A reversal in the meaning of words . . . is no
mere affair of linguistic usage; it is a reversal
in being-there—that is, in the clearing of the
being of entities such that the foundations
What Is a Thing?1
To the philosophic legitimation of ultimate representations and their rule Heidegger opposes the concept of originary presencing as the (non-dialectical) negation of any such rule. Whence can his subversion be legitimated in its turn? To be sure, the subversion of all sovereign referents is at stake when, late in his writings, he answers the being question in terms of Ereignis, the event of appropriation. With that event discovered at the core of every phenomenon, “the foundations crumble,” it is grundstürzend. The practical consequences to be pointed out later all result from that discovery as it yields the imperative of conforming acting to polymorphous presencing alone. It thus frustrates the very desire for an unshakable ground of theory and action—for a ground, especially, of a theory of action. But what is the preliminary, the prior limen, that bars archic constructs? What delimits the phenomena among which Heideggerian anarchy finds its locus and insinuates itself? It would disconcert any phenomenological rigor if one were able to invoke as a criterion only “the experiences which Heidegger himself has had with Being.”2 The lines cited in the epigraph above point toward the class of phenomena among which anarchy is at all thinkable: the “reversals in being-there.”
In the writings after Being and Time, the concept of being-there (Dasein) signifies less and less the individual and increasingly collectivities and peoples—for example, “the historical being-there of the Greeks.”3 The term designates the situatedness of a Menschentum or a community.4 In the recurring phrase “historical being-there in the midst of entities as a whole,” it is synonymous with “fundamental position,” and in that sense with “epoch.”5 Heidegger’s very idiom thus places the issue of legitimation within anti-humanistic parameters. In the “legitimation of the being of entities,” being-there “is in no way human.”6 Where is the network of phenomena to be sought that justifies dissolving all representations of sovereignty and letting any call for standards get lost in the void of the place they have deserted? It is to be sought in questioning the history of beingthere about the traits of presencing (objective genitive).
This is not to say that Heidegger expects any legitimation from a narrative (as is the case in myths). The history of being-there is narrated only for the sake of discovering the categories of its unfolding. Those categories, the conditions for history, are gathered in a second-order discourse which, although called Seinsgeschichte, history of being, no longer tells any story. It is a discourse about that unfolding and its story. Nor is the categorial investigation speculative as if it reflected the narrative, the first order discourse, on a more universal level. The difference between the narrative and the inquiry into its general traits is the same as the difference between descriptive and transcendental phenomenology.
In his abandonment of any origin that commences and commands—of any standard as stander-before, as 𝛝έσις or position—Heidegger proceeds as in an annulment. His revocation of the titles of rule so generously dispensed by metaphysics follows criteria, ways of krinein, sorting out and discerning, but not standards, postures of measurement.7 To cancel the juridic instruments of power having passed as legitimate for too long is again to bring legal jurisdiction to bear. Two instances or stages (in the juridical sense) of legitimation must therefore be distinguished: the constructive, which establishes the legitimacy of a regulation of obedience,8 and the deconstructive, repealing the principiai representations on which inherited forms of regulation have rested. To pursue the Kantian metaphor of reason as a tribunal: radical phenomenology acts like a deconstructive higher court cancelling the justifications of authority issued by the constructive lower court of metaphysics. The constructive sentences have been shown to be rooted in the Aristotelian pros hen. What is at issue now is the deconstructive sentence, the legitimation of delegitimizing. This is possible on the condition that the factors of ‘all-pervasive’ unity in history not be derived from some in-itself, not even the unity of reason, but be constituted as a network of categorial functions from what in the epigraph above was called the positive “reversals in being-there.”9
The focus on legitimation through categories, along with the quasi-juridic preoccupations that accompany it, mark the birthplace of transcendental philosophy. For Kant, legitimation designates the procedure whereby Rechtmässigkeit, lawfulness, is assured in the usage of a priori concepts. This quest is the pivot on which his critical enterprise revolves. To be sure, in moving from a constructive to a deconstructive use, that method is dissociated from subjectivity, rendered ‘anti-humanistic’. But Heidegger never repudiates the attempt to establish legitimating categorial conditions for ‘the very issue’ of thinking. From Kant to Heidegger, the mechanism of a priori regulation is taken out of the domain of subjectivity, disengaged from the speculative and practical interests that, in Kant, culminate in the question: “What is man?”
