polemos

U MBR a

U MBR a
EDITORS: Sue Feldman Theresa Giron Mikko Tuhkanen MANAGING EDITOR: Theresa Giron EDITORIAL COMMITTEE: Marina de Carneri Erica DeSanto Sue Feldman Theresa Giron Alla Ivantchikova Alissa Lea Jones Kyunghoon Jung Cristina Laurita Aranya Maritime Hugh Schaeffer Mikko Tuhkanen COVER DESIGN: Sam Gillespie IMAGES EDITOR: Hugh Schaeffer ADVERTISING MANAGER: Hugh Schaeffer DISTRIBUTION: Alissa Lea Jones FACULTY ADVISOR: Joan Copjec

A JOURNAL OF THE UNCONSCIOUS

2001

ISSN 1087-0830 ISBN 0-9666452-

UMBR(a) is published with the help of grants from the following organizations and individuals at the State University of New York at Buffalo: The Graduate Student Association The Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Culture The Group for the Discussion of the Freudian Field The English Department The English Graduate Student Association The Eugenio Donato Chair (Rodolphe Gasché) The Samuel Clemens Chair (Leslie Fiedler) The James H. McNulty Chair (Dennis Tedlock) The Buffalo Theory Group

Address for Editorial and Subscription Enquiries: UMBR(a) Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Culture SUNY-Buffalo 409 Clemens Hall Buffalo, NY 14260-4610 http://wings.buffalo.edu/student-life/graduate/gsa/lacan/lacan.html

WEBMASTER: Julia Dzwonkoski

CONTENTS

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EDITORIAL: THE FIRST RULE OF POLEMOS...

The Universal
7 29
THEORY, DEMOCRACY, AND THE LEFT: AN INTERVIEW WITH ERNESTO LACLAU carlos pessoa, marta hernández, seoungwon lee, lasse thomassen STAGE LEFT: A REVIEW OF CONTINGENCY, HEGEMONY, UNIVERSALITY: CONTEMPORARY DIALOGUES ON THE LEFT juliet flower mac cannell A PLEA FOR CIVILITY: AN ASIAN WOMAN’S REPLY TO SUSAN MOLLER OKIN’S “IS MULTICULTURALISM BAD FOR WOMEN?” sinkwan cheng

51

Hors Series
69
ANTIGONE’S FART marc de kesel

Truth and The One
79 91 107
TRUTH AND KNOWLEDGE IN HEIDEGGER, LACAN, AND BADIOU kirsten hyldgaard NEIGHBORHOOD OF INFINITY: ON BADIOU’S DELEUZE: THE CLAMOR OF BEING sam gillespie THE CONTRACTION OF BEING: DELEUZE AFTER BADIOU adi ophir and ariella azoulay

Hors Series
123
THE ENJOYING MACHINE mladen dolar

Sublimation & Homosexuality
141
THE STRANGE DETOURS OF SUBLIMATION: PSYCHOANALYSIS, HOMOSEXUALITY, AND ART elizabeth grosz PERVERSION, SUBLIMATION, AND AESTHETICS: A RESPONSE TO ELIZABETH GROSZ tim dean

155

166

BOOK REVIEWS

EDITORIAL:
The First Rule Of Polemos...
Polemos panton men pater esti, panton de basileus, kai tous men theous edeixe tous de anthropous, tous men doulous epoiese tous de eleutherous. “War [polemos] is both father of all and king of all: it reveals the gods on the one hand and humans on the other, makes slaves on the one hand, the free on the other.”
—Heraclitus, Fragment 53

In order for thought to exist, it must be de-clared publicly and this declaration—if it is truly thought that is declared —is always a matter of polemos, an act of war. Polemos does not divide a previously united group; for there is no group prior to polemos. The advent of thought, then, does not force people who were in agreement to choose sides and begin to oppose one another. “Polemos is both the father of all and king of all”: polemos does not divide what was previously united, but rather unites that which did not exist before polemos. We must be precise about the status of this union: thought does not bring about a unity on the basis of compromise. Thought must never be reduced to a “coming to terms” or a “settling of accounts.” This assumes that thought works in the terms and economy already available within the field of discourse. In fact, thought does not situate itself between two positions as the comfortable middle ground because thought is the opposite of this notion of compromise insofar as it is necessarily unsituated. This idea of compromise, of coming between two opposing positions in order to bring them together, is the ultimate case of “situatedness.” Everything about the “compromised” position must be carefully situated with respect to what already exists, that is,

UMBR(a)

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with respect to the two positions it seeks to unite. Thought must come as a break with what already exists, as something radically new and, thus, unsituated. Thus, the task of polemos as we have conceived it in this issue of Umbr(a) is not compromise but thought, is not to bring together, but to think, to cut across the very field of discourse. When thought succeeds in cutting across what exists in this way, it breaks with everything that was situated before it and, therefore, unites the field by appealing to it universally. Because polemical thought remains radically unsit-uated with respect to any differences or distinctions by which one might have oriented oneself prior to the polemos, it does not address the field on the basis of these differences but rather addresses everyone equally. Thought that comes in the form of polemos is completely impartial not because it considers all possible sides and positions (as in compromise), but because it comes as a break with all sides and positions. Although compromise tries to account for all points of view and to regard all disagreements, something is bound to slip through the cracks out of which a new opposition can form. Thus, thought does not regard all positions equally but rather disregards them equally. Polemos, then, the declaration of thought, levels the ground; it is indeed “the father and king of all” not because it gathers everything together through a balancing of opposites but because it marks a reconfiguration of the very space of the debate in which previous oppositions are entirely disregarded. As a result, polemos is the introduction of something new beyond the debate and not simply the introduction of something new to the debate itself. Thus, as Heraclitus says, polemos

“reveals the gods on the one hand and humans on the other, makes slaves on the one hand, the free on the other.” First and foremost, polemos reveals the immortal, or the gods, and from there everything else becomes mortal, human. The appearance of the immortal is the emergence of this place beyond the debate: but the immortal is not a new position from which one may engage in the debate (as the place of compromise is); it is rather the place at which debate stops. Polemos, then, reveals this place from which one engages in the work of thought but which is nevertheless removed from the field of discourse, the level of debate. In this way, it becomes clear that only polemos reveals thought as immortal and likewise—as the last words of Heraclitus’ fragment claim—only polemos makes thinkers free. In this time of cultural relativism in which freedom of thought is misrecognized as the multiplication of positions, only psychoanalysis seems to preserve the place beyond the terms of debate, from which a different idea of freedom is guaranteed. While this thoughtas-polemos undoubtedly traverses other disciplines, it is precisely because the very emergence of psychoanalysis corresponds to the naming of this place beyond — the unconscious — that it cannot but continue to remain faithful to the demands of thought. The articles in this issue attest to this fidelity in that they do not merely attempt to stake out another position on a number of ongoing debates— multiculturalism, sexual difference, and so forth—but show that the impact of psychoanalysis on both the thinkers and the debates is nothing but the reconfiguration of the very fields themselves.

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UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) 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DEMOCRACY. and Ernesto Laclau is one of them. we are indeed allowing the Other to shape our desire. marta hernández. Deeply influenced by the semiotic mapping of social reality in discursive terms on the one hand. and by the postructuralist vision of metaphysics on the other. They represent a yearning for the lost object of desire. for mourning creates a hiatus in our actions. UMBR(a) 7 . AND THE LEFT: AN INTERVIEW WITH ERNESTO LACLAU carlos pessoa. There are nevertheless many other intellectuals who have chosen to reformulate that object of desire called Marxism. a seminal book co-written with Chantal Mouffe in 1985. the choices of all these intellectuals are indeed symptomatic of the same lack. first articulated in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Political mourning is indeed the affliction of our time. It is also an attempt to reconceptualize the notion of universalism by emancipating the particular from the traditional logic of the universal. lasse thomassen Marxism is in shambles. In our opinion. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 has become the most conspicuous political sign of Marxism’s profound political and theoretical crisis.THEORY. is both a descriptive and a normative articulation of such a project. and the suspension of desire only leaves room for the Other’s desire to dominate. and with our mourning and our refusal to break the Marxist myth. His theory of hegemony. Laclau’s endeavor has been to articulate a progressive political project adjusted to our present socio-economic conditions. Many intellectuals have responded to this by turning their backs on politics altogether. however. seoungwon lee. Others choose instead to support center-related ideologies such as the ones represented by the so-called European Third Way. This is made possible by positing a non-essentialist rendering of subjectivity whose conditions of existence are derived from the constitutive impossibility of its full realization. or postulate the radical defeat of Marxism by emphasizing the ineluctability of political particularisms. and it is also its danger. Their arguments either too easily assume the impossibility of theorizing the postmodern condition. In our current political situation the desire of the Other is called neoliberalism.

” but for me the two categories have to be strictly differentiated. Finitude is. Laclau’s theory of hegemony is the most lucid and intellectually challenging articulation of a viable progressive political project. for instance in Sartre’s La Nausée. The result of that impossibility is the non-fixity of the signifier/signified relation. and what fundamental role does it play in the logic of hegemony? Ernesto Laclau: I use the notion of contingency in its strict philosophical sense. no hegemonic displacement would be possible. where what is achieved is the representation of the irrepresentable. Yet. How exactly do you use the notion of contingency in your work. in that sense. the signifier signifies nothing UMBR(a) 8 . one of its defining dimensions. Europe. In our view. It is for that reason that I have tried to differentiate contingency from the category of the accident. for me. which in Aristotle refers to an internal division in the being of an entity. As for the hegemonic logics. We could mention Paul Celan or José Ángel Valente as examples of the rhetorics of silence. You are probably familiar with the rhetorics of silence as a strand within postmodernist poetics. which works very much like mysticism itself. In contemporary philosophy Richard Rorty has used the term “contingency” as more or less synonymous with “accidentality. as formulated within the Christian tradition.We have tried to examine some aspects of Laclau’s theory by applying them to the new swiftly changing socio-economic conditions of the three main areas in which we work: Asia. One can understand contingency as opposing the idea of a necessary logic within the boundaries of the social and/or as opposing the notion of a unique essence defining identity. The term was quite popular in the 1960s on the Left. and the constitutive role of tropological displacements in the structuration of society. The notion of contingency is. Q: You claim that hegemony is constituted by a paradox. it is clear that if the sedimentation of social relations prevailed to the point of making invisible the contingency of the acts of originary institution. Contingent is that being whose essence does not involve its existence. and Latin America. crucially linked to the discursive structuration of social spaces and to the impossibility of operating a final closure around an ultimate transcendental signified. THEORY Question: Contingency is a key notion in your work. To constantly reactivate the visibility of that originary contingency is a constitutive dimension of all hegemonic operation. in this poetic movement. which are in fact based on the same principle. Our examination of Laclau’s work aims at interrogating the political crisis of the two signifiers “left” and “democracy” in our contemporary world. but it can be traced all the way back to Georges Sorel’s La décomposition du marxisme (1908).

I think.1 If it is the case that silence is the discursive kernel of a given subject.” Following Alberto Moreiras’ characterization of subalternity. the catachresis inherent to all representation — the substitution is certainly figural. on the contrary. For that reason. it can only exist through representation — that is. For example. how could the theory of hegemony articulate this category into its logics? EL: I think that your question touches a very important point. The subaltern is. while supposing. that I largely agree with Moreiras’ thesis that you have just mentioned. in an era of flexible accumulation. that democratic politics imply a double movement of inclusion and exclusion. but as a performative intervention in which. UMBR(a) 9 . Let me say. The irrepresentable is represented: this means that. with something that is very much present as that which is absent. because of that. through empty signifiers. And. hegemonic operations can be reversed. but only its contingent incarnations. as it has no content of its own.and communicates nothing. the identity of the represented is constituted. the subaltern would still be a historical residue. in the Schmittian pair of friend and enemy.S. to start with. makes allusion to an object — the fullness of society — that is both necessary and impossible. So. one might say that the subaltern is neither excluded nor included. how can the citizen holding a representative political role be aware of the meaning of the silences of the subjects that he represents? How can he interpret those silences? Would it not be a mistake to consider the possibility of a silence beyond knowledge itself? EL: My approach is different from the kind of intellectual currents to which you refer. the subaltern would be neither enemy nor friend. has chosen to call the “subaltern. and the hegemonic operation consists in discursively articulating those signifiers to wider discursive totalities. Q: The Lumpenproletariat — the group that represented the abject subject for Marx — has been and remains a historical residue. that which remains in the originary locus of the inclusion/exclusion pair. as I have tried to argue. According to this definition of subalternity. Following this. This is. but there is no literal term that could replace the tropos. for that which is being substituted does not exist. Today. The primary form of the presence of such a lack is. I do not see the relation of representation as one in which the representative engages himself in a hermeneutic operation vis-à-vis those he repre-sents. the Lumpenproletariat is still largely present. through the process of representation. through a substitution that is strictly constitutive. where neoliberalism has a strong hegemonic presence as a world power. we are not dealing with silence but with lack. but makes something transparent that is beyond all expression. the residue. The representation of the unrepresentable. The Lumpenproletariat is also the subject that a sector of academic knowledge in the U. The subaltern is. as the signifiers representing the fullness of society are not the necessary form of that fullness. in the sense that I have used that expression. as Chantal Mouffe does. precisely.

for they were not anchored in precise locations within the process of production. is more complicated.. once more go forward. So the pimps. Why? Because a relation of exclusion is one way of defining — negatively — the identity of what is included.. and in that case there would be nothing to hegemonize. residual. Many Third-World theoreticians have emphasized this creative role of the marginals. And what group is not? Hence. that it figures the political itself. the hooligans. the gangrene ever present at the heart of colonial domination. and unintegrated social sectors that new hegemonic strategies launch into the historical arena. But the subaltern.. even in Marx himself. for if there were no residual elements we would only have a rigid frontier separating inclusion from exclusion.. for instance. The problem.] For the lumpen seems to figure less a class in any sense that one usually understands that term in Marxism than a group which is amenable to political articulation. will recover their balance. In a brilliant article on the role of the Lumpenproletariat in Marx. I will only add that the notion of subalternity understood in this sense — as neither inclusion nor exclusion — is something without which the category of hegemony would be entirely unintelligible. brings all its forces to endanger the ‘security’ of the town. because he finds it very difficult to explain actual political developments without bringing to the fore of the historical scene precisely those residual elements. and march proudly in the great procession of the awakened nation. is. And the Marxian notion of the Lumpenproletariat belongs to the same order of phenomena: the Lumpenproletariat does not have a history because. heterogeneity is not the antithesis of political unification but the very condition of possibility of that unification. once it is constituted. [. however.” 3 Let me add that the increasing marginalization of vast sections of the population by the conditions of global capitalism constantly produces and reproduces subalternity and. the dizzying variety of social classes that. To put it in Stallybrass’ words: “For Marx. These classless idlers will by militant and decisive action discover the path that leads to nationhood. the unemployed and the petty criminals. and it is the sign of the irrevocable decay. seem to collaborate in Bonapartism and to give allegiance to the ‘chief of the Lumpenproletariat. and the maids who are paid two pounds a month. asserts: “The lumpenproletariat. and such mobility requires the presence of marginal.neither the included nor the excluded. as a residual element.. as you say. I suspect that that is the real scandal of the Lumpenproletariat in Marxist theory: namely. Peter Stallybrass analyzes the political logic of Bonapartism in The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte and concludes that it depended on the active presence of social elements not organized around class interests. that which is beyond the opposition inclusion/exclusion. it can be found in the most diverse types of society. That is what happens with the Hegelian notion of peoples without history.. in this UMBR(a) 10 .’” 2 Well. all who turn in circles between suicide and madness.… The prostitutes too. The mobility of internal frontiers is a presupposition of hegemony. as a residue of history. at one moment or another. Frantz Fanon.throw themselves into the struggle like stout working men.

All these illusions of immediacy have dissolved. There are. but are. Kant was speaking about transcendental conditions of understanding. however constitutively distorted. rather. obviously. which for Kant would be to go from the realm where the object exists only in thought. part of this intellectual mutation. or whether Husserl’s motto “to the things themselves!” finds its adequate answer in a phenomenological description. signifieds. namely the fact that. Q: As a result of the formalization that you have carried out of the Saussurean notions of the sign. and they have been replaced by discourse theories of one type or the other — and my own discursive approach is. and signs should all be conceived of as signifiers. And. Kant says. For example. causality.” 4 However. enlarges the area of operation of hegemonic practices. In this sense. Taking into account one of the premises on which you base your theoretical apparatus.way. the signified. action. But to discuss that would take us in a very different direction than that at which your question was aiming. illegitimate uses of noumena in theoretical reason. second. as if they were either noumena themselves or at least applicable to noumena. First. UMBR(a) 11 . while I am speaking about signification (whose elementary form would be the sign). not presuppose that the play of signifiers produce signifieds that function as partial — and only partial — fixations of meaning? In other words. where the former are not defined as objects of intuition. how would you respond to Kant’s paradox of the illegitimate use of noumena? EL: I do not think that the Kantian dualism is linked in any meaningful way to the notion of discourse that I have used in my work. Q: Let us take the Kantian distinction between noumena and phenomena. problems that are inescapably tied up with the limitations of our sensibility. So the whole discussion about the Ding an sich is not really connected with my theoretical problematic. or whether — as in the heyday of structuralism — we think that we can postulate a strict isomorphism between the order of the signifier and the order of the signified. all social reality is discursive. central to my conception of discourse is its performative dimension — which brings it close to the Wittgensteinian notion of language games — while the Kantian distinction between phenomenon and noumenon is something only relevant to a knowing subject. to the realm where the object exists in itself and without regard to intuition. reality. such as sub-stance. concepts would be objectified when making a transcendent use of the pure concepts of the understanding. What would certainly be relevant to my discursive approach — but has little to do with the Kantian tradition — is the question of how language relates to reality — whether there are ultimate “names” directly connected with things. does the very possibility of meaning and society. and the signifier. one of them would be to objectify noumena. as the analytical tradition originally thought. for you. you have recently insisted that “signifiers. power.

in the Saussurean sense. That is why I find some merit in Glynos’ attempt at treating signifiers. Meaning does not simply mean “signified. In the passage to which you refer I gave an example taken from Bruce Fink. the Rat Man complex is formed through associations at the level of the signified (“rat” is associated with “penis” because rats spread venereal diseases) or at the level of the signifer — the pure similitude between words that Freud called “verbal bridges” (Spielratten means “gambling.5 If power is uneven and exclusionary. and it is indifferent that its component elements have been brought together through either associations at the level of the signified or through verbal bridges. where various particular groups enter into a relation of equivalence. signifieds.” but a given structural arrangement in the signifier/signified relation. The unity of a hegemonic formation is the result of an overdetermination of elements that came together in the two ways just described. For Freud. It is the Rat Man’s complex as a totality that fixes meaning. the process of signification can only proceed in terms of formal differences between elements. So what Glynos is asserting in a somewhat provocative way is that alteration of meaning takes place not as a result of changes at the level of the signifier or at that of the signified. In the construction of a hegemonic discourse. and signs as all being signifiers. So the answer to your question is that the partial fixation of meaning that you are talking about is certainly central to any hegemonic conception of social relations. The argument is as follows: If language. how do the social entities relate to one another within such a chain of equivalence in light of this character of power? Does the metaphorically condensed operation governing such a hegemonic project put a hold on this character of power. 12 UMBR(a) . of which the play of signifiers is simultaneously the condition of possibility and limit? EL: The passage that you refer to is actually a quotation from an essay by Jason Glynos that I quote in my text. but it results from the double process that I have mentioned. but as a result of any formal alteration in the relations between elements of a signifying system. Q: A basic premise of your notion of hegemony is the idea that power has an uneven and exclusionary character. which results in universality’s dependency on particularity. is form and not substance. not from a dualistic scheme in which the cause would operate at the level of the signifier and the effects at the level of the signified. This is obviously relevant to politics. This formalistic tendency was later accentuated and refined with Hjelmslev’s recasting of the structuralist model. independent of the fact that such an alteration begins with the phonic or the conceptual substances.does the possibility of meaning and society not presuppose this production of signifieds. then it seems that this character of power holds within any given relation between social agents.” and the Rat Man’s father had incurred a gambling debt). independently of the fact that some of them are signifiers and other signifieds (a distinction that could only be maintained by reintroducing into the argument the substance — phonic or conceptual).

To inscribe the question of subalternity within this conceptual matrix is quite easy. As you rightly say. Q: In your theory of hegemony. requires that one element of the equivalential chain assume the hegemonic function of representing the latter as a totality. you draw on the works of the two Jacques: Lacan and Derrida. is uneven — thus contradicting Hobbes’ hypothesis — that civil society is capable of self-regulation. has to privilege and thus universalize one of its particular internal links. There is no theory that is entirely compatible with any other. at the level of civil society. for instance. It follows that self-regulation and power require each other. To this you have to add that a theory is never entirely consistent with itself — the UMBR(a) 13 . For a power that does not exist and a power that is total — that is. Contrary to. Both hypotheses come together in one point: for both of them power (and. what it means to speak of the constitutive character of the unevenness of power. The first is the postulate of a harmonious utopian society. power requires exclusion. from which power would have been entirely eliminated. or. come to almost identical conclusions. You will always find concepts that do not exactly overlap. So the advance of any equalitarian logic — one that proceeds through the equivalence of a plurality of demands — requires a complex hegemonic operation: the equivalence is impossible without the two moments of unevenness that I have just described. in the first place. you believe that it is possible to combine Derridean deconstruction and Lacanian psychoanalysis. not limited by any resistance — are exactly the same. The articulation of these two moments is what I call hegemony. the ensuing chaos could be only superseded by surrendering total power into the hands of the Leviathan. second. As you see. different emphases. to reach its own identity. for. This point is important: it is only this unevenness of power that makes self-regulation possible for civil society. as the equality of men in the state of nature can only result in a war of all against all. The second is — as in Hobbes — a society entirely incapable of self-regulation. but equivalence. as a result. paradoxically. sheer incommensurability. in the construction of a frontier 0f inclusion/exclusion. It is only if power. Slavoj Žižek. as I have tried to explain in my work. First. In what precise way do you connect the work of these two theorists in your own work? How do you react to Žižek’s assertion that it is not possible to combine Derridean deconstruction and Lacanian psychoanalysis? Are there points in the works of Derrida and Lacan that you believe are incompatible? EL: Let us be precise. in order to represent itself as a meaningful whole. Without a frontier of inclusion/exclusion there could be no equivalence. But. even. this exclusion is the condition of freedom. in that the equivalential chain.or is there a different character of power within such an equivalent chain? EL: Let me explain. It involves rejecting two polar hypotheses which. there are two moments in which the unevenness of power operates. politics) is radically eliminated.

between what I am taking from deconstruction and what I am taking from Lacanian theory. Now. By comparing Lacan’s presentation of these categories to the issues I was trying to clarify. that I am neither a Derridean nor a Lacanian. iteration. before answering. and so on — most inspiring for the development of my arguments. I have already made this point crystal-clear in my book with Butler and Žižek. which is the development of a theory of politics centered in the notion of hegemony. and in the process of doing so I found highly relevant some of the intellectual démarches of both Derrida and Lacan — as well as those of other authors like Wittgenstein and Heidegger. I have found a whole arsenal of new dimensions and nuances that helped me immensely in sharpening my own categories. I do not see any incompatibility at all — especially because no eclecticism is involved in this exercise: each of the categories is redefined in terms of my own theoretical questions. and his theoretical language is never so much in control as to be able to entirely hegemonize the contexts within which it operates. the subject of the lack. But the absorption of these intellectual influences was made in terms of a theoretical interrogation that is my own. the object a. Contingency. From this point of view. I have found a set of Lacanian categories — the real. and I do not want to repeat myself. To conceive politics in terms of hegemonic articulations involves showing 1) that sedimented social forms are inherently contingent. I have to add that I do not see the incompatibility between Derrida and Lacan in the same way Žižek does. In order to do so. the Lacanian notions of the real and the symbolic are the anti-essentialist UMBR(a) 14 . Having said that. and 2) that the language games that it is possible to play starting from these contingent articulations presuppose relations between entities that far exceed what was thinkable within the implicit ontology of classical political theory. I have my own agenda. Q: In your work. Universality. I will only add that what I see as Žižek’s misrepresentation of this matter does not amount to just a punctual and isolated issue: one can trace it back to Žižek’s politico-intellectual project as a whole. As for Lacan. re-mark. a project that I am far from sharing. his main interest for me lies in the central role that the notion of empty signifiers plays in my approach to politics. The infrastructures — supplementarity. I had to question the ontological presuppositions of most current political theory. the notion of undecidability as developed by deconstruction is crucial. They fit nicely with my project of rethinking social relations as rhetorically constituted. let me say. however. As for the part of your question concerning what I take from Derrida and what from Lacan. But let’s go back to your question. Hegemony. makes in them a plurality of interventions. This is the main aspect in which deconstruction has been an important influence in my thinking. and so on — as systematized by Rodolphe Gasché are invaluable for rethinking the strategic operations presupposed by a hegemonic logic.author participates in a variety of discursive spaces.

There are two limits to it to which I want to refer. the attempt to symbolically master something in which the limits of objectivity are shown. In your conceptualization of the real and the symbolic. But at this stage of my theoretical elaboration.conditions for explaining historical changes and the transformation of social formations. I am not in a position to tell you how much of that notion I would be happy to appropriate for my own purposes. the Lacanian real is very close. Seen from this perspective. but only up to a certain point. and. in addition. and bodily practices exercised in the sphere of everyday life? How. I could go along with this assimilation. indeed. as presented in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. for instance. how do you explain that one cannot be subordinated to the other. It is for this reason that in my recent work I have spoken about dislocation as a deeper level. that which is not symbolizable. are those two forces of capitalism — the economic and the extra-economic 15 . But antagonism is a discursive construction and. how can we explain the materialist and anti-essentialist continuity of the constitutive relation between the real and the symbolic? EL: As you know. certain Lacanians — Žižek. to the Lacanian real. but are. ideological. that it is clear that I am prepared to go a considerable way with the Lacanian notion of the real. anyway. I hope. in that sense. rather. My approach has tended to focus on the internal aporias of the symbolic order — on what Bruce Fink calls “the kinks in the symbolic order. the limits between the representable and the non-representable are discussed in terms of the internal inconsistencies of the notion of limit. How do you distinguish between economic and extra-economic forces in terms of capitalism? Can we not say that those economic factors are already symbolizing and condensing the processes of primitive (original) accumulation and of the social reproduction of the means of the capitalist production that are the very political. for Lacan. UMBR(a) A second limit to the assimilation between the real and antagonism can be found in the fact that the notion of the real in Lacan is linked to a notion of jouissance that has not been present in my work. while conceiving “antagonism” as one of the possible attempts at discursively (Lacan would say: symbolically) mastering dislocation. It is not that I oppose the category of jouissance — on the contrary. to what I call dislocation. as it illuminates in very suggestive ways the dialectic between the representable and the unrepresentable that is at the root of hegemonic logics. you distinguish between economic and extra-economic factors. especially — have tried to assimilate the notion of antagonism. In the first place the real is. constitutively interacting? In other words.” In Emancipation(s). Q: In your reading of capitalism. in your conceptualization of the matter. you wish to abandon the core concepts in Marxism of superstructure and of economic determination in the last instance. I think that something remains incomplete in my argument without a category such as jouissance (or another that plays a similar structural function).

the myth of a separate and definable ‘economic instance’ must be abandoned. UMBR(a) 16 DEMOCRACY Q: Together with Chantal Mouffe. the line separating the procedural from the substantial is an extremely blurred one. grounding which is. the condensation of a plurality of dimensions. To keep alive the consciousness of the contingency of any social arrangement does not mean to institutionally fix the management of that consciousness. This is the reason why I think that theories trying to isolate a positive democratic minimum are a useless exercise.”7 It is for that reason that I reject. So I never said. of course.— combined with each other in “the existence of all stages of capitalist accumulation?” 6 EL: I see the distinction between two types of factors. is radical. but also political. would also require some positive grounding of that unity. second. while the notion of the ‘extra-economic. as your question suggests. in trying to separate — as the Habermasians do — procedural from substantive aspects.. for instance. I assert: “The conditions of existence of capitalist accumulation are provided by a set of factors which correspond to complex balances of forces — partly economic. In the passage that you quote. This involves that no principle or norm of collective organization has a sub specie aeternitatis validity. there is no procedural that is not as contingent as any substantive content. Precisely what would a radical democracy be for you? How do you see such a political project becoming possible and being developed in our present political situation? EL: To fully answer your question would require more space than we have in this interview. provided by one or another variant of the old fashioned base/superstructure model. of course.” As for the symbolizing and condens-ing functions to which you refer. as entirely insufficient. as such. but they are not a privilege of the economic factor: any social element or identity is always overdetermined and. only that democracy that fully accepts the contingency of its own grounds. that there are “two forces of capitalism — the economic and the extra-economic. . they are only too real.. economic and extra-economic. None of them can therefore be conceptualized as a ‘superstructure’. First. that does not postulate any content that is beyond the possibility of contestation and reversal. in the passage that we are referring to. and grounding democracy only in the former. you have used the notion of radical democracy as part of your work. To be able to establish a sharp distinction between the economic and the extra-economic one would have to have a notion of the ‘economic’ as entirely dominated by endogenous laws.’ if it is going to embrace in a single category referents which are comparable just by the negative fact of not being economic. the idea that the extra-economic is a unified category. So let me just concentrate on a couple of important points. There is no point. institutional and ideological. Procedural and substantial agreements cannot be separated that way: first.

UMBR(a) 17 . supersession of the modern trend toward secularization. for liberals. This does not involve falling into any kind of positivism but engaging in a guerrilla war with metaphysical categories that weakens them but. in a first step. representation becomes an ambiguous game in which representative and those being represented mutually contaminate each other. the concept has been used in so many contexts. Freedom and consciousness of our own contingency go together. Radical democracy can. and the early Marx are a clear expression of this transitional moment. sovereignty becomes hegemony. struggles. and with so many different and even contradictory aims. liberal democracy. as I said. essence is very much present in this new discourse as that which is absent (which names the place of a lack). the possibility of always changing social arrangements — does not involve in the least any kind of “everything goes” attitude or pessimism. in some way — as I think it is — related to equality. are the exclusive domain of the private and escape communitarian regulation. a constitutive dimension of a radical democratic perspective. The Young Hegelians. cannot have the fixity and atemporality of any utopian blueprint of society. be seen as the culmination and.We must stress that consciousness of contingency — which implies. humans cannot give to their principles a metaphysical necessity that they do not have in their own being. and so on. at the same time. while in the latter it is extended to many spheres which. the difference between a purely liberal and a radical conception of democracy becomes clear. and that. it involves the assertion that social interaction is the only source of our world. that the latter cannot ground its ethical or social principles in anything else but human actions. In the former. in this way. Completing this transition to a fully secularized universe requires not accepting any fully-fledged essence — either divine or human — and coming to terms with contingency and finitude. Thus. agency becomes the locus of contradictory centering/decentering games. and radical democracy. Feuerbach. Classical modernity moved away from a theologically grounded social order but. Empty signifiers — as the nodal points of hegemonic strategies — become. being finite. is negative: there is no such core. and how would you make that distinction? Is it possible to isolate a democratic logic beyond and transcending concrete democratic regimes and conceptions of democracy? What would “logic” mean here? EL: Concerning democracy in general. If democracy is. if what I am saying is correct. Rather. paradoxically. in this sense. Q: Would you distinguish between democracy in general. attempted to retrieve for human beings its true essence which had been alienated in the divine attributes. and arguments. the principle of equality only applies to the public space of citizenship. Radical democracy is the full recognition of that fact and its translation into political forms which. that we have to content ourselves with listing this variety of uses and establishing between them what Wittgenstein called “family resemblances.” So my answer to your query concerning the possibility of an ultimate democratic core under-lying all concrete regimes and conceptions. does not do away with them.

actually see — several contexts in which the advance of the democratic demands of the masses could only take place outside.Q: In mainstream theories of democracy and democratization. I can imagine — not only imagine. thus. radical democratic strategy seems to depend on constituting the political identities of new radical democratic citizens beyond any particular social formation and beyond the limits of any institutions by a radical expanding of liberty and equality. and — in the academic sphere — against postcolonial and cultural studies. launching themselves into a vociferous “hate speech” against feminism. This leads me to another issue linked to one of your questions that I have to some extent answered but not entirely so. Now. to participate in a wider equivalential chain. go beyond the institutionalization of democracy as “the only game in town” and the principle of contemporary representative democracy? EL: All the forms of insitutionalization that you mention make sense only in a particular type of framework.) It is not that I am against that framework. as I mentioned earlier. emancipatory discourses. there has been a deficit of wider. if democracy is conceived in a wider sense. to extending the principle of equality to wider areas of social relations. UMBR(a) 18 . could easily be retrieved by the dominant system — and a purely abstract universalism incapable of taking root in any actual struggle. (Think of many Third-World countries. with the events of 1989 and its sequels. for me. does radical democracy not need at least some institutionalization (including a procedural minimum) of democracy for expanding the radical democratic horizon? If radical democracy must rely on processes of institutionalization of its limits and of its possibility in a certain discourse. It concerns the question of how to advance the project of a radical democracy in present day conditions. at least. how can the radical democratic strategy. Let me say that. multiculturalism. which is that which exists in liberal democracy. However. I agree that in the type of societies in which you and I live one cannot do away with the liberal framework if one wants to advance democratic demands. The problem is that this pluralization of the demands of the underdog has taken place in a period in which. Nevertheless. It is linked. the central issue we will be confronted with in the years to come is that of the articulation between particularity and universality. We already have begun hearing some isolated voices coming from “new born” Leninists. even breaking with a liberal framework. The danger in this situation is that we could end with an actual opposition between punctual demands that are not articulated to any global equalitarian ideology — and. that is. to freeing the underdog. scholars have focused on studying the institutionalization of democracy as democratization based on the Schumpeterian “procedural minimum” of the formal democracy. The last decades have seen an explosion of new antagonisms through which many previously submerged identities have started to demand their rights to equality. in the name of an abstract return to class struggle — which. But the important point is that the latter do not necessarily overlap with the former. But democracy is a wider phenomenon than liberalism.

the discourse of the defenders of participatory democracy belongs very much to the tradition of a utopian search for the “good” society. Democracy is radical as far as it does not admit any source of its own validity other than the argumentative networks actually existing in a given community — and.of course. is the awareness of the contingency of any social arrangement. but the latter will have to be richer and far more context-dependent than that which the mere notion of radical democracy could actually provide. For instance. Without a wider emancipatory discourse. I am not particularly in disagreement with several of these arrangements. It was. I think that. how does one make compatible various political visions that can become part of this leftist imaginary discourse with your predetermined prescription of moving towards radical democracy? EL: In the first place. although I cannot follow the participatory approach in its refusal to give any creative political role to antagonism and social division. punctual struggles are condemned to impotence. precisely. does not such a pre-determined vision act as an impediment to such a project? After all. either politically or theoretically. universal discourse will not fare any better. but without anchoring itself in the plurality of actual social struggles. a project with which UMBR(a) 19 . to defend radical democracy is neither to defend a particular political regime nor any other concrete institutional arrangement. left to themselves. participatory democracy — pointing to different possible visions that could become part of such a project. among others. However. In other words. but it is indicative of a certain impasse in which radical democracy finds itself today. it will have to establish exclusions and limits to the workings of an equalitarian logic that cannot be simply derived from the concept of radical democracy. of course. for a leftist project aiming to bring together various political tendencies under its imaginary discourse. do not necessarily coalesce in any kind of harmonious unity. Q: You have stated that the Left should reformulate its vision in terms of radical democracy. This kind of discourse is not. it does assert some of the preconditions of a political project that it would recognize as its own. What is involved. let us be clear about what is involved in the notion of a radical democracy. but which has largely been abandoned today — it was formulated at a level of abstraction different from radical democracy. for one.B. as a corollary. Macpherson and Carole Pateman. there are various leftist political tendencies — for instance. to start with. The hegemonic approach to radical democracy is an attempt to mediate between these two dimensions that can be mediated but which. as far as it does not recognize any a priori dogma that would lead to a specific blueprint of society. does not mean anything because they do not make the slightest attempt to link their discourses to workers’ demands. very important. in the last instance. In that sense. Because of that. based on a notion of pluralism that postulated definite institutional arrangements. As for the idea of a participatory democracy — which was defended some years ago by C.

for instance. Does radical democracy exclude less than other political regimes? I do not know. my democracy is comparatively more radical. independently of any circumstance. and of the way in which these exclusions are made. What must a radical democ-racy exclude in order to be a radical democracy? We are thinking here both of concrete examples. there are always going to be demands that will not be met and exclusions that will have to be made. in the hierarchical societies of the European ancient régimes. Q: It follows from the theory of hegemony that there can be no political or social order without exclusion. for instance. But the principle of equality will necessarily find limits that are going to be given not by its formal properties but by the concrete contexts in which it operates. Here “to exclude” obviously means the same as in any other kind of exclusion. sexual or racial minorities. Q: Is there a way to relate the democratic projects taking place in Latinoamerica (Southern cone. I am prepared to extend the principle of equality within society to groups wider than other people do— to cultural. that is. or to impede the free operation of hate speech. Without this positive value being attributed to the equalitarian principle. or to put limits on the free circulation of capital. such as the extreme Right. or should we prefer radical democracy because it relates to its exclusion in a way that is different from the way that other political regimes do? EL: I said before that radical democracy requires the assertion of the contingency of its own arrangements. but that to be excluded will be different. Chile. in that sense. one has to control monopolistic trends. what is asserted is rather that “equality” becomes a positive value — as different from what happened. But. Let us be clear: it is not that equality should become a formal principle whose application should be universal. but this extension is not unlimited. or to economically disadvantaged sections of the population — and. Does radical democracy exclude less than other political regimes? If yes. I will now add that it also requires the extension of the logic of equality to increas-ingly wider areas of social relations. there could be no democracy — radical or otherwise.I do not identify myself. for instance. as radical democracy is not the name of a specific political project. is that why we should prefer radical democracy to other regimes. how? UMBR(a) 20 . and the question then becomes what exclusions are made. In some cases a radical democratic government has to be more exclusionary than a merely liberal one — when. That depends on the actual dangers that haunt democracy. Argentina and Brazil) and the Third-Way democratic regimes that are emerging in Europe? Do you think that Chile and Argentina are still going through a period of democratic populism? In what sense do you see your theoretico-political project in relation to the Latinoamerican scholarship (on Chile and Argentina)? Does your geopolitical position influence your work at all? If so. I do not see how the special incompatibility that you refer to could actually arise.

and such on-going struggles as the Mexican Zapatistas and the Brazilian landless movements. in several cases. Q: For the last two decades. Let’s concentrate for a moment on the last point of your question. As we UMBR(a) 21 . The first is that it involves a demand. The second is that.EL: I am a strong critic of the Third Way and of the notion of a radical center as it has been formulated. 1999). among others. and have led to various anti-capitalist struggles in the world. we cannot explain the antagonism through a causal model that would derive its concrete forms from the source of the dislocation. with a social cost that is only too visible. As I have tried to show in my work. any social antagonism is structured around three defining features. These include. for instance. As for the Argentinian and Brazilian regimes — it is too early to talk about the Chilean one — one could only speak of democratic populism with a high sense of humor. especially in terms of the degradation of human rights in everyday life. This right-wing trend within social democracy is especially visible in the movement toward a purely consensual politics that would do away with antagonisms and social division. the massive struggles against the WTO’s Millennium Rounds in Seattle (November. by the social-democratic governments of Britain and Germany. in recent years. 1997). What we are witnessing is exactly the opposite. If populism has any meaning. What we have is merely a traumatic process of adaptation of their economies to the requirements of international financial capital. In this “brave new world” in which politics becomes administration. These neo-liberal changes have caused a lot of serious social traumas. 2000). This has led to a decreasing degree of democratic participation. it refers to the dichotomization of the social space and the transformation of the underdog into an active political force. the general strike with mass popular support against the neo-liberal labor flexibility in South Korea (January. I see in these formulations little more than attempts at reconciling their societies with the neo-liberal model operating since the 1980s. In this sense. if those anti-capitalist struggles should be situated on the radical democratic horizon. as the dislocation is constitutive. people are not presented with options and the possibility of choice — the result has been an increasing process of depoliticization and an accumulation of unfulfilled demands which. how can the hegemonic agent of the radical democratic strategy articulate the anti-capitalist struggles with the equivalential chain of radical democracy? What kind of political consequences should the radical democratic strategy involve for the current anti-capitalist struggles? EL: You have quite correctly pointed out some of the main dimensions of present day social struggles. has favored the emergence of a right-wing populism. the capitalist forces have dramatically strengthened their coalition (despite their own bloody competition) and produced new fantasies in order to create various capitalist markets and to rejuvenate the accumulation of capital. at the root of which there is the experience of a dislocated identity. and in Prague (September.

antagonizing forces. but of a plurality of them — unified by global political imaginaries that made possible a unity in diversity. antagonisms are not objective relations but.have always asserted. homophobia. becomes the ground of that relation of solidarity that we call equivalence. of the incompletion — of my own identity. would it be possible to subscribe simultaneously to the theory of hegemony and to a right-wing political position? What is at stake here is the character of the connection between. but 1) social struggles themselves can create those links through their equivalence. the limits of social objectivity. in order to create their own hegemony. dislocations at all levels of social relations. will also attempt to build up their own equivalential relations. It is no longer a question of the emergence of a homogeneous emancipatory subject. and this fact of being disadvantaged. This is important for the political issues that you are raising. the potential for wider equivalential chains. ontic features of the antagonizing force. This is not something that you have to add to radical democracy: it is the very definition of what radical democracy actually is. objective links. For if being disadvantaged — for whatever reason — is the ground of an equivalential chain between very different struggles. on the one . This multiplies the points of antagonism and creates. through its antagonistic effects. massive unemployment. UMBR(a) 22 THE LEFT Q: You have associated yourself with the Left. These are not based in any objective. blocked in their identity) people. That force. the unity of the antagonizing forces (the so-called dominant discourses) is constructed in exactly the same way: through equivalential links. as a result. This globalization of social protest as materialized in the mobilizations that you mention— and in various others that could be added to that list — points in the direction of new forms of social struggle that are going to be very different from the class struggles of the past. instead. Even the unity of the phenomena subsumed under the label “capitalist exploitation” is constructed in the same way. and 2) the dominant. Between patriarchy. This gap between ontic objectivity and symbolic incarnation of the antagonistic denial is what explains the third feature of the antagonistic relation: the ability of the antagonized forces to establish chains of equivalence between themselves. would it be possible to move from a leftwing to a right-wing political position while retaining your theory of hegemony? In other words. necessary links between those struggles. but in the fact that they are all struggles of disad-vantaged (that is. whatever the particular source of it. However. The effects of globalized capitalism do not simply operate within the relations of production — so that a unique emancipatory subject (the working class) would be its result — but in a wider space: destruction of the environment. as a result. becomes a symbol of the negation — and. This non-objective character of the antagonistic relation cannot be derived from the objective. social polarization between extremes of wealth and poverty. and capitalist exploitation there are not necessary.

assuming (just for the sake of argument) that “it is raining” is a purely descriptive UMBR(a) 23 . which is the only terrain in which facts could emerge. a number of questions follow concerning the relation between the theory of hegemony and the idea of radical democracy in your work. it could become a means of defense. If I try to walk from here to the door. I do not think that the question can be formulated in those terms. and share many social meanings. Is there a necessary or a contingent relation between your philosophical position and your political posi-tion? To what extent can your philosophical position and your political position be dissociated? EL: I cannot agree with some of the presuppositions of your question. quite apart from any practical involvement. That is the reason why their disputes take the form of hegemonic displacements: some meanings are rearticulated. This does not happen. The very idea of a theoretical approach that would be neutral vis-à-vis the whole spectrum of possible political positions. Q: From the preceding question. But if you accept — as I do — the primacy of practice. does that mean that the theory of hegemony is neutral vis-à-vis ethico-political positions? EL: For the same reasons that I have just explained. takes for granted that there is a world of facts to which you have access in a purely contemplative way. Let us suppose that I ask: “It is raining. The elaboration of the relationship with the world that these displacements involve presupposes continuities and discontinuities. Do any particular ethico-political positions follow from the theory of hegemony? If yes. so that we have a purely descriptive system of categories that can be put to the most divergent political uses. the table opposite me will be an obstacle. in the same world. after all. a philosophical position and. of course. things look entirely different. on the other hand. Primacy of practice means primacy of the elaboration of your relationship with the world. This does not mean. The social agents who are their bearers live. that there is a one-to-one correspondence between theoretical contents and political approaches. some others are dropped. Facts only emerge in the course of one’s practical involvement in the world. The absurdity of the question lies in the fact that. how do you determine which ethico-political conclusions follow? If no.hand. So the event of a purely theoretico-discursive corpus being used unchanged by entirely different political projects is an utter impossibility. so that the opposition between those approaches would be translated into entirely incommensurable theoretical universes. a political position. however important their disagreements about others could be. in the first place. because political projects are not so entirely alien to each other. Does it follow that I have to stay at home or that I still have to go to the University?” And let us add the assumption that I request an answer quite independent of the context of enunciation. and some entirely new ones are incorporated. but if I try to protect myself from an attack. But this is very different from the artificial (and entirely impossible) operation that would consist in discriminating between descriptive and normative aspects in a theoeretical corpus.

what does it mean in relation to your work? If not. possible but only with the proviso that. To do the opposite would be to ask whether it is possible to accept Das Kapital as a whole in order to promote an anti-socialist politics. I bring this example to your attention because it shows the only conditions in which the indifference of the theory vis-à-vis its practical consequences could arise (and. certainly. why should one discard this term? EL: Terms have to be redefined according to changing historical conditions. Let us suppose that a liberal theorist tries to use our categories to rethink Rawls’ “original position. The problem is that the constituencies that are supposed to exercise that social control are far more diversified than in the past. Does socialism still have a place in your work? If yes. These practical concerns established the terrain and governed the formulation of the more theoretical categories. a purely constative status — that its ethico-politico implications would be external to it.statement. No proliferation of issue-oriented politics can be a substitute for this essentially important task. If by socialism one means some form of social management of the production process preventing its control being entirely in the hands of globalized capitalism. A more relevant question would be whether some aspects or intuitions of the theory of hegemony can be used for entirely different theoretico-political purposes. cannot be separated from the theoretical dimensions. I suspect. in your later work. and without some kind of politics representing an alternative to the existing economic order. it is evident that nothing follows from it concerning what my reactions to that fact should be. for the reasons that I explained earlier. But this is not the case. But social control should not mean control by a State bureaucracy that is beyond any kind of democratic accountability. not impossible. we will no longer have the hegemonic theoret-ical approach that we have presented. This is always. also change Rawlsian theory. UMBR(a) 24 . The facts of the theory of hegemony were discovered in the course of a reflection on the aporias that the classism of classical Marxism was finding and on the impasses of socialist strategy in the 1980s. It is only if the theory of hegemony had the same status as “it is raining” — that is. therefore.” This is. and that the forms of democratic social control that should be adopted in the contemporary world have not been devised. Q: Socialism was a term that you used in your earlier work. of course I consider myself a socialist. there is no way of disputing the hegemony of the dominant neo-liberal model. the term is completely absent. in that case. as for instance in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1985). of course. However. But it is urgent to do it: without them the word “socialism” lacks any precise meaning. The experience of the economy being run by Eastern European nomenclatures and its disastrous results is present in the minds of everybody. Radical democracy was the beginning of a political answer and. but only if those categories are submitted to the structural pressure of a new theoretical context that will necessarily change them — and will. these conditions are never met).

as you suggest.” whose contents are imprecise. Contingency. how. in one way or the other. the Left was associated with issues related to class. yes. against the background of discourse analysis. as you correctly suggest. Hegemony. I want to retain the dichotomy Left/Right and. nor the transition from absolute to relative surplus value. but that are very precise in terms of the political frontier that they try to establish. nor the notion of absolute rent. Universality: Contemporary Dialogues on the Left. At a more general level.Q: In a not-too-distant past.” Q: In witnessing such phenomena as the direct political backlash of the transnational capitalists. by Left I understand the expansion of an equalitarian logic crystallized around a political imaginary that would have. Marxian economics shows a whole catalogue of logical inconsistencies which. best expressed in the subtitle of your latest book co-written with Butler and Žižek. the features of an empty signifier. in the case of the Right. how does one account for those leftist tendencies that do not share your anti-essentialist reasoning? EL: Two points to answer your question. nor the transformation of values into prices. Nevertheless. but I could generalize those meanings to other contexts only in terms of family resemblances. it is the whole idea of a capitalist economy governed by its own endogenous logic that is incompatible with the realities of contemporary capitalism. These days. not only today — it was always the case) is an imbrication between factors that Marxism UMBR(a) 25 . in many cases. Broadly speaking. you have retained such a political position. Neither the labor theory of value. the productivity of terms such as Left and Right has been severely questioned. what does it mean to be Left? Does the term “Left” play the role of an empty signifier (as you call it) articulating various leftist tendencies? And. have been pointed out over the last century. by terms such as “moral majority. can the Left interpret those contemporary movements of capital and capitalism beyond the classical Marxist frame? EL: To answer your question properly would require exploring so many aspects that we would need a second interview to go through them. and there are some people who I do not need at all. I don’t think one should associate the idea of the Left with an a priori established content — be it class or whatever. can be accepted in the terms formulated by Marx. So I will only concentrate on a couple of topics. I know perfectly well what being on the Left involves in America or in Britain. however. What we have today (and. if this is the case. in fact. This means that the frontier separating Left from Right is constantly displacing itself. In relation to your work. I am thinking of the agglutinating role played. hopeless sects that would not share even the fundamentals of my political project. and new transformed forms of the M-C-M´ relation of capitalism in everyday life. But I do conceive the articulating role of those empty signifiers as bringing together social struggles and not various leftist tendencies — the latter being. As Lacan said on a well-known occasion: “I do not need too many people. One of the main aims of your work seems to be to release the Left of this remnant of essentialism. In the first place.

which cannot even analytically be isolat-ed in that way. The realities of globalized capitalism require stressing a political dimension that is not secondary — let alone a superstructure — but is. Needless to say. We have spoken earlier about this. The first is that the heterogeneity of antagonistic effects leads to a dispersion and autonomization of struggles. This means also that the antagonisms generated by capitalism are far more widespread and heterogeneous than Marx thought would be the case. This means that. But — and this is the second consequence — as no political identity exists but as being something more than the social demand from which it emerges.separated as economic. the same applies to capitalist forces. some kind of politically constructed link between them becomes imperative. and ideological levels. but there are two on which I want to insist. as far as the search for profits requires a mobility far more complex than anything that classical capitalism had to deal with. political. UMBR(a) 26 . As a result. This has several consequences. on the contrary. unless the latter are going to remain isolated and reduced to impotence. the hegemonic mediation becomes strictly constitutive of political identities. relations of representation are also constitutive of political identities. an integral part of the very process of capitalist accumulation.

