Monday, October 27, 2014

Post-Modern Democracy

Let’s say that you are a small child and one Sunday afternoon you have to do the boring duty of visiting your old senile grandmother. If you have a good old–fashioned authoritarian father, what will he tell you? "I don’t care how you feel, just go there and behave properly. Do your duty." A modern permissive totalitarian father will tell you something else: "You know how much your grandmother would love to see you. But do go and visit her only if you really want to." Now every idiot knows the catch. Beneath the appearance of this free choice there is an even more oppressive order. You seem to have a choice, but there is no choice, because the order is not only you must visit your grandmother, you must even enjoy it. If you don’t believe me, just try to say "I have a choice, I will not do it." I promise your father will say "What did your grandmother ever do to you? Don’t you know how she loves you? How could you do this to her?" That’s superego. On the other hand, we have the opposite paradox of the pleasure itself whose pursuit turns into duty. In a permissive society, subjects experience the need to have a good time, to really enjoy themselves, as a kind of duty, and consequently feel guilty for failing to be happy. The concept of the superego designates precisely this mysterious overlapping in which the command to enjoy overlaps with the duty to enjoy yourself. Maybe we can in this way distinguish the totalitarian from the liberal–permissive superego. In both cases, the message is "You may enjoy, but because you may, you must". In both cases you pay a price for this permission. In permissive liberalism, the "you may" of freely inventing yourself is paid for when you get caught in the cobweb of prohibitions concerning the well’being of yourself and your neighbors. We can do whatever we want today, hedonism and so on, but the result is that we have at the daily level so many prohibitions so as not to prevent others from enjoying. You are constantly told what to eat and drink, no fat, no smoking, safe sex, prohibition to enjoy the other, prohibition of sexual harassment, and so on, life is totally regulated. In an exactly symmetrical way, in totalitarianism the official message is "You should obey."
- Slavoj Zizek, "The SuperEgo and the Act" (1999)

7 comments:

WomanHonorThyself said...

hope alls well my friend!:)

-FJ said...

Indeed! And with you!

FreeThinke said...

I certainly agree wholeheartedly with Zizek's views on pornography.

Even at an early age I found classic novels such as Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Forsyte Saga, The Portrait of a Lady, The Age Innocence, and The House of Mirth, and the charming fantasy The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, et al. to be far more sexually arousing than Lady Chatterley's Lover, Fanny Hill, the Henry Miller "Tropic" novels and the host of outright garbage that followed in their wake.

Why? or How so? You ask.

Because the GOOD books appeal to our deeper yearnings for understanding, appreciation, joy, and lasting affection, which in the long run are much more satisfying than merely getting your rocks off with any handy object whenever you happen to feel horny.

The Four-F School (Find 'em, Feel 'em, F-ck 'em and Forget 'em!) which grew popular in the early SICK-sties and was a running joke in male college dorms at the time, wasn't funny and wasn't really any fun at all.

-FJ said...

I agree, the socially-distanced 4F's you mention reflect the self-centered and irresponsible egoism inherent in much of the youthful 60's crowd. It's just a variant of the mindless consumerism they so vociferously decried in their parents.

And I think that the novels you mention appeal because they occur within a familial social context, and not some gypsy- like nomadic social wandering.

We all might enjoy exploring divergent social relations when we are young and immature. But once one comes of age, one should select a set of social relations and traditions, and settle down into them. Not seek incessantly to alter and/or denigrate them.

-FJ said...

In other words (I suppose), the "reason" for the ridiculous fantastical narratives in pornographic films (and books) is because there is no "real" social relationship in them to maintain.

As Lacan has said, "there is no sexual relationship"

Lacan first proposes his famous formula: il n'y a pas de rapport sexuel in 1970,[1] and takes it up again in his seminar of 1972-3.[2]

This formula is usually translated into English as "There is no such thing as a sexual relationship", which is misleading since Lacan is certainly not denying that people have sex!
The formula might be better rendered "There is no relation between the sexes", thus emphasizing that it is not primarily the act of sexual intercourse that Lacan is referring to but the question of the relation between the masculine sexual position and the feminine sexual position.


There are social relations. Some we wish to keep. Others we wish to avoid.

FreeThinke said...

Thank you for both comments, FJ, but aren't the concepts of masculinity and femininity supposed o represent halves of whole or two sides of the same coin? Sexual intercourse at its best, when genuine communication and mutual tender regard of each partner for the other takes place, might be said to be an ideal blending of Yin and Yang -- or does that seem a bit far fetched to you?

Dr. Gosnell, Abortionist Extraordinaire! said...

I suppose if the intent of coitus were literally "reproduction", then they would literally be two halves of a whole.

But I am afraid that as a motive, reproduction (in isolation) is seldom it. So the motive gets "dressed up" as something else. A gap/abyss gets filled.

What you fill it with to make it the circle "whole" again, is up to you.