In Kantianism the transcendental apparatus legitimates knowledge and action, whereas the Heideggerian retrieval of originary presencing, twin to the delegitimation of regulations of obedience, produces neither scientific knowledge nor any moral law. Rather, it divests thought of all founding power regarding knowledge and action. Stated positively, it invests thought with a new mandate: that of pointing out the historical unfolding of being-there, each configuration of which has been produced by its epochal economy. That historical description allows the phenomenologist to gather ‘originary’ presencing from the ‘original’ reversals and to ask the transcendental question of how the originary differs from the original. If the a priori so discovered is radically poorer than in any German philosophy prior to Heidegger, his way of laying it bare is still a deduction in the Kantian sense. To deduce is to establish the claims of a power (Vermögen as well as Macht) by sorting out what is “by right” (quid juris) from what is “in fact” (quid facti).10 The legitimation of the anarchic origin requires a deduction. This is both feasible and inescapable since presencing can only be thought economically; since the originary appears only in differing from the original; since the event of appropriation (Ereignis) can be thematized only through the reversals in historical destiny (Geschehen)—inasmuch as it is their condition. It should not be objected that in his last writings Heidegger seeks to think presencing precisely without recourse to orders of presence, the originary without the original, Ereignis without Geschehen, and that the ontological difference is then no longer his ‘leading idea’. Such is indeed the case, but that last project presupposes the cumulative result of the early ‘destruction’ and the later ‘deconstruction’. Furthermore, when in his very last essay Heidegger addresses himself to the issue of legitimation, originary presencing is again situated as different from original epochs: thinking the event of unconcealment is verbindlich because such thinking is the counter-move to the epochal transition from Parmenides to Plato and Aristotle.11 Asking the being question remains essentially inseverable from taking the long detour through the historical or ‘destinal’ modes of being-there. The temporal difference remains essential to Heidegger’s thinking until the end.
To see that essential link, it is sufficient to reflect on one curious consequence of the Kehre: in the first writings the transcendental traits of being were gathered, not, as in Aristotle, from the many ways in which we speak of it, nor, as in Kant, from the “covert judgments of common reason,”12 but from our daily ways of being in the world. It is in the ordinary relationships with what surrounds us that we understand ‘always already’ what being is. But the reference to daily experience becomes inoperative with the Kehre. There is a good reason for this. If preseneing—’being’—is grasped only through its difference from epochal presence, then our everyday experience of being is lost forever as soon as a new fold unfurls presence in a new constellation. Everydayness gives us immediate access to presencing, but that access remains momentary. To retrieve it historically is to recover the event of presencing only mediately. Heidegger never denies the key discovery made in Being and Time, namely, that we are implicated in the play of presencing and absencing through everydayness. But if ‘being’ has a history, we can only recall the everyday originary through the distant original. Past presencing is mute. That is why we will never know what the Incan monuments and jewels truly meant for their users. Above all, that is why, once history has become the guiding issue, a discourse on presencing can no longer be construed from the “characteristics of being proper to being-there,” understood as “that entity which we are always ourselves.”13 The existential analytic ceases to be a viable path as soon as everydayness is understood to have a history. It is not as if after 1930 Heidegger lost interest in the ‘existentials’ and in everyday existence. Rather, their analysis until then supposed ‘care’ and ‘being-in-the-world’ to denote presencing beyond historical contingencies (while grounding these—but that is another problem). Everydayness designated the locus of trans-historical presencing. Now, if henceforth presencing is seen as articulating itself epochally, and the difference, temporally, then being can be retrieved only indirectly by a return to its reversals. What is mine, possessed, in everydayness can now be repossessed only as deferred, that is, by the long detour through the concrete beginnings of the ages in Western history.14 If one wishes to speak of holism in Heidegger, after the ‘turning’, that can no longer be done in terms of Dasein s “potentiality for being a whole,”15 but only in reference to epochs as whole “fundamental positions.”16 An epoch is a broken whole, however, since the word designates the witholding of presencing. The three-tiered difference (entities-beingness-being or present-presence-presencing) confines totality to the ontic—beingness makes entities complete—which entails the impossibility of construing being as “belonging” or “maintaining.”17