Judith Butler. 1990). Peter Stallybrass. Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (New York: Schocken Books. Hegemony. 3. in Stallybrass. 208. 2. Ernesto Laclau. Universality: Contemporary Dialogues on the Left (London: Verso. 27. UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) 27 . 2000). See Gershom Sholem. “Marx and Heterogeneity: Thinking the Lumpenproletariat.1. UMBR(a) 6. and Slavoj Žižek. 25. These words by Gershom Scholem describe the articulation of the mystic symbol.” Representations 31 (1990): 88. Ernesto Laclau. but they also describe the signifying process of silence in the poetics of the two aforementioned authors. Ibid. 70. Qtd. 5. 1995). Contingency. New Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time (London: Verso. 4. 89. Ibid.. 7.

UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) 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UNIVERSALITY: CONTEMPORARY DIALOGUES ON THE LEFT juliet flower mac cannell There is no universality which is not a hegemonic universality. First. The talk of solidarity also runs against the grain of the reader’s curiosity. Surprisingly (given how much out of favor he fell in the midtwentieth century) Hegel — not Marx — is what most generally ties them UMBR(a) 29 . and the project of a radical democracy certainly warrants the exposition the book means to provide — especially now that recent electoral events in the United States make some stodgy democratic institutions appear radical indeed. it begs to be measured by the theoretical range of its three authors. Judith Butler. while Žižek’s passionate impatience for political action uses earthy examples that cannot help but stir us up.” Any declaration of solidarity by theorists of a progressive bent is sure to be welcomed by the Left. Their prefatory notes say the book hopes to “establish the common trajectory of our thought.” While they reiterate their mutual concord. it is hard to discount the notoriously dissimilar styles of the authors. HEGEMONY. which Slavoj Žižek describes as the Left’s unwritten prohibition on political projects (127) and as “the (im)possibilities of radical thought and action today” (91). which are perhaps not unrelated to deeper degrees of theoretical and political differences. and Ernesto Laclau to dramatize what the book’s triumvirate of authors calls their “anti-totalitarian. The unruffled style of Butler mirrors her inclination to mediate and reconcile incompatibles.2 The book stages a respectful dialogue among Žižek. though. which is more likely to be piqued by the issues that divide them than by the rhetoric that unites them. radical democratic project. the careful logic of Laclau convinces us that social change is both imminent and immanent. Hegemony. which is only paralleled by the differences in their personalities.STAGE LEFT: A REVIEW OF CONTINGENCY. The book is a gamble. — Ernesto Laclau1 One has to admire Contingency. Universality for trying to jumpstart the Left out of its current paralysis.” then add that the results reflect “the different intellectual commitments we have. What links the authors together nonetheless deserves our fullest attention.

. Since their former lordly privileges were severely curtailed under the Charter (the new constitution). Finally. and to read it with the intention of grasping both the overall effect of the book and engaging what each theorist and each theory may be bringing to the question of post-structuralism and psychoanalysis for the Left. everyday relations. Gramsci originated the theory of hegemony in his fateful encounter with Italian Fascism and its “new” way of achieving political dominance. Hegemony. Altogether. Yet what is really at issue here is integrating Lacanian psychoanalysis and poststructuralism (which all these authors have previously used to amplify their positions) into Leftist discourse. So does the trio’s common turn from Marxist views to the refinement that Antonio Gramsci’s concept of hegemony brought to the analysis of ideology. a general rubric that covers theories that broke openly with Marx (e.) . there is the authors’ shared focus on what is broadly “postmodern” theory. Hegemony for Gramsci was the process whereby the ruling class. but they succeed quite well in reacquiring ruling status and come to redominate the formerly revolutionary classes by imposing their own manners and mores on them as ideals. to advance its own political ends.g. covertly dominating their most inward percep-tions and distorting their intimate.g. who was enthusiastically embraced by the first generation of Russian revolutionaries). it is not an easy book to respond to simply. subtly guided the ruled classes. Universality complicates the concept in so many ways.. (I apologize for my simplified description of Gramsci’s brilliant amendment to Marxist theory. Because the Left politics of psychoanalysis and poststructuralism are not obvious. This return to Hegel constitutes one of the book’s larger stories. inherently apolitical theories that nonetheless found a certain reception on the Left (e. but I feel the need to do so because Contingency. I have decided therefore to take the title seriously. 30 UMBR(a) HEGEMONY Let me take up Gramscian hegemony and counter-hegemony first. the nobles thus hegemonically attain their ends by these new political means. Counter-hegemony is the practice of strategic resist-ance on the part of the ruled class to hegemonic power.to each other. since Ernesto Laclau has long drawn on the Italian’s anti-fascist thinking for his own work with Chantal Mouffe. One might recall the way Stendhal depicted Restauration France in The Red and the Black. particularly Hegel’s labor of the negative. Saussure. I suspect that the reader will need to keep working away at the book (which requires passage through densely self-referential argumentation) to reach an assessment of the contribution to radical democracy. The latter is less surprising than the Hegelian return. the ruling classes entrenched their position of power. Foucault). Through hegemonic practices.3 The overt politics of the reactionary nobles in the novel usually run aground.

Why does Butler resist division and opposition. and in Gramsci hegemonic power over civil society was needed only to secure political control over the state. unconditioned. Foucauldian way.g. More crucial than these context-driven substitutions. Historical circumstances (such as the formation of the EU and global capital) have obviously altered the internal and external contours of “the state. and universals Laclau thinks crucial to the concept of hegemony (and crucial to social order itself). Laclau’s view is that class conflict itself is no longer the central social antagonism it was for Marx and Gramsci. which in turn reinforced ruling class hegemony. It is almost wholly on a pragmatic basis then. it permits the social order to embed a permanently open place. For Laclau hegemony nevertheless remains an indispensable theoretical and practical tool for democracy. Laclau diligently updates Gramsci for postwar.” hegemony keeps open a division between universal and particular: “while maintaining the incommensurability between the universal and particulars. for counter-hegemonization to occupy. that Butler values hegemony — for how it can be used to consolidate Left gains and/or contest Left losses. As he has done elsewhere. [it] enables the latter to take up the representation of the former” (56-57). social and class antagonisms are not merely historically dépassés. Butler takes issue with the divisions. the bourgeoisie) and what the ruled or potentially counter-hegemonic class is (for Gramsci it was the Southern Italian peasants.Hegemony in Laclau: The most programmatic treatment of hegemony is Ernesto Laclau’s. Laclau displaces earlier ideas of who and what the “ruling class” is (e. post-Marxist Europe — and for postmodern theory. and prefers a hegemony that forms two faces of a single coin. and UMBR(a) 31 . Butler repudiates hegemony structured as division (class division for Gramsci. too.” and the function and location of hegemony must correspondingly shift. As “the representation of an impossibility. Even though hegemonization has never really eradicated a single social antagonism.. Hegemony in Butler: Judith Butler’s adoption of Gramscian hegemony is quite unlike Laclau’s. that is. For Butler. Hegel and certainly for Laclau) the engines that drive social history? Adapting Gramsci in a synchronic. the nobles. the state has mutated. which are (for Rousseau. oppositions. such as the various agencies of national and international governance. Hegemony indirectly serves structural social change through its differential operations: it produces a requisite “third dimension” to socio-political existence (56) without which there is no “production of tendentially empty signifiers” (57) to undo (however provisionally) fundamental social antagonisms. In Butler hegemony assumes the guise of “regulatory apparatuses” (157). After all. Hegemony surpasses (while being modeled on) class division and its role is to lay the foundations for future social change. they are quite likely the root of social disorders. whereas for Marx it was the urban proletariat). Butler extends hegemony to include anything that holds sway over the person (not just as a member of a class). it operates within the bounded sphere of discourse. censorship boards. universal/particular division for Laclau).

but she does not reject it for the same reasons as Laclau (the world-historical shift in the configuration of the state). 279). even contestatory empty signifiers. but of restructuring and subverting old ones. to show how equivocal its claims to universality are. Butler’s unexcited prose is really quite disproportionate to her inflation of the concept and the destruction she is willing to inflict on all claims to universality by its means.) What is “Left” about hegemony for Butler? Can she be attacked for plunging hegemony’s roots so deep into language only in order to skirt the problem of class and the divisions it brings? No.” This struck me. Butler’s reasoning inserts class itself into a long list of the (unfortunate) effects of the linguistic “power regime” that arbitrarily structures personal and social identifications. and… track the break up of its regime” (179). of course. Yet they function hegemonically to shape “citizen-subjects in the domain of representation” (14). Butler locates hegemonic power in social ideals (norms). there is only aggression toward regimes of power. meaning-effects produced wholly by language’s differential operations (153). no nation. It may take the reader a moment to realize that Butler isn’t simply. no struggles between politicized groups.” she writes: “The task will be not to assimilate the unspeakable into the domain of speakability in order to house it there. Her partial inventory of the choices imposed on us by language includes those that “separate the person from the animal”. At the end of Butler’s second intervention. it is the other way around. a prioris that impose identifications that are reproduced in the unconscious (13. but to shatter the confidence of dominance. à la Laclau. no epoch. Language is for Butler the generative site not only of hegemony but also of counter-hegemony. like Laclau.even at one point. Hegemonic and counter-hegemonic practices are not a matter. “distinguish between two sexes to craft identification in the direction of an ‘inevitable’ heterosexuality and ideal morphologies of gender”. These regimes of power are not fixated in any one faction or group but coterminous with social order itself. Butler rejects the notion that hegemony serves particular “ruling class” interests. elasticizing hegemony to fit changed sociopolitical circumstances. “intellectuals” (148). and produce “tenacious identifications and disavowals in relation to racial. Hegemony becomes coextensive (coeval. perhaps?) with 32 UMBR(a) . “On Competing Universalities. Like Laclau. Her program statement above will undoubtedly sound more than a bit Nietzschean (the transvaluation of all values) to Marxists and more than a bit over-general for radicals to whom she offers few pointers on where to aim their insurgent energies. (The generality of this quotation put me in mind of a journalistic comment I once read on Butler’s writing in Lingua Franca complaining that it has “no neighborhood. Butler’s program is apolitical viewed from the standpoint of traditional politics: there are no warring factions. as not specific to Butler’s style but to the lifestyle-bans capitalism increasingly puts us under. within the existing norms of dominance. of generating new. national and class identities” (153). These internalized norms are generated by tricks of linguistic opposition.

the girl is ‘girled. the politics of hegemony involves the fact that it inevitably confronts its own counter-hegemonic face.” 6 It is not impossible to extrapolate from her disjoining gender (a specific difference) from sex (an opposition) to see how discursive counterhegemony might begin at birth. with “disidentificatory resistance” (150-153). her political vision is extraordinarily simple — this may be the basis of her popular appeal. Parents and medical personnel might refuse to label a newborn a “he” or a “she. Left political action no longer consists of finding out just exactly how some specific “they” is ruling you (as member of a socioeconomic class) and then acting against “them” in concert with others to foil their control. For Butler. Unlike Laclau and Butler.” In resisting social interpellations and imposed identifications. Of course. Žižek’s Old Left concerns have not entirely faded away under postmodern conditions. Butler makes it plain that the destructive effects of language and ideal identification are to be met militantly. a matter of throwing off that compulsion. Butler warns against thinking in “levels. (I could picture it at work in small social circles but couldn’t imagine it for large-scale national or international politics. something else enters the picture of hegemony. Observe what Butler once wrote about gender-identity: “Consider the medical interpellation which… shifts an infant from an ‘it’ to a ‘she’ or ‘he. UMBR(a) 33 . and only slightly more so with Laclau’s social structuring-in-process.’ and in that naming. we spontaneously make a political statement — and from what I see in Butler’s essays here. While Butler’s theory is complex. She detaches counter-hegemony from class and frees it to circulate and operate at any point in the total social field. Language users must deploy language to resist its destructive effects. Left political action is now a matter of realizing how “regimes of power” (151) compel us internally “to consent to what constrains us” (29).” Counter-hegemony works for Butler primarily at this highly personal level. it appears to affect deeper political levels only by implication. presumably by what the 60’s called “getting your head on straight.) Still.” and instead label it an “it. In the round world of Butler’s discursive power (and the social field enclosed by it). though its value is surely highest at a local level where “shatter[ing] the confidence of dominance” would be most visible.’ brought into the domain of language and kinship through the interpellation of gender. Lest we imagine that language’s pan-social force might thus lead her to political quietism (as Nussbaum has suggested4).language.” 7 and thus she meets one of the originating impulses of the New Left: to make the personal the political. it appears to be perhaps the only political pronouncement we can still make. Butler has more axiomatic concerns in sight. The social field to which he rearticulates Gramscian hegemony has little in common with the monologic one of Butler. the source of all power — not just ruling class power — to shape and subordinate personal identities through naming and interpellation.5 “The struggle to think hegemony anew is not quite possible…without inhabiting precisely that line where the norms of legitimacy…break down” (178).8 Hegemony in Žižek: For Žižek.

classifications.” Here. labeling.Žižek agrees with Laclau that hegemony adds a crucial “third dimension” to social and political life indispensable to their analysis. where language confronts what it can never say. Nevertheless. society. In Žižek’s Lacanian eyes. This return of the UMBR(a) 34 . radical antagonism (between the social and the not-social) can only be represented in a distorted way through the particular differences internal to the social system — in the space between the symbols. to the fact of irreconcilable conflicts. but confronting it. this radical opposition between society and what-it-isnot? While it may have something to do with Hegel’s dialectic of self and not-self. He thus opens up a political horizon quite unlike Butler’s and Laclau’s discursive domain. and so on. and language are threatened from within. But it also additionally reveals a contingent. they arise not from nature but from the very differential. linguistic structuring of the social — from its symbolic designations. Žižek’s “limit” is quite a different one from the sensible limits deconstruction draws around language so as to be able to enjoy a definitive plunge into the linguistic medium.” that is. but not its spirit). is connected umbilically to another more radical difference: “the limit that separates society from non-society” (92). indirect presence that hovers eerily over all these representations. Any delineation of an “intrasocial difference [within a social space]. but where you stop being you.” Žižek writes. Žižek rejects the poststructural position that is content to settle with the understanding that language is the origin of society (which no one can doubt). it is felt as external compulsion. Žižek is not bracketing the (non-linguistic) symbolic. when the symbolic. but also the space between individuals. Žižek’s hegemony mirrors his psychoanalytic commitment to “levels. I suspect it has much more (if not everything) to do with the “psychic life of power” (to borrow Butler’s title. Žižek’s limit is an internal limit — the disturbing point where the social self stops and the drives begin. The “internal limit” is not merely a question of where you stop and the other guy begins. Though drives are a-social. Put simply.9 When this internal limit is reached. What makes Žižek insist on this limit. Instead. The limit Žižek inscribes between society and non-society is not just a variable border. and that dismisses (like Derrida in Of Grammatology) the search for pre-linguistic origins as theological. emanating from “the Other. where your self (shaped by the signifier) ends and your drives begin. This point is what Lacan called the real. The specific political interest of this Lacanian point for Žižek is that the internal limit appears simultaneously in the social situation and in the individual. race. hegemony represents radical social antagonism “through the particular differences internal to the system” of a social field — class. we are as far from the bounded social space of Butler as from the open-ended one of Laclau. but a determinate one that marks where the symbolic-social begins and where it ends. Žižek poses a still more radical question: that of the origin and the cause of the drives. Žižek looks to what happens when language (the symbolic) fails to maintain hegemony over itself — that is. and so on. For Žižek.

Žižek has analyzed its effects in the phenomena of racism. communism. (There is always some lingering nostalgia for the general harmony that corporatist social organization seemed to offer. imaginary representation of social classifications as mere differences. Indeed. It might still sound as if Žižek were pretty far removed from Old Left topics (like class conflict) here. unified. but is a part of the problem. Žižek’s real radicalizes the distinction by having it exceed the merely social: a real limit is permanently sutured to the absolute nonreality (the fictionality) of the social (which has only a symbolic-contractual and linguistic existence and never anything more than that).) UMBR(a) 35 . and real fractions. Yet he is the one who insists that class has never actually been exorcised from political configurations: for him it is the specific antagonism that overdetermines the rest even today (321). I am going to make another simplified statement of the issues. These revolutions inaugurated a sense of society as “whole body. These were thought of as homogeneous. fascism. Brief Excursus on Class: Before I attempt to reconcile this seeming contradiction in Žižek.” organized now only by its differentiations.10 Language is not a solution to it. and self-enclosed. Žižek insists that we must carry on the analysis of global capitalism by determining how classes are now reconfiguring themselves under capitalism’s pressures (322-23) — into symbolic. this exorbitant real must be dealt with. Mapped onto social differences. But its fierce encounter with the not-symbolic adds dimensionality to the flat. Žižek defines the real as hegemonic because it has the power to insert a distortion into the social relations shaped by symbolic articulations similar to the one Gramsci’s ruling class exercised. The corporatist way of organizing society came to an end (temporarily? I sometimes wonder) with the democratic revolutions of the eighteenth century. Corporatism had operated quite effectively by providing its members with a sense of their natural place and their natural birthright (although this was about the only right secured for the individual): one’s estate. separated. which included the most crucial “difference” of all — division into classes. this time regarding “class. imaginary. and perversion. however. The real is thus an effect of the fundamental opposition language/not language (or social/not social or symbolic/real).” We cannot afford to forget that the feudal world was organized not by classes. one’s status was all. It inserts a permanent non-place into symbolic-social-linguistic articulations. It is where imaginary and symbolic distinctions come to a halt. Gramsci’s political hegemony was external to civil society.real gets “mapped” onto intrasocial differences (“between elements in a social space”) “in the guise of a difference” (92). employing both political and psychoanalytic methods. How can we reconcile these directions in Žižek? I would guess that the link between Žižek’s hegemonic real and his refusal to disavow class antagonism may have more to do with his embrace of the originating impulse of democracy than with some nostalgia for an aging Marxist theory that might ultimately be incompatible with psychoanalysis. but as a series of corporate social bodies (one’s “estate” was one’s social “being”).

The revolutionary overthrow of the establishment (estates) in favor of membership by class now meant that one was identified with a group whose interests were necessarily in conflict with those of other such groups. From Butler. We’ve heard from Žižek. which the book does not editorially clarify. But he is concerned that the dissolution of class oppositions into postmodernism’s proliferating particularities disavows the relation to the universal in a way that may unthinkingly subvert one of democracy’s crucial supports. universality) are no longer fashionable terms of analysis. UMBR(a) 36 . Gramscian hegemony can be exploited only if class divisions are still operative. Yet for Žižek. à la Marx. Marx also believed that Hegel modeled his abstract dialectic of universal and particular on that revolution. Žižek declares. or with contemporary “post-scarcity society. ready to recognize and deal flexibly with perduring social antagonisms (299). and that the task of the Left is to lay out the constitution for a social order open to change. that class antagonism covertly remains fully implicated in the advance of global capitalism today (320) and that the global economy must be repoliticized. The corporate homogenization that distorts and (imaginarily) flattens social life today requires the reminder of the real to disclose its actual dimensions and to ascertain capitalism’s internal limit. Only the conception of universal rights sustained the differentiated social body. Thus we find the following incompatibilities with respect to hegemony (and its corollary. Žižek thus calls for a repoliticized analysis of the global economy (223.” in which class division is deemed irrelevant to its “multiple political subjectivities” (99). Yet his witty first chapter. we have encountered yet a third option (the one that has gained wide currency on the American academic Left). We are to undertake. We’ve heard from Laclau that traditional class antagonisms have been overtaken by the events of history. class). The disharmony introduced by these divisions was further sustained by the sense that each member and each group also possessed certain inalienable rights. Žižek seems unconcerned that we might revert to a politics of being (although he talks about how class differences are ontologized today).” refuses to equate democracy either with a society of economic class divisions. preventing it from fracturing into warring components. Please!. pragmatically. “Class Struggle or Postmodernism? Yes. Žižek. the necessary tension between class and universal found its first radical expression in the French Revolution. even though now transposed from the nation to the transnational. for example. To Marx. despite his awareness that class conflict (and by extension. issue-by-issue reviews of zones of oppression to exercise our practical reason. Again: Gramsci inspires us to move beyond taking Marx’s class warfare too literally. The interlocutors keep us wondering just what the common project of radical democracy might actually mean. “Each particularity involves its own universality” (316). 321) by using a concept of hegemony supplemented with the resources of psychoanalysis (the power of the real). Žižek openly chides his fellow authors for failing to contest the hegemonic practices of global capitalism and for failing to recognize it as the new ruling class that has issued the command to end all class antagonism.

Still. and political into a single-level self (the term she uses increasingly as the book develops).” Žižek writes. in effect. adoption outside marriage. Butler defines “Left action” as maintaining “a political culture of contestation on…issues. there is a “personal” level. this is no “quietist”). increased research and testing for AIDS. A series of irrationalities immediately comes to mind…” (322). For Žižek modern Lacanian psychoanalysis re-animates our sense of contradiction crucial to democracy and to the political critique of capitalism: “The capitalist system is…approaching its inherent limit and self-cancellation…. and outcomes of the Left theories exposited.For example. She encourages us to focus on those places where power is arbitrarily exercised and to denounce it — as she herself does when she castigates “intellectuals” (unspecified) who “argue against non-normative sexual practices” (148) and collaborate. even after their exhaustive debates. Žižek begins by saying. intergenerational sex. is breeding new ‘contradictions’ which are potentially even more explosive than those of standard industrial capitalism. such as the legitimacy and legality of public zones of sexual exchange. In Žižek. actions. and transgender politics” (161. issue by issue. as in Butler. But his intensely politicized finish emphasizes dramatically the specific disagreements he has with Butler (and with Laclau to a milder degree) over their failure to see the persistence of Left issues not because of but despite their theories: to him. ‘Frictionless capitalism’ (Bill Gates) is turning into a nightmare in which the fate of millions is decided in hyper-reflexive speculation on futures…” (322-5). Gramsci) stems from her sense of the power of language to injure and cure. “that today’s capitalism. Note that the “issues” which draw Butler’s active involvement have little or nothing to do with social antagonism and everything to do with false negations and unconscious disavowals at the personal level. Butler’s skeptical treatment of the content of earlier analyses of regimes of power (Marx. We are left wondering where the Left is heading. “my dialogue with [his two fellow authors] relies on shared propositions” (91) and. caught as it is in a series of contradictions: it is a subject. Butler merges personal. in the old Marxist vein. in its very triumph. UMBR(a) 37 . they avoidably underrate and seriously under-represent politics through their inattention to the contradictions of (or the internal limit in) socio-symbolic life. but his is inseparable from the social and the political. with state repression of gays. If we compare this statement with Butler’s “the field of differential relations from which any and all particular identities emerge must be limitless” (31). we can then see a very real difference. it only obliquely informs its readers about the potential political programs. I want to continue to highlight the conceptual and practical distinctions in the book — not to show the Left as troubled but to draw some instruction from what troubles it. The authors’ differences only magnify as the book progresses. As the book thus makes and unmakes its strange bedfellows. position by position. “I continue to think. he maintains that he “fully supports Butler’s political aims” (313). social.

neither in civil nor in political society. hegemony has no inherent universalizing power and no need of it. Laclau and the Universal: Laclau recognizes Hegel’s deconstruction of the universal by “a radical exclusion” (207). the authentic site of counterhegemony: universality resides literally nowhere. but the exclusions essential to it stain. Butler finds it more rational to go along with fellow critics Zerilli and Scott who have sought the universal “only in the chain of signifiers” or in the “undecidable coincidence” between universal and particular (33). universality.) And hegemony for Butler is nothing other than linguistic power. Hegemony’s sole usefulness lies in the extent to which it strengthens the Left’s current sway over our hearts and minds. and haunt it. In Laclau.” Butler and the Universal: For Butler the dependence of the universal on the particular (which secretes the former) not only vitiates the political and liberatory claims of the universal. and while the phenomenon of language is indeed anthropologically universal. for him. To mediate between these two. and so on). Nevertheless. language is precisely not a universal. Butler’s is technically a culturalist viewpoint. Language alone ensures the power of doing and undoing: in politics.11 For her. She is frankly suspicious of the universal as the place where sterile social oppositions and fatal political antagonisms secretly meet and marry. and mentioned historicist skepticism regarding universal claims and universal human rights. “language is unsurpassable” (279).) by creating the space/non-space of “tendentially empty signifiers. for Laclau and Žižek the universal remains the sine qua non of liberatory politics. the universal is a necessary moment of the social dialectic. For Butler. politics and the Law are mere partial hegemonies with far less reach. Butler tells us. The Left’s task is not to mount futile counter-hegemonic strategies but to use hegemony’s universalizing resources against itself to recognize and attenuate the antagonisms endemic in society. hegemony paves the way for constructing universality (280 ff. (I suppose this is akin to political correctness. Although its power has been battered by history and shattered by theory’s devastating critiques. For Laclau. contaminate. Compared with the relative absolutism of language.UNIVERSALITY I’ve already touched on the final term of the book’s title. Butler turns not to the universal but to cultural UMBR(a) 38 . the reach of language is sufficient to dispense with the universal. Each author acknowledges the contemporary critique of the universal (as a ruse for imposing imperialist dictates. universality remains. it is always pragmatically used to distinguish one culture from another. and turns its power of regulation to emancipatory ends. but for Laclau the “universal’s dependency on particularity” is part and parcel of the “universalist emancipatory project” (207). Most importantly.

if someone raised the matter of universalism and particularism in Left politics. to generate the liberating. At first this seems simple: she characterizes democracy now as a contestation over signifiers. Butler urges instead a stoppage of the signifier-machinery: “Sometimes you have to let certain signifiers stand. The fact that there remains such an unbridgeable difference between Butler and her co-authors with respect to the universal really must concern us. However. Žižek counters capital with the proposal that “the inclusions/exclusions in the hegemonic notion of human rights…can be renegotiated and redefined and the reference to universality can serve precisely as a tool that stimulates such questioning and renegotiation” (102). Žižek and the Universal: Žižek’s viewpoint shares parts of both: the universal is both emancipatory. After all. à la Butler. and contaminated by the particular. once essential to the definition of democracy. I would like to pause my review once more to recall something about the universal that seems to be falling outside the book’s explicit radar. such as Francis Fukuyama. have never abandoned the universal. Energy thus retrieved from freezing the differential thrust of language is of the same kind that Beltway Hegelians. and it is thus extremely important for her to link language to her radical democratic project. with language. it is precisely because it is contaminated that the universal is emancipatory. He writes. linguistic oppositions need not drive social history any longer. assume a certain givenness at a certain moment of analysis when they become forbidden territory” (269). like Marx or Sartre) and who have disclaimed (as Butler does not) Hegel’s aim of total knowledge. Like dialectical materialist oppositions. What “works” for Butler therefore is neither a progressive nor a regressive dialectic. asserting its hegemonic power to alter or even freeze social relations and displace the work of the universal. But hers do not work the way Laclau’s signifiers do. Consider how Marx’s Hegelian eyes were once trained on a minor weavers’ revolt in Germany. it is a synchronic breaching of the identities formed by dialectical oppositions that opens them to “innovative misuse” by and for “those who are not authorized in advance to make use of them” (36). sweepingly empty force of the “Next” signifier. not long ago. and Butler turns then instead toward their own undoing.and linguistic translation (36-37). Brief Excursus on the Universal: At this point. Marx found this seemingly insignificant revolt to be of universal importance — not an exemplar of economic class warfare but as an exemplar of “social revolu- UMBR(a) 39 . the concepts would have seemed perfectly easy to express and particularly helpful to social democratic causes. drew off from the dialectical march of history (by ending the Cold War). Especially given that those on the Left who have stuck by the dialectical method of Hegel (even critically. à la Laclau. “Capital sets a limit to resignification” (223). Butler replaces the universal. The merging of the linguistic with the social and the political (all subject to the counterhegemony of tropology) renders the universal nugatory for Butler.

It is only in realizing their exclusion from the human that the universal is born. “[E]ven though it be limited to a single industrial district. Simply put. always has a necessarily universal character. so dehumanized. the dehumanizing effect of the class antagonisms in politicized society (class antagonisms are just social relations distorted by ruling class interests) is to access the universal by way of the particular. real individual. for Marx. The weavers’ sense of fundamental banishment from the ranks of the human results not in their spectral return or their enjoyment of a revenge of the repressed. a ruling group in society to society’s detriment.” To overcome.” For Marx (as for others) it is this universal — which recognizes an internal obstacle to the sway of political discriminations. in conformity with its limited and double nature. a particularization pushed to the point that it forces (social) non-being upon the weavers. [it] affects the totality. “The political soul of revolution” has something of this inhuman character: it consists of “a tendency of the classes without political influence to end their isolation from the top positions in the state.”12 Social revolution. philosopher or not. It has no particular content. the human essence. It reminds us that what lies beyond the compass of the social is the inhuman. but the reverse. Their standpoint is that of the state. the existence of the collective that defines us and thus makes us human14 — must protest each and every effort to separate individuals and classes of individuals from life in common. What the weavers’ revolt “says” to Marx (and this is its “universal” character) is that no one should suffer as we are suffering. and so dispossessed that it is not merely relegated to haunting the society that denies it all standing. that only exists through a separation from real life…. so excluded. Thus a revolution with a political soul also organizes. because it is a human protest against a dehumanized life. we could say that the “particularity” of the weavers’ revolt creates universality out of the very excess of its particularization. I doubt it would be very hard for anyone.tion. but is forced into becoming the universal. It conceals no petty self-interests. in the very society from UMBR(a) 40 . and that the “human” can be reconstructed. This no one is a critical.” Marx said. even in one small particular instance. that recognizes the point where the social and the not-social meet — that drives all change in society. to miss his point. When Marx speaks of a class so fully devastated. This universal is what reminds us that civil society — that is. So far this does not sound much different from Butler’s desire to include the “excluded. because it starts from the standpoint of the single.”13 Marx’s universal goes beyond class in order to reach the point where the social has encountered the non-social. even though its coming into existence depends entirely on the particular that has been squeezed down to become no more than a universal shout: “No one should have to suffer this way. the “dehumanizing.” But her resistance to the universal leaves an essential element unaccounted for. negative universal. because the collectivity against whose separation from himself the individual reacts is the true collectivity of man. an abstract whole.

the people that exists nowhere: “I am tempted to claim that this shadowy existence is the very site of political universality: in politics. In Marx. miraculously grows to the size of the universe. Rousseau’s.” But what we cannot do is use this cultural relativist stance to deflate the power of the universal or to ignore that the “humanity” to which Parks’ gesture is referable means a “humanity” created wholly out of language and its social contract. and so on.’ posits itself as the direct embodiment of universality against all those who do have a place within [the] global order” (313). was she merely saying. and say that “‘human’ is only a culturally relative distinction. Žižek likens its “holding the place” to the demos (the part of no part) that Jacques Rancière has written of. Awareness of one’s deprivation of a place in human society is the sine qua non of a universality that simply can never exist within society. We might quibble. but as members of a new ex-class. the universal is the antagonist of what Sartre calls “self-enclosed” (totalitarian) society. one whose only existence resides uniquely in its articulation as the universal exclamation that no one should be forced to and not all are being forced to….15 When some particularity stands thus apart from the whole. Such a universal offers what nothing “in” society can: a standpoint with which to seize society as a “whole. and grasps “the whole” as a finite totality. this no one should have to…. I think this is very much the same as Žižek’s insistence on determining a point where the social and the not-social collide. but the symbolic pact — Peirce’s. its universality comes into being. I cannot imagine that Butler would really want to preclude in advance this power to move a self-satisfied social world off its dead center. ‘out of joint.” A particularity cast apart from “the whole” that is bent on eliminating its particularity.which it has been separated and alienated. more concretely. universality is asserted when such an agent with no proper place. “Don’t treat me like this because my identity as a person of color and as a woman is merely discursively imposed by racist society and thus you have no right to treat me like this just because I look to you as if I naturally belong to one or several of these categories when I know that I am free not to do so”? No. Rosa Parks. was saying that no one might henceforward arbitrarily be deprived of the right to be treated as a human being by other human beings. And was the universal not also the contribution to democracy that Rosa Parks made? When Parks stood firm and refused to move to the back of the bus. that not all people are being treated as I am here. Classical democracy attempted to secure a permanent place for such a universal vantage point. She was also saying. and is alienated from it. This universal exceeds or falls UMBR(a) 41 . Not just any local social contract which can easily dismiss or define her out of existence. by her eloquent gesture. Marx’s is a “contestatory universal” that treats individuals frozen out of social identifications not as individualized victims. In the case of Marx — and Parks — this apartness provides the drive for social revolution — or even simply for social change.

in anything like its classic (Marx. Butler locates it entirely in UMBR(a) 42 . linguistic) articulation is precisely its only source of power. a man may be born a slave in a pagan society or a feudal lord or a proletarian. however individual it may be.” The demos is the internal limit of the whole and as the universal it casts its shadow over each and every social distinction. It unseats power and can make anyone powerful. This conflation makes the norm (the ideal) and deviations from it the length and breadth of any social or personal bone of contention. has a universal value. would have failed to see the universal as nothing but its impact on smug little social circles? Sartre writes: If it is impossible to find in every man some universal essence which would be human nature. she tells us.” But Sartre does not quibble with making freedom into the universal: “The one that counts is knowing whether the inventing that has been done. see. Language deals the original blow of idealization and then checks idealization with linguistic deviations (tropes. As no one can use language without being interpreted.… Con16 sequently. Butler and the Universal. before postmodern principles of uncertainty. Who. We can see this each and every mode (the flip side of not-all) in Sartre’s description below. Butler is prepared to universalize democracy in a completely new way. then. Rousseau. has been done in the name of freedom. What does not vary is the necessity for him to exist in the world. in some permanent way unrealizable” (268). through its resistance to actualization: it “defers realization permanently… it is essential to this practice to remain. democratic redistribution of power to operate in perpetuity. Is there a politics in Butler. swerves). And she rejects any opposition (such as Marx’s distinction between the ideality of philosophy and the actuality of the world) that prevents conflating ideality and actuality instead of “maintaining a certain distance between the ideality of the ideal and the givenness of any modes of its instantiation” (269). Gramsci) sense of a force that distorts human social relations? If there is. to be there in the midst of other people.17 Nothing exterior to the social whole delimited by language needs to exist for this ongoing. so no one can interpret without speaking otherwise than one intends (279).” Its social realization is obviated in advance. by incorporating the negative force of the universal into discursive reason. criticize. Butler’s democracy can remain unrealized only because language is its life-blood. yet there does exist a universal human condition.short of every division of society into classes and every cataloguing of its members’ roles. and to be moral there.… Historical situations vary. social. yet its lack of (symbolic. and yet still speak for “the whole. Its is the only voice that can enunciate. Once More: Butler quibbles with the universal in the name of the global on the same grounds Sartre quibbles with the “great maxims” of Kantian ethics: “The content [of the universal maxim] is always concrete and thereby unforeseeable. Hegel. there is always the element of invention. every configuration. Democracy is secured. to be at work there.

But if democracy is hegemonic. in light of her disinclination to recognize antagonisms and their resultant political oppositions. The emancipatory mechan-isms of this move are rhetorical and performative tropic deviations from the norm that (democrat-ically) will eventually grant anyone the power to alter his/her social standing. some will get to go right on. metaphors) seems culture-bound. Discriminations and contradictions can be sublated as contestations over mere signifiers if democracy is hegemonic. others must wait in the wings (or on the margins. To adapt the performative for picturing Butler’s politics: we have a stage. “excluded by the hegemonic symbolic regime. irony. as Butler puts it). why is the Left so hesitant to promote imaginative new programs within it (which it so obviously is). We can dispense with extra-linguistic universality if democracy is universalized. limited to a very particular. (Žižek’s frustrated critique of the diminished political setting of Butler’s work is that those who wait in the wings. one never under threat of radical dissolution or attack by some altogether alien life form.” Or is there? Butler is a cultural democrat who works to widen democracy’s range. It might be time then to ask how evolved Butler’s sense of the social really is. more dynamic and more concrete” (13). Butler’s stance can work quite well. manageable social setting (the metaphor of Aristotle’s stage comes to mind). She makes hegemony and the universal yield premiere place to language’s differential structure — a structure that only language has the means to attack (with the ruses of rhetoric.discourse. I wonder if Butler’s radical democracy is anything more than cultural? Might we not ask if this performative democracy.” might easily be neo-Nazis rather than the disenfranchised. but will also convey a different truth from the one that was intended. the disregarded … [313]. and this will be a truth about language. I’m 43 . Given a delimited. very civil.” the “citation. its unsurpassability in politics” (279). already pretty much democratic social sphere. that is.” the “circulating trope” [269]). masks. Yet the choice of alternative masks (personae. why Butler’s democratic stage is never deeply threatened by another stage — eine andere Schauplatz — that might be absolutely incongruent with it. since there is nothing fundamental to fear from the opposition? One wonders. rendering them more inclusive. But the latter will one day be free to move to center stage. with its staged identifications. or with the “repeatable figure. Her final paragraph concludes: “Language will not only build the truth that it conveys. Still. In her democracy you are free to change your person/persona by realizing that the masks society has imposed on you are arbitrary and subject to change. she seems reluctant to imagine anything but a single expanding democratic culture. UMBR(a) There is no need here for a universal standpoint to leverage a democratic totality already thus composed of a dynamic freeplay in which anyone can change roles and anyone can eventually become a “star. parody. and re-staged universals (and quite a bit of stage business) isn’t open to potential redefinition by anti-democratic abuses of language and tropology? When she says that “My understanding of hegemony is that its normative and optimistic moment consists precisely in the possibilities for expanding the possibilities for the key terms of liberalism.

Her diffident style might seem ill-fitted to the dazzle of drag and the destabilized gender identities she promotes as models of subversion.” 19) Butler’s own performance — in this book — is an almost perfect illustration of her strategy for “securing democracy.sure Butler considers this unthinkable. modernist. its central discursive mannerism — the dismissal of oppositions as fruitless and irrational — comes much more naturally to Butler than UMBR(a) 44 . She is classic and engagingly serene. people had come to regard their social roles with distance and often horror. the Statesman of wit and letters. who. in this book (and possibly because of those limitations) Butler seems like a winner. She parries Žižek and Laclau. Laclau and Žižek each quote her more and more extensively as the book progresses — and the reverse is not the case. each prides himself on having the tone of another. But we need only remind ourselves that the neo-classical stage restricted the numbers of actors and limited the scope of its time.18 In this. brooding. the Bishop makes gallant proposals. While this may not seem much of an achievement in the case of the exuberant Žižek. but it is a stunningly successful performative effect. making the other two look. dissonant. she is not just being coy and hard to pin down. and above all frustrated by her decorum. What she does do is to characterize the others’ work in ways that irritate them quite a bit. she juggles multiple theoretical allegiances that refuse to add up to a singular perspective that would over-identify her with one or another theoretical stance. and action and that these severe stage-limits responded to a desire for circumscription in a society on the verge of revolutionary change. it is a monumental one in the case of the polished.) LESSONS Whatever the limitations we might see in her social and political theory. Butler triumphs here the way the fluid heroes of French classical theatre triumph: by smoothly eluding definitive judgments.” Butler is unflappably poised. Hers is a tactical ascendancy not particularly supported by details of precise argumentation. off-stage. JeanJacques Rousseau described it this way: “Although everyone preaches with zeal the maxims of his profession. romantic. by turns. She avoids argumentation over specifics and serenely declines to engage in antagonistic debate. Butler becomes thus the de facto center of calm in this book. place. the Courtier speaks of philosophy. argumentative. In rebuttal. The magistrate takes on a Cavalier air. as argumentative. (One of the prime indicators of the coming change was that. the financier acts like a Lord. dresses in black Sundays in order to look like a man of the palace. unable to assume a different tone. for her deepest political and theoretical allegiance is to the subversion of identifiable positions through the masking and ambiguity that tropic language provides. (Perhaps because American theory assimilated the postmodern attitude more rapidly than Europe did. defensive. quibbling over a word here or there (although in the closing chapters each regains his own footing). down to the simple artisan. This casts the others in an almost hysterical light. logical Laclau.

Gorbachev” 21: to American popular consciousness.) Yet it is not the tactics she deploys so much as her overall hegemonic strategy that the Left must take to heart. amounts to a virtuoso performance: Kant’s a priori and conditions of possibilities here.” What Butler becomes by using these procedures is the very figure of mediation itself. For. very carefully. is this still the best way to go? Indeed. Her aim is.” Or else they have openly argued against them for theoretical or political reasons. after the political map of the world has been redrawn one-dimensionally. Each citation is entirely apropos. If once this strategy met popular demands for the end of the Cold War’s “discrete blocs which vie with one another for control of policy questions” (Butler 13-14). and if it still offers a ready-to-hand recourse for destabilizing political and other forms of oppositions. and the political at once. history. and we need to heed them very. History. prevents universal protest. the utterance represented the performative power that speech act theory sees in its infamous “Let the Games Begin.22 Watching Butler gives us strategic clues on how to operate in a newly monologic political world. Žižek is just as comprehensive as Butler — it’s a Hegelian thing — but Butler’s way of integrating her knowledge20 rhetorically and performatively is distinctive. and Freud’s insights on figurative language on the other (151). yet overall the effect is one of her mastery — her total knowledge. and this is my point. Foucault’s entrenched opposi-tion to Freud over sexuality on one side. of course. the fluidity with which she adopts and adapts positions from theorists quite opposed to each other. Butler has mastered the entire spectrum of postmodern discourses that her Left European interlocutors have only selectively and often painstakingly integrated into their pieces. nor is it even simply to “win. masking. it is mediation that has wielded the most impressive conceptual and political authority in our times.) UMBR(a) 45 .to them. a postmodern procedure par excellence that encompasses structure. Though it was trivialized by McLuhan (“The Medium is the Message”) and crowned by twentiethcentury philosophy’s focus on its own means of expression.”) It is the performative power of language used for and against itself (to which Butler resorts) that the Left must make some decisions about. (I think that’s why so many felt relief at the Seattle demonstrations. Mr. For the concrete verbal demeanor of Judith Butler here is not a side issue. we should now question whether it remains politically effective for the cause of democracy. irony. it carries the significance and the force of her position (non-position). and the Political. ambiguity) for the purpose of eradicating the very movement of dialectical opposition itself. Perhaps. Hegel’s criticisms of Kant there. Butler’s political Leftism consists in committing herself to harnessing the resources of language (rhetoric. (Think of Reagan’s “Tear down the Wall. as in Laclau’s “Structure. not to display her virtuosity. After the fall of communism. The number of theoreti-cal positions Butler is able to absorb. destabilizing oppositions — the postmodern procedure par excellence — in a one-sided political world is already starting to feel like it blocks any way out.

so that we can have a full social imaginary” (306). not against. “there is no future for the Left if it is unable to create an expansive universal discourse. When Laclau says. constructed out of. while Žižek’s. not pointing out its excentricity. For all its potential pitfalls. I then wondered how any of them would respond to the highly provocative and yet imaginatively democratic gesture of Bill Clinton’s choosing Harlem for his ex-presidential offices…. commoner forms of antagonism break out. after all) to oppose her tone of reconciliation and to call instead for the Event — an Event of the magnitude of the coming of Christ — to enter the world stage. 46 UMBR(a) THE REAL RETURNS? In the moments where. his statement carries a silent rebuke to the restrained imaginary of Butler’s discourse (and the perhaps over-full Žižekian one). then neutralizes its effects. or the “radical centre” that Laclau denounces) was what was driving Žižek up the wall. I felt Butler’s heavy accent on mediation was one of the things that impelled Žižek (a fellow Hegelian who also subscribes to the logic of figurality. the book shows spirit. But then it struck me that perhaps the very strategies of containment deployed by Butler (structurally similar to those of Third-Way politicians today. as when he rejects Žižek’s resuscitation of class. The task ahead is to sow the seed of universality. despite efforts to remain above the fray. down-to-earth Laclau might prefer to split the difference. the discordance between Butler’s and Žižek’s approaches also drives Laclau to make strong position statements opposed to the others. anecdotes. alternatively. It’s impossible to decouple his highly provocative statements (about forgetting the Holocaust and fears of the Gulags and of Linksfascismus so we can act and not merely perform politics once more) from his reaction to Butler’s discourse. or turns schoolmasterish with Butler. she stages it. yet by no means a gesture of mediation.Yet it’s a tough sell to act politically if one is successful at performing rhetorically. and so on. But there is one more lesson here. the Reagan Revolution for us) . At first he called to my mind a teenager who wants to break with his conformist parents by means of such “shocking” statements. the proliferation of particularisms of the last few decades…. If the balanced. In this book. Something vaguely unsatisfying and generic emerges from her discourse. Not shocking.23 For Butler consistently moves to freeze the dialectic just after an opposition has been stated. can get so caught in engaging stories. and just before it inevitably yields or mutates into synthesis. the book reveals how all three theorists must/will have tried to confront the important hegemonic success of what Gramsci called the “passive revolutions” of our time (Italian fascism for him. that we can’t always find our way back to the logic of his political discourse. Žižek’s strategy has been to “up the ante” on the performative and to carry his person as if it were that explosive universalizing voice that shakes things up.

The real question of the book is whether contemporary theory and methods secure advantages to the Left’s commitment to democracy. fascism.and the disappointing forms of institutionalized Marxist and democratic theory in Communist governments and Western nations. how. is there something about the discourse of theory that is blocking the Left’s ability to respond to these events? Thus. that the Left must settle with theory before it will be able to confront large-scale social. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream”). economic. and political theory. The theories whose fine points the authors carefully rehearse interject themselves into established Left theorizing without fully integrating Left theory per se. is precisely what would otherwise be questionable for the Left: its strong stress on theory and on language. would have predicted the degree to which language would come to dominate politics in the twentieth century. The deepest impulse in this book. including the epidemic erosion of democratic principles of governance in the West. along with the recent stunning rise of conservatism in leading democratic nations). and even moving speeches (the Gettysburg Address. proletarian co-optation. Theoretical perplexities have taken precedence in Left debate over the Holocaust. Few. and these theories.” I have to admit I felt like putting the book on pause — given my own long history of working in deconstruction. It is the hyperinflated status of language and language-like entities that the hard-nosed materialist Old Left has found most difficult to accept in these times. dictatorships. declarations (of Independence or the Rights of Man). when the authors broaden their declaration of purpose to claim they have intended the book to confront what they call “the problem of language. where the first systematic political uses to which it was put were largely anathema to the Left (think Goebbels). Second. The implication of the book is. then. then. and if so. the end of the Cold War. and what constitutes its significance. depressions — the things the older Left easily recognized and oftentimes confronted. to the contrary. and political changes now taking place. All three must/will have tried to confront the major theoretical revolutions of our time — the linguistic turn in philosophy and social science and the challenge that psychoanalysis poses to all the major traditions of political and social thought.and Third-World conflicts and practices — and psychoanalysis. All three must/will have taken account of the unexpected quarters in which resistance to and for democracy has surfaced: in sexual revolutions. The fact of its arrival as a major player on the political stage can no longer be ignored UMBR(a) 47 . Or. the decline of Marxism and Communism’s exit from Eastern Europe. Why make theory the special focus of a Left book? The answer is that events of a theoretical character have posed as many challenges to the post-New Left as the unprecedented historical events of the twentieth century posed to the Old Left (the 60s. however. Modern democracy and progressive social movements often began as manifestoes. constitutions. these authors. psychoanalysis. nor negotiating its relation to Left praxis — yet.

and the inexplicable Teflonicity of the Great Communicator.— from Roosevelt’s Fireside chats to spin doctors. UMBR(a) 48 UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) . Hegemony. Contingency. Universality thus might be considered a first staging of the coming of age of a political debate that reflects on the extent to which language now plays so capital a role in the art and performance of politics. from Hitler’s Table Talk to Nixon’s love-affair with New Criticism. What may turn out to be most instructive in this book is what it reveals about the discontents of the Left pluralism it honors and also about the limitations of language as a mode of radical democratic politics.

