Surplus of Jouissance Framing the Feminine and the Pervert. Drunken Risibility.

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The feminine position towards jouissance also moves beyond the phallic signifier. The woman does not come under the auspice of the paternal constraint of the phallic word, going as far as to sacrifice herself to unlimited jouissance suggesting a thorny ostracism of the paternal despot in his barbarous Will-to-Jouissance. Confronting the risk of turning these two parallel positions into a hazardous equation is locating the difference in the woman’s efforts to deviate from the function of the phallic signifier, where the woman still tries to relate her jouissance to the signifier as she tries to talk about it. This means that she does not disavow the phallic signifier as the pervert does, which explains why she is not placed completely outside the phallic function, on the side of unlimited fatal jouissance, something that would turn her into a callous figure.

Sade occupies the perverse frame in terms of jouissance, which is different from feminine jouissance. Although the woman slips away from the phallic function, she still tries to discover channels for relating her jouissance to the symbolic and manage to speak about it. The woman is not fully inscribed in the symbolic, for their structures are marked by a nucleus that persists and goes beyond symbolic boundaries: this is the object a, the remainder of lost jouissance. The pervert situates himself in the position of the object of the drive, whereas the woman tries to pertain not to this object, but its lack, namely the phallus, without fully succeeding in this. There is a surplus enjoyment in both positions pointing towards the new possibilities that the feminine position opens for ethics.

However, even if the woman tries to fasten her jouissance to the phallic function, unlike the pervert, it is precisely this surplus of jouissance that frames both the feminine and the perverse position. Moreover, given that lack and excess are tautological notions for Lacan, in what way did a pervert embody the lack in the drive and how is it different from embodying the excess of the feminine? Despite efforts to separate the two, one thing remains: both the pervert and the woman bear upon a jouissance beyond the limits of the symbolic, where common moral designations become impaired.

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Desire of the Pervert. Thought of the Day 102.0

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The subject’s lack is the cynosure of the analytic process. The psychoanalytic discourse places the object a, the marker of lack, in the dominant position. The analyst embroiders the transferential relationship with the analysand by centralizing the constitutive lack of the object as a precondition for desire, which brings the subject to the locus of the Other. As well as lack, the specular image that takes over it and marks its boundaries, that is, the ego, is the other focal point of analysis. The image has its borders; this is the frame of the mirror. Around the limits of the image is where anxiety will make its appearance as what signals the momentary disruption of all points of identification. The limits of the mirror are symbolized by Lacan’s “little diamond” (<>), the sign which indicates the relation between the subject and the object in the matheme of fantasy ($<>a). This relation is mediated by desire. The role of the specular image, functioning as a sort of filter, is to protect the subject from anxiety by covering lack, but also marking it. The reflection in the mirror functions like a window frame that demarcates the illusory world of recognition (imaginary) from what Lacan calls “stage” (symbolic reality). In this stage, we find the desire of the masochist and the sadist. The extra-ordinary and the ordinary subject stage their desire in the same arena, playing the same part, with diametrically different techniques.

The scenarios of “perverse” desire do not just linger in a fantasmatic frame (as happens with neurosis); the extra-ordinary cross the window, taking fantasy on stage, that is, acting it out in the symbolic. The vacillation between desire and jouissance is absent from the extra-ordinary, because he is certain about what he wants. Contrary to the neurotic, whose desire always remains in doubt (this is the desire of the Other), the pervert does not have the doubt, but the knowledge of what he desires. The enduring question of “what the Other wants from me” is absent; the “pervert” takes the game in his hands, he knows and applies the rules. The desire of the “pervert” is to be passively enjoyed by the Other, as it is best manifested in masochism. Lacan notes that the masochist is supposed to know how to enjoy the Other. The masochist is the one who gives the orders, the commands, the knowledge, to the Other, who has to tackle its limits. The masochist is aiming at the jouissance of the Other . . . the final term he is aiming at is anxiety of the Other.

Perverse Ideologies. Thought of the Day 100.0

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Žižek (Fantasy as a Political Category A Lacanian Approach) says,

What we are thus arguing is not simply that ideology permeates also the alleged extra-ideological strata of everyday life, but that this materialization of ideology in the external materiality renders visible inherent antagonisms that the explicit formulation of ideology cannot afford to acknowledge. It is as if an ideological edifice, in order to function “normally,” must obey a kind of “imp of perversity” and articulate its inherent antagonism in the externality of its material existence.

