Introduction: by Jodi Dean
The last issue of Volume 16 approaches, from different directions, the inexistent. One direction is from the party. The other is from life. The approach from the party, more precisely, from the question of the party, grows out of the contemporary return to communism, extending the communist hypothesis by interrogating the party as the body of the communist subject. The approach from life, more precisely, from the life excessive to sovereign power, grows out of interdisciplinary explorations into the radicality of life as such, affirming in the irreducible excess of life the new horizon of a politics to come. At first glance, these two approaches may appear utterly antagonistic, two sides of a political-theoretical divide suggestive of if not irreconcilable division than at least incompatible assessments of what is most politically urgent today. And, while it may be tempting to glance again, to look for convergence, perhaps the better option is to maintain or even intensify the division, allowing the gap itself to generate new ideas, convictions, and solidarities.
Issue16.4 leads with Peter D. Thomas, "The Communist Hypothesis and the Question of Organization." Thomas orients the return to communism in the international resurgence of the left. He argues that the discussion of communism occurring in the register of theory is a continuation and working through of practical problems of organization already encountered in the alter-globalization movement at the end of the 1990s. Three models of the party mirror the organizational questions present in contemporary movement and revolt – the compositional party, the party as laboratory, and the expansive party of Gramsci's "Modern Prince." Thomas advocates the latter, presenting it as a name for collective political experimentation.
The exchange between Gavin Walker and Jason E. Smith continues the debate on the party form and the question of political organization. Walker dismantles the easy dismissal of the party as a political form dictating a fixed relation between ideology, program, line, and leadership, emphasizing the volatility and heterogeneity of the party within Marxist thought and history. With and against Alain Badiou, who has asserted that the party is a fully "saturated" political form and hence no longer available for revolutionary politics, Walker endeavors "to think the paradox of the party – its consistency or persistence, as an apparatus of division that nevertheless must hold together." In his rejoinder, Jason E. Smith pushes Marx's distinction between the formal and the historical party. For Marx, these are two moments of one party, moments in dialectical interplay, not markers of the multiplicity of party forms. For Smith, attention to their interplay forces acknowledgement of the concrete relation between party, history, and horizon: what, exactly, is the party to do? Here Smith invokes Amadeo Bordiga's famous question, seize the factories or seize the state? Walker replies by unfolding some of the ideas on which they seemingly agree, such as labor power and the self-abolition of the proletariat, noting there the heart of their disagreement: does communism involve the immediacy of this abolition or does communism take this abolition as a task? The answer in part depends on how one understands Marxism: as a theory of capitalist value or as the discourse of the proletariat as a political subject.
Andreja Zevnik, Erzsébet Strausz, and Simona Rentea have curated a symposium for 16.4, "The Power of Life's Excess: Contesting Sovereignty from Sites that do not exist." As Strausz and Zevnik detail more fully in their introduction, available here, the contributions to the symposium attend to the relationships between politics, life, and the body. They look to identify and produce non-sovereign forms of knowledge, know-how, and erotics, grounded in life rather than sovereign order. In addition to Strausz and Zevnik, contributors to "The Power of Life's Excess" include Ari Hirvonen, Angus McDonald, Michael J. Shapiro, and Colin Wright.
Issue 16.4 concludes with five book reviews: Joel Alden Schlosser reviews Bonnie Honig's Antigone, Interrupted; David Ragazzoni reviews Michaele Ferguson's Sharing Democracy; Thomas Jellis reviews Paul Virilio's The Administration of Fear; Stephen F. Kearse reviews Allesandra Raengo's On the Sleeve of the Visual; and Tara Mulqueen reviews Judith Halberstam's The Queer Art of Failure.
This is my last issue as co-editor of Theory & Event. My time is up. It's been an honor and a privilege to work with the members of the Theory & Event editorial board. I am grateful to Jo Anne Colson for her skills in organization and diplomacy. She keeps the journal running. I am also thankful without measure for the experience of working with my co-editor, Davide Panagia. Not only has he taught me a great many things but he has become a cherished friend and comrade. We are all fortunate that he continues as co-editor, joined by the wonderful James Martel, who is moving from his role as review editor to serve as co-editor. Kam Shapiro will take over from James.