I present this in some detail in “Stendhal and the Politics of the Imaginary. She calls Laclau’s universalizing the particular the “making of an empire of its local meaning” and echoes Linda Zerilli and Joan Scott’s belief that there is “no possibility of extracting the universal claim from the particular” (33). some doctors are now deferring assigning a sex to infants with somewhat ambiguous genitalia. and unknowable weight for a subject who suffers its proliferating effects. In “Dynamic Conclusions” Butler equates Žižek’s real with the “truth” that Derrida and Lacoue-Labarthe/Nancy critiqued in Lacan — a “truth” that misrecognizes the crucial medium of its own transmission: “Indeed. italics added. 14. Hegemony. trans. 9. that is. marked by Butler’s unaccustomed recourse to the ad hominem. 7) has influenced the re-thinking of gender labeling. 1993]. Paul Bové has been credited with pronouncing Old Left and Liberal thinkers like Rorty. Doubtless Butler’s enunciation of the reach of power into gender (from her Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” [New York: Routledge. 12.1. 2000). 1977). Karl Marx. Taylor. And Žižek counters with “false disidentification” (103). the fundamental principle of civil 2. 4. 126. Žižek defines the unmediatable real as a power to disturb the fiction that social differences are merely symbolic. and those who write for The Nation “Left Conservatives” because they do not take poststructuralism’s critique of transparent communication and unmediated reality into account. 7. this is nowhere more emphatically demonstrated than in Žižek’s own work. “This metaleptic function of [Žižek’s] discourse works most efficiently when it remains undisclosed” (278). of dialectical demonstration…there is no way to dissociate truth from the rhetoricity that makes it possible…” (278). the two differ quite fundamentally: Butler’s signifier is a public labeling. Ibid. “Critical Remarks on the Article: ‘The King of Prussia and Social Reform. and Slavoj Žižek. Consider the use of assertion. So when she says. Make no mistake. way a singular signifier acquires special. She absolutely rejects the real as what drives language. Politt. 5.” The New Republic 22 (February 1999).” in Approaches to Teaching Stendhal’s The Red and the Black. the drives postdate the advent of the signifier. is followed by. 13. 10. Judith Butler. 6. 193. Ernesto Laclau. eds. and ed. Still. Subsuquent references will appear parenthetically within the text.. of formulas. that they are not laminated with the radically non-symbolic (the real). 11. Contingency. Universality: Contemporary Dialogues on the Left (London: Verso. 1999). for then the real would be precisely the obstacle to the limitless power of language that is the heart of Butler’s theory. I obviously don’t agree with this accusation. a symbolic naming. 8. her heightened concern is reflected in her attribution to Žižek of a calculating disingenuousness about the ruses of his own speech. Ehrenreich. (which also undoes a signifier’s inordinate prestige). which Martha Nussbaum makes in “The Professor of Parody. traumatic. Butler’s “How difficult it is even on the conceptual level to keep the transcendental and the social apart” (146). After Rousseau and Hegel. but with the UMBR(a) 49 . Although some readers of Butler liken this process to psychoanalysis. psychoanalysis works not with the commonly held symbols. the domain of power and control. of anecdote.’” in Karl Marx: Selected Writings. For me “it” retains overtones of the Freudian Id and the 1950s horror movie. Stirling Haig and Dean de la Motte (New York: PMLA. David McLellan (Oxford: Oxford University Press. This is a crucial point of disagreement. “I would warn against understanding fantasy as something which occurs ‘on one level’ and social interpellations as something that takes place on ‘another level’” (151). 3.

1959). Butler has been praised precisely for her volatility: see Michael Levinson. Levinson notes the “terrible claustrophobia” of Butler’s early work. 50 21. 20. with the third dimension. 1964). “La Nouvelle Héloïse. At one point. A chunk of its concrete is housed in his Presidential Library. Existentialism and Human Emotions (New York: Philosophical Library. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (New York: Doubleday. II:235. Erving Goffman.” Lingua Franca (September 1998): 60-68. “The cult of mankind ends in the self-enclosed humanism of Comte.society is that the collective is responsible for (in all senses of the term) the human. eds. “Speaking to Power. 22. trans.” in Oeuvres Complètes. (What Freud and Lacan add is that the non-human edge that seems to lie beyond the pale of humanity also inhabits it from within. and let it be said. UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) 17. Alan Sheridan [New York: Norton. which is one not of contamination but of reconciliation” (191).) 15. Jean-Jacques Rousseau. This kind of humanism we can do without” (50). “constructed ‘brick by brick’ from the theorists whose work she cobbles together…. xiv. 1957). It constitutes something like the total savoir that Hegel adumbrated (and which Lacan happened to critique strongly in “Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire.) . Butler equates universality with consensus based on local norms that must then be “culturally translated” to become universal (35). 19. Butler extracts theory from theory” (63). Ibid. Jean-Paul Sartre. who regards the totality as crushing the particular. But he limits the scope of his characterization to just this one theoretical point. Laclau notices this pattern of argumentation in Butler. vol. Reagan considered the fall of the wall his most important symbolic accomplishment. of fascism. II. 23. the universal — being the particular’s only recourse. Bernard Gagnebin and Marcel Raymond (Paris: Gallimard. 16. This pulls the rug out from under Laclau.” in Ecrits: A Selection. He finds Butler’s resistance to his argumentation on the concrete abstract (the universal) to be “a result of her argument being so rooted in the Hegelian way of conceiving the articulation between the abstract and the concrete. spoke there of “signs given” (one’s controlled and contrived performance) and “signs given off” (inadvertent slips). But he gives her high marks for subsequent books in which she lays bare the processes by which she changed her mind and began rethinking her stances. 38-39. 1977].. 18.

preferably.A PLEA FOR CIVILITY: AN ASIAN WOMAN’S REPLY TO SUSAN MOLLER OKIN’S “IS MULTICULTURALISM BAD FOR WOMEN?” sinkwan cheng Susan Moller Okin’s essay “Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?” has drawn enormous attention and triggered responses from major thinkers across genders. including Homi Bhabha. Martha Nussbaum.or. minority women might be “better off if the culture into which they were born were either to become extinct.” She does not stop at suggesting that group rights are harmful to women. Saskia Sassen. I am afraid. Okin argues that “many (though not all) of the cultural minorities that claim group rights are more patriarchal than the surrounding cultures. to be encouraged to alter itself so as to reinforce the equality of women. Many critics have pointed out errors in Okin’s portrayal of non-Western cultures. and of a forgetfulness of the basic spirit of democracy as the civil welcoming of differences. and disciplines. I would like to focus instead on three topics unexplored by other critics. To be fearful of differences to the point of advocating the extinction or alteration of other cultures undermines democracy at its very foundation..” Finally.2 The normative force of this libUMBR(a) 51 . BETWEEN THE WEST AND THE NON-WEST Okin attempts to give moral authority to her proposal by grounding her overall arguments on the political ideal of equality as it is upheld by a particular version of Western liberalism.. is symptomatic of a lack of serious research into non-Western cultures. I will challenge Okin’s politics on her own terms by questioning if her proposal can really be considered “liberal. Joseph Raz. According to her. of faulty reasoning and argumentative methods. and Robert Post. First. cultures. I.”1 Okin’s conclusion. I will tackle Okin’s constant confusion of political ideals with cultural practices and the inconsistencies in her application of these evaluation categories to the West and the Rest(-of-the-World). I will situate Okin’s focus on cultures rather than on nations in the context of globalization and propose to replace Okin’s focus on “cultures/civilizations” with Etienne Balibar’s emphasis on “civility” as the democratic basis for championing feminism in the global era. BETWEEN IDEAL AND REALITY. Second. Will Kymlicka.

with no mention at all of their legal and political principles. They expect women to perform for no economic reward far more than half for the unpaid work related to home and family. italics added). But women in more liberal cultures are. This asymmetry in the categories she uses to judge Western and non-Western cultures is already evident in her thesis statement. women are far more likely than men to become poor. in contrast. It is on these grounds that Okin argues for gender equality as a universal injunction: “By feminism. partly as a consequence of this and partly because of workplace discrimination.eralism rests on its prioritization of the right over the good.” The repressed issue. So far. thinness. legally guaranteed many of the same freedoms and opportunities as men (17. From the beginning of her essay. literally the issue of how liberal states “continue to violate [the norm of gender equality] in practice. They place far more importance on beauty. Girls and women are also subjected by men to a great deal of (illegal) violence. which stand out as infinitely superior to non-Western cultural practices: Western cultures. and that they should have the opportunity to live as fulfilling and as freely chosen lives as men can” (10). I would also raise no objection if Okin had studied all cultures carefully and demonstrated how all of them — Western as well as nonWestern — fall short of this political principle. After several pages of indictments against minority cultures for their sexist practices in the section titled “Gender and Culture. so good. where she poses the following question: “what should be done when the claims of minority cultures or religions clash with the norm of gender equality that is at least formally endorsed by liberal states (however much they continue to violate it in practices)?” (9. returns at one point in her essay. she is careful to limit herself to legal and political norms. Her brief ten-line reprimand of sexism in Western culture. she references only cultural practices in non-Western societies. of empty formalism over substantive judgments. however. and of distributive justice over the value of various goods. I mean the belief that women should not be disadvantaged by their sex. and strength in males.” Okin is obliged to also say a few words about the West. still practice many forms of sex discrimination. whether or not they also work for wages. If she had limited herself to saying that equality of gender is a universally binding morality3 and as such should be part of the legal and political principles of every country. The rest of Okin’s essay continues to highlight the moral undesirability of minority cultural practices against the desirability of the legal and political norms of the West. is quickly forgotten and displaced by the reassertion of Western legal norms. at the same time. as she does above. including sexual violence. Okin’s problem is her inconsistency in applying these categories to Western and minority cultures. of course. italics added). Whenever Okin tries to prove the moral superiority of Western liberal societies. however. UMBR(a) 52 Offenses committed on a daily basis against women in the West are conveniently made to look like contingent failings owing to the fact that Western law denounces them in an abstract way as . and youth in females and on intellectual accomplishment. that they should be recognized as having human dignity equal to that of men. I could not agree more with Okin. skill. she brackets both figuratively and.

the contrast between infidelity rates in the West and those in traditional societies leads one to question Okin’s assumption that women are more respected in liberal than traditional societies.6 Okin’s silence about the legal regulations of non-Western cultures is mirrored by her disregard of how gender relationships are actually lived in the West. Okin ends up interpreting the discrepancies between ideals and practices as cultural differences UMBR(a) 53 .“illegal.7 which is still low compared to the daily cases of assault on women in the United States.8 One wonders why Okin does not compare domestic crime rates in the West to the rates of domestic violence in Japan. These statistics raise the question: Is the legal system of Western cultures really more successful at protecting women from violence? Is the West in its daily practice truly less violent toward women than the rest of the world? And.9 whose male chauvinist culture she accuses of driving women to commit mother-child suicide when shamed by their husbands’ infidelity (19). maternity leave. Okin avoids addressing the real differences between Western and non-Western cultures by limiting herself to the abstract principle of formal equality in the West while discussing concrete cultural practices in minority cultures (a subject about which she seems to have little knowledge).5 Focusing on criminal cases as ethnographic evidence of gross subjections of women in minority cultures. Okin nonetheless seems to be either ignorant of. Okin easily dodges further questions about the sexual inequalities in Western cultural practices by redirecting people’s attention to the Western legal system and its formal principle of gender equality. I question why Okin makes no reference at all to formal policies about women in non-liberal societies — particularly since many of these countries have very special laws about women’s entitlement to health care. Okin voices her outrage at how “a Chinese immigrant man in New York who battered his wife to death for committing adultery and a Japanese immigrant woman in California who drowned her children and tried to drown herself because her husband’s adultery had shamed the family relied on cultural defenses to win reduced charges” (19). However. affordable childcare. the legal statutes of the cultures she alleges to be “condoning” or even encouraging crimes against women (18). I do not deny the importance of maintaining the formal notion of equality as a regulative principle. and other issues that should catch the eye of any feminist. Bhabha points out the high rate of crimes against women in England.10 Addressing the ideal of equality in the West but the cultural practices in the Rest(-of-the-World). outside the courtroom.4 I find Okin’s silence on the legislation of non-Western societies to be incomprehensible also because Okin repeatedly attempts to prove her point about the “barbaric” nature of non-Western patriarchy on the basis of information submitted as evidence for criminal defense procedures.” At the end of her cursory acknowledgement of shortcomings in the West’s patriarchal culture. She is convinced that women are much better protected legally in the West (16) but does not explore the issue of crimes against women in Western culture or cite a single court proceeding involving a white defendant. or unwilling to include in her arguments.

foreign or domestic. If Okin had done even preliminary research on multiculturalism. respecting other cultures’ mores does not necessarily contradict the politics of equality. not to be discounted or treated as a subordinate caste” (4). non-Western world in Okin’s discourse. “EQUALITY FOR ALL” AND “RESPECT FOR THE INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM OF MINORITY WOMEN” EQUALITY FOR ALL? As a liberal who believes in political equality. Far from allowing other cultures and peoples full membership and parity of participation in the world. Okin perpetuates institutionalized patterns of discrimination that constitute members of cultures outside the West as comparatively unworthy of respect or esteem. This self-presumed Western moral authority compels Okin to take on her “White Woman’s Burden” and advocate the extinction or alteration of other cultures. Okin could of course reply that it is precisely because she is operating within the politics of equality that she does not want to recognize cultural difference. As Charles Taylor points out. the concept of equal dignity is the only one compatible with a UMBR(a) 54 . if she were really true to the principle of equality for all. she would have found that the multiculturalists’ demand for recognition had its origin in. II. she would have respected all cultures’ equal rights to exist and every nation’s equal right to self-determination. As the editors of Okin’s volume comment in the introduction on the moral foundation of the multiculturalist movement: “human beings in other cultures. It is the principle of universal equality — the principle of equal respect for all participants and equal opportunity for achieving social esteem — that allows minorities to denounce discrimination and refuse second-class citizenship. However. Yet it is one thing to disregard cultural difference but quite another to advocate that other cultures become “extinct” or be “altered” to become like one’s own. More important still. Okin advocates eliminating unjust disparities between the life-chances of men and women. In arguing that the West is more advanced and progressive (16). the politics of equality — and this despite the fact that multiculturalism finds the politics of equality inadequate to the task of guaranteeing the survival of minority cultures. progressive West and a backward. entitled to equal respect and concern. Okin is really saying that non-Western cultures are morally inferior to the West. she would have been respectful of each culture’s equal right and moral capacity to define its own concept of the “good life” instead of arguing for its extinction or alteration. are human beings too — moral equals. This confused and confusing way of thinking gives rise to a stark contrast between an idealized. If she had really respected the principle of equality as morally binding.rather than as categorical differences. and still derives part of its moral impetus from.

”13 Nussbaum. In other words.11 The fact that even communitarians such as Charles Taylor underscore the significant role of the principle of universal equality in multiculturalist claims12 is indicative of the fact that minority cultures’ politics of recognition is. human rights are claims we make for the protection of our vital interests in bodily integrity.”16 Each individual has an original way of being human and has his or her own “measure”: “This way of being cannot be externally derived. a justice claim. I would argue that Okin’s refusal to honor minority cultures’ own ways of life contradicts liberalism’s respect for the individual. all cultures should have equal rights to demand recognition for their distinctness. I am not trying to valorize group identities as some multiculturalists do. UMBR(a) 55 RESPECT FOR INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM? In addition to realizing in concrete terms the abstract liberal idea of equality. Taylor points out how “Herder applied his conception of originality at two levels. Sander L. To secure respect for our rights. and human dignity. the equal right to assert one’s distinctness is what honors the consistency and validity of this universal principle. This demand is not only appropriate but a practical necessity if one wishes to ensure equal dignity of all peoples.”15 The politics of recognition goes beyond abstract equality and seeks substantive justice by demanding reciprocal recognition of cultural distinctiveness. too. multiculturalism differs from liberalism by going beyond abstract. and self-realization gives rise to the idea of a people’s right to self-determination. material well-being. the politics of recognition is also compatible with liberalism’s respect for individual decisions. Despite this shared ground. but also to . “we give due acknowledgement only to what is universally present — everyone has an identity — through recognizing what is peculiar to each. regards the right to “search for the meaning of life in one’s own way” as fundamental to “a life that is fully human. self-fulfillment. but must be inwardly generated. Okin seems unaware that the very idea of respecting each culture-bearing people on its own terms was actually developed out of Western respect for the individual.democratic society. Contrary to Okin’s claim that respecting cultural differences is “inconsistent with the basic liberal value of individual freedom” (11). we must concede the right of others to make similar claims for the protection of their vital interests. not only to the individual person among other persons. Gilman touches on a similar idea in his response to Okin: “Intuitively. according to which “[e]veryone should be recognized for his or her unique identity. As Taylor puts it. no less than the liberal politics of equality.”14 Far from contradicting universal human rights. but they also have equal rights to choose their own ways of life and to pursue their own happiness in their own distinct manners.”17 The individual’s right to self-definition. My argument is that not only do different cultures have equal rights to exist. formal justice claims to making a substantive demand for equality.

”23 UMBR(a) 56 DOES OKIN RESPECT THE INDIVIDUALITY OF THIRD-WORLD WOMEN? Ironically.19 Okin is far from being liberal in recommending either the extinction or the alteration of minority cultures whose gender relationships are configured in ways different from those of the liberal West. Okin has no reservations about practicing age discrimination in addition to cultural discrimination. a purely factual focus would lead one to wonder about Okin’s capacity for careful and precise thinking in her unquestioning presupposition of a necessary relationship between age and co-optation.”20 Understanding — that is. Feminists ought to respect the different cultural backgrounds of women around the world as they go about promoting gender equality. No one can function in a cultural vacuum. To cut off people from their own culture is to subject them to an extreme state of disempowerment and abjection. . Despite her claims to being a liberal. even as Okin defends her program of extinction or alteration of non-Western cultures on the grounds of protecting the individual freedom of their female members.the culture-bearing people among other peoples. Just like individuals. she has no respect for the individuality and individual decisions of minority women. There exist only two monolithic categories of non-Western women in Okin’s discourse: “co-opted/older” women and “nonco-opted/younger” women. Even if we set aside the discrimination issue. in other words. This recommendation smacks not only of intolerance but even of cruelty. one’s capacity to engage the world in some meaningful way — cannot even take place without the horizon of one’s own cultural tradition. “compliance with human rights standards cannot be achieved in a principled and sustainable manner except through the internal dynamics of the culture concerned.22 Culture. This is a point that Gadamer and other hermeneuticians have repeatedly emphasized. Okin’s reasoning would imply that established female scholars who have pursued years of rigorous learning and careful research would belong to the “co-opted” category given their relatively advanced age. As Abdullahi An-Na`im rightly states. a Volk should be true to itself. that is. is the necessary and inescapable context of a person’s life. its own culture.21 Political theorists such as Will Kymlicka also underscore cultural membership as the precondition for an individual’s capacity to develop self-esteem and to make personal choices.”18 The compatibility between minority rights and liberalism is evident in the widespread support for minority rights among liberals in the nineteenth century and between the two World Wars. To be abruptly uprooted from one’s tradition amounts to being cast into “the impossible-unthinkableunsayable. Okin sets up these categories to circumvent possible resistance from Third-World women to her white feminist tutelage24 by labeling them in advance as “co-opted” voices of older women.

”27 Azizah Y. the Middle East. and who claim that because of their cultural backgrounds the shame of their husbands’ infidelity drove them to 57 . her patriarchy is of the special form associated with colonialism. SUSAN MOLLER OKIN. It is impossible to persuade Okin to let go of her “White Woman’s Burden. The following statement is typical of the cultural focus in her thinking: “Many of the world’s traditions and cultures. “CIVILITY” VERSUS “CIVILIZATION”: TOWARD A NEW DEMOCRATIC BASIS FOR FEMINISM IN THE GLOBAL ERA SAMUEL HUNTINGTON. (2) wife-murder by immigrants from Asian and Middle Eastern countries whose wives have either committed adultery or treated their husbands in a servile way. Okin keeps referring to “cultural” rather than “national” differences in her essay.’ and because they viewed themselves as having equal ‘dignity’ with men. AND “THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS” Interestingly enough. Those who don’t share Okin’s Western feminist view of what constitutes well-being are quickly dismissed as “victims of a culturally generated false consciousness and in need of liberation by well-meaning outsiders. including those practiced within formerly conquered or colonized nation-states — which certainly encompasses most of the peoples of Africa. “comes resolutely from above and elsewhere. Okin makes no attempt to be conciliatory in her replies to critics regarding her association of co-optation with older women. but across or inside. Okin advocates policing not on.Okin simply cannot accept that Third-World women — even established scholars and highly educated women — can have minds of their own. (3) murder of children by Japanese or Chinese mothers who have also tried but failed to kill themselves.” I would take this one step further: Okin is not merely patriarchal. Latin America.”25 Robert Post points out how Okin’s repeated references to “older women” who are “co-opted into reinforcing general inequality” suggest that Okin would persist in this position even if minority women “were to report that they did not view themselves as ‘disadvantaged’ because they had ‘freely chosen’ their lives. national borders. and Asia — are quite distinctly patriarchal” (14). in other words. Her version of liberal feminism shares something of the patronizing and stereotyping attitudes of the patriarchal perspective. her targets of attack are grouped mainly under ethnic-cultural rather than national categories: the four types of cases in which cultural defenses have been used most successfully are: (1) kidnap and rape by Hmong men who claim that their actions are part of their cultural practice of zij poj niam. Her discriminatory discourse is not directed at nations but at cultures and shared ethnic origins on both international and intranational levels. In the list of criminal cases Okin uses as proof of her “ethnographic” argument.” UMBR(a) III. al-Hibri calls this “patriarchal feminism. or “marriage by capture”.”26 Okin’s gaze on non-Western women. which they found ‘fulfilling. although that dignity was expressed through distinct social roles.

” According to Huntington.” Although Okin diverges from Huntington in her insistence on universalism (that is. Huntington has misgivings about how “non-Western civilizations generally are reaffirming the value of their own cultures. Globalization brings peoples closer together on conflictual as much as on commercial terms and is likely to be a force that crystallizes conflicts between cultures. Above all. for fear that such endeavors will antagonize the non-West and set off “fault line wars. It turns out that Okin’s sweeping claim about Japanese and Chinese women is made on the basis of one case about “a Japanese immigrant woman in California” (19). military.”33 Not surprisingly. within the United States). both seem to be compelled to defend the values of the West. it becomes obvious that the vague conjunction “or” is used by the author to cover her incapacity or reluctance to differentiate between the two countries. Okin’s focus on cultures rather than nations also finds a friendly audience in the new Global Age. When she provides “grounds” for her assertion on the next page. Huntington is adamantly against multiculturalism (for example. France and the United States.. uniting to renew and preserve [Western civilization] against challenges from non-Western societies.30 “Cultural difference” is an easy way out for an author who has little knowledge of non-Western countries. where attention has been turned from the conflicts among nation-states to what Samuel Huntington calls “the clash of civilizations” and “the politics of ethnic relations in the post-communist world. even though he argues against any attempt of the West to impose universal values.29 The rest of the world’s peoples look to Okin like an undifferentiated mass vaguely divided into cultural categories. in part because the practice was criminalized only in 1996 — clitoridectomy. Okin is much more aggressive in her “defense” of the West with her recommendation of the extinction or alteration of other civilizations. In response to such xenophobia.the culturally condoned practice of mother-child suicide. and political strength of Asian civilizations on the one hand and the demographic explosion in Muslim countries on the other. Huntington pursues this goal by advocating a strong alliance among Western societies “against” the challenges of the non-West. Bonnie Honig warns against a feminist backlash directed at “foreigners who come UMBR(a) 58 .31 Okin’s argument sounds like a xenophobic. Huntington’s theory follows from his concern about the decline of the West after the two World Wars and the process of decolonization.. feminist extrapolation of Huntington’s thesis. She makes an observation about “Japanese or Chinese mothers” (italics added) in the above-quoted passage. what emerges in the twentieth century — and particularly after the Cold War — is no longer the conflict between nation-states. (18) 28 Note that Okin makes national distinctions only when she discusses the West — that is.”32 Huntington concludes his book by recommending that “the survival of the West depends on Americans reaffirming their Western identity and Westerners. His preoccupation over the decline of the West is compounded by an anxiety over the rising economic. and (4) in France — though not yet in the United States. universalizing her feminist program).

”39 Decolonization is apparently very much on the minds of Huntington and Okin. For Huntington.” It postulates “the incompatibility of life-styles and traditions. The dominant theme of the new racism in our times is “not biological heredity but the insurmountability of cultural differences.”37 UMBR(a) 59 “CULTURAL DIFFERENCE” AND NEO-RACISM Etienne Balibar rightly observes that “racism is not receding. in other words. punishing women for being raped. and the division of humanity within a single political space.”34 The kind of xenophobic tone that troubles Honig can also be found in the blurb on the back cover of Okin’s volume: Polygamy. a major cause of the decline of the West is former colonies’ declarations of independence.’ of the reversal of population movements between the old colonies and the old metropolises. female genital mutilation. The backward culture of the Third World is seen . Huntington reduces the civilizations in conflict to basically “two worlds: Us and Them. migrant cultures — kidnap and rape by Hmong men. mother-child suicide among Japanese and Chinese provoked by the shame of the husband’s infidelity. both politically and culturally. For Okin. assembly. and Asia” individually (14). barbaric patriarchy is associated with the Third World — especially “formerly conquered or colonized nation-states” (14). and political participation. Do demands for multiculturalism — and certain minority group rights in particular — make them more likely to continue and to spread to liberal democracies?(italics added) Huntington’s defense of Western values and Okin’s militant assertion of Western feminism. unequal vulnerability to violence.36 Okin’s war on gender inequality. Third-World culture. unequal rights of ownership. As Bhabha puts it. Rather.from somewhere else and bring their foreign. Taguieff has rightly called a differentialist racism. forced marriage. Under Okin’s gaze. the Middle East. characterizations of minority. Balibar explains that neo-racism has decolonization as its specific historical context: “The new racism is a racism of the era of ‘decolonization. A. in short. but progressing” in the age of globalization.’ though gender-differentiated. in other words. These practices and conditions are standard in some parts of the world. Okin’s feminist crusade is carried out by the West against the Rest. by the First World against the Third World.”35 Likewise. “[Okin] allows herself to produce ‘monolithic. it is what P. wife-murder by immigrants from Asia and the Middle Eastern countries. these peoples are unified in Okin’s writings as the common enemy of the West. are underpinned by fears that barbarism will “spread” to the liberal West.”38 This “neo-racism” is highly pertinent for understanding the fear and hostility Huntington and Okin experience when confronted with multiculturalism. is not waged on the “peoples of Africa. differential access for men and women to health care and education. these multiple cultures become one culture: the non-Western. Latin America. (supposedly) ‘backward’ cultures with them.

Jacques-Alain Miller gives an insightful diagnosis of the dynamics of jouissance inhabiting racism: Racism is founded on what one imagines about the Other’s jouissance. What Okin cannot tolerate is the Other’s excessive. after all. UMBR(a) 60 Miller’s analysis sheds light on the kind of xenophobic feminism championed by Okin. The sexual overtones in the term are by no means inappropriate in a discussion of racism. there is a confrontation of incompatible modes of jouissance. She is equally incensed by the Third-World Woman’s ob-scene jouissance — for instance. Racial discrimination cannot be reduced to sexual discrimination. The Other’s jouissance is what plagues the xenophobic feminist. the position of the Other is now . Nonetheless.44 is no longer primarily the white man — who.”42 This tumult of emotions culminates in Okin’s indignation at the prospect of immigrant men from Asian and Middle Eastern countries receiving “dropped or reduced charges” for wife-murders by using cultural defenses (18). Witness. threatening her with its secret jouissance. sexual dynamics are often involved in xenophobia. law courts (18-19). Instead. Prior to the age of mass immigration. for example.41 Her essay is full of incriminations of the Other’s jouissance.… [The Other] takes his jouissance in a way different from ours. ob-scene enjoyment. her storm of outrage at the enjoyment of non-Western men — a storm that sweeps quickly “from veiling to polygamy to efforts to control female sexuality to the denial of maternal rights over children to the (paradoxically contradictory) enforcement of maternalism as women’s proper role to clitoridectomy to child marriage to forced marriage to one’s rapist to marriage by capture. FANTASIZING THE JOUISSANCE OF THE OTHER The main factor fuelling neo-racism — the kind of racism so prominent in Okin’s discourse — seems to be one’s fantasy and hatred of the Other’s secret enjoyment (jouissance). and the “special privilege” of the cheated Asian Wife to have her crime of child-murder excused as “culturally condoned practice” in U. however. the Other that was held responsible for stealing the xenophobic feminist’s jouissance was the (white) man. of the Other’s own way of experiencing jouissance. it is hatred of the particular way. the Asian Woman’s servility to men.as “constitut[ing] obstacles” or is itself “established as [an] obstacle (by schools or the norms of international communication) to the acquisition of [respectable Western] culture. Thus true intolerance is the intolerance of the Other’s 43 jouissance. With the process of globalization. it is not only the Third-World Man’s secret enjoyment that provokes Okin.S. Significantly.”40 Hence Okin’s advocacy for the extinction or alteration of non-Western cultures. the Other who lives in close proximity to the xenophobic feminist. Thus the Other’s proximity exacerbates racism: as soon as there is closeness. shares her white values. A good illustration of this is the West’s fantasy about the uninhibited plenitude available to “primitive” peoples.… [The Other] is always endowed with a part of jouissance that he does not deserve.

women work harder — either in and from their homes and/or in specified Third-World markets. for instance. which showed an equal lack of respect for the distinction between the private and the public.46 Okin also seems to share the paranoia of totalitarian leaders. contrary to Okin’s theoretical argument. her assumption that Third-World women who resist her judgment must be conspiring with their male patriarchal leaders: “strict control of women is enforced in the private sphere by the authority of either actual or symbolic fathers. and sophisticated Anglo-Western women symbolizing the freedom of the liberal market.increasingly occupied by those with different cultural habits and dark. Take. Eisenstein astutely discerns how “Western feminists are themselves being privatized by the market and reduced to self-help strategies. Okin proposes “civilizing” the Third World in the image of the West. italics added). Okin’s discourse partakes of what Eisenstein pinpoints as a fantasy created by the media romanticizing the “freedom of the ‘West. the global exportation of Western culture. and the third world of the First World. thus contributing further to social dissatisfaction and tension in developing countries. the older women of the culture” (22. the Rest(of-the-World) is already becoming like the West. Okin’s obsession with the Other’s secret enjoyment can be seen in her relentless voyeuristic invasions into the “private sphere” and “personal law” of the Other (13). mysterious skin color.”47 Western feminism as a global export also carries a malign by-product despite its benign intentions. Her fixation on unveiling45 the secret jouissance hiding in the “home” of the Other (13) reminds one of the practices of the Nazi and Stalinist regimes. is not necessarily bettering the lives of women in developing countries. Unfortunately. Okin simply dodges the issue that global feminism has been appropriated by the global economy.48 The ideology of beautiful. They are the cheapest of the cheap workers. often acting through. The solid research work of Zillah Eisenstein. even without her militant campaign. are losing all forms of public help. healthy. a feminist legal and political theorist. while women. A PLEA FOR CIVILITY In order to subdue the ob-scene jouissance of the Other. while in reality globalization produces appalling forms of exploitation and subordination of women in developing countries.’” Such discourse constructs fantasmatic images of progressive. They become the third world of the Third World. Reebok and Nike hire the women in Indonesia for 16 cents an hour and the women in China for 10 to 14 cents an hour. Her campaign to Westernize the world turns out to be quite unnecessary since. reveals the stark reality of the exploitation of Third-World women by global capital from the Western liberal market: “As global capital spreads. “free and independent” women in the West in contrast to the real wretched conditions of Third-World women is then re-presented by Okin and her colleagues as the contrast between the liberal West and the patriarchal Rest. especially poor women. as government programmes are dismantled” under the influence of the liberal market UMBR(a) 61 . or with the complicity of.

52 Here we must ask where Okin’s program goes wrong. and idealization of (Western) civilization. government under the aegis of corporatist feminism: “The market advertises the successes of feminism as justificatory of the rollback of an affirmative-action state.economy.”58 we must “civilize UMBR(a) 62 .”50 Eisenstein further points out the colonialist implications of Western feminism — an ideology that is “marketed domestically. one has to be wary of this dark superego. civilization. each pursued with the intention or pretension of preventing human civilization from degenerating into savagery. Okin is blind to the ob-scene jouissance in her insistence on “(Western) civilization and its specific types of police.”51 This diagnosis effectively explains why so many Third-World and racial minority thinkers find Okin’s essay objectionable. Balibar identifies a certain “cruelty” left over from the dialectic of “savagery” and its negation in the “civilizing process. as well as offered as a part of colonialist and global politics. ideal. in other words.” patriarchal non-Western societies on behalf of “the human rights of women”53 resonates with the few military “humanitarian interventions” into the Third World in the global era.”55 This backlash — the dark leftover — is precisely what Okin and her fellow humanitarian “crusaders” — all avid believers in the integrity of “civilization” — overlook. In the civilizing process. and civility offers great insight into the source of the problem.” even though it has a direct and immediate relation to both. The rearticulation of racialized/sex/gender borders for the twenty-first century are undermined by the global market. even as the boundaries of the fantasmatic ‘East’ and ‘West’ are re-encoded in the ‘export’ version of feminism. even when these humanitarian interventions were carried out with the best intentions.57 Okin’s advocacy of the extinction or alteration of other cultures is one instance of such violence driven by her idea.S. is intertwined with “cruelty” in a highly ambiguous manner. Why. instead of responding to violence with counter-violence. in the implementation of humanitarian ideals to “save human civilization against the onslaught of savagery. did they often unsettle us with a certain dark ambiguity? Balibar’s recent work on violence.”56 Such blind insistence.49 The shrinking health benefits for women in today’s China is a case in point. How does her “civilizing project” turn into a “colonizing project”? Okin’s attempt to intervene in the “barbaric. and politeness. is often the cause of extreme violence.” one has to be mindful that “any move that is made against violence…will have to come to terms with its backlash. how are we to find a democratic basis for realizing the vision of feminism in an age of both globalization and localization? The possible answer lies with Balibar’s concept of civility. it will not be reducible to a program of the elimination of violence. thus running the risk of being caught in its “backlash.54 Civilization. Given the failings of Okin and her civilizing project. Eisenstein notes a similar downsizing and privatizing of the U.” This “cruelty” — which psychoanalysis associates with the superego — is heterogeneous and irreducible to either “savagery” or “civilization. policy.” “violence” or “counterviolence. Balibar proposes that. as Balibar points out. Likewise.

on the other. policy. and politeness. UMBR(a) 63 . the universal injunction of gender equality and.the state” and all of its “civilizing apparatus. in other words. “[M]uch the contrary.59 Civility. in a constant process of critical dialogue. as well as civilizing the civilized subject in its subjection and subjectivation. We should engage. This.” This would include “educat[ing] the educator” and civilizing the civilizing process. Balibar’s civility does not suppress conflicts and antagonism. democracy is fragile. then.”62 Civility has no fixed pattern. we could easily end up in a state of war both within and across borders. is what I propose for the project of feminism in the global era.”61 Furthermore. [civility] can and should mean rather the conditions for a political conflict.”60 Both practices aim at enabling us to cope with the ob-scene superego lurking in the dark spot of civilization. the radically singular situation of individual women and their cultures. a play of antagonistic forces capable of developing and creating historical effects. precarious. and its conceptual antinomies compel us to keep the project of democracy open to ongoing democratic interrogation. and has to be continuously recreated through civility. Otherwise. “there does not exist anything like one single politics of civility. on the one hand. is like Slavoj Žižek’s “sacrifice of sacrifice. Regardless of “civilization’s” etymological and conceptual links to police. As Balibar puts it.

On June 3. Human Rights and Wrongs. Robert Audi [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. “Political Philosophy. Okin is the Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society and Professor of Political Science at Stanford University. Sterba. Patrice Jelliffe (Oxford: Oxford UP. 5. 1981). UMBR(a) . is non-existent in the United States. 6. which is so important to protecting the health of the mother and the child as well as promoting equal career opportunities for women. Paid maternity leave. that would increase guaranteed maternity leave from 12 to 14 weeks. At least until the 1980s. This distinction follows the well-known Aristotelian-Hegelian definition of ethics as a practical way of conducting one’s life and a direct engagement with human affairs and the social-political world. Okin certainly departs from classical liberalism — the kind of liberalism associated with Locke which “interprets constraints on liberty as positive acts. the United States voted against an international treaty. 7. and Victor W. Sidel. eds. “Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?.S. make her “negligence” look even more peculiar. 2000. 14-15.1. eds. 1995]. A. and the prestigious positions she holds in those departments. and Japan — the non-Western country most influenced by the West in its political and economic structure — joined the U. most Western European nations. 628). See Arthur W. italics added. as opposed to morality. Homi Bhabha addresses his British experience as follows: “The British civil liberty group Liberty would demur at Okin’s description of the egalitarian and empowering ‘Western’ domestic scene. and New Zealand. The following important event in the history of the women’s rights movement plainly reveals the naiveté of Okin’s assumption that the West offers women better legal protections of their rights than other societies. Okin’s specializations in Ethics in Society and Political Science.” in Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?.” in Advances in International Maternal and Child Health Care. Nussbaum (Princeton: Princeton University Press. pressed for by women’s groups from around the world. 64 2. The treaty was originally ratified mainly by countries in South America and Eastern Europe — countries whose cultures Okin recommends for extinction or alteration. guarantees a 3-month paid maternity leave. pregnant women were also given a shorter working day and whenever possible the least strenuous work. and Martha C. Interestingly enough. Serve the People: Observations on Medicine in the People’s Republic of China (Boston: Beacon Press. China provides routine health care for women. Brazil. Okin does not often document her information about minor-ity cultures. Joshua Cohen. 1974). late ed. B. 4. an alternative report to the UN Human Rights Committee.. 1999). Australia.. Chung.14+. D.that prevent people from doing what they otherwise could do” (J. ed. Matthew Howard. All pregnant women are entit-led to periodic health checks and advice on diet and childcare. including an annual 1-day leave for all women to undergo a free pap smear. These particular benefits for women are gradually disappearing as China is “altering” herself to become like the West. Note the contrast between morality-as-abstract system and ethics-as-praxis in Western philosophy. Judging from her footnotes. Australia. for example. F. 3. “Maternal and Child Health in China 1949-1976. Susan Moller Okin. Jelliffe and E. There is no evidence that Okin has done any direct archival research on non-Western societies. 7 June 2000.” New York Times. the societies Okin condemns are by and large more progressive and committed than is the West — both in legal principles and in practice — to protecting women’s opportunities to find fulfillment simultaneously as professionals and mothers.” in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy.. which is an abstract system of codes and formal principles. P. Subsequent references will appear parenthetically within the text. a significant number of her sources turn out to be The New York Times or other people’s writings on minority cultures. See “Women Press for More Maternity Leave.

“Family Violence Intervention. Gilman. trans.].” in Battered Women and Their Families: Intervention Strategies and Treatment Programs. McFarlane. Taylor. “Politics of Recognition. Saskia Sassen.” Minnesota Medicine 75 [1992]: 20-23). conducted a Survey on Society for Gender Equality in 1995. More disturbing still is that more than half of the women murdered in the United States were killed by their male partners (B. I would say that “the politics of recognition” — the demand for recognition of both the equal dignity and unique identity of minority cultures and communities — underpins both communitarianism and multiculturalism. 8. Roberts [New York: Springer Publishing Co. “Domestic Violence in Japan: Research.” in Cohen et al. K. 1993). ch. Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. 405-447). Hans Georg-Gadamer.. Nussbaum. 108. ed. Sander L. 10 percent of married women reported having experienced physical violence from their husbands (Kanagawa-ken. one woman in ten had been assaulted by her partner. 1994). Nonetheless. 20. The American Medical Association estimated that more than 4 million women were beaten by their partners in 1995 (M. 16. 13. Azizah Y.. Ibid. muggings. Taylor’s communitarianism is not the same as multiculturalism. 14.658 residents. in Linda Poirier. 2nd rev. 15. According to this survey. Some of Okin’s incorrect generalizations about “non-liberal cultures” have been pointed out by critics such as Bonnie Honig. 1998]. Bhikhu Parekh. 62. This expression is adopted from Jacques Derrida. al-Hibri. ed. in the Japanese Prefecture of Kanagawa. Their responses to Okin can be found in Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women? 11.). 80). Gilman. “The Importance of Screening for Domestic Violence in All Women. Easley. and rape combined (Feldman.). Ibid.concludes that one-third of all reported crimes against women in Britain result from domestic violence and take place at home. 9. 12. The Office of Women’s Affairs. (eds. and Martha C. 18. for example. Adult women and children are overwhelmingly more likely to become the victims of violence at home than on the street or at the workplace” (Bhabha. qtd. 38. “‘Barbaric’ Rituals?. Tokyo in 1993 yielded similar rates. “Domestic Violence. Charles Taylor. 19. 30. 4. 1995). Nussbaum. Feldman notes that domestic violence is the single largest cause of injury to women in the United States — more common than injuries from automobile accidents. “Liberalism’s Sacred Cow. Martha C. (eds. using anonymous mail questionnaires to sample 2. Amy Gutman (Princeton: Princeton University Press. Abdullahi An-Na`im. Marshall (New York: Continuum. Albert R.” The Nurse Practitioner 22:5 [1997]: 106).. Multicultural Citizenship (Oxford: Clarendon Press. in London.” Annals of Emergency Medicine 27: 6 [1996]: 762-763). and Emerging Movements. “Report of the Questionnaire Survey on Society for Gender Equality [“Danjokyodoshakai nikansuru anketo chosa hokokusho”].. 10. ed.” in Cohen et al. He favors a hermeneutic “merging of horizons” and is critical of some of the multiculturalists’ premature valori-zation of difference.” qtd. “Identifying and Helping Battered Pregnant Women.” in Cohen et al. “A Plea for Difficulty. italics added. 17. 21. See. Program Developments. M. Will Kymlicka. 31. Truth and Method. Parker and J. in Mieko Yoshihama. 39. in 1993. UMBR(a) 65 .” in Multiculturalism.. [eds. Sander L. Another survey conducted by Yoshihama in Ota Ward. 27. Ibid.

It is not surprising to see Okin. Okin’s supporter Katha Pollitt explicitly disparages multiculturalism for its “connections to Third Worldism” and “the appeals Third Worldism makes to white liberal guilt” (Pollitt. Ibid. The Clinton-Lewinsky trial is just one more example revealing the fragile boundaries between totalitarian statesmen and self-righteous bureaucrats in 28. Nation.]. See also 301-321. “Is There a ‘Neo-Racism’?” in Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein. Huntington. 26. (eds. “Extimité. The added hyphenation to the word “ob-scene” is to invoke the meaning of “off-stage” which Lacan associates with jouissance. 1989). My first draft included a response to this ignorant. (eds. Unfortunately. 37.. rather.. See Part II of Huntington’s book for details. 39. Honig. Jacques-Alain Miller. Bhabha. 21. 27. 35. Bhikhu Parekh. “A Varied Moral World. Note that Okin provides no documentation of either this case or any other of her four examples of “cultural defenses” invoked by racial minority offenders.” in Cohen et al.” 32. Samuel Huntington.22. Liberalism. endorsing totalitarian practices. 62. 35. 45. and Class: Ambiguous Identities. Huntington. absurd. UMBR(a) .). Note also Okin’s criticism of France does not have as its target the French culture which is part of the Western civili-zation. Ibid. 41. her lengthy discussions of these issues on pages 9-11 of her essay. 66 33. “Between Norms and Choices. italics added. (eds. there is a confrontation of incompatible modes of jouissance” (ibid. Community. 1991).). Robert Post. 28).).” in Cohen et al. 46. 20-21. Race. for example. Ibid. 31. 42. 25. See. 29. 73. 66. Some Third-World women’s objections can be found in the “Responses” section of Okin’s volume. 23. Bhabha. I cannot find the space to fit that discussion into my paper and have to reserve it for my future work. “My Culture Made Me Do It. 30. 32. Okin also pays special heed to this “fault line. Miller points out how fantasies about the Other’s surplus enjoyment tend to be intensified by his or her proximity: “the Other’s proximity exacerbates racism: as soon as there is closeness. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon and Schuster. 1996).” in Cohen et al. 38.” in Cohen et al.). “Whose Culture?. 25. 36. Kymlicka. Not surprisingly. trans. she is complaining about the French gov-ernment’s inept tolerance of patriarchal Muslim practices such as polygamy and clitoridectomy. 44. (eds. [eds.” Prose Studies 11:3 (1988): 125-126. and Culture (New York: Oxford University Press. 82. Chris Turner (London: Verso. Etienne Balibar. 20. 43. 40. Abdullahi An-Na`im. Bonnie Honig. 79. “Promises We Should All Keep in Common Cause. Huntington draws particular attention to the conflict between Islamic nations and the West. 165. 24.” in Cohen et al. and xenophobic condemnation of Chinese women and culture. 36.). It is interesting to note Okin’s repeated protests against the Muslim veil. the Western liberal. 34.

Ibid. “Specters of Violence.” a lecture given at the School of Criticism and Theory. Ibid. Balibar. Cruelty. For details. This is precisely Okin’s problem when she fantasizes herself countering “barbaric patriarchal cultures” with a violent advocacy of their extinctions or alterations. 54. the dramatic “clash of civilizations” and the “remaking of the world order. 55.” 58.” Hypatia 13:2 (Spring 1998): 32-52. Ibid.” Feminist Review 57 (Fall 1997): 146-147. the many responses included in Okin’s volume. but is not limited to. Joan Copjec (London: Verso. 53. only to find herself caught in the jouissance of colonialism. In Okin’s case. 51. see Juliet Flower MacCannell.” 7. See. UMBR(a) 67 UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) . ed. Ibid. 60.” Cultural Critique 46 (2000): 241-271. 148. Cornell University. April 11. see Balibar’s essay “Subjection and Subjecti-va- tion. 50. 52. I would add here that such violence includes. 1994). Balibar. 2000.” 61. 48. Love. and Cultural Difference. Ibid. 47. “Women’s Public and the Search for New Democracies. Leadership. Ibid. 1998. it would entail the sacrifice of her “White Woman’s Burden. for example. Balibar. 1-15. For a brilliant analysis of conservative feminism and the politics of the Clinton trial. 62. “Violence. Ideality. “Politics in the Age of Sex: Clinton. July 14. Women’s Human Rights. Balibar. 56. 59. “Citizenship and Civility in the Era of Global Violence.the liberal West. 57. “Violence.” New Formations 35 (1998): 12. Okin highlights “women’s human rights” as her main concern in her essay “Feminism.” a lecture given at Columbia University. 49.” in Supposing the Subject. Zillah Eisenstein..

UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a)

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ANTIGONE’S FART:

SOME NOTES CONCERNING SIMON CRITCHLEY’S “COMEDY AND FINITUDE”1

marc de kesel

You will find a certain unconscious pride at the core of the laughter’s thought. That is the point of departure. ‘Look at me! I am not falling’…. The comic and the capacity for laughter are situated in the laughter and by no means in the object of his laughter. The man who trips would be the last to laugh at his own fall, unless he happened to be a philosopher, one who had acquired by habit a power of rapid self-division and thus of assisting as a disinterested spectator at the phenomena of his own ego. But such cases are rare. — Charles Baudelaire, “On the Essence of Laughter” 2 For Simon Critchley, the most important task of modern thought is to recognize our human finitude. Since Immanuel Kant, thought has given up all its metaphysical claims and become aware of its intrinsic limits (once and for all, the “thing itself” is out of the reach of our knowledge). What’s more, modernity has to invent methods to recognize this finitude. This is not so easily done since to think finitude threatens to be the same as to neutralize, to sublate finitude, as Hegel’s concept of Aufhebung has taught us. To avoid this dialectical “trick of reason” a strong post-Kantian tradition limits such an affirmation of our finitude to the domain of aesthetics. Only art — and particularly sublime art — is able to show us the limits of our thought without neutralizing them. In this, tragedy is a paradigm and functions as such in the work of many thinkers after Kant, up to the present: Schiller, Schelling, Schlegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger, Lacoue-Labarthe, Nancy. Lacan also fits into that picture, especially with his famous commentary on Antigone in his seminar on ethics. In his essay “Comedy and Finitude” Simon Critchley focuses on that commentary to elaborate his criticism of what we can call the “primacy of tragedy” in our modern recognition of finitude. Critchley’s point is

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that tragedy supposes too strong and valiant a subject, a hero, who only because of his heroism seems able to affirm his finitude. Critchley argues that this kind of heroism “disfigures” a real, and therefore more modest and less idealized, recognition of our finitude (220). The alternative he proposes is comedy. Because none of us are really heroes, comedy is more appropriate to our experiences of being finite. Against “the tragic heroic paradigm,” Critchley is promoting “the comic anti-heroic paradigm,” which is “a weaker and ever-weakening conception of finitude” (221-222). More than heroism, it is humor that “recalls us to the modesty and limitedness of the human condition, a limitedness that calls not for tragic affirmation but comic acknowledgment, not heroic authenticity but laughable inauthenticity” (224). Finitude calls for a “laughter that recognizes that finitude is not something to be affirmed, but acknowledged” (224). Furthermore Critchley specifies that it calls not for a “manic” laughter (like Nietzsche’s laughter “from the mountain tops”), but for a “sardonic” one, like that of Frankie Howerd and Tommy Cooper: a laughter that “arises out of a palpable sense of inability, inauthenticity, impotence and impossibility” (225).3 Consider Antigone. By violating Creon’s order, she is affirming the finitude of the political law as well as the finitude of human society and human being as such. But she remains a hero, an unapproachable sublime person who even in the realm of death seems pure, sovereign, and inflexible. Therefore, Critchley says, heroism remains in contradiction with the finitude it wants to affirm. Break this heroism, and she will appear as a more modest acknowledgment of our human finitude. Make her less pure, and she will give us a more appropriate image of our limitedness. Let her “break wind on the way to her death” (230), as Critchley lets slip in his essay, that is, let her fart, let us laugh at her anal slip, and her severe heroism will be broken! Sure. But by noticing that she too is but a banal anal “windmaker,” will we really become more aware of our finitude? By hearing this wind, will we have better acknowledged our human condition? I am not so sure and I want to begin to explain why. Without underestimating the power of laughter, humor, and comedy, I nevertheless want to be for a while the advocate of those who claim the primacy of tragedy like Lacan and others do. Or at least I want to focus on the way Lacan argues for this primacy in his seminar on ethics and investigate the reason why Lacan, though not afraid to utter the most provocative things, nevertheless does not let Antigone “break wind on the way to her death.” I have the impression that Critchley has missed an important accent in Lacan’s reasoning here, and that therefore his criticism falls into a certain Hegelianism. My point is that Critchley’s making comedy primary rather than tragedy shares more with Hegel than with Schlegel and the whole tradition of irony after him. The “acknowledgment” he proposes as an alternative for “affirmation” is in my opinion too Hegelian a figure to be an adequate way to recognize our finitude.
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the fact that she is the subject (the support.” it is precisely the fact that we are but an insatiable desire. is indispensable for life) and could only win it by relying unconditionally on other human beings. And according to Lacan. If there is one thing the libidinal beings we are must “repress. the analysand is repressing her desire. Finitude is the crucial point. It is the law of the (incomplete) Other that makes us desire. which. From then on the little libidinal being had to find itself — its identity — exclusively in the language others were speaking. However. the little baby we were was too helpless to win “pleasure” (in German Lust. namely the lack on the level of the symbolic order of signifiers. please make me feel better”) and the typically psychoanalytic ethics begins from the awareness that the analyst cannot give the good for which that the person is asking. It could only locate itself as being something others spoke about without ever succeeding in making it present. It exchanged a “negative” impossible lack for a “positive” operational one. Indeed. The only thing the analyst can do is to help the analysand find her desire unconsciously (and “deconstructively”) at work in her demand. and she is therefore denying the “subject” she is. according to the Freudian theory. and this limit is not an accident but the very basis of our being. our lust for what is good is structurally limited.Let’s turn to Antigone and the way her tragedy functions within Lacan’s seminar on ethics.” To put it in Lacanian terms: the analysand takes herself for the I. the “hypokeimenon”) of the desire of the Other. we can do nothing but desire to listen to its commands. Although we feel the repressive power of the ethical law. for the Ego she thinks she is. this is only one side of the picture. Moreover. an Other which. our desire. Ethics concerns man’s search for the good. We are desire and that means that we’re only living because our desire will never really be satisfied. The demand that impels a person to visit a psychoanalyst is in fact always a demand for the good (“Doctor I’m doing badly. Desire itself is a kind of law because we always have to desire. the new insight Freud’s psychoanalysis brought here is that we essentially cannot obtain the good for which we are longing. according to Lacan we aren’t even our own desire. we too make the Other and his law desire. because of that lack. The helpless baby had to exchange the lack it was on the level of pure being for a lack on the level of language (to formulate the basic insight of Lacanian psychoanalysis). the little libidinal baby will have to find itself as the subject of the desire of the Other. a desire that person “is. All this makes it clear that desire and law are not really opposites. The pure (ontological) lack it was at first has now become the (symbolic) lack of the Other. For in every demand. There Lacan tries to explain what the ethics of psychoanalysis implies. UMBR(a) 71 . that is. We structurally situate ourselves at that place where the Other shows a lack. but the desire of the Other. Our longing. At the level of pure drive. although we — just as structurally — do not want to know that. Not only does the Other make us desire. is nothing but desire. since we never will realize or satisfy it. we desire to listen to a law coming from the Other because we have to realize ourselves within that symbolic Other. From now on.

UMBR(a) 72 . where the law confronts its own structural finitude and must become aware of the fact that it cannot give the good we believe it promises. as for instance Hegel did. I reveal that the law. we make the Other desire. it’s true. In her tragic act she takes the position of the very point where the order of the law (the symbolic order) is irrevocably incomplete. “Even condemned to death by the law within which I had to realize the desire I am. to make her live). wants to reign the universe. is radically finite. After the death of the two legal pretenders to the Thebean throne — Oedipus’ two sons who killed each other in their fight for power — that power comes to Creon. finite desire. Creon forbids the burial of Polynices’ body. makes the Other incomplete and therefore desiring.” Antigone stands for the one who situates herself on the very position of that death. I still can desire. Our own desire. The Lacanian interpretation does not see this scene as a struggle between two different kinds of law. which amounts to the same thing. He becomes the new “subject” of the law. an order that is consciously violated by Antigone. the one of the family against the one of the state. even those who are dead. He thinks the law has no limits and reigns over all. Thus he condemns it to what Lacan calls a “second death. She makes clear that even in the deadlock of that fatal position one can desire. this is precisely the issue at stake in Sophocles’ play. Creon takes the law for an infinite power that can realize the good it promises and he takes himself for the one and only subject of that law. According to Lacan. an instance which.” That law too is in fact but desire. But what is he forced to see when the play ends in its tragic catastrophe? That he is not exactly that subject of the law he thought he was. From then on it is Creon who is responsible for the good of the Thebean polis and in this function he condemns Polynices.and by taking this position. The position just mentioned is exactly what Lacan wants to illustrate with Antigone in his seminar on ethics. and that in this case the most adequate “subject” of this desire was not him but Antigone. but nevertheless only can want. the one who threatened that polis by waging war against it. Yet her first words in the play betray that she already has assumed her death and that she will not give way on her desire to bury her “criminal” brother. In the play. According to Lacan. Therefore he does not hesitate to condemn the dead body of Polynices. the scene reveals the law’s desiring and radically finite status. however. however inauthentic it is. And by the same gesture. That the real “support” of the law is desire. She too is the subject of the desire of the Other in the sense that she needs the Other and his law to make her desire (and. and by this she shows that desire can transgress the reach of the law. she appears instead as the one who affirms that the Other and its law are also nothing but a desiring Other — and therefore radically incomplete. this scene shows us the finitude of the law as such. desire that. It lets us see the normally unseen and repressed lack of the law and because of this. that is. Creon stands for the one who denies or neglects the finitude of the law. which made my desire possible. In her it becomes clear that from first to last the law is incomplete.

giving her some advice. tragic point. when reached. Platonic sense of the word: detecting the false “mimesis” in order to liberate the underlying true essence). an irreparable lack. The purpose of a psychoanalytic cure is that the analysand finds herself back in the “strange. It is the point where that order itself gives evidence of a structural inconsistency. The law cannot give the good it promises. For ethical reasons. The point they miss is that Lacan is not criticizing. At that impossible. or drawing up a guideline. one has to affirm the radical finitude of ethics. to quote Critchley from the preceding chapter. at least in my opinion. The thing a psychoanalyst tries to avoid most is supplying the analysand with any norm. According to Lacan. According to the analyst. Psychoanalysis does not criticize existing ethics (in the strictly. one discovers oneself as subject of “pure desire. we must do just like Antigone and follow her example? Certainly not — for what else could this be but a mere command to commit suicide? Antigone UMBR(a) 73 . she is no longer able to recognize herself in the things she is doing (for instance in the symptoms she unwillingly is producing). This is the point where Antigone is situated in Sophocles’ tragedy of the same name. in place of a supreme good.” Does that mean that. but desire. our desire (for that good or for whatever it may be). a radical finitude. but “decentering” classical ethics. instead of realizing our desire. “the categorical imperative of Freud’s Copernican revolution — do not give way to your desire” (202)? Is Lacan giving us in Antigone an example and a model for a new. she has to find herself back as the “subject of the desire of the Other. this is what almost every article on Lacan’s seminar on ethics presupposes. They all interpret “ethics of desire” as an alternative to a classical kind of ethics.Creon believes the law is able to realize the good it promises. psychoanalytic kind of ethics? Anyway. it can only give our desire for that good. the analysand’s problem is not so much that she is looking for new and better norms or rules. for ethical reasons. but that she has lost “herself” — that means the desire that she “is” — in the norms and rules to which she has always been bound. it only decenters the position of the subject in that existing ethics in order to uncover the desire by which one is unconsciously bound to the ethical order in which one has always lived. and this makes a great difference. they mostly go wrong. as the subject of the desire by which she is simultaneously bound to the symbolic order and alienated in it. that is.” that is.” alienated life she is hanging on to. In other words. But the point in that order where she can find herself is exactly the point where that order does not answer her demand. And precisely here. and they see in Antigone’s behavior an exemplary paradigm for that new moral attitude. it seems as if it is no longer the good that has become the object of ethical rules and commands. Antigone shows the real status of the good that Creon (and every one of us) is longing for: a thing that. kills the subject of desire that we are. Is his commentary on Antigone then a moral plea for desire? Is this tragic protagonist showing us. Feeling bad. The ethical law must try to give.

Or to put it in German terms: she is not a Vorbild but only a Bild. Critchley’s critique of Lacan’s foregrounding of tragedy rather than comedy is only possible because of his unarticulated presupposition that Lacan interprets Antigone as an example. Unfortunately. does not appeal to a strong. but that such an affirmation asks for a decentering or a deconstruction of the very logic of modelling itself. Lacan comes to exactly the opposite conclusion. According to Lacan. She let us see the “repressed. Let us illustrate this by elaborating Critchley’s own suggestion to transform Antigone’s tragedy into a comedy. According to him there is a better model. Both are “crossing” an ideal (self-)image in order to face the limit and the lack of that image as the very kernel of their beings. that supposes (and even produces) a strong subject. We only have to imagine that. She’s not an ideal I have to follow. sovereign subject. not an example but only an image. My claim here is that Lacan does not indicate which model we have to follow in our affirmation of finitude. an affirmation of finitude does not necessarily need to bathe in the rigid and ponderous atmosphere of tragic accidents. whatever we do. There we identify with more humble. but nevertheless has to be ethically affirmed. when striding to the grave where she will be buried UMBR(a) 74 . Indeed.does not show us what we must do. more human characters. Critchley rightly calls attention to comedy. not tragedy. To this extent. Psychoanalysis departs from this impossibility with the intention of setting up a communicative process where this impossible singular desire can be given a chance. What Antigone shows us is a desire that escapes any kind of model. It is comedy. she only shows us where our position as pure desire is. It creates the impression that only a hero is able to realize this. Therefore she is anything but an example to follow. Critchley has passed too quickly over Lacan’s long and often repeated reflection on comedy. concerning comedy. in opposition to tragedy. But the question is whether Critchley is calling attention to comedy for the correct reasons. a radically singular desire that in principle cannot function as a categorical imperative or any other kind of universal law. His argument is that comedy. no matter what we say or do. but an image that decenters or deconstructs my tendency to follow ideals. This singular desire can appear in comedy as well as in tragedy (or in several other kinds of art). what the audience experiences by seeing this tragedy parallels the experience of an analysand in a psychoanalytic cure.” unconscious desire we are. that is. and therefore has neglected to discuss the fact that. Critchley objects that the affirmation of finitude she is standing for is too heroic. What the analysand is demanding in the cure is in fact her very singular desire that no law (no universal order) can give her. It supposes a more humble and human subject. someone more like all of us. a more appropriate example to follow in order to affirm our radical finitude: comedy. as a moral model.

the bearer. but to linger over it. Indeed. it even has a healthy influence on repression. to dwell upon the gap made in my discourse. Moreover. in that most tragic moment. not to laugh the joke away. Then I realize that the support (the bearer. they hear the protagonist fart? Certainly they will burst out laughing. as Lacan calls it. but this recognition would be but a méconnaissance. but this revelation is immediately undone by its effect. something that ought to be strictly censured appears and compels our attention. What does the audience experience when. It confronts us suddenly with something that normally remains unconscious. But when. instead of that unapproachable hero. to analyze this gap and to look for myself in this gap. That gap is the subject that I am. the subject) of what I am is not what I think I am but the very finitude of that thinking. It is true that at first sight a joke seems to break repression. that which structurally escapes my conscious self-image. psychoanalysis is very interested in humor and its cure lets the analysand willingly tell jokes.” the gap. we repress or deny the subjects we are. Antigone suddenly “breaks wind. the whole point is precisely not only to laugh at them. and laughing are forms of repression (Verdrängung) that protect the libidinal subject against traumatic eruptions of the unconscious. that is. For a moment. the hypokeimenon) of the unconscious libidinal economy that we are. Sure. When we let Antigone “break wind on the way of her death. is immediately covered up by our laughing. for a moment we cease to be the subject (the support. the humble normal human being we ourselves are. in such a cure. comedy reveals the gap I am as the subject of the unconscious. UMBR(a) 75 . in that case we should recognize in her. the finitude she reveals. for it permits the apparatus to let off a little steam. our “repression” meets its finitude and loses control over our unconscious. the lack.alive. But the very function of laughter is then to neutralize immediately the threatening trauma: it simply laughs it away and restores the subject in its (imaginary) power. humor. The traumatic unconscious threatens to take power over our “psychic apparatus” and to blow the subject away. Or. but the laughter keeps the machine going and re-establishes us as masters — subjects — in our own houses. For a moment the “machine” of signifiers has broken down and threatens to be overrun by the traumatic (nonsymbolizable) real. For. Certainly. to put it in Lacanian terms. But is this laugh to be interpreted as a form of irony as Schlegel and the whole tradition after him had in mind? Is this laugh an affirmation of human finitude and of the impossibility of being heroic subjects? After Freud’s and Lacan’s analyses of humor and laughter. I’m making jokes or funny slips of the tongue. Unexpectedly. We recognize in her the (imaginary) egos we think we are. according to psychoanalytic theory. It is simply laughed away. this claim seems rather difficult to maintain. jokes.” farts. to search for the subject of that gap and to acknowledge that it is this very gap by which I’m supported. and by this.

we “acknowledge” it: it becomes the object of our knowledge. negativity no longer stands for our radical finitude. it cannot be the object of a rule. instead of deconstructing the subject. including the reach of our most ethical intentions.In Hegelian terms. I must avoid making it into a universal rule. We interiorize it and thus become the conscious bearer. comedy. as Hegel calls it. But I claim that. Do I have something against comedy? Certainly not. it rather fortifies it and makes it infinite. or deconstruct our knowledge. restores it. Critchley’s idea of a “primacy of comedy” is in that sense a Hegelian one and. but that acknowledgment doesn’t disturb. Therefore it is in my opinion senseless to weigh tragedy and comedy against each other. UMBR(a) 76 . Both refer to a radical singularity that represents the very kernel of our being but radically escapes our reach. but for its force. It restores the subject in the very dialectical sense of the word: by laughing with this negativity we become masters over that negativity. Here. our consciousness. To save the singular power of my laugh. including a rule that says I should laugh at all rules and never take them that seriously. humor. the conscious “subject” of that negativity. This singularity can only be approached strictly aesthetically and this aesthetic approach — this aestheticism — cannot be transformed into a kind of new aesthetic ethics. a law. It is true that we acknowledge that our knowledge. and laughter function as the “sublation” — the Aufhe-bung — of the radical “negativity” revealed in the tragic confrontation with the unconscious. its ability to sublate itself: it has become “the power of the negative” (die Macht des Negativen). is limited and finite. decenter. just like desire and tragedy.

3. “On the Essence of Laughter. Subjectivity (London: Verso. 2. and. Politics. On the Comic in the Plastic Arts. Jonathan Mayne (London: Phaidon Press.1.” in The Mirror of Art: Critical Studies by Charles Baudelaire. Charles Baudelaire. One of the questions to be discussed is: what exactly is the meaning of the conceptual distinctions Critchley makes here? What distinguishes “affirmation” from “acknowledgement” (a difference that is strictly connected to tragedy and comedy respectively)? UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) 77 . 139-141. ed.” in Ethics. 1955). in General. 1999). It is a response to Critchley’s “Comedy and Finitude: Displacing the Tragic-Heroic Paradigm in Philosophy and Psychoanalysis. Subsequent references will appear parenthetically within the text. This essay was originally given as an intervention during a seminar on Simon Critchley in Ghent. and trans. 217-238. Belgium on May 27. 2000.

UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) .

Which world is left over? Perhaps the world of appearances?… But no! When we abolished the true world we also abolished the appearances. Badiou names the representatives of this influential tradition “Sophists. science. and truth. however. and only one. the question of Being thus became synonymous with the question of language. and Badiou’s conceptions of truth. Lacan’s. Since the disentanglement of these two terms undoubtedly originates with Heidegger. Philosophy exists only against the background of the four distinct procedures of truth. Badiou’s position sets itself against an overwhelmingly influential trend of the last century whereby all philosophical problems tended to be reduced to a question of language. — Friedrich Nietzsche1 Lacan disentangles truth from knowledge by defining truth as that which makes a hole in knowledge. love. In the twentieth century the status of the concept of truth has been more than precarious — truth has become nearly defunct. I will examine the similarities among Heidegger’s. An avowed Platonist. and deconstruction (as UMBR(a) 79 . LACAN.” The common denominators of the Sophist tradition are the reduction of thought to an effect of language games or discourses and the attempt to replace the idea of truth with rules and regimes of power. there is no such thing as philosophy. none of which may be lacking if thought is to deserve the name philosophy. Today. AND BADIOU kirsten hyldgaard We have abolished the true world. What makes Plato the originator of philosophy is his articulation of these four conditions. one speaks ironically of “so-called” truth. being. Badiou has called a halt to these games by insisting that without the concepts of the subject. Another predicament of modern philosophy is its becoming tied or “sutured” to one. Epistemology is a reduction of philosophy to science. truth is the name of the invariable that conditions philosophy. and the procedures that condition philosophy are “procedures of truth” — art. Marxism.TRUTH AND KNOWLEDGE IN HEIDEGGER. of its procedures. According to Alain Badiou. a reduction of philosophy to politics. and politics.

UMBR(a) 80 AS FAR AS TRUTH IS CONCERNED. the idea of truth as propositional truth. open to the world. psycho-analysis represents the modern conceptualization of love: it is the procedure that presents the truth of the disjunction of the sexual positions.” and. ONE NEVER KNOWS It is possible to read Heidegger’s entire work as an incessant effort to dissolve within meta-physics the constitutive opposition between the true world and the world of appearances. on the other hand. and thus to a dissolution of their opposites. or Dasein. a reduction of philosophy to literature or art. The quotation from Nietzsche calls this historicist maneuver into question. rests on a prepredicative concept of truth that founds all predicative truth.3 Historicists assume truth is a matter of correspondence and universality and then jettison the notion in favor of an examination of historically variable discursive practices. Ultimately. Truth is thus used terminologically to determine the difference between . This implies that truth is essentially connected to a question of the correctness of a representation. an openness. truth is predicative truth. universal or “one. a “fixed idea” through which one can chart both the crucial shifts and continuity within Heidegger’s work. but of how man’s way of being is an understanding and interpretation. (in-der Welt-sein and Erschlossenheit). Truth is a question of correspondence between a proposition and that to which the proposition refers. “multiple” (and as such given up as a central concept of philosophy). Predicative or propositional truth is rooted in the accordance between a determining assertion and what the assertion is about. Truth means the same as matter (Sache) and that which reveals itself (Sichselbstzeigendes).” which implies correctness and even righteousness. The quotation from Nietzsche cited above could imply a subscription to the traditional interpretation of Nietzsche as instigator of a historicist trend. rests on a common presupposition: that truth is a matter of “correctness” or “correspondence. This is what Badiou calls instead “veracity. as a question of correspondence between statement and matter. historicists remain in a world of mere appearances. in the proposition. Lacan’s work and his crucial proposition that there is “no sexual relation” is the modern answer to Plato’s Symposium — a procedure of truth that has yet to form a suture. And the way the world is open to Dasein is truth. This prepredicative truth has to do with the mode of man’s being.represented by Derrida and Rorty).2 But the standard opposition between truth as.4 In Being and Time. Man’s being is to be “there” — the “Da” of Dasein — in the world.” Traditionally truth has its place in judgment. relative. Truth is here no longer a question of cognition. historically variable. While in Nietzsche the abolishment of the true world also leads to a destruction of the world of appearances. on the one hand. it is only in Heidegger that truth becomes the guiding thread of an entire philosophy. Finally. an unconcealedness (in contradistinction to being first a subject and then having this understanding).

that is. Truth conceived as “event. and not. Now truth is no longer just a question of Dasein’s “openness” and “being-in-the-world”. it has no extension. revelation. implies disruption. not an unknown concept. The unconscious was. a moment of truth.” on the contrary. An event is distinct from what Badiou calls a “situation. Heideggerian truth stands in an original relation to Being. after Being and Time and his turning away from phenomenology — a shift toward a conflictual conception of truth can be detected. correspondence. but after the famous Kehre — that is. According to Badiou. one can never know — truth disrupts the well-known.6 Heidegger sticks to this “revelatory” definition of truth throughout his work. or at least dynamics. as was already stated. knowledge.” The psychoanalytic concept of the unconscious and its effect. and un-forgetting. to repeat. Truth cannot be integrated or assimilated into the given structure or the established vocabulary of the situation. correctness. or “generic procedures. yet such a state is never a question of truth strictly speaking but. any state of affairs.” “veracity.” 8 from the accumulation of knowledge is the fact that truth is an event. Truth is translated from the ancient Greek a-letheia. The concept of the unconscious named.7 It did not fit and could never be integrated into the given situation. if no event supplements the situation with something that cannot be integrated or conceptualized within the situation — a “surplus sig-nifier. The unconscious as name did not belong to the scientific “situation” of Freud’s time. holes in knowledge both at the level of scientific discourse and at the level of the subject. but what Freud’s concept sought to name was until then foreclosed from knowledge. and means unconcealedness. is merely one of veracity. the symptom. This point is made in Heidegger’s reading of Plato and it is at this point that the influence on psychoanalysis is obvious. a point of no return. As long as nothing happens to disrupt the given rules and state of affairs. It is a point of transition between the future and the past. to be sure. Truth stands in an original connection to Being.beings and Being. rather. As far as truth is concerned.5 Contrary to the modern idea that the place of truth rests in the proposition. There is a “before” and an “after” a moment. Heidegger hereby unties the knot between truth and knowledge. for the symptom is defined as an effect of the unconscious — the symptom qua symptom is a failed repression. the moment is irreversible. The idea of truth as correspondence implies harmony. only of “truthfulness. A moment is to time what the geometrical point is to space. What differentiates procedures of truth. the science of psychology and neurology of Freud’s time.” “a surplus name” — there is no question of truth. can serve as a paradigmatic example of an event as “surplus name” or “supernumerary name” both at the level of Freud’s theory as a procedure of truth and at the level of the subject. and correct statements are at play.” which is any structured multitude. a compromise that both reveals and conceals the truth of the subject. conflict. cognition. now “the essence of truth” becomes a conflict between revealing and concealing. and it is radically unpredictable UMBR(a) 81 . or identity between two entities.

how Being shows itself. The Greek word for appearing is idea. according to Heidegger. TRUTH IN PLATO’S CAVE Heidegger finds the distinction between truth as aletheia and truth as orthotes (what is “right. as an image of the human condition and the entities that surround people. and what is commonly understood to be real. And in Heidegger’s interpretation of the allegory. that is. the Idea of ideas. are what Plato designates as paideia. formation. the return into the darkness of the cave. finally. The important point of this allegory. the conditions inside and outside the cave. The elements in this allegory are images of different experiences of beings. they feel at home and are confident in their surroundings. the daylight and. Plato’s realism consists in the fact that ideas are real. Though the people are prisoners. or the idea of the Good. rather. the very change of being. number. So formation and education do not presuppose that man is an empty UMBR(a) 82 . Heidegger’s basic claim is that in this allegory a transition takes place from a nonmetaphysical. then. formation. from a conception of truth as correspondence and correctness to one of unconcealedness.” The sun outside the cave is an image of that which makes the ideas intelligible. education but with a view to an ideal. Visible or perceivable does not mean that a being is depicted on a subject’s retina. These transitions and formations concern the very being of mankind. is not. however. the Being of everything about which it can be said that it is. a Vorbild. the change in the concept of truth makes the process of paideia possible.in contrast to the veracity of propositions concerning the ideal of consistent chains of causes and predictable future effects. are only shadows of the ideas.10 Paideia means bildung. the shadows on the wall of the cave. and god. What is outside the cave are the ideas without which people could not see and perceive this or that entity — a house. These transitions. The idea of the Good makes this world perceivable and familiar. its appearance. a god — as this particular entity — house. first. a number. The allegory of the cave illustrates a process of formation. A fire behind them casts shadows on the wall facing them. which in Germanic languages means an image (Bild) that precedes (Vor) and guides the formation (in Lacanian terms: an imaginary ideal).9 Here is a short summary of the parable: People are tied up in a cave. The beings outside the cave are images of the Being of beings. ideas are not images a subject can “have.” as in orthodox and orthography) in Plato’s parable of the cave. Ideas are the condition of possibility for anything to be perceivable or calculable. In other words. the ideas make it possible to see something as something. The fire is an image of the sun and the tied-up people perceive the shadows on the wall as reality. or pre-Socratic. conception of truth to a proper metaphysical one. but the transition from one state to another: getting accustomed to. the fire in the cave. these processes of habituation.

The undisguised. a chain of signifiers. so to speak. No act is one in and of itself. The “psychoanalytic act” implies a new start. This is what the trip out of the cave and especially the return back into the cave are supposed to illustrate insofar as paideia is under an obligation to oppose what is given as the ruling truth.container wherein knowledge can be accumulated. To designate an event as a point of no return calls for a proviso. There is a “before” and an “after” paideia. the self-evident. An act is an acting out. An interpretation is a singular act. The analytic intervention or interpretation of speech is a true act if. and only if. it cannot be generalized in manuals or methods of analysis. and thereby disavows any lack. Formation designates a conversion of man in the sense that everything that previously seemed evident appears now in a new light. changes. since it disavows any question. this means that the matrix. To start or end an analysis may be a true act. Perverse acts can be difficult to distinguish from neurotic acting out. UMBR(a) PAIDEIA AND THE ANALYTIC DISCOURSE Lacan’s distinction between an “act” and “acting out” can clarify what is meant by paideia. a passage out of the cave. an unexpected and unpredictable occurrence. An act is an event. as when one “sees the light. a symptom. it was a symptom. It is a singular experi- 83 . in the psychoanalytical sense. or misplace things. Therefore it is only appropriate to talk about an act and a symptom in the psychoanalytical sense. the transmittance of the analytic experience. An act. in the past tense: it was an act. A parallel to this can be found in Badiou’s idea of an event’s demanding fidelity. however. and his seminars.” but is the result of an incessant wrestling from a state of occultation. An act is a true act when desire is no longer limited by the fundamental fantasy. A true act is not a repetition. forget. Lacan’s “return to Freud” is an example of fidelity toward the Freudian unconscious as an event. Anyone may stumble. Truth is not something that is seen once and for all. the cliché is broken. as reality. has nothing to do with “performing” anything. if they 1) raise a question (“I wonder what it means?”) and 2) occasion an analysis that reveals that the slip was a metaphor for a repressed connection between signifiers. constitute a return into the cave — the Freudian cause (la cause freudienne) is the slightly pompous but nevertheless significant title of one of the many schools of psychoanalysis. The crucial difference is that the perverse act does not ask to be interpreted or understood. it is not repetitive. namely that it needs someone to keep it alive. or integrated in. of being understood by the Other. no act means anything specific. but such slips are acts. Acting out consists of the miming of what cannot be articulated by. it is what is unheard-of. if it is a compromise between avoiding and asking for an interpretation. or just another lap on the nomadic route of therapy. but designate a process whereby the being of man is transformed.

values. or the other — or of the hysteric — in which case they are questioning. that is. the beings in themselves. In Plato’s text. Now truth is a question of the orthodoxy (orthotes) of the gaze. starts with Plato. or orthodoxy and this tension inaugurates nothing less than philosophy proper. The analyst’s acts cannot always be analytical. there is a tension or conflict between truth as unveiling. Truth is now a question of being and seeing correctly. this familiarity with the surroundings. another “thing” about which you can say that it is. Hereby the ontological difference — between beings (objects. background. man becomes the starting point. ideals) and the question of the Being of beings — is forgotten through a trick that answers the question of Being with the idea. undisguising. nongeneralizable moment: this moment where the bond between the analysand and the analyst has reached a point of no return is a passage out of the cave and back. qualities. In Plato. the transition from one state to another consists in a disciplining of the eye. metaphysics in Heidegger’s terms. however. he is shaken to his very foundation. that. A true act unchains the people in the cave and drags them out of their safe prison. entities. to see the truth. and its very singularity creates a problem for the transmission of psychoanalytic thought. and thereby the ruling shadows of a reality. Before truth was a quality or trait of the surroundings. In the allegory of the cave. Nietzsche’s “true world” has been created. Thinking as metaphysics becomes both ontology and theology in Plato. the truth of the subject occurs. The analytic discourse exists only in the singular. or what constitutes psychoanalytic thinking. When psychoanalysis is analytic. an opening of the world and the familiar surroundings given to man.11 The forgetting of the question of Being. man begins to “have a relation” to beings as he must develop the right eye for beings in order to be able to see the light. Metaphysics is that which places man in the middle of things without necessarily making him the highest being. This is what humanism proper does (now without inverted commas). it is Plato’s paideia. or unconcealing and truth as correctness. In this sense the conception of truth in Heidegger’s Being and Time remains “humanistic”. a true act contests the power of the fundamental fantasy. demanding. which is why the beginning of metaphysics is also the beginning of “humanism. and center of rotation. An act challenges and transgresses the law. his interventions may also be formed by the discourse of the university — in which case they are explanatory. relations. After Plato the surroundings are not just surroundings but something to which one has a relation. of the eyes being in accord with that which is. This conflict is the starting point of both a break from the ancient concept of truth and the origin of a modern concept of truth. UMBR(a) 84 .” according to Heidegger. In pre-Socratic times man’s being was this disclosure. The Being of beings is transferred to the idea. rightness. When truth becomes a question of the orthodoxy of the gaze.ence. in contrast to the pre-Socratic notion of truth as disclosure or revelation. truth is relative to the being of Dasein. that is. the question of ontological difference. as the expression goes. giving sense to this.

one is justified in asking in what sense these categories serve to present the problem of the Other’s lack.who answers the question. covered up. This is because metaphysics has closed. as some have claimed. disavowal (Verleugnung). absolute. cogito. that is. Truth has become performative rather than constative. In metaphysics. unchangeable. subject. that neurotic repression. denied. The question of Being is not irreducible. Yet what remains constant is the notion that essence is one. God. We will claim that the psychoanalytic concepts of repression (Verdrängung). in other words. God. By calling philosophy metaphysics. be found in Lacan’s definition of truth as that which makes holes in knowledge. as subject in the philosophical sense. history. creates the possibility of recognizing the question of Being as a question. This is the reason why he may try to obtain truth through the analytic experience. as opposed to disavowal and foreclosure. the will to power. that which resists knowledge. neurotic repression creates the possibility for an un-forgetting or reawakening of the question of Being. perversion. first. Metaphysics becomes a sequence of substituting centers — idea. or disavowed the question of Being with one of these answers: idea. And the conflict that results can. he inquires. God. it can be reduced to idea. of recognizing a lack of knowledge as lack. thus preserving the stability of the situation. The past is a mirror placed in front of us. outside time. If the “pseudo-clinical” categories of neurosis. any hole. second. There is no automatism at play here. can — at least in principle and in due time — be closed by the accumulation of knowledge. UMBR(a) 85 HEIDEGGER — THE MOST SUBLIME OBSESSIONAL The neurotic is troubled by knowledge: he doubts. formal conditions of possibility for beingin-the-world. history. but not necessarily. as something that interrupts a continuity. The disavowal of lack is exemplified by the savant. three variations on the theme of the forgetting of the question of Being. As does the unconscious. the encyclopedic attitude that believes that any lack. The eternal recurrence of the same means that Being is thought of as the unchangeability of Being. It is present in the definition of truth as a question of certainty and in the fact that the conflict or ambiguity in Plato’s text is a conflict or ambiguity of our time. to repeat. and foreclosure (Verwerfung) are. discourse. The Other is not lacking. eternal. and. This change in the Being of truth is what Heidegger calls “historical presence” (geschichtliche Gegenwart). Heidegger wishes to expose this cover up and reawaken the question of Being. a . the Other exists as foundation. forgotten. The ancient concept of truth as unconcealedness. and psychosis are equivalent to the Existenzialen of Heidegger’s Being and Time. and so on that cover over the lack in the Other. or language. has returned in contemporary thinking and created the conflict of our present day. With respect to neurosis.

very well. rather. what withdraws may even concern and claim man more essentially than anything present that strikes and touches him. In “Letter on Humanism. The hysteric attributes a superior or failing knowledge to the Other. he relieves the other of this task. a neurotic relation to knowledge must be presupposed. to fill in his lack of knowledge with authoritative answers. In What is Called Thinking?.. in the final paragraph. something that in principle could be answered by the learned encyclopedist. what is to be thought is that which withdraws (Entzug) or is withheld (Vorenthalt). as evidenced by the unanswered and rhetorical questions everywhere in the body of his work. When anyone offers to be of assistance to him.distinction must be made between a hysterical and an obsessional relation to knowledge. whether something should occur..14 Uncertainty or doubtfulness is the precondition for thinking.17 Heidegger incessantly circles the question of the emptiness of Being. As Denise Lachaud has said: “The obsessional structure can be regarded as a true illness of knowledge. an event (Ereignis): Withdrawal is an event. The question is the precondition for what Heidegger calls “thinking.” In order for events to happen in thought.15 so Heidegger was. In fact. yet another version of the very forgetting of the question of Being that characterizes metaphysics. the obsessional is prepared to double up on the question by saying. but a lack in the ontological sense. the obsessional takes complete responsibility for the difficulties concerning his position regarding knowledge and thereby relieves the Other of this problem. a neurotic. the obsessional doubts and asks questions without believing in the Other. and to withhold is what is called an occurrence. the obsessional does not put the particular other in the position of the Other.. It demands a focus on the question whether a new element should surface. The difference depends on whether knowledge can or cannot be attributed to the other (at the level of the imaginary). Being struck by actuality is what we like to regard 86 UMBR(a) . Heidegger is. like all true philosophers. Just as Hegel was the most sublime hysteric.” not a lack in the ontic sense. Metaphysics is the denial or disavowal of this question as such. where. should show up that could be recognized as something that could not be fitted into the given situation.”12 Unlike the hysteric. The more he believes.” This is just what Heidegger does in Being and Time. “Yes. something that must be recognized as a question.13 Heidegger did not answer his question of the Being of beings because “it stays a question.16 The question of “the meaning of Being” does not expect an answer. but this answer only raises the question. any effort to answer this question only demonstrates an embarrassing and fundamental misunderstanding of the question. in other words. the more he doubts. He is thus in constant doubt. he poses three questions regarding being and time. the most sublime obsessional.” Heidegger claims that you have to be able to wait in order to think. But while the hysteric believes in absolute knowledge. according to Lacan and later Slavoj Žižek.

we see it only because we already know what a plant is. the mathematical stems from the Greek mathesis. we begin to count. Truth is at the same time withheld and that which touches us. on the other. According to Heidegger. Being is not a question of philosophy but rather of mathematics. in being struck by what is actual. concerns itself with thinking this withdrawal. on the one hand.” When we add the spoon. At least three elements are required to establish an order such as the natural numbers. The event of withdrawal could be what is most present in all our presents. numbers. Philosophy is nothing but the effort to think this thing that is not an entity. it functions as a failed repression. For Badiou. that the essence of numbers is mathematical. Truth as a-letheia.” According to Heidegger. the mathematical is identified with the question of numbers. While a faithful presentation of this original point would demand a careful presentation of the mathematical arguments of L’être et l’événement. three apples. However. which means “to learn” and mathemata. but Being. the latter is the case: the mathematical concerns learning what we already know. consists of variations on the theme of thinking and naming this withdrawal. we learn something that we already know: the “plant-like” about the plant. on the contrary.” like the privative “un” in the unconscious. Thinking. and withdrawal. we can only say here that the project is consonant with Lacan’s naming mathematics “the science of the real. This is the reason why the number is a model of the mathematical. Badiou explicitly disassociates himself from any reduction to historicism of an alleged Heideggerian stamp. but it is undecided whether this is due to the fact that the essence of mathematics is numbers or. like all symptoms. UMBR(a) 87 . a failed withdrawal. the “number-like” about the number. an object. as distinct from accumulating knowledge about the world. We can only count three objects because we already know the natural number 3. When we see a plant. We do not learn what the natural number 3 means by studying three roses. As far as the mathematical is concerned. and so infinitely exceeds the actuality of everything actual.as constitutive of the actuality of the actual. and general way. The number 3 is not the third but.” The mathematical is a general question of how beings appear. the non-hidden. When we have two objects.18 Denial is a symptom when. When we acquire knowledge about particular sorts of plants. Then the previous “pair” becomes the first and the second. the un-forgotten occurs (ereignen). Traditionally. rather. the “thing-like” about the thing. the first number. similarly. undetermined. we do not learn anything new but get to know what we already know. a sequence of numbers. An order. the un-veiled. though only in a vague. or three objects. This is one of the reasons why it does not make sense to talk about progress in philosophy. man may be debarred precisely from what concerns and touches him — touches him in the surely mysterious way of escaping him by its withdrawal. while mathematics is only a specific version of the mathematical. “what can be learned. thus the history of philosophy. and metaphysics. The third gives the first its place in the sequence of natural numbers. we say “a pair” or “both. The privative “a. implies an oscillation between revelation or unveiling. for instance a fork and a knife. or things in general. is not established until the third element is considered. attracts us.

his outstanding readings of Nietzsche could serve as another. To reduce Heidegger to a historicist position is to miss the point of his (and Nietzsche’s) dissolving of the traditional conflict between truth as universal and truth as a historically variable state of affairs. “what was it really like?” — nor is it a question of attributing sense to the past in a “nominalist” way.” He didn’t. but Heidegger is not a historicist who has taken sides on the classical metaphysical opposition between being and appearance. This text was nevertheless a traditional. that Being and time cannot be reduced to the event. discursive practice. UMBR(a) 88 . As already mentioned. Heidegger is not a historicist in the sense that neither truth nor the question of Being are historically reducible in his later writings. it was a presentation of the formal conditions of possibility for being-in-the-world in distinction to a historiographic project. The attitude is unobtrusive. The historicist will claim that everything is reducible to a contingent. There is “something” that is not reducible to time and historicity. It is never a question of either extracting sense from the past. he argued that the event (Ereignis) is not an inclusive term for Being and time.the symbolic order demands as a minimum three elements. Heidegger’s reading of Plato’s allegory of the cave serves as an example.19 TIME AND BEING Truth becomes a question of “the historicity of Being” and involves the crucial concept of “the event” (Ereignis) in the late Heidegger. Foucault. “systematic” project. Being and Time did attempt to reduce Being to time. This systematic and phenomenological approach was given up after Being and Time. Now. can hardly be underestimated. But both an affirmative and a negative answer demand reservations. Can Heidegger be cited in support of the abandonment of truth in favor of a question of historically variable discursive practices? His influence on one of. “let’s wait and see” responsiveness to anything that does not fit into the given order.20 Being and Time could be called a historicist effort if the questions at the end of the work and paragraph 70 are considered. time was the horizon of Being. But this “something” is neither in the form of the good. historically variable. if not the greatest historicist of the last century. and throughout this article he presented Being and time’s respective irreducibility. What counts is the quiet. old condition of possibility or foundation for time. to Heidegger the past is like a mirror placed before oneself: the past is something to which one speaks and something with which one has a conversation. the approach of the history of philosophy. But being is not time. nor is it nothing. or to be more precise. as has been repeatedly remarked. but it is a kind of passive attitude that is anything but dwelling on bygone days. that is. This is why Heidegger speaks in a remarkably untroubled way about essences (Wesen). This “something” that is not “nothing” is what thinking is about insofar as it is both revealing and withdrawing. Instead he wrote an article by the same name. Heidegger was supposed to write a book with the reversed title “Time and Being.

Being and Time. Historicity is the different ways of thinking this Wesen. but only presented in the form of a partial object that can stand in for this absence. that is. Traditionally. Similarly. Wesen means the unchangeable kernel of an entity. it is an oscillation between occurrence and withdrawal. What speaks against reducing Heidegger to a historicist position is the parallel that is easily established between Heidegger’s question of Being and Lacan’s question about the real and the object a. Das Wesen west is not simply cryptic. The real is not “outside” or “before” the symbolic.and not least about the essence of truth. this real that withdraws from being thought. dynamics. but etymologically it also originates from the verb. a word that incarnates process. even by that which is expelled and nevertheless keeps coming back to the same place. makes holes. the object a cannot be represented. UMBR(a) 89 UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) . but is rather introduced by and dependent on the symbolic in the form of that which withdraws. and resists sense.

Oscar Levy (New York: Russell & Russell. L’enfer du devoir: Le discours de l’obsessionel (Paris. 9. John McIntyre and Ian T. See § 44: “Dasein. Ramsey. 17. “Because the kind of Being that is essential to truth is of the character of Dasein. Norman Madarasz [Albany: SUNY Press. Being and Time. 8.” (On the Way to Language. Anthony M. Being and Time. “How is this mode of the temporalizing of temporality to be interpreted? Is there a way which leads from primordial time to the meaning of Being? Does time itself manifest itself as 90 UMBR(a) . Denise Lachaud. 1964) vol. Heidegger. 43). 35. ed. it is a listening to the grant. I have done this in Heidegger og teknikkens tidsalder (Heidegger and the Age of Technics). 14. Badiou. Heidegger. 9. in Latin ens. 19. eds. Joan Stambaugh [New York: Harper & Row. Editions Denoël. Badiou.’” in Écrits (Paris: Éditions du Seuil.” 20. 47. or to be more precise. [Translation modified] the horizon of Being?” (Heidegger. 21). Hertz [New York: Harper & Row Publishers. As it is customary. 35. As expounded especially in Slavoj Žižek. And if this were not enough. See Jacques Lacan. 10. 11. trans. 1995).” in L’être et l’événement (Paris: Seuil. Disclosedness.. 1966). 6. the promise of what is to be put in question. Heidegger. 1972]. Inc. John Macquarrie and Edward Robin-son (London: SCM Press. 1997). all truth is relative to Dasein’s Being” (Heidegger.” Heidegger writes in “The Question Concerning Technology. (Aarhus. that the authentic attitude of thinking is not a putting of questions — rather. understood as that which is. David Farrel-Krell (New York: Harper & Row. In “What Is Metaphysics?” the question of the Being of beings remains an open question: What is Called Thinking? “For questioning is the piety of thought (Denn das Fragen ist die Frömmigkeit des Denkens). 7. His argument in “Time and Being” is that “Appropriation is not the encompassing general concept under which Being and time could be subsumed” (On Time and Being. 2. 160. 71). ed. Platons Lehre von der Wahrheit (Frankfurt: Vittorio Klostermann. 1989]. the poem that returns in Nietzsche (and Heidegger) “through an antiPlatonic retroaction” (Manifesto for Philosophy. where this point is presented by the most simple example: “heads or tails. 1962). 12. Martin Heidegger. mathematical formulas. Twilight of the Idols in The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche. Here we are more concerned with the question of historicism.” in Being and Time. For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment as a Political Factor (London: Verso.” in Latin esse.” Heidegger casts doubt on the question of the question: “What do we discover when we give sufficient thought to the matter? This. trans. 4. Ibid. trans. XVI. 111.. 18. God as beings.” in The Question Con-cerning Technology and Other Essays (New York: Harper & Row. 19. To Badiou it is art. 256. 37. Ludovici. 15. “Forclos du savoir. 1977). “Le séminaire sur ‘la lettre volée. 363. 1971]. 1968). and das Seiende. 1977). empirical realities. and Marc Darmon. Being and Time. [Author’s translation] 13. and Truth. Dr.” in Heidegger’s Basic Writings: From “Being and Time” to “The Task of Thinking” (1964). I will translate Sein with “Being. 488). Friedrich Nietzsche. 270). 1991). 1988). Peter D. 25. 3. 1990). and trans. What is Called Thinking? (New York: Harper & Row. Manifesto for Philosophy. 5. abstract ideas. But this is another discussion. “Letter on Humanism.1. 16. in “The Nature of Language. ed. trans. Essais sur la topologie lacanienne (Edition de l’Association Freudienne).

this interpretation is already present in Deleuze’s philosophy. For Badiou. their presentation is never direct and their effects are local and always UMBR(a) 91 . In this respect. that the new can emerge only as a perpetual refolding of the past: these assumptions are challenged at the outset. that his philosophy liberates its reader from the limitations of unity and negation. While there is not enough time to account for the advantages or setbacks of either philosopher’s approach. novelty becomes tantamount to a description of the world. and the question of whether or not Badiou “accurately” reads Deleuze is beside the point. In many ways. What matters. Clearly. Deleuze is a philosopher who presents Badiou with a formidable challenge on many fronts. by contrast. and this is what makes Deleuze: The Clamor of Being a notable contribution to the expanding canon of Deleuze studies. Deleuze assumes the capacity for creation at the outset: it is there in the immanence of a chaotic (if not organic) multiple that creates sinuous paths and divisions among the things of the world. is precisely how these categories are to be thought. Now if philosophy accounts for the force endemic to creation through erecting new concepts. for the present. multiplicity.NEIGHBORHOOD OF INFINITY: ON BADIOU’S DELEUZE: THE CLAMOR OF BEING sam gillespie In his polemical monograph on Gilles Deleuze. by necessity.1 For Badiou. That Deleuze is a great thinker of the multiple. Badiou’s ontology and philosophy are resolutely opposed to the tenets of the worldly. The stakes of the debate should rather concern the conditions in which philosophy encounters the new. Deleuze’s system must. fall back upon general tropes of a refashioned metaphysics of the One. I hope that the following can outline the terms under which a dialogue can be continued. both orient their thought toward conceptions of novelty. Yet Badiou is no neutral critic of Deleuze. the new goes hand in hand with an ontology of the multiple. novelty emerges only in the rarity of a vanished event that is drawn from the absolute neutrality of the void. Events for Badiou have effects that resonate in any given situation. one could even say that as a philosophical category. Alain Badiou wastes no time confronting the reader head-on. and the event.

