Notes on Laurelle’s “Who are the minorities and how to think them”; part 1,
by Arran James
Minorities represent a certain type of problem both insistent or inevitable and never resolved .
Minorities are a problem. What does this mean? In ‘A summary of non-philosophy’, Laurelle states that non-philosophy, his science of philosophy, arises out of reflection- a bending back upon oneself- with two problems. These problems are the status of the One in philosophy, and the status of philosophy itself. A third problem emerges in this other text and that is the problem of how to think according to the One, rather than merely thinking the One. Later again, the problem is restated as that of thinking in a ‘rigorous theoretical manner’ about philosophy in a way that is not alien to philosophy. In each of these instances Laurelle states that ‘this is the new terms of the problem’. The two problems seem to be related, to be one problem insofar as they both address the problem of the One. Again, Laurelle will tell us that
‘the solution constitutes a new problem’. The entire operation of non-philosophy, we are told, works through this strange relation: ‘through a duality (of problems) which does not constitute a Two or a pair, and through an identity (of problems, and hence solutions) which does not constitute a Unity or a synthesis.
Here is Laurelle’s radical immanence, and an attempt to conceive of a mode of thinking that is capable of being absolutely faithful to that immanence, seeking to assure it with no privileged terms and giving it over to no division that is not also part of its unity. There seems to be a thought of partition or of a metaxy (that itself is not an “in-between” of absolutely separate and separable being but the very essence of their being separate) in this; the One is divided but its division are the mode in which it is held together. Should the One (otherwise Identity, otherwise Ego, otherwise the Real) ever attain unity or final division then it should cease to be, which is itself an inadequate way of speaking as Laurelle’s one can’t be reduced to the term “Being” and it can’t be made to fit into the epistemic correlations of Thought. This latter point is precisely why the One can’t be thought, can’t be an object of philosophy but takes philosophy as its object in non-philosophical thinking according to, in determination with the One. In the Stoics the injunction was to live according to nature; in Laurelle’s hands this becomes the injunction to think from within the Real, to see from within the Real rather than trying to transcend, arrest, or otherwise attempt to conquer it. Philosophy typically conquers through epistemic sovereignty- decision, category, division, synthesis- and this is what non-philosophy takes as the opening problem from which it emerges.
What does this tell us about what a problem is for Laurelle? It tells us that a thought that is from immanence can’t take the minority as anything other than a problem insofar as the minority is a figure of a generic-particular other. The other can not be thought of as opposed to Identity because there is always already the fact that they are caught up in an unfamiliar sameness, an impersonal sameness that traverses each of them. Insofar as this is the case, the One here is akin to a thought of the multiple singular called “flesh”. The minority is a problem because it can’t be thought faithfully on the basis of a decision or as a category that separates it in the last instance from the majority. While this is precisely how we think the distinction between the two, a thought that didn’t pass through the binary of same-other/division-unity, would be a thought that would understand the minority as a separation of the One from itself, just as a hand is a specialisation of the body that, although the majority of the body is not-hand, nonetheless remains body and thus also not-hand. Similarly, in a Marxist vein, the proletariat is that social class that is the dissolution of society, at once radically separate from but not finally outside of the rest of society. Indeed, it is the nature of the proletariat- as the part with no part, the included exclusion, the class under the logic of the ban- that they are immanent to the social- another candidate name for the One- in the very mode of being its negation, its dis-confirmation, its dissolution, and being itself wholly in the negative. The logic of the partition is that each threshold is a division that is also a unification and as such means that it can be neither of these terms. If Laurelle can speak of a duality that is not a Two or a pair it is because he is speaking of a dual that is not a duel, even against its phenomenal and existential appearance and experience as such, and that does not constitute itself as a dualism.
We can see the way in which a problem operates for Laurelle. A problem is that which poses the very nature of the One, it is a problem-in-One, a problem in immanence. There is no solution- the solution only engenders a new problem, is in fact the transformation of a problem from this specific expression to this one- only the ongoing complication and descent into the problem-atic. This is reminscent of Deleuze and Guattari’s claim, in What is philosophy? that
concepts are connected to problems without which they would have no meaning and which can themselves only be isolated or understood as their solution emerges.
A solution is a settling or an ordering: when we reach a solution the problem is finished with and we can be satisfied that we have done our best, that we have laboured to find such and such a way of “solving”, of finding the answer to a question, of finding an answer to a the question, of arresting, freezing, and putting in its place something that would not stay still, some impertinence, some pressing matter, some horror. The solution emerges from the problem, but is itself only another problem, the same problem transformed. This is the logic of obsession, of a visceral thought, a though that does not think but which attempts to articulate itself in gestures, in movements, and, yes, in the miscommunicating of philosophical speech and writing. Yet the minority is a problem that can’t be resolved, which is to say it is a problem which resists final determination, being fixed in a place. It is, therefore, the problem of political thought.
