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And by a prudent flight and cunning save A life which valour could not, from the grave. A better buckler I can soon regain, But who can get another life again? Archilochus

Friday, December 2, 2022

A World of Pathological Narcissists...


Slavoj Žižek, "Pathological Narcissus is the Type of Social Obligatory Subjectivity of Our Time" (Google translate)
Pathological Narcissus as a socially mandatory form of subjectivity. This article was first published in the Croatian edition of Christopher Lasch's "The Culture of Narcissism" (Narcisistička kultura, Naprijed, Zagreb, 1986). Turkish: Özcan Esentürk, Işık Barış Fidaner (@ozcan_esentepe,@BarisFidaner, images Astra Taylor'sZizek! documentary)

At first glance, you won't see anything so scandalous in Christopher Lasch'sThe Culture of Narcissism, and some might even think of it as a conservative critique of contemporary consumer society. Leaning on classical analyses in the works of David Liesman (The Lonely Crowd) and William Whyte (The Organization Man), Lasch showed how the socially necessary character, gesellschaftlich notwendiger Charakter, in the Marxist term, had become a type in late capitalism. It explains that after the autonomous individual of Protestant ethics and the heteronomous individual of bureaucratic capitalism, a new type of narcissistic individual emerges as it transitions to a post-industrial society. Given his public criticism of the 'Narcissus' type, it is easy to assume that Lasch is a conservative who rejects contemporary hedonism that erodes authoritarian values.

But the real 'Lasch scandal' is elsewhere: Lasch is actually a leftist and a supporter of radical democracy; today's leftists are quick to leave the job of defending the family and patriarchal authority to the fundamentalists. If you ask Lasch, the contemporary conformist type is actually the anti-authoritarian Narcissus, who mocks family values and disregards pedestal authority. In other words, if leftists are to come up with an effective alternative to the current situation, they should start from these ideas. This approach subverts the view that grounded the New Left in the West (and undoubtedly finds its purest expression in Marcuse's book "Eros and Civilization"). According to the New Left, if there is to be a revolution, the family that invokes patriarchal authority must be left behind, and with the reaffirmation of Narcissus, the family and the world must blend together. You can guess the polemical reactions triggered by Lasch's thesis; most feminists secretly rejected her for affirming patriarchy, and the liberal New Left ostracized her.

Participants in the cultural debates triggered by the work of "The Culture of Narcissism" quickly forgot that narcissism is not an abstract moral idea, but an accurate concept that plays a defined role in psychoanalytic theory. Lasch also drew on Otto Kernberg's "Borderline States and Pathological Narcissism", so let's first summarize Kernberg's basic theses so that the discussion of borderline states and Pathological Narcissism (PN) can be placed in a proper historical context.

As a result of what historical experience did the borderline personality theorize in a special clinical case? In the 1940s, and especially in the 1950s, American psychoanalysts increasingly encountered intermediates that blurred the classification based on the neurosis/psychosis distinction. While it was evident that these cases were not psychosis (the individual could successfully participate in society and were 'functional' in a general sense), it would be unreasonable to attribute them to 'loss of reality' or (in the usual sense) 'madness'. But they were not the usual cases of neurosis (hysteria and obsession) because these patients exhibited a variety of psychotic symptoms: paranoid thoughts, 'primitive' defence mechanisms that substitute neurotic repression (division, partial denial of reality), especially pathological stressed narcissism (since Freud considered neurosis a narcissistic disorder, the case of 'Judge Schreber' can be interpreted as a narcissistic defense against homosexuality, being homosexual can be interpreted as a narcissistic self-image because Schreber never fits the narcissistic self-image. but he was able to accept to be the passive sexual partner of God, who chose him to refresh humanity).

This is the main breaking point and 'impossible encounter' in the emergence of the borderline theory: the axis that defines the established classifications has been violated and fragmented. At one end of that axis was the 'overly harmonious' hysterical that exaggerated its identification with the social order, with the repressed impulses of the hysteria returning in the form of symptoms; at the other end was the 'maladaptive' psychotic who voluntarily excluded himself from (social-symbolic) reality. Then, all of a sudden, we are confronted with an incredible ghost: a perfectly 'functioning' psychotic! Of course, these cases, which were initially considered exceptions or deviations from the rule, soon became the borderline between neurosis/psychosis and the borderline, because they were no longer exceptional in contemporary practice compared to traditional cases of neurosis and psychosis.

The borderline state has been described as a clinical disease over time, with its conjugate 'pathological narcissism'. The autonomous theoretical coherence given to the exceptional borderline phenomenon was defined at the diagnostic level by the following characteristics:
1) Unbound 'free' concerns

2) Multi-symptom neurosis or a series of symptoms that do not fit into the 'classic' neurosis (hysterical conversion, 'classical' obsession symptoms, multiple phobia, 'dissociative responses', impulsive neurosis, pathological hypochondria, paranoid thoughts)

3)' Faceted deviant' sexual orientations (casual sexual intercourse, experiential pursuits, fear that emotionally charged bonds will 'restrict' freedom.
 
The non-systematized features of multi-symptom neurosis are the random ordering of symptoms that are not derived from the unified existence of the subject and are not very relevant. This systemlessness is not a defect of the approach, the borderline belongs to the disjointed or 'scattered' character of the subject, it is only the 'abstract negativity' of undefined and unconnected anxieties (Hegel:abstract negativity, abstrakte Negativität) that can hold together the complexities of its individual symptom. Unlike positive connections, these anxieties can only affirm disconnection; the anxious 'feeling of emptiness' indicates that the subject is unable to 'integrate' himself as a homogeneous being. The third characteristic of the borderline, 'multifaceted deviant' sexuality, is the reflection of the 'scattered' subjective structure that cannot be integrated into sexual life. Structural analysis also confirms the connection of the borderline with the uncoupled 'formless' Ego, Kernberg defines the four basic characteristics of the borderline/boundary subject:
1) Signs of weakness in the ego (American psychoanalysts take it for granted) to distinguish between 'strong/weak' egos: low 'tolerant' anxiety (compared to 'normal' individuals), problems that don't matter much (social failure, not laughing at his jokes, and being ridiculed) lead to severe anxiety and depression; lack of control in impulsive responses (the subject 'cannot control himself' and succumbs to impulses); the inability to glorify (another side of the previous one); the subject is no stranger to 'significant' achievements, but attributes them to 'inferior' ambitions (even if the subject boasts virtues and knowledge in fancy circles, his only motive is social success, but 'he doesn't really care at all'...).

2) Regression to primitive mental structures: The subject's mind is filled with too many relationships and superficial details to be considered 'reasonable'. There's more: the borderline seems to be able to think rationally of the subject; but his behavior and emotion conform to two completely different logics. For example, although he is aware that someone close to him is not an enemy and that no harm will come from him, the subject may interpret paranoid a person's usual smile or resemblance to another adversary, and by a 'primitive' conclusion that he concludes, he is convinced that the person in question is the most terrible enemy (the most convenient method for this type of regression is reflective tests).

3) 'Regression' to primitive defence mechanisms: The main defence mechanism of a 'normal' 'mature' person is repression (the fully developed Ego unites and completes the mental world of man, while messages that do not conform to this totality are repressed or postponed) while in the borderline/boundary subject, since the Ego is not strong enough to play an integral role, primitive defense mechanisms that disrupt the integrity of the Ego take its place: division, reflection, denial of reality.

It is important how paranoid constructions governed by 'regressive' defense mechanisms interfere with Ego unity and psychological integrity. For example, when the borderline sees a subject as both 'good' and 'bad', it solves this dilemma with a simple time break: the object becomes 'good' for a while, and becomes 'bad' when the subject is thrown to the other end; the subject sees no contradiction in this because his Ego is not sufficiently integrated; it can carry a large number of contradictory libidinal beliefs and express them repeatedly. (The most famous example of this tendency is the ever-changing contradictory libidinal views of the 'little man' on political issues: 'politics' is sometimes a 'big event' that evokes patriotic feelings, sometimes it becomes 'damn', a field of corruption and intrigue. The 'little man' does not need to combine these two beliefs.) If the subject were 'normal' it would suppress one of the opposing views or push it out of consciousness: if I hate someone in my normative integrated system, I need to suppress my love for them, and so on.

4) The last feature that is also included in the previous one is that different beliefs ('good' and 'bad') cannot unite in a single image of an object due to the pathological relationship established with the object. The basic characteristics of the borderline subject are depicted accordingly: it gives the impression that he perceives others as 'puppets' and that intersubjective relations do their justice. What is meant by intersubjectivity is that another person is accurately known and accepted as a contradictory association of different views; this contradiction deepens the other, gives a sense of limitlessness that develops the perception of 'personality'. In the borderline, we encounter the personality 'as if' (als-ob, as-if, as if). Everything is 'normal' in sight, the subject recognises the rules of the intersubjective game; However, it does not give the impression of a 'living personality', it treats us with a 'shallowness' as if everything were a game and everyone was a puppet.
What remains is the genealogy analysis, which I would like to confine myself to a single interpretation of sexuality. The borderline subject appears to be competent/predisposed to 'normal' genital sexuality, but detailed analyses reveal that the genitalisic sexual activity seen in the libidinal economy is actually governed by pre-genital, oral and anal logic. The sexual act itself is perceived as an act of violence or aggression; the woman feels humiliated and used, and when the woman dominates, this time the man feels in danger, fearing that the woman will lose her identity and autonomy by 'swallowing' her.

