martedì 17 gennaio 2012

Eric Hazan and Giorgio Agamben on Tiqqun, Foucault and many other controversial things (somewhere, April 18, 2010)

Mis en ligne sur Multitudes Médias Critiques: , à partir d'une vidéo postée sur le site de la revue Contretemps
Le philosophe Giorgio Agamben présente l'ouvrage Contributions à la guerre en cours du collectif Tiqqun. Agamben situe les écrits de Tiqqun dans la lignée de sa réflexion sur le biopouvoir, à partir de deux théories issues de la pensée de Foucault : le processus de subjectivisation et les techniques de gouvernementalité. Selon le philosophe, Tiqqun à la fois radicalise et réunit ces deux dispositifs, en ce que le pouvoir coïncide parfaitement avec le sujet.

Presentation from the editor :
Given that union bureaucrats have nothing worse to fear than the effective emancipation of workers, the worst enemy of intellectuals is truth, which puts them out of work. Nowadays, their function is to accompany with their blabber the creation of events – for example “09/11″ or more recently “the crisis” – by means of which the Empire justifies the accelerated planetary deployment of its mechanisms. Of course, there are other ways of using one’s intelligence; the productions of which are instantly recognizable to our times’ sore disregard towards them. No one – and especially not its supporters – seems to have thought of giving credit to Tiqqun for having understood the physiognomy of our times, its lines of power and its weaknesses with an almost prophetic lucidity. Being right is a good start, but one must act consequently; and that is why Tiqqun – publishing so seldom that it was more than once taken for dead – has meant a lot more than just a magazine to the last ten years : a part of a resistance plan that has been growing in depth and intensity. That lives have affiliated themselves with what has here been deemed true is a strong enough blow dealt to the ambient cynicism to justify being called a “terrorist”. (Tiqqun)
Conscious fraction of the Parti Imaginaire, Tiqqun believes that truth doesn’t need to be signed with a name, practices anonymity like others practice terrorism, is comfortable with all forms of sabotage to come, does not criticize “society” to improve it, spreads doubt about the very existence of the latter, attempts at shedding light on the stratagems of an interior enemy, faceless, engaged in a permanent conspiracy against this fiction and anticipates a mass desertion of the social corpse.

