La comunidad de los espectros, I: Antropotecnia: Table of contents and Introduction

My translation of Fabián Ludueña Romandini‘s monograph La comunidad de los espectros, I: Antropotecnia (The Community of Specters: Anthropotechnics) is in progress. I hope to have a completed draft by the end of AY 2019-2020. Here’s an excerpt.

Table of contents

  • Introduction
  • Part I: Ius Exponendi
    • Anthropotechnics
    • Beyond the history of the right over life
    • Astropolitics and eugenics: the birth of the Modern World
  • Part II: Sovereignty and normativity
    • Kyrios Christos: the dilemma of the new sovereignty
    • Spectrology I: Iconology of the ghost
    • Spectrology II: Necropolitics and Modernity
  • Part III: The Transhumanists
    • A society beyond the grave: the Kingdom of the Resurrected
    • Epoch VI: Primo Posthuman and the “god to come”
  • Epilogue. Zoopolitics: the Sixth Extinction and spectral analysis
  • Appendix. The Katechon: life suspended between the Kingdom and the myth of lawless sovereignty
  • Bibliography

Introduction (pp. 11-14)

At his first conference presentation in October, 1982, at the University of Vermont, Michel Foucault offered a retrospective of his work, grouping it into a four-part structure called the “matrix of practical reason”: technologies of production, technologies of sign systems, technologies of power, and, finally, technologies of the self, which operate on the individual by constituting ethical subjectivity. “Governmentality” is situated precisely at the intersection between those technics used to dominate others and those referring back to oneself.[1]

In the following pages, we will deploy the concept of “the technologies of power” developed by Foucault. We will develop this concept in a different direction than does Foucault, decentering it from his specific use of the term with the aim of reformulating it altogether. In this sense, we will understand anthropotechnology or anthropotechnologies as the technologies through which human communities and the individuals composing them actualize their own animal nature to guide, expand, modify, or domesticate their biological substratum in order to produce that which, first, philosophy and, then, the biological and human sciences generally call “man.” The process of hominization and the very history of the species Homo sapiens up to now coincides, then, with the history of anthropotechnologies (economic, social, educational, juridical, political, and ethical) that have incessantly sought to manufacture the human as the ek-stasis of the animal condition.

From this perspective, all anthropotechnology rests on a constitutive politicization of animal life, which is to be domesticated and cultivated through the process of civilization. For reasons that will become clear in the first part of this study, we will term as zoopolitics an original operation upon animal life that takes place, despite – or even in conflict with – its ekstasis toward hominization. Thus, all anthropotechnology implies a zoopolitical substratum that lies at its center. In his “Rules for the Human Park: A Response to Heidegger’s ‘Letter on Humanism’,” Peter Sloterdijk has made a similar use of the term, placing at the heart of his analysis the anthropotechnics that underlie the Heideggerian project of questioning traditional humanism. Thus, pointing a magnifying glass at the Lichtung – the Heideggerian clearing in which the human arises – Sloterdijk wants to show that a process of educational and eugenic domestication takes place in this clearing, a process dedicated to the creation of Homo sapiens as a civilizing subject.

On the one hand, our gamble is to extend the trail opened up by Sloterdijk’s work – albeit using different methods and often arriving at opposite conclusions – by treating diverse anthropotechnologies that are not explored by Sloterdijk. On the other hand, our particular use of the term anthropotechnics is based on the following premises:

  1. We do not think that anthropotechnics is an inevitable process of making the human that leads from “traditional humanism” toward a new anthropotechnical era of biotechnological eugenics. On the contrary, we consider anthropotechnics itself to be a contingent form adopted by the technologies of power as applied to the human animal.

  2. Consequently, anthropo-technologies embody that specific historical register adopted by the technologies of power, which the animal Homo sapiens applied to itself and to the members of its species. That what was originarily an animal has been made into a man is the fruit of historical accident and not of some teleological, inevitable, or irreversible process. For this reason, we will designate as the anthropotechnical will this historical and contingent insistence on the making of the human as a millenarian process.

  3. From this point of view, anthropotechnologies are a sub-category of the technologies of power that specialize in the production of the human. On the other hand, we are not assuming here that it is the hominid who develops, on her own, a capacity for listening in the Lichtung. On the contrary, we admit that the very nature of the clearing actively opened a fundamental cleavage in man, who, a posteriori, transformed the powers of the Lichtung into technologies of power – power over himself and over others. However, this does not imply that the Lichtung provides any access to potential alternatives that are exclusively favorable or benign.