This new mediation for a discourse on presencing—no longer through existential characteristics, but through epochal reversals—contributes at least one element, and an essential one, to the problem of legitimation in Heidegger, namely, the deduction of the categories of presencing from the moments of historical inception.18 The Verbindlichkeit for delegitimating the rule of epochal principles is obtained by formalization of those beginnings which, although they never introduce any entirely new ‘trait’ into history, produce empirical newness within categorial oldness. The issue of legitimation must therefore be broached by an analysis of the concrete sequence of original beginnings—by an analytic that will be neither notional nor existential, but epochal. The legitimating material is taken from the finite slice of Western history. Needless to add, this method does not stop at a mere account of “the raw existant,” for it does not raise the question of what is originary in the original ontically, and its question is not answered by enumerating a sequence of facts, to be explained by other facts. Heidegger’s is not a positivist account. In his epochal analytic, the ontological question is raised historically or originally, which allows him to ask simultaneously the question of the originary ontologically. The sequence analyzed is not one of facts, but one of economies of facts. It is obvious how Heidegger remains faithful, even while transposing it, to the Kantian project of “unveiling analytically the totality of a structure.”19 Such a structural whole is now an epochal economy, that is, the historical deployment of beingness as presence. It will come into view once its own formal determinants or conditions have been analyzed. That is what it means to deduce the categories of presencing.
The categories and their status are decisive for understanding the purport of the Heideggerian project and notably of ‘the history of being’. Commentators have read that project as a quasi-theology of history or, at the other extreme, as a kind of historical positivism. These two readings are equally unacceptable. Between them, the domain of the categorial stakes out the intermediary ground.
On one hand, some interpreters, perhaps more interested in proselytizing than in conceptual ana-lyein, claim to have detected a “theological a priori in the historical progress of Western thought” according to Heidegger;20 to them being appears as a noumenal “not-I,” the “overpowering partner” of man, “a power toward which one can adopt personal attitudes as toward the Christian God.”21 On the other hand, the ‘history of being has appeared as the triumph of empiricism and historical relativism. Here Heideggerian ‘philosophy’ would oppose, point for point, all that the theologizing readings praise in it: instead of a Subject of history, the raw positivity and the irreducible contingency of facts; instead of a Doctrine, inventory; instead of a Law of Being, “the pragmatic comprehension of being,” “bound by no normative or methodological attachment.”22 Heidegger took adamant exception to both renditions: “Being—that is not God”;23 and “historicism” arises from the embarrassment of “wanting to arrange the history of being in accord with the historiographical representations current today.”24
Nevertheless, it is not difficult to draft the route between these two extremes, between the Scylla of a noumenal Subject and the Charybdis of positivist historicism. It follows the intermediary line of the functional determinations which, over the course of epochal reversals, have structurally stamped the economic orders. To speak of categories is to focus on the network of traces that are medial to the noumenal and the empirical, a network made of the totality of relations among phenomena as they are epochally possible and which are in that sense both historical and formal. To categorize is to gather the rules for interaction by which the successive fields become at all comparable. Since these rules originate in a given constellation of the temporal difference, they are a priori. Gathering them is the task of a phenomenology in which, as I believe I have established, the Very issue’ is no longer any subjectivity that gives sense (or signification) but the history of presencing and its shifts in sense (or direction). Due to the a priori role of the categories, reconstructing ‘the history of being’ is a project, not of descriptive, but of transcendental phenomenology. If it is understood that the traditional term ‘category’ is here shorn not only of all ousiological and subjectivist connotations, but also of all references to phenomenal regions—human (daseinsmässig) and non-human (nicht daseinsmässig)25—if it is understood, in other words, that ϰ⍺τη𝛾oϱει̃v, “to accuse,” no longer means “to address oneself to entities as such or such,”26 but to address presencing and its manifold ways of differing from the economies of presence, then nothing prohibits rehabilitating this venerable word. Categorial phenomenology does not seek to formalize an object or some representable content. It seeks to set free the continuities according to which the many networks of epochal presence have differed from presencing. When the material to be so formalized turns from human life, in the early Heidegger, to the history of being, the meaning of ϰατηγορεῖν changes accordingly. The ‘existentials’ are replaced by ‘fundamental traits’. Nevertheless, both Existenzialien and Grundzüge are modifications within the one categorial problematic.
