“On Alain Badiou and Logiques des mondes”

In Badiou’s Logiques des mondes, the shift is from the axis Being-Event to the axis World-Event. What this means is that, in Logiques des mondes, Being, World and Event do not form a triad: we have either the opposition of Being and World (appearance), or the opposition of World and Event. There is an unexpected conclusion to be drawn from this: insofar as (Badiou emphasizes this point again and again) a true Event is not merely a negative gesture, but opens up a positive dimension of the New, an Event IS the imposition of a new world, of a new Master-Signifier (a new Naming, as Badiou puts it, or, what Lacan calls vers un nouveau significant). The true evental change is the passage from the old to the new world. One should even make a step further and introduce the dimension of dialectics here: an Event CAN be accounted for by the tension between the multiplicity of Being and the World, its site is the symptomal torsion of a World, it is generated by the excess of Being over World (of presence over re-presentation). The properly Hegelian enigma is here not “how is an Event, the rise of something truly New, possible?”, but, rather, how do we pass from Being to World, to (finite) appearance, i.e., how can Being, its flat infinite multiplicity, APPEAR (to itself)? Is it not that this presupposes a kind of “negativity” that has to be somehow operative in the midst of Being itself, some force of (not infinity, but, on the contrary) finitization, what Hegel called the “absolute power” of tearing apart what in reality belongs together, of giving autonomy to appearance. Prior to any “synthesis,” Spirit is what Kant called “transcendental imagination,” the power to abstract, to simplify/mortify, to reduce a thing to its “unary feature,” to erase its empirical wealth. Spirit is the power to say, when it is confronted with the confusing wealth of empirical features: “All this doesn’t really matter! Just tell me if the feature X is there or not!” Maybe, a FOURTH term is thus needed, which sustains the triad of Being/World/Event, a negativity (“death drive”) reducible to none of the three.


Teaser – Strike as Symptom

November 19, 2009

Here’s a few of the opening paragraphs from the Gorgon that I’ve been creating about the strike at York (carefull, you may return to stone, Freud styles):

What you aspire to as revolutionaries is a master. You will get one. – Lacan

What if democracy, in the second sense (the regulated procedure of registering the “people’s voice”) is ultimately a defense against itself, against democracy in the sense of the violent intrusion of the egalitarian logic that disturbs the hierarchical functioning of the social system, an attempt to re-functionalize this excess, to make it part of the normal running of things? – Žižek

Mid-way through our recent struggles a member of 3903 sent an email across a departmental list-serve pleading people to come to their senses and bring the strike to an end, and in so doing admonished people for getting-off “on this labour action stuff.” There were people who called this statement belittling, while another asserted that it needed to be acknowledged that there were in fact people who “got off” on striking. Rather than so quickly dismiss the possibility that “getting off” on political action is productive it is worthwhile considering in what way, in the context of the recent strike, “enjoyment is a political factor.”

Recognizing enjoyment in its political dimensions is, of course, the basis of the work of Slavoj Žižek. Rather than seeing it as an impediment to effective politics, as an obstacle to making rational decisions, he attempts to understand it in both its productive and destructive capacities – capacities that are not as contradictory as they may seem.

For Žižek the ethics of the political culminate in “enjoying one’s symptom.” At one point he evokes an episode from Rysard Kapuściński’s The Shadow of the Sun as an example of this logic. Driving to Onitsha, Nigeria to visit its market, Kapuściński encounters a traffic jam that stays his progress. Stepping out of his car to follow the line of vehicles that waits ahead of him Kapuściński finds the source of the problem: a gaping hole has opened in the road. The only way to continue is to wait to have someone drag each vehicle down into, and then up out of, the muddy crater. Along with the hole, however, he finds a bustle of activity: newly painted hotel signs, vendors and people gathered to simply socialize. Žižek writes that “the hole had become an institution. …a ridiculous contingent and meaningless obstacle triggered a swarm of social activity; people started to enjoy their symptom” (Žižek, 2002, 254).

It’s not hard to see parallels in the recent strike: around the gap that separated us from the administration (and ourselves) arose a social and administrative institution: a new office with new “staff” (i.e. rank-and-file members); large plywood shacks constructed at each of the university’s seven entrances; food and coffee service; pick-up and tear down crews; frequent internal and external communications; radio-banter (who stole the cookies?); collections of media-vans at the main gate; the York is Us collective and the Unit 2 communications group; musicians, actors and a mime that traveled from line to line; the writing and performing of two short plays about the strike; frequent and well attended General Membership- and Steward’s Council-meetings; members of the community delivering doughnuts and stopping to talk (or, it must be admitted, threatening us with knifes, bottles and cars); and last but not least, the creation of new friendships and the continued presence, post-strike, of red felt-squares on the coats and bags of strikers that identify people as members of a political community. As for the hole itself, it should be noted that the York campus was largely empty – the strike was coupled with a lockout, where all classes were cancelled.



Z in NYPost

November 9, 2009

A new opinion piece in the NYP…

Deadly Jester Part II

October 24, 2009

Apparently the person who wrote “the deadly jester” has struck again. The comments are far more interesting that the article itself.

I couldn’t find Zizek’s letter, however. The links on the website didn’t work for me.


Parker Vs. Zizek

May 27, 2009

This is an article by Ian Parker that starts off by accusing Zizek of being a ‘commissar’ for monitoring and controlling dissident behaviour for the Communists before the succession of Slovenia from Yugoslavia.