In 'pathological narcissism', which is added to the borderline symptoms and is its equivalent, the 'pathological' 'big' Ego is observed. In fact, the weak Ego, which regresses to primitive ways of thinking and primitive defense mechanisms and establishes pathological relationships with objects, is in force, but all these weaknesses are 'compensated' by the 'big Ego', this pathological construction substitutes the 'normal' Ego to perform the integral function. Now let's start with the diagnosis of 'pathological Narcissus', or rather its phenomenological description:

— At first glance, the borderline around PN seems to be more compatible than the subject; it 'functions' well, sometimes even 'putting itself forward' and dominating its surroundings. However, a contradiction immediately arises: PN despises and uses people, seeing them only as a means of self-affirmation. It is also entirely subject to their approval and discretion, but it can exist through the success it has made among its peers. He asserts himself in society, plays the role of a strong, resourceful, cynical, humorous individual, free from unnecessary illusions; but the slightest sarcasm or social 'failure' can put him in a traumatic depression. The Hegelian dialectic of recognition/recognition has been reversed: the 'Master' has become a slave to his own servants as long as they may recognize him, and he is constantly anxiously watching over the effects of his display of satisfaction on his servants. The slightest sign that his servants read his lungs and laughed under his mustache will be able to bring down the Master. Unlike the traditional Master, who 'thinks he is already known because he is already the Master', PN is the paradox/hair-logic of a reflexive/reflexive Master who knows very well that his place of standing is only secured by others recognizing him. After all, PN subordinates everything to its 'appearance' in society. This fundamental contradiction also leads to other PN features:

Utter inability to empathize: PN can never 'join' with someone else, 'feel' with him, perceive his 'depth of personality' or subjective emptiness. Everyone around him falls into one of these three categories:

(1) The ideal is someone else, those who are supposed to recognize the narcissist, those who extend to the PN's 'big Ego' in his subjective economy (these are usually powerful, influential and famous people)

(2) The 'enemy' or 'conspirators' who threaten the narcissistic affirmation

(3) The rest that serve to be used and thrown away, the 'crowd', the 'puppets', the losers. Even when the PN is able to connect to the ideal person, the relationship with him is not very profound, it can be easily broken, and at any moment he can be reduced to the status of 'crowd' (if the ideal fails someone else) or 'enemy' (if the ideal disparages or ignores the PN). Relationships break down easily and new ones are formed; someone else who is ideal today becomes an 'enemy' tomorrow because Narcissus cannot relate to anyone else as a subject.

If you ask PN, his access to others is, of course, dedicated to himself, and it's natural for him to use people ruthlessly for his own narcissistic pleasures. As a result, PN evokes an impression of deep apathy, coldness and selfishness hidden behind a glorious mask. Narcissus tries to attract and temper us, amazes and admires us with his oratory, enthusiasm and charm. However, a cruel and selfish mind can be sensed behind all of them. As long as the narcissist expects profit from us, it is filled with enthusiasm, but when we do not 'serve their interests', that incredible attraction turns into complete indifference.

— Therefore, PN is incapable of sincerely attachment to another, of showing him loyalty, obligation, covenant, trust and devotion. PN has become a slave to his 'suction' in the eyes of others. It adheres to their testimony, but this attachment should not be confused with trusting or devoting to another. Narcissus wants to take advantage of someone else, he wants to gain as narcissistic as possible, and even when he admires someone else very much, he does so only for narcissistic purposes. Therefore, he always has a deep distrust of people; he is pathologically afraid of being over-attached to them or of being 'too hungry'. That's why she prefers short-term 'cold' relationships in sexuality so she avoids excessive 'emotional load' and 'breathable'.

Every Narcissus sincerely believed that he was an exception, that he was an 'excluded marginal'. He is a conformist who knows the 'rules of the game' that operate in the outside world, but in fact he 'doesn't take the game seriously', he just 'plays' it to avoid punishment and succeed in society. PN even believed that everyone behaved as he did: social life is a game, everyone wears a mask, everyone is a criminal disguised as a conformist, and their only concern is the means of using and deceiving others. You need to be smart; you need to know how not to stand out and tune in to yourself.

— PN is pathologically afraid of even minimal failures such as loneliness, aging, and getting sick. They take good care of their body (jogging is the most narcissistic exercise possible!), are 'young forever' and want to stay in the focus of attention. He is ready to do anything to 'not be lost in the colorlessness of mediocre crowds' because he believes that there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who succeed and those who remain 'crowds'.

— PN can't really be upset. She is helplessly angry at the loss of someone she loves. Loss is absolutely unacceptable and unbearable for him, an attack on his own narcissism. He cannot 'contain' this wild anger and find peace in mourning.

— The last feature returns us to the initial paradox/absurdity: PN cannot derive pleasure on its own, because pleasure is alien to it and is excluded in others. Only as others recognize his pleasure can he receive pleasure (a typical example: although a person who 'looks at the ground and burns a heart' boasts of conquering hearts, his only concern is that others recognize these conquests that he does not care about, and the pleasure he receives from himself is only as much as the pleasure he can evoke in others). This subjective economy makes an interesting 'short circuit'; the ultimate goal of being successful is not what can be achieved in that way, but that success itself as a social phenomenon. For this reason, PN never stands 'on its own', it is always 'excluded', which leads it to even more feverish activities with manifestations such as 'inner sense of emptiness' or 'loss of identity'.

Before beginning the structural analysis, we must speak of an observation derived from the phenomenological depiction of PN. It is easily discernible that PN resembles the 'mediocre American', as evidenced by his 'conformist individualism' (conformist perception of socialisation) and his worship of social 'tranquility' at all costs. In fact, Kernberg's depictions are sometimes not generalized from clinical experience, but seem to have come out of the cartoons found in movies and books. But this observation never renders Kernberg's analysis worthless, because 'real life' and ideological 'clichés' cannot be naively separated, while the pure and refined forms of the models imitated by 'real-life' individuals are already presented in popular art. Therefore, ideological 'big Ego' constructions can never be reduced to faint 'reflections' of real processes, but rather very 'real' subjective formations of individuals actually shape and structure those constructions.

Structural analysis, in turn, shows that the pathological 'big Ego', the central integral of the PN, is composed of three elements: (1) the true Ego (the subject recognizes itself as a special and real being); (2) the ideal Ego (the subject's idealized self-image); (3) the ideal object (the ideal is someone else, the one he loves as an extension or part of the PN's 'big Ego'). This fusion melts the critical distance between the true Ego, the ideal Ego, and the ideal object. In the 'normal' subject, this distance is the force that motivates improvements made to converge ideals. In the PN, however, the true Ego is directly fused with the ideal Ego; The idealized Another, on the other hand, purged of all negative traits and disguised as the omnipotent 'good other', became the secret protector of the subject who ensured his well-being and ensured his narcissistic satisfaction. In PN, the critical component takes on a 'corrupt' form: it masquerades as the terrible, blind, cruel, paranoid and menacing Superego and becomes the 'black baht' or 'damn fortune', embodied in the 'enemies' in which the subject reflects his own aggression.

Thus we have touched on an important dimension that remains implicit in the PN model: in fact, the 'pathological Narcissus' is a terrified helpless subject, a victim who wonders what to do in the face of the cruel and unbridled Superego that brings him face to face with the impossible demands of his environment and his own aggression. In fact, this situation belongs to the pre-Oedip: on the one hand, there is the domination of the mother, who is the all-powerful protective caregiver, and on the other hand, there is the domination of the aggressive and unbridled environment. The narcissistic 'big Ego' is actually a reactive formation, a reaction to unresolved and unsymbolized conflicts. The only way for the subject to endure this situation is to construct an 'imaginary appendage': the 'Big Ego' is blended with the idealized all-powerful maternal protector. Now let us respond to those who say that when the borderline phenomenon emerges, the confusion of Oedipa and the classical method of psychoanalysis have become obsolete:

... The issue of borderline is not the excessive suppression of impulsive forces, if it were, those who are repressed would return with symptoms, this issue is rather Ego weakness, the patient's inability to develop his own self enough to function as a complement...

The answer to this is as follows: The confusion of Oedipa is still on the agenda because the borderline and PN problems are further emphasized as Oedip cannot be solved; because the subject could not 'internalize' the Law of the Father (which is the only way of transformation), he could not transform the cruel 'anal/sadistic' Superego into the soothing 'inner law' of the ideal Ego; or it has not been able to transcend it in Hegelian parlance (Aufhebung).

Kernberg himself points out that in PNs, borderline disease is found almost exclusively in 'fatherless' families (or families where the 'empirical' father cannot play the 'role' of fatherhood and make rules). Ultimately, the child's life is controlled by the mother's dual ghost: on the one hand, the 'good' mother, the protector and caregiver, and on the other, the 'bad' mother, who makes 'impossible' demands on the child and tries to 'swallow' her. Because of 'fatherlessness', the child can neither resolve nor shelve the contradiction between the foster mother and the threatening other mother; it cannot 'transcend' that contradiction in the dialectical sense unless it can establish the inner law. If the child could establish the ideal of the Father's-Name (Nam-i Pir) and the Ego, those two ghosts would be 'synthesized': the subject would establish a symbolic identification with the Father's-Name, and the law would be purged of the terrible Superego's wildness, though the 'critical' dimension would be maintained and at times 'punished' him (disguised as the 'voice of conscience' within).

According to the analysis, narcissistic 'self-love' and libidinal Ego investment cannot replace the subject's excessive self-hostility and uncontrolled aggression and deep concern for the object, but only obscures them; If the subject is libidinally invested in his self, it is because he is extremely afraid of the object and cannot establish a normal relationship with it. Behind the indifference and contempt for the object (the other subject) is the fear of contact and the inability to surrender: in fact, the 'great Ego' is the mask of its opposite. Remember that the originators of the borderline and PN theory were not the 'revisionist' neo-analytic current of American psychoanalysts, but the 'traditional' one. Despite all the revisionists who claim that classical psychoanalysis has become obsolete, this 'traditional' movement has offered the most fruitful description of the mental structuring of individuals living in a late capitalist society, which goes far beyond the (neo-romantic) ideological words of the 'consumer society individual'.

