Kant with Sade

October 29, 2008

Commentary on our reading this week:


We were arguing the other day whether or not Zizek sticks with the monarch as the ultimate in politics, or whether that view changes and he switches his stance and puts his eggs in the basket of a Leninist Party. The best way to do this is to compare what he says about Claude Lefort in For They Know Not… and Parallax View.

Here is a section from For they Know Not… about Lefort and democracy:

The paradox of the Hegelian monarch becomes manifest if we locate it against the background of what Claude Lefort called the “democratic invention”: the radical break in the very mode of the performing of power introduced by the emergence of democratic political discourse. Lefort’s fundamental thesis – which has today already acquired the status of a commonplace – is that ith the advent of the “democratic invention,” the locus of Power becomes an empty place; what was before the anguish of interregnum, a period of transition to be surmounted as soon as possible – the fact that “the thrown is empty” – is now the only normal state. In pre-democratic societies, there is always a legitimate pretender to the place of Power, somebody who is fully entitled to occupy it, and the one who violently overthrows him has simply the status of an usurper, whereas within the democratic horizon, everyone who occupies the locus of power is by definition a usurper (For They Know Not..., 267).

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Where the two lacks meet…

October 25, 2008

“Crucial for the fetish object is that it emerges at the intersection of the two lacks: the subject’s own lack as well as that of the big Other” (Zizek, SOI, 103).

This is from the last chapter of my MA thesis, and may or may not be of interest to people, re: the Phallus…; There are a couple of theoretical mistakes…but you get the idea.

The Primal Scene and the Structure of Television

It was in his description of the “wolf man” that Freud posited that a traumatic event in childhood could be the cause of neuroses that occur later in life. This he called the “primal scene”, and it was from the patient’s inability to deal with the trauma of the primal scene that all neuroses would spring: “… all consequences radiate out from it, just as all the threads of the analysis have led up to it” (243). This scene usually referred to the observance by the child of its parents in the act of coitus. But it was not that it was necessarily an event that could be remembered; it was one that was constructed retroactively by the analyst and analysand as a labour of analysis. As the foundation of the unconscious being of the neurotic, the “threads” of analysis were bound as a knot in this centre. It stood as an element outside the linear conscious experience of the analysand about which all the condensations and displacements of hysterical symptoms took place. The Primal scene was the a-historical element about which all later symptoms would gather.
We might use extra-diagetic to describe the character of the primal scene, and in the context of television and the prisoner this is most apt. Each episode of the prisoner opens with the same title sequence, itself a short narrative, but one that is separated from that which follows it. It sets the scene of the Prisoner’s (played by McGoohan) fantasy, his hysterical refusal to accept the Law of the father, his attempt to steal pleasure from the unknown Other that places impossible demands upon him. In this opening sequence the Prisoner tenders his resignation to the spy agency by which he is employed, only to soon after be drugged and transplanted in a secluded internment camp – the Village – where he is given a number in place of whatever name he may have had. The opening sequence ends with the dialogue above – with the second in command of the village passing on the demands of his superior. The “trauma” in this scene – Number Six’s removal from his home and life – is precipitated by the demand of an invisible Other and the Prisoner’s refusal to give response. And with this refusal each episode begins.

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David McNally Talk part II

October 25, 2008

That talk last night was the first (leftist economic) talk I was present at in years, certainly the first since I took up Zizek. And the one thing that struck me hard – to the point that all ‘content’ was lost for me in a sense, so that I could only hear it on a lower level hum-like wavelength – was the jouissance that permeated the room, a jouissance that acted as a support for the Talk and for the mildly frenzied Speaker himself, as a support for the audiences’ position of smiling faces & agreeable nodding heads, for the furious note takers, for the documenting photographers….

 In Z’s ‘Language, Violence & Nonviolence’ essay, he says something like, we presuppose a normal standard of non-violence to measure that which we see as a violent act. And that it is this very presupposing of the ‘normal’ non-violent standard that is the highest form of violence.

Using a homologous logic, I propose to read last night – in a broad, brutle, shot-gun style outline of an analysis – like this:

Sitting there last night, I could imagine the Speaker presupposing some non-antagonistic eden of a (socialist) economy with which he could measure the contradictions of the capitalistic crisis against, of the crisis he was endeavoring to outline. And of course what he may overlook is the fact that the greatest antagonism he faces is the one in which he himself generates by presupposing such a non-antagonistic measure with reference to which the current capitalistic crisis appears so antagonistic.

