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The world returns: Outlines of an anti-politics

Ecological collapses, social implosion, proliferation of insurgencies: the seams of the world-system are cracking everywhere. It is now understood: we believed in Nature since we had been separated from it, as we believed in Society in order to be able to exist. It is this double belief, which we called modernity, that is irreparably failing.

Originally published by Lundi Matin. Written by Josep Rafanell i Orra . Translated by Autonomies.

Vertiginous ecological collapses. Liberal-fascist governmentality, from Bolsonaro to Macron. How to confront the disaster? Are we condemned to resuscitate new scenarios of political representation?

And what if we had to dismantle politics, all pretenders to representation, its deadly abstractions so that shared lives worth living could arise anew? It will then again be necessary to summon the old word communism which only humans can no longer compose. But communism was never an idea. It resides in the practices of communisation, in the arts of our inter-dependencies, both during uprisings and in the care that we bring to a garden (1).

In the realist, faith is not born from miracles, but miracles from faith.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky,The Brothers Karamazov

Ecological collapses, social implosion, proliferation of insurgencies: the seams of the world-system are cracking everywhere. It is now understood: we believed in Nature since we had been separated from it, as we believed in Society in order to be able to exist. It is this double belief, which we called modernity, that is irreparably failing.

We perceive, constrained and forced, that the multiple entanglements between living beings are crumbling. We learn that in order not to lose the world we must inhabit fragmentary worlds that humans alone can no longer compose. “Nobody lives everywhere; everybody lives somewhere. Nothing is connected to everything; everything is connected to something”, (Donna Haraway, Living with Disorder). And thus we learn that it is the social totality, closed in on itself, which has expelled us from the world: society has always been constituted on the back of multiplicities. How can we ignore that we must, once again, rediscover cosmomorphic ways, always situated, of forming community?

Attention should be paid to the multi-specific life forms that arise in the proliferation of disasters. Like those of mushrooms which, unexpectedly, form new communities in the devastated forests of Oregon. From now on, in a haunting ritornelle, we should learn to live in the ruins. And yet, if fragments of the devastated world remain habitable, they remain nonetheless new opportunities for economic capture (Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, The Mushroom At The End Of The World). At the end of the chain, the tricholoma matsutake, guest-star of a new literature on disasters, will end its journey in some luxury restaurant in Japan … To see in this beautiful story “the possibility of living in the ruins of capitalism” however, it would be necessary either to possess an immoderate academic optimism, or, as in other times and other stories that have become anachronistic, to desire to ruin what is ruining the world. But it would seem that revolutionary subjects, as subjects of social emancipation, have entered upon an irresistible decline.

This so eagerly celebrated patchy world is nevertheless governed by the economy. Its fragmentation in no way precedes its de-totalization. We will say, against Haraway, that everything, that each being, remains linked to the All/the Whole by the grace of monstrous capitalist operations of composition. Should we be content with researching the dying worlds of inter-dependencies between humans and non-humans? Should we become multi-species diplomats in new scenarios of political representation? Should we consider “holy wrath” (Baptiste Morizot, Manières d’être vivant), or worse, social hatred, as dubious cosmopolitan rudeness? This is forgetting an elementary social fact: as long as there are humans who claim to govern others, as long as there are social institutions with their contenders to representation, there will be the hatred of those who refuse to let themselves be governed.

For centuries, we have been torn from the world of “nature”. Because nature as a world can only exist if we are part of it (Tim Ingold, Walking with Dragons). We are now being dispossessed of our belonging to the social “world”. This too is coming to an end, even in the centers of the world; the end of the guarantees of a life project for all, integrated into the glorious march of the economy. But did we ever really belong to this society? Was it ever a world to inhabit? The paradoxical situation we are living in is that it is social dispossession that makes the resurgence of new communities possible.

