Tuesday, December 29, 2015

American Politics: Avoiding Real Problems in Favour of Imaginary Ones...

The Jealousy Tango
One should not underestimate the complexity and persistence of different “ways of life,” and here psychoanalysis can be of some help. Which is the factor that renders different cultures (or, rather, ways of life in the rich texture of their daily practices) incompatible? What is the obstacle that prevents their fusion or, at least, their harmoniously indifferent co-existence?

The psychoanalytic answer is: jouissance. It is not only that different modes of jouissance are incongruous with each other without a common measure; the Other’s jouissance is insupportable for us because (and insofar as) we cannot find a proper way to relate to our own jouissance.

The ultimate incompatibility is not between mine and other’s jouissance, but between myself and my own jouissance, which forever remains an ex-timate intruder. It is to resolve this deadlock that the subject projects the core of its jouissance onto an Other, attributing to this Other full access to a consistent jouissance. Such a constellation cannot but give rise to jealousy: In jealousy, the subject creates/imagines a paradise (a utopia of full jouissance) from which he is excluded.

The same definition applies to what one can call political jealousy, from the anti-Semitic fantasies about the mysterious practices and abilities of the Jews (which sometimes reach the level of madness, like the claim that Jewish men also menstruate) to the Christian fundamentalists’ fantasies about the weird sexual practices of gays and lesbians. As Klaus Theweleit, a scholar of fascist sociology, pointed out, it is all too easy to read such phenomena as mere “projections”: Jealousy can be quite real and well-founded; other people can and do have as much more intense sexual life than the jealous subject—a fact that, as Lacan remarked, doesn’t make jealousy any less pathological. Here is Lacan’s succinct description of the political dimension of this predicament:
With our jouissance going off track, only the Other is able to mark its position, but only in so far as we are separated from this Other. Whence certain fantasies – unheard of before the melting pot. Leaving the Other to his own mode of jouissance, that would only be possible by not imposing our own on him, by not thinking of him as underdeveloped.
To recapitulate the argument: Due to our impasse with our own jouissance, the only way for us to imagine a consistent jouissance is to conceive it as the Other’s jouissance; however, the Other’s jouissance is by definition experienced as a threat to our identity, as something to be rejected, destroyed even.

With regard to the identity of an ethnic group, this means that “there is always, in any human community, a rejection of an inassimilable jouissance, which forms the mainspring of a possible barbarism.” Here, Lacan underpins Freud, for whom the social bond (group identification) is mediated by the identification of each of its members with the figure of a Leader shared by all: Lacan conceives this symbolic identification with a Master-Signifier as secondary to some preceding rejection of jouissance, which is why, for him, “the founding crime is not the murder of the father, but the will to murder he who embodies the jouissance that I reject.” (And, one might add, even the murder of the primordial father is grounded in the hatred of his excessive jouissance, his possessing of all women.)

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Since there is no space here to engage in this explanation (every good introduction to Lacan will do the job), I will limit myself to a passage from Kriss’s reply which condenses his double confusion, theoretical as well as political, culminating in his ridiculous notion of fidelity to a fantasy:
In Lacanian terminology, what Zizek identifies as a fundamental disparity between ‘our’ civilized European way of life and the irreducible foreignness of the migrants would be called an asymmetry in the Symbolic order. (It’s not just Lacanianism that he abandons here — what happened to the Hegelian identity of non-identity and identity?) If this asymmetry does exist, then fantasy is precisely the means by which it can be resolved. If we lack the appropriate signifiers for each other, then the interdicting untruth of fantasy opens up a space for some semblance of communication. If migrants are to live peacefully and happily in Europe, the demand should not be that they give up their fantasy of a better life, but that they cling to it for all its worth.
First, the basic premise of Lacan’s theory is that what my critic rather clumsily calls the “asymmetry in the symbolic order” does not primarily occur between different ways of life (cultures) but within each particular culture: each culture is structured around its particular “points of impossibility,” immanent blockades, antagonisms, around its Real.

Second, far from “resolving” it, a fantasy obfuscates it, it covers up the antagonism – a classic case: the fantasmatic figure of the Jew in anti-Semitism obfuscates the class antagonism by way of projecting it onto the “Jew,” the external cause that disturbs an otherwise harmonious social edifice. The statement “If we lack the appropriate signifiers for each other, then the interdicting untruth of fantasy opens up a space for some semblance of communication.” is thus totally misleading: it implies that each culture somehow manages to be in touch with itself, it just lacks appropriate signifiers for other cultures. Lacan’s thesis is, on the contrary, that each culture lacks “appropriate signifiers” for itself, for its own representation, which is why fantasies are needed to fill in this gap.

And it is here that things get really interesting: these fantasies as a rule concern other cultures. Back to the Nazis: the fantasy of the Jew is a key ingredient of the Nazi identity. The Jew as the enemy allows the anti-Semitic subject to avoid the choice between working class and capital: by blaming the Jew whose plotting foments class warfare, he can advocate the vision of a harmonious society in which work and capital collaborate.