In this fashion, Žižek recognizes an element of perversity in all ideologies, as a prerequisite for their “normal” functioning. This is because all ideologies disguise lack and thus desire through disavowal. They know that lack is there, but at the same time they believe it is eliminated. There is an object that takes over lack, that is to say the Good each ideology endorses, through imaginary means. If we generalize Žižek’s suggestion, we can either see all ideological relations mediated by a perverse liaison or perversion as a condition that simply helps the subjects relate to each other, when signification fails and they are confronted with the everlasting question of sexual difference, the non-representable dimension. Ideology, then, is just one solution that makes use of the perverse strategy when dealing with Difference. In any case, it is not pathological and cannot be determined mainly by relying on the role of disavowal. Instead of père-vers (this is a Lacanian neologism that denotes the meanings of “perversion” and “vers le père”, referring to the search for jouissance that does not abolish the division of the subject, her desire. In this respect, the père-vers is typical of both neurosis and perversion, where the Name-of-the-Father is not foreclosed and thereby complete jouissance remains unobtainable sexuality, that searches not for absolute jouissance, but jouissance related to desire, the political question is more pertinent to the père-versus, so to say, anything that goes against the recognition of the desire of the Other. Any attempt to disguise lack for instrumental purposes is a père-versus tactic.

To the extent that this external materialization of ideology is subjected to fantasmatic processes, it divulges nothing more than the perversity that organizes all social and political relations far from the sexual pathology associated with the pervert. The Other of power, this fictional Other that any ideology fabricates, is the One who disavows the discontinuities of the normative chain of society. Expressed through the signifiers used by leadership, this Other knows very well the cul-de-sac of the fictional view of society as a unified body, but still believes that unity is possible, substantiating this ideal.

The ideological Other disregards the impossibility of bridging Difference; therefore, it meets the perversion that it wants to associate with the extra-ordinary. Disengaging it from pathology, disavowal can be stated differently, as a prompt that says: “let’s pretend!” Pretend as if a universal harmony, good, and unity are feasible. Symbolic Difference is replaced with imaginary difference, which nourishes antagonism and hostility by fictionalizing an external threat that jeopardizes the unity of the social body. Thus, fantasy of the obscene extra-ordinary, who offends the conformist norm, is in itself a perverse fantasy. The Other knows very well that the pervert constitutes no threat, but still requires his punishment, moral reformation, or treatment.

Žižek’s Dialectical Coincidentia Oppositorium. Thought of the 98.0

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Without doubt, the cogent interlacing of Lacanian theorization with Hegelianism manifests Žižek’s prowess in articulating a highly pertinent critique of ideology for our epoch, but whether this comes from a position of Marxist orthodoxy or a position of a Lacanian doctrinaire who monitors Marxist politics is an open question.

Through this Lacanian prism, Žižek sees subjectivity as fragmented and decentred, considering its subordinate status to the unsurpassable realm of the signifiers. The acquisition of a consummate identity dwells in impossibility, in as much as it is bound to desire, provoked by a lacuna which is impossible to fill up. Thus, for Žižek, socio-political relations evolve from states of lack, linguistic fluidity, and contingency. What temporarily arrests this fluid state of the subject’s slithering in the realm of the signifiers, giving rise to her self-identity, is what Lacan calls point de capiton. The term refers to certain fundamental “anchoring” points in the signifying chain where the signifier is tied to the signified, providing an illusionary stability in signification. Laclau and Mouffe (Hegemony and Socialist Strategy Towards a Radical Democratic Politics) were the first to make use of the idea of the point de capiton in relation to hegemony and the formation of identities. In this context, ideology is conceptualized as a terrain of firm meanings, determined and comprised by numerous points de capiton (Zizek The Sublime Object of Ideology).

The real is the central Lacanian concept that Žižek implements in his rhetoric. He associates the real with antagonism (e.g., class conflict) as the unsymbolizable and irreducible gap that lies in the heart of the socio-symbolic order and around which society is formed. As Žižek argues, “class struggle designates the very antagonism that prevents the objective (social) reality from constituting itself as a self-enclosed whole” (Renata Salecl, Slavoj Zizek-Gaze and Voice As Love Objects). This logic is indebted to Laclau and Mouffe, who were the first to postulate that social antagonism is what impedes the closure of society, marking thus its impossibility. Žižek expanded this view and associated antagonism with the notion of the real.