We could say of dispossession and of the dispossessed: “it has become for them a gain, a kind of a priori condition. They no longer claim any rights ”. Dispossessed of the social world, we can once again begin to really exist, in some particular way, in some particular world. “There is not a single mode of existence for all the beings that inhabit the world, any more than there is a single world for all these beings”. (David Lapoujade, Les existences moindres).

There is always something that remains and this remainder is our maladaptation. It is from social maladaptation, from the refusal of its identities, that revolutions will still arise that aim at stopping the destruction.


Singularly, despite the uninterrupted cycle of insurgencies since the Arab Spring and the occupations of squares more than ten years ago, following the mass sabotage of the meetings of the powerful of this world beginning in the 90s, the course of revolutionary experience collapsed. And it is not only because of the Liberal-Fascist offensive that is being furiously deployed against it. It is also the new political ecologies, with their restoration of representation, which are stubbornly contributing to it today. Henceforth representation is supposed to expand to the cosmological scale! Let us say it once again: our enemies are always the representatives who arrogate to themselves the power to say “what is”, including in its entangled becomings, in lieu and in the place of their belonging to communities in the making. The community is unrepresentable. One submits to representation in the establishment of relationships that render milieus singular. And we rebel when we deny that possibility.

The scenarios of politics, with their subjects, seem to have reached their terminal phase. And with them, it is the reverie of autonomy as a detachment from the bonds that singled out worlds that is sinking. It is the division prescribed in a social face-to-face which seems to no longer be able to take place. What good is it if we now know we have to get out of, to escape from, society? It’s not that enemies do not exist anymore. There are as always the enemies who defend society. They are today, as yesterday, the enemies of multiplicity. They are the fanatical militants of the economy which cannot but be social. Capitalism is not only an economic system but also a society to be governed (Jérôme Baschet, Adieux au capitalisme) Yes, our enemies can be identified, today, like yesterday. They are re-presented to us every day. It is one of the sources of revulsion that our time gives off, to have to suffer its grotesque agitation in the sad decor of political representation.

Where are we? Must one choose between worlds without division and division without worlds? To escape from this aporia we must put an end to the politics which the Greek demos planted as an eternal setting, with its predatory pretenders, its competent partisans declaring the incompetence of others, with its rulers and its governed; and with its commercial posts around the Mediterranean. Détienne Marcel warns us from the first pages of Les dieux d’Orphée of the contrast between the forms of life that subsisted in the hybridisations and the mysteries of the khôra and the assembly of rivals in the polis: “(…) a kind of life absolutely separated from those born of programmed citizens, trained to kill each other around their bloody altars ”. Or even more abruptly: “Democracy is the adequate form of organisation, that is to say the most effective, for a collectivity of predators” (Julien Coupat, Dialogue avec les morts). Yes, it could be that this founding Antiquity was “a profound error” (Michel Foucault).

In a political regime, one always tries to appear as one should in front of the mirror that is held up to us and which takes us back to ourselves. Or we sacrifice ourselves in the name of those, supposedly our fellow human beings, who should be gathered together, but with whom we no longer know how to live.

We do not need gatherings in the name of political ideas, but communities of practice. Community is never born in the name of an idea, be it that of equality, but of the inter-dependencies between beings and the interweaving of their ways of existing. It is with practices of assemblage that we could undo the violence of the social relationship enclosed in its identities. Equality can only be born in the experience of differences.

Only our enemies persist with identities. We cannot consent to our camp, that of friends, being devastated by exasperated social identities, as if it were a new business for politics. We have learned that only de-identification signals the eruption that defeats the police order. “The master’s tools will not destroy the master’s house,” the famous adage tells us. But how can processes of de-identification come about if they have not been preceded by new configurations of experience? Let us be clear: against the police, what is called for is not a politics of identities, but one of commoners or commonalities under construction; not “I am this or that”, always scarred at not being enough of what one claims to be, but what am I becoming in the infinite variation of the relations between beings?