The borderline and PN theory is undoubtedly based on Freud's second scheme (Ego-Superego-ID); The main contribution of this scheme, which substitutes the trilogy of Consciousness/Preconsciousness/Unconscious, can be seen in Freud's texts on narcissism in the 1910s: the ego is now more than a rational element that represents reality and conscious control over vague subconscious impulses; probably the Ego itself is a 'pathology', the unconscious is subject to libidinal investments, hence the concept of narcissism. The superego, too, is no longer the luminous force of the moral law that restrains and barely restrains barbaric impulses; it is more linked to Id and can be as cruel and 'irrational' as the barbaric laws that embody the destructive 'death drive'. Freud's second scheme, though, allows for another 'conformist' reading: accordingly, the Ego is considered the 'reasonable' synthesisist element that harmonizes the demands of the Id with reality. This reading became widespread in the 1940s and culminated in the transformation of psychoanalysis into the conformist Ego-psychology in America. The aim of this type of psychoanalysis is to strengthen the patient's ego and free him from irrational constraints and to adapt to (social) reality. The distinction between 'normal/pathological' narcissism naturally bears the signature of the tradition of Ego-psychology, because when 'normal narcissism' is mentioned, it is understood that the 'strong' Ego achieves the integral role. On this basis, Kernberg lists the four functions of the 'mature' Ego:
— Separating the content of the ego in subjective life from objective reality

— To integrate the characteristics of the object ('good' and 'bad') into a single image

— Transforming the punishing Superego into the ideal Ego by making it intrinsic and impersonal

— To glorify instincts
When a person with a 'mature Ego' can substitute his archaic-anal-sadistic-personalised Superego with the impersonal-moral ideal Ego and the internal law, and successfully exalt his primitive impulses, he can attain a normal perception of reality and a realistic understanding of objects. This is a case of 'normal narcissism', i.e. 'unpathologized' narcissistic contentment of one's own personality thanks to Ego investment measured in libidinal energy. The borderline personality is at the middle of the road between psychosis and the normal Ego: its attitude to objects is pathological; The superego remained at the primitive sadomasochistic level; impulses are not glorified; The ego is also not integrated enough to play the integral role. In response to this weakness, the pathological complementary 'big Ego' is formed. This difference between normal and 'pathological' narcissism is undoubtedly true because it has been confirmed by medical cases. But this theory is problematic because it lacks the concept of symbolism and needs symbolic order. In short, the difference between 'normal' and 'pathological' narcissism cannot be explained by theories that do not resort to symbolism, because the characteristics that distinguish 'normal' narcissism from the 'pathological' one (the ability to relate, trust someone else, the ability to grieve, the complement of 'good' and 'bad' traits in the image of the object) draw attention to the importance of symbolism. It is not the Ego itself that decides the 'normal' or 'pathological' fate of the Ego in the subject, but the subject's attitude towards symbolism; The formation of the 'normal' Ego is a secondary consequence of 'internalizing' the symbolic law.

Let's go back to PN's inability to connect and trust others. This attachment is what Lacan calls the "symbolic bond," a contract or engagement, a 'promise' to someone. Emotions, feelings, sincerity, empathy and compassion do not fall into this scope, they are already blessings to the flock in PN. The real problem is that PN does not sincerely adhere to its own promise, does not consider itself obligatory. As far as he is concerned, promises, bonds and contracts are considered 'rules of the game', and even if he enforces rules outside, he does not establish an existential connection with the rules. The PN is 'free of hand', it does not recognize any applicable laws; it pretends to recognize only the 'rules of the game'. The result of this subjective disconnect is the usual feeling of 'inner emptiness' and 'loss of identity' that overwhelm PNs; What PN needs is not images and imaginary identities, but a 'bond' that will place it in the symbolic intersubjective web. In other words, (to put it in expert jargon instead of 'metaphorical' depiction), the only thing missing in pathological Narcissus is the performative/performative dimension of speech.

This claim may seem paradoxical to you: wasn't PN's only concern the 'effect' rather than the 'content' of what he already said? Wasn't his only purpose in speaking already to enchant or temper the person he was talking to by making a show of intelligence? To clarify this issue, we must distinguish between the performative/illocutive side of the verbal act and the pragmatic side (Marcuse, who criticized Austin as a 'behaviorist', misinterpreted him). The performative side of the act of words is not the same as the pragmatic 'effect' of that statement.

Let's look at a very simple example: If I say 'I promise to help you' to someone who is in trouble, I promise them performatively. I promised someone, that is, there is a new symbolic relationship between us, and I have an obligation to help him, whether I do what is necessary or not. In this example, the pragmatic dimension encompasses the 'actual' effects of the act of promise: if my interlocutor believes my promise, he will undoubtedly act differently, he will be grateful and respectful to me, etc. This is the only concern of PN: he only masters the pragmatic power of the verbal action, he knows how to manipulate, seduce and enchant people by using words; but in fact he does not keep his promises, he keeps his distance from them, as if the promises will manipulate him.

What does it mean that PN is not competent/predisposed to any relationship with another person (subject), to true intersubjectivity? This issue can be approached through theory of descriptions. Or rather, through Kripke's critique of this theory. Kripke had denied that a name could be reduced to a set of positive features that should be exhibited, and that nouns could be substituted for feature sets (Saul Kripke, Naming and Necessity[1979], translated by Berat Açil, Litera Publishing, 2005).

PN can be described as the subject that obeys the theory of descriptions; in his eyes, others have been reduced to a number of descriptive traits, especially those that satisfy his narcissistic needs. That is, PN evaluates the object (the other subject) in terms of the benefit it will receive from it: if he loves a woman... (it's because her hair and legs are beautiful, because she has a very good sense of humor, because she's interested in the same movies as her). So PN is the one who answers the woman's anguished eternal question ('Why do you love me?') with detailed descriptions: Because your eyes are beautiful, because you're smart, and so on. Of course, if the subject is reduced to a set of descriptive virtues, the moment it loses one of those virtues, it will lose its libidinal status and become annoying. The logic applied by 'pathological Narcissus' is echoed in the following phrase that is often heard:
My fiancé wouldn't delay any of our dates, because if she was late, I wouldn't have a fiancé anymore!
The betrothed is reduced to a number of positive traits that include 'never delay'. As soon as he loses this virtue, that is, as soon as he is delayed, he loses his fiancée status. It is obvious that such an attitude is far from a real attitude towards someone else. It is also obvious that answering the question "Why do you love me?" by presenting a list of positive definitions is a rude and humiliating insult and a direct denial of love. Such an answer 'objectifys' the interlocutor and denies his subjectivity. A proper answer to this question would be as follows:
I don't know why, you have something, an X, something that brings miraculous glitter to all the virtues in you...
A 'lover' feels that if he is worthy of his name, he will love him even if his mashuk loses all his positive qualities. In true love, it stands in the yar (abyss), all the 'positive' qualities change in it, it shines in an elusive void, and it actually 'affirms/positives' that emptiness (this X is called the little object a in Lacanian jargon).
The same theory can be taken up by Lacan's distinction between the following sentences:

Tu es celui qui me suivra: You are the one who will follow me.

Tu es celui qui me suivras: You are the one who will follow me.

(Lacan, Le Séminaire III, Paris, 1981, p. XXII)
Whether the predicate is the second or third person ('you / you are the person') the definition made in the sentence changes radically. In the third person, the sentence is a simple statement, it describes the characteristic of a person. But if the predicate is the second person, the sentence goes beyond describing and becomes a performative 'task assignment', a symbolic engagement, a bond and an obligation: you are the one who should follow me (even if you don't really follow me). In the first case ('You are the one to follow me') if that person is not following me, he is misdescribed, so he is not someone to follow. In the other case ('You are the one to follow me') even if you don't follow me, you continue to be the 'person to follow me', you should have followed me because your 'following me' remains a symbolic bond, a 'duty' that defines your intersubjective status. The fact that you didn't follow me doesn't change that status, it shows that you're not keeping your promise and not fulfilling yourcommitment.

Here we can return to the mention of the fiancé: 'Engagement' duty and commitment naturally involves a number of positive traits, one of which is that the person to whom this task is assigned will not delay meetings (let's put aside the fact that in some cultural circles delay to meetings is included in the game as a 'womanly charm'); Symbolic definition represented by 'fiancé' (in Lacan.S1) the chain of positive virtues (S2) exceeds by covering. So even if he's late, he'll continue to be my 'fiancé' because there's a symbolic bond between her and us that goes beyond narcissistic frustration and petty calculations. Thus we arrive at a realistic knowledge of the possibilities, which sum up the 'good' and 'bad' properties in the integrated image of the object; if it is based on an integral symbolic feature or a symbolic definition of 'beyond good and evil' (beyond the imaginary contrast of 'good' and 'bad' traits), this integration will be even more likely. The unified image of the 'engaged' cannot be satisfied with 'imagining the same object with both good and bad qualities'. He needs a symbol that will unite him, beyond the (imaginary) qualities he carries, the 'fiancé' person needs a symbolic recognition, so that he will retain his own value even if he disappoints us in terms of the positive qualities indicated in the task or description. The work of integrating the image, which gathers the 'imaginary' properties of the object together, calls for an unimaginable dimension, the positive properties of the object cannot justify the performativity of its symbolic name.

Other features of PN can also be explained on this basis, such as the inability to grieve. Grieving is a complete act of symbolism: it is the internalization of the lost object through a symbolic ritual (aufgehoben). When we say mourning, it is understood to find peace, to calm down, and to reconcile with loss; it is understandable to translate the angry impotence triggered by the loss into reverence for the missing object (the confusion and ridiculousness that occurs when it is realized that the object was not actually lost in the middle of the mourning ritual proves this function, such as the 'revival of the body' at the funeral of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn). PN cannot legalize anger awakened by loss. They are more likely to forget the lost object or realize that they don't care about it and invest their libidinal energy in another object.

Now let's not get too caught up in making a list of features, and let us return to the decision-making feature that originates from the others: the main issue in PN is the accidental situation in the integration of the symbolic law representing the Father's Name or the Ego ideal (the symbolic identity to be achieved with the Ego ideal as a result of the 'normal' solution of the Oedippine complex), the pre-Oedip-'sadomasochist', the 'anal', the 'maternal/validevi' Superego that compensates for the non-fulfillment of the pederane ideal. . Lasch was the first to draw attention to the compensation of the ideal of the Ego with the 'anal' Superego as the basic feature of the late capitalist 'bureaucratic' society, albeit with its typical American theoretical 'naivety'; Under the 'indulgence' that appears in the psychological structure of Narcissus under conditions where '(pederal) authority disappears' comes a much more 'irrational' and 'cruel' pre-Oedip-'archaic' Superego.