’ and in deploying the consequences of that nomination in the space of the situation to which the site belongs.e.. Badiou maintains that what has not yet been thought is ultimately the more difficult question of how to recognize the same. in the redistribution of knowledge internal to any given situation. Badiou proposes..” 2 Taking this into account. indifferent to differences. as given in his books Ethics. traces of events that have provoked huge debate within the arid situation of contemporary philosophy. for example. and becomingother. is that — far from being the ideal aspirations through which all forms of racial hatred can and should be counteracted — cultural otherness and differences are the obstacle to any emancipatory politics. in effect. An open question for Badiou is whether or not an event belongs to the situation. there is the case of Gilles Deleuze. I think that there is nothing here to prevent one from finding. a return to the Platonic idea of love as a particular philosophical category of truth founded on the co-existence of two unique (sexuated) positions of experience. thwarts the Heideggarian assumption that Being and Time was the final word on the “forgotten” question of Being — and does so by virtue of its own declaration that mathematics. Don’t his books themselves constitute the overturning of philosophical assumptions that we have become all too comfortable with accepting as manifest facts? Do his works not. racial. so as to allow for the UMBR(a) 92 . the outcome is felt.. As Badiou writes in L’Être et l’événement: “The essence of intervention consists in the open field through an interpretive hypothesis concerning the ‘there is’ of an event of which the presented object is the site (thus a multiple on the edge of the void). can present Being qua Being to thought. co-author of Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus. as such.4 Finally.. the infinite multiplicity of differences) but what comes to be. Rather than arguing that differences constitute a radical opposition to the hegemony of white male heterosexual Eurocentrism. If you asked a random philosopher who Deleuze is. Such action takes the form of an intervention that has the effect of undermining and overturning previous practices and forms of knowledge. while a Foucauldian could dismiss love as a psychologically-laden. if the other doesn’t matter it is indeed because the difficulty lies on the side of the Same. The Same. that is. the thinker of difference. in naming that ‘there is. Whatever the case. and Abregé de metapolitique. For the “cultural” Levinasian. and only mathematics. whether an event is a category of being or non-being. qua intervention. [I]t is a truth. in and of themselves. sexual) differences in order for a subject to be called into obligatory ethical action. was the philosopher who argued against the colonization of the ego through the Oedipal complex. Badiou’s response. with particular attention to the “consequences” that any intervention will produce in a particular situation. Only a truth is. Saint Paul. the answer would most likely be that “Gilles Deleuze. contemporary ethics must be founded upon a recognition of and respect for (cultural. repetition. is not what is (i. establish events? L’Être et l’événement.supported by the action of a militant subject. which instead should be established from a predicateless equality or sameness. heterosexist/bourgeois construction that only serves to frustrate any real ability to experience pleasures of the body. “Philosophically.”3 In like manner. in Badiou’s writings. by way of Lacan.

it must have a cause. mathematical terms. so bringing about the restructuring of other distinctions.” And. for instance. negative movement of positing and reflection upon the abstract ground of causality.”7 Along the same lines.free-flow of libidinal surpluses in the form of lines of flight. and becomes capable of expressing difference within Being.”5 To apply this logic to substance. allowed for differences to become real. for example. the attributes of a substance differ from one another in an actual way that depends upon a ground common to all. by and large. it is clear that Deleuze prefers Spinoza to Descartes because substances in the latter are distinguished from each other only in distilled. the Spinozian substance) safe in the background. res extensia). this amounts to nothing more than a denial of difference as something that is real. As Deleuze says. that would be correct. The generation of Hegel’s system is rooted in the internalizing. Nietzschean becoming extends from the affirmation of a body’s capacity to act. which should only be defined in and of itself. Deleuze. looking only at the most restricted registers of meaning in his texts. “the true definition of man does not involve the number 20. “Detached from all numerical distinction. In contrast. is external: if only twenty men were to exist in the world. What matters in this type of reading is what can be divided and dispersed. Numerical distinction. the becomings. to apply external causality to substance is to make it operate in a sort of indeterminate void. Only through abstracting from the substantial differences between the attributes of thought and extension are the primary differences between the two determined on a more elevated register of two substances (res cogitans. real distinction is carried into the absolute. one should consider Deleuze’s paradigmatic opposition between Hegel and Nietzsche. either internal or external. We know that for Spinoza. For Deleuze. For example. This ultimately constitutes a refusal of the quantitative distinction between substances so as to allow for a qualitative distinction of the attributes of that substance. if Deleuze is read selectively. as read by Deleuze. Nietzsche thus affirms that the power of difference between two dialectical oppositions is force itself. As Spinoza writes. But for Spinoza. we see that the situation does not change much. while the Hegelian process of sublation amounts only UMBR(a) 93 . the plane of immanence. But if we put the cyber/queer/cultural Deleuzianism aside and remain within a strictly philosophical reading of Deleuze.6 The “void” would be the emptiness of the distinction at hand. and schizoidnomadic flows…. that is. leaving the question of totality (in the form of. deterritorializations. and thus to posit two or more substances. however. the cause or reason for this would be external to the men themselves. and so on). in making differences internal to a singular substance in the form of its diverse attributes. The common reading of Deleuze’s books consists in an analysis of the local or molecular level in order to focus on what is apparently dynamic in his system (the flows. to affirm difference as a generative power inherent to becoming itself. is to ascribe an external cause to account for such a distinction. The logic runs as follows: for something to exist. the Bergsonian virtual.

in and of itself. For the affirmation of difference as such it substitutes the negation of that which differs. centralized unity. the entirety of Deleuze: The Clamor of Being is devoted to upholding this thesis. Deleuze notes.”13 For Badiou the Deleuzian oppositions (virtual/actual. and for the affirmation of affirmation it substitutes the famous negation of negation. Rather. privileging becoming over sublation. in other words). is essentially unified in its multiplicity. The metaphysical One validated in Badiou’s text has little in common with the One as the cornerstone of ontotheology (that is. Immanence is not a concept foreign to Deleuze: it is usually taken as an anti-Hegelian (or anti-Lacanian) affirmation of corporeal power.12 Deleuze describes this singularity of Being as “a single and same voice for the whole thousand-voiced multiple. a capacity to act or be affected that is inherent in any being. Badiou points out that Deleuze himself equates immanence and univocity. For to propose the existence of a void as such would be to fall back upon the abstractions of the negative that Deleuze ostensibly opposes. And Deleuze would unquestionably appear to be the preeminent philosopher of difference. but to submit thinking to a renewed concept of the One. which should be understood in terms of ontological immanence. Despite the divergent forms in which it appears. Being. certainly reflects on difference. for the affirmation of self it substitutes the negation of the other. But for Badiou. he proposes his model in order to ask the ultimate Deleuzian question: what is the Being expressed by multiplicity? In other words. chance/eternal return. which itself is inseparable from the disjoining of beings from their particularity. Coming as an outsider to Deleuze’s system — a system that he readily admits is foreign to his own— Badiou proclaims early on that “Deleuze’s fundamental problem is most certainly not to liberate the multiple. but. this concept is inseparable from an idea of a totality of Being that is immanent to any singular being in its worldy manifestation.”8 And this inversion qua negation of what differs “would be meaningless if it were not in fact animated by forces with an ‘interest’ in doing so. There is only one multiple in Deleuze because nothing can inhere outside multiplicity as such (no void.”10 From this contentious beginning. productive desire over desire as lack. or punctual point of clarity). “it inverts its image. the metaphysics of the One is present in Deleuze’s system in order to provide for the best possible multiplicity. Being itself becomes singular through the neutralization of properties qua virtualization.11 While Badiou’s presentation of Deleuze’s philosophy may be unrecognizable to some. the One as a discrete. In his monograph on Deleuze. a single clamor of Being for all Beings. a single and same ocean for all the drops. The dialectics.”9 Deleuze clearly has a preference for thinkers such as Nietzsche and Spinoza who eschewed the abstract and negative unity in favor of a concrete or embodied multiplicity.to a weakening of that force. plane of imma- UMBR(a) 94 . Badiou overturns these assumptions from the outset. and immanent force over abstract transcendence. on what grounds is the multiple multiple? The answer Badiou gives is that for Deleuze.

is that the splitting of Being into the two voices of virtual and actual is only a requisite for affirming the univocality of Being. and polyvalent in its manifestations. the film is simply a descriptive account of one day in the lives of two dozen.” conceived in its “virtuality that the actual actualizes” (50). eternal return and chance.14 It is. this is only so by virtue of its essentially unified character. consider Paul Thomas Anderson’s recent film Magnolia. as a subtracted “part” of the image. and even desire in its Deleuzian guise. or the difference. the actual is merely the virtual in singular form. deterriorializations. Far from being opposed to each other. a virtual totality. a young drug addict. In this respect. the virtual is both the ground for the actual and its own ground insofar as it is the totality in which all virtualities in their various modalities inhere. UMBR(a) 95 I. So while Being can be divided. stratified. The virtual is always expressed in its various actualizations. while the virtual is nothing other than the principal name of Being. the outside and the fold — in order to test the manner in which the univocity of Being is properly upheld. between these two movements” (40). . In order to illustrate the above point. time and truth. then from Being to beings. But from what would this difference between these two movements derive if not from the difference between the One and the multiple — thus. a lonely police officer. THE VIRTUAL AND THE ACTUAL For Deleuze the virtual and actual are co-extensive with one another because there is no Platonic opposition between the two that one would find in a distinction between reality and appearance. in fact. we have in fact thought the movement of Being itself. from the presupposition of the One? To elaborate his position. and dispersed across many singular cases. from beings to Being. Conversely. Badiou clearly recognizes this quality in Deleuze’s philosophy when he remarks that “when we have grasped the double movement of descent and ascent. are nothing other than movements away from individuation back onto an ever-changing. a metaphysics of the One. ever-evolving whole expressed in and of these singularities. this presupposition of Being as univocal that allows precisely for the dynamic nature of Deleuze’s philosophy. Being as One is said on two counts: once in its actuality. varied. and thus. Badiou devotes four chapters of his book to an analysis of Deleuze’s primary doublets — the virtual and the actual. the movement from Being to beings presupposes its redistribution as it is divided. which is only the interval. seemingly unrelated individuals in southern California. an elderly game show host. and once in the expression of its immersion in the virtual.nence/singularities) presuppose the univocity of Being. There is a distraught housewife and her dying husband. lines of flight. A consequence of this. This parallels the ascending/descending movement of Deleuze’s philosophy: the actual affirms its Being as a “transitory modality of the One. at least for Badiou. At the most immediate level.

would be the actualization of that virtuality in the form of species or distinct parts that in the film take the form of the chaotic courses constituting the breakdown in communication between the various protagonists. years ago. a former child game show contestant who is now a financially-strapped. molested her. For example. that traverses time as a whole. we can witness the Deleuzian distinction between differentiation and differenciation. In fact. the differentiated relations at the level of the “virtual” past determine the differencial relations of the protagonists in their “actual. and so forth. Here. Claudia. But to remain at this level of analysis risks conflating the Deleuzian virtual with an empirical past. but the whole of time. then the actualizations in the filmic present don’t pose a solution to the problem as much as they actualize an image of the virtual as problem.” diffuse present. a young man jumping to his death would have been saved by an underlying awning were it not for the fact that at the moment of his fall. and so on. Claudia’s father must confront the truth of his incestuous relation with his daughter. The virtual is not simply any particular past. in the case of the film. all pursuing the course of their lives in the shared space of one film. At the film’s beginning. For example. The intention of the brief vignettes is. to frame the narrative of Magnolia with an underlying theme: there are no accidents. closeted gay man. These individuals could be seen as non-related singularities in the Deleuzian sense. the chaotic randomness that could be seen as purely accidental has a causal justification not only in the individual pasts of each protagonist. the young drug addict. but also on a higher level of convergence. three short stories are related that tell of a unique coincidence of events that culminated in death. on the contrary. it becomes evident that the scattered nature of the narrative presupposes an original relatedness — that. many of these characters committed actions that affected one another. Differenciation. the unification of Magnolia’s narrative with this “true” virtual occurs toward the film’s end. the most banal reading of the film would suggest that the only way for the protagonists to “escape” the past is to confront what is repressed: the Tom Cruise character must reconcile himself with his estranged father. the past that co-exists with the present.a young game show contestant and his domineering father. Divergent lines are thus traced from the singularity of the protagonists to their multiple inter-relatedness. kills the boy in mid-air. when the narrative is interrupted for three minutes with a surreal cascade of raining frog UMBR(a) 96 . From this familial conflict we can then draw a tangential line connecting it to the predicaments that face several generations of that game show’s contestants. that is. the relations at the level of familial history that pose the problems that the protagonists now face. Differentiation indicates the determination of the virtual content of an idea. But shortly into the film. of course. by missing its intended target. We could go further and say that if the familial histories that the narrative discloses posit a virtual problem. at a previous point in time. is the daughter of a game show host who. his mother tried to kill his father with a bullet that. Actualization casts the virtual as a problem as long as these characters remain haunted by the history that incessantly throws its shadow over the present. or finality. In other words. Now.

corpses. Is not the odd eruption within an otherwise straightforward narrative a presentation of the Deleuzian virtual, the “clamor of Being,” in direct form — “the powerful inorganic life that envelops the world?”15 The film’s characters find a point of convergence, or shared existence, not in a singular event (as would be the case at the end of Robert Altman’s Nashville), but rather in the fundamental coincidence of these singular stories in a swarm of flesh. Why does this narrative rupture intrude into the space of the film if not to show that the literal relations drawn between the protagonists only suppose a more elementary type of relation that can only be expressed in an undifferentiated mass of raining frogs? Thus, Anderson’s strategy is quintessentially Deleuzian, because it shows “that every relation and every fixed distribution must therefore, insofar as they are indifferent to the terms that are arrayed within them, dissolve and cause thought to return to the neutrality of what Deleuze calls ‘extra being’” (34).

II. TIME AND TRUTH
Because it is articulated through the virtual, truth, for Deleuze, is necessarily given as power. This power in turn is marked through the double movement of ascent and descent: the descent toward the One/true and the re-ascent toward the multiple/false, that is, toward the simulacrum. As a substitute for the classical category of truth, Deleuze resolutely affirms the “powers of the false,” which are of the order of time. But Badiou, as a reader of Deleuze, asserts that the temporal powers of the false cannot be anything other than the eternity of the true.16 He bases his assessment on the triple circuit that Deleuze establishes moving from time to truth, from truth to virtuality, and from virtuality to the absolute basis of the past as eternity. Time moves to truth because it effectively “replaces” truth, truth moves to virtuality because it is as virtual that the truth of time moves beyond its designation as mere empirical finitude, and the absolute past of the virtual is inseparable from eternity. This latter point is the most difficult one to follow, both in Deleuze and Badiou. Essentially, the totality of the virtual cone that Deleuze borrows from Bergson is at once the ground of time, yet in itself, it is atemporal. It does not move in a linear fashion; rather, it inheres. But why is this totality that founds time atemporal? Here Badiou seems to make a surreptitious jump from the whole of time as relation to the whole of time as “thought under a concept from which all temporal dimension has been eliminated” (62). If, for example, we take a strip of film, it can only be defined as moving if we conceive it as a totality. To break the film down into individual frames leaves us only with a series of unrelated, immobile “section[s] of duration,” which Deleuze qualifies as components of abstract time. A single frame does not move and therefore it “cannot…in itself bear a relation to an other object because no pure present can communicate with any other” (63). It is only insofar as there is time, or a form of time, that one present can pass into another and into the past. And this form of time is not only that which
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creates time; it is what makes successive presents bear a relation to one another in the whole of time — the relation is this whole. Thus, Badiou says that because this whole is a relation, it is therefore atemporal. This appears to be a weak point in Badiou’s otherwise strongly argued polemic. It is clear that there is an empty form of time that accompanies the actualization of a present and that can be called a whole, but why call it atemporal? In every opposition that Deleuze has employed to qualify time (actual/virtual, Chronos/Aion, Eros/Thanatos) it’s true that the former category, and thus each repeated present, is accompanied by a second repetition that serves as the quasicause, or passage, of the former. The first repetition takes the form of a contracted, or bound, segment of time, while the second repetition appears as an open whole. Cinematically, we can see how a projected frame needs to be followed by an interstice, or “flicker,” in order for the next frame (next present) to come. In modern cinema, which allows for a direct presentation of time, the interstice, or cut, gains a certain autonomy, as for instance in the use of montage, of jumpcuts in the films of Godard and Straub/Huillet, or in the temporal discontinuity of successive images in Resnais. Two disjunct shots together form a relation that effects an open meaning, but only insofar as the relation itself is external to the individual terms. For Deleuze, this whole as relation amounts to a refutation of the One: “the whole undergoes a mutation because it has ceased to be the One-being in order to become the constitutive ‘and’ of things, the constitutive between-two of images.”17 For Badiou, who founds his multiple on the separation of the void and the inconsistency of the continuum “where God inconsists,” the whole as relation cannot be anything other than a One. Badiou’s conclusion underscores a primary difference between himself and Deleuze. First, truth for Badiou is essentially non-related, or subtracted from the situation of which it is nonetheless a part. Second, truth is outside time; it is “what within time exceeds time,”18 even if the determination of a truth depends on a temporally retroactive maneuver (such that there “will have been a truth” in the situation). Truth in Badiou’s system is “the undoing of time,” an “interruption” (64). Furthermore, Badiou’s doctrine of truth dispenses with the whole while maintaining the multiple and refuses relation while firmly accepting that truth is immanent to its particular situation.

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III. THE ETERNAL RETURN AND CHANCE19
Deleuze’s notion of repetition is firmly grounded in the repetition of difference — what is repeated is never the same. By the same token, what returns is not the same, but rather the pure contingency that extends from a unique, singular throw of the dice — an “affirmation of the totality of chance” in one singular dice throw (74). And this is the case because multiple throws annul chance. For example, the more a coin is tossed, the more likely it is that it will come up heads

as often as it will tails. Thus, what “returns” from a single throw is pure chance itself, since the dice have been thrown once and for all. What are we to understand by this? Badiou’s answer is clear: chance is the chance of the One itself — and by extension, this is nothing other than “the radical contingency of being” (73). The fact that the totality of Being can have no logical basis, or outside cause, means that it is purely contingent unto itself; it does not “receive its law from elsewhere.”20 By extension, the multiple virtualities that affirm possibility do not have multiple possibility as their ground or foundation. Different virtualities can be formally distinct, even if they originate from a singular cast. The ground for possibility is ultimately that of the One of the unique throw, the One of Being as it is affirmed. In turn a cyclic relation between possibility and necessity is established. The fact that there can be only one dice throw entails that there can be only one world, our world. Nietzscheans who understand the eternal return as the abnegation of ressentiment follow this logic perfectly; ressentiment always amounts to a cursing of one’s fate. Small wonder, then, that the weak feel the need to posit another world (an afterlife) where their suffering will be vindicated, both in their own future happiness and in the damnation of their oppressors. We can perhaps better understand then how an affirmation amounts to saying “yes” to the world as it is, that is, saying “yes” to necessity. As Deleuze says, “What Nietzsche calls necessity (destiny) is thus never the abolition of chance but chance itself. Necessity is affirmed of chance in as much as chance itself is affirmed.”21 It is only through the path of ressentiment that we avoid chance though positing other worlds in which other outcomes are possible. This would be the “ressentiment of the repetition of throws.”22

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IV. THE OUTSIDE AND THE FOLD
These are the two fundamental concepts of the late Deleuze, derived from Foucault and Leibniz. With these concepts, Deleuze is less concerned with the ontological univocity of Being than with the relation between Being and thought. His work on these concepts could even be seen as a development of a theory of relation in his work. Moreover, it is a particular notion of the subject that will occupy a primary role in this trajectory — the subject as a unique point of view from which a thought of the outside persists (62). It is easy to recognize the Foucauldian implications of the concept of the fold and the outside: the outside is a play of forces that serves to constitute a subjective interiority, the subject being nothing other that the effect of these relations (the fold of the outside). A fold can be understood in a variety of ways: as an event, an envelope, a splitting in two, or a constitution of depth from a two-dimensional surface. For both Badiou and Deleuze, what matters is that the fold is the activation of the outside via the constitution of an inside — the fold

it is “even possible to name this folding a self… and even. By catching the train. by missing the train. a Foucauldian may object that the subject cannot preexist the outside relations of force. The point to be retained is that the agent of folding is nothing other than Being acting upon itself. for the opposition. a subject” (90). his inherent “goodness” as a person will allow him to remain the same regardless of the circumstances. thus making the question of the “inherent goodness” of a human being obsolete. leaving the question of a singular veracity irrelevant. three different takes on the same narrative. How can these external worlds be encompassed by one mind. apolitical life as a local doctor (who eventually dies in an airplane explosion). What can be thought is the outside as relation from the perspective of the inside as fold. Clearly Kieslowski’s intent was to establish a cohesion among the different manifestations of the same character: even if the main protagonist is forced. the “auto-affection of the outside. produces itself. unfold in the space of one film. his life follows one course (working for the Polish Communist Party). What is significant is that the constitution of this internal space of a protagonist is what puts thought in the image by “solving” a problem introduced from the outside. the subject of the film is the limit to the outside. the outside relation of forces. The problem thus posed here is “by what procedure can one cover the configuration of forces that populate the outside?” (89). Of course.” There is no single “world” in which one thing could be said to occur instead of another: the protagonist could live or die. In both films. to assume various political stances (for the Party. Badiou adds that from these readings. elements that are formally distinct? A specific example could be found in films that are composed of competing narratives.is what erects a limit between the two. such as Kieslowski’s Blind Chance or the more recent (and less interesting) Run Lola Run. This is exteriority in extreme form. if one insists. the convergence of specific singularities that populate diverging narratives. but this is not the point. a film that could have been composed of other images. the same follows for Blind Chance. he retires to a quiet. Here. apolitical). could be seen as the thread that is traced from the “first” Lola in Run Lola Run to her appearances in the second and third segments. in different narratives.” This is a typical Foucauldian perpetual motion machine: power. rebel or find love. an ironic take on the Leibnizian “divine perspective. It is at this moment of the constitution of a subject that thought enters the picture. by bumping into a police officer on his way to the train. I’ll return to the example of film: how does one select among images and sounds in order to compose a film. The limit. he is arrested and thrown in jail (thus becoming a worker for the resistance). By what means can thought establish connections and relations UMBR(a) 100 . we can see that the limit that traces an inside is the procedure by which the protagonists remain the same despite the different narratives and circumstances that befall them. in other words. each involving the same character(s). one thought? In the case of these two films. Blind Chance tells of three possible sequences of events that could occur to a man about to catch a train to Warsaw. or at least open to doubt. sounds and narratives? What unifies. or relates.

Finally. in the example of Kieslowski. resistance to temptation. Then there are the singularities of events. whether or not to board an airplane to France. there are the souls or monads that express the world (and Deleuze notes that the world cannot exist outside the monads that express it).”23 These singularities converge with other singularities that inhabit the same world. marks a fissure that does not coincide with the first four — it belongs to another world (where Adam does not sin). and having sinned. there is the divine perspective from which the best possible world is chosen. In the case of Adam. but through the proliferation of singularities. “Because it includes what I am doing right now — what I am in the act of doing — my individual notion also includes everything that has driven me to what I am doing. As Deleuze says. there are the multiple worlds themselves. UMBR(a) 101 .”24 This problem phrased in terms of a question is: how is human freedom possible in a world where history and events appear to be pre-constituted and justified as such? Now. it is not because it is the best. and everything that will result from it. all the way to infinity. Vitek. Deleuze notes that there are four things to be considered in this instance. that is. and thus among the best possible singularities. For Deleuze. Deleuze nuances his argument with the concept of inclusion. in Leibniz “we begin with the world as if with a series of inflections or events: it is a pure emission of singularities.” 25 In Blind Chance. The “incompossibility” of diverging worlds is thus defined in Deleuze not through contradiction. what contains — and constitutes — the intrinsic determination (in the past and future) of a subject by way of the present. The possibility of a fifth singularity. and diverge with those that occupy other possible worlds. the first man. This final decision that confronts Vitek in all three versions of the narrative will determine his fate in the different instances. an occurrence of pure chance. Third. Deleuze offers four singularities: being the first man. breaking the narrative apart anew into further possibilities. who posited an infinity of worlds from which God selected the best possible. This concept of the world as an emission of singularities is upheld by Leibniz only in as much as it serves the purposes of a God who selects among the best possible worlds. The concentration or convergence of these singularities serves to define an individual. living in a garden of paradise. hinge upon the singularity of the event of catching a train. But the diverging worlds themselves coalesce at an end point that hinges upon another decision. dealing with multiple worlds that mutually exclude one another? We could turn to Deleuze’s use of Leibniz. First. it is clear that the future determinations of the protagonist. acts. objects and so on that comprise one or several worlds. for example. but because rather the inverse: it is the best because it is the one that is.(thinking) within pure exteriority (being)? Badiou’s conclusion then is unequivocal: “…we can say that the subject (the inside) is the identity of thinking and being” (90). The justification for our world appears to be tautological: “if this world exists. But what does this have to do with the One? Are we not. having a wife derived from his rib. The above question could be restated: how is the unrelated related? In The Fold.

for Badiou. is that the event always implies a separation from our world. The unfortunate downside of this is that relation is conceived only in terms of everything. the all that is expressed in the act negates any outside term (even that of God) that could limit the free act. and that would return to an essence. are we really to believe Badiou when he states that the conflict at hand is merely an issue of personal taste. here Deleuze is quite explicit: When Leibniz appeals to the perfect or completed act (entelechia). and where chance and necessity are the same? How can the new be new if everything is merely a fold of the past? Is it not rather the case that absolute beginnings are derived from the void. Now. the act is an immanent expression of the totality of the soul.29 How. where the event has been reduced to fact. [The] act 26 is free because it expresses the whole of the soul in the present. and I side easily with Badiou. Despite all we hear about the “creative” or “generative” nature of Deleuze’s philosophy (the fact that it makes its own object and truths). a choice of one philosophy over another? My partisan nature can hardly consent to such a cordial gesture. for Badiou. while his decision to board the plane in the third may end his life. as opposed to the totality of the past.27 However. Unity enters the picture in the coalescence of the past and future in the present of an act. are we not generating these truths from the pure descriptive- UMBR(a) 102 . One could say that the “amplitude” of the soul in the act is an imitation of God. The free act. completed act is that which receives from the soul that includes it the unity proper to a movement that is being made…. The condition of closure.Vitek’s breakdown in the first narrative may determine a new beginning. on the contrary. has an entirely different meaning: the perfect. Badiou’s alternative. That the soul is immanent to its actions entails that the totality of the soul is expressed in the present of an act. is the coincidence of the individual with God. the problem is not simply that the interiority of the subject must assume the form of both the One and the multiple (although this clearly is a problem for him). it is that he has thought through relation (this is particularly true of the later works). is truth possible in a world where nothing new can occur. he is not dealing with an act that inclusion would require us to consider as past. conversely. in other words. of being shut off. asks Badiou. It should now be clear what was meant in the earlier assertion that immanence is univocity.28 That the event is a fact (that it is expressive of our world as it is) is what. This ultimately is what constitutes the stakes of the debate. a whole — truth is merely the description of this everything. the subject represents the unity of this world as the best possible world and the divine perspective. abolishes chance. If there is an advantage to Deleuze’s system. The problem is also that the act that expresses the One has been reduced to a fact. even if they are the return of what differs? And finally.

to which considerations of truth are ultimately subordinate? With Badiou.ness of what is. and Deleuze. on the other. we would have one infinity twelve times greater than the other). nor the particularity of a given situation or alliance (for example. I will not go any further into the clarity of Badiou’s argument. and we could. For all his contentiousness.31 Badiou no doubt prides himself on being a great thinker of multiplicity as well. Yet Badiou and Deleuze share several concerns. point by point. correlate the Deleuzian conceptions of event. Levinas. But I will curtail this comparison. Maoist politics. the history of philosophy). philosophy has no object: neither Being. and truth to Badiou’s own to see in what manner they differ. nor language. subject. I maintain that it should be possible to say that a truth is always opposed to the worldly: “a truth is action. by extension. There is still too much Badiou that has not been read in this country and. For both Deleuze and Badiou. not least of which is the desire to conceive philosophy beyond the supposed limits of human temporal finitude and the constructions of language so as to propose a future for thought freed from the grips of a philosophical object. the greatest lines of flight? Deleuze’s Spinozianism rears its head at this point. of the world.” 30 The most obvious objection that one could make to Badiou is that he overstates the point without considering the advantages of Deleuzian unity. The multiple is One because. and not presence. This complexity of Badiou’s own system has yet to be assessed in the English-speaking world. and inches. Philosophy involves thought itself recognized in its proper capacity either to generate concepts deduced from the observation of the world (the crux of Deleuze’s unique empiricism) or to ultimately equate Being with math- UMBR(a) 103 . And while we could see the subject in the later Deleuze as a figure of complete interiority. Badiou’s event is rare punctuality. While Deleuze considers Being as an organic totality that founds and is expressed by the multiplicity of this world. there cannot be more than one infinity — nor. Badiou is also a complex thinker who weaves Cantorian set theory. for that matter. an inflection of the outside. was a great challenge. on the one hand. Isn’t it the case that this unity is present only because it presupposes the best possible multiplicities. except to say that his book is a strongly argued depiction of someone who. maybe even a formidable competitor for Deleuze on this count. the world “counted as one”? Is Deleuze’s philosophy not finally derived from the presence of life. there is still too much that will be left to misunderstanding in the otherwise polemical nature of the works that have been translated into English. series. We do not have at our disposal the resources with which to assess the usefulness — and advantages — of set theory as a figure of multiplicity. can the infinite be composed of parts (as Spinoza remarks. in pre-Cantorian terms. Lacanian antiphilosophy. Badiou’s subject is only the finite status of a procedure of truth. relation. for Badiou. if we divide an infinite expanse into feet. Suffice it to say that while Deleuze’s event is continual expression. and Mallarmé’s poetics — among other things — into a philosophical system that can easily meet the challenges posed by Heidegger. Badiou will only tolerate a set-theory ontology founded exclusively on the void that appears in subtracted form in the situation.

and gain knowledge of. From Badiou’s perspective. We have rather an exchange between two thinkers who can only speak to each other from divergent perspectives. Yet. UMBR(a) 104 UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) . Despite the obvious differences. is the great champion of plurality. it is this forcing that allows us to communicate with. and Deleuze instead opts for an organic. The fact that Badiou chooses an ontology grounded in Cantorian set theory. as we know from Badiou. Badiou and Deleuze share the effort of liberating the thought of Being in its inherent multiplicity. reading Deleuze can only force one’s thinking in a direction that assumes often unrecognizable forms. may be the sacrifice of the previous opinions in which we all too frequently take comfort. only illuminates a difference that is endemic to philosophy itself.ematical formalization as in Badiou’s ontology. what is foreign to ourselves. vitalistic vision of Being wholly immanent unto itself. This is not the Deleuze we learned in school. for many. The price to be paid for that knowledge however. In Deleuze: The Clamor of Being what we witness is not the tearing down of someone who.

. 39. Badiou. For a far more extensive treatment of the eternal return and chance in Badiou/Deleuze/Nietzsche. Difference and Repetition. 6. Peter Hallward (London: Verso. Ironically enough.” in A Spinoza Reader. It is rather that his conception of multiplicity cannot tolerate anything excessive to the ontological resources of presentation. 1989). 2001). So it is not the case that Deleuze is a thinker of unity simply because he thinks Being in terms of univocity and immanence. 9. Deleuze. 1992). . Court traité d’ontolgie transitorie (Paris: Éditions du Seuil..1. 17. See Badiou. Nietzsche and Philosophy. 19. L’Étre et l’événement (Paris: Éditions du Seuil. It should be noted that Badiou subscribes to a theory of univocity as well: that of the void. it is entirely dependent on the passage of time from the present to tomorrow.. 129-139. Truth is classically eternal. Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil. He also rigorously maintains that his theory of truth upholds a concept of immanence. I derive this point from an essential comparison between Deleuze and Badiou (written four years prior to the publication of The Clamor of Being). 1991). 11.” Artforum 33. Renata Salecl (Durham: Duke University Press. Proposition 8. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 5. Richard Howard (New York: Columbia University Press. Badiou will fault Spinoza precisely for what he (Badiou) calls the “foreclosure” of the void. 105 8. 180. Deleuze. See Badiou. 27. Time thus places the cate-gory of truth into crisis. 1998). 304. UMBR(a) 2. Cinema 2. 2000). 7. 15. Deleuze. 26. 11. Ibid. ed. 14. trans. 28. Reprinted in Sexuation. 1988). 225. “Being By Numbers: An Interview with Lauren Sedofsky. 4. 18. Paul Patton (New York: Columbia University Press. see Ray Brassier’s “Stellar Void or Cosmic Animal? Badiou and Deleuze. 11. Deleuze. Deleuze. “What is Love?. 196. 32. See Gilles Deleuze. The consequence of this foreclosure is that the void will reappear in Spinoza’s text in the empty form of infinite modes. Edwin Curley (Princeton: Princeton UP. Cinema 2: The Time-Image. trans. 12. 16.2 (October 1994): 87. 62. 263-281. trans. Ibid. trans.” Umbr(a) (1996): 37-53. Baruch Spinoza. See François Wahl’s introduction to Badiou’s Conditions (Paris: Seuil. 2000). Deleuze: The Clamor of Being. 62. 1984). Book I. 13. 81. Badiou. 196. Louise Burchill (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Martin Joughin (New York: Zone Books. This is a rather cursory treatment of the following Deleuzian dyad. See Badiou. Ibid. Deleuze. 21. Expressionism. there is nothing inherently true in the statement “X may happen tomorrow”. whereas the category of time — the coming to be of a truth — is forever dependent on the contingency of empirical circumstances. Cited in Badiou. 1994). Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza. and the primacy of time in Deleuze’s philosophy amounts to an affirmation of the “powers of the false” that directly belong to it. trans. For example. L’être et l’événement. Badiou. Subsequent references will appear parenthetically within the text. Nietzsche and Philosophy. [Author’s translation] 3. 1994). 20. 10. in his own reading. Deleuze.” in Pli 10 (2000). Alain Badiou. trans. “Ethics. trans.

28. as a fact. 24. which is clear enough in Deleuze. Tom Conley (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1994). 31..22. Sowley. 69. Badiou. 68. Ibid. Ibid. eds.. The Fold.” 65. 27.. 56). The Fold: Leibniz and The Baroque. The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque. for the purposes of my argument. 25. Badiou. 30. Ibid.. 27. however. It seems. by Badiou. 73. The entirety of this argument cannot be given in the present. Ibid. T. “Shouldn’t we rather ask ‘what are the conditions of an event for almost nothing to be an event?’” (ibid. 70-71. “Gilles Deleuze. 60. to be the case that the singularities that constitute this world converge in the unity proper to an act. “Gilles Deleuze. UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) 106 . Of course. 26. 1992). 70. Spinoza. There is thus. and soul/monad and world.. 23. Deleuze. I am conflating “act” with “event” — the latter clearly being seen. Constantin Boundas and Dorethea Olkowski (New York: Routledge.” trans. in Gilles Deleuze and The Theatre of Philosophy. a doubling between the terms event and act.. Proposition 8. 68. 29. Ethics. Deleuze. Ibid. Book I. trans. The Fold.

doctrine of action. Being is the same for all.” says Badiou. it means that there is one single Event that happens to the most diverse things that are said to be (or about which being is said). Cinema (1 and 2). rather. “There has only ever been one ontological proposition: Being is univocal. This is what is essential for philosophy (25). In this appendix one finds “the very core of Deleuze’s thought” (24). what are for him the main layers of Deleuze’s thought: method. epistemology. The Logic of Sense. This elegant construction is encircled by a triple ring. a unique Event in which all events “communicate” (11). and doctrine of the subject. The mediating ring between these two scenes — the concrete political scene and the more abstract philosophical doctrines — is twentieth-century French philosophy. Badiou presents this nucleus and from there he unfolds. for everything that happens and for everything that is said. and Foucault.1 The univocity of Being does not mean that there is one single entity that comprises all entities. which is external to Deleuze’s thought itself. philosophy is ontology and ontology is nothing but the explication of the univocity of Being. quoting Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition. its ontological nucleus. in a kind of spiral movement. from Deleuze’s politico-cultural milieu in France in the sixties and seventies to the entire history of Western philosophy. The triple ring is formed in the book’s concluding chapter where Badiou contextualizes Deleuze’s philosophy in three enveloping circles. from Bergson and Brunschvicg to Deleuze and Badiou himself. The latter is always the one who takes the picture but is also somehow present UMBR(a) 107 . Badiou includes a thirty-page appendix to his book in which he presents selected passages from Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition. Here again Badiou moves from the inside outward.THE CONTRACTION OF BEING: DELEUZE AFTER BADIOU adi ophir and ariella azoulay Alain Badiou’s reading of Deleuze is based on and organized around a single thesis: for Deleuze. In order to explain this ontological proposition in its peculiar Deleuzian form. It is “said of all beings in a single and same sense” and this sense is “ontologically [and not only formally] identical” for all the distinct entities. doctrine of the event.

according to Badiou.2 who preferred the indefinite games of the surface to the depth of unlimited matter or the height of perfectly measured ideas. [He] is no doubt the first philosopher to have activated…the ahistorical history of the One-thought” (100). 108 UMBR(a) . Deleuze’s series of monographs on the great thinkers of the One (Spinoza. and Bergson) functions like the Phenomenology of Spirit. placing him among the Greeks: an heir to Parmenides. when Badiou concludes his argument. The thought of the One is always also the memory of the thought of the One. Indeed. and a major rival of Plato. Placing Deleuze in this context means. and this is indeed why Deleuze became the (apparent) histor-ian of certain philosophers: they were cases of the univocity of Being” (24). the ideal. and the virtual). Deleuze’s entire philosophical trajectory “treats the whole of philosophy as an absolute detemporalized memory” (100. “Overturning Platonism” was a philosophical battle cry for Deleuze. the unfolding of Deleuze’s thought reaches its outer limit. The nucleus is also the outer envelopment. Deleuze’s rift with Plato does not go deep enough. Hence. an ally to the Stoics and Lucretius. meanings. For Badiou. first of all. and replaces the binary division of Being with a triple one: things and persons.in it. it is worthwhile locating Deleuze within the history of Western philosophy. but one that accepts appearances as simulacra. Badiou says. according to Deleuze. “It is therefore possible to ‘read’ historically the thesis of univocity. and sense (or the phenomenal. Nietzsche. He is therefore declared a Platonist and included in the long tradition of philosophers who give primacy to the One over the many. The real challenge to Plato. while his The Logic of Sense and Difference and Repetition are on par with Hegel’s Logic. The reader understands this from the very beginning: “What a strange story my nonrelationship with Gilles Deleuze makes…” (1). After almost equating Hegel and Deleuze on the question of truth and memory. the one and single ontological proposition — all started. His ontology rehabilitates the simulacra by turning sovereign ideas into mere effects and placing them under the jurisdiction of a field of virtual possibilities. translation modified). For our purpose here. for Badiou. because he never abandons the distinction between concepts and their accidental moments. It is not the particular method of writing the history of philosophy that is Hegelian but the relation between the ontological nucleus and its historical unfolding. Nevertheless. Badiou not surprisingly concludes his book with a Hegelian gesture: “great conceptual creations return. the end is also the beginning. And the singularity of Deleuze functions as a power of reception for this return…. is not a philosophy that inverts the relation between appearances and ideas. or what Deleuze’s calls “cases” (14). presenting Deleuze is a form of self-presentation and self-positioning. which is nothing but the memory of one thought: the thought of the univocity of Being. We should not be misled by the fact that Badiou compares this “unhistorical history of philosophy” to Heidegger’s rather than Hegel’s way of dealing with the history of philosophy. and here one encounters those Greeks with whom it — ontology.

but as a reader and interpreter he is certainly a monist and reductionist.4 And yet. genres of writing. This reduction has been responsible for some of the outraged reaction to Badiou’s book. because Badiou preempted it with an explicit account of the function of the “case” — from Cinema to Masochism. we believe that Badiou’s Deleuze is “a false book. The case is thus integrated into the system and at the same time presented as one of its accidental moments. According to Badiou. For this reason Deleuze is Badiou’s best rival. “the quasi-organic consistency of [its] conceptual connections” (17). most creative and sophisticated thinker of the One. Deleuze’s thought).” as Villani called it. or nuances of argumentation in a philosophical corpus but for its organizing concept. its only non-accidental function is to provide thought with another opportunity to express itself (15-16). Hence Badiou’s Deleuze is by no means a critique of Deleuze but an exercise in the concept of “the enemy.” an attempt to give it its clearest. The immediate effect of this monistic reading is a systematic disregard for a large part of Deleuze’s work and a reduction of its varied nature to its ontological nucleus. in order to show it as a place in which thought cannot — or should not — dwell. the study of a case has a two-fold function for Deleuze: to provide each case with an innovative concept. Badiou may be a philosopher of the many. It is a false UMBR(a) 109 . the total indifference to so many other facets of Deleuze’s work. The only way to make this decision is not by a piecemeal critique of arbitrary texts or arguments. Hence Deleuze’s entire edifice collapses. It is a presentation guided by a certain idea of the One. There are only two philosophical options. from Lewis Carroll to Francis Bacon — in Deleuze’s thought. irreducible differences? The choice between these two options is the most radical. The “there is” is multiple and “the One is not” (64). Badiou thinks that among contemporary philosophers Deleuze is the deepest. this kind of critique has no justification. Is the multiplicity of Being but a simulacrum that hides its oneness or is the One but a chimera projected upon the multitude by a thought that cannot withstand radical. most consistent — but also most schematic and most general — representation. on the other hand. a single philosophical decision that yields one conceptual system that is supposed to guide and give meaning to an entire corpus of philosophical writing. and the reduction of the entire Deleuzian corpus to a thirty-page appendix. far-reaching philosophical decision. wishes to become the paradigmatic thinker of the multiple. Deleuze himself. but by taking a philosophical position to its ultimate conclusion and experimenting with its effects.But there is no One. In such an exercise one does not look for the variety of interests.3 But considering the task he has set out for himself. Is Being One or multiple? This is the first decision every ontology — and hence every philosophy — must make. Hence the importance of the ontological nucleus. which would eventually become — or reiterate — part of the entire conceptual system (that is. according to Badiou: there is either the One or the many.

For example.book not because of the many things that Badiou disregards in Deleuze. Since he fails to make the crucial distinction between noun and verb. Aristotle’s maxim. this is the way the question of Being in general and of the univocity of Being in particular has been formulated ever since Aristotle.”5 This last phrase may sound like a straightforward rejection of Aristotle’s maxim in which Being is still conceived as a kind of substance that has different modalities and is predicated by different categories. the One] supports the distribution of sense (which is unique)” (25. Badiou presents Being and sense as almost accidental moments or names of that “singleness” or “sameness” that he calls the One.” The reification of Être is then completed by Badiou’s quick transition from a discourse of Being to a discourse of the One. straightforward yet crucial mistake that underlies — and undermines — his effort to systematize Deleuze’s thought. here as elsewhere. but which has the form. UMBR(a) 110 . continually evokes that maxim. and because his own interpretation is still caught up in the Aristotelean concept of Being qua substance. it is also true that Being according to Deleuze is not divided into categories. While Deleuze. Deleuze opposes this plurality of senses or categories that divide Being. whose role in the contemporary renaissance of the question of Being cannot be overestimated. Here Badiou uses sense and category as synonyms despite the fact that Deleuze insisted that category is a predicate of Being and that sense and predicate are distinct. but because of a simple. Deleuze opposes precisely this application of a plurality of categories to Being. presence. while the One alone is real. and between sense and predicate. According to Badiou. Such a division is the sedentary work of the much denigrated common sense or good sense. However. That is. is: “‘Being is said in various senses. uses “single” and “same” as predicates of sense and Being and never turns these predicates into a superseding substance (the One). while Badiou says: “The multiple acceptations of being must be understood as a multiple that is formal. and permanence of a “something” that underlies “everything. Badiou ignores the grammatical form of Être and is quick to assume its philosophical usage. Even Heidegger. a quasisubstance that may lack the materiality of an entity and behave like a force. Badiou takes the word as a noun. Badiou reminds us. which is always caught in this or that regime of representation. However. which in turn implies that Being is a kind of substance to which all categories are said to apply. The mistake consists in not taking Être as a verb in the infinitive form. Badiou may have good reason for this reification of Being and for the equating of it with the One. First of all. or even the replacement of the former with the latter.’ in various categories” (23). and only the real [that is. following a distinguished tradition in philosophy. italics added). Deleuze distinguishes between real and formal distinctions with regard to Being. Badiou fails to realize how radically Deleuze departs from this notion of Being. “Nomadic thought” should overcome this sedentary work in order to grasp the ideal game in which “things are deployed across the entire extensity of a univocal and undistributed Being.

in a conjunction — not only this one. It seems that there are (at least) two Ones. one Being — for all of the multiple. When Badiou quotes the above passage. but this one as well — that implies the difference between them. this common designated. formally distinct senses. not only is that which is designated ontologically the same for qualitatively distinct senses. “just as white (le blanc) includes various intensities. [E]qual being is immediately present in everything. and introduce no division into the substance which is said or expressed through them in a single and same sense. even though things reside unequally in this equal being. and another One for its sense. Deleuze asserts them both. without mediation or intermediacy. the referent (Being) remains the same. or even not mainly.”8 But consider the following statement. he writes: “we are told [in the Ethics] that the attributes are irreducible to genera or categories because while they are formally distinct they all remain equal and ontologically one.”7 Elsewhere in Difference and Repetition.We must add that being. while remaining essentially the same white. Coming back to the theme of univocity and invoking Duns Scotus and Spinoza.”6 Hence. ontologically one…. a One for the referent of the ontological proposition. but also one sense (of being) for all of the multiple. for numerically distinct designators or expressors: the ontological proposition involves a circulation of this kind (expression as a whole). not only one Being. The oneness of Being must be said twice (at least): once with regard to Being and once with regard to its sense. but also the sense is ontologically the same for individuating modes. Deleuze seems to imply even more explicitly the reification of Being and its equation with the One. in so far as it expresses itself. but it also means that in all these cases. formally distinct propositions that individuate being or express the being of individuals. Badiou notes in passing a difference between these two moments of sameness. about Being as the denotation of the ontological proposition. “it is not being that is distributed according to the requirements of representation. There is always one sense of Being. (106) UMBR(a) 111 The one and only ontological proposition asserts that there is one reference — that is.Deleuze himself adds to the confusion when he speaks about the univocity of Being in terms of the presence of a certain vague and illusive “something” which is equal for everything that takes part in it. but never considers its . In the ontological proposition. The univocity of Being means that Being has one sense in all the cases in which the being of something — an individual or a category — is asserted. but about its sense. is said in turn in a single and same sense of all the numerically distinct designators and expressors. he says that the univocity thesis is not only. but all things that are divided up within being in the univocity of simple presence (the One-All)…. when the senses of the proposition are quantitatively distinct. which is again taken from Difference and Repetition and which Badiou includes in his appendix: What is important is that we can conceive of several formally distinct senses which none the less refer to being as if to a single designated entity.

despite the fact that the thesis of the univocity of Being is presented by Deleuze as a thesis about the ontological proposition. Is the sameness of the sense of Being but a linguistic reflection of the sameness of Being. thought it necessary to spell out this difference as he was presenting the thesis of univocity. he claims. Badiou’s monistic reading of Deleuze disappears in the hollow created by the split. How can Badiou reassert the unity of the One? Badiou says that Being needs two names. or is it precisely the former that makes possible and assures the latter? Badiou says little about the sense of Being or sense in general. between one same and another. for we are interested in the division between two moments of sameness. we have already seen. This division does not threaten the unity of Being but follows from it: an underlying unified Being is set against a plurality of simulacra.meaning or ontological status. Of the uni-vocity of Being Badiou takes only the “uni” and forgets about the voice. Deleuze’s monism seems bifurcated at the very moment of its assertion. and also between the One and the many. “can be said to have been stamped and signed. Badiou might argue that the difference created by the split in the ontological proposition is but another formal distinction that this proposition itself overcomes or suppresses. between one case and another. once with regard to the unity of its power [puissance] and once with regard to the multiplicity of divergent simulacra. that of Being and that of the sense of Being. This lack of interest in matters of language in Deleuze’s philosophy should be read together with Badiou’s dismissal of the linguistic turn as a sidetrack in twentiethcentury philosophy. and has to be said twice. At best one can examine a corpse — and Badiou. If this is true. the ephemeral actualization of this power (45). ontology. Deleuze. Therefore his reductionist interpretation could never explain how the fish swims back and forth between the unity of sense and the unity of reference. To entertain the question of Being in Deleuze outside the linguistic context is like examining a fish out of water. as if the ontological turn in Heidegger or Deleuze was never related to a radically new awareness of the irreducibly linguistic aspects of (the question of) Being. about those sounds that sense has already freed from the body that produced them. The proposition does not interest him either. goes straight to the bones and leaves most of the Deleuzian corpus for others. this is not the division that concerns us here. He also has no resources for accounting for their appearance as two different moments of the ontological proposition. in philosophy. by the return of the question of Being” (19). or between the empirical cases and their transcendental superstructure. on the other hand. Being is UMBR(a) 112 . despite the fact that he has no basis for claiming that Being (conceived as a substance of sorts) is the sense of Being or that the sameness of Being and the sameness of its sense are one and the same. who are not really interested in what for him is the real stuff of thought. that is. However. Badiou maintains his monism. This century.

such a theory is spelled out systematically in The Logic of Sense. called signification. which Deleuze calls manifestation. and second. an image. or expresses a creeping pain (manifestation). for Badiou it is neither Being nor its sense but the oneness of Being and its sense that counts in Deleuze. Deleuze’s theory of sense must be reintegrated into his ontology. in short. In relation to the great division between Being and becoming. It is not a thing that exists among other things. all three elements to which the proposition is related belong to the first class. nor its relation to a concept. is very different. but the difference between them is not one between two categories of Being but between being and its representation in language. and it is neither the relation of the proposition to an external or internal state of things. along with three others. a person who expresses herself in the proposition. whenever one gives a name to becoming. Badiou’s interpretation fails twice: first. it presupposes a theory of sense. Note that these three relations always refer to “things” — corporeal or incorporeal. though it is very different in kind. The fact that “Being is the same for all its modalities” must somehow reflect. If this is done. one forces it into a sequence of present moments and arrests the flow of time. Let us briefly present some of its main points. with the three distinct relations of which it UMBR(a) 113 . it is neither an image nor an idea. or imply the fact that the sense of Being is the same for all the numerically distinct designators. the fourth dimension of the proposition. However. or an idea. or talks about the growth of a child (denotation). or beliefs) of a speaking subject. because it ignores the fact that Being and sense are related through a proposition and therefore it cannot account for the difference that sets them apart and for the link that keeps them together. When one explains what is becoming (signi-fication).said of the sense of Being in the same way that it is said of any other entity or being. the relation of the propositions’ words to general concepts (through which it is also related to other propositions). called denotation. if it is a necessity at all? What is the relation between these two moments of sameness and what is the nature of the difference that keeps them apart? In order to explain the equivocal status of the thesis of the univocity of Being. real or ideal — and always in the present. because it does not account for the split at the heart of the ontological proposition and the proliferation of oneness that such a split implies. The proposition freezes anything it touches. He might add that the sameness of Being is not identical to the sameness of its sense. physical or psychical. Sense. Sense is what the proposition as a whole. Because the ontological proposition is a thesis about the sense of Being. From where does this necessity come. and the relation between the proposition and an external “state of things” about which a proposition is said. desires. Sense is one dimension of the proposition. The three conventionally agreed upon dimensions are defined as relations between the proposition and certain entities outside it: the relation between a proposition and an inner state (intentions.