The important question remains. If the community is the affirmation of shared forms of life, it is also the confrontation with that which denies its possibility.

We are not done with the insurgencies. But how can we get beyond the circle of destitution, and then beyond the new social constitutions which again separate us from the plural worlds of common lives?

Mediapart asks worriedly, after the last Lebanese uprising: “Monday evening, Prime Minister Hassan Diab announces the resignation of his government, abandoned by the political parties which initially supported him. But who is to replace him?” Against all evidence, against the desperation of politics, for lives worth living, there is only one answer: the Commune, the unrealised as revolutionary potential, the quasi-causes against what appears to be the evidence of the already determined: again, governmentality. Because there is nothing to replace. Nothing to represent. Everything has to be created and recreated. We are the heirs of defeated histories. To our communalist friends we would like to say to them: “we do not represent anything, no one, nor any being. Let us begin by drawing the weft of our inter-dependencies, experimenting with forms of hospitality, organising practical ways of binding ourselves, allying ourselves. Communalist friends, never run for office!”

As a friend said: we don’t need social constitutions but geographies. And all geography is constituted in the ways of inhabiting, like so many commoners in the making. It is situated heteronomies that allow us to confront the heteronomy imposed on us by governmentality. We can feed ourselves, warm ourselves, take care of ourselves, reappropriate techniques, move about, welcome strangers and their worlds. We know we can if we create the conditions for our encounters.

A period of unprecedented chaos and confusion is opening before us. Probably the intensification of destruction and its anaphoric chain of events. But also the possibility of new creations opened up precisely by the collapses. There will no longer be a plan of consistency, a tight theory capable of grasping the debacle, nor the institution of a common front, of convergences of struggles guided by social identities and their ideas. Good riddance. Because if in the middle of the rubble the world returns, it returns in fragments. And it is with them that associations can be established again. There is only a kaleidoscope of worlds to compose. We are in the midst of crossing all the limits of the totalised world with its metaphysical divisions. So let’s call our situation, cataphoric (David Lapoujade). It is the catastrophe that carries us, that draws us down from the summit, from the heaven of ideas to the ground that we must inhabit. It is from below, through a radicalisation of the experience, down to earth, that we have to cross the limit of representation, these toxic gatherings, in order to be able to contribute to the return of the infinite variation of worlds. Step by step, from those close to us to the next, we must escape the obsession with the dividing line that is supposed to unite us in deadly abstractions. The coupling of constitution and destitution signals the end of the reign of politics. Nothing, no urgency, can spare us the need for destitution as an anti-political experience. It would be necessary to start by destituting the language which nestles surreptitiously in all circles.

“By dint of squeezing language in this way, thought can no longer be satisfied with the support of words; it must spring forth to seek its solution elsewhere. This “elsewhere” should not be understood as a transcendent plane, a mysterious metaphysical domain; this “elsewhere” is “here”, in the immediacy of real life. This is where our thoughts start, and this is where they must return; but after what detours! First live, then philosophise; but thirdly to relive ”(Réné Daumal, Les limites du langage philosophique).

To exit from the centuries-old gigantomachy: Nature, Society, Institution, Politics, so as to return to the formative regions of experience, with eyes riveted to the distance, building here, transmitting, welcoming, translating, rediscovering the sense of proportionality, experiencing sharing as an honor; bringing life to the desert that has been bequeathed to us, regaining our foothold by cultivating our attention to relationships between beings in order to be able to open up to the future of our common lives. Ending politics is the surest way to stop being governed. Struggle, sabotage, destroy, create, build and love; to leave so as to be able to return.

We are not talking about anything other than communism. But communism was never an idea. It resides in practices of communisation. And in the belief that it is from faith that the miracle is born. Let us become radical realists again.

Josep Rafanell i Orra

1. An earlier version of this text was written on the occasion of the gatherings called for around the politics of the land that took place at the end of August at the Lachaud farm.

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