Escape Routes to Capitalismo Gore

My first encounter with Capitalismo gore was in 2012. Back then, I was living in Barcelona with a group of activists and academics, and we were asking each other about the violence in Mexico, represented in the European media through an endless collage of blood and mutilated bodies that went beyond images of conventional war. What was happening in Mexico? How could we understand this spiraling violence? Where did these new mercenaries come from? These were the questions that colleagues asked me, and I could muster only a partial response: it’s a problem among narcotraficantes; it’s the First-World media bubble that keeps creating new savages; it’s the product of the extreme poverty of neoliberalism.

From the first pages of Capitalismo gore, I could understand the complex articulations that shaped that apparently new scene of violence, a type of violence that grew from the particular rupture of the Mexican nation-state during neoliberalism and the corruption, plunder, poverty, and narcotrafficking that have turned it into a “narco-nation” (34). During discussions on a radio program, I remember how difficult it was to convince Catalán radio hosts that the violence in Mexico was neither spontaneous nor casual but a legacy of colonialism, an idea that Sayak Valencia derives from Achille Mbembe’s concept of necropolitcs. This quotidian violence, so common among the inhabitants of the Global South, forms a constitutive aspect of capitalism in postcolonial countries.

Two years later, back in the Mexican academy, I came across Capitalismo gore again in a 2014 seminar, “Alternative Modernities and Common Sense: Prefigurative Anchors of Capitalist Modernity” at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. On that occasion, Margara Millán, a colleague of mine and of Sayak’s, proposed that we use the book’s conceptual contributions to discuss capitalism’s dystopic processes. I remember that some of the book’s central categories (necroempowerment, biomarket, endriago subjectivity) allowed us to treat more substantively the current process of the “valorization of value” (valorización del valor, drawing from Bolívar Echeverría) of capitalist modernity, above all from a locus so marginal—but also so central—to capitalism as the city of Tijuana. The worst aspect of the gore practices on the capitalist periphery is that they subvert the valorization of value by fetishizing the sacrifice of disposable bodies as the essential commodity of criminal activity. Here, gore ceases to be simply the bloody manifestation of death and becomes an aesthetic dimension of power (or necropower) running parallel to (and reaffirming) state hegemony. This phenomenon is all too familiar to any victim of war—as it is, too, to any consumer of Mexican media.

I hope that the careful translation of Capitalismo gore by John Pluecker shows a Global North readership the unavoidable B side of global capitalism. No doubt the book would underscore that major innovations of macrosocial control, especially those that structure first-world societies (the biomarket, synoptic society, governmentality, applied consumer neuroscience) exist dystopically in the Global South. Recalling Frantz Fanon’s discussion of Hegel’s master-slave dialectic, we can note that a related dialectic persists today, one in which the first-world consumer subject produces the third-world endriago subject.

I want to linger on the figure of the endriago subject, above all for the multidisciplinary richness that it provides. No doubt a character like Benny in Luis Estrada’s film El Infierno (2010) helps us understand the reproduction of endriago subjectivities. Benny is a Mexican migrant who, upon being deported, finds his American Dream extinguished. On his return to the town where he was born, Benny finds only the desolation and death produced by migration and narcotraffic to the United States (the only lucrative economic activity). Within a few months, Benny is inducted by his childhood friend Cochiloco (Mad Pig) into the gang of Don José Reyes, the head of a local cartel. In the course of his criminal activities, Benny shifts from dealer to hit man to kidnapper, becoming each time more ruthless and callous. Within that spiral of violence, all levels of the state are complicit with Don José Reyes, who declares an all-out war with his brother’s cartel—a patriarchal war where the displays of rivals’ dismembered bodies become territorial markers in occupied plazas. The film offers no easy resolution, because once Benny is assassinated, his nephew Diablito (Little Devil) follows in his footsteps in an aspirational worship of easy money, women, and recognition as “the baddest motherfucker in San Miguel Arcángel.”

It seems to me that this story condenses most of the elements of endriago subjectivity. The neoliberal Mexican project created systemic territorial dispossession, marginalization, and the social exclusion of the great majority of the rural and urban populations. Those who resist migration find organized crime to be their only way out economically. The proliferation of violence becomes a process of natural selection in which only the cruelest survive. It shapes a culture of violence that configures the modes of consumption within a tattered social fabric, and it produces a phallocratic model of power in which macho breadwinners decide who lives and who dies.

