VP has inspired me with his recent summary-style posts of our current reading, so I got a little busy today.



Here are some thoughts on our reading for this week, ‘The Problem of Sublimation’ in Seminar VII, focused on the first two chapters of that section.


(The following is a summary of my reading of a short chapter in Zupancic’s book on Nietzsche).



What is the ‘problem of sublimation?’ It is ‘as a problem of ethics that we have to judge sublimation; it creates socially recognized values.’ (107) Sublimation is a creation ex nihilo & not an act of adhering to already existing social values. So the Freudian idea that the satisfaction of the drives must find some surrogate in an already socially acceptable manner must be resisted. Sublimation has to do with creating new values. That is why it has to do with ethics.


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These are some quotes from myself and Greg from a few posts ago, when we were doing a Zizekian/Lacanian analysis of the York strike:

“Or you could “micro” it and say the admin of York is the “monarch” of the university, the stupid president at the top who makes capricious decisions, who embodies the ‘unity’ of all the faculties…” (Battleofthegiants)

“No! There is no micro-ing it. The admin. is S2, the university, the agent acting in the place of the master/monarch (the truth of S2 is S1, the truth of the university is that it is speaking for the master). The university is like the knave, an ‘unmitigated scoundrel’: “he doesn’t retreat from the consequences of what is called realism; that is, when required, he admits that he’s a crook” (Lacan, Ethics, p. 183)” (US).

I think that in light of recent events – namely, the government of Ontario introducing legislation to force CUPE 3903 members back to work – this position makes even more sense than before.

Perhaps another way to think through this is to consider the University discourse as the one of contemporary biopolitics or the administered world (this is how Zizek conceives it in Parallax and in Lost Causes).  But taken to its limit, the true colours of the administered world will begin to surface.  That is, with biopolitics and the University discourse, it appears as though there is such a thing as ‘permissive society’, without authoritarian rule; or, as Foucault might have put it:  power is everywhere and nowhere.  With the case of the new back to work legislation, we see that the state actually serves the interests of the ruling class, and when the biopolitical administration reaches its limits, it has to call in the big guns:  the violence of the state, who says its operating on behalf of the ‘people’, or the ‘middle class’ (a popular ‘speaking point’ used both at the federal and provincial levels).  The ‘middle class’ is like the contemporary big Other, the truth of which is the ruling class, in whose name the state functions.

I think that, more than anything, the Ontario government is demonstrating that class struggle is alive and well in Ontario!  The message that is being sent to employers is:  “dont’ worry, just wait it out a bit and we’ll (the state) take care of everything for you”.

next meeting…

January 24, 2009

Hey all, I assume we’re just starting from the beginning in Ethics on Monday? I may or may not be there because of all this back to work liberal democratic bullshit. Or I might make it, but having not read it for over a week and a half… or maybe I’ll make time for it tonight…

But I hope the rest of you will continue without me if I can’t make it. I honestly thought the first section was pretty awesome, though alot of it flew past me. I fucking luv metapsychology (I guess it fulfills my hysterical need for a closed system that appears to be whole…) and it took me by surprise to find it in ethics. Perhaps that’s why it’s one of the big ones…

And I’m excited about the sublimation section: I think it will start to answer alot of questions about Zizek and ‘creative sublimation’ after the Act…


Judgement of Existence

January 23, 2009

I have a question about Hegel (or Hegel as he is taken up by Zizek):  are ‘infinite judgement’, ‘negative judgement’ and ‘determinate negation’ all elements within the Judgement of Existence?

The four ‘Judgement’s that Zizek refers to in FTKNWTD are:  ‘Judgement of Existence’, ‘Judgement of Reflection’, Judgement of Necessity’, and ‘Judgement of the Notion’.  However, in FTKNWTD and in Tarrying with the Negative, Zizek also refers to ‘infinite judgement’, ‘negative judgement’ and ‘determinate negation’.  There’s also the first, ‘positive judgement’ in the Judgement of Existence.

Also, midway through TN, Zizek refers to ‘indefinite judgement’ (p. 108); is this the same as ‘infinite judgement’?

It continues…  he also refers to ‘oppositional determination’ later in TN (p. 132).

Maybe we should add a page to the blog for discusses these elements of German Idealism!

A Zizekian Anomoly

January 21, 2009

I was just making some notes from For They Know Not What They Do… and noticed that at the top of the page on page 33, where it’s supposed to say the name of the chapter, rather than using the proper name of the first chapter, “On the One”, here it says “Destiny of a Joke”, which is the title of the introduction.

Is it the same for your copies of this book?  For me this was certainly an element that ‘stuck out’.  It’s interesting that the phrase that ‘sticks out’ is “Destiny of a Joke”.

Got any interesting interpretations of this?

How about this?:  If the element that sticks out is the objet petit a, and if the objet a is the ‘sublime object’, then maybe the destiny of this joke is that Zizek was really pissed with his work in The Sublime Object of Ideology?

Anyone else find any interesting anomolies?

My session proposal for the Society for Socialist Studies on Marxism and Psychoanalysis has been accepted.

