Monday Recap: Brodsky, Reading Lacan’s 1/(a+1), TTC Union (Un)ethicality

April 29, 2008

1) Here’s the article I mentioned yesterday. She’s lays things out with mathemes real nice like.

Graciela Brodsky, The Alchemy of Hysteria

It’s only a few pages, you’ll need to search for the article within the link (starts on page 67 of the PDF)

2) The question that arose that bothered me yesterday was ‘Ok, Lacan lays out all these symbols & we can follow them somewhat, but what, after all, is the point?’ I thought about this last night – isn’t this always THE question with Lacan?

I’m figuring that this question is essentially an external reflection: What is behind the apparent complexity of Lacan’s discourse? What the essence here? What is the Thing he is leading us onto? This question presupposes that the Thing is out there, just awaiting our discovery.

Reminds me of Z’s take on Kant: We ask the question, we experience the radical negativity of no answer, but immediatley realize that this frustrating experience of radical negativity is a negative representation of the Thing itself. So it ‘guarantees’ that the Thing is out there, just waiting to be found, that Lacan does indeed have a point, if we could only get to it. With that guarantee, we set out to find it again. And fail. And again, and fail. Spiraling out, inward, we get caught up in an infinity. You read Kant’s CPR, you can feel his obsessive spiralling, he’s let’s do it once more, another layer, further down the rabbit hole…

And esn’t this the very 1/[a+1/(a+1)…..] that Lacan speaks of? We are certain, in this externally reflective question, that the essence of the matter (objet a) MUST be there, that Lacan does indeed have a point to all this, if we could only peel away all the false appearance.

This is the (necessary) point I got caught up in yesterday (again). Until I gave things one more quarter turn & reached a relective determination with Hegel: The experience of the Thing itself as that radical negativity that one finds so frustrating in the external reflection. That is, this Absolute reflection requires a ‘you are there where It was’ thought. In terms of Lacan’s algebra above, a move from the left side of the infinite series to the right side, which is a simple movement to ‘a’ – as Lacan says, that entire series simply equals ‘a’. The reason you can’t get to the ‘a’ in the series is that the result of the series in each step is always already enfolded in the series itself. No meta-position, which is what one assumes one occupies in asking the question ‘what’s the point?’

Hege’s Absolute reflection is an identification with the ‘a’ here, which embodies the entire series, embodies your entire (externally reflective) quetioning/activity in a singularity, this immediacy that no longer requires any further mediation/sublation/posited because it is a presupposition that is not previously posited; more accurately, a presupposition in which the subject presupposes itself as a positing power.

This is Lacan’s strategy throughout his lectures, his writings. He’s playing the analyst on a massive, semi-public scale. And we his readers are obliged (or not) to work past our external reflection of his text. There’s implications for politics here, I’m finding.

3) Headlines today that GM is going to lay off 900 in Oshawa. I recall taking a tour years ago of the plant in my new capacity as a benefits/pension consultant, at a time when such tours were unofficially ‘banned’ by the union – my guilt in sitting in one of the golf carts zooming down the line was double: not only from the angry stares from the gruff, bearded men, but from my own years of marxist leanings that was whispering to me that I was on the wrong side. Although I recall seeing a handmade sign on one work area that alleviated my guilt somewhat. It read “GM: Gulag Motors. If you are happy, you are not working hard enough!” A bit hard sympathize with $34 hour workers likening their situation to Auswitch.

I wanted to raise the ethical question about last weekend’s strke. When I heard that the TTC went on strike, my immediate reaction was this was wrong. They are unruly, selfish disrespectful children & daddy needs to discipline them (which he did on Sunday); they did wrong because they broke their 48 hour promise; they did wrong because they don’t side with the rest of the proletariat & in fact put downward pressure on wages, hurting everyone else; their union is a legal entity (their choice) so they shouldn’t whine about the gov’t in enacting legislation to force them back to work, etc etc…

But none of this answers the question of whether their act was ethical in the Lacanian sense.

Is what they did this past weekend ethical?

Lacan dealt with Ethics 10 seminars back from the one we are reading, but he does speak of the half-said, that enigma, the chimera half-body that disappears when the solution is given. This gives us a clue that the moral law for Lacan has the structure of an enunciation without a statement.