If one hurries in summoning the 'archaic Superego', though, the door to Jungian ambiguity is opened. It is necessary to remain at the purely conceptual level: the Superego, the Ego ideal (Ich-Ideal) and the ideal Ego (Ideal Ich), which correspond to the True-Symbolic-Imaginary trilogy, must be kept separate from eachother. What distinguishes the ideal of the Ego from the ideal Ego is undoubtedly our identity. The ideal of the Ego and the ideal Ego are two forms of identification, symbolic and imaginary identity, the Lacanese I(A) andi(a). I(A)the 'specific element' representing the subjectS1i(a) are identical with the image of the mirror. The superego is J.-A. According to Miller, it excludes any identification, it is an irreducible stranger, it is insensitive, it is traumatic, it is a threatening command that cannot be grasped, it is a reality that remains impossible to symbolize.

Regarding the difference between the ideal of the Ego and the ideal Ego, let us remember that inSeminar 9 Lacan defined the ideal of the Ego as a symbolic point of identification; it is a point in someone else, a point at which the subject considers himself worthy of someone else's love. For example, by sacrificing our own interests, we fulfill a difficult task, prove our full loyalty and feel the peace of mind of being 'worthy of our duty'. This pleasure is undoubtedly narcissistic because we 'love ourselves' but must be separated from imaginative narcissism because it contains the element of symbolic identification directed toward goals, ideals, and the law being obeyed, which goes beyond the narcissistic interests of the Ego and belongs to the symbolic order that complements us. 'Inner peace' is the 'reward' for subordinating ourselves to a superior cause, the 'reward' for sacrificing narcissistic interests. The narcissism contained in this 'inner peace' is of secondary importance and is inverted by symbolism.

Based on this distinction, Kernberg's distinction between 'normal' and 'pathological' narcissism can be given as examples consistent with the theory. In 'normal' narcissism, the narcissistic imaginary identityi(a) is indirect to the symbolic identificationI(A)', the pederane Ego ideal through the Father's-Name governs the imaginary narcissistic satisfaction. The 'pathological' Narcissus, on the other hand, lacks the element of the Ego ideal and symbolic identification; While the image of i(a) and I takes on the role of 'integration', it does not find support fromI(A). It is in the 'big Ego' characteristic of the PN that it is necessary to focus on this distinction.

According to Lasch's basic thesis (which has also been confirmed by the clinical analysis of the 'pathological Narcissus' structure), the disappearance of  'pederane authority' or the pederane ideal (which is met with much enthusiasm!) to which the Ego clings is only one aspect of the process. On the other hand, the maternal/validevi Superego, which is a much more 'irrational' and 'cruel' law, appears, it does not prohibit it, but it commands, it demands pleasure (it constantly demands 'social success', it wants to 'validate' one's own narcissism by governing and exploiting other people) and punishes 'failure' much more ruthlessly than the 'voice of conscience' of the Ego ideal, and unbearable anxiety and excessive masochistic humiliation can lead to loss of identity.

In 'pathological Narcissus'i(a) is directly linked to the cruel, insane, 'irrational' and 'anal' Superego, devoid of the 'mediation' of I(A). Lasch linked this process to fundamental changes in social relations in the era of late capitalism, that is, to the beginning of 'bureaucratic society'. At first glance, this thesis may seem paradoxical: the 'bureaucratic man' is often thought to be the opposite of Narcissus, he is the 'man of the apparatus', that is, an identityless individual who is devoted to the institution and reduced to the cog of the bureaucratic wheel. According to Lasch, the psychological individual or the libidinal economy corresponding to today's bureaucratic society is actually a "pathological Narcissus", that is, an unscrupulous marginal who does not take the "rules of the game" seriously, his only concern is to achieve narcissistic satisfaction by manipulating others. In order to solve this paradox/philanthropy, it must be seen that there are three stages in the development of what can be called the 'libidinal structuring of the subject in bourgeois society' instead of two: (1) the individual adhering to Protestant ethical principles, (2) the heteronomous 'person of organization/institution' and (3) 'pathological Narcissus'. Lasch's contribution lies in the fact that he was the first to describe the transition from the second stage to the third stage.

The phenomenon of the collapse or fall of Protestant ethics is still mentioned. Two classic descriptions of this process are William Whyte's TheOrganization Manand David Riesman'sThe Lonely Crowd. Riesman establishes a fundamental conceptual contrast between the 'autonomous' (self-oriented) and the 'heteronomous' (directed towards another) individual. The 'self-directed' individual is the basic type in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The basic principles of this 'Protestant ethics' individual are individual responsibility and individual initiative ('May God do you good for yourself!'"). Every individual is answerable to God, he should not follow the crowd; the peace of mind of having done your duty is more important than the fame and success that depends on others. The main feature of Protestant ethics is that it distinguishes morality from legality: legality consists of social rules and external laws; the inner law that guides morality is the 'voice of conscience', that is, the pederane internalized in the Ego is ideal. It is natural that the ideology that emerges from this is worthy of liberal capitalism, that the society of 'struggle against everything' is guided by the 'invisible hand' of the market, that everyone will pursue his own interests and thus contribute as much as possible to the well-being of the whole society.

As bureaucratic capitalism became institutionalized, this individual autonomy was lost and the heteronomic principle came to the fore; Instead of the 'discord' of Protestant ethics came individuals who sought recognition in the social group to which they belonged. In bureaucracy, the content of the Ego ideal changes radically and in a sense becomes 'excluded', and the Ego ideal of man is now composed of the expectations of the group and its environment. The source of moral satisfaction is no longer the ability to remain faithful to oneself and complete one's task despite the pressures from the environment. On the contrary, it is when the person feels that they prioritize being connected to the group they are in. In terms of the ego ideal, the individual looks at himself through the eyes of others, sees himself as worthy of the attention of the group. If the individual and the institution are at odds, the individual must surrender to the institution, renounce his unnecessary independence, take his place in the social organism to which he belongs and which will give meaning to his life; the highest value is the feeling of belonging. Instead of the 'invisible hand' of the market, the 'invisible hand' of the institution has arrived. If the individual is resistant to the institution, he must have narrow-minded narcissistic delusions. No harm will come to him from the institution! The delirious individual has not realized this. As a result, the status of the ideal changes as much as its 'content': in the heteronomic individual, conformism has not been replaced by conformism, but the ability to adapt to the demands of the environment and respond quickly as they change.

In the 1940s and 1950s, a series of Hollywood films were made promoting 'heteronomic ethics'. An extreme example cited by Whyte is the filmRebellion at Sea(based on H. Wouk's novel of the same name). The film is about a warship named Caine, which is in danger of sinking because the mad-paranoid captain is incapable of giving the right orders. When a group of officers arrives and takes command from the captain by force, the ship is rescued. Then the rebel officers who disembark have to prove that the captain is really insane and incompetent in order to defend their actions in court. With the help of a lawyer, they are able to do this, but when the rebellious crews celebrate their victory, the lawyer says that he defends them in the name of duty and is in fact ashamed of himself, because according to him, the rebels are guilty: one of the reasons that make the captain paranoid is that the subordinate officers ridicule the captain instead of dealing with his whim and making his job easier. In short, the officers are guilty of the whole incident because they displayed cynical distrust instead of being dedicated to the common cause. (The paradox/hairy paradox/paradox of the lawyer character is that although he defends officers for the sake of his individualistic ethical duty, he is in favor of 'heteronomous' excluded ethics in his individual 'internal' ethical stance, prioritizing dedication to the institution. Had he been an ordinary character who had not been perverted, he would have tried to maintain his autonomous ethical stance 'inside' while pretending to be loyal to the institution 'outside.')

While the Protestant ethic was abandoned and the 'heteronomous' ethic of the 'organization/institution man' was adopted, something remained stable. The 'social imperative character' in Marx's words is constructed on the basis of symbolic identification or the inner ideal of the Ego. The third stage, described by Lasch, breaks this framework: the ideal of the ego is replaced by the narcissistic 'big ego'; the individual who is forced to integrate the demands of the environment into the ideal of the Ego no longer plays the leading role, but is replaced by a 'Narcissus' who 'does not sincerely live the game' and regards the rules of the environment as external 'rules of the game'. Narcissus' sense of 'social pressure' is completely different, he feels pressure not through the ideal Ego, but through the 'anal' 'sadomasochistic' Superego. This is the real issue: Today's societies are no less 'oppressive' than societies in the age of the 'organization/institution person', the faithful servant of the institution. The difference is thatsocial demands no longer come from the ideal of the Ego, they are not embedded in integrated and 'inner' symbolic codes, but remain at the level of the pre-Oedip-Superego imperative.

The main feature of the third stage is that in the subjective economy, the 'great Other', the social-symbolic network in which the subject faces and is snatched, functions more like the 'mother-to-be-attached-to-the person's need-satisfaction', which is Lacan's first image of the great Other. The demand of the Other assumes the style of the Superego command, commanding man to enjoy himself (through 'social success' etc.) under the protective care of the maternal 'great Other' (which is an extension of the narcissistic 'great Ego'). The pre-Oedip-specific state of dependence, i.e., the dependence of need satisfaction on the 'whim of the Other', reappears in the subject's relation to the social-symbolic Other; This structure, which is increasingly disguised as the lawless-other, can be called 'benevolent despotism'.

The most obvious sign of this transformation is the substitution of the right to judge and punish by therapeutic law: The subject is no longer guilty because he is not responsible for his actions, those actions are the result of psychological and social conditions. The rigid role of judge is substituted for social care: we must not punish but treat the offender, and we must provide the social and psychological conditions that will not lead him to crime. Education tends in a similar direction: the purpose of the education system is no longer to convey certain information or rules governing social behavior to students. Such schools are now seen as 'alienating' and 'oppressive' institutions that do not take into account the individual needs of students. On the contrary, the school should ensure that the student recognizes his creative potential and develops it by adapting it to social requirements; create environments in which he can express his personality freely.