E.H. (Eric Hazan): The last issue of Tiqqun, issue number II, came out in Autumn 2001, which means the articles it contains have preceded 09/11 and in a way, predicted and analyzed it. It’s true that two issues isn’t a lot for a magazine. On the other hand, the “German Franco-Annals” published by Karl Marx in 1843 in Paris only ran one issue, and the texts in that issue have been read all over the world and are still being widely distributed, translated and commented in all possible languages. In the end, the frequency of publication doesn’t seem to be such a determining factor. But Tiqqun is not just a publication. It’s something pretty well defined in what is written here at the bottom, in the space usually reserved for the editor. It says : “a zone of offensive opacity”. Which seems to me like a very good definition of what Tiqqun is.
A “zone”-–that is to say a space that is very well defined in its political and intellectual component and at the same time, blurry and imprecise when it comes to geography.
In that sense, Tiqqun, what happens around Tiqqun and what surrounds Tiqqun is not a group like one could say the surrealists were a group, or later the international situationist, who were people that would meet regularly, publish manifestos, sign them, that once in a while had purges, in any case one could tell those who were “part of it” from those who weren’t. Tiqqun is something that is much less formal; it’s a space for thinking and, how can I say, communal speech.
“Opacity” because nothing in Tiqqun is signed, all articles published in the two issues were more or less written collectively. But it’s impossible to say – even for friends – exactly who did what, who contributed. This will has nothing to do with protecting oneself from eventual police lawsuits; it is an ethical position, a refusal of the notion of authorship. The third word is “offensive”, and I don’t think we have to go into it, it is self-explanatory. I don’t know if I made enough clarifications, if there is someone from central intelligence in the room, I hope they understood. I will let Giorgio speak, a friend who-–I must admit–has been tied to Tiqqun longer than I have, much intimately.
G.A. (Giorgio Agamben): Between 1975 and 1984, at a moment when political thought was going through a stagnant phase, the works of Michel Foucault came and got rid of the false concepts that were preventing it from moving forward. In a class from January 5th 1983, Foucault offers a summary of his strategy in two parts:
Firstly, substitute a historical analysis of the techniques and procedures of governmentality for the history of dominations.
Secondly, replace the theory of the subject and the history of subjectivity with the historical analysis of subjectivation and practices of the self.
So, departing from a clear rejection of the empty universal formulas – law, sovereignty, general will, etc – that were monopolizing the theoretical attention given to politics going into a detailed analysis of governmental mechanisms and practices. Power not as a separate hypostasis but regarded as a set of relations. In the place of a transcendental subject, a punctual analysis of the processes of subjectivation.I think that if we want to understand what the coming of Tiqqun meant to political thought 15 years after Foucault, this is the context from which we have to start. If on the one hand, as we have just seen, Foucault fully suppressed the idea of an anthropological perspective; the space where methods of governance and subjectivation processes met potentially remained empty. Or rather, there was nothing in that zone, the zone where techniques of governance and processes of subjectivation meet, there was nothing but figures which an extraordinary text from 1983, “The Life of Infamous Men”-–actually he calls them “infamous lives”, “shadows without faces” found in police archives and lettres de cachet , onto which power suddenly sheds its light, its obscure light. Something that is new with Tiqqun is that it serves both a radicalization and a blurring together of two strategies : the analysis of techniques of governance and the processes of subjectivation; who with Foucault never seemed to find a point of junction. Thus, as demonstrated by Foucault, in a microphysics of power, power does and always has circulated in mechanisms of all kinds; legal, material, etc. For Tiqqun, power is nothing more than that. It doesn’t stand as a sovereign hypostatic entity in relation to civil society and life; it coincides internally with life and society.
Power cannot be understood as having a center anymore; it is a mere accumulation of mechanisms into which subjects, or in Foucault’s words “processes of subjectivation”, are entangled. In this context, Tiqqun tries to cause the two plans, the two analyses kept separate in the work of Foucault – mechanisms and techniques of governance, subject – to fully coincide with one another. There is a text in one of the essays published in the book called “métaphysique critique”, and it says it very clearly : “a theory of the subject is only possible as a theory of mechanisms.” Thus, the search for new political subjects that have the potential to paralyze, one that still paralyzes the tradition of the left, becomes unthinkable. Theory of the subject and theory of mechanisms are one. This is the opaque zone of indifference between theory of the subject and theory of devices in which the texts gathered for Tiqqun I and II – already with “Bloom Theory” – are situated, and the two major texts republished in the book, “Introduction to the civil war” and “A critical metaphysics could emerge as a science of devices”. It seems clear to me that from one’s position within this zone of indifference, none of the notions associated with classical politics – state, civil society, class, citizen, representation, etc – make sense anymore. On the other hand it’s only from this specific perspective that the notions developed by Tiqqun – Bloom, esthetic politics, the imaginary party, civil war (in the particular sense given to these words in the texts) – acquire a meaning of their own. And I think that one has to start from that situation in a zone of indifference to make sense of the writing, thinking and action practices at work within Tiqqun.
Regarding the writing – as Eric already mentioned – the aim is not to approach writing in a way that is anonymous, even less pseudonymous or teronymous. There, we see that efforts by the police to attribute a specific text to an author will be in vain. There could not be an author for this text because it stands in a zone where the very concept author is void. The concept of author, as Foucault demonstrated, has always had a double function in our culture. On the one hand it a figure of the subject; on the other it is a mechanism for attributing penal responsibility. The fact remains, however, that Julien Coupat and his friends are not and could never be the authors of any of the articles published in Tiqqun – or anywhere else for that matter – because their position, from the outset, is one in which subjects and mechanisms coincide to such an extent that the notion of author does not apply anymore. Also, I believe that it is only when engaged from the perspective opened up by Tiqqun – for example regarding the permanent civil war waged by the state – that otherwise indecipherable macroscopic facts acquire a meaning in the said “democracies” in which we live. A fact I would like to point out, which we all pretend to be ignoring; and one needs only to go to a library and conduct a short research; there are readily available documents that support the evidence of it; that the current laws in France and other so-called democratic European countries are three or four times as repressive as those in Italy under fascism. This is a fact we cannot discuss. From all points of view, length of detentions… It’s something we never talk about. Another fact: we always blamed totalitarian societies and states for instating special tribunals. For example, the judges working on the Tarnac Nine case. We never use the words “special tribunal”, but that’s what it is. We don’t know by whom and how the judges were named and therefore, it constitutes a special tribunal. And you probably are aware of the fact that by definition, a special tribunal is illegitimate, because it violates the principle of equality of all individuals before the law and the principle of interdiction of
So you see that regarding law and principles of law in our societies, it’s devoid of any legitimacy. And we have said enough. We tolerate special tribunals but we blame fascist Italy and nazi Germany for having instated them. And I think it’s in this sense that what Tiqqun calls the “civil war” has to be understood. And the same goes for understanding the extension of biometric screening measures conceived for recidivist criminals to the whole of the population. Did you know that all French citizens will soon have an ID card embedded with their biometrical data? These are things that were invented with criminals in mind. Each citizen is treated like a criminal or a potential terrorist; and it should be no surprise that those who refuse to comply with this be treated like terrorists.
Here I would like to conclude by recalling a story told to me by a great friend of mine, José Bergamin, who fought in the Spanish civil war in 36, and they had sent him, a poet and an intellectual, they had sent him with another poet, Rafael Alberti. The republican government had sent him to the United States to seek support from the government there, but they were stopped at the border by the police who had already began endless interrogations, accusing them of being communists. Ten hours of sustained interrogation, after which of course they still wouldn’t let them in, my friend told them :
“Listen, I am not, and never was a communist; but what you call a communist, that I surely am”. And I think we have to say : “We are not, and will never be terrorists; what you seem to designate by the word terrorist, that we are.” (...)

Tiqqun Apocrypha Repost by Anarchist without content: Read more
A kind NYC blogger did a quick-dirty translation of the Agamben/Hazan discussion on Tiqqun. It was later taken down. I can’t speak to the quality of the translation, some things are obviously wrong (for instance the translator remarks that FC is male when in fact she is female…). I also do not know why it was taken down.
A few quick notes – the re-publication of the Tiqqun texts by La Fabrique weren’t without controversy among those who formerly made up Tiqqun, we see some of these issues arise in the panel. Additionally, I’m not sure why or who it was in the audience who kept on pushing Agamben on perceived issues of ‘praxis’ (so much so that he got up and left). The second half of the video (the exchanges between people) seems to be missing now, too. I don’t know if it was taken down in order to make the debate no longer public (which is reasonable if the issues could be settled between friends) or other reasons....

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