Monday, August 12, 2013

The Big Other is Dead! Long Live the Other's Other!

Lacan once had a patient who believed he was a chicken.

At last, the man was cured. When he was released from the asylum, he crossed the road. Lacan called out, “Why are you crossing the road?”

“To get to the other of the Other,” the patient replied.

“You cretin!” Lacan said. “The other of the Other does not exist.”

“I know,” the patient replied, “but tell that to the fox!”

“I guess he’s cured,” Lacan thought to himself, “at least by Parisian standards.”

---

Although it may seem that Welles aligns himself with the second reading, things are by no means so unequivocal: he, as it were, adds another turn of the screw by raising “conspiracy” to the power of two―as K. puts it in the Welles’s version, the true conspiracy of Power resides in the very notion of conspiracy, in the notion of some mysterious Agency that effectively runs the show, that behind the visible, public Power, there lies another obscene, invisible, “crazy” power structure. This other, hidden Law acts the part of the “Other of the Other” in the Lacanian sense, the part of the meta-guarantee of the consistency of the big Other (the symbolic order that regulates social life). “Totalitarian” regimes were especially skilled in cultivating the myth of a secret parallel power, invisible and for that very reason all-powerful, a kind of “organization within the organization”―the KGB, freemasons, or whatever―that compensated for the blatant inefficiency of the public, legal Power and thus assured the smooth operation of the social machine. This myth is not only in no way subversive, it serves as the ultimate support of Power. The perfect American counterpart to it is (the myth of) J. Edgar Hoover, the personification of the obscene “other power” behind the president, the shadowy double of the legitimate Power. Hoover held onto power by compiling secret files that allowed him to keep the entire political and power elite in check, while he himself regularly indulged in homosexual orgies dressed up as a woman. When K.’s lawyer offers him, as a desperate last resort, the role of playing the martyr-victim of a hidden conspiracy, K. turns it down, being well aware that by accepting it he would walk into the most perfidious trap of Power.

This obscene mirage of the Other Power brings into play the same fantasmatic space as the famous advertisement for Smirnoff vodka, which also deftly manipulates the gap between reality and the “other surface” of the fantasy space: the camera, placed behind a bottle of vodka on a tray carried by a waiter, wanders around the deck of a luxurious ocean-liner; every time it passes an object, we first see it as it is in its everyday reality, and then, as the transparent glass of the bottle comes between our gaze and the object, we see it distorted in a fantasy dimension―two gentlemen in black evening attire become two penguins, the necklace around a lady’s neck a living snake, stairs a set of piano keys, etc. The Court in Kafka’s The Trial possesses the same purely phantasmagorical existence; its predecessor is Klingsor’s Castle in Wagner’s Parsifal. Since its hold upon the subject is entirely fantasmatic, it is sufficient to break its spell via a gesture of distantiation, and the Court or Castle falls to dust. Therein resides the political lesson of Parsifal and of Welles’s The Trial: if we are to overcome the “effective” social power, we have first to break its fantasmatic hold upon us.
- Slavoj Žižek, "The Two Sides of Fantasy"

No comments: