way of looking at it would be through the Derridean formulation of the structure of the supplement. Infrapolitics is the supplement to the politics of politics, in the same way in which, for instance, according to Derrida’s 1964-65 seminar on Heidegger, demetaphorization is a necessary supplement to the metaphorical chains that organize the state of language at any given moment. Infrapolitics is the demetaphorizing recourse that opens a clearing in the dark light of the politics of politics.

There was some disagreement on whether such an infrapolitical subtraction from the politics of politics can be named “exscription” in Jean-Luc Nancy’s sense. Nancy says, speaking about “decision” in his terms, which we could probably translate into the terms of an infrapolitical decision, “It designates joy liberated in an existence that exists only in its existing—that is, in the free ‘nullity’ of its foundation of Being” (“Decision of Existence” 107). From where does existence supplement the politics of politics? Nancy adds: “it is necessary to understand that decision, its anxiety, and its joy take ‘outside’ the ‘text’—in existence. (But this also means that decision takes place in what the text, through its writing, ceaselessly exscribes as its ownmost possibility” (107).

The status of the “outside the text” in existence provoked resistance. Nancy does not speak of it as of an absolute outside. It can only refer to an “exscription” which, as such, is always linked to the text. It refers factically to itself in the denial or refusal of any transcendental that would allow, for instance, to leave behind the human animal’s constitutive politicity in favor of some realm outside politics. Infrapolitics is the trace of whatever enables an outside to constitutive politicity: a “yes but . . . ” against any “I prefer not to.” The “yes but” is the mark of exscription.

Two more discussions during the day: on the Heideggerian comments to the first choral ode in Sophocles’ Antigone, which go through a refusal to link the two adversative terms in the phrases hupsipolis apolis and pantoporos aporos. Dasein rises above the polis and loses the polis, but it does not do first one thing and then the other, but both at the same time, in the same movement; Dasein is full of resources and is left without resources also in the same movement of expenditure. To be apolis and to be aporos are two constitutive borders, or the same border that enables an existential outside that could not be any existential beyond, any beyond of existence. Derrida could have been thinking about that when he said in Rogues that democracy is not quite a political concept: something of the nature of apolis traverses democracy.

The other discussion: whether Heidegger must continue to be, for deconstruction, the enemy to beat, not for his Nazism, which of course goes without saying, but for his tendency to use a specific metaphoricity that cannot mix with the disseminating or scattering metaphoricity that deconstruction prefers. Derrida uses Heidegger like Heidegger uses previous philosophers. Perhaps an abandonment of the antagonizing tick would enable deconstruction to think of its own supplementary structuration.

We understand that what is in place in these discussions, which I have only reported partially and no doubt from my own perspective, is the future of deconstruction, some future, which is also the future of any attempt to think postontologically.

Works Cited

  • Nancy, Jean-Luc. “The Decision of Existence.” In The Birth to Presence. Brian Holmes et al. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1993, 82-109.