That the minority is a problem that is inevitable and insistent is obviously owing to the operation of all politics (even consensus-decision making can’t be unanimous in every instance, and even where it is one can always imagine it as inauthentic or even that I- as one of the One- am divided against myself and that, perversely, perhaps I even enjoy being this division that does not divide). Excessively though, the inevitability of the minority is also prefigured in this ability of self-division, of the subject being nonlocalised and nonunitary, and comes with the force of the connotations of “inevitable” such as fated and necessary; in this regard the absence of the appearance of a minority is in fact the very promise of such appearance and of such already haunting the given order. This necessity is doubled in the fact that it comes not only from this nonlocality but also from the very fact that politics presupposes disagreement, and that only a reactionary-conservative utopian thinking would assume there could ever be a resolution to disagreement in itself. Such a “final solution” would in fact be a vision of transcendence that sought to betray immanence. That the minority is insistent is simply that it insists: I understand by this that the minority makes demands, that it insists that it be listened to and/or observed and attended to, but that it also insists on itself. This self-insisting, this insistence on the value of the minority, is best seen in the work of the insurrectionist anarchists who revel in their minority (though not necessarily minoritarian) status. The insurrectionist father, Max Stirner, even wrote to the effect that wherever there was an order- a solution- the Egoist or the Own would transgress that order. There is a profound demo-cratic nature to the minority in that it thus keeps politics in operation (a la Ranciere), but it is also prfoundly anti-democratic insofar as it has in itself the potency to effective preclude decision making. (Here, I want to emphasis the ambiguity of “effective”; it is a word that hides a ruthlessness). There is also a manner in which this problem of the minority is the problem of the anarchic Socratic asking of impertinent questions, and so locates itself at the very heart of the birth of “western thought”, and can thus move along the Platonic or Cynical trajectories.
In another connection, Francois Dastur has written that
Our epoch is characterized by an ‘obsession with the other’ because it is profoundly marked by the development of individualism. There is an apparent paradox in this: the relation to the other becomes obsessive only when it is self-evident, only when a being-in-common or existence shared with others appears no longer as a factual given, but rather as a problem to resolve or a task to accomplish.
It is, I think, provisionally and hesitantly, also this register in which Laurelle is speaking of the minority as a problem. The political field constitutes the minority as a problem because it appears as this other over which we ceaselessly obsess, because of the obviousness of the relation- the minority must be included because it is included, has been counted, even as the majority determines that it is that segment that does not get to determine the mode of its inclusion, and so does not count; and paradoxically, is the included that excludes itself, the counted that demand another counting, part of the order that surges with dis-organisation. This being-in-common, this existence that we share in (the allusion to Jean-Luc Nancy should be appreciated), is exactly the problem that the problem of the minority impertinently insists on. There is the sense that the minority is not a factual given (indeed, today who among us is in the minority? Laurelle was writing this before the advent of the neofeudalist language of the 99%), but that it must be accomplished. How does one accomplish a minority? How does one do “being a minority?”*
Here, again, is a pure expression of the problem of the minority in real political terms:
We do not recognize the right of the majority to impose the law on the minority, even if the will of the majority in somewhat complicated issues could really be ascertained. The fact of having the majority on one’s side does not in any way prove that one must be right. Indeed, humanity has always advanced through the initiative and efforts of individuals and minorities, whereas the majority, by its very nature, is slow, conservative, submissive to superior force and to established privileges.
This is anarchist revolutionary Malatesta speaking the universal insistence that is to be located within each and every particular claim by specific minorities. It is also this moment that finally makes Lenin remark that left communism was an infantile disorder. In our thought today it is this question of the minority that we must attend to because it is a problem that one can’t simply step outside of the field of the problem. The labour of the problem of the minority, or rather the “problematisation” that the minority posits to any established social order and to any attempt at political organisation, is ongoing. If politics involves the identification of wrongs, the contestation of the meanings of the signifier, and the arrangement of space, the arrangement of bodies in relation to one another, it is therefore also fundamentally about the minority. Following Dastur, the minority is problem insofar as it is something that it must be resolved but also in the sense that it must be achieved. This is a two-fold movement, like that of wave first running into shore and then dragging itself away.
To even think about producing a new party, to think about political organisation, we must be keenly aware both of the minority as a problem and as a problematisation of such a party. Laurelle goes on to say that the minorities- let us remember that Laurelle speaks them in the plural, and not only minorities but types of problem- are a ‘theoretical impasse’. In this regard they are part of the very aporetic structure of political thought conceived of as a domain of the praxis of struggle, suggesting that any thought that attempts to liquidate or not to go with the minorities is already not political. This is also to point out that this is simply the case for political thought and as such it is not something to shy away from. The question for us might be how to consider the minority- the demo-cratic, the an-archic- and to organise it in such a way as not to occlude or betray it, whilst not being paralysed by it: Can there be a mass party of the minority?
*On this question see: Schurmann, Reiner. “On Constituting Oneself as an Anarchist Subject.” Praxis International 6, no. 3 (1986): 294–310.