More exactly: the self-relating negativity is precisely the relation of (the antagonism of the capitalist crisis measured against the presupposed ‘normal’ measuring rod of a non-antagonistic socialist eden) to (the presupposed measuring rod of non-antagonistic socialist eden).  Or, the purely posited object a is related to the purely presupposed Thing. The crucial final Hegelian step to take is to equate these two in a speculative identity. Identity is the highest form of contradiction, of negativity, which is a self-relating negativity.

It is this self-relating negativity that generates enjoyment. It is this that which sustained the Speaker and the Audiences’ identitication with marxist, socialist, call-it-whatever-you-want, ideology.

What I realized is that you can certainly enjoy these talks without an Absolute Knowlege of these things, as I did in the past before I met Zizek. (And as I could clearly read on the faces in the room). But that enjoyment is infinitely greater as this knowlege is grasped. And this knowledge must be grasped again & again &….

Movie Nite

October 21, 2008

So, I’ve done terribly at organizing a movei nite, but…

Anybody up for movies this Thursday?

I think I’m gonna vote for Ivan the Terribele.

Other suggestions?


Next Reading

October 21, 2008

I don’t mind doing ‘Kant Avec Sade’ once we finish FTKNWTD…  it will be a nice little break from Zizek.  However, I would prefer to do Tarrying With the Negative before we do Ethics of Psychoanalysis.  What do you guys think?

And after Ethics, perhaps then we should do Ticklish.

Zizek’s Examples

October 20, 2008

Lately, the question of Zizek’s examples has been raised.

Here is a quote from the Preface to the Routledge Classics Edition of the Enjoy Your Symptom! (2008) where Zizek addresses his use of examples:

“The way I proceed to analyze this impregnation of our daily lives by ideology is the reference to numerous examples – so a note about my (often criticized) use of examples is, perhaps, appropriate here…  The difference between the idealist and the materialist use of examples is that, in the Platonic-idealist approach, examples are always imperfect, they never perfectly render what they are supposed to exemplify, so that we should take care not to take them too literally, while, for a materialist, there is always more in the example than in what it exemplifies, i.e., an example always threatens to undermine what it is supposed to exemplify since it gives body to what the exemplified notion itself represses, is unable to cope with… This is why the idealist approach always demands a multitude of examples – since no single example is fully fitting, one has to enumerate them to indicate the transcendent wealth of the Idea they exemplify, the Idea being the fixed point of reference of the floating examples.  A materialist, on the contrary, tends to repeat one and the same example, to return to it obsessively:  it is the particular example which remains the same in all symbolic universes, while the universal notion it is supposed to exemplify continually changes its shape, so that we get a multitude of universal notions circulating, like flies around the light, around a single example” (pp. xi-xii).

Here is a quote from Iraq:  The Borrowed Kettle (2004):

“… the wager of Marxism is that there is one antagonism (‘class struggle’) which overdetermines all the others and which is, as such, the ‘concrete universal’ of the entire field” (p. 101).

“Here class struggle is the ‘concrete universal’ in the strict Hegelian sense:  in relating to its otherness (other antagonisms) it relates to itself, that is, it (over)determines the way it relates to other struggles” (p. 102).

Based on this, it seems that neither the Universal Particualr (the hegemony of the ruling ideology/the ruling class), nor the Universal Singular (the symptom/proletariat) is ‘concrete’; rather, it is the antagonism between Particular and Singular, the class antagonism/struggle, which is ‘concrete’.

In this case, both the Particular and the Singular are ‘abstract’ and I guess the act of picking sides is the kind of Leap of Faith that Zizek refers to in his polemics on repeating Lenin.  A politics of Truth requires choosing the right side:  the side of the symptom, the Universal Singular – the proletariat.

David McNally Talk

October 19, 2008

The Toronto Historical Materialism Group presents

Wall Street Meltdown: Learning about the Economics of Neoliberalism

A public talk by David McNally

David McNally is Professor of Political Science at York University. He is the author of Against the Market: Political Economy, Market Socialism and the Marxist Critique, and Another World is Possible:Globalization and Anti-Capitalism, and has done extensive writing on financial crisis.

Friday, October 24   7 – 9 pm
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE/UT)   Room  5280  (5th floor)
Co-sponsors:  Social Economy Centre, OISE/UT
Adult Education and Community Development Program, OISE/UT

What is the robbery of a bank compared to the foundation of one?
-Bertolt Brecht

Pauper’s or Dooney’s?

October 16, 2008

Where are we meeting this week?