9 It is not something that is present in things but something that happens to them. The distinction between sense and the rest of the proposition overlaps precisely with Deleuze’s distinction between two readings of time — time as Chronos and time as Aion. sense releases into the flow of time. and presences. “it is exactly the boundary between proposition and things” that keeps them together but separate. no proposition can denote or predicate its own sense. “divid[ing] the present at every instant and subdividing it ad infinitum into past and future. Sense inheres in the proposition and hovers at the surface of things.consists. at the level of the verb: “The verb has two poles: the present. “subsists in language. the event is sense itself.”12 Hence the four dimensions of the proposition actually collapse into a duality that divides them into the denotation of things and the expression of sense. like sense. it is the proposition conceived of as the occurrence of an event. while the past and the future are but more or less remote regions in an ever-extending present. which indicates its relation to a denotable state of affairs…and the infinitive. turning “one side towards things and one side towards propositions. and only the past and future inhere in time.”11 In fact. This basic ontological duality that Deleuze borrows from the Stoics and takes as his point of departure is duplicated in the proposition. as Lewis Carroll. Whatever the components of the proposition and its threefold relations have frozen into presence. and therefore Aion is the time of sense. there are verbs carrying off with them becoming and its train of reversible events and infinitely dividing their present into past and future. the time in which it endures as an inherence in the proposition that expresses it and an occurrence to the things to which it is attributed. But then this duplication is itself duplicated exactly where sense inheres. but…happens to things. pauses. insofar as the attribute is not an aspect or an element of the things to which it is attributed.”13 114 UMBR(a) . But it does not merge” with any of them. In Chronic time only the present exists. there are singular proper names.”10 Chronos is the time of things and ideas. For this reason. the specific element that expresses the sense and “envelopes” the event. playfully demonstrates. and general adjectives which indicate limits. which indicates its relation to sense or the event…. The proposition contains the verb. of concepts and images. Therefore any interpretative attempt to fix sense once and for all falls into an infinite regress. and so on. the hero of The Logic of Sense. that which. Aion is the time of the event — that which never is. and every existence is in the present. expresses (but not what any of its components mean). ad infinitum. the event of coming to be in language. on the other hand. The sense expressed by one proposition can only be the object of another proposition. The “expressed of the proposition” does not exist in the proposition. In Aionic time the present is constantly negated. but only happens. The verb introduces a binary division into the proposition: “On the one hand. and at the same time it is what the proposi-tion attributes to a state of things (but not that state of things itself). rests. substantives.

but the duality of perspectives and the proliferation of dualities that ensues are no less essential than the oneness of either sense or Being. or the articulation of the difference between the two terms. this minimum of being which befits inherences. Chronos. The ontological proposition must be asserted twice — once with regard to Being and once with regard to sense — because it is governed by the same duality that inheres in the entire Deleuzian system and separates yet keeps together things and propositions. and the verb in its present tense. that relates Being and becoming.16 “Extra-Being” is not a negation of Being but its diminution. It is not easy for Deleuze to say what this being is. Aion. manifestation. not qualitative. for the sense of Being is the event of Being. Hence there is no ontological distinction between the being of events or sense and the being of things. and the verb in the infinitive. and it is a “minimum of being” because it has no more being than what is necessary for its inherence in the proposition. denotation. Sense is both “extra-Being” because it is not a thing or a state of things. the cutting edge.” “this aliquid at once extra-Being and inherence. and the conjugation of an infinitive into a tense. expression. and a person is made possible. that is. the infinitive to be. and sense has only one manner of being. Sense has an extra-being when looked upon from the perspective of the things to which it is attributed and a minimum of being when seen from the perspective of the proposition in which it inheres. causes and effects. Being has only one sense here. a mode. We can return now to the univocity thesis. events. However. most importantly. denotatives and expressions. the difference is significant: for it creates two perspectives from which to look upon the being of sense. the present. It is in this sense that it is an ‘event’: on the condition that the event is not confused with its spatiotemporal realization in a state of affairs. like the verb or the event.”15 Extra-Being and insistence are two aspects of sense. And at the same time.A productive dualism is active throughout Deleuze’s system and is responsible for the proliferation of pairs of radically different yet inseparable elements.”14 Hence it is due to sense that propositions relate to the state of things. The reigning logical operator is the conjunction: the radically different elements are asserted together. The paradox of sense lies precisely in the fact that it takes a definite side in this binary order but at the same time functions as the connector of the opposing elements: “Sense is never only one of the two terms of the duality which contrasts things and propositions. the past and the future. Finally it is sense. on the other side we include becoming. signification. events occur to things. On the one side we include being in all its substantive forms. the sense of Being. substantives and verbs. The difference between inherence (of a sense in a proposition) and existence (of this or that thing among other things) as two states of being is quantitative. it is also the frontier. sense has a certain being of its own. Sense is this “something. and (in this particular case) the designated Being and the UMBR(a) 115 . the past and future. the “being said” of being — that which occurs to Being when it comes into language.

The eternal recurrence of the same is nothing but the indefinite repetition of the same “to be. of the event. an occurrence without a model. Its sense does not change from one event actualization to another. and signification. For it is the event of language. This moment is the same for every event. like a verb in the infinitive that is abstracted from any inflection. the two sides of causality. “To be” is said in one and the same sense of everything of which it is said. It is “to be” itself that has a minimum of being in the pure form of the Aion. the moment in which sense makes propositions — their denotation. and lets beings be in the first place.” bought at the price of the reification of being and its arrest into a Chronic present. because its sense is the very event of coming into language.” of the same sense and the same pure event that takes place in a preindividual. and acosmic “plane of immanence” (which Deleuze would later call life). with respect to the two readings of time. we believe. as a substance and as a verb. Eventum tantum for all events. apersonal. in the same way that any verb in the infinitive is indifferent to the inflections that it makes possible.”17 This event is the coming to be of something in language. In fact. Being must be said twice. “a unique event for everything that happens to the most diverse things. that is. it is precisely because and insofar as it is said. The infinitive is a pure verb that expresses “the univocity of language…without person. that bifurcates Being. But how is it possible that this proliferating duality and this split at the heart of Being does not constitute an ontological difference? Why doesn’t this split divide Being into two categories and double its sense? How is it possible that things and words (and also the virtual and the real.expressed sense of the ontological proposition. This is a difference without a concept. without any diversity of voice…. and the two moments of sense. that it has to be said twice. Therefore “to be” is the Event in which all events communicate. it poses the same boundary and the same difference between things and proposition. [I]t expresses the event of language. without present.18 This pure event and transcendental plane precede and make possible the spatio-temporal materialization of any and every individuated event inscribed in a particular state of things. because “to be” is indifferent to that of which it is said. This coming to be is inscribed on the virtual plane. or the body and its phantasms) take part in Being in one and the same way? What does it mean that only a diminution of Being. and more generally the articulation of a state of things — possible. eternal ideas and universal concepts is the limited actualization of the pure event and the specific inflection of the infinitive “to be.” therefore “the univocity UMBR(a) 116 . while the Being of things and persons. manifestation. which is itself split according to the bifurcation of the proposition into the substantive and the verbal. on the grammatical form of the word Être as a verb in the infinitive: to be. that returns in the same way whenever being is said. only a quantitative difference sets the being of sense apart from the being of things? The answer to all these questions hinges. already abstracted from and still open to its specific individuation and predication. The being of “to be” is the being of sense.

being turned into sense. Univocity means the identity of the noematic attribute and that which is expressed linguistically….” These three determinations are enclosed within a single proposition that circulates them as repetitions of the same.”21 Finally. which is the identity of “the noematic attribute and that which is expressed linguistically. sense expressed by one proposition can only be designated and predicated by another. The ontological proposition relates being and sense.24 As we have noted. a proposition that turns its own sense into that about which it is said. Being as “one single event for all events. that is. nouns. in Deleuze as well as in the entire tradition to which he refers. it is possible to assert simultaneously the sameness of Being and the sameness of its sense. names. it consists of one. In itself. Ontology. whose differences cannot be erased. It wrests Being from beings in order to bring it to all of them at once…. things. it makes this double equation the essence of that about which it speaks. or take care of its own sense. the minimum of Being common to the real. and the 20 impossible. when Deleuze declares that there is only one of its kind. No proposition can posit.”23 and this is precisely the way the ontological proposition functions. This difference that lacks a concept is the difference of sense that makes the proposition possible. once with regard to what it expresses and once with regard to what it designates. It is a proposition in which sense and denotation are the same. single proposition. the possible. “ontology merges with the univocity of Being. a plurality of substances. and at the same time to insist that the two occurrences of the proposition are the same. Univocity raises and extracts Being. and ideas that is purged and abstracted into a verb in the infinitive. It then equates the being of “to be” with the being of sense and the sense of the univocal “to be” with the sense of sense. Nonsense is defined by Deleuze as “a word that denotes exactly what it expresses and expresses what it denotes. UMBR(a) 117 . It expresses its denotatum and designates its own sense. and this sameness of the two moments must be asserted together with the difference between them. and says what it expresses. in order to distinguish it better from that in which it occurs and from that of which it is said. for Deleuze. Univocal Being inheres in language and happens to things. Univocal being is an extracted being. it is for this reason that Univocity means that it is the same thing which occurs and is said: the attributable to all bodies or states of affairs and the expressible of every proposition.”22 The ontological proposition is quite unique. that is.of ‘to be’ signifies that ‘to be’ is Voice that is said.”19 And finally. is not a philosophical tradition that consists of layers of interpretation. One should have suspected the paradoxical nature of the ontological proposition from the very beginning. Hence. Hence it is necessary to say the ontological proposition twice. This makes the ontological proposition nonsensical. Because univocal being has turned into sense.… It is extra-Being. For in the ontological proposition the sameness of sense is identical with the sameness of Being. talk about. is merely the unfolding of that single proposition. The avalanche of propositions in ontological texts.

can equate. and from all the proliferating. that difference between things and the proposition which sense relates. The oneness of Being should not be opposed to the multiplicity of simulacra or things. and acts as a condition for the possibility of this materialization. The aim of philosophical discourse is not to get rid of this moment but to let it show itself alongside sense. between the “to be” of sense and the sense of “to be. This is precisely what the attempt to posit the totality of Being within the scope of a single sense means: the revealing of a nonsensical moment at the heart of the discourse of Being. state of things. but to the multiplicity of its own transcendental bifurcations. and worlds. as Badiou does. Badiou is wrong not because he denigrates the simulacra but because he disregards or misinterprets the multiplicity of transcendental binary relations in which Being is immersed in its “plane of immanence. This is precisely the difference that we revealed between the two assertions of the ontological proposition.instead of an infinite regress we have a proposition that must take care of its sense by its own resources. as a pure difference that has no preexisting identity by which it can be determined. Nonsense shows itself at the moment this frontier is encompassed within that space that sense covers. and fails to understand the meaning of the transcendental bifurcation of Being. There is no ontological difference between the sense of the ontological difference and its designated Being. This equivalence is both the essence of the ontological proposition and the root of its paradoxical nature. persons. not as the dreadful end of sense. It UMBR(a) 118 . is to build an imaginary and useless foil. In order to take care of the sense of the ontological proposition it must be said twice.” This proliferation of dualities precedes the materialization of Being into beings. does not concern himself with the infinitive form of the verb. presiding over both good sense and common sense. it does not negate sense but exists at its frontier. following Deleuze. the univocity of being from this transcendental duality of sense and nonsense.” which we. because they are all binary pairs divided by a difference without a concept and related by the same event of coming into language. categories. a minimum of being is attributed to both in the same way. it is not at this level that one should counter his reading. To extract. only because we have assumed their difference. but as we have shown. no less transcendental dualities unfolding from it. Badiou is right about the relation between the Oneness of an abstract Being wrested from beings and the multiplicity of the simulacra that instantiate it. But the oneness of Being is completely contaminated by the duality of sense and nonsense. these two ways of asserting the univocity of Being are equivalent. but as that which “enacts the donation of sense. Badiou’s exercise in the concept of “the enemy” fails because he dismisses Deleuze’s philosophy of language.”25 Nonsense reveals itself when that irreducible difference at the heart of both the event and sense. which also pervades all the other dualities we have noted. appears in and of itself. Nonsense is neither the opposite of sense nor its lack but its excess.

but at the same time they should be read as the no less heroic effort to free the world of the question from Being and let nomadic thought wander again in the vast regions that the contraction of ontology has opened.is only because all these dualities rest on a difference without a concept and their expression is enveloped by nonsense that Being can remain unified. UMBR(a) 119 . This limitation of Being makes possible its univocity. and inner life — are all said to be in the same sense. Rather they were experiments in precisely this nomadic thought made possible by the overcoming of the question of Being. The unity of Being and its existence as One-All is made possible by its contraction. and whose wealth we are far from exhausting. it condenses ontology into one proposition and frees entire regions of its reign. politics. but this says very little about what they are. may be read as the heroic unfolding of the ontological proposition. This contraction is crucial. create ideas. These vast regions — of language. Deleuze’s later works were not case studies in which the univocity of Being was unfolded again and again. Deleuze’s Being contracts itself in order to supply the multiplicity of all possible worlds with a common being that serves as its transcendental ground. Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense. Philosophy is freed from the question of Being in order to generate concepts. that ancient ontology would have never allowed. in order to demonstrate the eternal recurrence of the same. Deleuze’s two most important works. art. Like the kabalistic God that has contracted itself in order to create the world. experiment with new questions. and experience new risks. Yet it is unified in a very limited sense.

and The Logic of Sense. 126128. Deleuze. 3. Deleuze. Ibid. 22. The univocal “to be” is also the moment in which sounds produced by a body are differentiated into syllables that “make sense.. Louise Burchill (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 24. Difference and Repetition. 24. 67. Deleuze. 2. 19. Ibid. 9. 24. trans. Ibid. 28. 36. Mark Lester and Charles Stivale (New York: Columbia UP. 66-67.. 179. Ibid.. The Logic of Sense. Ibid.. It is not a coincidence that in The Logic of Sense the Twenty-Fifth Series of Univocity that ends the transcendental genesis of sense is followed by the Twenty-Sixth Series of Language that opens the dynamic genesis of sense. The Logic of Sense. 20. Subsequent references will appear parenthetically within the text. note 12. 7. 17. Deleuze. Ibid. 6. 180. 37. 7. Ibid. 11.. Badiou is not trying to spell out the intricacies of Deleuze’s intellectual itiner-ary but only to reconstruct the very structure of a Deleuzian conceptual scheme. 164. Alain Badiou. See Gilles Deleuze. 22. [Translation modified] 8. 265-266. Ibid. 5. see Eric Alliez. trans. 35. 16. 185.. The Logic of Sense. 4. UMBR(a) 120 . 25. “Badiou/Deleuze”. Arnaud Villani. “La métaphysique de Deleuze”. 10. “L’immanence: une vie….. This sort of complaint is also at least partly beside the point. For criticism of Badiou’s reductionist reading of Deleuze. 21. 59ff. Note how the predicate “white” has become a noun in this quotation. 179. Ibid. 14. 2000). Difference and Repetition. 36-37.” Futur Antérier 43 (1997-98). Paul Patton (New York: Columbia UP. Deleuze.” in which a voice separates sounds from their bodies and endows them with sense. José Gil. 22. Ibid. 18. Deleuze. 1994). for if some passages undermine the consistent conceptual scheme Badiou is trying to reconstruct they should be omitted indeed... 23. 303. Badiou has also been criticized for overlooking key passages that give different meaning to the texts he does cite and analyze (see Gil).”Philosophie 47 (1995). trans. Ibid. “Quatre méchantes notes sur un livre méchant. “Extra-Being” and “inherence” are terms that Deleuze borrows at the outset of his discussion from the Stoics and from Meinung. Ibid.. 1990). Difference and Repetition. Deleuze. 15.1. 13. Deleuze: The Clamor of Being. The Logic of Sense.. Ibid. See The Logic of Sense.. After all. 12. 22. 184.

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UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) 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UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) .

UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) .

2 Among the advantages of this term. the machine laughs instead of us and frees us.. by the check that you will have to sign the next day. the password for dealing with the new media and praising UMBR(a) 123 . is that it counteracts interactivity and points out its reverse side. trembles for us. The emotional commentary is done for you... we “objectively” experience terror and pity via our stand-ins. This point was taken up by Slavoj Žižek in Enjoy Your Symptom!. by the pen that you have lost. It was finally given a name by Robert Pfaller with his felicitous invention of the concept of interpassivity. the canned laughter that accompanies various TV sitcoms. interpassivity. In this bizarre phenomenon. even if you didn’t tremble that much? To be honest. Whatever we may be thinking or feeling while attending the performance. Therefore you don’t have to worry. the Chorus will feel in your stead. Why after all can one imagine that the effect on you may be achieved.THE ENJOYING MACHINE mladen dolar In his seminar The Ethics of Psychoanalysis. and under this banner a gradually spreading international discussion followed. Your emotions are taken charge of by the healthy order displayed on the stage. and frees us of our burden of participation and emotion. so to speak. who feels for us. at least a small dose of it. grieves for us. This is indeed a most curious device: we can delegate our terror and pity onto the chorus. the phenomenon suddenly appears to be widely present without bearing a name. to come closer to our everyday experience.... of the burden of enjoyment. Lacan writes the following remarks on the function of the chorus in Greek tragedy: When you go to the theater in the evening. and. the prayer wheels of the Buddhist monks. the examples keep springing up. Interactivity is one of the slogans of the day. The moment one starts to look. where he proposed some other instances of the same device such as the women hired to mourn and cry over the dead in the place of the mourner. a practice still followed in certain parts of the world. you are preoccupied by the affairs of the day. The Chorus takes care of them. even if you don’t feel anything. I’m not sure if the 1 spectator ever trembles that much.

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their alleged advantages, as well as the motto of a series of new artistic forms and practices that involve participation by the audience. On the other hand, interpassivity aims at a certain kind of enjoyment disguised by interactivity. What kind of enjoyment can be derived from something like canned laughter? Surely it’s rather an unavowable sort of pleasure to be indulged in private, something clearly bordering on perversion, a guilty pleasure, a secret enjoyment. One can present oneself as a hero of interactivity, taking things into one’s own hands, not letting oneself be imposed on, striking back, as it were, that is, being a subject (although in the rather dubious sense of a peasant in the global village). But interpassivity? This notion hardly seems glamorous; moreover, there is even something shameful about it. For it seems that, in order to be a subject, one must at least oppose passivity. One could say that interpassivity is the reverse side of the subject, a constant peril that could engulf subjectivity — and also something presenting itself as a lure, the song of the Sirens, a constant temptation to submit to this unavowable enjoyment. (However, in order not to be passively seduced by the song of the Sirens, the active strategy, in this case, strangely consists in being helplessly tied to a mast. So there you are.) Ultimately, there seems to be a dilemma, an alternative: either you are a subject, actively shaping the world around you, interacting with it, or you give way to enjoyment, entrust yourself to (inter)passivity, let the things laugh and cry instead of you. Either the subject or the (passive, perverse) enjoyment.

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ROUND ONE: LA CLAQUE
Let me start with a brief prehistory of interpassivity. There is a short piece that can perhaps be seen as the birthplace of canned laughter and of the entire idea of interpassivity. It is a brief text called “La machine à gloire” (“The glory-producing machine”), written by the nineteenth-century author Villiers de l’Isle-Adam. He was of aristocratic origin, a fact which seems to have defined his basic stance and demeanor throughout his life and work. For the one thread that runs through virtually all his writing is a horror and rejection of bourgeois civilization (for him a contradiction in terms), its spurious values, its idea of progress, and its lack of spirit, character, or valor. The piece on the glory machine tells us about a marvellous invention by Baron Bathybius Bottom, an English engineer (whose English name, apart from the obvious anal allusion, also recalls the immortal ass-headed Bottom of A Midsummer Night’s Dream). This new machine, which infallibly produced nothing less than glory, is an extension of a very old phenomenon, which I suspect might be as old as the invention of theater itself, and which in French has an unmatchably economical and evocative name, la claque. It designates organized applause, the group of “hired hands” in the audience who applaud by prearrangement, most often for financial reward. The French word is so excellent that the English and the German had no choice but to borrow it.3 Quite appropriately, its primary meaning in French is “a smack, a slap in the face, a

box on the ear,” and among its other meanings we also find “the brothel” — to say nothing of its vicinity to the cloaca (la cloaque). The claque, to be sure, doesn’t involve just applause: it can cover a vast variety of reactions, both positive and negative. A well-organized claque can proffer, in Villiers’ picturesque terms,
Cries of frightened ladies, muffled Sighs, telling True Tears, sudden Small Chuckles, immediately contained, of a spectator who is slow in getting the point (six pounds extra), Clicking of tobacco boxes, into whose generous depth the raptured man must take refuge, Clamour, Suffocations, Encores, Oncalls, silent Tears, Threats, On-calls with Yelling, Signs of approbation, divulged Opinions, Crowns, Principles, Convictions, moral Tendencies, epileptic Attacks, Childbirths, Hissing, Suicides, the Crackle 4 of discussion (Art for Art’s sake, the Form and the Idea), and so on.

This hilarious inventory is immediately followed by a warning: “Let us stop here. The spectator might be led to imagine that he himself, unwittingly, is part of the claque (which is an absolute and incontestable truth); but it is better to leave some doubt in his mind about that” (100).
UMBR(a)

The claque presents a strange logical counterpart to the chorus of Greek tragedy, which served as one of the paramount instances of interpassivity. The chorus is the spectator’s stand-in or representative on stage, relieving her of terror and pity, which it feels and expresses in her place. The claque is her representative in the audience taking care of her appropriate reactions off stage — clapping, booing, laughing and crying for her, taking the burden of feeling and enjoyment off her shoulders. The spectator can relax; the claque will attend to the rest. But then, can one ever draw the line between the claque and the audience? Does not the claque surreptitiously infiltrate the audience and its reactions, so that finally the two coincide? Is there an audience outside the claque? Villiers sees very well that the claque is not unrelated to the unconscious: the spectator is part of it without knowing it; he is bound against his will to this Other sitting next to him with which he shares the space and the time of the spectacle and from which he cannot simply disentangle himself. One could say that in the unconscious ça claque, perhaps even before ça parle, or that ça claque is the model and the epitome of ça parle. Can the spectator ever say, “Away with the claque! I want to rely on my own authentic reactions!”? But this turn has already been anticipated by the claque itself: “The latest stage of the Art is proffered when the claque itself cries out: ‘Away with the claque!’ and then pretends to have been itself moved (entraînée) and applauds at the end of the play, as if it were the real Audience and the roles reversed; it then restrains the overzealous exaltation and imposes restrictions” (100). So the claque is intractable because its boundaries are constantly blurred and it cannot be assigned to a limited space. It can incorporate its own criticism and perhaps functions at its best when it shouts, “Away with the claque!,” taking on the battle-cry against itself. The claque is itself and also its own negation, and the self-negation makes it stronger and omnipresent. The

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spectator can indeed relax, since even her feelings against the claque are taken care of by the claque. One may frown at Villiers’ inveterate contempt for the crowd and its inability to make up its own mind or form its own judgment, but the mechanism of the claque goes well beyond his bias. For the question is: how does one extricate the authentic from the contrived? Is there an unequivocal line? Hasn’t one always already been part of the claque? Has there ever been a theater without the claque, or indeed any form of art without some counterpart of it? Can one be rid of the claque? One must extend the notion of the claque even to that which surrounds the performance — the publicity, the reviews, the criticism, the media coverage — and which has driven us to the theater in the first place. But its forms are far more insidious: there are people, forming strange groups of claqueurs over the centuries, who have seen the plays, read the books, admired the paintings, and listened to the music all before us, and who have produced an inaudible claque. They have seen it all, heard it all, and enjoyed it all before us. Would one ever set foot in a theater without the invisible claque spreading the rumor that this is what one should do? Isn’t the claque another name for tradition? Is there a culture without the claque? Are there any standards of authenticity that would not, at some point, have recourse to the claque? Can one ever form an authentic judgment independently without some support of the claque even when one imagines to oppose it? Opposition to it, as we have seen, has already been taken care of by the claque. So there is an organized applause that has been going on for centuries and there is no easy way of discerning its bias and partiality. What would we be without that bias? Can there be an enjoyment of art without some backdrop of the claque enjoying it for us? Without being entraîné? The point is not that there are no intrinsic values, but rather that the very notion of intrinsic values has to rely, at some point, on the claque. One has to suppose that the claque knows. And if one replaces a certain value, induced by the claque, by another supposedly more genuine one, it is perhaps the case of substituting one claque for another. The claque is “supposed to know,” but it is also in its nature to contradict itself. Only a small step separates this from interpassivity: why bother going to the theater at all, since the claque, past and present, has been and is enjoying it in our place? Perhaps the only authentic stance would be to stay at home, relying on the claque to attend to the troublesome business of culture instead of us, delegating our enjoyment to it, while we can relax at home and do — what? Watch the sitcoms with canned laughter? Is there an enjoyment outside the claque? This doesn’t apply solely to art and culture. The claque produces glory in all its forms: “Every glory has its claque, that is, its shadow, its part of artifice, of mechanism and of nothingness” (97). So any glory is constantly and inextricably accompanied by its claquing shadow, the applauding double, which might have become invisible and inaudible as the background noise of history despite the fact that it has been long since forgotten who hired it, and for what reward. Or rather

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tradition. it is just as mechanical in nature. which turned him into a Brechtian avant la lettre. the Cries. UMBR(a) 127 . The machine could be further perfected by the emission of gases. and so on. the weaver. the Clicking of tobacco boxes. “How does the claque function so well without being hired?” This is the part of glory that dooms its valor to contrivance. in the infinite credulity of the audience.perhaps it has never been properly hired at all: perhaps it has itself been always already entraînée. the Principles. Culture. with infinite credulity. La claque — what a formidable name for the big Other! Returning to Villiers’ text. The spirit is a machine. dispersing in turn tear gas and laughing gas as the occasion demanded. But there is a crucial difference: the old Bottom believed in theater’s intrinsic magic and its sway over the audience. fabrication and deceit.’ the Laughter. the ‘Out with the cabal!. which would thus turn into a veritable “cock-pit. Like the new Bottom. the old one was also a mastermind of theatrical trickery. an extension of Bottom’s machine could also take care of theater criticism. these are not real swords and lions. with the appropriate names being inserted in the blank spaces. the Discussions. by the installation of devices that throw flowers and laurels on the stage. and of the cloaca. The machine could be incorporated into the theater hall itself. while at the same time securing its success and survival. its contingencies eliminated. its being to nothingness. Instead of asking the paranoid question. The claque is glory’s part of spanking. of the brothel. but perfected” (102.” one should rather ask. the ingenious Baron Bottom had the brilliant idea to turn the claque into a machine — something that it had always already been anyway: “In fact. its shining to darkness. the Sighs. and hence perfectible” (97). the claque is a machine made of humanity. All this would be operated from a sophisticated control room placed in the prompter’s pit. and its human material replaced by the accuracy and predictability of a mechanical device. The imperfect human machine can be perfected. it would be condemned to success. and history all seem to be permeated with the claque. For him the theater was too convincing in itself to need a claque. into its very architecture: phonographs would be placed into the orifices of statues and decorations. Criticism has always been part of the claque anyway. there could be no accidents. On top of that. it was always just following the claque whose origin escapes us. The recycled clichés and commonplaces could be mechanically assembled. He wanted to disenchant the audience: “This is only a play. It is no coincidence that Bottom has been named after Shakespeare’s Bottom. by the attachment of wooden hands to every seat. and the spirit will follow.”5 He believed. italics added). and at the appropriate moment they would emit “the wow-wows.” There can be no doubt that once any play had entered this tremendous machine. all the sounds of the audience. “Who hired the claque?. All resistance would be in vain. the Encores. and the ensuing results would by far surpass all modest human endeavours. and the claque can be seen as another instance of Pascal’s advice: first the machine. and so on.

tears. Villiers stops short at this twist. These two ways of transferring one’s activity to another are the very stuff of history. however. knowing very well that all magic is contrived. always “inter. to another man. they feel for us. or rather. and opinions. His tricks are no less crude and obvious than the old Bottom’s. or praying under the simple heading of passivity? UMBR(a) 128 . a “speaking tool.so the duty of the actors was quite the opposite: to fend off too much enthusiasm. to nostalgically recall the Marxist terms). The audience. There is nothing extraordinary in delegating a human activity. ROUND TWO: DESIRE Several problems arise from Villiers’ text. the substance of the progression of technology and the concomitant development of class relations (the means of production and the relations of production. So human activity is. to provoke. The point of the machine. for him. so that she herself is no longer able to tell the difference. Canned laughter doesn’t make us laugh. are we dealing with a genuine case of interpassivity? There is a fine line between true interpassivity and what one finds in the case of the claque. it laughs to make me laugh. by the mediation it introduces. the devices. crying. take upon themselves the reactions instead of us. whether human or mechanical. is to induce in the audience the reactions first emitted by the claque (whether in its human or mechanical shape). The spectator’s “authentic” feelings are provoked by artifice. which first arise in their artificial forms pretending to be “the real things. is slightly different from that of this apparatus: in interpassivity. either to a thing. First of all. The gesture of delegating an activity both defines man’s nature and.” The claque applauds in order to make me applaud. but one cannot but be taken in.” That one could delegate one’s passivity is far less obvious. has no choice but to fall head over heels in love with the ass’s head. It can be approached through Villiers’ crucial term entraîner — to induce. such as a tool — man often being defined precisely as a “tool-making” animal — or. So the enigma of glory has found its final resting place with our bottomless Bottom: “This Sphinx has found its Oedipus” (107). by definition. under a spell like the fairy Queen Titania. so that we can indulge in the bizarre enjoyment of delegating enjoyment to the (human or mechanical) other. so that we are freed from the burden of enjoyment. or to prompt. to impose. The claque has to contaminate the spectator with laughter.” Aristotle’s designation of the slave. The point of interpassivity. has the opposite concern: how to arouse the audience and make it believe. Can one unproblematically put such things as laughing. rather it prevents us from laughing. and one of the many problems it involves is knowing if a clear limit could be set up between activity and passivity. though the question is whether the demarcation line can be maintained all the way through. Whereas the new Bottom. indeed one could say that an activity first becomes specifically human by being delegated. exposes it to alienation. to break down the illusion.

with our senses merely being affected by external stimuli.Where does passivity start. But do they fit? Is desire really after enjoyment? Does desire seek enjoyment? In the Écrits.” made visible. a defence against the transgression (outre-passer) of a limit in enjoyment. a bonus. It is rather laughter’s incalculable character that makes it so. Whereas “the tool-making” animal necessarily delegates. externalized in one way or another. one can hardly maintain. then it can and should be complemented by the concept of desire. a benefit. we find the following brief sentence.”7 This elementary psychoanalytic insight — desire is a defence against enjoyment — seems considerably to complicate our problem. The crux of passivity is the enjoyment it involves. since one can easily conceive of getting enjoyment from activity. a gain.” This brings us back to the point with which we started: enjoyment (in passivity) as the reverse side of the subject (as activity). which can perhaps substitute the somewhat dubious pair. it is itself only palpable by “actively” expressing itself. so that the line is always blurred. and thus by itself becoming a cause for other reactions. at least after the Kantian turn. but rather with the concept of enjoyment. whose boundaries can never be strictly established. So is feeling ever simply passive? If it is initially a reaction (but this is true of any activity). On the one hand. a reward. desire and enjoyment. Delegating laughter to another is certainly paradoxical. the way in which it can be seen as intimately human (and indeed another common definition of the human is “the laughing animal”). “the laughing animal” doesn’t — at least not until the recent invention of canned laughter. and I suppose inevitable. but perhaps not primarily by virtue of its passivity. and activity stop? Is laughing passive? Surely it is generally provoked: it is by its nature a reaction to something. activity and passivity. Enjoyment is what lies at the bottom of those intimate feelings enumerated in the catalogue of interpassivity. a cause that wouldn’t itself be an effect? Even in the extreme case of perception. that it is simply passive — Kant’s point being precisely that the subject always already contri-butes to the constitution of what she perceives. one of Lacan’s notorious proverbs: “For desire is a defence. To be brief. UMBR(a) 129 . by being “acted out. We thus obtain the conceptual pair.6 and on the other. a blessing — so why on earth would one want to delegate it at all? Perhaps instead of interpassivity one should speak of “inter-enjoyment. Perhaps the crux of the matter doesn’t lie so much with passivity. or perhaps to utterly simplify it. so irreducibly human that it cannot be delegated. enjoyment is something untransferable (ultimately incalculable and immeasurable). let’s say that if enjoyment is what people are after. but then again. but is it of the same kind as the unavowable and shameful enjoyment in passivity? And is enjoyment simply passive? Here the intervention of psychoanalysis is called for. Nevertheless the problem is thus displaced. worked-through. is there ever an action that would not also be a reaction? Can one perform an unprovoked action? Is even the Kantian causa noumenon of the notorious third antinomy in the Critique of Pure Reason.

then an ingenious way of defending oneself consists in entrusting enjoyment to the other. I can continue to suppose that there is such a thing as the satisfaction of desire. Lacan never tired of repeating that the subject’s desire is the desire of the Other. provoked by the other. The lack has to be maintained if desire is to be sustained. The subject loves her lack. insofar as subject and desire are here synonymous. The first form of interpassivity follows from this. so there has to be an elementary identification with the other for desire to emerge. I can maintain and preserve my desire by defending myself against enjoyment. It is not difficult to recognize here the strategy of the obsessional neurotic. its crucial form is the identification with the desire of the other. and that would be unbearable. If one only desires what one lacks. for otherwise I would have to enjoy them myself. Apart from assuming that the Other (of the claque) knows. the attitudes. so thank God I don’t have to!” Let the claque do what it is supposed to do anyway. If desire is but a defence against enjoyment. Surely there is a paradox here. Desire is coupled with identification. “The other enjoys. 130 ROUND THREE: DRIVE Yet. But here is the rub. and which instigates our wish to participate in the first place. enjoy — instead of me. her very status as subject would collapse. so I want to enjoy as well” leads directly to “The other enjoys. judgments. The supposition that the Other enjoys does not lead to enjoyment. the proper ways of responding. the direction that Pfaller has admirably explored. in the hope of being awarded the prize of enjoyment. I can see in advance the disappointment that this would bring. the identification with the desire of the other entails an identification with what the Other lacks. One desires by relying on the desire of the other. One can easily see that with the claque one’s reactions. one is dragged into activity in order to figure out what has dragged the other into activity (this is at the core of its interactivity). If desire necessarily takes support in identification. but it doesn’t result in enjoyment — it is maintained by being perpetually dissatisfied. this line of reasoning still places interpassivity in the realm of interactivity: it is a possible . which offers the entries. One has always already unwittingly started participating. There is no desire that is not at entraîné. Were I to enjoy myself. which is thus indeed nothing but the desire of the Other. hope would vanish. there is also the supposition that the Other enjoys. that is. Should she attain enjoyment. In desire. and we can paraphrase: the subject’s desire is the desire of the claque. one goes through the motions indicated by the claque. and opinions are always framed in some way by the claque. in accordance with the nature of desire. I can see that I can never measure up to the supposed enjoyment. she would give up anything to keep it. it prevents it. Let the video watch my favorite movies for me. so one follows the claque. so if the other enjoys for me.UMBR(a) The very nature of desire is to be interactive. What makes the Other tick? What is it after? How and why does it desire? How does it enjoy? Or does it enjoy at all? One can only find this out by adopting the desire oneself. By leaving satisfaction to the other.

but there is indeed the massive presence of “the mother’s claque” (the mother being the first instance of the Other). demand for love — it gets inextricably caught in the web of desire. but also to satisfy the mother’s desire. It mimes passivity to avoid enjoyment but does it not yield some enjoyment nevertheless? If the subject is by definition the subject of desire. as one says. alarmingly. how can we place hunger in our dichotomy of desire and drive? It might seem rather strange to treat hunger as an instance of desire. One hasn’t satisfied desire. Desire is that which remains hungry despite the amount or quality of food. it is always unsatisfied.” one can further ask: is enjoyment “inter”? If desire is essentially “inter. insofar as it involves desire. and if desire is a defence against enjoyment. the pleasure of the mouth. but which follows from its logic as one of its possible outcomes. whatever and however much one eats.strategy to circumvent the impasse of desire and a way to prolong it. But insofar as hunger is desire. However much one stuffs the mouth of desire. of the dissatisfaction of desire. always finds its way to enjoyment and satisfaction. then drive is something which. any food turns out to be the wrong kind of food and the satisfaction of hunger highlights all the more the falling short of enjoyment. it is.” The various bulimic and anorexic disorders present spectacular proof of this. as it necessarily does in the earliest stage — demand for attention.”9 What satisfies hunger? Apart from the trivial necessity of eating in order to survive. Drive is different: it is a satisfaction. The argument has been made often enough. but one has enjoyed anyway — it is UMBR(a) 131 . so to speak. depends on the claque. but once the need to eat becomes inflected with demand. an enjoyment that one gets as a by-product.” does the same go for enjoyment? It is here that the psychoanalytic concept of drive should be introduced. which in fact faithfully follows Freud’s argument: “Even when you stuff the mouth — the mouth that opens in the register of the drive — it is not the food that satisfies it. Desire mimes passivity in order to deal with the deadlock of its inherent interactivity. it is not “it.10 One could well ask if hunger. One can’t even eat without some applause. can the subject nevertheless obtain some bit of enjoyment? Does she get what she defends herself against? Can one enjoy by letting the other enjoy and thus resign oneself to one’s own incurable dissatisfaction? And since I propose to replace interpassivity with “interenjoyment. it never gets enough. presents its limit-case. as essentially interactive. while the key to interpassivity lies with the drive. It is the point where desire. I would say that the key to interactivity lies with desire. her approval and delight with the baby’s eating. For if desire is maintained by being constantly unsatisfied. it forms the backbone of the well-known dialectical progression need-demand-desire. And since we disposed desire and enjoyment in a neat pair of opposites. This may appear a bizarre suggestion. One eats not simply to satisfy one’s need. as it were. To put my thesis in somewhat simplified terms. it follows that enjoyment is placed on the side of the drive. which ultimately coincides with the subject’s own.8 Let’s take an example from Lacan.

. but the itinerary he must take. its only subsistence is in the circular movement yielding a tiny bit of enjoyment — but an enjoyment that cannot satisfy desire or fill the lack. an additional enjoyment surreptitiously sneaking into the very process of vainly seeking enjoyment..a surplus enjoyment. without reaching its goal. which is indiscernible in the French le but: Here we can clear up the mystery of the zielgehemmt.... Freud has already seen this in his famous paper on the drives: “[The object] is what is most variable about an instinct and is not originally connected with it. in attaining its satisfaction without attaining its aim. It may be changed any number of times in the course of the vicissitudes which the instinct undergoes during its existence. not even the Lacanian one). “inhibited in its goal” (zielgehemmt).15 There is no subject at the origin of the drive. If the drive may be satisfied without attaining what. then how does the drive get its satisfaction? The oral drive may seem to be firmly coupled with the breast as its object..would be the satisfaction of its end. The French word but may be translated by another word in English.. has no subject (at least not in any ordinary sense. The object consumed is never it. while the drive.. with its bit of surplus enjoyment. but some part of it is necessarily produced in the very act of consumption — and this bit is the object of drive.. its arrow returns from the target. there is only the subject of desire emerging from its entanglement with the Other and enjoyment is but its by-product.… UMBR(a) 132 The drive reaches its aim without attaining its goal. oral pleasure has been added regardless of the dissatisfaction of desire and even because of it. However. of that form that the drive may assume. In the case of the oral drive. Lacan proposes another model. except by circumventing [circling around] 14 the eternally lacking object. as a reservoir of energy or a field of forces — the notions that we find abundantly scattered throughout Freud’s writing. an enjoyment from which desire flees. it doesn’t return back to the subject because the subject is essentially the subject of desire. but nevertheless it doesn’t miss its aim.13 The drive is satisfied through its being thwarted. “situated in relation to the true organ. The objet petit a is not the origin of the oral drive. goal. It is not introduced as the original food. contrary to what Lacan suggests.. like a boomerang..”16 but nevertheless an “ungraspable . but the breast is ultimately not essential to it.11 So if desire can never reach enjoyment (indeed it does everything to avoid it through the pretense of pursuing it). The drive has no origin and no end. It is a curious kind of enjoyment provided by the drive’s not reaching its goal and by an object that is indifferent. as Lacan says.. it is introduced from the fact that no food will ever satisfy the oral drive.… When you entrust someone with a mission.its aim is simply this return into circuit. It is a strange kind of organ. All this appears to be at odds with the usual representation of the drive as a biological or somatic pressure. then the problem of the drive is the very opposite: one can never be rid of enjoyment. as we have seen.…”12 If the object is not important. Lacan actually uses the English distinction between aim and goal. the drive is satisfied by circling it.. rather. that of the drive as an organ...it is because. the aim is not what he brings back. The aim is the way taken. the real thing.

you can call it l’hommelette..a devil of a job. Unreal is not imaginary..”20 So in order to imagine the object of the drive. “If you want to stress its joky side. The unreal is defined by articulating itself on the real in a way that eludes us.”23 Yet.” of the drive is the middle. the exercise of a drive.. Freud. And it is of this that all the forms of the objet a. on the basis of Lacan’s own account. one has to conceive of an organ that is lost or missing. To be sure..are the representatives.. requires that the masochist give himself. or the proper “voice.. It is l’hommelette that always prevents us from simply eating an omelette. in short.. It is something that happens or takes place without a subject actively . it seems that the drive can’t be reduced to the division between active and passive... but that nevertheless prolongs the body. It goes everywhere... indifferently.whose characteristic is not to exist. even in their supposedly passive phase.. One can provisionally sum up with another Lacanian proverb: “Desire comes from the Other.. that the proper mode. if we speak loosely of passive instincts.”21 UMBR(a) 133 ROUND FOUR: THE KNOCKOUT So where does that leave us with our problem of interpassivity? By approaching the problem in our terms of drive and enjoyment.”19 Furthermore. the equivalents.. shows that some of their major transformations consist in reversals between activity and passivity. yet never fitting and never graspable. but he nevertheless maintains that at the core “every instinct is a piece of activity. when considering the vicissitudes of the drives. [a] false organ.”22 Passivity would thus figure as a derivative subdivision of drives’ inherent activity. though it can bring about both active and passive expressions. and it is precisely this that requires that its representation should be mythical. we can only mean instincts whose aim is passive. So in our case of the oral drive. [an] object that we can only circumvent.survives any division. the breast is not the organ of libido. a grammatical notion between the active and the passive voices. extra-thin foil that always comes to interpose itself between the open mouth and the breast. The drive evolves neutrally. it is obvious that.. and enjoyment is on the side of the Thing. a parody of Aristophanes’ myth of the missing half: the missing half that would complement a human being (as sexed) and make him or her whole.organ.”18 So Lacan produces his own myth.. being moulded by the body’s orifices and borders (all the objects a stem from there). The object is infinitely pliable. it appears that both sides of inter-passivity — “inter” and “passivity” — have to be transformed or abandoned. except through the circuit of the drive. a masochistic drive. which moves like the amoeba...”17 Lacan continues: “This organ is unreal. Lacan seems to agree: “In fact.. as opposed to desire. I think it can be argued. the lamella is this extra-flat. To start with. rather.. for example... is a lamella.can run around. but which is nevertheless an organ. “something extra-flat.

If we thus make it synonymous with the basic mechanism of the drive. there is no sense in keeping it. In this second sense one cannot delegate enjoyment. yes. both the active and the passive voice (with the subject either acting or being acted upon) would fall into one category. and indeed very prominently. and outstanding phenomena. and perhaps a model for all others to come. it doesn’t worry about the claque. It doesn’t get entangled in the desire or (supposed) enjoyment of the Other. but one cannot keep it either. machines. in this second sense one cannot be rid of it at all. both because it is not a quantum to be stocked. is that unreal bodily organ that one doesn’t possess. If interpassivity in the first sense.striving for it or passively submitting to it: perhaps both activity and passivity pertain to the realm of desire and its vicissitudes. To be sure. The lever of enjoyment. Insofar as drive can be seen as the shadow side of desire. deprived of both “inter” and “passivity. Interpassivity. Whereas. So in this second sense interpassivity. in its obsessional neurotic variety. it seems that our topic has disappeared. as a peculiar. One can perhaps cautiously propose another classification of the verbal voices. then in the second sense. a case of interpassivity? In our second sense. as it also eludes our own body. if it coincides with the drive all together.24 Second. and because one gets it anyway whether one wants it or not. instead of being localizable. With this second sense of interpassivity. One cannot choose enjoyment in the drive. Drive doesn’t care about the Other. There is an “it enjoys” where both the subject and the Other vanish. it only appeared in some select instances. UMBR(a) 134 . This is what causes the problem. Thus. or the phantom of the big Other) — a delegation to an it that eludes the Other. So there is an enjoyment outside the claque and it is precisely this enjoyment that psychoanalysis seeks. While in the first sense. since it is the very earliest one. On that account. as it were. rare. while the middle voice would form the other one. limited to certain curious. with the middle as an awkward appendix.” appears indeed as the shadow of interactivity.” delegating enjoyment to the other. a second look reveals a more crucial divide between inclusion and noninclusion of the subject into what the verb describes. whereas passivity figures as the limit-case of activity. enjoyment is perhaps not “inter” at all. at first sight. it keeps all enjoyment for itself — except there is no self for which it would be kept or to which it could be ascribed. the major division appears to be between the active and passive voice. but of which one also cannot be rid. it rather refuses and dismisses the Other as such. has become omnipresent and universal. interpassivity sneaks into every human endeavor as its hidden reverse. utterly indifferent to its tricks. Neither does the drive need the claque to show it the way nor does it call for any identification. but consequential extension of the obsessional logic. one doesn’t enjoy the way one would like to. then one may well ask whether there is any human phenomenon that wouldn’t fall under the heading of interpassivity.25 Is eating. remains inherently “inter. there is a delegation of enjoyment in a sense — but not to the Other (other subjects. to prolong our example.

The subject will realize that his desire is merely a vain detour with the aim of catching the jouissance of the other. “What is at issue in the drive is finally revealed here — the course of the drive is the only form of transgression that is permitted to the subject in relation to the pleasure principle. become? How can a subject who has traversed the radical fantasy experience the drive? This is the beyond of analysis. to take that support away. But here the analytic mechanism departs from the common ways of desire: there is no claque. interactivity eventually loses its footing and desire is referred back to itself. something that has so far never been approached. without that buttress. and has never been approached. no claque on which to base one’s desire. UMBR(a) 135 . remains firmly within the realm of the pleasure principle. There is an attempt at identification with that other and at figuring out his desire. The analyst is anti-claque — someone not to applaud. What. with its defense against enjoyment. Lacan sees it along those lines when he conceives of analysis as a transition from the structures of desire to those of drive. according to Lacan.Can the two senses be brought together? Is there a possible transition. Lacan says. at its end. fantasy is dislodged by the drive. which is also beyond analysis. And since there is no claque to follow (or to oppose). although he is admittedly being hired and rather well paid. since desire is indirect by its very nature (it can indeed be epitomized by the formula. and who in particular knows the way to enjoyment.…”26 The aim of analysis is to inflect desire toward this point from which it has been fleeing — to produce something that cannot be directly desired. Both the traversing of the fundamental fantasy and the destitution of the subject (should one say the knockout of the subject?) — two formulas Lacan gives for the end of analysis — coincide in the drive.”27 It is perhaps a bit too much to tackle the tricky problems of fantasy at this late stage. The analyst. to the drive. to its own vagaries that lose their ground. that is. “After the mapping of the subject in relation to the a. the experience of the fundamental fantasy becomes the drive. drive introduces a dimension “beyond the pleasure principle. In the final analysis. and the point of analysis is to traverse the fantasy that has been supporting desire. and what emerges is the unthinkable beyond of desire. all its dissatisfaction notwithstanding. As Lacan explains. that is. is the drive. First of all. doesn’t applaud. One can conceive of the beginning of analysis as interactive: the patient enters it with the supposition that the analyst is the other who knows. In brief. then. one can say that fantasy is the support of desire. Desire as the defense against enjoyment collapses. that figure of the Other. That something produced is precisely enjoyment.” while desire. in which the by-product comes to the fore and is laid bare from under the cover of fantasy. a bridge between the two? One could say that the very process of psychoanalysis is precisely such a bridge. “the desire to desire”). And what is left then. does he who has passed through the experience of this opaque relation to the origin.

One of Lacan’s key papers on the problem appropriately bears the title “On Freud’s ‘Trieb’ and the psychoanalyst’s desire. But a few years later. The first sense of interpassivity may well appear within the first part of this process. or rather from its complete lack of spirit. he will propose a very precise mechanism for envisaging that beyond: the mechanism known as la passe. But if analysis is up to its task. the canned analyst. and what lies beyond has never been approached.It emerges as groundless. that is without substance and without a subject. or is it necessarily accompanied by a new variety of the claque.28 Should it really turn into one. One’s mission is to be in the analyst’s secret service. One defends oneself against the analyst. Does this new desire avoid the traps of the old desire? Is it a desire liberated from the claque. but one also offers oneself as the tool of it. in a manner of (Hegelian) speaking. the passage from the position of the analysand to that of the analyst. the drive: something that is not interactive at all. the subject’s desire would have scored a victory. and once this is shattered.”29 One could say: the birth of the analyst’s desire from the spirit of the drive. the one aligned with the drive. and one would eventually wind up with a new marvel of interpassivity. The analysis is at some point always on the edge of a love affair. that is. the desire of the analyst. grounded only in the contingency of fantasy. as a defense against what analysis is after. As long as the other enjoys. and one of the strategies of doing this can be the interpassive one. one that has formed the very substance of the history of psychoanalytic movement through the past century? UMBR(a) 136 . The emergence of the drive is the endpoint of analysis. or a master-slave liaison. then it should dismantle this mechanism of interpassivity in order to make it pass into the other one. And this is the ultimate point: the emergence of a new kind of desire from the drive. One not only assigns enjoyment to the other. the only thing remaining is the by-product. I don’t have to. so I must secure his enjoyment. as Lacan said in 1964. that horrible alien.

The fact that enjoyment is essentially incalculable presses us all the more to attempt to calculate it. but Bottom the weaver. on the contrary.1. Jacques Lacan. Bruce Fink. we will do no harm with our swords. and that Pyramus is not killed indeed: and for the more better assurance. eds. 3. 2000).’ etc.” The simplest formula is: desire is demand minus need. always has its keys in hand. 1978). 5. XIV. See also Miller. Alan Sheridan (New York: Norton. For many insights concerning this issue I am very much indebted to the work accomplished by Alenka Zupancic in Ethics of the Real (London: Verso. “Write me a prologue. 691: “Thus the desire is neither the appetite for satisfaction [as in need] nor the demand of love.” with some hilarious results. a bungled action or slip: ‘I missed my turn. those who commit the piece to memory. trans. See Lacan. 100. who are to cry bis (encore). See Jacques-Alain Miller. 252. 4. ^ ^ 2. obsessed with “the calculus of enjoyment. Drive. Subsequent references will appear parenthetically within the text. Dennis Porter (New York: Norton. 1980). and passim. which summarizes his long-standing efforts on this theme.” 6. Sigmund Freud. ed. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Jacques-Alain Miller. See Shakespeare. and let the prologue seem to say.. and bisseurs. Sauton who in 1820 established an office in Paris to secure the success of dramatic performances. see The Plague of Fantasies (London: Verso. vol. Pierre Citron (Paris: Garnier-Flammerion. Lacan. 1996). said to have been originated or first systematized by M.” 9. In December 1842 an anonymous note in Revue et gazette musicale already suggested the replacement of the claque by a machine. 7. gives the following description: “A body of hired applauders at a theatre etc. chiefly women who hold their handkerchiefs to their eyes at the emotional parts. but the difference resulting from the subtraction of the former from the latter. “Commentary on Lacan’s Text. It leads to sure success. for instance. and Marie Jaanus (Albany: SUNY Press. and in a more elaborate form in her work published so far only in Slovene. 426: “What Freud calls the drive is an activity which always comes off. Écrits. ed. Bottom says. 122-123. 12. For Žižek’s further reflections on the theme. and trans.. 238 ff. James Strachey (London: Hogarth Press. Jeremy Bentham. 1992).” The phenomenon appears to have been so ubiquitous in the nineteenth century that numerous authors have spoken about it well before Villiers (most extensively Emile Souvestre in Le monde tel qu’il sera in 1846). ed. Scene 1.” in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. who were divided into commissaires. who laugh at the puns and jokes. 1966). and noisily point out its merits. and Pfaller provides the best summary of this discussion. Écrits (Paris: Seuil. Lacan. 167. Villiers de l’Isle-Adam. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. 2000). 10. See Interpassivität. 1961).’ ‘I forgot my keys. whereas desire leads to a sure unconscious formation. See. That is desire. “Instincts and Their Vicissitudes. UMBR(a) 137 . tell them that I Pyramus am not Pyramus. Seminar VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis. Jacques-Alain Miller. this will put them out of fear.” I will come back to the question of the drive being an “activity. Richard Feldstein. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. pleureurs.. 8. There has been a whole line of thinking. ed. Contes cruels. ed. 1998). 825. rieurs. The manager ordered the required number of claqueurs. always up to its task. during the Enlightenment. namely. 11.” in Reading Seminars I and II. who are to keep the audience in good humour. Act III. pretending that this device already existed in England and should be imported. chatouilleurs. trans. Two international conferences were organized about it in Linz and Nürnberg in 1998. Robert Pfaller (Vienna: Springer.

and as in every perversion. is to be revised in its entirety. for whose jouissance he exercises his action as sadistic pervert. And yet. I am well aware that I am twisting Benveniste’s famous account of the “medium. nor of the memory of food.” (Lacan.” In the footnote in the English translation. 851: “This gap is the gap desire encounters at the limits imposed upon it by the principle ironically called the pleasure principle.” 14. Four Fundamental Concepts. The example doesn’t quite work by Lacan’s own standards. the dimension of the Other looms very large. 196. It is from precisely that field that Freudianism rends desire. they are content.138 13. Four Fundamental Concepts. nor the mother’s care. 185: “the sadist himself occupies the place of the object. The whole question boils down to the following — what is contented here?” 26. 19. Four Fundamental Concepts..we must give a function that will explain its place in the satisfaction of the drive. They are not content with their state. “Instincts and Their Vicissitudes. or rather. 196-198.” 122.. it is probably because the breast. 166: “It is clear that those with whom we deal.. since the enjoyment that is at stake in perversion is the enjoyment of the Other. even their symptoms. See Lacan. 183. proceeds from a subject seeking enjoyment. Four Fundamental Concepts.”) The drive’s bondage. everything they experience. Tour is to be understood here with the ambiguity it possesses in French. they give satisfaction to something. whose principle essentially consists in impossibilities. 197-198. The least one can say is that it is not a subject in the standard Lacanian sense of the barred subject. 197. 18. but all the same. Lacan. 15.” here for the current purpose. Lacan. Lacan. Ibid. 23.” or “middle.. 21. Lacan. and trick. Lacan. but without knowing it. Ibid. 20.. on the other hand. The best formula seems to me to be the following — that la pulsion en fait le tour..... being in a state that gives so little content. a subject-ification without a subject.. If Freud makes a remark to the effect that the object in the drive is of no importance. 853. Four Fundamental Concepts. Four Fundamental Concepts. as one says. 24.” for want of a better word: “what I have metaphorically called a headless subjectification. 273. for example. (See. See also Écrits. Lacan. but something that Lacan somewhat mysteriously calls “a headless subject. are not satisfied. 200. Ibid. To this breast in its function as object. Ibid. is not with the Other. They satisfy something that no doubt runs counter to that with which they might be satisfied. I am here leaving aside the tricky problem of the subject of the drive. the limit around which one turns.. both turn..it is obvious that it is not a question of food. like any perversion. 22. in its function as object.. Four Fundamental Concepts.. Four Fundamental Concepts. One cannot but recall here Hegel’s notorious dictum that “the Spirit is a bone” — should one say the bone of headless enjoyment seeking a subject? The headless subject as a by-product of a by-product? 16. 205.. the patients. but of…the breast. 17. involves satisfaction.. a bone. to the benefit of an other.” 27. nor the echo of food. the proposed English equivalents for the French phrase are “the drive moves around the object” and “the drive tricks the object. 184). 25. we know that everything they are. with what they are. which relates it to a reality for which one can say it is here but the field of praxis. Masochism. UMBR(a) . Lacan. since he has spent much time and effort demonstrating that the drive is not to be confused with perversion. perhaps. See Lacan. Four Fundamental Concepts. 179-180. Freud. Écrits. 168: “As far as the oral drive is concerned.

From this moment on he is able to accept his laboring for the master and his renunciation of enjoyment in the meantime. who is indeed “slaving. Lacan. See Lacan. he waits. The slave has given way in the face of the risk of death in which mastery was being offered to him in a struggle of pure prestige. he also knows that the master can die.28. but the hard work is conditioned and framed by the delegation of enjoyment — that is what keeps it going: “Let the other enjoy so that I don’t have to. Écrits.” If striving for enjoyment demands strenuous activity.” It is perhaps rather ironic to see interpassivity in the attitude of someone who works very hard. UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) 139 . Écrits. and. 851-854. The master-slave relationship. this is but a trifle compared to the hard labor one has to perform in order to prevent enjoyment. at least the way Lacan reads it. can be taken as a case of obsessional interpassivity. in the uncertainty of the moment when the master will die. 314: “In fact the obsessional subject manifests one of the attitudes that Hegel did not develop in his dialectic of master and slave. 29.” and appears to be anything but passive. But since he knows that he is mortal.

UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) 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UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) .

HOMOSEXUALITY. This view is probably most clearly witnessed by his most explicit anal-yses of artists and their art in his study of the conflicted relations between knowledge and creativity in Leonardo’s painting or in his reflections on the ambiguities of Michelangelo’s depiction of Moses. on representation and fantasy. particularly as they are elaborated in papers that deal less directly with questions of aesthetics. undecided. and the unconscious. drives. It is the extraordinary lability of the drive that deviates it inherently or constitutively from its implied or assumed normative. he seems committed to the most conservative conceptions of art and art practices. with sexual perversions (most notably homosexuality). In order to develop the more wayward and disturbing of Freud’s implications regarding the arts. On the one hand. confusing. paradoxically. the sexual drive. or paradoxical nature of his understanding of sexuality. indeed constitutive.1 On the other hand. through the peculiar. rather than the subject. but also.THE STRANGE DETOURS OF SUBLIMATION: PSYCHOANALYSIS. It signals the inher-ent dependence of sexuality. and half-formulated in the most enticing and seductive of ways. the elusive power of both the production of pleasure and the evasion of censorship which. its potentially infinite capacity for displacement. Freud’s contributions to rethinking and complicating the domain of aesthetics are often contradictory. Sublimation is perhaps the strangest of the deviations or vicissitudes that Freud twists into his understanding of the drive. AND ART elizabeth grosz As with the rest of his work. taken together. are necessary ingredients of social creativity. and thus the clear and complex alignment of sublimation not only with cultural. capacity for sublimation. and cultural production more generally. artistic. and intellectual achievement. upholding what I believe are rather romantic and elitist conceptions of art as the product of creative genius. I thus turn to the wonderful and productive strangeness of a series of concepts and terms that underlie Freud’s account of art: the notion of the sexual drive and its inherent. reproductive function. he develops an intriguing mode of undermining the notion of the creative individual or artistic genius by attributing to the drive. aporetic. This lability enables UMBR(a) 141 .

on the one hand. gaining satisfaction. We call this process “sublimation. 2 incidentally. and not simply those classified as homosexuality or. I propose to problematize the conventional relegation of psychoanalytic theory to the role of artistic biographer and to develop the compulsive strangeness of Freud’s understanding of sublimation and. surpassing itself as drive to become something else? How and why does it “desexualize” itself. I will also acknowledge the debt that my reading owes to the work of Lacan on the sexual drive. does this mean that sexual reproduction or heterosexual genitality are always already the provisional. primarily as he develops it in The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. nongenital. no more natural. and movements does Freud have to presume in his postulation of the instinctual vicissitude of sublimation? For Freud. How is it possible for a drive to “elevate” itself. While concentrating primarily on Freud’s own writings. more archaically. objects. is never enough. nonreproductive. of the sexual drive. the partial drives.and makes possible both cultural production and the perversions (by which. or gratifying than other forms of pleasure (organ-pleasure. following Freud. which are at bottom self-interested. inevitable. energies. only a special case in which sexual trends are attached to other. sublimation is the capacity for exchanging a sexual for a desexualized aim. through this renunciation. sublime objects. non-sexual ones. displaced satisfaction of drives. fore-pleasure. that whatever satisfaction it gets. UMBR(a) 142 Sublimation is a defensive process which transforms erotic and corporeal drives from the role of procurement of self-contained and self-oriented pleasures into the production of culturally recognized. deferred. SLIPPERY DRIVES What kind of a thing is sexuality such that. suggests that the drive is unhinged or loosened . implicitly. given that it nevertheless attains a gratification that is in some sense always and only sexual? If desexualization is the removal of the drive from the circuit of gratification that finds its culmination or telos in sexual reproduction. Here. I mean those nonnormative. on the other hand. or nonheterosexual aims. and. as “inversion”). polymorphous perversity are some of the names Freud uses to describe these other pleasures)? The amenability of the drive to its own transmutation. even when it attains its preferred and desired aims and objects. Sublimation consists in the sexual trend abandoning its aim of obtaining a component or a reproductive pleasure and taking on another which is related genetically to the abandoned one but is itself no longer sexual and must be described as social. it is incapable of abandoning satisfaction even while it abandons the aims and objects that appear to provide it with satisfaction. its duplicity in both renouncing and. Sublimation is. and sources that characterize components of all forms of sexuality. never completely fulfilling or satisfying? What kind of enigmatic processes.” in accordance with the general estimate that places social aims higher than sexual ones.

copulative sexual aim — the norm presumed in culture — is the product of this fantasy structure. the subject merely displaces or substi-tutes one object or aim for another. from the moment of their first appearance. activities. are modes of repetition and replacement of the objects of biological need. we can never give anything up. that it goes to ingenious lengths to ensure a measure of partial satis-faction for every drive or impulse. and if the sexual drive. ironically. The attainment of a heterosexual. an ironic claim insofar as even in infancy. is sublimation itself still sexual? That is. to be as “sexual” as any other sexual. into the ways the object of desire aims to fill and thereby satisfy desire. In what ways. even if it must abandon the hope of complete fulfillment. that is. The mythic “first” object of the oral drive is already a retracing and displacement of the satisfaction of the hunger instinct.”3 The “original” aim and object of the drives. What appears to be a renunciation is really the formation of a substitute or surrogate. less natural and more deranged than may seem evident in the cultural pathologization of perversion. that sexuality does not tolerate renunciation. from Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious (1905) and The Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905) on. including those productions we designate and value as art. and is no more real. In short. but is the result of substitution. then. This leads Freud to argue that the difference between infancy and adulthood is not the difference between the satisfaction of the pleasure principle and the deferral implied by the reality principle. The drive is inherently perverse. Actually. genital and nongenital. that is. rather than abandoning sexual pleasure. by its very structuring it is oriented away from a real object or natural need toward fantasy and hallucination. The fundamental mobility regulating the drive. still modes of gratification of sexual impulses? This presupposes another. hence. related question: in what ways is sublimation a deflection of the sexual gratification of the drive? Freud makes it clear even in his early works. or unmediated than any other libidinal aim or object. of lack.from any telos or normative purpose and. Sexuality results from the insinuation of a constitutive and founding instability. is the condition of its “healthy” functioning: instead of arguing that heterosexual copulation is the necessary or inherent aim UMBR(a) 143 . is itself the deflection and transformation of biological instincts whose function is the preservation of life. we only exchange one thing for another. This is the lack in whose space fantasy operates. with its defining aims and objects. if the sublimation is the deflection and displacement of sexual aims and objects. instead of being a desexualization. direct. the cultural achievements attained by sublimation may prove. Freud insists that. in what ways are cultural productions of various kinds. there is no originary or real object: the very “first” object is already a deflection or substitution for an impossible and retrospectively constructed intrauterine plenum: “whoever understands the human mind knows that hardly anything is harder for a man than to give up a pleasure which he had once experienced.

and it does this in virtue of its especially marked characteristic of being able to displace its aim without materially diminishing in intensity. UMBR(a) 144 Sublimation is a consequence of the potentially endless displaceability of the drive from any particular or given context. and constancy of human sexuality relative to the largely instinctive regulation of a cyclical or periodic sexuality in the animal world that explains man’s capacity for civilization. It places extraordinarily large amounts of force at the disposal of civilized activity. since it has almost entirely overcome the periodicity to which it is tied in animals. Freud even postulates that it may be the very strength. if it is not obtained in one way.”5 In pleasure itself. for civilization is founded on the deflection of sexual energies into apparently nonsexual outlets. Some satisfaction. in which its value for civilization lies. Perhaps more significantly. or object. will be gained in another.” . and not necessarily even the repression. it is certainly more constant. In contrast to this displaceability. it seems. even to an exclusively focused heterosexual genitality. or non-attainment. the drive’s relentless capacity to attain pleasure or satisfaction independent of the limitations provided by a particular situation. even from the renunciation of pleasure — a concept that seems to render the idea of celibacy itself paradoxical. aim. intensity. but it is also the condition under which those energies primarily or initially directed by the infant to its own autoerotic pleasures become channeled into socially validated and productive relations. (According to psychoanalysis. the overwhelmingly disproportionate fascination sexuality holds in human life. that signals the possibility of sublimation: The sexual instinct.of the drive. can be gained from any activity. and a deviation within satisfaction. then. It is only this “surplus” energy sexuality takes up over and above the needs of the survival of the species. is called the capacity for sublimation. This movement towards another pleasure is the very signature of desire itself. As with his understanding of the distinction between ego-libido and object-libido in “On Narcissism: An Introduction. is potentially pathological.is probably more strongly developed in man than in most of the higher animals.) For psychoanalysis. there is both a lack of and in satisfaction. Freud demonstrates that any fixation. celibacy is the abandonment.. This indeed is the paradox or enigma of the drive from Freud’s earliest articulations of it in The Three Essays: pleasure functions only through tension or unpleasure. the sexual order cannot be abandoned or given up. It is the transformation. indeed. of genital satisfaction. It can only thus attain a partial or incomplete satisfaction and thus it “can give rise to a need for a greater pleasure. Not only does the lability of the drive ensure a healthy variety of aims and objects. Sexual satisfaction. but not the abolition of all sexual activity. a tendency always to another pleasure.. the sexual instinct may also exhibit a particularly obstinate fixation which renders it unserviceable and which sometimes causes it 4 to degenerate into what are described as abnormalities. This capacity to exchange its originally sexual aim for another one. at best. of sexual impulses. which is no longer sexual but which is psychically related to the first aim. Freud seems to suggest that too close an attachment to parti-cular sexual aims and objects occurs at the cost of the capacity for sublimation.

but also regarding the suitability of various drives for sublimation. if I may so express it. the mental health of the subject is at stake. the less available for another. or a compulsive desexualization. must be regarded as an illness.. the satisfaction of another can afford complete compensation.8 This leads Freud to assert that some individuals may be “constitutionally” unsuitable for sublimation and that the capacity to tolerate less sexual satisfaction is not open to them: To extend this process of displacement indefinitely is. not only regarding the amount or intensity of libido available for sexual and self-preservative purposes. available for each individual: [W]e must bear in mind that the sexual instinctual impulses in particular are extraordinarily plastic. So-called “normal sexuality” is considered to function “in the service of civilization” twice over. Freud’s model never adequately touches on or explains the form or structure of female desire.certainly not possible. On such a hydraulic model. sublimated. whether a fixed aim or object. and second by freeing a certain degree or amount of libido for specifically cultural. that is. UMBR(a) 145 Thus a certain quantity or perhaps quality of excitation can or should be diverted from sexual outlets. If all sexual attention is directed towards a single outlet. purposes. a fixed quantity of libido. (In this sense at least. or whether he means that there is a single libido which can afford to direct only a certain percentage of its unspecified impetus to sublimation and must devolve the rest for sexual gratification. Freud is unclear about whether he means that some of the component instincts lend themselves well to sublimation and others do not. if the satisfaction of one of them is frustrated by reality. One of them can take the place of another.10 . any more than the transformation of heat into mechanical energy in our machines. A certain amount of direct sexual satisfaction seems to be indispensable for most organizations. is visited by phenomena which. which varies from individual to individual..) There is immense individual variability. and this is so in spite of their being subject to the primacy of the genitals 6 — a state of affairs that is not at all easily combined in a single picture. They are related to one another like a network of intercommunicating channels filled with a liquid.it seems that there is a finite amount. preoedipal partial drives are regulated toward specific pleasures that are triggered or released “by a reflex path”7 that discharges them. there is a mode of release or satisfaction that is equated by Freud with sexual “discharge”: even the polymorphous. on account of their detrimental effects on 9 functioning and their subjective quality of unpleasure. while another portion should persist in its explicitly sexual forms of gratification. one of them can take over another’s intensity. And particularly. first by propagating the species by unifying the components of sexuality under genital and reproductive aims and objects. This discharge resembles and in some ways prefigures the emission of sexual substances in genital sexual relations. the more libido or liquid used for one purpose. and a deficiency in this amount.

Yet. in order to effect this suppression of their sexual instinct. for.PERVERSE SUBLIMATION While Freud presumes and privileges the heterosexualization of desire. binds libidinal energy too closely to its object to be very easily transformed into nonsexual activities.. ironically. They are. make those subject to them socially useless and unhappy. and if a weaker and more conflicted homosexual or perverse investment precludes the libidinal investment which sublimation converts into a non-sexual outlet. especially if they are exclusive. is also the only thing they succeed in achieving. do. on the other hand. Those impulses themselves. the capacity for cultural sublimation remains limited insofar as the libido which could have been transformed through sublimation into cultural aspirations must be utilized. and because less of their libidos are bound up with reproductive aims. there can be no general rule linking the capacity for sublimation to homosexuality or perversion: Freud makes it clear that for many inverts or perverts. Perhaps what he has in mind is a repressed or latent homosexuality. The sublimation of an erotic attachment that has its roots in “fellow-feeling” can be linked to group psychology. But this. Freud attributes the possibility of a “special aptitude for cultural sublimation”11 to homosexuals or inverts (presumably he means men rather than women) because their libidos remain relatively detached from the culturally valorized commitments to a singular. then the energy of sublimation would not have to be invested in fending off homosexual impulses. rather than the defense against them. he does not preclude homosexuals from access to sublimation nor indeed does he refrain from granting homosexuality an especially privileged role in sublimatory capacities and achievements. they use up the forces which they would otherwise employ in cultural activities. This. whether heterosexual or homosexual.. [W]here the sexual instinct is in general weak[.or anticathexis.] perverts succeed in totally suppressing the inclinations which bring them into conflict with the moral demands of the civilization. And those for whom the sexual drive is powerful seem precluded from either the desire or the capacity for sublimation: More pronounced forms of perversions and of homosexuality. UMBR(a) 146 If an excessively strong homosexual or perverse sexual investment cannot lead to sublimation because it remains tenaciously focused on overtly sexual aims and objects. as counter. but also to passionate attachment to cultural achievements. as it were. seems to preclude . If the repressed homosexual libido of men could be transformed into the desexualized “fellow-feeling” or perhaps into the male bonding constituting social and cultural life. it becomes more and more difficult to see what special link Freud wants to forge between homosexuality and cultural accomplishment.. from the ideal point of view. especially those for whom the sexual drives are not overwhelmingly powerful. 12 inwardly inhibited and outwardly paralyzed. The investments of libido in love objects.. so that it must be recognized that the cultural requirements..are a source of suffering for a certain portion of mankind. to contain the drives. lifetime monogamy. it is true. become the source of sublimated energies.

Lacan is led to postulate that “the reality of the unconscious is sexual. unable to acknowledge negation. it is clear from Freud’s murky and complex understanding of drives themselves that there is something inherently perverse about the drive. the less is available for sublimation. and to become excessive to sexual pleasure so that they can be rerouted to nonsexual outlets. to willfully paraphrase and transform Nietzsche. Here heterosexuality is preserved as the privileged modality of sexual gratification and what is harmful and threatening — the repressed perverse or homosexual impulses — is channeled into socially valorized forms of cultural production: “[During infantile development from auto-eroticism to object-love] part of the sexual excitation which is provided by the subject’s own body is inhibited as being unserviceable for the reproductive function and in favorable cases are thus to great extent obtained through the suppression of what are known as the perverse elements of sexual excitation. or privileged objects but only a series of corporeal sources.”13 UMBR(a) Perverse impulses and energies. While in some feminist and militant homosexual circles it has long been recognized that culture is homosocial (while at the same time functioning as homophobic).” those preoedipal impulses which. In noting this homology and convergence. and values through the sublimation of homosexual impulses. heterosexuals. having no fixed form. Indeed. or displaceable. whose repression is necessary for the subject’s constitution as heterosexual.”14 The drives exhibit the same opportunistic expediency as the unconscious. Could it be that. organized outside forms of temporality. culture’s highest accomplishments. preferred aims. making the cultural the arena of would-be or repressed homosexuals — that is. artifacts. perverse impulses which have had to be abandoned or must give way to the primacy of “the reproductive function. if acted upon. are the products of a forbidden perversion? If sublimation owes its impetus or raw materials to homosexual and perverse impulses. Freud singles out three characteristics: drives are indifferent to how satisfaction is obtained. this now seems confirmed by Freud himself. sexuality functions and is 147 . and one drive can take over the force and satisfaction of another. In this sense. and dominated by the pleasure principle. The more energy is bound to aims and objects.active homosexuals from sublimation. plastic. provide the raw materials for sublimation and for cultural achievement. there is a remarkable similarity between the malleability of the contents of the unconscious in their striving for conscious expression (and thus partial satisfaction) and the operations of libido and drives. happy with inconsistency. would produce the subject as perverse but whose suppression both allows them to become subsidiary impulses to genitality. It is the binding of what would have been homosexual desire to desexualized aims and objects that ensures both the reproduction of civilization through heterosexual intercourse and the production of cultural objects. all things great and noble in culture. It is for this reason that Freud seems to privilege those repressed. drives are almost entirely malleable.

on which it may fixate. by skills and abilities. which is particularly characteristic of the ego. whose sublimations are presumably.comprehensible only through the “defiles of the signifier. including heterosexual ones. a technical and formal ability). more readily diverted and displaced than the destructive instinct. if they achieve heterosexual and copulative normality only tenuously and as a result of the transformation of perversions (either through partial repression into neurosis or through sublimation into cultural. In this connection. For Freud. then the activity of thinking 17 is also supplied from the sublimation of erotic motive forces. UMBR(a) 148 The eroticization of thought and culture is as much an effect or a product of the drive’s inherent waywardness or perversity as of the desexualization of the drive. just as in the case we are 15 now discussing.) From this we can easily go on to assume that this displaceable libido is employed in the service of the pleasure principle to obviate blockages and to facilitate discharge. by wild fluctuations and variations. and intellectual achievements). and the ability to remove these products from the founding fantasies and desires that made them possible. successful. if they have no inherent fidelity to given aims and objects. so long as it takes place somehow. Could it be that the unconscious takes these characteristics because what it represses are drives and their ideational representatives? It seems a plausible view that this displaceable and neutral energy. then there is something perverse about the very form and structure of desire. this means that cultural accomplishments — and he explicitly includes the activities of thinking as well as artistic production — are bound up in ways we may be reluctant to admit with perversion:16 If this displaceable energy is desexualized libido. or tendency to unity. to represent unconscious wishes and desires whose artful representation yields a . it may also be described as sublimated energy: for it would still retain the main purpose of Eros — that of uniting and binding — in so far as it helps towards establishing the unity. even on the assumption that the distinction between them is not entirely clear-cut? Freud suggests that there are really only two factors. which is no doubt active both in the ego and in the id. regardless of its aims and objects. from the pervert or the neurotic. artistic. proceeds from the narcissistic store of libido — that it is desexualized Eros. it was the objects that were thus relegated to a position of no more than secondary importance. If sexual instincts are regulated by vicissitudes. it is the paths of discharge. it is easy to observe a certain indifference as to the path along which the discharge takes place.… It was in studying the dream-work that we first came upon this kind of looseness in the displacements brought about by the primary process. neither of them dependent on the nature or intensity of the drives: the capacity of the artist to shape his or her products in the form of guiding collective fantasies and erotic desires (that is. (The erotic instincts appear to be altogether more plastic.” the deflections produced by representation. What then is it that distinguishes the artist. to some extent at least. In that case. The technical capacity is the way in which the artist is able. If thought processes in the wide sense are to be included among the displacements.

detachable from any given context and transformable across any range of contexts. in which the impulse is satisfied essentially by hallucination. such that it is no longer or not ever real objects that are sought or found satisfying. Following Jakobson. In a certain sense. but fantasmatic objects (in the mode of hallucination)? This is because desire and the modes of satisfaction that are proper to it are fantasmatic.secondary pleasure able to “outweigh” the force of repression. and made to function at the beckoning of the signifier. cannot be repressed (only the ideational representative of a drive can be).) Each of the deviations or vicissitudes of the drive indicates that there is nothing natural or fixed about its functioning — there is no norm for its operations. then. or libido. no inherently privileged sources. but rather. and its fundamental reliance on the structure of signification. as Freud acknowledged in “Repression” and “Instincts and Their Vicissitudes. and physics. even the most elementary features of the cell itself..18 LACAN’S LINGUISTIC INFLECTION OF THE PERVERSE DRIVE Lacan further details the paradoxical nature of sexuality. (This is the only thing that can explain anorexia: why the absence of food satisfies the subject’s desire more than food satisfies the subject’s need. forced to veer off its “natural” course. no given outlet for its impetus or force. Hallucinatory satisfactions are the function and effect of signification: desire is what makes hallucination. “The function of desire is a last residuum of the effects of the signifier in the subject. no fixed aim or object. I am not fucking. That’s what it means.. as it were. rather. the reality of desire. How is it that hallucination can satisfy a drive? What is this peculiar disengagement of the subject from the real. sublimation is particularly paradoxical and thus fascinating for Lacan: sublimation is the desexualization of the drive. from natural need. Of all the vicissitudes. that even biology itself must be or can be understood in terms of signification. sent on a meandering detour. Indeed. in a sense. its deflection into nonsexual aims and objects. chemistry. drives are deflected. he calls “combinatory” the relations of selection and combination that govern all representation. and renunciation possible. hijacked by representation. even though it inhibits its aim: In other words — for the moment.” sexual drives. The splitting and mixing of cells in sexual reproduction (in which the chromosomes of the male and female are split in half and combined together to restore the “right number”) is nothing but another version of the combinatory. I am talking to you. He wants to make clear that sexuality cannot be understood on the biological model of an instinct (as Freud at times tends to do). Lacan’s claim is that biology is. including those on which biology relies. Yet. detour. Note well what Freud says of this field. it raises the question of whether in UMBR(a) 149 .. sublimation satisfies the drive. its deviation from the norms of biology. Desidero is the Freudian cogito. Well! I can have exactly the same satisfaction as if I were fucking.”19 Hallucination is. that is to say. deflection.

If its goal is satisfaction. The indifference of the drive to either aim or object. food is now comprehended and understood as such only through the structuring of the subject’s desire. a process rather than an object. the mouth is no longer oriented to food. an image which shows both the fantasmatic dimensions of desire and the ways in which desire. as Lacan suggests. in need of special explanation. Lacan describes the drive as “montage” and “collage. oral desire. the fact that it can be satisfied even through deliberate nonsatisfaction. whether fantasmatic or material. an intermediary self-referential position mediating between auto-eroticism and object-love. .fact I am not fucking at this moment. and thus of sublimation. UMBR(a) 150 PERVERSE CULTURE Lacan’s reading reveals that sublimation and the other vicissitudes of the drive are not aberrations or deflections it undergoes that are capable of being distinguished from its normal.”23 fundamentally eclectic rather than mechanical or hydraulic. In kissing itself. produces an object for itself through the supporting structure of fantasy: the image is that of the mouth kissing itself. His point is that “the drive tricks its object” (la pulsion en fait le tour).21 Lacan makes explicit Freud’s paradoxical understanding of the drive’s capacity to find satisfaction even in the inhibition of its aim. to need. why the objects of desire. cannot. Why is this so? Because. while always linking it to a structure of primordial corporeality or bodily pleasure for the subject. and why reality as such can be defined only through desexualization. it can attain satisfaction even from failing to attain this goal. Lacan evokes a brilliant and striking image derived from Freud which makes clear the diversionary or detour-like structure of drives. the aim involves not only the attainment of a specific object. This is why the privileged mode of satisfaction of the drives is hallucinatory. become libidinally invested only through lack and signification. There is a pleasure in the how of attainment as much as or more than the what. There is always a pleasure in this detour — indeed this is what pleasure is. Between these two terms — drive and satisfaction — there is set up an extreme antinomy that reminds us that the use of the function of the drive has for me no other 20 purpose than to put in question what is meant by satisfaction. but a particular mode of attainment. Rather. This is because desire is not for an object but is articulated only through the Other. through desexualization. that is. copulatory functioning and thus. an itinerary the drive must undertake in order to access its object or to gain satisfaction from some other object in its place. This is why the image of the mouth kissing itself both prefigures object-love.22 producing another object for itself in the process of failing to satisfy its given or selected object. a movement rather than a possession. It does not. rather than being supported by an object. only through “the defiles of the signifier” and the structures of representation which take it further and further away from an unmediated reality. with appropriate orally incorporable objects. means that it does not function in the order of natural need or biological requirement.

Moreover. sublimate itself. The desire to know retains its sexual origins as much as the desire to paint or sculpt. through the processes of sublimation and desexualization. raise itself to “pure” desexualized cultural achievement only because it is always already cultural. It can sublate itself. UMBR(a) 151 . and fantasy. lack. Both Freud and Lacan suggest that underlying an ostensibly heterosexual erotic investment there may be earlier homosexual impulses and love objects. elevated. cultural product. say. For one thing. rather than its wayward. or that the fine line dividing art from neurosis and perversion can be maintained. If we can no longer attribute an inherent normativity to the drive — if it has no particular affinity with reproduction or genital copulation — then it is this genital normativity. If we take seriously Freud’s understanding of sublimation. it is no longer clear that the “elevated” cultural activities (like art and knowledge) can be readily separated from other. Sublimation does not work to desexualize a full and self-contained instinct but to rework its already worked over constitution.24 rather than perverse only in its extreme functioning. already significatory. personal obsession to public. or that high art can be easily distinguished from low culture (including. is as culturally significant as the passion for the production of art. Furthermore. it is no longer clear. the love of knowledge. from private. The concept of sublimation now seems considerably more complicated than the notion of a simple transformation from sexual to desexualized aims. which is clearly Freud’s own preferred form of sublimation. then the links Freud posits between perversion/homosexuality and sublimation/cultural production need to be rendered more complex and entwined than any simple division into culturally productive heterosexuality and individually perverse homosexuality allows. this is because. privileged activity of cultural production that Freud originally suggested. the drive is already cultural. if its sources are not simply “normal” impulses but repressed wishes and desires.function in the register of need. subjective term must always contain within itself the seeds or traces of the inhabitation of the second. more “debased” sexual activities. it becomes clear that the gap between artistic and intellectual or scientific production becomes more tenuous and difficult to maintain: epistemophilia. many features of this romanticized understanding of the figure of the artist are problematic. meandering capacity that seems to require explanation. pornography). from erotic to artistic object. If it makes cultural production. then we must ask if art still can be seen as the noble. of biological functioning. as a mode of desire. possible. even in its paradoxical and impossible genesis. as I have been arguing. that sublimation is in fact a desexualization rather than simply another modality of displacement of the drive’s impetus. and is structurally and psychically homologous to it. the passion for research. and thus of signification. The hetero-sexual and homosexual components of erotic attachments are not as readily separable as they seem. already bound up with the order of representation. If sublimation is not simply a desexualization of what is originally sexual. cultural term. insofar as the first. but is of the order of desire. If the drive is inherently perverse.

to cultural production are appropriate. what in the subjectivity of its audience does it appeal to? These questions may not require the individualizing finesse of a psychobiographical account. and art in particular. motivations. all creation of the new. Rather. it will need to explain what it is in a specific work of art that captivates the desire of an audience. in other words. what fantasies does it hook into. need to decide whether they remain on the side of that normalization process which elevates art at the expense of the marginalization or pathologization of homosexuality and perversion. the analysis of any particular viewing subject. There are other ways in which psychoanalysis can usefully explore and help to rethink art. hostile to civilization. and psychoanalysis. Art. the obvious. Psychoanalysts. the apparent. will not be of an aesthetic value. participate in and help to veil and render invisible the very social injustices meted out to homosexuals and queers while nonetheless relying on and siphoning off their energy and impetus. and of the relevance of psychoanalytic theory to understanding art. One possible path.This complexification of the more orthodox understanding of Freud’s account of sublimation. while it may have psychological interest. anticultural. owes to the liberation of formerly repressed homosexual and perverse impulses. is the movement away from an analysis of the creative subject toward the question of the desire at work in the reception and circulation of the art object. If psychoanalytic theory has tended to function post facto as a mode of analysis of the psyche. to question the normal with the aim of showing what underlies it and makes it possible. then it may be worth stressing the social and cultural debt all production. UMBR(a) 152 . Civilization in general. if contemporary film theory may provide a clue. or whether they choose to use psychoanalysis. must be regarded as a mode of seduction. to problematize the proper. and the expected. as one is perfectly able to do. in other words. and life history of the artist. and how a work of art “speaks” to a constituency. of sexual address. or the genesis and production of the work of art. This is why Freud believes that artists and writers have as great an access to the unconscious as analysts. What desire does the art object arouse. What is needed is an acknowledgment of this debt and thus a transformation of the heterocentric character of the criteria by which social and cultural production is understood and valorized. may require a careful rethinking of the ways in which art can and should be theorized as well. the cultural debt to what is designated as antisocial.25 And finally. there is no reason why it should continue to operate as a mode of (projected) psychobiography. the place of the art object not in the artist’s life history but in the history of art itself. particularly homosexuality. Indeed. if my suggestions regarding the contributions of the sexual perversions.

. 57-137 and “The Moses of Michelangelo. trans. Ibid. Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. Freud. 4.” 197).. This claim is in conformity with elements of both Freud and Lacan. Freud is at pains to distinguish the more cerebral accomplishments of thought from the more robust corporeal production of artists: “The relationship between the amount of sublimation possible and the amount of sexual activity necessary naturally varies very much from person to person and even from one calling to another. liberate forces for his studies. 15. 9. 155. Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. XVI. Sigmund Freud. 24.” in SE. Jeffrey Mehlman (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. XVI. Jacques-Alain Miller. in SE. Ibid. 154. Elsewhere.. It seems to us that it is the innate constitution of each individual which decides in the first instance how large a part of his sexual instinct it will be possible to sublimate and make use of. 17. “Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming. 2.. 7. vol. 345. 22. Ibid. Jacques Lacan. 1994). “‘Civilized’ Sexual Morality and Modern Nervous Illness. trans. 11. Freud. 1957). 209-238. Ibid. Ibid. 12. Freud. 20. the effects of experience and the intellectual influences upon his mental apparatus succeed in bringing about the sublimation of a further portion of it” (Freud. Freud. Brian Holmes (Stanford: Stanford University Press. Far more often it goes to produce well-behaved weaklings who later become lost in the great mass of people that tend to follow. vol.” in SE. 14.” 187-88). IX. 8. 21. 1978). “The original strength of the sexual instinct probably varies. Freud. 169. 13. The Ego and the Id. James Strachey (London: Hogarth Press. IX.. trans. Ibid. vol. 210. 5. XI. “‘Civilized’ Sexual Morality. Freud. the leads given by strong individuals (Freud. “Some Thoughts on Development. 188. 168.. in SE. however.” in SE. VII. 16. 18. Jean-Luc Nancy. 145. 45. 23. An abstinent artist is hardly conceivable.1.. 150. “Some Thoughts on Development and Regression — Aetiology. In general I have not gained the impression that sexual abstinence helps to bring about energetic and self-reliant men of action or original thinkers or bold emancipators and reformers. IXX.” in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. 165-166. Ibid. 215. as represented in the writings of Jean Laplanche and Teresa de Lauretis: see Jean Laplanche. “‘Civilized’ Sexual Morality and Modern Nervous Illness. 44-45. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. 210. The Ego and the Id.” 345.” in The Birth to Presence.” in SE. 6. but an abstinent young savant is certainly no rarity. 10. 191.” in SE. The Practice of Love (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Ibid. ed. 188-189. 3. vol. Alan Sheridan (New York: Norton. “In Statu Nascendi.. 19. vol. and trans. Lacan. 187. The latter can. Life and Death in Psychoanalysis. Freud. UMBR(a) 153 . Freud. XIII. ed. 25. vol. by his self-restraint. while the former probably finds his artistic achievements powerfully stimulated by his sexual experience. Freud. In addition to this. “Leonardo Da Vinci and a Memory of his Childhood. “The Paths to the Formation of Symptoms. 1976) and Teresa de Lauretis. vol. vol. 1993). 376. Ibid. unwillingly. 190.

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resistances. and therefore a discourse that. a discourse whose political efficacy had been exhausted. and deformations? I have argued elsewhere that the repudiation of psychoanalysis UMBR(a) 155 . in a controversial exchange with Teresa de Lauretis regarding the viability of Freudo-Lacanian models for understanding lesbian sexuality.PERVERSION.”2 By offering such an astringent critique of psychoanalysis — one that. its discontinuous durability in the face of numerous death knells. Might we characterize her use of psychoanalysis in this piece on sublimation as an index of Grosz’s own “return to Freud”? And could this unexpected return tell us something about the cultural persistence of psychoanalysis. moreover. Grosz claimed that de Lauretis’ argument to the contrary notwithstanding. serve to prolong the agony of this dying discourse. SUBLIMATION. “The question which needs to be asked here. giving it hope for remission when in fact it should be buried?”1 Answering these questions in the affirmative. “and do other lesbian theorists who have tried to appropriate psychoanalysis for lesbian projects.” Grosz continued. “is: Does de Lauretis function to provide a political rationale and credi-bility for psychoanalysis as it lies dying? Does she. psychoanalysis cannot “explain precisely that which it must exclude in order to constitute itself as a mode of knowledge. was launched in response to another lesbian feminist’s careful appropriation of French Freudianism — Grosz seemed to be bidding good riddance to “this dying discourse. AND AESTHETICS: A RESPONSE TO ELIZABETH GROSZ tim dean Some years ago. psychoanalysis remains constitutively unable to account for lesbian desire. Elizabeth Grosz characterized psychoanalysis as “a discourse whose time has come” — by which she meant a discourse whose time was up.” Hence it was with some surprise that I read her subtle analysis of Freudian drive theory in “The Strange Detours of Sublimation.” she claimed in her aptly subtitled “interrogation” of The Practice of Love. should be declared dead. at least for the purposes of queer critique. according to Grosz. Grosz’s report of the death of psychoanalytic discourse appears to have been greatly exaggerated. domestications.” an essay in which Grosz finds the psychoanalytic account of perversion indispensable to her queer critique of aesthetics.

The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. on the other? Certainly both psychoanalysis as a mode of cultural inquiry and the aesthetic as a mode of value have been demoted in recent years by various forms of historicism. it is because the definite article is conjoined with the noun drive somewhat misleadingly. and hence the constitutive perversity of desire.3 Queer theory cannot live with psychoanalysis. Following Lacan.6 If I speak somewhat awkwardly of drive instead of referring more conventionally to the drive. in fact. Lacan identifies drive (pulsion) as one of the four fundamentals or bases from which psychoanalysis makes its advances. not “fundamental concepts. Grosz discerns intimate connections between homosexuality and art. Perhaps psychoanalysis is revivified rather than “buried” by the extensive and varied reformulations it undergoes at the hands of its queer critics. who in that seminar speaks of “fundamentals” (fondements). Strictly speaking the drive does not exist. on one hand. constitutive of psychoanalysis. Grosz’s account offers a welcome opportunity to think harder about aesthetics. the paradoxical mobility and intransigence of erotic attachments. we are compelled to use Freud against himself and. but she also recognizes that the most interesting psychoanalytic account of aesthetics paradoxically must be extrapolated not from Freud’s writing on art but from his theory of drive.” I am inclined to characterize drive as an intervention in — even an interruption of — established scientific epistemologies. drive perturbs also those productions of consciousness that the subject puts forth in order to conceptualize or encapsulate drive. once again. In “The Strange Detours of Sublimation. it is therefore fascinating to witness Grosz’s reconsid-eration of aesthetics via a queer perspective on Freudian theory.5 Drive represents less a “fundamental concept of psychoanalysis” than an anti-concept. to read psychoanalysis “against the grain.” The fact that the Freudian intervention made in the name of drive has been commanding the attention of psychoanalytic critics lately suggests a readiness to return to the hardest problems of psychoanalysis — problems that are. and a widespread conviction that the aesthetic as a sphere devoid of political interest has been fully discredited.” Grosz reveals just how fruitful a queer engagement with psychoanalysis can be. but it cannot live without it either.4 In his epochal seminar of 1964. Following Freud. a wedge driven into the mechanisms that make conceptual closure possible. a category that many practitioners of literary and cultural studies tend to view as moribund. because every drive is a partial drive: there is no whole or uni- UMBR(a) 156 . rather than characterizing it merely as a new concept. By finding in the lability of drive an explanation of perverse sexuality and cultural production alike. such as subjective conflict. Is there any connection between the politically motivated penchant for declaring psychoanalysis dead.within gay and lesbian theory often leads to queer reinventions of basic psycho-analytic concepts. Thus drive troubles not only the human subject by virtue of its functioning with complete disregard for his or her well-being. In order to construct a viable aesthetic theory.

the late founder of the relational school. of libidinal circulation. On the contrary. progressivist thinkers regularly intuit that drive represents a part of the Freudian edifice that must be jettisoned from psychoanalytic theory in order to construct an account of intersubjectivity palatable to contemporary American sensibilities. rather than as a sign of his repudiation of that nineteenth-century legacy. unidirectional propulsion — the drive — is to think in terms of instinct (Instinkt). drive is antithetical to progress and development. Like Lacan. vitalist drive (the sex drive. His recourse to organic metaphors in Beyond the Pleasure Principle has tended to obscure the distinction between drive and instinct. Stephen Mitchell. instead of seeing how drive comes into being as a consequence of the encounter with an Other. from the vantage point of what he calls “the primacy of the other. To integrate these fragments into a single.7 Mitchell’s mistake — and in this respect his argument typifies a widespread misconception — lies in taking drive as a sign of Freud’s residual biologism. he has produced the most illuminating account of drive that we have. This confusion has been clarified by Jean Laplanche in Life and Death in Psychoanalysis. the constitutive principle. but rather that every drive — by virtue of its partiality. Or. For example. but functions instead as an obstacle to whatever might be deemed progress. a reading of Freud to which virtually all contemporary work on drive — including mine and Grosz’s — remains heavily indebted. better put.”8 Hence “the death drive” is simply a term to describe how drive operates in the human subject. nevertheless drive does not serve evolutionary ends. Its energy is libido. but drive does not. and he has done so not from the perspective of “onebody psychology. only uncoordinated fragments of force. argued repeatedly that a deeper understanding of intersubjective relations would enable psychoanalysis to move beyond what is often construed as the “one-body psychology” of Freudian drive theory. the ego drive.” Concluding his reading of Beyond the Pleasure Principle. We might say that although drive is a result of evolution in the sense that it’s the product of a highly developed organism’s encounter with language (symbolic networks denature animal instinct into the partiality of drive).fying drive. we should acknowledge that Freud himself often made the same mistake regarding the status of drive in his thinking. its uncoordinated insistence — UMBR(a) 157 . In all fairness to Mitchell. precisely the notion that drive (Trieb) was introduced to displace. It is not that the death drive runs counter to some healthier. the self-preservative drive. Instinct serves the species. calling it “the death drive” is a way of indexing just how dysfunctional the drive becomes once it is fragmented into uncoordinated partial components.” but. Laplanche has been concerned throughout his career with re-establishing the fundamentals of the psychoanalytic project. and so on). Indeed. it cannot be assimilated to any developmental theory of subjectivity or sexuality. the death drive is the very soul. Laplanche contends that “the death drive does not possess its own energy. thereby enabling drive to be counterposed to intersubjectivity (as in the idea of “one-body psychology”). on the contrary.

”9 This aspect of failing to serve life (except perhaps inadvertently) defines drive and thus distinguishes it from instinct. Heterosexist ideology must imaginarily totalize the disintegrative subjective effects of drive in order to adapt what is constitutively dysfunctional to the reproduction of the social.10 The psychoanalytic account of drives’ partiality reveals the popular notion of an inborn heterosexual drive to be a palpable absurdity. drive denotes that which in the human subject functions independently of — and. a redundancy.”12 In this way. perversion was in fact drive’s “natural” state. Freud showed that — in Jacques-Alain Miller’s words — “perversion is the norm of the drive. indeed. This is the conclusion that Grosz draws toward the end of her essay (“the drive is already cultural”). Grosz correctly infers that queer theory. nevertheless drive can be enlisted in projects that may be deemed progressive in their attempts at interrupting heterosexual normativity. His Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality challenged embedded assumptions regarding drive’s functionality. Freud drove a wedge into the functional understanding of sexual drive that dominated sexological. there is no drive in the human subject other than “the death drive. a good part of the significance of psychoanalytic fundamentals (such UMBR(a) 158 . in fact reaches back a full century to Freud’s theory of perversion.” Lacan declares in “Position of the Unconscious. To some extent every drive is death-bound. Far from a biologistic concept. but it is not one that I endorse. Grosz is attracted to this strangeness.” which is thence revealed as something of a misnomer. we might say that Freud was the first to queer drive. “Every drive is virtually a death drive. the Freudian theory of drive becomes a potential ally of those projects that question normativity from the vantage point of the queer.11 Partializing drive and recognizing that it is only contingently “soldered” to its object. If drive. according to the model of animal instinct — was in fact cultural. revealing its radical dysfunctionality. remains antithetical to subjective harmony and social progress. Inverting the relation between perversion and norms. arguing that far from an accident befalling drive’s otherwise natural telos. Rather. and popular thinking in his time. particularly as it manifests itself in sublimation — “perhaps the strangest of the deviations or vicissitudes that Freud twists into his understanding of the drive” — because she sees in it something queer. Another way of putting this would be to say that heterosexism must normalize to the point of invisibility the libidinal strangeness that drive makes apparent. an ostensibly new phenomenon barely one decade old. Indeed. But the significance of Freud’s intervention was not to reveal that drive — which had been considered an irreducible sign of man’s natural state. psychiatric. often countermands — the biological dictates of organic existence.” using the word “virtually” (virtuellement) to mean “for all intents and purposes.partakes of the quality of unregulated compulsion that serves no vital purpose and therefore seems to threaten the subject’s life. characterized by uncoordinated lines of insistence. as Charles Shepherdson has shown in Vital Signs. By re-examining the vicissitudes of drive.