Instead of speaking of categories of presencing, it could be objected that it is rather a matter of schemata, of transcendentals, or of topoi.
Following Heidegger’s interpretation of Kant, the schemata are operative in the formation of finite transcendence. They render ‘ontological knowledge’ sensible in an image and thereby constitute the pure dimension of encounter called being-in-the-world. In that role, their function is a transcendental one. The schemata are the literally radical acts of the imagination: through them the imagination, the common root of intuition and understanding, forms the temporal horizon of any possible phenomenon.27 In the critical sense, the schema is an a priori unity of heterogeneous elements which makes a concept applicable to experience. In the ontological sense, the schema is an a priori unity of homogeneous elements which is formed by the imagination and which makes it possible for the ego to transcend itself toward what stands opposite it. In the first sense, defined by the relation between pure concepts and intuitions, the schema vindicates too little—a simply intermediary role in knowledge—to be applicable to the phenomenology of the reversals of presence. In the second sense, defined by the a priori constitution of transcendence, it claims too much, for then there is only one single form of all schemata, time.28 The multiple determinations of the economies that we are seeking must assuredly be applicable to the sensible, to empirical history; but the question of this application and its forms remains distinct from the question of the functional traits to be applied, and the latter is precisely the categorial question. In other words, the schematism does not seem to provide a viable transition from a phenomenology of Dasein to that of ‘the history of being’, whereas the categories round that cape very well.
The transcendentals warrant an analogous remark. They do not make it possible to round the cape that separates a realist ontology from a phenomenological ontology. The ‘fundamental traits’ with which the latter operates, just like the ‘existentials’, often appear convertible into one another. In reading that Heidegger translates, for example, phusis, eon, and logos by the same word Anwesen, presencing, one cannot help recalling medieval doctrines of the convertibility between the transcendental perfections of being. And yet, those Greek words translated as Anwesen assuredly do not designate real perfections. Those traits are not qualities of things, but operational rules for ‘destinai’ articulation. By this operational character of the categories, the deconstruction of epochs remains a transcendental enterprise in a sense derived from Kant. To speak of categories is precisely to take exception to the ontological realism implied in the neo-Aristotelian usage of “transcendental.”
The word topos, lastly, would be perfectly suitable as a title for the identical elements pervading the mutations of presence if it were not indispensable precisely as a designation for the punctuations in the history of being, that is, for the stops or stays which, within the metaphysical closure, are called epochs. Non-epochal (non-principial) economies are obviously topoi of presencing, too. The concept of topoi is thus to be retained for the synchronic stampings (jeweilige Prägungen) as the loci29 of the temporal difference, but not for the traits of its diachronie unfolding (Austrag). The economies, as well as the nodal points that both link and separate them, are the topoi in which presencing assumes its guises. The first instance in which Heidegger uses the term ‘topology’ links it to Dichten (“poetizing,” but more literally, “rendering dense”—dicht30—perhaps ‘crystallizing’ or ‘coagulating’). The topology, the ‘gathering of places’, designates the coming-together of presencing in a finite order of presence. Only secondarily does the term refer to the reading of such an order, also called “site,” “abode,” “dwelling,” “fatherland” by the phenomenologist. But to call topoi the formal ‘all-pervasive’ invariables of the historical folds would be to immobilize them. These invariables, as functionally identical but differing topologically, are appropriately called categories.
As such a baring of traits, the verb ϰατηγορείν recovers its pre-philosophical sense, “manifesting.” To ‘categorize’ is to prosecute: to stand above (ϰατά) the market place (ἀγοϱά) on a platform and to ‘accuse’ someone by declaring straightforwardly that his deeds have been such and such. It is to manifest the various features of what is the case.31
To deduce the categories of originary presencing from the concrete sequence of the original modes of presence is to bring into view “a stretch of the way of the authentic history which is always the history of the revealedness of being; but this way remains necessarily hidden from the ordinary eye.”32 The natural, ordinary attitude can only be overcome by a gaze that sweeps the course of metaphysics in more than one motion. What is literally decisive in that history are the slidings: moments of distress and danger for the era that is departing, but inaugural, auroral moments for the one arriving. The reversals thus disclose themselves to a bifocal analysis which progresses toward the threshold of transition by following the expiring economy, and regresses toward that same threshold by looking back from the economy about to appear. This progression and regression are movements of the analytic gaze. The categories it deciphers are therefore prospective and retrospective. But two eyes are not enough. In order to seize the phenomenon of reversal as such, a third class of categories is required, the transitional categories. It is to these that Heidegger has devoted his greatest effort of analytical phenomenology.