How do we escape the Russian roulette of gore capitalism? I remember that we asked ourselves this question a thousand and one times in the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México seminar. Undoubtedly the alternatives offered in this reflection are based in real experiences and local realities so small and scattered that we can read them as resistance.

Let me turn first to what Capitalismo gore proposes. Sayak looks to feminism as a political practice and an epistemological possibility capable of subverting the endriago subjectivity, a subjectivity rooted in a hegemonic, capitalist, and heteropatriarchal masculinity. Quoting Félix Guattari and Suely Rolnik in Molecular Revolution in Brazil, she seeks to challenge “a ‘phallocratic’ mode of production of subjectivity—a politics of desire in which the accumulation of capital, prestige and power are the sole guiding principles” (258). Sayak sees in transfeminism a political tool that articulates feminist struggles for recognition and rights with the fluidity of genders, bodies, and sexualities that, on the micropolitical level, allow for the conjunction of a wide range of minoritarian and intersectional assemblages. Those experiences of resistance, in a sense, subvert the hegemonic terms of exclusion (gender, sexuality, race, class, etc.). It seems to me that the transfeminism that Sayak poses is a key strategy in overcoming this frightening scenario of gore capitalism, and I think that current mobilizations throughout Latin America confirm this. The struggles of Guatemalan migrants for recognition of their reproductive and caring labor, the struggles in Argentina for the decriminalization of abortion, and the many LGBTTI mobilizations for civil rights all highlight the importance of feminism’s transversality in its diverse emancipatory horizons. This is Sayak’s contribution.

I am convinced that some other dimensions of Mexico, distinct from Tijuana’s laboratory of modernity, would need to be acknowledged in order to find other escape routes from gore capitalism. Some rural areas, for example, have managed to subvert the domination of endriago subjects in the very epicenter of the narco-nation. The community-based experience of self-government and resistance in the autonomous municipality of Cherán, in Michoacán, is perhaps the most significant example. Nestled in the heart of narco-production of marijuana and heroin, Cherán was one more locality hit hard by organized crime and neoliberal devastation. Tired of the homicides, kidnappings, and extortion hooded men perform with impunity, women there began organizing in secret. The tipping point was the excessive and illegal logging in the forests that have provided the community’s long-term economic sustenance. At dawn on April 15, 2011, these self-organized women led an uprising. Logging trucks were blocked, some loggers were detained, and the municipal police and organized crime groups were confronted inside of a church. A few days later the police and mayor were expelled, political parties were banned, and a community council was created. This was the beginning of Cherán’s autonomy as a Purépecha indigenous community. Today, it has reduced the crime rates for kidnapping, extortions, and murders. What was the key? Activists prioritized putting community concerns at the center of politics; the restitution of communal resources; closeness and reciprocity as principles of self-governance—but above all the prohibition of political parties. The experience of Cherán has been repeated in other places where gore capitalism has tried to establish itself (the autodefensas in Michoacán, the Policía Comunitaria of Guerrero, for example). I hope that this aside serves to clarify, from my perspective, the explanatory scope of CG for the complex and heterogeneous landscape of violence in Mexico.

It should be noted that in the Mexican popular imaginary, the neoliberal values associated with endriago subjectivity (hyperconsumption, exacerbated patriarchal masculinity, and self-interest) generate diverse—and possibly resistant—outcomes when deployed within communal forms of production, consumption, and circulation. Moreover, we might attend to the varied ways that the biomarket intersects with other popular practices, and how these practices leave an indelible imprint on the specific forms of governmentality in neoliberal Mexico. Here, a turn to the concepts of “variegated formation” and “the apparent State” developed by Bolivian sociologist René Zavaleta (1983) might help complicate our understanding of how biopolitics (and its dystopic transformation into necropolitics) functions in the super-baroque social context of Mexico.

With all of this, I celebrate the theoretical-philosophical efforts of Capitalismo gore to give us new and urgent categories to understand the phenomenon of violence in Mexico, not as something exceptional and fragmentary, but as a structural and constitutive feature of capitalist modernity. I hope that Capitalismo gore will find a wide Anglophone audience so as to facilitate South-North dialogues about the shared responsibility for the violence of twenty-first century global capitalism.

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Héctor Parra García

Héctor Parra García is a doctoral candidate in Latin American studies at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City. A specialist on the Andean region, he is completing a dissertation about the popular politics of globalization in urban peripheries. He has published essays in Crítica y Resistencias and Espirales.