Functioning as a hegemonic fantasmatic veil, ideology covers the lacuna of the symbolic, in the form of a fantasy, so that it protracts desire and hence subjectivity. On the imaginary level, ideology functions as the “mirror” that reflects antagonisms, that is to say, the real unrepresentable kernel that undermines the political. Around this emptiness of representation, the fictional narrative of ideology, its meaning, is to unfurl. The role of socio-ideological fantasy is to provide consistency to the symbolic order by veiling its void, and to foster the illusion of a coherent social unity.

Nevertheless, fantasy has both unifying and disjunctive features, as its role is to fill the void of the symbolic, but also to circumscribe this void. According to Žižek, “the notion of fantasy offers an exemplary case of the dialectical coincidentia oppositorium”. On the one side, it provides a “hallucinatory realisation of desire” and on the other side, it evokes disturbing images about the Other’s jouissance to which the subject has no (symbolic or imaginary) access. In so reasoning, ideology promises unity and, at the same time, creates another fantasy, where the failure of acquiring the anticipated ideological unity is ascribed.

Pertaining to Jacques Derrida’s work Specters of Marx (Specters of Marx The State of the Debt, The Work of Mourning; the New International), where the typical ontological conception of the living is seen to be incomplete and inseparable from the spectre, namely, a ghostly embodiment that haunts the living present (Derrida introduces the notion of hauntology to refer to this pseudo-material incarnation of the spirit that haunts and challenges ontological present), Žižek elaborates the spectral apparitions of the real in the politico–ideological domain. He makes a distinction between this “spectre” and “symbolic fiction”, that is, reality per se. Both have a common fantasmatic hypostasis, yet they perform antithetical functions. Symbolic fiction forecloses the real antagonism at the crux of reality, only to return as a spectre, as another fantasy.

The New Lexicon of Hate

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One reason why ‘cosmopolitan’ is an unnerving term is that it was the key to an attempt by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to purge the culture of dissident voices. In a 1946 speech, he deplored works in which ‘the positive Soviet hero is derided and inferior before all things foreign and cosmopolitanism that we all fought against from the time of Lenin, characteristic of the political leftovers, is many times applauded.’ It was part of a yearslong [sic] campaigned aimed at writers, theater critics, scientists and others who were connected with ‘bourgeois Western influences.’ Not so incidentally, many of these ‘cosmopolitans’ were Jewish, and official Soviet propaganda for a time devoted significant energy into ‘unmasking’ the Jewish identities of writers who published under pseudonyms.

Something is rotten with liberalism’s reigning manifestation, its stench discernible to everyone but itself. A sterile managerialism – signposted as what Oscar Wilde decried as “the monstrous worship of facts” – distilled in the form of policy wonkery and modish Vox explainers, had the rug yanked from under it on Nov. 8. It was an unexpected stumble across the Rubicon – one in which the ruling consensus was forsaken, crestfallen, and discombobulated within a ruptured sociopolitical milieu that was no longer recognizable.

Donald Trump is the expression of the id, animated by libidinal whims, repressed desires, and resentments; the liberal establishment was the moralizing superego, directing commands toward appropriate conduct and policing discourse. Upon losing control of the id, the compulsion to fact-check and bellow “This is not normal!” into the post-truth abyss turned liberals, Rensin proclaims, into “the blathering superego at the end of history.”

In this political order, transgression and libertinism appeared as cathartic outlets. Irony was weaponized, and guileful wordplay camouflaged bigotry. Such was the transgressive thrill of Trumpism: the enjoyment of publicly stating what is not said openly, which tapped into what Jacques Lacan termed jouissance – the desire to go beyond the limits of publicly accepted discourse. Unsurprisingly, the shift toward social sadism is echoed in online culture, especially with trolling. The so-called alt-right embraced trolling, shrugging off accusations of racism and sexism by adopting a sardonic dispensation to wring its hands clean from charges of prejudice. “You just don’t get it,” went the customary rebuke. They know their liberal opponents well, homing in on their conscience and sanctimonious virtue-signaling. Witch-hunting and online harassment is employed as a popular strategy to hound feminists, social justice warriors, and other moralists. Equivalent disdain is reserved for establishment conservatives, branded “cuckservatives” for having stood as the positional gains of minorities emasculated White America.

