Edge Architecture

Anna Boghiguian, A Drum That Forgot Its Own Rhythm, 2019.


Commentary on the newly released book

“All truth asserts itself in the destruction of nonsense. All truth is therefore essentially destruction. Everything that simply conserves is simply false. The field of Marxist knowledge is always a field of ruins” (Alain Badiou).

Architecture of Edges: the left in times of peripherization of the world, brings an unusual set of reflections on the contemporary world and the directions of the left. Its form is unconventional. It is not a set of articles organized by the authors with specialists in the subject. Nor a co-authorship in its classic format. But a kind of duet, in full rehearsal, and not always harmonious. The two voices are that of Edemilson Paraná, professor of sociology at the Federal University of Ceará, and that of Gabriel Tupinambá, psychoanalyst and researcher in Rio de Janeiro. From forays into different fields and theories, the authors dialogue and experiment in an attempt to reach possible formulations to generate diagnoses of the present and organizational and political axes in which the current left can overcome its various and profound limits and challenges.

In reality, the book is not just composed of this main duet. As the authors themselves explain, the work is the result of a “great conversation”, only synthesized in the duet. She began publicly in a series of publications on Boitempo's blog back in 2017, in which the author of this review intervened with a comment. In those publications, the two authors positioned themselves through replies on the three forms and dimensions of the contemporary left, in short, the institutional-parliamentary, the traditional-radical, and the fragmentary-postmodern, on their respective logics, complementarities, insufficiencies and conflicts.

And, since then, other voices that reflect the dilemmas of the left in Brazil have joined the chorus. In the edition of Autonomia Literária, we have the presence of Vladimir Safatle, in the ear; by Sabrina Fernandes, in the preface; by Rodrigo Nunes, in the afterword; in addition to Luisa Marques, responsible for the illustrations.

The musical metaphor, however, is not chosen by the authors to represent this collective effort. As the title itself announces, the chosen metaphor is the architectural one. Or even topography. Taking the left as a surveyor, architect and mason – and the world (including the left itself) as a terrain to be worked on, this is the experiment on which the work focuses.

The division of the book is also marked with very suggestive names: construction site, part where we have the integrality of the dialogue already seen in the Boitempo's blog; toolbox, an attempt at self-organization (in action) of the authors' theses, in view of the ideas discussed in the previous part; and the analysis of the terrain, in which we have an effort by the duo that comes closest to a classic “conjuncture analysis”, in addition to a final look at the work. All parts set in Marques' illustrations that remind us of Caetano Veloso: "here everything looks like it was still under construction and is already a ruin".

The tension between (re)construction and ruin (crisis) of the left versus the (re)construction and ruin (crisis) of the world (called by the authors “peripheralization” – this place where we have the “privilege” to know for some centuries ) runs throughout the book. This is perhaps the strongest and most interesting aspect of the work. The authors manage to place emphasis on the positive and constructive character of all this, in part apparent, ruin. There is, in the most varied critical approaches, a quest to face the crisis, the destruction, the disarrangement.

Be it in contemporary capitalism in continuous processes of disarticulation, in the spheres of work, economy, politics and culture. Be on the left trying to survive and rebuild in this new environment. Not to sink us into melancholy or catastrophism. But to extract some power from there, even if still provisional, an opportunity to redirect our political and organizational action. As Sabrina Fernandes says, the book “invites and challenges debate via uncertainty, distrust and the fertile ground of reformulation”. Or like Sérgio Ferro, central figure of the introduction, “recognizing in the unfinished the signs of a possible conquest”.

The authors in fact challenge us to think of a contradictory reality based on their own contradictions – and to guide the action under the new framework that emerges from it –, in an insistent escape from common and preserved, therefore comfortable, places so common in our political practice. However, in this unique contribution, from this more distant look at the political terrain of the left that allows a “meta-response” (Rodrigo Nunes) to the traditional “what to do”, we cannot fail to register at least two insufficiencies of the book, one more epistemological or more political – although both connected. Shortcomings that stand out and take shape at least in some parts of the work, which is too multiple and dynamic – thus making a critical review difficult in the simplest and most direct ways.

The first shortcoming concerns Marxism. In a way, it can be considered that it would be a dogmatic exaggeration to demand special attention to the theme of Marxism in contemporary times. But I would insist on the relevance of this theme in the book, at least so that the position of the authors in relation to the class question and the socialist alternative would be clearer to the reader, if these would still be fundamental in the political cleavage, including internally to what we call the left. The mechanism used by the authors to deal with and, at the same time, suspend such issues is to adopt a certain defense of intersectionality between the constitutive logics of social formations that would be reflected in the left.

Thus, it seems to us, the class issue, and Marxism itself, would exist as one more possible theoretical framework among many, an emancipatory guideline alongside others. It turns out that this solution borders on a non-solution. In the first place, intersectionality can lead us to the “terrible ambivalence”, as Louis Althusser said, between everything and nothing (if everything influences everything, nothing is decisive, and the strategic thread is lost there). Secondly, after the analytical exercise of modeling the multiplicity of the left, the authors refrain from taking sides on it – despite the fact that in the first part of the book several annoyances about the really existing left are made explicit. Which leads us to a second insufficiency, of a more political nature.

By focusing on the ecosystem of the left, the authors also end up diluting their position in relation to the directions of the left. This is not the authors' intention, in fact, and it is also what makes the book unique. But, as it is a confessed draft of a research program, still under construction, we can go further and provoke: is there a way to make a “meta-response” in the struggle without getting involved, in the act, in it? Wouldn't the affirmation of the plurality of responses from the left and the “factual” complexity be, paradoxically, a way of not affirming, not taking a stand (also in relation to Marxism)?

The authors seem to try to remove themselves and annul themselves from any more concrete directions in our situation. Considering themselves just “two white men” as they do, as a supposed justification, reaches the limit of the comic. If, from this position, in which the authors resign themselves as militants, it was possible to take a more accurate look at our terrain, that is a positive point. However, there is a risk that this moment of distancing and reflection becomes isolated in itself and becomes a deviation that feeds back – the organization and its theory as an end, not as a means; the observation of the diversity of the left, not the defense of fairer paths within it.

To enter the always-already complex terrain of the left is to be always-already partial, partisan. And, as we learned from Marx, necessarily enter with a mark of class on the forehead. By the way, it is to enter this terrain as one of the edges to incorporate this strange architecture – not only to coexist, but to fight with the other edges, for superior forms of organization and political line.

And despite these inconsistencies – and also because of them – Edge Architecture presents us with a courageous argument about ourselves and poses us again the central question for the exploited and oppressed, uttered by Lenin: what to do?

*Alexandre Marinho Pepper holds a master's degree in sociology from the University of Brasília (UnB).



Edemilson Paraná & Gabriel Tupinambá. Architecture of Edges: the left in times of peripherization of the world. São Paulo, Literary Autonomy, 2022, 268 pages.

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