Negation in European metapolitics (prolegomena)

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The metapolitical is the topos where the formulation and concretization of the radical imaginary that underlies the institution of society takes place; this being the creation and explicit identification of the essential subject-object dichotomy, the mutually-invigorating binary providing the pillar on which a complex or complexes of significations and conceptions are attached, and from whence stem the primary and secondary rules, the tacit and explicit ones, that determine, specify, shape and systematize behavior across the various spheres of social life, in given-though-variable expected or normative patterns and modes of poiesis, praxis and theorisis and which, by the same token, delineate and segregate—in splendid arbitrary fashion—the being and/from the non-being, in a self-sustained process of conscious or subconscious confirmation of the existing-and-operating process of institution and alteration of the self and of the other; a process that may occur as a negation of otherness or as an affirmation of selfness, or indeed as a kind of indifference oscillating between the two.

The self, in its most deconstructed sense can only be meaningful in the concurrent presence of the other, as in the absence of otherness, selfness is effectively devoid of meaning, for all shall then be sameness. Nonetheless and in as far as metapolitics are concerned, the pervasive “consciousness” of the self and of the other, the auto- and hetero- gnosia, emerging from negation does not merely conform with the rudimentary construction of identity through the spheres of the lifeworld, but rather expands beyond the confines of that originary juxtaposition, in compounding layers of predetermined affirmations about the modalities of and to selfness and substantiating the underpinnings to their presumed-as-self-evident justification, together with concocting a tutelary figure or formulating a tissue of master imaginaries whose essence is considered as germane to the self and intrinsically alien to the other or, at the very least, as that which only the self can and may uphold and realize, courtesy of a mystical “duty” or “right” or some other type of “privilege” bestowed upon it from an exteriority or from an auto-instituted conception that transfigured into a hetero-institut_ed_-and-institut_ing_ doctrine.

In Europe qua abstraction, negation in this limited sense, has been realized through ideocentric quests for domination that are fastened upon a tissue of exalted perceptions and presuppositions of function and end across the subject-object rift, whose origin can either be recognized as a recurring theme throughout several instances of the social-historical process of institution, or as a first manifestation, emerging ex nihilo from an inner or outer intellectual or cultural impulse, though never in nihilo, given that the political-institutional milieu contributes to, facilitates or brings about its engendering and flourishing.

Negation in the European context is inseparably attached to the subject of politics, which has all too often been conceived in or by a state of fission between subjects, in or by a conflict involving the phantomalized self as contrasted and opposed to the schema of the perceived other, both in appearance and in essence; for this otherness is not only presumed as differing from the self in its phenomenal presence but in its very capacity as a product of being. It is this latter metaphysical postulate that has underpinned most if not all of negation’s struggles for control, at times appearing as pseudo-scientific race mystique and cultural esotericism, at others as an ostensibly primordial competition between spectralized collective figures of the thinkable and assemblages of stereotypes and other fixed notions, and still others appearing in a categorization along the lines of material affluence or scarcity and of the context-specific socially constructed role and function that each of such groupings is assigned to fictitiously or actually; all couched in terms of compliance with profoundly extrasocial or supracontextual forces that exert an irresistible power of determination on the state of affairs of the specific negation, as appearing and being such.

The political subject in Europe, from the Age of the Enlightenment hitherto, represents a rather complex structure which can only succeed, by virtue of its inner antinomies, to introduce fission and self-alienation in the very foundations of the self-instituting polity; for it is a multi-layered and multi-faceted concept that encompasses the human qua individual in a decontextualized sense, the society as being an ontological entity with it own “human” faculties of action, experience and ratiocination, the state qua incarnation of a mystical collective conscience or geist, or even morality and justice as such, and the nation as representing a supra-temporal entity of the pragmatic world, i.e. as having a physical existence throughout and above time. This seemingly harmonious magma of essentially antithetical significations is nothing less than a conundrum beckoning to be solved, for the subject does not merely remain an elusive silhouette confined to the realm of the thinkable, but rather provides the fundament, the underlying set of presumptions, for the institution of society in very concrete terms, such as in the production of a legal order that confers rights and introduces obligations and which, in our present era, offers an explicit opt-out to the equal treatment before the law, by establishing the principle of state sovereignty as being the cornerstone for the monopolistic exercise of legal coercion, compulsion, subservience and control by the state apparatus over all that exists in a given territory as a spatially understood province of that legal order.