So either we play the game that ethics is the pursuit of the desire of the Other (you try to ‘guess’ the Other’s desire, lose, try again, lose…. all with the aim of making the Other forget that it doesn’t exist). Many non-Lacanians (& Lacanians for that matter) play this game of course

Or you can admit that it is only the subject & his act that creates what the Other (the Law) wants. (Think Oedipus – retroactively creating the symbolic debt into which he was born). Here is where I think we must think the TTC Union’s act of striking. It’s that encounter between the Law they challenged & their own subjectivity that is of interest here, this point that is extimate to both. The Law appears to be separate from their decision, but still it is internal to the sphere of its existence. I heard on the radio today that the decision was actually made by high ranking union officials to ‘discredit’ their own union top dog! Sounds a bit like the brothers got together to kill the primal father & so any Law that was supposedly dropped on them on Sunday by the Capitalist’s so-called executive arm was in truth dropped on them thru their own actions. You get what you ask for in a sense & you didn’t hear them put up much of a fight in going back to work. In fact I heard many reported for work hours before they had to.

I think we have to read the Sunday back-to-work Law as created by their actions, internally to the Union’s subjectivity/activiity. No?


11 Responses to “Monday Recap: Brodsky, Reading Lacan’s 1/(a+1), TTC Union (Un)ethicality”

  1. battleofthegiants said


    But I disagree about the TTC.

    The increasing encroachment of law as a means to regulate their actions is part of the problem. Unions are even more entrenched in the law than they were years ago: i.e. there are rules as to what kind of actions you can take and when. That is, striking has been made illegal during a contract period, during negotiations (until they fail), and as we’ve seen, even after contract talks fail. That is, strikes are illegal. I think in this way they become more of a hysteric/master relation than they were before: Okay, you go throw a tantrum now, but be sure to be done before it has any effect! (dinner’s at 5 o’clock sharp.) In the not so distant past, Striking WAS outside the law (though obviously still tightly related to it), but that option has been almost completely eliminated (if only in people’s way of thinking). That’s what Zizek’s on about: the space of true political action (i.e. outside the terms of what they expect you to follow) has been hacked into pieces. The TTC should have stayed on strike until… well, until everyone joined in sympathy!

    I don’t buy the ‘they would deflate other people’s wages’. I imagine at LEAST 3 quarters of City employees are unionized, and wouldn’t let it happen. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out the proportion was even higher. But we could go a step further and say that rising wages for some would cause inflation and effect the wages of everyone else, city programs would be cut, taxes would go up. Sure! But that’s the defeatist logic of capitulation – if you give up on one thing they’ll take everything else, too. The idea is to make it run in the other direction. That is, don’t let councilors shoot down motions to tax car-dealers and big business, don’t let them cut city programs, make them keep going – find the wealth by eating the rich, as they say.

    The logic behind accepting that striking will make things worse for others is the same that Zizek sees behind accepting that economic crises are necessary: “The fact that, if one does not obey the limits set by Capital [I don’t know why he capitalises it… maybe because he acutally means capitalISM?], a crises ‘really follows’, in no way ‘proves’ that the necessity of these limits is an objective necessity of economic life. It should rather be conceived as a proof of the privileged position Capital holds in the economic and political STRUGGLE, as in the situation where a stronger partner threatens that if you do X, you will be punished by Y, and then, upon your doing X, Y effectively ensues” (“Multiculturalism, or…”, page 35).

    I’m not surprised people showed up early for work. People don’t LIKE striking ’cause it sucks. People get pissed at you, you have to defend yourself, and maybe most importantly, you don’t get to work! There’s a very good chance that we’ll be on strike at York this year. I’d rather work, to tell the truth. But if that means we could loose our health benefits, loose our summer bursaries and tuition rebates, and our wages don’t increase, what’s one to do? – Bartleby. “I’d prefer not to teach 25 students about the mandate of the CBC while you take away my livelyhood.”

