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Francis Bacon, Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953)

Trump, or capital in the Oval Office

Originally published: Critical Legal Thinking by Benedict Thorn (October 25, 2018)   | 

The moment was of course metaphysically necessary—that capital incarnate itself as man and come among us. The question we must ask rather is how this descent occurs, for that determines all that follows.

Trump is not a pope and he has not come down amongst his priesthood, his presence conferring absolution on the interpreters of the law. Trump is not a neoliberal and he has not come down amongst neoliberals—his descent from the gracious realm of capital has been immediate and to the base. In this way Trumpism cannot be considered a doctrine; it—he—is capital in act. According to some theo-logic the body is transubstantiated with capital in actu.

The due order of our financialised world, which proceeds from capital through the spheres of finance and industry, through Wall Street and Main Street, and into the corporeal depths which capital needs but has not heretofore recognised—all this structure has been traversed by the spirit of capital in an instant. That entire cosmological architecture has been collapsed by the act of a god’s coming amongst us; coming down into the lowest order of the world which is the source of his glory.

Traversed and destroyed, thereby releasing capital from the Old Law—the old, sanguinary Law which is supposed to support capital by bringing light to the abyssal reaches of the physical void. The Law of imperial liberalism. That is why Trump is neoliberalism in its purest movement—it competes with itself, devours even itself, its own body, even the stuff it spits out and ejects. Where there was light, let there be an obscurity haphazardly stricken by flashes of the Wrath. For obscurity is the raw material of capital’s own glorification, and under Trump even capitalism itself—the old capitalism—becomes suspect because it too has become corrupted by structure, by form, by logic.

In this inversion of the capitalist theology it is necessary for Trump to dis-grace the established order, to seize the very throne of capitalism and subject it and its nobility to the worst degradations. It is not this man-child who has been elevated to the highest office in the ‘free world’; the highest office has been dragged down to there, where Trump has descended.

Hence also this feeling that Trump is with us folks, looking in. In front of Fox News, late at night in his bed, stuffing the presidential bulk with McDonalds, Trump mortifies his flesh seeking always thereby to emit in some grotesque oracular manner his own facile commentary on the presidency.

It is a ritual of great cunning: Trump-capital presents to himself his own base—the forgotten—as one among them, tweeting with them, eating and viewing with them from their vantage point. Observe well: it is a question of the most monadological equivalence of minds, for Trump’s acts of perceiving, his intensions, the how he sees of his seeing, are the intensions of his material, one might rather say alchemical base. We all see the same world, from differing points of view.

Yet the how of this seeing is not the logical intensionality of the monad. The how of this seeing is a seeing truly proper to the depths of the body. The seeing of the light is replaced by a seeing through the spark of the wrath. To be is to be hated.

And here amongst his followers, Trump-capital, the god descended as man-child, effects the necessary revelation: he destroys himself; he destroys Trump the man-child—mentally, physically, ethically—so that among the populace there is revealed the true Spirit of Capital.

To be effective the creative destruction of the divine descent must be immanent and ongoing. There can be no Trumpism, no institution of a new Brahmin caste. Witness the revolving door of appointments to Trump’s inner circle. No sooner is one appointed that she must resign or be sacked. Those who survive are placed into a permanent state of emergency as they struggle to remain at once supportive of the President’s latest decree, at once consistent with the demands of their office, and their own sense of constancy (to the extent required to appear as an officer in the White House).

What are Trump’s politics? This is the wrong question. Capital come to earth holds only that policy which, if pursued, will destroy the last. Hence it is necessary that Trump both be pro-Brexit and against free trade with Britain, pro- and contra NAFTA, the enemy of the Paris Accord and willing to rebuild it.

Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would. In a heartbeat. I would approve more than that. It works.

… and if it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway for what they do to us.

It is not that Trump thinks both positions simultaneously; he must hold both vehemently one after the other. The contradiction is the furious activity of a whip-driven unhappiness, for do we not suffer the concept, do we not all suffer capital? Why do we always have to CHOOSE?

Our torments also may in length of time // Become our elements.

For Trump is in love with chaos and seeks union with it. His most bizarre announcements express perhaps the innermost truth: Trump has given himself to absurdity, has so deranged matters that the POTUS has willingly become Nebuchadnezzar, crawling on all fours but, unlike the accursed Babylonian, this status has taken on a form of inverted beatitude whereby god, blinded with rage by the darkness stares for eternity into the whirlwind. A god’s highest expression at its lowest level.