What is to be attempted, then, is a threefold reading of the ‘history of being’: forward from its Presocratic inception which yields the prospective categories (eon, phusis, alētheia, logos, hen, nous); backward from its late modern conclusion, which yields the retrospective categories (will to power, nihilism, justice, eternal recurrence, transmutation of values and death of God, overman); and finally from the turning that closes this history and which yields the transitional categories (ontological difference/world and thing; ‘there is’/favor; unconcealment/event of appropriation; epoch/clearing; nearness/fourfold; corresponding/thinking).
The pages that follow attempt to show how this table of three times six categories enables one to wrest originary presencing from the original shifts in presence. Whereas the three classes of categories seem exhaustive to me, the number of categories in each of them certainly is not. The reason lies in the very nature of their deduction: not an a priori construction, but a historical analytic along the leading thread of what I have called the temporal difference. This is the table:
will to power
transmutation of values,
But is it not a monstrosity to draw categories, a system, a table even, from what Heidegger called “thinking” precisely to oppose it to “philosophy”? Thinking’s “good and therefore wholesome danger is the nighness of the singing poet.” But its “bad and therefore muddled danger is philosophizing.”33 A monstrosity indeed: the one that I have tried to encapsule in the phrase ‘anarchy principle’. It inexorably stamps our age as hyper-ordered, oversystematized, and yet perhaps as capable of another birth, “still unnamable, but which announces itself—and cannot but announce itself as is necessary each time a birth is in progress—in the species of a non-species, in the formless, mute, infant and terrifying form of monstrosity.”34
In what seems like a confused variety of
representations when gathered up at random
and telescoped by historiography, a sameness
and simplicity of the destiny of being comes
to the fore and, accordingly, a solid
steadiness of the history of thinking and of
what it has thought. However, seeing in its
ownmost trait what so remains the same is
difficult for us and seeing it in its fullness,
Der Satz vom Grund35
No epochal break has been more incisive than that undergone by the American civilizations at the time of the Spanish conquest. Before examining the fundamental traits that are needed in general to read reversals between eras, let us see empirically how many types of such traits—how many categorial classes—are required to render intelligible the scission of 1531 from which ‘the new world’ was born.
This is how a chronicler describes that novelty: “The good Christians arrived here with the true God; but that was the beginning of our wretchedness, the beginning of tribute, the beginning of alms, the cause of the misery from which hidden discord came, the beginning of battles with firearms, the beginning of offenses, the beginning of despoiliation, the beginning of enslavement by debt, the beginning of debts affixed to our shoulders, the beginning of continual brawling, the beginning of suffering.”36
In order to understand what changed in Peru when within a few weeks Pizarro and his troops made themselves masters of an empire as vast as Spain, France, Germany, and ancient Austria-Hungary combined, it may seem enough to relate the events. But having stated the facts of arms, ruses, and alliances, we would still not know what mutation the Inca principle—supreme cacique and decimal system—underwent, how a new principle established itself, how the substitute apparatus took root, and how it was agglutinated on the preceding order. Therefore, a more complex perspective is called for.
A first scrutinizing sweep consists in following the salient traits of the pre-Columbian state of affairs and in examining how these traits are transformed with the Christian conquest. The most visible trait of the Inca civilization is the princeps, the Inca himself. What did the autocracy become after August 29, the day Pizarro had Atahualpa garroted?