There is an inclination to reduce the alt-right’s pranksterism to a pop-cultural spectacle, as opposed to a crucible of virulent ethno-nationalism that needs to be confronted and refuted. While the profusion of irony, memes, and in-jokes does not a movement make, it is important to eschew the revulsion that characterizes much of the response to this nebulous amalgam.

Conservatism, after all, can summon a radical undercurrent when necessary. Fundamentally reactionary as opposed to rigidly traditionalist, it is willing to absorb and redirect the potency of new revolutionary actors toward counter-revolution and new relations of domination. Political scientist Corey Robin identifies this tendency in “The Reactionary Mind_ Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin” where he points out that the right is more than happy to violently upend an anemic ruling class to install a more dynamic one in its place, even if it means using the tactics and rhetoric of their ideological rivals. As Robin notes, “While conservatives are hostile to the goals of the left . . . they often are the left’s best students.”

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Mania of the Revisionary Narratives. Note Quote.

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For if Lacan is either symptom or agent of a theoretical turn, it is far from the “care of the self” imagined by this proposition because the French return to Freud explodes any ready notion of self-care. It also removes the props for identity politics. Poststructural psychoanalysis has been the key provocation of a turn to the identity-destabilizing work of the unconscious that, along with an unlikely ally in historicism, has galvanized the transition from transparent to unstable, internally divided, and overdetermined identity categories. The tense debates of the 1980s and 1990s between feminism and poststructuralism have without much fanfare yielded to a tacit consensus that, rather than invalidating politically engaged analysis, psychologically and historically mobile conceptualizations of gender make intellectual and political alliances possible across previously hostile discursive terrains. As self-difference opens the door to other differences, theorizations that emanate from one racial or sexual or class turf are more likely to provoke new questions than old accusations from competing grounds. We are just at the beginning of a generative process that encompasses not only the particularization that results from historical refinement and nuancing but also the elaboration of revisionary narratives: what happens when the dark plantation son retells the story of the primal horde, or when the racial shadow falls across the mirror stage, or the queer encounters and reforms the melancholic? Fracturing the subject has also poked holes in the walls that have divided psychoanalysis and history, launching a potentially interminable analysis.

Catharsis

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One of the ways in which Freud was able to reveal repressed unconscious representations in discourse was through a technique popularly known as “the talking cure”. Coined by “Anna O” – a patient of Josef Breuer, Freud’s family doctor – the talking cure was considered by Freud to be effective in the treatment of hysteria. The technique, not unlike the notion of “free association”, requires the patient to say out loud whatever comes to her/his mind no matter how insignificant or superficial it may seem. By encouraging the patient to concentrate on putting neurotic or psychotic experiences into words, the uninterrupted narrative flow allows the psychoanalyst to reconstruct the patient’s unconscious mind. Focusing on unconscious representations revealed during discourse, the psychoanalyst is able to perceive lapsus or other manifestations of the unconscious which may escape the patient’s field of perception. At the discretion of the psychoanalyst, these unconscious representations are in turn brought to the patient’s attention who will ideally be able to understand the root of an undesired behavior. According to Freud, becoming familiar with the exact nature of these neurotic and psychotic behaviors makes it possible for the patient to suppress them.

The success of the talking cure, also known as the cathartic method, depends on the patient’s ability to put thoughts into words through the free assembly of signifiers. Through extensive research on the connection between the spoken word and the idea it represented, Freud argued that the organization of words, as well as their subsequent verbalization, have a direct link not only with cognition, but also with kinesthetics. In their analysis of the case of “Anna O.” – a patient of Breuer suffering from acute hysteria – both Freud and Breuer recognized the therapeutic benefits of the cathartic method. During the course of her hysteria, the patient essentially repressed the anguish of her father’s death into the unconscious mind, the cathexis of which resurfaced as a series of somatic manifestations. The patient’s symptoms, ranging from partial paralysis to severe coughing, completely disappeared toward the final phases of her treatment, much to the surprise of Freud and Breuer. They later attributed the patient’s cure to her verbalized reenactment of emotionally charged scenes associated with her father’s death, in the same manner as Aristotle remarked on the soothing effects of catharsis.

