T H R E E O R I E N TA T I O N S
Our task today is nothing less than the task of creating a form or symbolization of the
world. . . . This task is a struggle. In a sense, it is a struggle of the West against itself,
of capital against itself. It is a struggle between two infinites, or between extortion and
exposition. It is the struggle of thought, very precisely concrete and demanding, in which
we are engaged by the disappearing of our representations of the abolishing or over-
coming of capital. It demands that we open or discern in capital another type or another kind
of a flaw than what we understood to be insurmountable contradictions, and that capital was
able to overcome, thus overcoming also our representations. . . . The moment has come
to expose capital to the absence of reason, for which capital provides the fullest development: and
this moment comes from capital itself, but it is no longer a moment of a “crisis” that can
be solved in the course of the process. It is a di=erent kind of moment to which we must
give thought.—jean-luc nancy
Although a purely capitalist society can never be concretely realized, the fact that at a
certain stage of development it begins to develop in this pure direction by means of
its own forces, and the fact that its underside or verso expresses a historical process in
which this development is reversed, forcing capitalism to anticipate its own termination,
simultaneously forces the theoretical systematization of this process toward its own com-
pletion or perfection. From the outset, a commodity economy is something in which the
relation between one society and another penetrates back into the interior of each soci-
ety itself and secures this moment as its ground—a commodity economy must contain
a fundamental (im)possibility, an absence or “nihil” of reason [muri], inasmuch as it
expresses and treats relations among human beings as relations among things, and yet
it is paradoxically the precise fact that this (im)possibility [muri] itself has paradoxically
developed as a form capable of ordering the totality of society that renders possible our
own theoretical systematization of its motion.—uno ko¯zo¯
Empirical concepts bear on the determinations of the singularity of concrete objects—
that is, on the fact that such a social formation presents such and such a configuration,
traits, particular arrangements, which characterize it as existing. . . . But this term must
not lead us into error. Empirical concepts are not pure givens, not the pure and simple
tracing, not the pure and simple immediate reading, of reality. They are themselves the
result of a whole process of knowledge, containing several levels or degrees of elabora-
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