The arrival of the Spaniards had been preceded by baleful omens and soothsayings. The eighth Inca had predicted that strange men would invade and destroy the Empire. This prophecy was expressed once more by means of the decimal system. The Inca calendar was divided into units of ten. The bygone ages had each lasted a thousand years. Ten legendary emperors had reigned, each for a hundred years. Hence the agonizing question: would the present age expire at the end of a similar cycle? Now according to these calculations, the last Inca would reign in the sixteenth century A.D.37 The eighth Inca had even erected a statue in honor of the god to come: it represented a man of great height, bearded, dressed in a long tunic, and holding a fabulous taloned animal by a chain. Pizarro, one might say, had indeed been expected. The Indians perceived his arrival as the fulfillment of a prophecy announcing the return of a civilizing god. The great riddle prompted by the conquistadors was: are they gods or men? On one occasion, Pizarro’s soldiers intercepted a message carried by couriers from one Inca general, Callcuchima, to another, Quizquiz: “Callcuchima had sent them to inform Quizquiz that they [the Spaniards] were mortal.”38
However, Pizarro does not inherit the status of princeps. It becomes fragmented among the local Indian chiefs, the vestiges of the separatist Inca state,39 and the viceroy of Lima. Once the last Inca has been baptized, forty years after the conquest, only to be immediately beheaded, the ancient Inca autocracy splits into two parallel systems: the indigenous caciques, often exercising their power in secrecy, and colonial centralism. The first, that of the vanquished, preserves no more than regional holdovers of the ancient principiai power. The second, that of the conquerors, has its center in the remote person of Charles the Fifth and remains foreign to the Indians. During his lifetime the Inca had embodied the center of the universe. That center assassinated, chaos ensues: “the sun, castrated, the father, forsaking his children, utter grief and solitude.” “Everything vanishes into hiding, everything fades in suffering,” a popular elegy says.40 With the disappearance of its chief, Cuzco is no longer what its name signifies, the cosmic navel.
What becomes of the rational Inca principium, the decimal system? The social organization it supported can hardly maintain itself in the face of the demographic catastrophe that the conquest inflicted on the groups of 10, 100, 1,000, and 10,000 men. The ravages caused by smallpox, measles, and influenza in that unimmunized population are well known. The natural ally of diseases is the violence which “characterizes colonial society like a fact integral to its structure.”41 The documents show Indians driven to suicide: “Some hang themselves, others let themselves die of hunger, others ingest poisonous herbs, women kill their children at birth, ‘to free them from the torments their mothers suffer.’”42 Before the close of the century, the population has decreased by four-fifths. However, social networks paralleling those imposed by the new masters continue to take shape around the ancient decimal units. Throughout the colonial period, people will speak of the Republic of the Indians and the Republic of the Spaniards.
In addition to these two most striking features of the fast-vanishing age, the autocracy and the decimal system, the expiration can be read by numerous other traits. For example, the use of coca. Under the Inca, only the priests and dignitaries were entitled to it. Offering the leaves or chewing them ritually was part and parcel of all ceremonies. After the conquest, it turned into a stimulant used to neutralize hunger and fatigue. Its production increased accordingly. As a need-depressing nutrient, it is a major factor in the new tableau. Even today, the poorer a Peruvian village, the more shops one finds in it filled only with bales of this bitter shrub. It continues to play a part in ceremonies, but the main purpose of its consumption is to make days of work possible practically without food. “Without coca, there would not be a Peru.”43
These descriptions have followed a first perspective. All factors cited have been taken from the economy that precedes the reversal, and I have suggested what has become of them in the grip of expropriation. Their description has been prospective. A second type of factors is to be examined: everything truly new that the conquest brings, never seen before on American soil. The description of this second ensemble will have to be retrospective.