Further elaborating on Freud’s relationship between thoughts and words, Lacan perceived the unconscious mind. as being comprised of individual signifiers. Combining Saussurian linguistics and Freudian psychoanalysis, Lacan’s perception of the unconscious mind expounded on the ‘word-presentations’ mentioned by Freud in The Ego and the Id. Whereas Freud conceived the unconscious mind as containing “thing-presentations” that could be verbalized in the conscious mind, only by their subsequent passage through the pre-conscious, Lacan demonstrated that these “thing-presentations” already behave like signifiers without first having to filter through the pre-conscious. Lacan points out that the unconscious is manifested not only in speech through unconscious lapsus, but also in dreams, qualified by Freud as “the via regia to the unconscious”.

Because dreams both contain verbal cues and take on characteristics of linguistic tropes such as metaphor and metonymy, Lacan reasons that the unconscious must be structured like a language. To support this theory, he likens metaphor and metonymy to two functions of Freud’s dream-work: condensation and displacement, respectively. According to Lacan, metaphor behaves like condensation in that a signifier belonging to a particular signifying chain can be substituted with a new signifier from a different signifying chain in order to be reassigned a new meaning. Thus, metaphor appears both in narration and in dreams when a signifier-word is attributed a meaning other than that which is normally associated with it. In this way, condensation acts as a censoring agent to protect the ego from images, drives or impulses that it has repressed. Closely related to metonymy, dreams can also be censored through displacement. Instead of compressing images, drives or impulses into a metaphor as is the case with condensation, displacement disguises unconscious representations by replacing a repressed signifier in a signifying chain with another signifier from the same chain. This implies that the signifier that has been replaced in the signifying chain is related to the new signifier, as is the case of metonymy which uses only one part of a thing to describe the whole thing.

It would appear that, like language, the unconscious is governed by the relationship between individual units, in much the same way that words are governed by the rules of grammar and tropes to create meaning. In this respect, not only are unconscious and conscious signifiers similar to one another, but Freud’s cathartic method further corroborates their equivalence. With the assistance of a psychoanalyst, the “talking cure” brings unconscious drives, impulses and the images they create to the conscious realm through psychic discharge, which in the context of psychoanalysis, takes on the form of verbalized discourse. Instead of remaining confined to the unconscious and surfacing in unexpected or undesired ways through psychotic or neurotic behaviors, unconscious cathexes are channeled into language which, as Freud pointed out in “Words and Things”, is closely related to somatic activity. If unconscious cathexes can be converted into speech instead of into debilitating behaviors, then the connection between elements of the unconscious and those of the conscious can be clearly established.

But, for Freud, art is (as is love) an attenuated and inhibited form of sexuality that has a “mildly intoxicating quality of feeling.” The full power of human affects is exhausted and satisfied only in sexuality, “the prototype of all happiness.” For Lacan, the deepest passions are not localized or limited to genital sexuality, but engage the entire corporeal being in many, unpredictable forms of jouissance. Art is a way into jouissance. By doing violence to its own structural and meaning-making properties, art bewilders, perplexes, shocks, or enraptures, causing a “resonating of the body” that the speaking being (‘parlêtre’) wants and enjoys, even at the price of pain or anxiety. It has techniques and ways of making interventions that psychoanalysis can perhaps adapt for producing an encounter in the analysand with his or her own wordless real. By contrast, though Freud praised art for preceding psychoanalysis in understanding our psychic constitution, he did not see it as having any kind of direct application or usefulness for analytic practice. For the late Lacan, psychoanalysis is no longer the Freudian “talking cure” but a search for new paths to accomplish a kind of tuning of the jouissance that underlies all thought and discourse.

Ideology

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For Žižek, we are not so much living in a post-ideological era as in an era dominated by the ideology of cynicism. Adapting from Marx and Sloterdijk, he sums up the cynical attitude as “they know that, in their activity, they are following an illusion, but still, they are doing it”. Ideology in this sense, is located in what we do and not in what we know. Our belief in an ideology is thus staged in advance of our acknowledging that belief in “belief machines”, such as Althusser’s Ideological State Apparatuses. It is “belief before belief.”