    And we could take the same position on the news about the internal politics of the strike that Zizek takes on O.J. Simpson: It doesn’t matter if he actually was guilty – cops do plant evidence and are racist, so people SHOULD be pissed. We could say the same of the Black Panther dude that’s been on death row for 25 years or more: Even if he DID kill that cop, the police torched the homes of lots of blacks and killed people while doing it, and so we should be pissed and do something about it. Likewise with the TTC: even if their union bosses were playing to internal politics, when the city and the province don’t want to give workers what they deserve, the union should strike.

    The trick with the law is that of immanent critique and action – there’s no meta-position, sure. That means you have to fight from within. But that doesn’t mean you follow all the rules. To ‘cede not’ on one’s desire would in this case mean not just strike until they tell you not to, or ’till you get full benefits and better pay, but when you get self-governance and the destruction of capitalism.


  2. The Thing said

    I’m not sure how coherent/relevant this will be, but…

    In the “Respect for Otherness? No Thanks!” lecture, Z does the Darth Vader ethics bit. He criticizes “cedez pas” as being part of the ethics of desire which falls into the trap of passion for the real, and favours instead an ethics of drive. (He also notes that, unlike other Lacanian formulas, “cedez pas’ appears in only one place – though it appears twice there). He argues (and I’m paraphrasing from memory, so keep your grains of salt handy) that the logic of desire, in which you have a primordially lost object and then fill in the gap it leaves behind with various arbitrary substitutes, is what leads you to become obsessed with the obstacle to your full enjoyment, traps you in the dialectical deadlock between Law and desire. Drive, on the other hand, is not about going towards a (lost) object, even if you are perpetual missing it. Rather, it’s about cutting away or pushing away the object. Its about enjoying missing/getting rid of the object, rather than desiring the object and missing it because of some obstacle. While this leads into all the stuff Z does about subjective development as involving a primordial act of cutting ties to the umwelt, in “Respect…?”, he translates this into an ethics of love, wherein the loved object is not (as in desire) filling the gap left by the primodrially lost maternal/incestuous object, but is loved precisely in its idiotic, lacking, particular (singular?) -ness. It is a love in which the loved object cannot fail you, because you don’t love the object for the imaginary bit of perfection within it, but rather as the result of a crazy arbitrary decision (and, to be clear, I’m still totally ocnfused about what part of the subject makes that decision and how).

    What does all this have to do with the TTC strike?
    I’m not at all sure, but…

    It makes me think of season 3 of the Wire. I don’t know if any of you watch/have watched the Wire, but it’s a (highly inventive) cop show, and in season 3, one of the subplots is about an experiment called Hamsterdam. One of the Police Lieutennants (Commanders? I can’t keep it straight. He’s in command of an area, but still reports to someone higher.), called Bunny, is pissed off about the endless game of catching drug dealers one by one, which doesn’t solve the drug problem (which in his mind is simply that the streets aren’t safe for the residents) or really doing anyone any good. So, after invoking the invention of the liquor bottle in a paper bag (which released the police form endlessly arresting people for public drinking), he sets up a bunch of kind of legalized drug zones, where the dealers and junkies can do their thing away from the residential areas. Now, it’s a bonkers idea. It’s a form of segregation, the quality of life of the dealers and junkies goes down. Though the free zones are policed for violence, they don’t have basic infrastructure, they have to rely on volunteer harm-reduciton programs for medical attention, etc… But the point is that he doesn’t even tell anyone higher up. He doesn’t play by the rules. He doesn’t even resist the rules. He just suspends the rules and does it the way he thinks it should be done. And, even though it is, in many respects, a terrible (terrifying?) idea, when it does get discovered, it has this weird infectious quality. The politicians, who are officially involved in deadly struggle, are all privately seduced by the inventiveness of Bunny’s solution and start thinking about how to make it work. Now, in the end, because it’s a ‘gritty’ (read: masochistic) cop show, the whole thing has to fall apart in a ball of fire. Things like this can’t happen because the system is too f’ed up, the politicians are too corrupt, etc, etc… Bunny gets demoted and fired, everybody drinks themselves silly, the bad guys get away and we get ready for another satisfyingly depressing season. But this moment of suspending the rules I think has a lot of potential behind it. What could the TTC workers do that would be like this?