At every level of society we encounter the cult of 'authenticity': Everyone should put aside their 'masks', 'alienating social roles' and 'oppressive rules' and turn every field from sport to religion, from politics to sexuality, from work to hobbies, into an environment where they can develop their creative potential by expressing and affirming their 'authentic' personality. Lasch shows that this cult of 'authenticity' (the cult of free self-development of the 'great Ego' free from 'masks' and 'oppressive' rules) is a disguise in which its opposite, the pre-Oedip-dependence, is to identify with the alien and decentralized aspect of the symbolic law outside the Ego. While the late bourgeois individualism of the narcissistic 'big Ego' seems to go back to the early bourgeois individualism of the 'Protestant ethic', it actually involves an even more severe dependence on the 'man of organization/institution'.

Unable to complete his analytical conceptual apparatus, Lasch's weakness is that he does not give an adequate theoretical definition for the turning point that shifted the social-economic reality of late capitalism from the 'man of organization/institution' to the 'pathological Narcissus'. At the level of discourse, it is not difficult to identify this turning point: this moment is the transition from the bureaucratic capitalist society of the 1940s and 1950s to the so-called 'tolerant' society. This transition led to the 'post-industrial' process described by 'Third Wave' theorists like Toffler.

Now we can finally return to the issue of the relationship between 'pathological narcissism' and borderline cases. Contrary to American medical practice, which considers the borderline closer to psychosis than neurosis (if you ask someone who is obsessed with the fact that the 'big Ego' is a sign of 'normality', there is definitely psychosis if this Ego is missing), J.-A says that the borderline/boundary is literally the 'contemporary form of hysteria'. We must join Miller. If 'pathological Narcissus' represents the widespread libidinal structuring of the late bourgeois 'tolerant' society, then the borderline refers to the moment of hysterical transformation of that structure, the moment when the subject confronts the fundamental paradox/hairiness/contradiction in the PN.

Miller attributes the transformation of hysteria into a borderline to the changes in contemporary ideology of everyday life brought about by science: different kinds of science, from the experts who guide our whole lives (down to their most special moments) with advice and instructions, to the industrial micro-electronic devices that are increasingly becoming the intrinsic components of our daily lives (Lebenswelt). The blending of experience with science is an obstacle to giving meaning to science through everyday pre-scientific self-understanding and pre-theory life practice. Husserl's last essay, for example, was intended to show that scientific thinking was rooted in the practical world of pre-scientific life; this is not possible today, becauseLebenswelthas 'lost his innocence' and is completely defined by science. A reference to the pre-scientificLebenswelt corresponds today to the pure and uncorrupted neighborhood ofBlut und Boden (Blood and Soil) ideology. Husserl, who advocates the possibility of defining the cursory horizon of science, is completely right; science can answer hermeneutic questions only by referring to pre-scientificLebenswelt. Because science cannot substitute the essential ground of life practices with another (its own) signatory horizon or hermeneutic question. Science itself, science in its strict hermeneutic sense, is not cursory, and once it begins to interfere inLebenswelt's work, it loses all meaning and falls into emptiness. In this respect, we must also understand Miller, who draws attention to the evidence that science interferes with the everydayLebenswelt, an intervention that is like answering unasked questions:
In our age, history is harmonized with science, the prevalent mode of knowledge, the evidence of which is that it is constantly invaded by a multitude of devices that answer unasked questions. Recently, someone from Silicon Valley gave a recipe befitting the turning point that unsettled civilization: "The home computer is the solution to a problem that does not exist." It is precisely this hysterical that turns its essence into a question. (J.-A. Miller, 'Liminaire'. Ornicar?, 29, Paris, 1984, p. 4)
Since 'the answer to the unasked question' is in fact the most concise definition of unemblematic truth (the truth does not 'answer any question' because it lacks a cursory horizon), it becomes clear in what sense science represents the fundamental reality of the contemporary world. The 'unquestionable answer' is evident in the three components of our age; (1) the role of experts in everyday life; (2) micro-electronic devices; (3) advertising.

The contemporary 'cult of authenticity' is paradoxical/logical because its internal structure and impetus consist of a set of guidelines, and these suggestions/instructions, justified by science, offer the subject a recipe for how to gain authenticity by liberating the 'creative potentials of his ego', how to unmask and reveal his 'true Ego' and to hold on to intuitive spontaneity for this. But our main concern here is nothing more than the provision of scientific 'legitimate' methods that are promised to conquer even the most private spheres of life. In this context, the emptiness, loneliness, alienation and artificiality of 'modern man' are often mentioned, and this is how the 'real need' to be satisfied by all the suggestions/instructions based on individual psychologies that mystify the social foundations is described. But the opposite dimension that is thus ignored is far more important: the dominant effect of these guidelines is not to offer prescriptions for satisfying these needs, but to create these 'needs' and to provoke the unbearable feeling of 'emptiness' in our daily lives: our inadequate sexuality, our uncreative work, our artificial relations with others, as well as our complete despair and neediness, and our inability to find a way out of this impasse. Before presenting us with his own poems, as Molière calls them, these guides inform us that we have always spoken in prose to this day.

The difference between PN and borderline can be defined by this question-and-answer dialectic: the 'pathological' Narcissus, without asking any questions, plunges into the stream of ever-newer-new answers, and with an obsession with each answer 'ethical' invents functions to be seen in all objects and the needs to be satisfied, thus quickly obscuring the basic paradox/nonsense of 'unquestionable answers'. The borderline, unlike Narcissus, defines where this current will stop, where the subject confronts the meaninglessness of the answer and becomes unable to accept ever-newer-new 'unquestioned answers' 'without asking any questions'. The question that the borderline asks the subjectto someone else is similar to the question of hysterics, but the expected answer is different; waits for an answer to the question of what the unasked answers mean. since the legendary representation of the narcissistic individual isNarcissus, the mythical representation of the borderline subject must also beEkho].

A conventional approach would immediately reject such an answer, saying that capital accumulation represents 'false needs' that serve its interests. But this explanation is misleading because it assumes that 'real needs' exist. Naturally, every individual has several 'basics' needs that must be met in order to survive. But from the moment you step into the symbolic realm, things turn around, and the needs expressed by the symbols turn into the demands of others, and beyond that demand lies the abyss of desires awakened without being expressed. The proof that the need remains subordinate to desire is the subject's readiness to sacrifice every 'basic' need for desire (in the name of the law), for example, to go on a hunger strike or to spend his life in sexual abstinence. According to the basic paradox/logic of psychoanalysis, no matter how integrated the subject is with the web of discourses, he actually (and irreducibly) 'doesn't know what he wants'. The object of his desire escapes his hand, and every desire expressed in symbolic demands eventually reaches a slip point: 'This is not him!' The possible states of 'wanting nothing' then eventually come to a state of wanting only 'nothingness'; it comes to a state of wanting that missing piece that fuels desire. Strictly speaking, the position of hysteria is nothing more than that of the subject, who 'does not know what he wants' (who does not know how to get caught in the web of judgments). The 'hysterical question' is directed at the great Other, demanding that he tell us what we want and what our desire is.

It is important to take into account that desire is always intersubjective; the desire of the subject, in different ways, is always 'indirected' by the desire of the Other. Desire is to desire what the Other desires, to desire the Other itself, to desire to be the object of desire of the Other... Therefore, the real problem of the 'tolerant' 'consumerist' society is not that it imposes 'false needs' on us instead of 'real needs'. On the contrary, as new objects of consumption flood and provoke demands, the space of desire narrows considerably, the 'empty place' in which desire can be revealed is masked, and a state of saturation is formed in which 'impossible' desire can no longer be expressed. In simple terms, the question of "pathological Narcissus" is so saturated with unasked answers that his "what he really wants" is inculcated in so many ways that he can no longer experience the paradox/nonsense of desire, perceive that desire is separate from wants, perceive that he "does not know what he wants" despite the object of desire. The borderline, on the other hand, refers to the subject who becomes hysterical at the breaking point of this mad bend, to the subject who, despite all the answers, perceives the certainty that he 'does not know what he wants' and finally opens up to desire.

In the relationship between PN and the borderline, the actual situation contradicts what appears: the borderline seems to be closer to pathological personality fragmentation, while PN is like a step towards normalization, PN is almost like trying to synthesize crumbs by integrating his ego. However, 'pathological narcissism' should at least be considered a 'pre-psychotic state' even if it is not psychosis, because in the 'as if' personality, the subject does not seem to be 'fully functional' and has not internalized social law. That is why 'pathological Narcissus' is uncanny, it gives the impression that 'there is nothing behind the mask', you feel that you are talking to a puppet, there is no more than a mask in the mask, what is hidden behind it is completely different, and it is not in the mediation of the mask and dialectics. Contrary to the claims, borderline cases are not the transition from pre-psychosis to psychosis or the collapse of the 'pathological' Ego mask that is supposed to maintain the appearance of totality. On the contrary, theborderline is the first step towards the 'normalization' of pathological Narcissus, its hystericalization, the moment when the subject loses all its distances and falls into the symbolic paradox/hairiness of desire.

This backfires in American psychoanalysts because they have a conformist obsession with social alignment with the Ego: lacking the borderline-type 'strong Ego', the American psychoanalyst immediately declares him psychotic, but does not think that someone who is well 'attuned' to society and fully 'functional' can be psychotic. If you ask him, the definition of the psychotic subject is the subject who has lost 'self-control', who 'cannot control his impulsive forces', in short, who behaves 'incompatible with society'. The paradox/virality of 'pathological Narcissus' is bothpsicoticandn-ormal: although PNbehaves 'in harmony with society' and 'normal' according to all the 'positive' characteristics that can be empirically observed, we feel that 'nothing is in place', it is obvious that there is a terrible contradiction, the person in question must be 'reviving reality'. In this context, we can mention Freud's famous joke in his bookJokes and Their Relationship with the Unconscious:
Shakespeare did not write Shakespeare's works, but his contemporary of the same name.
Such is the psychotic dimension of PN: 'pathological Narcissus' is literally 'another' in its own right, or so in terms of its symbolic identity or identification. Thus, we understand Lacan's words: The 'normal' individual of our day is psychotic.

