Carlo Galli’s Spazi politici. L’eta moderna e l’eta globale and La guerra globale.
I am posting this as a continuation of the discussion started last November on New Paths in Political Philosophy. We will have another workshop at Aberdeen next Spring where it is very likely that Carlo Galli will participate. In any case, it seems to me it migh be useful to start a new conversation on these issues. Here is my new post:
The importance of Carlo Galli’s work for international relations theory and political thought in general has been known to specialists at least since the 1996 publication of his major book on Carl Schmitt, Genealogia della politica. Carl Schmitt e la crisi del pensiero politico moderno. A recent new book of his on Schmitt, Lo sguardo di Giano, given its internal dynamics, probably closes Galli’s frontal engagement with the German thinker.
Schmitt has been recognized as a fundamental thinker for our time by philosophers as diverse and as well-known to the English-speaking public as Jacques Derrida, Etienne Balibar, or Antonio Negri. Balibar has claimed, for instance, that it is legitimate to say that contemporary Marxism has become neo-Schmittian. The end of the cold war brought about, among other things, a renaissance of the work of the German jurist on the particular basis of his theory of the nomos of the earth, that is, the most basic or fundamental, pre-legal orientation of the political contest for world domination through history. The “Neo” in “Neo-Schmittianism” no doubt refers to the fact that it is not enough to adopt Schmittian theories: a labor of reading is necessary in order to meet, today, what in Schmitt holds as, in Machiavelli’s words, “the effective truth” of the (political) thing for the age of modernity.
The fundamental position Galli theorizes is the following: the onset of the so-called “second phase” of globalization (the first phase would have coincided, more or less, with the Clinton presidency) has revealed a fundamental bankruptcy in the concepts of political modernity. A new conceptualization has become necessary as we are facing the end of the political-theological epoch. If modernity, roughly understood as existing since the European encounter with the New World and the sixteenth-century wars of religion, marks the transition from “theological politics” to “political theology,” our time—the time of the global age, which is no longer the modern age—is radically post-theological and thus in need, not just of a new genealogy, but also of a new conceptuality. The political only residually moves in the wake of old concepts such as representation, sovereignty, civil society, subjectivity, or even the nation. A fundamental alteration at the ordering or “nomic” level has taken place, which can be understood as an “explosion” of the very concepts of modernity.
In order to make this claim persuasive Galli develops his theory of “political spaces” in a magisterial manner. He takes us, in a few brilliant chapters, from Greece and Rome through the medieval notion of empire through the Hobbesian revolution and all the way to the post-9/11 period. Along the way he presents an array of new categories such as the remarkable “political geometry.” His notion of architectural politics, or political architectonics, receives a dialectical turn of the screw with the supplementary notion that the political spaces of our history have never been stable: their internal tensions, their pressure points, their lines of flight were only ever contained by structures of material force whose nihilistic underside made them ultimately vulnerable. If globalization is the explosion of modernity, it is because, in globalization, the structures of political mediation have vanished into immediacy. “Immediate mediation” is the new game, but it is a game for which we do not know (of) any rules. (A curious figure: Schmitt’s relevance is the relevance of the genealogical history that leads straight to the dissolution of its relevance. We need Schmitt in order to understand why modernity, and, with it, Schmitt himself, are no longer able to express the verita effetuale of our time at the political level. With all of this Galli gives true political content to the culturalist notion of postmodernity.)
Immediate mediation is global mobilization, not to be confused with the already catastrophic “total mobilization” that Ernst Junger theorized for the period between the world wars. From total mobilization to global mobilization the West managed to contain political evil through the invention of the welfare state, but the time of this Pauline katechon (“restrainer”) is over.
The notion of “global war” that is the subject of the short supplement to Spazi politici initiates the analysis of the possible consequences of the end of the restraining period. What the restrainer restrained was the very political tension of the architectonics of modernity. If the latter was primarily designed, negatively or nihilistically, to prevent conflict or rather to relegate it to an exteriority, today conflict has become generalized, to such an extent that no categorical distinction can be made between politics and war. Globalization is war. And war is the (fracturing) unity of being for our time. If we could think of an exception to war, then we should, and it is an urgent task under which Galli posits the very possibility of a new freedom. No freedom, then, without a new conceptuality, even though it is also the case that a new conceptuality cannot by itself guarantee freedom. The stakes could not be higher. It is now no longer enough to change the world: one must first interpret it. That is, one must first develop an adequate vocabulary, given the collapse of our language(s).