This is also why Julia Kristeva is right in linking the phobic object (the Jew whose plots anti-Semites fear) to the avoidance of a choice: “The phobic object is precisely avoidance of choice, it tries as long as possible to maintain the subject far from a decision.”

Does this proposition not hold especially for political phobia? Does the phobic object/abject on the fear of which the rightist-populist ideology mobilizes its partisans (the Jew, the immigrant, today in Europe the refugee) not embody a refusal to choose? Choose what? A position in class struggle. The anti-Semitic fetish-figure of the Jew is the last thing a subject sees just before he confronts social antagonism as constitutive of the social body (I paraphrase here Freud’s definition of fetish as the last thing a subject sees before discovering that a woman doesn’t have a penis).
- Slavoj Zizek, "The Need to Traverse the Fantasy: A call to mobilize Europe’s radical-emancipatory tradition and why we need a solidarity of struggle, not a dialogue of cultures"

19 comments:

beamish said...

Here we have Pee Wee Herman locked in the Alinsky dynamic of "I know you are but what am I?"

Maybe it's because Zizek anchors himself in the pseudoscience of psychoanalysis that I don't get him, but his word salads seem to meander away from actually saying something. Instead of having a dialogue of cultures (to disempower controlling mythologies about "the Other" we should have a solidarity of struggle (solidarity with who? The other? To struggle against who? The other others?)

At least Don Quixote carried a lance. Sheesh.

beamish said...

I can see why the left loves Zizek with the same eyes I see leftists as incapable of rational thought. ;)

-FJ said...

Europe’s radical-emancipatory tradition and why we need a solidarity of struggle, not a dialogue of cultures"

Europe if failing in it's first struggle against the foreign invaders. Angela Merkel unlocked the gates to the city at midnight whilst all the other "Europeans" were sleeping.

-FJ said...

No wonder Kim Jong launched a cyber attack in response to "The Interview"... Hollywierd tried to make him out to be a Katy Perry fan.

-FJ said...

Too weird!

Gert said...

"Europe if failing in it's first struggle against the foreign invaders. Angela Merkel unlocked the gates to the city at midnight whilst all the other "Europeans" were sleeping."

Amazing how a country made essentially of immigrants seems to have a near infinite well of mythologies re. the various Big Others. ;-)

Gert said...

The end of Europe by 'Eastern', 'Southern', 'Balkan' (insert shark of choice) 'barbarian Hordes' has been predicted more often than the End of the World by the Jehovas. I'm still waiting, remarkably unworried...

Gert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thersites said...

Just call me JJ Rousseau, Letter to M. D'Alembert on Spectacles".

Thersites said...

At least we know where we stand, as it is increasingly becoming "common knowledge". :)

FreeThinke said...

____ The Masochism Tango ____

I ache for the touch of your lips, dear,
But much more for the touch of your whips, dear,
You can raise welts like nobody else
As we dance to the Masochism Tango.

Let our love be a flame not an ember
Say it's me that you want to dis-member
Blacken my eye, set fire to my tie
As we dance to the Masochism Tango.

At your command, before you here I stand
My heart is in my hand……eeeaalluch
It's here that I must be
My heart entreats,
Just hear those savage beats
And go put on your cleats,
And come and trample me.

Your heart is hard as stone or mahogany
That's why I'm in such exquisite agony
My soul is on fire; it's aflame with desire
Which is why I perspire when we tango

You caught my nose in your left castanet, love,
I can feel the pain yet, love,
Every time I hear drums
And I envy the rose, that you held in your teeth, love,
With the thorns underneath, love
Sticking into your gums

You eyes cast a spell that bewitches
The last time I needed 20 stitches
To sew up the gash you made with your lash
As we danced to the Masochism Tango

Bash in my brain, and make me scream with pain
Then kick me once again
And say we'll never part
I know too well, I'm underneath your spell,
So, darling, if you smell something burning it's my heart….hic…excuse me…

Take your cigarette from its holder
And burn your initials in my shoulder
Fracture my spine
And swear that you're mine
As we dance to the Masochism Tango. Olé!


~ Tom Lehrer (1928 - ? )

-FJ said...

lol!

-FJ said...

;P

FreeThinke said...

Enjoy Tom Lehrer, the Master, himself, performing his own work:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TytGOeiW0aE

-FJ said...

When did we stop appreciating such witty entertainers?

Gert said...

It's the "it's the political correctness gone mad, innit?" gone mad, innit? ;-)

Happy New Year!!!

-FJ said...

Gotta envy the "other's" jouissance!

-FJ said...

Happy New Year, Gert'!!!

Gert said...

Ta. Logically this one should be better. Bit of an "Annus Horribilis", 15 was.