“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.



Do you believe this?

November 17, 2009

I saw this in an ad on a subway train this morning:

God Loves You. He made you for the pleasure of loving you and knowing you. Do you believe this?

This is clearly an hysteric’s view on God: God is out there trying to enjoy me, and I resist.

I’m not sure what to do about the question at the end. Somewhere Zizek writes that every question is an accusation, at which we feel quilt no matter how not-guilty we may be. I think he means this is the sense that the person to whom it is posed is supposed to know the answer (I don’t know where he says this, however). Perhaps the last sentence here is just such an accusation: you already knew this, didn’t you!?

Z in NYPost

November 9, 2009

A new opinion piece in the NYP…

Zizek & Harper’s Magazine

October 30, 2009

I’ve been missing the boat for some time but leave an offering in supplication.

Having read the recent Jester posting and commentaries, thought it worthwhile to mention Zizek’s appearance  in the October issue of Harper’s: an excerpt from the imminent First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, titled “To Each According to His Greed.”

The only truly surprising thing about the 2008 financial meltdown is how easily the idea was accepted that its happening was unpredictable. Recall the demonstrations that throughout the last decade regularly accompanied meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank: the protesters’ complaints encompassed not only the usual antiglobalization motifs (the growing exploitation of Third World countries, etc.) but also how the banks were creating the illusion of growth by playing with fictional money and how this would all have to end in a crash. It was not only economists such as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz who warned of the dangers ahead and made it clear that those who promised continuous growth did not really understand what was going on under their noses. In Washington in 2000, so many people demonstrated about the danger of a financial collapse that the city had to mobilize 3,500 local policemen. What ensued was tear-gassing, clubbing,and mass arrests… (Readings, 15)

Notably, an excerpt from the “terroristic” carnival called the Invisible Committee also finds a home in the same issue right after Zizek, with an excerpt from The Coming Insurrection.

Both question and oppose in varying ratios the litany of calls for autonomy and self-sufficiency in relation to returns to the steady-state, depoliticized harmony of  ‘real economies’, ‘real communities’, and (yes) ‘families,’ the best master signifiers and sanctioned material effects of any ‘return to normal.’

The IC suggest the good family, like the “good” fundamentalism of devoted indifference, is no longer possible, that “the one coming back is not the same that went away.” What good family was there? The small family commando unit (Virilio)?  The pack? The initial martial body and ideal pastoral cell through which oikos was a matter of survival and cellular struggle against lurking vertebrate structures, but became also the biopolitcal confinement ensured via enforced conduct? Or, maybe the family holding out as the good biopolitics of Esposito’s positive content of bios and ways of life prior to whatever invasive colonizations we detect with our theoretical and political registers?

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



A few rough comments on Zizek’s “Objet a in Social Links”

Zizek begins this paper by writing that critical theory needs psychoanalysis, and the psychoanalytic clinic needs critical theory (107-8). In this paper Zizek is attempting (i.e. beginning – the paper doesn’t come to a conclusion, but appears to be an early version of a chapter from Parallax View) to show that psychoanalysis is revolutionary (110) and needed to achieve social change. This would lead to the conclusion that the transformation of state power (“capitalist power”) is to be achieved via the Party as analyst (though, again, Zizek doesn’t quite get there in this paper).

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Seize the State…

June 16, 2009

In light of the Zizek paper we read for today, this (another version of the Lenin essay with a couple of new bits) fills the gap that was left. I.e. the role of the political. Where Zizek only breifly mentions the import of Lenin (with reference to State and Revoution), this perhaps functions as the missing peice.

From Francis Wheen’s biography of Marx:


All three Marx daughters loved the Victorian parlou game ‘Confessions’ – nowadays often known as the Proust Questionaire – and in the mid-1860s invited their father to submit himself to interrogation. Here are his answers.

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