Psychoanalysts. in a very interesting recent piece on Freud and Foucault. Ostensibly a familiar term that explains how culture comes into being via the transformation of libidinal impulses into something that is no longer directly sexual. to problematize the proper. having felt wholeheartedly allied with her political commitments. Teresa de Lauretis has also argued.as drive) lies in their outmoding the nature/culture dichotomy. that “Freud’s notion of drive undermines and actually undoes the opposition between constructionism and essentialism. the apparent. Civilization in general. the cultural debt to what is designated as antisocial. or whether they choose to use psychoanalysis. as one is perfectly able to do. In arguing thus. Grosz sees that sublimation would be described better as a degenitalization than as a desexualization. and art in particular. the obvious. anticultural. The category of sublimation is exemplary in this regard. hostile to civilization. owes to the liberation of formerly repressed homosexual and perverse impulses.13 The difficulty — but also the specificity — of basic psychoanalytic notions stems from their inassimilability to our familiar conceptual frameworks. all creation of the new. thereby exacerbating our difficulty in adjudicating whether something should be counted as sexual or nonsexual. which she claims are socially devalued precisely to the extent that aesthetic creations are socially esteemed. and . in other words. participate in and help to veil and render invisible the very social injustices meted out to homosexuals and queers while nonetheless relying on and siphoning off their energy and impetus. and this enables her to argue that cultural accomplishments — including highly valued aesthetic creations — result from the same perverse libidinal impulses as does homosexuality. and psychoanalysis. to question the normal with the aim 14 of showing what underlies and makes it possible. By detaching sexuality from genitality and describing it in terms of the unconscious. her interest in aesthetics. This crucial step in her argument deserves quoting in full: [I]t may be worth stressing the social and cultural debt all production.” as well as the opposition between culture and nature that subtends it. UMBR(a) 159 Having followed Grosz up to this point — that is. her skeptical deployment of psychoanalysis. What is needed is an acknowledgment of this debt and thus a transformation of the heterocentric character of the criteria by which social and cultural production is understood and valorized. need to decide whether they remain on the side of that normalization process which elevates art at the expense of the marginalization or pathologization of homosexuality and perversion. and the expected. sublimation in fact represents one of Freud’s most difficult and undertheorized ideas. But the twist in her argument — and the point at which she turns psychoanalysis against itself — comes when Grosz contends that the social privileging of art is made at the expense of homosexuality or queerness. Grosz is basically following Freud’s own claims and unfolding the often conflicted logic in his description of drives’ vicissitudes. Freud confounds the category of the sexual almost to the point of unintelligibility.

She sees a connection between the cultural hierarchy that subordinates popular aesthetics to high art and the sociosexual hierarchy that subordinates to heteronormativity all those instances of what Michael Warner calls “nonstandard intimacies. how even socially normative representations can be consumed in ways that undermine their ostensibly normalizing agendas. While queerness and normalization clearly oppose each other — and although psychoanalysis seems sometimes to belong on the side of queerness thanks to its theory of perversion. The terms of the choice she proposes — between art and normalization. I’ll develop this contention about the queerness of art by taking a hint from Grosz’s essay at the moment when.her investment in challenging heteronormativity — I cannot remain on board for this final turn in her argument. on one side. kitsch. however. I wish to undermine this intuitive connection between aesthetic and sexual hierarchies. genre fiction. As a result of the important role these popular forms have played in the development of perverse sensibilities and queer communities. she recommends a shift of focus from the vectors of cultural production to those of cultural reception.” including homosexuality and. pornography. camp — and queer communities. such as cinema and genre fiction. and homosexuality or queerness. In many respects. Grosz seems to be suggesting — and in this she is not alone — that elite aesthetic forms acquire their cultural prestige at others’ expense. on the other — do not in my view do justice to the account of sublimation she has elaborated. more broadly. Film theory and.16 This intuitive connection between sexual and cultural hierarchies seems to find confirmation in the historical associations between popular aesthetic forms — such as melodrama. pornography. these popular forms provide pleasures of recognition by offering narratives that facilitate audience identification. and musicals is the pleasure of the familiar. In other words. sex outside the couple.and gay-friendly popular culture that conventionally is less valued. the readily accessible. cultural studies have utilized psychoanalysis to develop more or less sophisticated accounts of cinematic spectatorship and the cultural circulation of aesthetic objects. while at other times it joins hands with the forces of normalization via its commitment to Oedipus — I would like to suggest that art has more to do with queerness than with regulatory norms. invoking precedents in film theory.15 Usually these psychoanalytically inflected accounts of cultural reception focus on popular aesthetic forms. indeed. I find the culturally privileged aesthetic forms that Grosz wishes to demote queerer — more resistant to normalizing imperatives — than the lesbian. As much as I share a gay affection for certain low cultural forms. showing how popular media activate cultural fantasies and. more broadly. rather than on high art. (This is the case even when — as in the UMBR(a) 160 . she suggests that psychoanalysis might theorize aesthetics less from the vantage point of the artist than from the perspective of the spectator or audience. The pleasure derived from popular aesthetic forms such as melodrama. we are inclined to suspect that any disruption of aesthetic hierarchies might help to destabilize the sociosexual regime that enforces heteronormativity.

To not make difficult art mean — that is. and Hart Crane. with his theory of aesthetic effects offered in “The ‘Uncanny. Freud’s strongest contribution to aesthetics comes when he focuses not on production but on reception — that is. of course. Psychoanalytic accounts of aesthetics that focus on cultural production are as useless in this context as psychoanalytic accounts of cultural consumption. that Freud comes closest to registering what I call the otherness of art.stereotypical example of gay men’s identifying with the melodrama’s diva — audience identification entails crossing various socially regulated boundaries. all of whose strangeness or queerness has less to do with its makers’ homosexualities than it does with their aesthetic challenges to intelligibility. And it is necessary to acknowledge that the notion of sublimation points psychoanalysis in the direction of cultural production. indeed. what makes them mass marketable. Alain Resnais. may appear elitist? What about art that inhibits rather than soliciting its audience’s identification? What of those high cultural forms that can be made reassuringly familiar only by means of considerable hermeneutic violence? I have in mind here the “difficult” art of practitioners as various as Mark Rothko. it must resist the hermeneutic imperative that founds psychoanalysis as a practice. in so doing.’” an essay contemporaneous with Freud’s “discovery” of the death drive. Emily Dickinson. corporate media-sponsored transnational capitalism relies on the appeal of this comparatively easy access to aesthetic pleasure.17) It is precisely their capacity for producing the easy pleasures of recognition that makes these cultural forms popular. Freud has at his disposal a hermeneutic framework capable of refamiliarizing aesthetic strangeness — though many commentators on “The ‘Uncanny’” have noticed how inadequate that framework is to the aesthetic effects it aspires to comprehend. to defy the impulse to transform aesthetic UMBR(a) 161 . It is only when psychoanalysis takes on board postHegelian philosophies of alterity and moves beyond the dialectics of recognition that it becomes equipped to think about the otherness of art in ethical terms. when art becomes disquietingly unfamil-iar. confer subjective and social recognition. But what about those aesthetic forms that actively resist consumption and. in their determined inaccessibility. It is in the domain of das Unheimliche. the psychoanalytically inflected accounts of aesthetic reception toward which Grosz gestures are quintessentially theories of consumption. It is also. In order for psychoanalysis to respond ethically to the inhuman strangeness of “difficult” aesthetic forms. a direction from which it is much harder to appreciate aesthetic alterity. Of course. By identifying processes of normalization with schemes of intelligibility — and thus by aligning “difficult” art with queerness — I am suggesting that certain aesthetic forms possess an alterity that renders wholly inadequate theories of cultural reception based on consumption. In other words.18 Art that radically resists normalization by virtue of its confounding sense would seem to represent a far stronger ally of queer politics than the products of mass culture that readily make sense and.

in the Lacanian category of the real — that which resists meaning and interrupts interpretation — we may find the conceptual means for articulating a psychoanalytic ethics responsive to the otherness of art. Nevertheless. Contra Grosz. “the other of meaning is indecipherable variation. it may be easier to situate art on the side of the queer than to maintain an alliance between queerness and Freudianism.”19 Although what Howe intends by “indecipherable variation” has nothing to do with homosexuality or with what some critics have gamely tried to establish as Dickinson’s lesbianism. and desires are acknowledged as variable to the point of indecipherability — and when schemes of intelligibility such as Lacan’s “structures of desire” are recognized as wholly incommensurate with erotic variation — then psychoanalysis finally will have separated itself from the social apparatus of normalization. UMBR(a) 162 UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) . As poet Susan Howe says in her meditation on the unregulatable economy of Dickinson’s “difficult” art.opacity into more intelligible terms — poses perhaps a greater challenge for psychoanalysis than for other institutions of interpretation. “This dying discourse” may return in strange forms.20 Once erotic practices. fantasies. indecipherable variation could be taken as a synonym for queerness. At some future point psychoanalysis might become an aesthetic and ethical practice. rather than a predominantly therapeutic and hermeneutical one.

1997). The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. but with Freud. Much has been made in queer theory of such cross-identifications. 3. and Charles Shepherdson.” Critical Inquiry 24 (1998): 851-877. Sue Golding (New York: Routledge. Grosz. 1992).” trans. 2000). and Maire Jaanus (Albany: SUNY Press. for example. in Reading Seminar XI: Lacan’s Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. Lawrence Grossberg. See also de Lauretis. 313. 106. “Position of the Unconscious. De Lauretis. Alan Sheridan (Harmondsworth: Penguin. “Cross-Identifications. 1-5. trans. 163 . 15. Teresa de Lauretis. 14. 1995). as most of its current practitioners seem to believe.” Raritan 15:1 (1995): 116-134. The Trouble with Normal: Sex. 1986). “The Stubborn Drive. 277-292. 11. trans. 275. De Lauretis’ response to Grosz’s critique appears as “Habit Changes. cross-identification — regardless of which socially regulated boundaries are transgressed — remains within the pale of the normal by comparison with that which thwarts all identification and thereby foils recognition. Elizabeth Grosz. 2000). The Practice of Love: Lesbian Sexuality and Perverse Desire (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Psychoanalysis (New York: Routledge. 1994). Richard Feldstein. 6.” 287. 5. esp. 10. Vital Signs. Space. 1993). and Paula A. Richard Feldstein. Jacques Lacan. Culture. eds. 17. the special issue of Umbr(a) on the drive: Umbr(a) 1 (1997). 4. Jacques-Alain Miller. This essay is also a chapter in Grosz. Bruce Fink. 1999). 12. As I argue in Beyond Sexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 9. “The Stubborn Drive.” in Cultural Studies. 152 in this volume. See. xixvi. Jacques-Alain Miller. “On Perversion. Mitchell. or. queer theory originates not with Foucault. “On the Eve of a Queer Future.” Differences 6 (1994): 278. Cary Nelson. Politics. Leo Bersani makes a version of this point when arguing that Freud describes precisely those mental forces that derail any theoretical project and thereby confound the realization of his own metapsychology. In my view. Jacques Lacan. 7. Judith Butler and Biddy Martin. 1995).” in The Eight Technologies of Otherness. 1996). A. “The Labors of Love. which often are taken as signs of queerness. The Freudian Body: Psychoanalysis and Art (New York: Columbia University Press. 1976). Miller. See Stephen A.” in Tendencies (Durham: Duke University Press. Jeffrey Mehlman (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. and Maire Jaanus (Albany: SUNY Press. 155171. See. 124. 13. Time. and the Study of Popular Culture. Hope and Dread in Psychoanalysis (New York: Basic.” introduction to a queer special issue of Diacritics 24: 2-3 (1994): 3. see William Haver.” in Reading Seminars I and II. 1998). “Foreword: T Times. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Bruce Fink. and Perversion: Essays on the Politics of Bodies (New York: Routledge. thanks in part to the etymological and conceptual connections between queering and crossing. Treichler (New York: Routledge.” Differences 6 (1994): 296-313. Psychoanalysis. See Bersani. A classic instance of this kind of work may be found in Constance Penley. 479-500. ed.1. and D. “Queer Research. ed. 187-195. Jean Laplanche. 8. see also Shepherdson. See Grosz.” 858. Life and Death in Psychoanalysis. for example. How to Practise Invention to the Brink of Intelligibility. eds. “Feminism. and the Ethics of Queer Life (New York: Free Press. “The Labors of Love: Analyzing Perverse Desire: An Interrogation of Teresa de Lauretis’s The Practice of Love. 1995). Place for Us: Essay on the Broadway Musical (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. UMBR(a) 2. For more on the notion of queer research as a practice of interruption. Bruce Fink. See Tim Dean. Michael Warner. Vital Signs: Nature. 16. 1977). eds.

“These Flames and Generosities of the Heart.” an unpublished manuscript that. I develop this argument in “Normalizing Emily Dickinson. 164 19. Arts of Impoverishment: Beckett. “Hart Crane and Poetry: A Consideration of Crane’s Intense Poetics with Reference to ‘The Return. together with this response to Grosz. Rothko. see Leo Bersani and Ulysse Dutoit. I should note that these various critical accounts do not explicitly connect with queerness the forms of aesthetic difficulty they anatomize.” 148. UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) . where I claim that “beyond sexuality lie the myriad possibilities of aesthetics” (279). though they do make available the terms that enable this connection. Resnais (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Howe. see Allen Grossman. 20. see Susan Howe. on Dickinson. “These Flames and Generosities of the Heart: Emily Dickinson and the Illogic of Sumptuary Values.18. 1993). on Crane. may be taken as an elaboration of the final sentence of my book Beyond Sexuality.” in The Birth-Mark: Unsettling the Wilderness in American Literary History (Hanover: Wesleyan University Press. On Rothko and Resnais. 1993).’” English Literary History 48 (1981): 841-879.

UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) 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UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) 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Božovic describes Malebranche’s fascination with the smallness of insects. is not guaranteed beyond the world. Božovic repeatedly demonstrates that the true dilemma of modern thought is nothing less than creating a place for God within the limits of the finite world. in philosophy. without belief: God as a construction of the apparatus of the unconscious. the world itself is no longer guaranteed by a purely external cause. In religion. early in his book. For. This seems surprising given that both Freud and Lacan notoriously broke with or overturned conventional assumptions at every step of the way. but rather an encounter with truth. then only a dead God constitutes proof of the infinite distancing of totality from the world and the final finitude of the human. any notion of God that depends upon a realm beyond the world fails to live up to the demand of modernity. ^ ^ objective. how does the work of early modern philosophers allow for a movement from the medieval idea of God as pure creator to a decidedly modern notion in which the invention of the apparatus brings into being not only reality. . for Božovic. 139 pp.BOOK REVIEWS UMBR(a) 166 Božovic takes on this question of the place of God in the modern world: namely. The God Božovic presents can never be reduced to a notion of the God of the beyond and. God belonged to the realms of religion and philosophy: the former insofar as it depended upon a supremely living God and the latter insofar as it called for an entirely dead God. a god without ethics. God is in the distant. that the persistence of the notion of God betrays a symptomatic religiosity in psychoanalysis. the several thousand crystalline lenses in the eye of a fly — but what the ^ ^ ^ In the past. impossible place of objective truth. but God as well. as a result. Božovic’s readings develop an idea of the mere place of God. living or dead. Are we to conclude. In his readings of early modern thinkers such as Spinoza and Malebranche. if only a living God can guarantee the ultimate sense of human life and thus nourish a properly religious encounter. or is the God that returns in psychoanalysis radically different from the conventional notions of God that preceded it? ^ AN UTTERLY DARK SPOT: GAZE AND BODY IN EARLY MODERN PHILOSOPHY Miran Bozovic (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. What Miran Božovic offers in his recent book is a third notion of God — and I would argue a properly psychoanalytic notion of God — that is neither subjective nor ^ ^ ^ Despite the fact that God has been definitively declared dead on more than one occasion. neither a presence nor an absence. God appears only in the immediate possibility of a subjective encounter with him. without faith. 2000). Malebranche marvels at the sheer complexity of the insect body — for instance. whether possible or impossible. This notion is structurally different from both the God of the philosophers and the one of religion in that the infinite. then. For example. but rather the place of God is that which infinitizes the world. it seems that psychoanalysis finds it impossible to do away with him altogether. In fact.

If this is true. unrealized panopticon. UMBR(a) 167 . At this point in Božovic’s argument. of reason. then. Although the place of God is what supports visible reality. However. the things that are made visible under the lens of his microscope. The advent of the apparatus.” that is. there must be a viewer but this viewer takes place only within and by means of the visible. If. Galileo is not God insofar as he is rather the creator of God: that is to say he invents the position of God in the form of the viewer who peers through the lens of the microscope. creates not only the “new” reality that we see — the delicate structure of the fly’s eye — but it also creates God. brings into being. something that functions not despite the fact that it does not exist. it makes of God what Bentham calls an “imaginary nonentity. it is a mistake to believe that Galileo is this creator. In other words. the existence of these microscopic things is dependent upon the position of the viewer: not to be gazed upon is not to exist. having exhibited something no one before had known to have been created” (15). For the age of the apparatus replaces the medieval preoccupation with ontological proofs of God — the concern with God on the order of his exist-ence — with the new problem of the mech-anical construction of the place of God. then their creation lies not in their material existence — which preceded the invention of the microscope but which nonetheless was completely inaccessible to human percep- If what is at issue on the side of things is not their material existence but their “being seen. for the visible to be visible. but rather “precisely because of the fact that [it] do[es] not ^ ^ philosopher finds most alarming about these creatures is that all their complexity seems to be deliberately hidden from the human gaze. as Božovic will later say of Jeremy Bentham’s notorious. “Without a God who sustains it with his allseeing gaze. ^ tion — but in their being made visible. reality and the place of God come into existence at the same time. or rather. Galileo literally creates. as Johann Faber declares. Indeed. too. the implications of Faber’s comment are not fully realized. in the invention of the apparatus. the apparatus secures not the real existence of God but the mere place of God as that “utterly dark spot” within the field of the visible. the microscope. it creates the creator. it does not do so because God precedes and creates that reality as its sovereign and external cause. after his investigations of both Malebranche and Bentham. Furthermore. the smallest of things are utterly imperceptible to the human eye without the aid of a microscope.…this body [the artificial body of the panopticon] would certainly collapse” (115).” on the side of God. that is. these things were not only invisible but literally did not exist. this creation of the place of God does not necessarily lead to the actual existence of God. the creation of God on the level of the concept. one realizes that in fact this small story sets up the crucial problem of his book. Or. in fact.We see that the invention of the apparatus. before the invention of the microscope. however. comes as a moment of creation: Božovic quotes Johann Faber who praises Galileo as “a kind of creator.

we hallucinate them” (73). is simply the idea of the body that is in God. For. sensible knowledge of God himself would “invincibly attach [man] to God” (57) and thus turn him irrevocably away from the world. the appearance of the invisible hand of God. There is ‘an infinite difference’ separating the bodies that we immediately see. This hole is always a blot on the surface of reality. the creation of the visible. the idea of the bodies or intelligible bodies. Of what could this hole in the hallucination of bodies consist? Certainly the hallucinated world of things. which Malebranche calls the grace of feeling. This hallucination of bodies is the creation of ^ What Malebranche suggests is that.Božovic makes this point clear when he examines the problems posed by Malebranche’s occasionalism. while God creates the ideas that give us (our only) sensible knowledge about the world. In the panopticon. reality. what we immediately see and sense. The moment when the place of the utterly dark spot becomes reducible to some particular object (as in the real person of an inspector). that is. what is effective in the panopticon — what guarantees certainty — is neither the presence nor absence of the inspector. the idea of things. from the bodies we look at. The hole in hallucinated presence comes not by way of a real presence but through the presence of an absence. but where is the lining of invisibility. as Božovic points out. and not by leaping into the beyond. the place of God. for instance. In other words. according to Malebranche. the material existence of bodies is totally inaccessible except as another hallucination and thus. and not its ideatum in the external world. “That which is immediately accessible to the mind. that is material bodies” (69). any disruption must be logically prior to the material world. then. Thus although Božovic’s book appears to concern itself primarily with the careful ^ UMBR(a) 168 ^ exist” (96). Again we see here that there is a sharp distinction between the material existence of bodies and bodies as they are seen. is this opening up of an invisibility. he cannot give us sensible knowledge of himself. . it can no longer be truly omnipresent. For. but rather the presence of his absence. in Malebranche. a prison-er can be absolutely certain that he is always being watched only as long as he never knows for sure when he is being watched. it loses its hold. the making visible of an invisi-bility. will not be disrupted by a material existence. He says that. a place at which the world exceeds itself internally. God then cannot appear as a sensible presence but only as a hole in the world of sensible presence and causal efficacy. Božovic explains. and again it is not the material body that is at stake here because. “even when bodies exist. that is. that is. this moment of the appearance of the invisible comes not as a pure possibility but as an impossibility: as the presence of “sensible knowledge” of God acting on man. The creation of the place of God. or what Malebranche will call the idea of bodies. which functions nevertheless in order to guarantee the very possibility of visibility. around which any visibility should form? Appropriately.

and vicissitudes of sexual meanings at various historical junctures. Queer theory emerged as a separate field of inquiry in the 1980s with two primary goals: to establish the centrality of sex and sexuality as a fundamental category of historical anal-ysis. In Beyond Sexuality. 304 pp. it has become exceedingly clear that the same Foucaultian theory of sexuality that has enabled queer theory to accomplish its first goal has also severely inhibited its ability to tackle the second. and to theorize sexuality outside the terms of gender. Over the past twenty years. Tim Dean convincingly argues that developing a nonnormative. nonheterosexist theory of desire to challenge the current deployment of sexuality “requires more than a commitment to the standard Foucaultian position that sexuality is a historical rather than a natural phenomenon” (269) — it requires an engagement with.reading of specific texts. While Foucault’s theory of sexuality has helped queer theorists to successfully address the cultural production. “God is dead. Claiming that psychoanalysis’s greatest potential for a progressive critique of sexuality continues to be obscured by the work of those queer theorists most noted for their use of Lacan (namely Judith Butler). 2000).” and how is it that he returns? —Theresa Giron ^ BEYOND SEXUALITY Tim Dean (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Dean sets out to recover the UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) 169 . most have had precious little to say about the subject of desire. psychoanalysis. what cuts across all these readings is a forceful new notion of God that develops in response to the dilemma of mod-ernity: of which God does one speak when one says. however. not a dismissal of. dissemination.

systemic assumption that sex confers the principal guarantee of subjective truth” (21). and thus heterosexuality. For Lacan. not subjects of desire” (187). they also unwittingly participate in the very normalizing practices they seek to critique and contest. in his chapters “Transcending Gender” and “Bodies that Mutter. toward an understanding of the radical impersonality of desire” (17). If. “the subject of desire emerges not when an identification (with the father. which reduce sexual-ity to an effect of discourse and fail to consider what in discourse exceeds language. in order to disarticulate the connection between sexuality and selfhood. UMBR(a) 170 . that is. that is. as Dean claims in one of two chapters devoted to thinking psychoanalytically about the AIDS epidemic. Beyond Sexuality seeks to “push the critique of sexual identity politics in another direction. “queer sexualities themselves become normalizing (paradoxical though that sounds). their accounts describe subjects of the signifier. it undermines our assumption that sexuality involves other persons. By reducing subjectivity and sexuality to a function of the ego. Dean argues that Lacan’s concept of the object a. which maintains that sexuality is discursively constituted. and specifically his concept of the object. however. “beyond the intransigent. “Sex has become literally ‘worth dying for. Dean argues. Beyond Sexuality attempts to show how “a certain version of psychoanalysis may contain within itself the conceptual means for taking us beyond sexuality” (272). “Without an appreciation of the unconscious. While Dean is thus clearly interested in reconciling psychoanalysis with Foucault’s critique of sexuality. the mother. for queer theory and queer politics. Butler’s and Edelman’s accounts paradoxically produce queer bodies bearing egos but devoid of subjective desire.importance of Lacan’s work. Ultimately. the object cause of desire that is also the object of unconscious fantasy. insofar as sexuality becomes wedded to identity” (6). Dean shows how explicitly queer-identified theories such as Butler’s and Edelman’s. ulti-mately end up evacuating desire from their accounts: “by assimilating the category of sexuality to imaginary and symbolic formations. but when it fails to be made” (187). or a signifier) is made. sexuality for psychoanalysis pertains more to the real and the unconscious than to the symbolic or the imaginary.” Dean argues. In- stead. and by ignoring both the productive and disruptive potential of the real and the unconscious. Butler’s and Edelman’s positions. he distinguishes himself from other queer theorists attempting to bring Foucault and Lacan together by his refusal to assimilate psychoanalysis to the now standard constructivist position (or what Dean terms the “rhetoricalist” position). That is. not only oppose Lacan’s most basic ideas.” Dean critiques the work of Butler and Lee Edelman to expose the numerous paradoxes and misconceptions produced by the attempt to align psychoanalysis with both rhetoricalist and gender performance theories.’ [it is] because the deployment of sexuality scripts sex as the ground of our onto-logical identities” (168). not only shows that desire emerges independently of gender.

harsh though it may sound to say so. For in Dean’s argument.1 Dean’s stance on sexual difference. once his full use of the object a comes into view. Lacan’s concept of the object a here proves crucial to Dean’s efforts. however.” UMBR(a) 171 . According to Dean. impersonal. The secondary status of gender. leads Dean to suggest that “we move beyond sexual difference as the principal explanatory framework for theorizing desire” (88). are to expose the limitations of any strategy for resistance which grounds subjectivity in the ego and which ignores the intractability of the real. which serve as the cause of desire. though impossible to fully recapitulate here. “It follows that if desire is. in the first instance. as well as the fact that there is no signifier for sexual difference in the unconscious. His main objectives. We start to see that. As the cause of desire and the object of unconscious fantasy. Dean’s critiques of Butler’s theory of performativity and her interpretation of Lacan’s concept of the real are particularly incisive and valuable. for such an approach. is a point I will return to later. then our primary relations aren’t with other persons…. he argues. Beyond Sexuality. Beyond Sexuality’s originality and boldness derives from the way Dean develops and deploys Lacan’s concept of the object a to show how this concept provides a model for a non-heterosexist theory of desire that renders Lacan’s earlier concept of the phallus “largely obsolete” and displaces the significance of sexual difference “as the prime mover of desire” (88) in psychoanalytic theory. partial objects that have no a priori relation to gender.“Despite their loudly proclaimed awareness of constructedness and contingency. it becomes the ration-ale for an “impersonalist” conception of sexuality that aims to disarticulate the connection between sexuality and personhood. for unlike rhetoricalist theories that ground subjectivity in language. lesbian and gay egos — by virtue of being egos — are no less paranoid or aggressive than heterosexual people’s egos” (192). undeniably one of the more controversial aspects of Beyond Sexuality. The object a shows that desire emerges independently of gender. seeks to contribute to the development of a more radical and workable sexual politics by resuscitating the subject of desire for queer theory. the object a reveals how our relations with individuals are mediated by “a more primary structure of relationality that remains stunningly oblivious to both persons and gender” (263). In his chapter “Safe-Sex Education and the Death Drive. Lacan “helps to free desire from normative heterosexuality” (216). the object a not only serves as a model for a nonhetero-sexist theory of desire. since “sexual difference does not organize or determine sexual desire” (87). psychoanalysis grounds subjectivity in objects a. Dean argues that by conceptualizing the cause of desire in terms of multiple. other people provide merely contingent supports for psychical relations that are at bottom impersonal” (274). by contrast. only leads to a paranoid and psychotic style of queer politics. that “the gendering involved in ‘object-choice’ must be a secondary process performed on objects that precede gender” (253).

symbolic and real impediments to relationship may be overcome by fucking without protection” (150) — that jouissance can be regained through sexual relations with others — becomes more difficult to sustain once the function of the Other in sexual relations.” Dean stresses the importance of divesting sexual acts of their redemptive significance. “We might get beyond sex as the truth of being. Dean writes in his conclusion. Rather than ideal-izing sex as “‘the form of power that makes queer lives. ultimately. At the same time. an impersonalist theory of sexuality shows that interpersonal relations offer only one arena for engaging the truth of our being” (278). and the constitutive inaccessibility of the Other’s jouissance. Beyond Sexuality offers a compelling critique of the limitations of Fou-caultian positions in queer theory. An impersonalist conception of sexuality that acknowledges the irreducibility of jouissance to sex “opens a space for us to imagine different configurations of bodies and pleasures” (195). “For historical reasons we aim at jouissance through sex. queer theory has ultimately had very little to say about what psychoanalysis recognizes as sexuality or desire. by inventing more imaginative ways of ap-proaching jouissance and new relational ways of being gay. a different deployment of sexuality. by thinking harder about sexuality in nongenital terms. Dean 172 . “Recognizing interpersonal relations as predicated on an impersonal relation to the Other. and. Dean is essentially calling for a broader understanding of sexuality and a more expansive sense of gayness. “The pervasive fantasy that imaginary. Beyond Sexuality’s innovative-ness extends to the way in which Dean de-familiarizes both psychoanalytic and queer theory in the process of developing a psychoanalytically-informed queer theory of desire and sexuality. one that departs from the post-Stonewall ideal of sex-ual freedom that makes genital activity the sole basis of gay identity and politics. and particularly that of Lacan’s work. many queer theor-ists are far less UMBR(a) Foucaultian than they imagine themselves to be” (169). exposing the paradox that has characterized queer theory to date: namely.” Dean argues. “enables us to grasp how jouissance remains irreducible to sex” (171). Dean argues that by insisting “on the specificity of genital contact as the basis for all political work” (172). in attempting to recover for queer theory the importance of psychoanalysis. In arguing for an impersonalist conception of sexuality. for it is precisely this overvaluation of sex that makes unsafe sex so hard to renounce. that for all its talk about sex. “A certain innovative potential lies in projects — whether they be psychoanalytic or queer — that defamiliarze what we mean by sex and sexuality” (271).Dean argues that recognizing the impersonality at the heart of sexual relations proves crucial to understanding and working through the unconscious fantasies underlying unsafe sexual practices. queer theory continues “to mystify sex by drastically overestimating its potential.” Dean argues. is acknowledged. In this respect. but this is a result of the deployment of sexuality rather than an invariable necessity. Indeed.

I believe. defamiliarizes Lacan’s theory of sexuality to push it to a new place. sexual difference may not cause desire. My main concern with Beyond Sexuality lies in the way Dean’s argument implies that theorizing sexuality outside the terms of gender also requires theorizing sexuality outside the terms of sexual difference. his project nonetheless carries important im- UMBR(a) 173 . by conflating sexual difference with gender. In arguing that because the object a shows that desire emerges independently of gender. but it does structure the way the subject relates to his or her own desire and jouissance. “sexual difference does not organize or determine sexual desire” (87). As Butler notes in her essay “Against Proper Objects. Dean conflates gender with sexual difference and implies that sexual difference’s conceptual relevance is limited to the realm of interpersonal relations. is with the way in which Dean. My ultimate concern. Stated another way. but in my belief that he presents an unrealistic vision of desire free from all structural constraints.provides a gay critique of psychoanalysis that radically calls into question the validity of the phallus and sexual difference as the principal psychoanalytic concepts for theorizing desire. The relationship between queer theory and feminism has become an increasingly vexed one.2 Nor is it correct to assume that just because sexual difference does not serve as the cause of desire. however. and the consequences this bears for not only addressing the specificity of gay and lesbian desire. as opposed to the subject’s impersonal relation to object a. sexual difference is secondary (267). this does not mean that desire emerges independently of sexual difference. While Dean shows how the object a frees desire from the constraints of gender and heterosexuality.3 The concept of sexual difference. by the position the individual assumes in relation to the symbolic order (not the subject’s anatomy). implies that this concept must be abandoned — or at least rendered secondary — to arrive at a nonheterosexist model of desire. indeed.” queer theory’s move to separate the study of gender from the study of sexuality has tended to create a false symmetry between lesbians and gays that dovetails with mainstream conservatism and male dominance. yet it is worth pausing to question what has been sacrificed in the process. proves crucial to challenging this false symmetry and articulating the difference of the woman in a way that does not merely reduce women to their cultural construction. he fails to address the way in which the subject’s relationship to object a is nonetheless highly organized and constrained by that subject’s sexual position. for the very reason that it is always a sexed subject who desires. My objection to Dean’s treatment of sexual difference lies not in his lack of fidelity to a more “orthodox” Lacanian position. Dean. While desire may emerge independently of gender and heterosexuality. particularly the constraints imposed by sexuation (not gender). and while this is not necessarily a concern addressed by Dean in Beyond Sexuality. but also for queer theory’s ability to address feminist issues.

selfhood and personhood. Indeed. one that works to challenge the false symmetry between lesbians and gays that has emerged in the field. Elizabeth Weed and Naomi Schor (Bloomington: Indiana University Press.) (New York: Columbia University Press. . It is possible to isolate two problematic trends in the history of psychoanalysis in terms of subaltern histories and cultures. To the two primary goals that have guided queer theory to date. 182 pp. be they African-American or those of the colonial world. Already in 1955. 2. an issue I will address toward the end of the review. eds. it is precisely because Beyond Sexuality proves so successful in uniting Foucault and Lacan and providing us with a model of desire freed from the constraints of gender and heterosexuality that this work occasions pause for reflection on the future direction of queer theory. psychoanalysis has posited an analogy between “savagery” and infantilism. Aimé Césaire notes that the Eurocentric investment in these disciplines is evident in their insistence on depicting “Negroes-as-big-children. it is unclear to me if this also involves disarticulating sexuality from the subject’s sexual position. identity. ignoring the question of the subject’s gender and sexual position.UMBR(a) 174 plications for the future of this relationship. Judith Butler. While I understand Dean’s interest in disarticulating sexuality from gender. as opposed to issues of sexual difference. 445 pp. one that works to rebuild the eroding relationship between queer theory and feminism. beginning with Freud. 3. the possible contribution of psychoanalysis to an investigation into “race” has more often than not been completely dismissed as nonexistent or irrelevant because.” in Feminism Meets Queer Theory. Dean seems to focus exclusively on questioning the gender of the object/object choice. First. THE PSYCHOANALYSIS OF RACE Christopher Lane (ed. Dean problematically conflates gender and sexual difference. 1998). While there is an emerging field of psychoanalytic criticism 1. — Sue Feldman DESIRING WHITENESS: A LACANIAN ANALYSIS OF RACE Kalpana Seshadri-Crooks (London: Routledge. “Against Proper Objects. there is very little in either Freud’s or Lacan’s writing that explicitly refers to questions of “race” or seeks to explain racism.”2 Second. perhaps it is time to add a third.1 This is perhaps best evidenced by Octave Mannoni’s Prospero and Caliban (1950). 1997). 2000). whose justification of colonialism as a response to the psychic “dependency complex” of the natives has become an exemplary case of the political misappropriation of psychology and psychoanalysis.

selfsufficiency.. Instead. 129). 2. according to her argument. is imperative for critical race theory if we are to understand the “unconscious resiliency of race” (Seshadri-Crooks.3 Two recent volumes that perhaps point to the beginning of a new understanding of the relation between psychoanalysis and race are Kalpana Seshadri-Crooks’s Desiring Whiteness and The Psychoanalysis of Race. it still orders the symbolic in powerful ways — suggests that our investment in it is not reducible to material or historical conditions (Seshadri-Crooks. the writers argue. then. this historical status does not mean that race is reducible to culture (4). promising “complete mastery. does not pertain to the real. is “why do we need race” (3-4)? Seshadri-Crooks reads race into Lacanian theory by beginning with the most familiar and central of Lacanian concepts: sexual difference. Seshadri-Crooks and a number of contributors to Lane’s volume argue that. Desiring Whiteness is an investigation into the symbolic structur-ation of race and the position of the real therein. “Race depends upon the sexed subject for its effectivity” (21): it promises the fantasy of oneness. Seshadri-Crooks follows Joan Copjec’s argument that sexual difference names the irredeemable splitting and “the sovereign incalculability” of the subject5 and suggests that Whiteness. Consequently. This argument of Whiteness as that which completes the subject. we have not quite established a decisive break from older models of applied psychoanalysis that. 3. she does not crudely set up sex and race as analogies to one another. a collection of essays edited by Christopher Lane. Unlike sexual difference. however. Fortunately.4 However. despite challenges that announce it as a construction and a myth. the “master signifier of race. socio-historical analyses of race are insufficient: the tenacity of “race” — the fact that. see also Lane. nor is it a foray into the politics of psychoanalysis (Jacques Derrida contributes to this field of study in his article in Lane’s book). unwittingly or not. Marriott in Lane. see also Lane.. and the jouissance of Oneness” (7). but not ‘sex. we merely repeat the symbolic structures that rely on racial difference for their functioning. Seshadri-Crooks emphasizes that her study is not an application of psychoanalysis to the regime of race. unlike sexual difference. 1.’ . 429). whereby the subject would fill in the gap in the Other. the law of racial difference is thoroughly historical and historicizable” (42-43). perpetuate the kind of approach to questions of “race” and colonialism that Mannoni represents. without an understanding of our psychic investment in racial identification. “We can deconstruct race as performativity.that discusses race. Psychoanalysis. which is founded on the real-symbolic law of the prohibition of incest.” attempts to totalize the subject and produce a sense of wholeness that covers over the split of sexual difference. race. the fantasy of “recov-er[ing] the missing substance of one’s being” (59). Instead. is perhaps the most original insight in UMBR(a) 175 . 14. For them. Penney in Lane. occupy the position of the gaze in the field of the Other. and hence “annihilate difference” (59). its central question.

While one cannot glibly dismiss identity politics. one must recognize how it strengthens the very cate-gories whose insidious symptoms it seeks to address (158-59). not promote more fulsome claims to such identity” (36). In fact. Lane’s project seeks to open “an opportunity to displace the ego. the first ethical move that SeshadriCrooks and numerous contributors to Lane’s collection effect is to denounce programs of “consciousness-raising” that assume racism to 176 be the result of “bad ideology. multiculturalism and antiracism play in the perpetuation of racial categories. Tim Dean’s reading of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Merrill Cole’s reevaluation of Nat Turner’s slave rebellion as the symbolically unassimilable event of the real. civil society can guarantee the symbolic reinscription of race itself (9). It does not supplement traditional historiography but shows its blind spots. express and perpetuate our belief in race (12). literature and psychoanalysis — rather than standing as the poor cousins of more sociological approaches in cultural studies — are in fact more historical than conventional historiographical methods” (310). we should investigate the roles that. To argue for such moves as our basic ethical imperatives is to situate oneself in opposition to dominant modes of sociology and historiography. “When taken together. Indeed. Both Lane and Seshadri-Crooks suggest that bolstering the ego through “race consciousness” or identity politics does not challenge racism and colonialism. Instead. Unlike the latter. for example. Seshadri-Crooks argues that a number of antiracist approaches reveal the need for the survival of race. both volumes suggest that racism is not a malignant outgrowth of civil society but in fact an integral necessity to its symbolic formation. rather than struggling for equality.” Instead. in seeking such an ethics.Seshadri-Crooks’ book. Cole similarly argues that psychoanalysis does not complement UMBR(a) . Similarly. This search for an ethics does not name an effort to elaborate a psychoanalytically informed socio-political program to counter racism. What seems to be a common concern for her and a number of Lane’s contributors is an attempt to delineate something like an ethics of psychoanalysis in the realm of racial identifications and race prejudice. the writers want to confound our first liberal impulses when faced with racism. “One must throw into doubt the security and belief in one’s identity. this ethics takes into account the real. And as Seshadri-Crooks writes. allowing nonidentitarian and noncom-munitarian arguments to surface in its place” (11). she points to the connection between Eurocentrism and multiculturalism — both “covertly share the logical assumption of an organic relation among language. As Dean writes. culture and biology” (49) — and claims that contemporary identity politics have continued the debates over “hereditary race” and. hence. This emphasis surfaces in the two most engaging essays in The Psychoanalysis of Race. that by condemning and challenging the most atrocious forms of race prejudice. They suggest that. Taking issue with Paul Gilroy’s refiguring of Eurocentric narratives in his The Black Atlantic (1993).

the slave rebellion of 1831. while revealing the disruptive. — Mikko Tuhkanen UMBR(a) 177 . which he sees as one of the “events that traumatize linear and redemptive conceptions of history” (262). On the other hand. the piece of the real unassimilable to the symbolic order. Cole articulates what seems to be the focal point for the refiguring of race and subaltern histories in Desiring Whiteness and The Psychoanalysis of Race: the question of Lacanian ethics. in their adherence to models of equality-in-difference. ethical imperatives of desire. 160-61). Cole deems it symptomatic that Gilroy cannot account for. As he notes. Response to Turner’s bloody rebellion. in Cole’s view. are incapable of articulating an ethics of race.historiographical accounts of history (Gilroy’s included) but renders visible what is always necessarily scotomized in them: “With attention to the disruptive event. It is here. that Nat Turner. it is imperative that one heeds eruptions that cannot be sutured back into symbolic representation. For them. “psychoanalysis teaches us the ethical value of paying constant attention to the operations of desire” (279). a refusal of this movement condemns one to immobility and blindness. but simultaneously refuse too close a proximity to it. Cole reminds us that Lacanian ethics includes a double movement in terms of the real: as ethical subjects. however diligent and all-embracing. Cole continues. too. as Cole writes. Even when he provides a counter-narrative to Eurocentric Enlightenment progress that is structured around slave experience. or even directly acknowledge. It is here. here Gilroy. “reveal[s] a symbolic system grappling with the Lacanian real” (268). Gilroy.’ psychoanalysis reconsiders trauma in a way that continuist historiography. fails in sustaining this trajectory precisely because of his lack of distance from the real. produces a historicist retelling of Eurocentrism that does not escape the blind spots of progressivist historiography. Here we find. retaining our desiring relation to the objet a. he “lacks distance from [the] voice enjoining him to kill” (271). necessarily cannot” (262). to what it terms ‘the symptom. Here. that we find the movements of desire and the proximity of the real that are ineradicable components of ethics in psychoanalysis (see also Žižek in Lane. then. For one to sustain an ethical relation to the real. fails to conceive an ethics of race. with Cole. we must remain in a constant negotiation with desire and the real. according to Cole. too. psychoanalysis is crucial in negotiating the processes of identification and abjection that underlie formations of race and racism. that Seshadri-Crooks and many of Lane’s contributors converge in arguing that socio-historical programs.

See. Psychoanalysis (New York: Routledge. and. Allison Davis’s chapter on Wright in his Leadership. Film Theory. 208. 5. 1991). 153-80. 3. Charles Shepherdson and Žižek seem to con- UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) UMBR(a) 178 . Mary Ann Doane’s discussion in “Dark Continents: Epistemologies of Racial and Sexual Difference in Psychoanalysis and the Cinema.” in Femmes Fatales: Feminism. “Sex and the Euthanasia of Reason. what is problematic in a number of earlier psychoanalytic approaches to questions of race is their glib attribution of clinical categories to social phenomena (Žižek in Lane. Love and Aggression (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Mass.” in Read My Desire: Lacan against the Historicists (Cambridge. As Slavoj Žižek suggests in his contribution to The Psychoanalysis of Race. 169). The dialogue between psychoanalysis and “race” has largely been confined to psychobiographical works. here. Žižek in Lane. we can take two texts that focus on Richard Wright: there is Margaret Walker’s biography Richard Wright. Joel Kovel’s ground-breaking White Racism: A Psychohistory (1970. 1994). tradict Seshadri-Crooks by arguing that race is (in) the real (see Shepherdson in Lane. rpt. which at times uses some pseudo-psychoanalytical ways to read Wright and his work. 1972).1. trans. 209-248. 1983). Joan Pinkham (New York: Monthly Review Press. a Critical Look at His Work (New York: Amistad.: MIT Press. Aimé Césaire. New York: Columbia University Press. 2. Discourse on Colonialism (1955). Daemonic Genius: A Portrait of the Man. 40. 1984) remains the best-known example. for example. which is illustrative of the so-called psychobiographies at their most arrogant and reductive. 46. more notoriously. 154). See Joan Copjec. As examples. 4. 1988).

He is the author of several articles in Dutch on Bataille. UMBR(a) 179 . Derrida. Recently he finished a book. one of his articles appears in Sic 2: Cogito and the Unconscious. published in German and Slovene and forthcoming in English from Verso Press. Nancy Fraser. 2001) and TRAining for ART (Hakibutz Hameuchad and The Porter Institute Publishers. and Alain Badiou. ELIZABETH GROSZ teaches Comparative Literature and English at the State University of New York at Buffalo. CUNY. He has just completed. and twentieth-century British and postcolonial literature and currently has four book projects in progress. and is the author of Jacques Lacan: A Feminist Introduction. Ernesto Laclau. Pforzheimer Professor of English at the City College of New York. on Lacan’s The Ethics of Psychoanalysis. J. Lefort. He is author of Beyond Sexuality and coeditor of Homosexuality and Psychoanalysis (University of Chicago Press. and Perversion. Urbana-Champaign. which will be published shortly by Routledge. SAM GILLESPIE has been a member of the Umbr(a) collective since 1995. Juliet Flower MacCannell. in Hebrew). Her book Architecture from the Outside is forthcoming from MIT Press. interdisciplinary legal and cultural studies. A Sign from Heaven and The Angel of History. with Slavoj Žižek a book-length manuscript on opera.CONTRIBUTORS ARIELLA AZOULAY teaches visual culture and contemporary French philosophy at the Cultural Studies Program at Bar Ilan University and at Camera Obscura School of Arts. She has in print/forthcoming eleven articles on French and German critical theory. MARC De KESEL teaches at the Arteveldhogeschool in Ghent. He is currently completing two books. TIM DEAN is Associate Professor of English and Interpretive Theory at the University of Illinois. Her edited volume Law. in Dutch. and Lacan. consisting of essays by Joan Copjec. The Otherness of Art and Modernism and the Ethics of Impersonality. She is the author of Death’s Showcase (MIT. has been solicited by Stanford University Press. 2001). Julia Kristeva. In English. Justice. He has published elsewhere on Alain Badiou and Gilles Deleuze and is currently writing a dissertation on the work of Badiou at the University of Warwick. and the director of two documentary films. and Power. SINKWAN CHENG is Carl H. 2000. Time. Hillis Miller. MLADEN DOLAR is Professor of Social Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana and author of The Bone in the Spirit: A Lacanian Reading of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. and Space.

She is the author of From Fantasy to Powerlessness: Seven Chapters on Lacan and Philosophy (Museum Tusulanums Forlag.D. Tel-Aviv University. 2000). He is the founding editor of Theory and Criticism. and Contingency. The Making of Political Identities. on the concept of democracy and the problem of exclusion in the Doctoral Programme in Ideology and Discourse Analysis. and most recently visiting professor at Stanford.D. University of Essex. Hegemony. 1990). LASSE THOMASSEN is working on a Ph. an interdisciplinary journal of critical theory dedicated to Israeli culture and society. He is the author of Emancipation(s). as well as the author of Plato’s Invisible Cities: Discourse and Power in the Republic (Routledge. both of which are published in Danish. 2000. University of Essex. JULIET FLOWER MacCANNELL is Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature at UC Irvine. ADI OPHIR teaches philosophy at the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas. on democracy and human rights in South Korea in the Doctoral Programme in Ideology and Discourse Analysis. 1991) and Speaking Evil: Toward an Ontology of Morals (Am Oved. She is the author of The Hysteric’s Guide to the Future Female Subject (Minnesota. and Figuring Lacan (Nebraska/Routledge. SEOUNGWON LEE is presently working on his Ph. Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (with Chantal Mouffe). where she specializes in Latin American cultural studies and literature. 180 UMBR(a) . KIRSTEN HYLDGAARD holds a Ph. CARLOS PESSOA is presently doing his doctoral research on the Brazilian Workers’ Party in the Doctoral Programme in Ideology and Discourse Analysis. The Regime of the Brother (Routledge. University of Essex. He was a visiting research scholar at the State University of New York at Buffalo in the Fall 2000. 1998) and Heidegger and the Age of Technics (Aarhus.MARTA HERNÁNDEZ is currently enrolled as a Ph. in philosophy and teaches at the University of Copenhagen.D.D. in Hebrew). Universality (with Judith Butler and Slavoj Žižek). student in the Department of Romance Studies at Duke University. ERNESTO LACLAU is Professor of Political Theory at the University of Essex and Visiting Professor of Comparative Literature at the State University of New York at Buffalo. 1991). 1986). New Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time.

Please send all submissions to: UMBR(a) c/o Mikko Tuhkanen The Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Culture 409 Clemens Hall SUNY-Buffalo. racial. perhaps most importantly. Umbr(a) 2002 seeks to bring together essays that discuss these concepts. 2001. North Campus Buffalo. difference: the impersonal. for example. the same. cultural. the generic. the particular timeliness of their emergence. however. the possible connections between them. New York 14260-4610 UMBR(a) 181 .500-6.CALL FOR PAPERS UMBR a 2002 ON “SAMENESS” For a long time. must be submitted on a 3. and must be received no later than December 1.000 words in length. historical — have absorbed most of our attention and have even brought into being new fields of study. Recently. differences — sexual. What is the meaning of this subtle refocusing of critical attention on such terms? Does it oppose or supplement the study of difference? Do these terms constitute a trend? Does the notion of the generic in the political philosophy of Alain Badiou. and. or remain indifferent to. have any relation to the notions of the same and the impersonal that appear in Leo Bersani’s and Guy Hocquenghem’s (queer) theories of sexuality? How are these terms affecting theories of passing and identity? relationality and community? repetition and difference? What are the political implications of their emergence? Submissions should be 1.5 diskette (MSWord) and in hard copy. a new vocabulary seems to have emerged: we have begun paying attention to things that oppose themselves to.

and how we deal with them (a) I Fall 2000: Ariella Azoulay Gabriel Riera Bernie Lubell Kwai-Cheung Lo Alfredo Carrasquillo-Ramírez Kirsten Hyldgaard Tracy McNulty Aïm Luski Lyat Friedman Yannis Stavrakakis Manya Steinkoler on Hiroshima & Visibility / Badiou & The Age of Poets / The Etiology of Innocence / Face-Off / Puerto Rico & Hysteria / Sartre & Lacan / Klossowski / Horizontal Camera # 1 / Freud‛s Project / Laclau & Lacan / What a Woman Wants to Date (a) II Spring 2001 on Mishima / Amenabar / Toy Story / Museums and Memory / Sandemose / Science and Death Drive / Laclau revisited / Lacan and Plato / French Africa / et al (a) III Fall 2001 special issue on Letters and the Unconscious $25 per year / published twice yearly by the California Psychoanalytic Circle 916 Ashbury Street. art. Bernie Lubell articles on psychoanalysis. Editor . San Francisco. California 94117 Juliet Flower MacCannell.(a): the journal of culture and the unconscious “The Etiology of Innocence”.

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