One of the questions Žižek asks about ideology is: what keeps an ideological field of meaning consistent? Given that signifiers are unstable and liable to slippages of meaning, how does an ideology maintain its consistency? The answer to this problem is that any given ideological field is “quilted” by what, following lacan, he terms a point de capiton (literally an “upholstery button” though it has also been translated as “anchoring point”). In the same way that an upholstery button pins down stuffing inside a quilt and stops it from moving about, Žižek argues that a point de capiton is a signifier which stops meaning from sliding about inside the ideological quilt. A point de capiton unifies an ideological field and provides it with an identity. Freedom, i.e, is in itself an open-ended word, the meaning of which can slide about depending on the context of its use. A right-wing interpretation of the word might use it to designate the freedom to speculate on the market, whereas a left-wing interpretation of it might use it designate freedom from the inequalities of the market. The word “freedom” therefore does not mean the same thing in all possible worlds: what pins its meaning down is the point de capiton of “right-wing” or “left-wing”. What is at issue in a conflict of ideologies is precisely the point de capiton – which signifier (“communism”, “fascism”, “capitalism”, “market economy” and so on) will be entitled to quilt the ideological field (“freedom”, “democracy”, Human rights” and so on).

Žižek distinguishes three moments in the narrative of an ideology.

1. Doctrine – ideological doctrine concerns the ideas and theories of an ideology, i.e. liberalism partly developed from the ideas of John Locke.

2. Belief – ideological belief designates the material or external manifestations and apparatuses of its doctrine, i.e. liberalism is materialized in an independent press, democratic elections and the free market.

3. Ritual – ideological ritual refers to the internalization of a doctrine, the way it is experienced as spontaneous, i.e in liberalism subjects naturally think of themselves as free individuals.

These three aspects of ideology form a kind of narrative. In the first stage of ideological doctrine we find ideology in its “pure” state. Here ideology takes the form of a supposedly truthful proposition or set of arguments which, in reality, conceal a vested interest. Locke’s arguments about government served the interest of the revolutionary Americans rather than the colonizing British. In a second step, a successful ideology takes on the material form which generates belief in that ideology, most potently in the guise of Althusser’s State Apparatuses. Third, ideology assumes an almost spontaneous existence, becoming instinctive rather than realized either as an explicit set of arguments or as an institution. the supreme example of such spontaneity is, for Žižek, the notion of commodity fetishism.

In each of these three moments – a doctrine, its materialization in the form of belief and its manifestation as spontaneous ritual – as soon as we think we have assumed a position of truth from which to denounce the lie of an ideology, we find ourselves back in ideology again. This is so because our understanding of ideology is based on a binary structure, which contrasts reality with ideology. To solve this problem, Žižek suggests that we analyze ideology using a ternary structure. So, how can we distinguish reality from ideology? From what position, for example, is Žižek able to denounce the New Age reading of the universe as ideological mystification? It is not from the position in reality because reality is constituted by the Symbolic and the Symbolic is where fiction assumes the guise of truth. The only non-ideological position available is in the Real – the Real of the antagonism. Now, that is not a position we can actually occupy; it is rather “the extraideological point of reference that authorizes us to denounce the content of our immediate experience as ‘ideological.'” (Mapping Ideology) The antagonism of the Real is a constant that has to be assumed given the existence of social reality (the Symbolic Order). As this antagonism is part of the Real, it is not subject to ideological mystification; rather its effect is visible in ideological mystification. Here, ideology takes the form of the spectral supplement to reality, concealing the gap opened up by the failure of reality (the Symbolic) to account fully for the Real. While this model of the structure of reality does not allow us a position from which to assume an objective viewpoint, it does presuppose the existence of ideology and thus authorizes the validity of its critique. The distinction between reality and ideology exists as a theoretical given. Žižek does not claim that he can offer any access to the “objective truth of things” but that ideology must be assumed to exist if we grant that reality is structured upon a constitutive antagonism. And if ideology exists we must be able to subject it to critique. This is the aim of Žižek’s theory of ideology, namely an attempt to keep the project of ideological critique alive at all in an era in which we are said to have left ideology behind.

Žižek and the Disintegration of the Big Other and its Return. Note Quote.

