A conversation between Gerardo Muñoz and Jacques Camatte in times of the coronavirus.
Jacques Camatte was a central figure in the theoretical debates of the Italian communist left in the sixties and seventies, in the wake of the exhaustion of the revolutionary horizon. Camatte has written dozens of essays on the transformation of the logic of capital (Il capitale totale. Il capitolo VI inedito de «Il capitale» (1976), Capital et Gemeinwesen (1978), Il disvelamento (1978)). He is the founder of the journal Invariance, which situates its thinking between the extinction of originary community (Gemeinwesen) of the species after the absolutization of the anthropomorphosis of capital. For Camatte, the end of capital coincides with its total domination incarnated within the processural existence of the subject itself.
Camatte’s thought continues to be relevant to thinking the intersection between questions of extinction, the devastation of dwelling on the earth, and the possibility of ‘inversion’ for a new ‘time of life’. At age 85, Camatte possesses a tremendous mental clarity, which opens possibilities for thought and friendship outside hostility. In the last months or so, I have had the opportunity to exchange a bit with Camatte, and what follows is are some of his generous responses to my questions surrounding the pandemic that we are currently experiencing. This conversation is an ongoing process, and should be taken as incomplete, insofar as Camatte’s thought embodies a melody that accompanies us in this desert.
1. I think a good point to start our conversation would be around the emergence of the coronavirus epidemic that is now extending across the world. For some time now, you have reflected on the relationship between “extinction” and “enmity” in our species. Does this pandemic confirm your thesis concerning the extinction of the species, after the total crisis of the human community (Gemeinwesen), now fully integrated within Capital?
Yes, I think that the COVID 19 pandemic must be studied in relation to the risk of extinction of the species. I would like to point out that this risk has, at base, two causes. On the one hand, the destruction that has been completed, or is being completed, of the original community of Homo sapiens, which enabled this to happen. This destruction is related to a series of separations of which the current confinement represents the ultimate state. On the other hand, the destruction of nature. The final state, the one we have reached, is related to the end of capital (1990s), that is to say, to the end of the social relationship that founds it, that gives it substance (an exchange between a quantum of value – at the beginning – and then later capital, and labour power), but with the autonomisation of its form, which is that of incrementation, correlative to the deployment of virtuality, to the substitution of all naturalness by artificialization.
By the time capital died, the human community had already been integrated into capital. It may be said that for a certain period of time the material community of capital substituted itself for the human community. But all this is outdated. If this is not clear enough, I can return to this subject.
2. My next question is whether the human species can be thought outside of strife—that is, a pre-origin (an-archē) unmarked by the caesurae of enmity. Is the movement of “inversion” a way out?
In the Glossary (on the site) I specify the term ‘enmity’ as follows: “A dynamic by which ‘the other’ is used as a support to identify the enemy and, from there, to initiate the deployment of various forms of violence. The enemy can be transient, as in a game, in a debate, in all forms of competition. It founds the behavior of the species cut off from nature.
We must evade them, not fight them. However, the notion of combat, of war, derives from clashes between human groups following the fragmentation of communities, population growth, the emergence of the State, etc… It is an anthropocentric notion used to justify a conflictual relationship with nature. What the idea of inversion contributes resides in the fact that the species will only survive provided it completely abandons the dynamics of enmity (cf. Enmity and extinction).
3. In his forgotten classic, Apocalisse e rivoluzione (1973), Giorgio Cesarano proposed a “biological revolution” as the only possible way to exit the “anthropomorphization of Capital”. In an era in which capitalism has completely been conquered full virtuality and metaphysical equivalence, is this still a possibility?
Let me clarify: In my view, the revolutionary process is closed, capital is dead, and what dominates is the autonomization of its form, which is what enables the installation of virtuality. Consequently, it is difficult for me to consider the expression biological revolution. I do feel obliged to take into account what Giorgio was aiming at when he formulated it. I believe it is clearly insufficient because it is the whole human psyche that must undergo a transformation in order that the inversion can be fully realized.
4. Yes, and to speak of subtraction is to question what we take as ‘reality’. In the 1970s, an Italian Bordigean poet, Domenico Ferla questioned the very constitution of reality as already contaminated by ‘evil’. Is the transfiguration of ‘reality’ the way in which one can access another relation with nature?
I’m not sure I understand your question, nor certain words such as ‘subtraction’. But from what I understand of it, I would reply no. Reality is the reality of men and women in society and nature (what is left of it), since it is the transfiguration of reality. The point, however, is to establish a different behaviour among these men and women.
5. There is much talk today about ‘politics’. Everyone ‘demands’ more politics, and everyone is ‘political’. Is “inversion” a political strategy, or, on the contrary, is it outside of politics as such?
Inversion is not a strategy, it is totally outside of politics, which is the dynamic of organizing people, of controlling them. We must abandon everything that is part of its world.
Gerardo, all the best for you in the current turmoil. Good journey,
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