When Trump arrived in Washington, D.C. for his inauguration, Trump arrived several hours later to observe himself. He was and was not there at the Chairman’s Dinner where Trump spent a short speech commenting on the greatness of the Cabinet appointments he had made to date. At such events it is critical that Trump not be there but rather looking in from the outside. Witness, however, the unofficial events such as the Make America Great Again Concert the next day: Trump is there with his base, but his base is not in fact there. At this latter event Trump speaks of the ‘forgotten’ man, cognisant always that were the forgotten man to attend the event he would be part of the whole theatre of institutional politics. The forgotten man cannot be present save only intensionally; like Trump that is: looking in.

It is for this reason that journalists and Trump were both correct about the attendance at the Inaugural Ceremony. The actual numbers were minuscule, but the streets were thronged with forgotten men, that is, thronged with the invisible and dumbfounded. They were there because they could not be there. They were ‘alternative facts’ according to administration spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway.

Capital-as-man has descended so far because he knows that that of which nothing can be said—the invisible ground—overflows with a potential, the potential of the void. It is a question of freeing matter from the strictures of form; of tearing down the mind, pulling it into the living body. A living body and not a labouring machine, for a labouring machine has parts, whereas the Trumpian body has parts beyond count of reason, beyond the order of morality. For space is moral; that space relies on the mutual repugnance of its parts is an old doctrine. In this void, however, the proper separation has not yet occurred and all points are intermixed. The parts could be here or there simultaneously, generating a movement which is necessarily prior to physical motion. That is the unhappiness, the un-quiet on which Trump-capital metabolises its rage.

For that reason it was not enough for Trump to enter Washington; he had to perform a kind of sexual assault upon it—grab Washington ‘by its pussy’—the effect being not specifically to analogise between abuse and political strategy, but to do everything possible to destroy the moral division between proper, civilian rationality and the bad stuff that happens down there.

If Trump appears not to have the emotional intelligence to comprehend the effects of his behaviour it is because he was born in the cradle of capital, and that as a god, a god incarnated as a man-child, he need only reproduce himself. Capital begets capital, exceeding money as medium of exchange by becoming its own use value—a begetter of self. This hypersexualised asexual god is concerned only with a simulacrum of merely human relations, civil relations; his ham-fisted fumblings put on as aberrant parables for his faithful.

Why does God create the world? For his own  glorification, so the orthodoxy goes. But with the descent of God to the lowest level the structure of the world with its interlocking commands and religious exactions becomes an irrelevant obstacle to the Glory.

The individual body need not revert, need not ascend the ladder of being, its desire slowly contracting as appetite, and will, and love of God. The ‘path’ has folded in on itself, for God is already among us; the Highest End of all activity is immanent to the material base.

Be under no doubt as to the significance of this. Having collapsed the very reason for the hierarchy of capital, the construction of and return to capital, Trump has put into question the private pursuit of wealth and the freeing of markets of proprietors for that end. The civil and political realm—the modern Mind abstracted from and owner of Body—must itself suffer a violent fission from itself, freeing up reason, or ‘information’ if you prefer a more modern term, to exploitation and expropriation.

The modern liberal finds himself a kind of enlightened witch, a throwback to an older time in which the liberal understood his rationality as integral to his very being. And like his forerunners such a holism cannot hold; reason must be exorcised from the subject, pushed out, broken down. Civil and political reason must be repugnant; it must be the object of hate and disgust.

In this moment we are presented with the central movement expressing Trump-capital: de-moralisation. From the very moment Trump touched down he has degraded Washington, degraded the Presidency, he has been so thoroughgoing in this policy that he actively degrades his family and himself. He pursues at all times this policy of demoralisation where any semblance of morality—of a mode of being which inclines one to an end—becomes utterly pointless precisely because we are enjoined: behold the end made flesh and it is repugnant.

But he still proceeds according to the manner of a god. Thus this is not libertinage, for Trump is not pursuing just any end that he should will; rather he pursues all ends, even and especially contradictory ends and debases both. Nor is this a kind of war against morality after the manner of some heresy, for there is no heterodoxy cited to justify burning of books, or rather orthodoxy is split into a thousand heterodoxies and none.

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