Zizek in NYC

September 16, 2009

Zizek is going to be at the Brecht Forum in October.  I saw him talk there a couple of years ago before the release of In Defense of Lost Causes, around the same time that we were finishing our reading of The Parallax View.

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I just read the Apollon paper that I suggested for our next meeting.

One of the things that I found interesting in the case history he describes is that a major turning point in the analysis included the analysand taking control of their therapy, becoming more involved in making change happen. This in part took the form of gaining ‘knowledge’ about the deadlocks of their ‘enjoyment’ (i.e. “jouissance“). For me this resonates with Hegel’s comments on the relation of the rational to feeling in the preface to The Philosophy of Right: one should not make assertions based solely on one’s feelings as if they had some special purchase on truth. Hegel holds that it possible, however, for feelings to become rational. Zizek makes a comment about the ‘moral development’ of feelings that I think illustrates this logic: the instantaneous feelings of revolt and rage that come to many of us when hearing of rape are not ‘natural’ but a modern development that need be defended. The resonance that I see here is the dialectical reversal of feeling and rational knowledge: they are not opposed, but one half of the dialectic dominates in the final ‘sublated’ relationship: rational conclusions should not be made from feelings, but feelings can be made rational. The resonance becomes clearer when considering Lacan’s assertion in Seminar XX (On Feminine Sexuality) that knowledge, too, is a form of jouissance. At the end of analysis, then, it is not that enjoyment goes away, but that it takes on a new form – one that is separated from the big Other.

Another point of interest in this paper is that Apollon seems to acknowledge the historical specificity of femininity: “This fact of the father, the phallic fact par excellence, is to a certain extent a problem for us in North America, as a required passage for feminine jouissance” (134). He acknowledges that certain things are particular to North America, but doesn’t do much to explain what these are. The problem is that it is unclear to what extent this is a problem. Is it a problem that need be changed, or merely one that need be taken into account? Further still, does this mean that the analysand need be made to fit this model just because it is in North America that we find ourselves? Apparently it does, as suggested in final words of the paper. Here Apollon rails against ‘conformist’ ego psychology, but ends on a telling note:

In time, after the subject’s encounters with whatever is the anguishing knot of the real in the unconscious, the desire to be cured yields to the ethical requirement of a truth that is incommensurable with the knowledge of science or psychology.The false need of belonging within which the stakes of ego identifications justify themselves, disappears with the return and recognition of a desire bearing its own markers with no other regard for the demands of the Other than the symbolic limits of social or citizen coexistence (140).

Opposed to the sense of belonging (i.e. conformity) that Apollon sees ego-psychology aiming for, he suggests that the end of analysis produces a liberal subject (or at least Apollon makes it sound like it does), which is of course the dominant political framework of North America. Which is to say that the ends of analysis are political and in no way neutral, which will of course have effects on how the analyst directs the analysis and the self-direction of the analysand.

It also, of course, opens up the possibility of alternatives. Where the end of analysis is ‘knowledge’ and the death of the big Other, this need not simply imply Liberalism. It could well include political outcomes that include these two elements but go further than the liberal subject.

Reference: Willy Apollon. (2002) “From Symptom to Fantasy” in After Lacan: Clinical Practice and the Subject of the Unconscious by Apollon, Bergeron and Cantin. Hughs and Malone, eds. New York: State University of New York Press