The 'repressive desublimation' that 'critical theory' attributes to the libidinal economy of late bourgeois society thus becomes clear: 'repression' is regarded as the symbolic law or the pressure or command of the Superego, while vulgarization must be understood with the clarity of Lacan's writings. When glorification is usually understood as turning away from sexuality or changing objects, it is understood as the feeding of impulses in a 'more sublime and cultural way'; you seduce the audience by reciting poetry instead of seducing a woman, or you criticize others instead of getting involved in a fight. According to the vulgar psychoanalytic 'interpretation', such an artist's contact with the audience is a glorified form of sexual intercourse, and the critic's polemic is a glorified form of aggression. Of course, this approach assumes that there is a 'basis' to be exalted, a style of fulfillment that is 'not yet exalted'. Lacan's point of departure is the empty space or nothingness in which desire is expressed, an impossible object in which the object-cause of desire is not symbolized, or the threatening-deceptive Thing (das Ding), it is a 'nothingness' that coincides with its own defect. Exaltation consists in elevating an 'empirical' positive object to the dignity of 'Thing', which changes substance and assumes the function of the embodiment or positivity of 'nothingness' (the object-cause of impossible thing and desire) in subjective libidinal economy. Therefore,the supreme object is a paradoxical/hypothetical object that can only 'live in dimness' or can only be implied: it disappears or melts away the moment you attempt to make it public or illuminate it.

In Fellini's film Rome, we find a remarkable example of the fragility of the supreme object. Workers digging Rome's underground railway tunnels find an unexplored hollow and immediately summon archaeologists. When archaeologists break down the wall and enter the cave, they arrive at an ancient Roman hall covered with frescoes, covered with sad melancholic figures (they feel sad because they know they are irreligious, they cannot salvation because they died before they can keep up with the Christian truth; these figures are closer to the truth than the 'real' Christians, Fellini is right to portray this second group as hypocritical and perverse,Satyricon that was the idea in his film). But the frescoes are too delicate to withstand the light and fade as soon as they come into contact with the air. Desperate witnesses just stare at the fact that the object they are getting too close to slips out of their hands.

This is the supreme object: as long as it stands in 'space', as long as it remains in a vague world under the shadows, it represents the menacing 'Thing'; but if you get too close to it, you become an ordinary 'positive' object and come face to face with a lot of reality. Thus Lacan repeats Rilke's thought: Beauty is the last mask to cover up horror; beauty is a way of implying the horror of things in the eyes of the world. According to this, it is clear that exaltation has nothing to do with 'sexual distancing': the object of 'physical' erotic passion (if it is really passion) is always supreme.'" In pathological Narcissus, however, it is pertinent to speak of 'vulgarization': not because 'it cannot direct its libidinal energy to lofty purposes', but because PN vulgarizes the libidinal object by reducing it to 'positivity', because Narcissus wants to 'see the bottom' of everything, wants to 'get it done'. However, it is precisely for this reason that when the object remains in 'space', it loses the 'nothingness' it implies.

Borderline is the contemporary form of hysteria, the moment of hysterical 'pathological Narcissus', the dominant libidinal structure of late bourgeois society, but it is not a simple transformation of the previous 'traditional' hysteria. It can be said that only with the borderline, hysterical structuring becomes 'distilled' or purified and becomes a question asked to another subject who 'does not know what he wants'. 'Traditional' hysteria could be interpreted in a naïve and simple contrast: on the one hand, there was 'internal' repression, and on the other hand, there were repressed impulses. The subject would first suppress and unconsciously suppress impulses and forms of fulfillment that the inner value system could not accept, and then the repressed ones resurfaced in the form of hysterical symptoms. When it came to the 'tolerant' society, this naïve approach lost its meaning and importance. Although crude approaches proclaim that psychoanalysis has become 'obsolete', for those who can sense the true revolutionary core of Freud's discovery, the paradoxical/nonsensical essence of the hysterical situation has only now been revealed. The fact that in analytical psychoanalysis the borderline is not recognized as the contemporary form of hysteria and that it is associated with psychosis shows that the revolutionary core of Freudian psychoanalysis is blinded and that the hysterical question cannot be heard to the letter.


Tuesday, November 29, 2022

The Palliative Society


Robert Kugelmann (Book Review of: "The Palliative Society: Pain Today" by Byung-Chul Han, translated by Daniel Steuer, Polity Press, 2021, 76 pp, $59.95, hardback ISBN: 13-978-5095-4723-4
The Palliative Society is one of many books by the philosopher and cultural critic Byung-Chul Han, whose other titles include The Burnout Society (2010/2015) and Capitalism and the Death Drive (2019/2021). Eleven brief chapters constitute the book, examining pain from various perspectives, including its meaninglessness, its cunning, as a mode of truth, as a revelation of being, and our fear of it, our algophobia, throughout. The Palliative Society is the critique of modernity, signaled by the opening quotation from Ernst Jünger: “Tell me your relation to pain, and I will tell you who you are” (Jünger, 1934/2008, p. 32, quoted on p. 1). This slim volume, written aphoristically, explores the philosophical complexities of pain in societies marked by an extreme aversion to pain and discomfort. For Han, pain is not simply a sensation or feeling of displeasure; rather it constitutes important ways of what it means to be human. Indeed, for Han we are so much the worse for our penchant to flee it. Pain is an opening via negation to otherness, and without it we are lost “in the hell of the same” (p. 6, emphasis in original). What Han calls “the neoliberal dispositif of happiness” (p. 13) distorts happiness, which “is not at one’s disposal. Inherent in it is a certain negativity” (p. 13). “Dispositif,” a term of Foucault, designated “discursive and nondiscursive elements, … [that are] historical and culturally bound to a certain area or civilization, and … are answers to certain greater problems in a particular society” (Peltonen, 2004, p. 216). This neoliberal dispositif is palliative, seeking happiness by eliminating pain and discomfort without addressing the issues that, if attended to, might lead to radical social change: “Instead of revolution we thus get depression” (p. 12, emphasis in original). The neoliberal imperative, “be happy” (p. 11), draws upon our desire for “self-improvement and self-optimization” (p. 11), so that we discipline ourselves to conform to requirements for productivity, fully believing we are free in our self-subjugation.

Central to Han’s critique is that our palliative society has made health its supreme value. Health, however, is described in a specific way, as the functioning of the body defined exclusively in anatomical and physiological terms: “Life is reduced to a biological process that must be optimized. It loses any meta-physical dimension” (p. 16). Ours is a society of “survival,” “a society of the undead” (p. 17), as we have no concept of what a “good life” might mean. We are like Paul Valéry’s Monsieur Teste, who cannot narrate his pain, as it is meaningless, “outside the symbolic order” (p. 19). Life that is “reduced to a biological process” (p. 22) has no story, no “meaningful horizon” (p. 22).

Pain will have its way, nevertheless, with Jünger speaking of the “cunning of pain” (cited, p. 26). Where does pain insinuate itself in a palliative society? Han refers to the spread of chronic pain, of “cutting” (p. 28) and other forms of self-harm. We are beset with loneliness and isolation, and “narcissism and egotism are intensifying” (p. 28), echoing Christopher Lasch’s (1991) diagnosis. Cultural anesthesia leads to a need for “increasingly stronger stimuli … to provide people in an anesthetic society with any sense of being alive” (Illich, 1976, p. 152, quoted on p. 33).

Pain is a way of knowing, and it is essential to experience (German Erfahrung), as “a painful process of transformation that contains an element of suffering, of undergoing something” (p. 39). An experience in this sense, as Gadamer (1960/1989) wrote, “thwarts an expectation” (p. 356), and one undergoes a reversal, which is painful, a “learning through suffering” (p. 356), as in the catharsis of tragedy. Indeed, drawing on Heidegger’s notion of mood (Stimmung), Han writes that “pain is the fundamental mood of human finitude” (p. 45), thinking of “that area of being ‘in which pain and death and love belong together’” (Heidegger, 1950/2002, p. 205, quoted on p. 45). This mood attunes us to the “non-available” (p. 45), making pain Orphic: Orpheus loves Eurydice and descends into the underworld to rescue her from death with the enchantment of his music, only to lose her again by turning around to see her, to keep her present and to possess her—to keep her visible, thus losing her as other. Essential to pain as mood, then, is a desire that would overcome death, a love that cannot negate death, a longing for the face of the other. Han cites Heidegger again, who proposed that “the spirit [muot] which answers to pain, the spirit attuned by pain and to pain, is melancholy [Schwermut]” (Heidegger, 1950/2002, p. 153, quoted on p. 46). Melancholy, the disease of the philosopher according to an ancient text, attuning us to the saturnine, the flaws, cracks, and limits of human life, is a way of negation that gets at essences. Melancholy, which draws its significance from pain as a fundamental mood, recognizes that “a crucial part of taking care … is the experience of unavailability … otherness and strangeness” (p. 47). Like the melancholy angel in Dürer’s woodcut, Melencolia I of 1514, our eyes are on what is beyond us, on otherness, when we do not flee pain.

Han’s ultimate remedy is not heroic endurance of pain. It is, with Levinas, “a sensibility for the other [that] presupposes an ‘exposure’ that ‘offer[s] itself even in suffering” (Levinas, 1974/1991, p. 15, quoted on p. 52). This is primal pain: “pain toward the other,” “meta-physical pain” (p. 52), openness to the suffering of others, cracking the complacency and pursuit of the comfortable that defines our palliative society. Han closes on a somber note: because we cherish comfort more than freedom, we face a “transhuman” future, without pain and always happy, which is “not a human life” (p. 60). The undead will inherit the earth.

Much of the book is a dialogue with Ernst Jünger, whom Han quotes extensively. Jünger was a prominent and controversial German thinker of the twentieth century, a fierce critic of bourgeois society for its desire for comfort and security and its rejection of heroic virtues of endurance and courage. As an example of what Jünger meant by heroic virtue, to amplify Han’s account, consider the story of the Roman soldier, Gaius Mucius Cordus Scaevola, who held his arm over a flame without flinching to show his enemy his contempt for his own body and pain. Han does not follow Jünger in a celebration of militaristic derring-do, submission to authority, and a willingness to endure pain and self-sacrifice. He is, however, clear that our algophobia—morbid fear of pain—is leading us down a primrose path to a loss of individual freedom, autonomy, and authenticity (see Taylor, 1991), virtues that modernity at its best strives to cultivate. We seem to have a predilection, according to Han, to what I would call an Esau complex, a willingness to surrender our birthright for a mess of porridge.