Here is the session description (very basic):

According to Slavoj Zizek, Marxism and psychoanalysis are the only two theories, today, which imply and practice an ‘engaged notion of truth’.  This session seeks papers that engage the relationship between Marxism and Psychoanalysis in contemporary critiques of ideology.  Particular focus will be placed upon Lacanian readings and interpretations of Marxism, or critical Marxian perspectives on Psychoanalysis.  Critical analysis of Freudo-Marxism and Althusserian Marxism are also welcome.

If any of you are interested in submitting an abstract, email me by January 31st.

Jameson Articles

January 11, 2009

I have two Fredric Jameson articles that might be of interest:

The first is Jameson’s article on the ‘vanishing mediator’ to which Zizek often refers;

The second is an old article that Jameson wrote on Lacan and Marxism.

Let me know if you want me to bring copies to our next meeting.

Is anyone intersted in proposing a session on Marxism and Psychoanalysis for the this year’s congress?

The Society for Socialist Studies is looking for session proposals.

The deadline is January 15th for session proposals.

This looks like an interesting conference…  wish I could actually go!

On the Idea of Communism

Judith Balso, Alain Badiou, Bruno Bosteels, Terry Eagleton, Peter Hallward, Michael Hardt, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Ranciere, Alessandro Russo, Alberto Toscano, Gianni Vattimo, Wang Hui, Slavoj Zizek

I have to admit that CUPE’s call to boycott Israeli academics is somewhat bothersome to me, and it strikes me as an example of the kind of populist reason that Zizek criticizes in the chapter of In Defense of Lost Causes where he criticizes Laclau and his theorization of ‘populism’ (chapter 6:  Why Populism is (Sometimes) Good Enough in Practice, but Not Good Enough in Theory).

Zizek points out that for a populist, “the cause of the trouble is ultimately never the system as such, but the intruder who corrupted it… not a fatal flaw inscribed into the structure as such, but an element that does not play its part within the structure properly” (IDLC, p. 278).  In this case, the populist reason of CUPE seems to focus on the figure of the Israeli academic as the intruder disrupting things.

He adds that, for a Marxist, as well as for Freud, “the pathological  (the deviant misbehaviour of some elements) is the symptom of the normal, an indicator of what is wrong in the very structure that is threatened with ‘pathological’ outbursts” (Ibid).  This, for me, seems to be a more authentic form of political analysis:  focusing on the elements which indicate the self-contradiction of the system itself – the elements that stick out from the normal functioning of society, the symptom, the proletariat, the Universal Singular.  In other words, I feel that singling out Israeli academics comes close to Fascist populism which displaces the central social antagonism onto the figure of the intruder.

Zizek adds that a feature not mentioned by Laclau is that, “not only is… the populist Master-Signifier for the enemy empty, vague, imprecise and so on… In populism proper, this ‘abstract’ character is… always supplemented by the pseudo-concreteness of the figure that is selected as the enemy, the singular agent behind all the threats to the people” (Ibid, pp. 279-280).  CUPE’s call to boycott Israeli academics does exactly this!

That being said (I have no delusions here), it is still important to point out, I think, that populist reason is equally split between the Left and the Right (Zizek’s ultimate point).  What bothers me is the Leftist appropriation of populism to counter the Rightist populism; we shouldn’t forget that the figure of Palestinian/Islamic terrorist fits precisely these defintions of the populist figure of the intruder/enemy in Israel and in European/American (and Canadian) Rightist populist reason.

The ambiguity of middle class politics, of course fits much more the Rightist populist reason.  The middle class relates to politics, on the one hand, by simply wanting to “sustain its way of life, to be left to work and live its life in peace, which is why it tends to support the authoritarian coups which promise to put an end to the crazy political mobilization of soceity, so that everybody can return to his or her work.  On the other hand, members of the middle class… are the main instigators of grassroots mass mobilization in the guise of rightist populism” (Ibid, 281-282).  From my own experience, this is what I see happening when middle class communities in Canada, the U.S. and Europe engage in populist reason by constructing an image of the enemy/intruder Palestinian/Islamic terrorist.  And it bugs me that CUPE’s call to boycott Israeli academics gives the middle class another target for its Rightist populist reason:  that is, it provides more amunition for the Right to oppose labour unions (not just in terms of the public perception of unions, but in terms of the kind of state violence, by which I mean the political-legal, objective as opposed to subjective violence that can accrue).

I’m not suggesting that CUPE ignore the political crises of Israel-Palestine, but that it not engage in this kind of populist reason.  More importantly, rather than (over-)focusing on Israel-Palestine, could we not use this conflict to highlight the repressed founding violence of EVERY state?  In other words, shouldn’t we begin by making links between Canadian suppression of Aboriginal populations and the Israeli suppression of Palestinians, or the American suppression of African Americans, or the European suppression of Jews and Arabs, etc?  This, to me, seems much more appropriate than boycotting Israeli academics.

And, finally, doesn’t the split between Left-Right populist reason give some indication of the work of displacement of the class antagonism?  That is, not that class struggle is the content being displaced, but that it is the very principle of this displacement.  The displacement/distortion (on both the Left and the Right) IS the class struggle.