Against this backdrop, negation develops an internal and an external dimension; internal in the contrast between the classes of subjects in the polity and external in the distinction between the collectivized entities as such. The latter emanation of negation is deeply embedded in international relations, as the management of the power that exists in the theatre of global politics, where the nation-state as such is the protagonist in the determination of the order of things and which, in and of its own, decides on what its subservient subjects, the “people” and the “citizens”, will experience in their daily conduct, receiving “life” as an hetero-instituted commandment, as if by a brutish vegetative existence that lacks faculties of action and perception necessary to autonomously determine the inter-subjective world. On the other hand, internal negation is a more complex phenomenon which shares insoluble ties with the external one, while substantially expanding its scope, in featuring a clear narrative of the individual qua political subject and of the overriding collectivities that emerge from such individuals as competitors to the very same status of subject in the political order. Thus, laws are enacted that invent, discover and recognize the individual qua political subject that has the power to influence and to change its instituted world—the power to imagine one could say—and yet, within the very same corpus of legislation, certain laws are promulgated that furnish the fantastic collectives with rights of their own and claims to legality, which effectively though perhaps inadvertently succeed in limiting and rendering as essentially obsolete the capacity of the individual to auto-institute society, courtesy of their own supracontextual “interests” or “duties” or some other dubious notion that provides the conduit to the self-alienation of society, to its hetero-determination from the very institutions that emerged and took form within its lifeworld.

The antinomy goes as far as introducing a profound division between state and government, with the former being a robust body of power and socially structured functions and ends, bestowing privileges and granting special rights to those groups of people who gain access or grab hold of its upper strata, in exercising its monopolistic power of coercion to the attainment of the mutual ends of their own and of the state as acting in the name of a phantasmagorized collectivity, such as the “public interest” or as representing a quasi-divine being, such as the extrasocial spectres of the terra patria and the nation, whose mystical caprices must gain precedence over all other considerations, in what clearly is a form of crass determinism and talismanic self-alienation. In contradistinction, the government of a democratic polity is the agency employed in common by the majority of the demos to act as their assignee for the realization of specific ends that are considered beneficial for the vast body of citizens as confined-and-variable within the temporal dimension of inter-subjectivity, and to exercise its mandate without being able to open any kind of sluice gate for the introduction of legislation that would allow it to transmogrify from a democratic agency to a tyrannical one. Alas, the operation of negation in the understanding of the government as something alien to those who employ it, has effectively contributed to its evolution from a “caretaker” to a “commander” that remains distinct from the state, in that it is subject to certain changes in form between short time intervals, but which exists to serve the state’s panoply of power and control and not directly the citizens as such; this condition standing as yet another product of the inherent contradictions in the metapolitical understanding of selfness and otherness.

Granted all of the aforementioned and venturing to pit further stress on the central theme herein, a change in institutions may only appear as a reformulative-and-reformulating metapolitical impulse, addressing the radical imaginary that underlies the lifeworld, to change it in form and substane, and to proceed with reconstructing the cascades of significations attached to it, so as to withdraw the divisive perceptions that are firmly rooted at its core, thus reconciling its internal contradictions, for the sake of reaching a point where negation no longer is the prime factor to identity, but which is instead cast aside and replaced by affirmation as the force that will engender organic forms of sociability and polity; organic in the sense of having no internal antitheses and antinomies, being tantamount to an architecture where one part cannot exist without the other, rather than the current state of affairs where there is an antagonism between parts, with some existing as against others. Whether this magnificent task can be accomplished by incremental and cumulative change from the outer institutions to the inner ones, or whether a more thoroughgoing approach will be needed, one that will commence from challenging the very foundations of the given political order in its imaginaries, may only be known with certainty a posteriori, even though the end and the means can be determined in advance by those involved in this process of created-and-creating differentiation.