Han writes that “every critique of society must … provide a hermeneutics of pain” (p. 1). Pain is too important to be left to medicine, where it primarily resides today. This medicalization of pain progressively destroys any meaning that pain might have, as it is something to avoid, eliminate, or conceal (the word “palliative” comes from the Latin palliare, “conceal”). Neither Jünger nor Han have been the first to make the charge that algophobia is one of modernity’s besetting flaws. For Jünger, “the bourgeois individual typically dwells in a ‘zone of sensitivity,’ where ‘security,’ ‘ease,’ and ‘comfort’—and ultimately ‘the body’ itself—become the essential core of life. Here, one seeks to avoid pain at all cost” (Durst, 2008, section 2). Jünger thus captured societal “algophobia.”

The charge that we moderns are more sensitive to pain than people in the premodern world has been made repeatedly (Kugelmann, 2017). In the nineteenth century, commentators tied increased sensitivity to pain to the upper classes and to the “civilized” races of Europe: “In the ideology of the [American] slave owners, it was a commonplace that slaves were relatively insensitive to pain” (Armstrong, 2012, p. 146). Weir Mitchell (1892), an important nineteenth-century neurologist, found an increasing sensitivity to pain taking place in the United States. An article in The Living Age (“The Meaning of Pain,” 1906) stated that “it is a well-established conclusion of science that the higher we rise in the scale of nervous organization the greater the possibilities of pain,” with “civilized races” feeling pain more exquisitely than “savages,” and men more than women (p. 699). Indeed, among the civilized and the men, “brain workers” feel pain more acutely than do manual laborers, which accounted for the more frequent occurrence of neurasthenia among these privileged groups, a view shared by the prominent psychologist and anthropologist, W. H. R. Rivers (1920). Such views, connecting intellect, level of civilization, and increased sensitivity to pain, were shared by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche (De Moulin, p. 541, n. 4).

Well before these accounts of algophobia, Alexis de Tocqueville (1835/1966), in Democracy in America, based on his journey to the United States in 1831–1832, noted that Americans continuously seek “improvement” in all spheres of life, especially material improvement, and that Americans have a great “taste for physical comfort” (p. 503), unlike European aristocrats and lower classes, the former because they take comforts for granted, the latter because they take their absence for granted. Only autonomous selves, it would appear, would eliminate all displeasure in the pursuit of happiness.

There is more to the story. In the middle of the nineteenth century came surgical anesthesia, word of which spread around the globe like wildfire and eventually made endurance of surgical pain absurd. It was with good reason that Weir Mitchell (1900), on the fiftieth anniversary in 1896 of the introduction of surgical anesthesia, could read his poem, “The Birth and Death of Pain,” in which we hear: “Whatever triumphs still shall hold the mind,/ Whatever gift shall yet enrich mankind,/ … No hour as sweet as when hope, doubt, and fears,/ ‘Mid deepening stillness, watched one eager brain,/ With Godlike will, decree the Death of Pain” (p. 18). I assume that even modernity’s fiercest critics avail themselves of anesthesia before going under the knife. Anesthesia altered existential possibilities for responding to pain.

Daniël de Moulin (1974) documents that René Leriche, acclaimed author of The Surgery of Pain (1939), found that “modern man is more sensitive to pain than even his immediate ancestors” (De Moulin, p. 542), this sensitivity being for Leriche a consequence of moderns having more methods available to eliminate pain, including anesthetics and analgesics, such as aspirin. The Dutch phenomenologist and physiologist F. J. J. Buytendijk (1943/1961), living in occupied Netherlands, wrote: “Modern man is irritated by things which older generations accepted with equanimity. He is irritated by old age, long illness, and even by death; above all he is irritated by pain. Pain must simply not occur. … The consequence is an immoderate state of algophobia … which is itself an evil and sets a seal of timidity on the whole of life” (pp. 15–16). His colleague, the phenomenological psychiatrist, J. H. van den Berg (1975), repeated the claim that modernity brings increased sensitivity to pain, explaining it through a loss of community and greater individual autonomy. For van den Berg, pain has been disembedded from social relationships, and pain is more painful when we face it alone. Ivan Illich, to whom Han refers on this topic (p. 19), charged that our medicalization of pain results in a cultural shift: “People unlearn the acceptance of suffering as an inevitable part of their conscious coping with reality and learn to interpret every ache as an indicator of their need for padding or pampering” (Illich, 1976, p. 133).

Han has extended “algophobia” to imply that “we live in a society of positivity that tries to extinguish any form of negativity” (p. 2). Power operates today not primarily by repression and overt violence—although that continues, especially in minority communities—but by “self-optimization” (p. 3). We discipline ourselves by striving “to be all that you can be,” as states an advertisement used to attract recruits to the US military (Singer, 2008). Our palliative society is also a “performance society” that, eschewing negation, finds opportunities for increased performance in any situation, such that we speak of “post-traumatic growth” and “resilience” (p. 2) come what may. Drawing on social media, Han also characterizes the palliative society as “the society of the like [Gefällt-mir], increasingly a society characterized by a mania for liking” (p. 3): Nothing should hurt. Han at this juncture introduces his sed contra by asserting that “what has been forgotten is that pain purifies. It has a cathartic effect” (p. 3), a claim echoing Jünger’s contempt for pain-averse middle class couch potatoes.

Han does not make a case for military discipline or for the contempt for life and comfort symbolized by the suicide bomber. No, for Han the palliative society is, to use the phrase of John McKnight (1996), a “careless society,” in the double sense of “not having a care in the world” and “I don’t have to care about you, because experts can handle whatever is ailing you.” What our palliative, performance society of the like faces is a loss of “nakedness of soul, exposure, the pain toward the other” (p. 54). Our algophobia is fundamentally fear of “pain towards the other” (p. 54), and not the quivering of the flesh in the face of discomforts and negativity.

With that Levinasian perspective, space opens between Han’s cultural critique and that of Jünger’s. For Jünger (1934/2008), the bourgeois individual lacks the heroic spirit: “The heroic … world presents an entirely different relation to pain than does the world of sensitivity. While in the latter … it is a matter of marginalizing pain and sheltering life from it, in the former the point is to integrate pain and organize life in such a way that one is always armed against it” (p. 16). For Han, it is not this heroic attitude that ultimately matters. It is pain as a fundamental mood of existence, exposing us to the pain of the other, that matters. Thus, by contrast, Han can write: “Pain is a gift” (p. 49). How do individuals and cultures receive this gift? Han, with Illich, sees the drift toward greater medicalization of pain as rendering people unable to cultivate what Illich (1976) called the “craft of suffering well” (p. 145), to which Han (p. 19) refers, emphasizing how with the atrophy of cultural ways to reckon with pain and suffering, pain becomes a “purely physical agony” (p. 19). In the anesthetic state inculcated by the palliative society, exposure to the pain and suffering of the other vanishes, along with the capacity to tolerate discomfort.

Nevertheless, to some extent, this craft of suffering is still very much with us. For example, professional and not-so-professional athletes learn to bear pain in the course of their training, their askesis. It can be a badge of honor to play through the pain of an injury. The heroic spirit thus endures, even in a palliative society. The historian Esther Cohen (1995) describes earlier forms of this craft, from antiquity to the late Middle Ages. Even though our primary attitude toward pain, she writes, is that of “rejection,” for which “physical suffering is not considered inevitable or unavoidable” (p. 51), Cohen does not see the development of modern pain-killers as causing this rejection of pain: “Many primitive societies are familiar with the analgesic qualities of various plants, yet they do not resort to them in situations in which modern Westerners would automatically demand relief. More important, in many societies the acceptance of pain is a cultural imperative” (p. 51). This observation supports the diagnosis of algophobia in contemporary society. Indeed, probably less common today than formerly, is an art of suffering Cohen calls “impassivity, … to endure without flinching” (p. 51). The Roman soldier who held his arm in the flame demonstrated impassivity. Cultural patterns of enduring pain “stoically” and “keeping a stiff upper lip” are still with us, although they may appear unenlightened with analgesics abounding. “Impassibility” is an attitude that seeks “the capacity of transcending pain completely” (p. 52), through trance and ritual and arduous training. Cohen notes that in the West, such freedom from pain “was a miraculous quality, a gift from heaven granted only occasionally to saints and martyrs” (p. 52). In the later Middle Ages, “philopassianism” developed, the deliberate evocation of pain, an attitude absent earlier in Christian Europe. Cohen explains philopassianism: “The idea of Imitatio Christi, fervently preached throughout the period to clerics and laymen alike, insisted that in order to follow Christ’s footsteps one must carry his cross and feel his pain” (p. 59). Practices such as self-flagellation were a means to feel this pain, ultimately of sin and repentance. Ariel Glucklich (2003) found that such practices break down the boundaries of the self and can open a person up to what is other; hence their use in religious practices throughout the world. Even a mild ascetical practice such as fasting can change one’s attunement in the everyday world, disrupting routine and exposing one to one’s lack. Thus, arts of suffering occur across cultures and history, and endure even among us. These arts keep their practitioners exposed, even potentially to the other. Nevertheless, a palliative society does make such arts more difficult to justify and practice.

