Temporality and Power: The Politics of Absence

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alterity / concept / critique / ethics / infinity / language / metaphysics / morality / ontology / Politics / power / production / theory / time


In the relation of the human being to language, a process is reflected that extends to the relation of the human being to beings in general: The scientific knowledge has become the standard knowledge! The other: thinking, spirit of language, history, culture is still there, yet dragged along into a certain indeterminateness.

It is decisive that the consciousness was lost as to where this other belongs and of what kind must the reflection be in order to still experience it essentially.

Martin Heidegger, On the Essence of Language

One is substituted for another. The Other is already a replacement: stood in front of, signified for, stereotyped, “represented.” Always already excluded. Alterity is secrecy, criminal, “terrorist.” The other is an unsurface, continuously fragmenting, always already a mute revelation of presence-within-absence, an irruption of pure expressivity conveying without mediation the disunity constitutive of production. A signal which effaces itself, fracturing identity and imploding the non-position at the heart or essence of expression.

The degradation of the other in (through) writing, even through speaking itself and in what is before speaking, in the materiality of the saying and in the voice, already in the other’s cry of pain or even the internal distance wherein I myself become alien, become other before my own suffering and “involuntary” reactions — all these complicate an analysis into alterity, into the other nature of space. The politics of alterity, of absence, the comprehension of the place of the other, takes place outside of our dialogical place-together, outside the infinity of our interconnection. Politics operates not in but as a finite emptiness, a literal or material void which is applied to society like the one-sided edge of a surgical knife.

Like a whirlwind, the power of absence (the politicization of place) tends to decode expressive machines and dissolve solid relations of production. This is both a metaphysical and historical process of dissolution; “conditions” are never what they seem to be, there is always already political economy, conditions are always themselves conditioned by a constituent division from the outside, that is to say, by a political encounter which ontologically precedes their essence, and which therefore obviates the practice (if not the theory) of political ontology proper.

Because politics relates to that which is non-ontological as such. It can perhaps even be defined in this way. Hence a science of politics would relate in an essential — but uncanny and inexact — way to the practice of moral philosophy. Aristotle has of course already claimed as much as this in the “preface” of the Nicomachean Ethics; he identifies politics itself as the highest art, because it knows how to make decisions regarding what social practices and sciences, poetry, etc., ought to be taught, and specify how much should be learned by which classes in society. Thus for Aristotle the problem is metaphysical; our relation to science and art and philosophy and even politics itself are all politically conditioned. It is in this sense that we can say our orientation towards the other is the essential decision of politics and ethics in common, their radical inter-continuity.

Manipulating this relationship to nature, to alterity itself, transforming the relation to “place” and the social comprehension of the ethical space of human decision, is the characteristic or essence of the highest and most authoritative art: the science of politics.

Yet, the question remains whether we are being fooled by morality. In at least one important senses ethics operates on a completely different basis than politics; alterity is apprehended as infinity, overflowing itself, properly transcendental, the source of knowledge (if not already light itself) — a relation wholly without totality, a connection which can never be circumscribed.


Ethics and politics quarrel as the essential movement of philosophy itself, open to multiplicity and difference by virtue of its “halfway” position, a space of non-identity or absence operating between poetry and science.

The logic of absence and presence is no longer adequate for the analysis of space; this is only to remark that we stand in need of supplementary concepts, novel modes of conceptual production — not at all to “ground” presence and absence in some transcendental matrix, but precisely to unground this conservative logic, to disturb generality from its slumber, in order to produce new maps of political and ethical space of decision, new conceptual and pragmatic models — to ground the ungrounding of being.

Theory is actual, already a counter-representation or subversion — extrusion of secret tragedies, hidden comedies — . Critique is a brush with death, the imposition of unspace into space, the wreck of formlessness at the heart of form, the gathering of non-existence which precedes expression and produces society, even as the substrate of substance itself…

The Author

mostly noise and glare

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