  3. battleofthegiants said

    Right! I was reading Lukac’s book on Lenin the other day and he lists 3 elements that were necessary for the Russian revolution: First was the Party, and the third was unionization. But very importantly, and missing from most of Zizek’s discussions (unless this is where he’s heading, as you seem to have heard), are the SOVIETS. That is, the spontaneous bodies of self-organization made up of the working people of Russia that functioned as a de facto government outside of the government’s control or legitimization. That’s precisely what the TTC lacked: A group of TTC workers that said “this is how we’re going to organize the TTC; this is how money will be spent, etc etc.”, and then doing what they decided should be done. The problem, of course, is that such an organization can’t survive on it’s own, but must be made up of people from all industries/sectors of the economy. Otherwise you become a small island that will submerge beneath the ocean of privately-owned capital that surrounds you…

    I haven’t read anything about ‘the passion of the Real’, but is that the Antigone stuff? Because in the new preface to _They Know Not What They Do_ he writes that Antigone is an example of masculine logic, and that’s the reason he abandons her (and the Young Comrade) in favour of Bartleby. So, perhaps this is the difference in his conception of the Act between _Ticklish Subject_ and _Parallax_: rather than seeing one’s desire through to the end, one has to….give up on desiring (empty the ‘object cause of desire’…)? That is, don’t only strike to get what you want, but start working the way you think you ought to…


  4. sonnyburnett said

    You got it. There are two ethical strategies with Lacan, one involving his earlier thought regarding desire & the latter ‘drive’ version of the later Lacan. It’s that latter version Z has pretty much always been arguing for I think.

    In Parallax, he criticizes his old analyst Miller on overlooking how in the drive, we attempt to enact the void directly & not the object that comes to embody the void. Exactly as you have said.

    From my reading of Kant, I’m getting a better reading of Z & Lacan regarding, as you put it, “about what part of the subject makes that decision and how”. I’m continuosly questioning that myself, since there is that necessity to hold on to every last scrap of ‘self’ that is substantive. I mean, it’s a complete paradox how we can make choices from a void isn’t it? But with Z & Lacan (& at times Kant when he’s able to let go of his substantive presuppositions) that’s the answer. We actually choose our unconscious acts from an empty voided place. Acknowledgement of that is an identification with one’s own drive.

    I think I’ve heard of the Wire – Opie & Anthony had one of the actors on their show & were raving about it – but I never saw it. I’m proud to say I trashed my TV years ago. Actually the weekend before 911, so I never got to see all the pretty pictures.

    But cop shows stage the greatest ethical dilemnas, don’t they? I personally got my moral compass from Miami Vice growing up in the 80s & still watch it every chance I get (you might have noticed my pseudonym here?)

    Tho the grittiness, realism of the Wire would be poorer in my mind to the cool surface ‘mere’ appearance-like Miami Vice. If we are Zizekian Hegelians, we’d have to note that the appearance is ‘all we get’, that the appearance is the only way the Thing makes itself known to us. So I’m reading the TTC strike as not a suspension of rules or even a lost opportunity to do so at whatever radical level we would have liked, since those rules (the Other) were created in their very act of striking.

    To me, reading headlines, listening to 680 News re-caps, it really does appear that the strike was a desperate act on the union’s part to create the conditions in which their very free choice of striking (which is made in that terrifying void) was taken out of their hands so to speak, that ‘OK, we strike, but doing so we know big Other Ontario Government (which we all know & presuppose exists independently & substantively of us) will enact legistation to break our actions so everything balances out, our free decision to do this is not really free, thank goodness!’

    It’s hard to encapsulate this concisely, I’m finding. You can hold that lovely notion of what you want to say easily at times, but once you start typing, it comes out all pear-shaped, no?

    But with a drive-oriented ethics, I think it’s not simply a matter of FUing the Man, nor a conscious suspension of the Man & his rules for what one wants by some meta-position standard, but an acknowledgement that it’s thru the act that the Other is created. It’s not out there independent of us.

    The other thought I have is, OK, the Wire has a dilemna & a fix to deal with illegality. But where is the illegality here with the TTC? Because they are getting 5 cents less in wages than they want (or whatever the issue was)?

