Stylistic Structures

Our age drifts towards a politics of pure ontological intensities visible only at the level of style. This is a return to the content of being, and an escape from the axiomatic of expression. The public sphere has become a restrictive expressive medium, where goodness is given through an inventory of unquestionably good ends like fresh air, high salary, happy children, world peace etc. These ends remain in place as stable objectives, while discussion is limited to a debate over the most effective means for attaining them. The public sphere fixates on the optimization of these fragmented imaginary part-objects that contradict each other, and this obsession is widely reflected in the discourses of science and academia. Opposed to these hackneyed sensational values is the structural value of style, the anti-thesis to all those sensational political ends. Style erupts at the thresholds where the expression of content overturns the expression of capitalist values.

Politics today gets trapped in an Arthur C. Clarke’s sci-fi scenerio, where some heroic activists beleive they are faced with the challenge of saving humanity through scientific means. Authenticity is neutralized under the spell of technical clarity, where movements are launched around promising new concepts, like geothermal heating. Conceptual clarity works as a lure for optimistic populism by esteeming the subject as the one who has seen the signs and knows what must be done. This is a phase where some concept is promoted and gathers popular support so that it might get implemented by the force of democracy. Participants in these movements may feel united politically, while it often turns out that they are only weakly aligned socially. This superficiality reflects group formations facilitated by fetishistic part-objects, like clean air. There are frustrated social agendas that seek some rationalized political action as a consolation for poverty. These fragmentary political movements split further, and run into conflict with each other, and so the administrators need not get too involved with managing them.

So I would like to initiate another epoche which rejects all ontic objectives, and reorients the political towards abstract structural relations. An ideal structure is visible only as an expressive style, which implies a comprehensive mapping of the world down to infinitesimal complexity. This concerns the compilation of maps floating in memory, such as maps of what a person is, how economic transactions are conducted, the logic of education, the alternate models of the decline of Rome etc. Maps populate the uncertainty of the void with more structured forms of uncertainty, and they are synthesized into bunches which constitute expressive stylistic forces or ideas. A substantial style emerges from the structuring of uncertainty. This process of ideation is the composition of subjectivity in the world. Politics in this sense begins at the threshold of expressive style, which is the emancipation of material subjectivity. This politics of structure is without any moral justification, because the concept of morality has been sublimated into the idea of morale, the expressive force of style.

Politics becomes a conspiracy of desire to ontologize the world. Desire develops from abstract structures or separations, and its existence is conditional on forms of exile furnished by religion, art, and history. The theory of exile emerged around Max Weber and his students Carl Schmitt, Georg Lukacs, and Niklas Luhman. This group rediscovered politics as a value sphere that emerges through a Hegelian logic of the sublimation of war, where the hostility of belligerent enemies is overcome through the institution of a symbolic separation between the government and the opposition, the palimentary relation. The radical left often dismisses this separation as a bourgeois perversion (as did Schmitt), but if considered abstractly there is much at stake in this relation. If the parliamentary system has been discredited, then that does not dispense with the role of the political opposition. The recent mass protests could be considered as the emergence of a new oppositional position, although it remains to be seen how that might transpire. Governments would have to recognize the protestors as the new loyal opposition because doing so would sublimate violence. The position of the loyal opposition is a representation of non-violence, and we need to consider the genesis of that position.

Protest is likely just one small aspect of what is involved in the emergence of structural subjectivity, which may require painstaking midwifery. A substantial structure exists in elementary links between numbers and qualifying concepts. In order to be expressed stylistically, one could say that numerical relations have to be “ethnicized”, meaning that they must have some determinate orientation upon flesh and the earth. The Hellenistic conception of the sacred provides a broad paradigm which links ethnicities together across a large geography. As did others before him, Leo Strauss approached western civilization as a dialogue between Athens and Jerusalem, and I would like to put an original spin on that model. Let me suggest that the Greek sacred has to sides two, which are related according to the directions on the compass. To the south-west were the sacerdotal mysteries of the Egyptians, and to the north-east were the shamanic mysteries of the steppes nomads. The shaman is a figure of the immanent one, and his experience is a journey where the thresholds between the dimensions are negotiated in a fluid experience of feminine becoming. This journey was assisted by the Scytho-Thracian psychopomps like Dionysus and Orpheus. The journey is an experience where the shaman dies and is reborn with newly negotiated thresholds of mortality. On the other hand, the Egyptian-Semitic priest is a subject of the two, because he maintains the thresholds through ceremonies and remains at a distance from the world of the dead. The priest institutes the separation between signifier and signified, whereas the shaman falls into the madness of univocity.

Let us recodify this geography of the hellenistic sacred according to an image-text relation.  Let us locate the power of speech on the north-eastern side  shamanic journey, and reduce the sacerdotal ritual to mute perception.  The priest’s rituals express nothing because there is no experience, it was repetition of the dead letter as Paul claimed. The Greek sacred can be reconstructed as an economy between these two ethnic practices, and this treats Christianity as a system where the sacerdotal was synthesized with the shamanic. This interprets western civilization as a machine that operases on geographical relations. Such a machines can go dormant and then reappear centuries later in different configurations. The two strains cross paths, so that shamanism is sublimated into an oral-textual experience, where priesthood is sublimated into a visual-aesthetic experience. The shamanic test-sites migrate from wounds of the body into the voice, and that way violence is spoken. This escapes the dead letters of the priest through the mouth, while the priest becomes optics, and over these centuries they are learning to dance. The shaman’s muttering makes room for the eyes of the mute priest by echoing across the land and over the sea to summon forth the composition of places where something may appear.

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