My hope of the colloquium is to arrive at the possibility of reading the nexus of the two orders the “theological-politico” within the contemporary climate of the professionalized intellectual world. To do this, I will begin with an axiom: Walter Benjamin’s epistemo-critical program of historical materialism is an ontological project of Redemption. The classical interpretation of Walter Benjamin’s Theses on the Philosophy of History describes a secret agreement between past and future, a weak power endowed to all of us (the figure of the historical materialist) in order to redeem those who flit by (against the grain of “homogeneous” history by the victors) in the historical continuum of all possibilities . Benjamin posits a dialectic between Origin and Becoming, or in other words, the disappearance and repetition of moments, as to successively re-constitute a renewed historical project (“Jetztzeit” or Now-time) through setting up constellation of forgotten points in orbit around the singularity of a thing (space) or event (time). The process of redemption is never complete and constantly re-established.
The axiomization of the Benjaminian project as an ontological one derives its force from a high multitude of resonant texts, sharing a common frequency articulated by the adage: “the exception makes the rule.” For example, Carl Schmitt delineates all state-concepts to a theological origin. Like his anti-positivist brethren, Schmitt had problems within the sociological conception of the German Weimar State and the advancements of a secularized politics (via Max Weber). In its classical form, Benjamin’s “wreckage” or “ruins upon ruins” problematized the barbaric act of universalizing history in terms of a teleology-“the storm of progress”. A basis for a structural homology between Schmitt and Benjamin stems from the catastrophe of a “rule-book.” The finite mode of conception is unwavering in its telos of exchange-value, demarcating a finite term for communication (in Lacan, the introduction of a Symbolic order – an unconscious structured like language) out from Real (the very impossibility of speaking, always in excess of itself). Considering the problem since Kant of the noumena that escapes the phenomenal realm, Benjamin famously coins the term “constellation” when he writes, “ideas are timeless constellations” in the Origin of German Tragic Drama, where a constellation of points (out from the conceptual terrain) form the basis of revealing a transcendental Idea. Giorgio Agamben has said that the “now of recognizability” proper to reading Benjamin’s Theses on the Philosophy of History is to encounter him through St. Paul’s epistles. Paul rejected the Mosaic Law; he famously writes in Romans 7 how the Law killed him: he did not know Sin until he knew the Law, or alternatively, the inscription in Stone of the injunction created the Desire to transgress the Law itself. The infinite modality of thought (whether it characterized as the Apostle as in Paul, the Sovereign-King in Schmitt, or Historical-Materialist in Benjamin) is what always escapes and abolishes the finite structure (the Law, the State, History).
Are there not deep resemblances between the catastrophe of finite modes of history, political-philosophy, psychoanalysis and the ontological warfare today? There have been numerous analysis in the late 20th century of the “post-Fordist immaterial economy,” which share a theoretical lineage to post-structuralism. In this rendition, bodies individuate according to a plane of pre-individual or a priori desires (e.g. Deleuze’s “Plane of Immanence”). Our culture faces a schizophrenia systemic to the late capitalism itself. Subjectivities assemble out from this massive over-production of fragmented readymade identities propagated by capitalism, where the inner subject-voice that tells us what to do is already pre-constituted in the hyper-competitive cultural war between spatio-temporal identities. But as pointed out by Slavoj Zizek or Alain Badiou, has not Deleuze today become the “Father” or the “rule”? As cultural theorists, artists, writers, and curators name-drop post-structuralist buzzwords, re-appropriating them for their own success, does not capitalism re-usurps these pseudo-critical territories into new forms of machinic desire – a pre-configured professional modality of being, or more simply, the brand-identity that has become the Careerist?
As careerists nomadically leap from one node to another within the intellectual network, each node abstractly valuated by the network itself (e.g. insert en vogue gallery, museum, department, school, magazine, journal, blog, conference, etc.), the careerist activates only one program of Being during everyday scenarios with objects of interrelation: an opportunistic, call-and-response brown-nosing. Do we not face an identity that performs the pathological function of disguising its fundamental discomfort or insecurity, its very lack of a personal identity, which forms precisely the basis of its emptiness? For the artist: a group show turns to a solo-show; a write-up turns to a catalogue; a biennial to an international biennial, etc. Like St. Paul’s virulent criticism of the Law, does not each transgression of self-imposed “lack” produce on the absolute scale a weaker jouissance-pleasure – a never-ending complex between overcompensating struggle Kampf (“making it”) and their self-perceived impotence by the order, Angst (“faking it”)? For St. Paul, only through weakness is strength; in Galatians, he writes “It is no longer I who live, but the Messiah living in me.” Is the Careerist not the very spatio-temporal identity, which due to its self-perceived victory (“making it”), a center of gravity so insurmountable, ontologically blockades the redemption of its forgotten, unredeemed, and weak brothers, the coming of New Beings for fear of the Messiah itself? “One thing we have to fear is fear itself” (FDR).
The Messiah declares an end the structurally discriminating Law of Positivity or Khronos. In the post-secular world, the “weak Messianic power” endowed to all of us, is that which constitutes us, ontologically speaking, in our universal bearing of the capacity of anyone and everyone to declare in a moment the fidelity to a singular 1-act event [Kairos or “Moment of the Now” as St. Paul had called the Messianic event] of dis-identification: rupturing the ontological order at a infinitesimal point, as to reach out asymptotically toward the heavens, out of our time, approaching an infinity in excess of our pre-assigned categories of Being – a singularity or void devoid of spatio-temporal identity, extended throughout all of space-time, the absolutely New subjectivity, universalizing in its address to all ontological beings in so that we may all become apart of the Messianic Kingdom.
Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance Classics
Anaximander ‘s fragment
Aristotle – Politics
St. Paul – Letters to Romans and Corinthians
John Calvin – Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle
Machiavelli – The Prince
Machiavelli – The Discourses
Paul Celan – The Selected Poems
Baudelaire – Fleurs du Mal
Mallarme – Collected Poems
Walter Benjamin – Origin of German Tragic Drama
Hoelderlin – Selected Poems and Fragments
Pessoa – Selected Poems
Modernity-The Social and Natural Sciences
Karl Marx – German Ideology
Jacob Taubes – Political Theology of Paul
Carl Schmitt – Political Theology
Walter Benjamin – Illuminations
Max Weber –
Area of Concentration
Jacques Ranciere – Disagreement
Alain Badiou – St. Paul
Alain Badiou – Ethics
Giorgio Agamben – The Time That Remains