    Just because they are in contract talks does not put them in a negative position w/ respect to the Law. If anything, it proves Lacan’s point that their actions came from a voided place ‘outside’ the law (they have no contract with the TTC so they are in that ‘undead’ zone), but also internal to it – so they created whatever big Other they subsequently had to deal with thru their actions & THIS is precisely what they will not own up to.

    Thus, I find it an unethical act for them to have gone on strike last weekend. The standards cannot be external to the act. The act creates the Law & its only on that basis we can argue (Lacanian) ethicality. The act for Lacan has an objectal status (objet a), which is a condensation of the big A. I think you see where I’m going with this. ‘a is A’

    I too have a difficulty in envisioning what an ethical strike would look like under this definition. I leave the question open as well.

  5. battleofthegiants said

    I’m having trouble with the idea that “they created whatever big Other they subsequently had to deal with through their actions”. If this means that the Other exists only insomuch as it is acted out through people, I can buy it. I.e. The law is just paper until the Ontario government acts on it by legislating the illegality of the strike (and thereby threatens police/court action), and the TTC employees comply. But it feels like we’re getting dangerously close to forgetting the historical conditions of the law in question: it wasn’t written yesterday, but is the result of a lot of work on the part of the State (and those who pressure it) over the last 30-50 years. And it’s this particular set of laws (as social norms) with which people identify.

    It’s in _The Tick_ and “Lenin’s Choice” that Zizek talks about how to get rid of this identification, about how people give up on accepting their given place in a social space. His answer is violence: I.e. spontaneous demonstrations of anger. And this is where he brings in Lenin’s _What is to be done_: it’s not enough just to have a violent, spontaneous outburst because they tend to simply fizzle out and people return to their old identifications. The trick is to push the outrage further so that you give up on the social organizations that exist, and are prepared to do the ‘hard work the day after the revolution’, i.e. build up new social organizations.

    This ‘stripping away by violence’ is just his way of saying stepping through the fantasy to identify with your symptom. And he’s pretty literal about it: He talks about how some protesters who, when confronted with police, actually start beating on each other. In this Z sees the gesture of giving up on the master: “I don’t need you to beat me, I’m doing it myself!” which is effectively what you’ve been saying: we create our own big Other; but in this gesture Z thinks we come to realize that fact. But I think this is where the moment of ‘decision’ comes in: you then either give up on what you’ve just discovered and start following the rules again, or keep going until something else happens…

    They way you describe some of the reports of the internal goings-on of the union does make it sound like the TTC was playing the hysteric to the master. But again, Z says it takes a stupid, outrageous “passage a l’acte” by the ‘rank and file’, ‘masses’, ‘people’, whatever, before a real Act can happen: you can’t just go from zero to ethical in thirty seconds. I think part of the reason the TTC strike didn’t might also be because of actual material consequences of such an act: There were reports of TTC booth attendants being threatened, windows of stations being smashed out and graffiti painted on TTC walls. This even before the strike was made illegal, and any real effect on TTC worker’s livelihoods began (i.e. having to live off strike pay), and lets face it, the State will use police to stop protests it doesn’t like. In the face of that, who would keep pushing on a stupid outburst? No one – unless (dare I say it?) there are some class-conscious agitators in there to see the potential in the strike.

    I just want to be sure we don’t slip into thinking that direct action like strikes are by definition simply ‘hysterical’ and ‘unethical’, or that they have to be ‘ethical’ from their inception. What starts as an hysterical outburst can end in an ethical Act. So, perhaps the TTC strike in the end was unethical, but not because it was a strike, or because it was started for the wrong reasons, but because it didn’t go far enough. And as a result might threaten the viability of future actions.

    And there are of course dangers with this violence thesis: Zizek’s reading of “the Terror” of the French revolution and terrorism in general are that they are a direct embodiment of the negativity at the base of our Being, but one that demonstrates the impotence of the actors, their inability to actually change social conditions. The trick, I guess, is to avoid turning a violent outburst into the ‘law-ification’ (sorry, can’t think of how to say that) of violence, as an end in itself. Perhaps it’s like you were saying, Bill – you need to slip in and out of those moments. Otherwise there’s trouble.