Zizek’s response to this accusation is on the IJZS website.

As some of you may recall, I have been toying with the idea that the sinthome is in some way related to the formula for fantasy:  $-a; that is, the formula for fantasy represents a symptomal knot (sinthome) which substantializes the noumenal Thing (this last point may be a bit contentious, but I’m sure discussion will ensue on it).

Here’s a quote from Mladen Dolar’s article, “Beyond Interpellation” (I can bring copies to the next meeting…  this is a must read!), which gives credence to what I propose:

The Lacanian formula for fantasy “correlates the symbolic subject (the one not based on recognition, the empty space that Lacan marks $) and the objectal surplus (objet a); these are the two entities not covered, I think, by the mechanism of interpellation…  The two are also connected in the symptom, although in a different way – Lacan gives it much thought in his last phase through the notion of sinthome.  Symptom and fantasy are two ways to establish a link between the $ and the objet a…” (Beyond Interpellation, p. 91).

This also helps to understand why, in The Parallax View, Zizek conceives $ and a as two sides of the same entity:  $ is the empty place in the Symbolic, and a is the excessive object without a place in the Symbolic.  They are the same entity viewed from two different positions in a ‘parallax view’.  One is subject, the other is substance, but there is a speculative identity between the two:  ‘substance as subject’.  However, they cannot be perceived simultaneously:  “They form a conceptual pair, both opposed and complementary” (Beyond Interpellation, p. 91).  I would argue, then, that symptom and fantasy share a similar relation, which is why analysis focuses on fantasy (dreams and hallucinations, for instance; or, the subject’s sense of ‘reality’) and symtpoms/sinthomes (nervous ‘ticks’; hysterical outbursts, etc. etc.).

The only thing that might discredit this claim is that, in some places, Zizek links the idea of sinthome to the Master-Signifier.  However, I would still argue that fantasy/sinthome occupies the Void of the empty Master-Signifier, thus maintaining my point and linking it to the Master-Signifier.


March 10, 2009

If you all recall, when we met to discuss chapter 1 of Ticklish Subject, we discussed the difference between Kant’s mathematical and dynamic antinomies (p. 41).  This, I think, led us into the discussion of differences between idealism and materialism (on which BTP has posted below).  Now, I’m not sure I entirely understand how this relates to idealism/materialism (still working through some of the details), but if anyone wants to read a very very good article on Kant’s antinomies and the logics of sexuation, I recommend Joan Copjec’s chapter in Read My Desire (1994), “Sex and the Eunthenasia of Reason”.  In this chapter, Copjec begins with a critique of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble (1990) and the problems with its post-Structuralist/Deconstructionist methodology and assumptions.  Copjec’s article is a good defence of psychoanalysis, and the deadlock of sexual difference in psychoanalysis, against post-Structuralism, which refers to Kant’s mathematical and dynamic antinomies to make her case.  I’m still working through some of the ideas in this chapter, and trying to think through some of the critiques she makes against Butler, but I think that it is very useful in this discussion.  It is also probably helpful to read through chapters 2-4 in Tarrying with the Negative (1993), chapters 3 and 4 in For They Know Not What They Do (2nd Ed. 2002), and chapter 6 in The Sublime Object of Ideology (1989) alongside this article (particularly Zizek’s discussions of Kantian antinomies and the logics of judgement).

Another interesting read is Butler’s Psychic Life of Power (1997), which I think is worth reading in anticipation of Zizek’s critique of her and Foucault in chapter 5 of Ticklish Subject (read especially her chapter on Freud and Foucault).

Yesterday I forgot to ask about the game of four-corners that Zizek suggests one can make out of certain distinctions Heidegger makes. UniSing, you love the square – maybe you could draw one up and post it here? If you don’t know the section I’m talking about, I’ll give you the page reference later (I’m not at home).

On another note, I thought of a reading idea for either the newly formed Lacanian reading group or for us after we finish The Tick. It pertains to the short discussion we had on symptoms just before The Thing had to leave. While there is no ‘beyond’, where the unconscious is fully external an in the world in the form of our actions, there is nonetheless something odd attached to it all . I referred to Freud’s “Repetition and working through” and the idea that intellectualizing or being able to speak about the ‘cuase’ of your symptom was not enough to bring about the end of analysis. This morning I remembered that in that same paper he refers to something that he feels is fundamental, but that he can’t get go into because its too controversial and involved to include in the paper he’s writing. There is a reference at that point, however, to the “rat dude”.

What we find in the rat-man study is an elaboration of ‘constructions of analysis’, something that must be logically supposed to happen, but will never be remembered by the subject in question. It seems to me that this is akin to Lacan’s (Zizek’s) ‘fundamental fantasy’.


I thought a one or two week reading list on this topic might look like this:

  1. “A child is being beaten” (Freud)
  2. “Constructions of Analysis” (Freud)
  3. Selections from the Rat Man case study
  4. “Lacan’s Myths” (Dorian Leader in the Cambridge Companion to Lacan)
  5. Sections of SOI where Z talks about Benjamin’s Gonads (er… Monad)

The obvious gap being that I’m not sure what Lacan we would read. I think there’s a seminar on Fantasy, but is it in English, and which sections of it would we read (rather than doing the whole thing?)


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.