Here is how a chronicler of Cuzco describes these unseen sights: “They say that they had seen arriving in their country beings quite different from us, as much in their customs as in their clothing: they resembled the ‘Viracochas’, a name by which we formerly designated the Creator of all things. . . . And they gave that name to the beings they had seen, on one hand because they differed so much from us in looks and dresses, on the other, because they saw them astraddle very large animals with silver feet: this because of the sparks flying from the horseshoes. They also gave them that name because they saw them speak at leisure by means of white sheets, as a person speaks to another: and this because of their reading of books and letters. Lastly, they called them ‘Viracochas’ because of their remarkable faces. There were great differences between them: some had black beards, others, red ones. They saw them eat from silver plates. And they possessed ‘Yllapas’, a name we give to thunderbolts: this because of the harquebuses, which they believed to bring thunder down from the heavens.”44
Here the new ‘traits’ mix diversely with the ancient ones. Some continuity is obvious, but it does not preclude a radical transformation. In the domains of production and distribution the new features amalgamate with the old through the forces of need. The most striking example is the monetary economy imposed by the conquistadors. In the market which results, the Indians and their institutions quite naturally come to play the role of exploited work forces. We have seen that under the Inca, on the contrary, state distribution rendered market exploitation impossible. In the areas of clothing and food, such an amalgamation of traits is less successful. The Indians resist the consumption of wheat and, to a lesser degree, the adoption of pants and hats. However, the ancient and new ‘traits’ remain entirely disparate in the religious domain. The pre-Inca cults, holding fast to life, subsist parallel to the Catholic institutions. Clandestine rites are practiced, for example, around a mummy from the time of the Inca. Often, as if in defiance, they are carried out near churches or even behind the altar. Llamas are sacrificed right in front of the parish priest’s door. When the Creole authority strikes, the Indians yield, but only for a while. The missionaries compel them to bury their dead instead of disposing of them in nearly inaccessible cavities in the lofty mountains. The Indians comply, but at night they go to the cemeteries to dig up the corpses—“out of pity and out of compassion for our dead, so that they are not fatigued by the weight of the clumps of soil.”45
The market economy, ecclesiastical burials, writing, horses, firearms: it is no exaggeration to say that these have ‘made’ colonial and modern Peru. They are indeed traits that, given their role since the conquest, can be recognized retrospectively as more salient in the tableau than, for example, the beards of which some were dark, others red. This second ensemble of aspects can therefore be deciphered only backward. They do not simply substitute themselves for the ensemble made up of the theocracy, the state economy, the decimal system, the Inca; rather they overdetermine and thereby transmute it.
The reason why these two classes of indexes, prospective and retrospective, do not sufficiently comprehend the reversal undergone by the pumashaped city is that they do not address this reversal itself. What is still required, then, is an ensemble of viewpoints relative to the transition as such. Here the terms will necessarily be more abstract. What happens in the transition from the pre-colonial to the colonial era is primarily a dispossession.46 The Indians are deprived of their gold, their goods, their land, their peace, their means of production and consumption, their sites, their rites, their administrative and spriritual organization, their progeniture, their life. Dispossession says more than annihilation, it indicates the passage of one’s possessions into other hands. Colonial dispossession is, however, incomplete. It is accompanied and counteracted by many ways of surreptitious reappropriation. The Indians develop the art of camouflage. For example: “the dissimulation of the traditional cults under Christian veneer.”47 To understand a historical break, pairs of categories are required. The Spaniards bring upon the Indians a deculturation, but one that is only the reverse of a project of acculturation (that this acculturation has, on the whole, run aground deplorably is another matter: except in isolated cases, conversion to the imported culture never took place). “Deculturing was never followed by real acculturing.”48 Stated otherwise, the destructuring proceeds without real restructuring.49 Since assimilation was to remain a wish, since none of the attempts at acculturing the Indians and restructuring their society penetrated the real apparatus, the most appropriate term for describing the epochal transition in question is perhaps that of disjunction. The disappearance of the Inca, guardian and guarantor of social and, it was believed, cosmic order, disjoins the princeps from its dependents. Moreover, his disappearance entails a disjunction between the new lords and the Indians. Ultimately, the Earth itself is disjoined from the Sun.50 On the surface, the disjunction opens a rift that sets apart two eras; in depth, it tends to give autonomy to life strata that hitherto formed a whole. Heidegger will speak of “decision,” Ent-scheidung, in addressing such phenomena of systemic disruption.
To understand at all what a reversal or a crisis is in history, a threefold perspective is required. The prospective categories reveal the received traits as they undergo a transmutation. The retrospective categories reveal what comes about as new, original, in such a crisis and what, although as yet hidden, determines the new order of phenomenal interconnectedness. We cannot speak of such epochal novelty except after it has already grown old. Lastly, the transitional categories are to reveal, in the crisis, the ϰϱίvειv (separating) itself. The mutations, the displacements, the continuities, the ruptures, the overdeterminations become intelligible only when examined from these three viewpoints. The new distribution of powers, truths, expectations (e.g., in the Indian Messianism) are graspable in their novelty only through this threefold approach whereby the Spanish variables invest their future in the Incan variables, thus transposing the phenomenal network in its entirety. In this way, the dividing line that separates the Incan apparatus from its colonial displacement appears as traced by a tactic of reinterpretation.