  6. battleofthegiants said

    Just as a note as I was rereading some stuff: I wasn’t saying we would should advocate the killing of police, but that people should protest the political imprisonment of Mumia because the actions of the state are wrong regardless of what Mumia did or didn’t do.

  7. sonnyburnett said

    I agree here that Lacan’s ethical act is almost inconceivable to envisage on the political/social stage. It’s a radical act. It would be traumatic to witness. It would probably even be ugly. Nevertheless, it happens often, more than we are aware, within our individual consciousness. That, I’m sure. If ethics has the structure of an enunciation without a statement, we all act ethical now & then, why not?

    It’s identifying that on a mass level that’s difficult, since you have to identify the place of that mass action enunciation, that shame from which an S1 sprouts, analyze/separate out the action from its big Other….just a whole mess of things to do & it takes a bit of artistry to do so. Z is getting better, no? His early books are simply written, but much later, he’s really gotten a much better command of English (his, what, 5th language?).

    In my simple understanding of things in my own consciousness, I see that the Other doesn’t exist. Sure. So that means there is no Other of the Other. As a first approximation, we could say the Other of the Other is thus the barred subject, $. More accurately, the Other of the Other is objet a. To me, it follows that the act & the Other & the empty place from which all this is choosen as well as the master signifier that identifies all this in one simple breathe all happens spontaneously. Bam! You have this transcendental unity of apperception in Kantian language. Then you can break it all out into S1, S2, $, a. Analysis presupposes a prior (transcendental) synthesis.

    That’s at an individual consciousness level. At the political, mass level, I’m figuring we have to do the same. We gotta get inside the ‘head’ of that level & I don’t really know how that would be done at all.

    What I do know is we have the media which gives us a wonderful ‘mere’ appearance of things to work with. That is where we should concentrate our analysis. The ethical Thing, if it shows its head, will do so there, not in theoretical-laden texts & journals regarding actions (thank God for that!). This is my suspicion at any rate. Not to say those latter works don’t have their use. My only (modest) point is that a current affair should be met head-on at the most ‘superficial’, popular, mass level, not thru editorials & texts marking anniversaries of happenings (like 911).

  8. sonnyburnett said

    Just want to clarify that last paragraph.

    I mean to say that any analysis will be based on texts necessarily & I think that the proper texts to use in deciding the ethicality of a current affair are the popular, mass ones & not the week-later editorials nor years-later commemorative retrospectives, nor even the ‘indepth’ analyses you find in academia regarding these matters.

    I just realized that that ‘911’ I just dropped above is due to my bad conscience I think… I distinctly recall, not ever having seen the video of the planes with the attendant on-air commentary, (initially due to the contingent fact that I just happened to throw out my TV 1 week beforehand) for years after the fact & afterward consciously shunning all ‘fluffy’ coverage & news analysis in magazines, etc, etc, all in an effort to convince myself into believing that I was now well positioned to give an objective, ‘critical’ analysis by only ever consulting ‘serious’ texts on that day & what it ‘really, truly’ meant. (works like Chomsky, Baudrillard would certainly tell me the way it really was)

    The guilt is I now realize how ass-backwards that is, at least according to what I just wrote.

  9. The Thing said

    Passion for the real IS about Zizek’s critique of Antigone, but he’s still ambivalent about that as far as I can tell. He’s much more clear that it’s about Bataille. Check out 94-95 in Parallax. “This transgressive ‘passion for the real’ relies on prohibition.” As desire, it fails to find a way out of the deadlock.

    The grittiness of The Wire is pretty poor. While they’ve managed to bend or break many of the rules of the cop show genre, they’ve not only kept gritty ‘realism’, but pushed it to the nth degree. My take is that its all about giving the audience a hit of masochistic surplus enjoyment, but that as such it’s an obstacle to any radical message. (Which is sad, because in an interview with the makers, one of the them was introduced as a ‘marxist’.) Sticking to the surface might indeed have freed them up from this.

    The idea of Striking as a call to the gov’t to take it out of the strikers’ hands reminds me of a Z example that I’m gonna guess is in Ticklish, but I can’t remember. It’s about a woman who’s refusing life-saving medical treatment out of fidelity to her religious beliefs, but when a judge asks, “If I ordered you to take the treatment, would you do it?” she says, “Yes.” Z says this is an ideological sleight of hand, and that retroactively it reveals that her religious beliefs were basically fake the whole way along.