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One key aspect of the universalization of reflexivity is the resulting desintegration of the big Other, the communal network of social institutions, customs and laws. For Žižek, the big Other was always dead, in the sense that it never existed in the first place as a material thing. All it ever was (and is) is a purely symbolic order. It means that we all engage in a minimum of idealization, disavowing the brute fact of the Real in favor of another Symbolic world behind it. Žižek expresses this disavowal in terms of an “as if”. In order to coexist with our neighbors we act “as if” they do not smell bad or look ridiculous. The big Other is then a kind of collective lie to which we all individually subscribe. We all know that the emperor is naked (in the Real) but nonetheless we agree to the deception that he is wearing new clothes (in the Symbolic). When Žižek avers that “the big Other no longer exists” is that in the new postmodern era of reflexivity we no longer believe that the emperor is wearing clothes. We believe the testimony of our eyes (his nakedness in the Real) rather than the words of the big Other (his Symbolic new clothes). Instead of treating this as a case of punctuting hypocrisy, Žižek argues that “we get more than we bargained for – that the very community of which we were a member has disintegrated” (For They Know Not What They Do). There is a demise in “Symbolic efficiency”. Symbolic efficiency refers to the way in which for a fact to become true it is not enough for us just to know it, we need to know that the fact is also known by the big Other too. For Žižek, it is the big Other which confers an identity upon the many decentered personalities of the contemporary subject. The different aspects of my personality do not claim an equal status in the Symbolic – it is only the Self or Selves registered by the big Other which display Symbolic efficiency, which are fully recognized by everyone else and determine my socio-economic position. The level at which this takes place is not that of “reality” as opposed to the play of my imagination – Lacan’s point is not that, behind the multiplicity of phantasmatic identities, there is a hard core of some “real Self”, we are dealing with a symbolic fiction, but a fiction which, for contingent reasons that have nothing to do with its inherent structure, possesses performative power – is socially operative, structures the socio-symbolic reality in which I participate. The status of the same person, inclusive of his/her very “real” features, can appear in an entirely different light the moment the modality of his/her relationship to the big Other changes. (The Ticklish Subject: the Absent Center of Political Ideology).

Besides the construction of little big Others as a reaction of the demise of the big Other, Žižek identifies another response in the positing of a big Other that actually exists in the Real. The name Lacan gives to an Other in the Real is “the Other of the Other”. A belief in an Other of the Other, in someone or something who is really pulling the strings of society and organizing everything, is one of the signs of paranoia. Needless to say that it is commonplace to argue that the dominant pathology today is paranoia: countless books and films refer to some organization which covertly control governments, news, markets and academia. Žižek proposes that the cause of this paranoia can be located in a reaction to the demise of the big Other: Paradoxically, then, Žižek argues that the typical postmodern subject is one who displays an outright cynicism towards official institutions, yet at the same time believes in the existence of conspiracies and an unseen Other pulling the strings. This apparently contradictory coupling of cynicism and belief is strictly correlative to the demise of the big Other. Its disappearance causes us to construct an Other of the Other in order to escape the unbearable freedom its loss encumbers us with. Conversely, there is no need to take the big Other seriously if we believe in an Other of the Other. We therefore display cynicism and belief in equal and sincere measures.

Rancière an OOOist? What about Derrida then? Drag the Waters some more. Drunken Risibility

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I have always wondered why the English translation of l’imaginaire is imaginary and not imagery, since imagery is less confusing as compared to the former. Anyways, Reality is the gamut of the given, of the posited, of the what cannot be contorted and twisted, of the politics of administration. Real, on the other hand is the striving for…, the impossible to find its genuineness within the spectrum of the Reality.

As Levi Bryant puts it,

The real is that which is without place (his emphasis) in reality. It is a strange sort of placelessness, for it simultaneously 1) is invisible from the standpoint of reality, yet nonetheless 2) the “system of reality” strives to gentrify and eradicate the real (in Television Lacan will cryptically pronounce that “reality is the grimace of the real”), and 3) the real, despite being invisible, nonetheless appears but in a way inimical to the vector body-object system of the Imaginary and the sorting-organizing system of the symbolic. The real is a placeless appearance.

From here, it is all the way to Harman and co. and their take on OOO as representative (if I may use this word) of the Real rather than the Reality. This flows quite systematically and logically, until Ranciere gets dragged (not to be connoted pejoratively) into the camp of OOO.

For Levi says (and Rancière is truly and rightly echoed here),

Political realism’s thesis is always that 1) all entities involved are counted and accounted for, and 2) that no other order is possible. Of course, this order also disguises the fact that the interests it claims to be in everyone’s interests are really the interests of a few. In repressing this anarchic and contingent ground of the reality system, political realism thereby promotes the lie that such and such a course of action is the only possible course of action, the only thing that can be done.

He (Rancière) is here with his refusal to closure of political reality, harboring new possibilities in its wake. Now, I really would wonder where would Derrida be camping, if the situation of the Real could be taken to extremes with him, the situation of yet to come…the openings of possibilities…, or the potentialities…..

Can Derrida ever be an OOOist himself in one of its strands?