  4. Within the innumerably existing anthropotechnologies, we have decided to focus in this book upon law and theology insofar as they are the matrices producing the political community of humans. In the case of law, it will be approached as a technics that, acting in the register of legal fiction, produces performative effects constituting the political space of the human. In this sense, politics is originarily zoopolitical because it implies a foundational decision about how to direct the human animal in its process of becoming-man. However, not all legal technologies act in the same way. On the contrary, they suppose a set of historical variants. Therefore, in this book, we will analyze the caesura that, for ancient Roman law, resulted in the appearance of a new form of normativity under the name of Christianity. Precisely for this reason, as we will see as we proceed in our research, theology can be considered as an unprecedented form of legal anthropotechnology.

At the same time, both law and theology will be treated here as mythological registers of power. Due to its particularities, theology will be considered according to the principles of a science of mythology whose methodology requires still further work for its programmatic enunciation. Nevertheless, we can say, provisionally, that we will approach theology as an object of the Kulturwisenschaft, in the sense given to this term by Aby Warburg.

On the other hand, as will be seen, this book will seek to lay the first foundations of spectrology as a form of political ontology. After all, unlike much work gathered under the umbrella term “biopolitics,” our perspective – which, for many reasons, we prefer to call zoopolitics – implies that the relationship between life and power, between life and law, between life and form, and, ultimately, between life and whatever ontology accounts for it, cannot be established without referring to a different register of zoé – namely, spectrality. We postulate here that, without studying the spectral register, it is completely impossible to understand fully not only the drift of contemporary politics – and zoopolitics, in particular – but also new ontological possibilities.

This assumes that the very structure of human community – of law and of politics – implies the presence of spectrality as a fundamentally constitutive element. On this occasion we will devote ourselves to analyzing one of the “difficult times” of the spectrography that supposes the advent of Christianity – with the intention of extending this analysis in future research toward other forms of ancient law, finally turning toward the present so as to include some central registers of our political-economic present.

In the same way, spectrology is inscribed in an ontology whose contours – radically different from those of the traditional science of being – will be treated in a subsequent work. For the time being, and broadly speaking, the term “specter” is to be understood as referring to incorporeal creatures – for example, the angels. In this sense, God Himself can be conceived as a spectral form that manifests through the Spirit. Even if it is possible to make a distinction between Spirit and Specter, we believe that both belong to the same ontological category.[2]

On the other hand, more narrowly, we will also call specters those entities that survive their own deaths (even as mere postulates), or that establish a zone of indistinction between life and death. From this point of view, the specter can be completely immaterial, or it can acquire the distinctly different “consistencies” that, as a philosopher said, stubbornly insist on acquiring the materiality of flesh and bone, even if this acquisition is of an eminently overdetermined nature by the Spirit. At this point, the mythology of the resurrected studied in this book embodies this latter characteristic in an extreme and finished way.

Likewise, in the pages that follow, the reader will be able to recognize a debt to the philosophy of Giorgio Agamben. However, as you can see, the critical distance taken with respect to his work is limited to a discussion we believe is very necessary in the philosophical and political juncture that the contemporary world is passing through.

Finally, a methodological clarification is required. In a round table with prestigious historians that took place in May, 1978, Foucault stated that his books “are not treatises of philosophy or historical studies; at most, they are philosophical fragments in historical workshops.”[3] To some extent, the same could be said of this study, given that, if certain contributions from historical philology are used here, it is for the exclusive purpose of transforming them immediately. These contributions are transformed into materials for a philosophical reflection, one which explores a morphological register that transcends the originary historical worlds where certain problematics were born, with the aim of deterritorializing them in the direction of an onto-spectrology of the present.

  • [1] Foucault, M., “Les techniques de soi,” in Dits et écrits, edited by Daniel Defert and François Ewald, with the collaboration of Jacques Lagrange, Paris, 1994, t. IV, text no. 363, I. [Cf. “Technologies of the Self.”]
  • [2] Derrida, J., Spectres de Marx, Paris, 1993, p. 25.
  • [3] Foucault, M., “Les techniques…” op. cit., t. III, text no. 278.