    It is interesting about the violent acting out as a preliminary step on the road to a revolutionary act. The example I’m remembering is Taxi Driver. I think that’s Parallax View again. Although his outburst takes the form of an impotent suicidal gesture, it has some potential to become revolutionary. I’m not sure I really assimilated that. BotG seems to be saying it’s through repetition, which would make sense to me.

    I would have said you need both pop culture and academia. Baudrillard doesn’t make a lot of sense without the twin tower footage, but the footage itself is just a bit of idiotic imaginary/real enjoyment without interpretation. On the other hand, I’ll happily defend avoiding the news. After all, you can always watch the important bits later on YouTube.

    Finally, and this is pure speculation from someone who doesn’t really understand political economy at all, I wonder whether the legislation and legalization of the union/strike process doesn’t raise the stakes on the side of the employers as well. I’m imagining a ‘good old days’, where the employer would try to just fire everyone who went on strike, and the union would respond by trying to get the support of those whom the employer might try to hire to replace them. In contrast, I’m imagining that now, while union activity and striking are ‘legalized’, the employers are also bound by the law not to fire their unionized workers, who are only ‘exercizing their legal rights’, etc. In which case, of course they would go to the government for police intervention in a case of extended striking, because they don’t have any other cards to play.

  10. battleofthegiants said

    First a question: We’ve been talking about desire-ethics versus drive-ethics, but doesn’t Z always talk about Antigone as “between the two deaths” (‘Ate’), and call it drive?

    Second: The more Marxist literature I look at the more I realize Z is just reviving old ideas by adding a Lacanian twist. As I mentioned before, I’m looking at Lukacs, and here are a few similarities I’ve seen so far:

    1. Lukacs: Opposition is the acceptance of the existing order. Z: “Resistance is Surrender”.

    2. Lukacs (Lenin says this too): Need to in part combat capitalism on the economic plane. Z: Differs with Badiou, saying the economy is indeed a place where an Event (Act) can occur.

    3. Lukacs(following Luxembourg): The Party as the consciousness of the working class. Z: Party as Analyst.

    4. Lukacs: Revolution starts its own Lawful order. Z: The Revolution will authorize itself.

    On this last point, Lukacs brings up exactly what SB was saying on Monday – law and guilt. And it comes out as totally psychoanalytic: if you don’t think the existing law is legitimate, you will feel absolutely no guilt when you break it. So, like the lady who accepted the blood transfusion, Lukacs points out a list of people who called themselves Marxists, but given the chance to join the existing power structures did so.

    It’s his contention that romanticizing illegality (read: transgression) is juvenile (like you were saying above, SB – no simply ‘FUing’), but that the Party needs to take advantage of whatever legal and illegal means it has at its disposal.

    He says the same thing in “Tactics and Ethics” (There’s a link under the ‘quotes’ post) which is really short – I recommend it.

    And to bring up Critchley again, I think what he has in that _Harpers_ piece (and therefore probably his book) is a discussion of people organizing outside the system. That is, he’s more or less talking about what I was saying above: the soviets. I think Z needs to take that into account.

    That said, maybe it’s a good idea to read Critchley’s book next (I think it’s called _Infinitely Demanding_) – that way we can get a sense of where the two diverge and what can be taken from Critchley as useful.

    This fits nicely into the discussion of surface/media/academia: Lukacs calls both Luxembourg’s and Lenin’s method literary – that is, they take everything people are saying, point out the holes and from that make a claim. I think that’s in part what Z does, bringing a lot of movies, books, and stupid current events to describe what’s going on, as well as academic-philosophical and academic-political issues…


  11. battleofthegiants said

    Oh, and another question: Z’s pretty loose with his capitals: is there a difference between big l “Law” and little l “law”? Is Law the prohibition of the father, and law just the set of particular laws we have? Or are they the same thing?

    So I guess my question is ‘is the law by definition prohibition?’ Or does it have a positive character: I.e. ‘you will do this’ (legally bound to do something, rather than legally prohibited to do something).


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