Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Void at the Heart of Capital...

Slavoj Zizek, "Living in the End Times"
.....For example, a nation exists ONLY insofar as its members take themselves as members of this nation and act accordingly, it has absoluely no content, no substantial consistency, outside this activity; and the same goes for, say, the notion of communisim - this notion "generates its own actualization" by way of motivating people to struggle for it.

This Hegelian logic is at work in Wagner's universe up to and including "Parsifal", whose final message is profoundly Hegelian: "The wound can be healed only by the spear that smote it [Die Wunde schliesst Speer nur der Sie schlug]." Hegel says the same thing, although with the accent shifted in the opposite direction: Spirit is itself the wound it tries to heal; that is, the wound is self-inflicted." What is "Spirit" at its most elementary? It is the "wound" of nature: the subject is the immense - absolute- power of negativity, of introducing a gap or cut into the given and immediate substantial unity, the power of DIFFERENTIATING, of "abstracting," of tearing apart and treating as self-standing what in reality is part of an organic unity. This is why the notion of the "self-alienation" of Spirit (of Spirit losing itself in its otherness, in its objectification, in its result) is more paradoxical than it may appear: it should be read together with Hegel's assertion of the thoroughly non-substantial character of the Spirit: there is no RES COGITANS, no thing which also has the property of thinking, Spirit is nothing but a PROCESS of overcoming natural immediacy, of the cultivation of this immediacy, of withdrawing-into-itself or "taking off" from it, of - why not?- alienating itself from it. The paradox is thus that there is no self that precedes Spirit's "self-alienation": the very process of alienation creates/generates the "self" from which Spirit is alienated and to which it then returns. Spirit's self-alienation is the same as, fully coincides with, its alienation from its Other (nature), because it constitutes itself through its "return-to-itself" from its immersion in natural Otherness. In other words, Spirit's return-to-itself creates the very dimension to which it returns.

What this also means is that communism should no longer be conceived as the subjective (re-)appropriation of the alienated substantial content - all versions of reconciliation which take the form "the subject swallows the substance" should be rejected. SO again, the "reconciliation" is the full recognition of the abyss of the de-substantialized process as the only actuality that exists: the subject has no substantial actuality, it comes second, it emerges only through the process of separation, of overcoming its presuppositions, and these presuppositions are also only a retroactive effect of the same process of their overcoming. The result is thus that there is, at both extremes of the process, a failure or negativity inscribed into the very heart of the entity we are dealing with. If the status of the subject is thoroughly "processual," it means that it emerges through the very failure to actualize itself. This brings us again to one possible formal definition of the subject: a subject tries to articulate ("express") itself in a signifying chain, this articulation fails, and by means of and through this failure, the subject emerges the subject is the failure of its signifying representation - this is why Lacan writes the subject of the signifier as $, as "barred". In a love letter, the very failure of the writer to formulate his declaration in a clear and effective manner - his vacillations, the letter's fragmentary nature, and so on - can in themselves be proof (perhaps are the necessary and only reliable proof) that the professed love is authentic: here, the very failure to deliver the message properly is the sign of its authenticity. Were the message delivered smoothly, it would only invite suspicion that it is part of a calculated approach, or that the writer in fact loves himself, or the charm of his writing, more than he loves his beloved, that his love-object is effectively just a pretext for engaging in the narcissistically satisfying activity of writing.

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