Michele Cometa :: Non Finito: Gramsci’s Infrapolitical Writing

Michele Cometa :: Non Finito: Gramsci’s Infrapolitical Writing 


Texas A&M University | Department of Hispanic Studies :: 5 aprile 2016


Frankly there is no past to regret. The empire that must 

be protected from barbarism has never existed; 

that is, it still doesn’t exist.

Italo Calvino

  1. I was always fascinated by the project of infrapolitics, although I’m not a philosopher of politics, nor a latinoamericanist, nor interested in
  2. (post-)colonial or subaltern studies. I look at infrapolitics with interest because infrapolitics – in the sense that I will discuss further – is the perfect
  3. candidate to understand the “gray zone” between literature and thought.

As an old and old fashioned historicist I’ve always appreciate when we – and I mean in this case both the old university intellectuals and the marranos – the «radical alternative to the modern theory of subject» (Villalobos-Runinott, 2015, p. 128) – try to establish an «archive of theoretical references» (Moreiras) to the «infrapolitical deconstruction». So I’ve looked with interest at the attempt to trace a genealogy of infrapolitics starting from my old “mystical” heroes, Reiner Schürmann or Simone Weil, and even more, studying the infrapolitical dimension of literature, to which Alberto Moreiras has dedicated his most brilliant essays.

As a literary scholar, I cannot take position in this paper on the wide ranging questions posed by infrapolitics: Can we think politics in a non-Roman way? Can we demetaphorize and deallegorizes power in order to rediscover the “sacredness of man” (Oscar del Barco)?, Can we escape the logic of equivalence? or Can we think – with Maria Zambrano – «the possibility of politics beyond subjectivity and beyond sovereignty? (Moreiras, 2009).

My thesis is that we can detect infrapolitics in the forms of writing, especially in literature, as in the case of Antonio Gramsci’s and Walter Benjamin’s unfinished works, an example of the never-ending attempt to «abandon subjectivity» (Heidegger, 1947).

I will try to sketch only a chapter of this “literary history” of infrapolitics working between the lines on the literary and the infrapolitical structure of Gramsci’s (and Benjamin’s) unfinished works.

Alberto Moreiras has shown the infrapolitical dimensions of many writers. His pages on Javier Marias’, Cormac McCarthy’s, Jorge Luis Borges and even Cervantes’ infrapolitics are a good way to detect infrapolitics in the folds of Western (and non-western) literature. But the most important contribution he gives to the infrapolitical meaning of literature is not about single novels or poems, but about genres. In a challenging essay on the genre of the thriller he states:

A thriller is always a political reaction to the suspension of ethics. A crime against a fellow human being is always a suspension of ethics… The ethico-political structuration of the thriller, we could say, turns the thriller into a special form or a special way of thinking the political: it is an ethical form for thinking the political that is also a political form for thinking the ethical. For this chiasmatic structure I will use the term “infrapolitical” (Moreiras, 2007, p. 150 ss.).

I think that the same can be said of Gramsci’s and Benjamin’s unfinished works. But we need to be precise and to study juxta propria principia the development of their attitude to the “non finito”, which is not the bare celebration of anarchy and bricolage, but the outcome of an existential fight and of a philosophical tactic that reveals new potentialities in Gramsci’s and Benjamin’s thought. We are aware, of course, that Gramsci’s and Benjamin’s thought can be considered as a part of the hegemonic and counter-hegemonic way of thinking, which is malgré tout a continuation of the onto-theology of politics. Nevertheless, if we look at the forms of Gramsci’s writing in prison or Benjamin’s writing in exile, at the development in their practice of writing, we will see a slow but inexorable development from a traditional way to speak about politics to a new form that takes the structure of an infrapolitical thinking. Infrapolitics is not only a way to act but also to write.

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