The upshot is that Han uncovers the consequences of our pursuit of what we call health; algophobia-is-us. The book also addresses the Covid-19 pandemic, and here we see how the thesis that modernity puts us face to face with meaningless pain has its latest manifestation. The thrust of Han’s claims about the Covid pandemic center around “bare life,” our living defined in biological terms only. Let me extend Han’s critique to sources outside his text: Jeffrey Bishop on the “anticipatory corpse” and Illich on “life” as an idol. To put this into perspective, consider how Jeffrey Bishop (2011) distinguishes between zoē and bios in ancient Greek thought. Zoē is “bare life, the life we have by virtue of being alive” (p. 213). Bios is one’s “biography,” such as the “contemplative life,” the “life of pleasure,” and the “political life” (p. 213). Zoē “belongs to the realm of the oikos, or home, and not the realm of the polis, or city” (p. 214), whereas for us, with what Foucault called “biopolitics,” “the sphere of the polis reaches into the sphere of oikos” (Bishop, p. 214). We are thus confused, and do not know when this bare life begins or ends, and we tend to equate longevity, the continuance of zoē, as in itself a good. Illich (1992) goes further: In “The Institutional Construction of a New Fetish: Human Life,” Illich argued that “‘Human life’ is a recent construct, something which we now take so much for granted that we dare not seriously question it” (p. 219). Moreover, “thinking in terms of ‘a life’ and ‘human life’ vaguely connotes something of extreme importance and tends to abolish all limits that decency and common sense have so far imposed on the exercise of professional tutelage” (pp. 219–220). In his history of “a life,” Illich contended that our “a life” originated in a corruption of the Christian message that Christ was “Life,” such that today “life” is, in religious terms, an idol. While Han does not go that route, it is clear that he, along with Bishop and Illich, sees “bare life” as an impoverished rendering of human living. Bare life is visible in the x-ray and the lab results, in the anatomical text and health statistics. Bare life makes living available to increased biopolitical surveillance.

The pandemic accelerates the shift to “a biopolitical surveillance regime” (Han, p. 18) since the protection of zoē knows no limits. The privacy and autonomy of the modern individual succumbs to the demands for containing the spread of the virus. Thus, “the biopolitical regime of surveillance spells the end of liberalism” (p. 59). Han’s insight into bare life as an idol makes sense of what at first sounded to this reader as a rant against commonsense public health measures during the pandemic. For example: “Because of the pandemic, the society of survival has prohibited church services, even at Easter. Priests, too, practice ‘social distancing’ and wear protective masks. They sacrifice faith entirely to survival. … Virology deprives theology of its power” (p. 15). Finally, “faith degenerates into farce. It is replaced with intensive care units and respirators. The dead are counted daily” (p. 15). Han here engages in some sliding of the signifier as the Lacanians might say, with “distance” shifting from meaning steps taken to avoid infecting other people to meaning indifference and a lack of empathy. Indeed, Han asserts that “‘social distancing’ contributes to the loss of empathy” (p. 52), because we are apart and not near one another. That assertion is an empirical matter, with Pfattheicher et al. (2020) finding social distancing a sign of empathy. The encounter with an other is not measured in feet and inches. Han’s hyperbole in this matter—faith is replaced with intensive care units?—makes sense only if one sees that the idolatry of “bare life” is in play in public health measures, despite the goodwill that promotes them. The sacrifice of faith for survival is better understood in terms of Illich’s contention, surpassing Han’s on this point, that our efforts to preserve bare “life” perverts what it means to be an individual or a person. The palliative society’s valuation of bare life undermines the good that we would do in responding to the pandemic. After all, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

References

Armstrong, T. (2012). The logic of slavery: Debt, technology, and pain in American literature. Cambridge University Press.

Bishop, J. P. (2011). The anticipatory corpse: Medicine, power, and the care of the dying. University of Notre Dame Press.

Buytendijk, F. J. J. (1961). Pain: Its modes and functions (E. O’ Shiel, Trans.). University of Chicago Press. (Originally published 1943)

Cohen, E. (1995). Towards a history of European physical sensibility: Pain in the later Middle Ages. Science in Context, 8(1), 47–74.

De Moulin, D. (1974). A historical-phenomenological study of bodily pain in Western man. Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 48(4), 540–570.

Durst, D. C. (2008). Translator’s introduction. In E. Jünger, On pain. Telos Press.

Gadamer, H.-G. (1989). Truth and method (J. Weinsheimer & D. G. Marshall, Trans.) (2nd ed.). Continuum. (Original work published 1960)

Glucklich, A. (2003). Sacred pain: Hurting the body for the sake of the soul. Oxford University Press.

Han, B.-C. (2015). The burnout society (E. Butler, Trans). Stanford University Press. (Original work published 2010)

Han, B.-C. (2021). Capitalism and the death drive. Polity Press. (Original work published 2019)

Heidegger, M. (2002). Off the beaten track (J. Young & K. Haynes, Eds. & Trans.). Cambridge University Press. (Original work published 1950)

Illich, I. (1976). Medical nemesis: The expropriation of health. Pantheon Books.

Illich, I. (1992). In the mirror of the past: Lectures and addresses 1978–1990. Marion Boyars.

Jünger, E. (2008). On pain (D. C. Durst, Trans.). Telos Press. (Original work published 1934)

Kugelmann, R. (2017). Constructing pain: Historical, psychological, and critical perspectives. Routledge.

Lasch, C. (1991). The culture of narcissism: American life in an age of diminishing expectations. Norton.

Leriche, R. (1939). The surgery of pain (A. Young, Trans.). Williams & Wilkins.

Levinas, E. (1991). Otherwise than being or beyond essence (A. Lingis, Trans.). Kluwer Academic. (Original work published 1974)

McKnight, J. (1996). The careless society: Community and its counterfeits. Basic Books.

Mitchell, S. W. (1892). Characteristics (3rd ed.). Century Co.

Mitchell, S. W. (1900). The wager and other poems. Century.

Peltonen, M. (2004). From discourse to “dispositif”: Michel Foucault’s two histories. Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques, 30(2), 205–219.

Pfattheicher, S., Nockur, L., Böhm, R., Sassenrath, C., & Petersen, M. B. (2020). The emotional path to action: Empathy promotes physical distancing and wearing of face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Psychological Science, 31(11), 1363–1373. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797620964422

Rivers. W. H. R. (1920). Instinct and the unconscious: A contribution to a biological theory of the psycho-neuroses. Cambridge University Press.

Singer, P. W. (2008, May 2). How to be all that you can be: A look at the Pentagon’s five step plan for making Iron Man real. Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/articles/how-to-be-all-that-you-can-be-a-look-at-the-pentagons-five-step-plan-for-making-iron-man-real/

Taylor, C. (1991). The ethics of authenticity. Harvard University Press.

The meaning of pain. (1906, March 17). The Living Age, 7th series, 30(3219), 699–701.

Tocqueville, A. de. (1966). Democracy in America (J. P. Mayer & M. Lerner, Eds.; G. Lawrence, Trans.). Harper & Row. (Original work published 1835)

Van den Berg, J. H. (1975). Divided existence and complex society: An historical approach. Duquesne University Press.


Monday, November 28, 2022

Where's Anna?


Slavoj Žižek, "Anna is free" (Google translate)
How to be free in such a desperate age? Shonda Rhimes' series Inventing Anna (Netflix 2022) provides an answer to this question. Jessica Presses wrote the story of Anna Sorokin, who inspired the series: "How Anna Delvey Deceived the New York Party People" (New York Magazine, 2018) tells the fictional-genius-bizarre story of Russia's Anna Sorokin, who in her twenties became a brand as "Anna Delvey, the rich German heir" and sailed to very glamorous lives in the city's elite. Sorokin, who has fallen like a bomb on the internet, continues to leave the public opinion sad even though he has been sentenced to prison.

Those who evaluated the series had uncanny feelings: Anna's portrayal did not seem convincing to them because the real person hiding behind so many masks was not reflected in the series... But what if that's the truth? What if there is no such thing as the self-consciousness of the manipulative subject that pushes all the buttons? Anna's action is not like the pyramid schemes you know, it is not just to postpone debts and settle one debt with another, it is not just to make people believe that their debts will be paid. Insanely, Anna included her own subjective life in the pyramid scheme: she does not only deceive others; In a sense, it borrows from itself, borrowing from the future that it supposes. That's what feminine attitude is, whereas Shimon Hayut, described on Tinder Swindler, is that at all? (noticeTinder Swindler is a documentary, Inventing Annais fiction) Hayut introduced himself as the son of Russian-Israeli diamond judge Lev Leviev in the places he traveled in Europe. This man, Simon Leviev, deceived the women he contacted on Tinder and took unrequited debts from them. He lured women with very expensive gifts, took them to meals on private jets, with money he received from other women he had previously deceived. Then he demanded financial assistance from his victims under the pretext of a 'vulnerability' that locked his credit cards and bank accounts. Many of these women helped him by taking out loans from the bank or issuing credit cards. The finale of his career also took place in a very appropriate way: in February 2022, he launched an NFT collection, opening up images and excerpts from the film about him (sale of digital/virtual goods).

The remarkable parallelism between the two stories should not prevent us from perceiving the crucial difference between them: Hayut is a fraudster who manipulates others in cold blood, he has no projects to identify with, his only skill is to leave behind a woman he has deceived and switch to another woman, and Anna has carried out a giant plan with a network of collaborators woven with permanent ties: to establish the Mother Delvey Foundation. What distinguishes him is that he is unconditionally faithful to appearances: he never kneels to his friends who repeatedly beg him to confess his lying and deceit, andhe neverdrops his mask. Every time he is confronted with facts that prove his lies, we witness another way to save Zawahiri.

Anna is immoral, but she is absolutely ethical. When her lawyer claims in her last speech before the jury that this girl, as her defender, has always lived in her own fantasy world from beginning to end and that she has not come "close enough to create danger" (she could not raise money for the giant project), Anna considers this defense a betrayal of her and reacts angrily. That is to say, a ridiculous little calculator prefers to "save himself" by being considered a dreamer of a ridiculous little calculator by being considered a person who is tangential to success.

It is this unconditional desire that makes Anna ethical: she follows Lacan's formula to "compromise your desire" to the letter. In fact, when some of those whom Anna had defrauded realized that she was not interested in "saving herself", they continued to have a partnership with Anna. As Lacan says, "a hero can survive betrayal unscathed," Anna continues her heroism until the end. Ordinary psycho-social explanations are therefore in vain: even his father is surprised at who and what he is.

If we adapt a famous quote from the old novels about Hannibal Lecter, nothing happened to him, he happened to the world (nothing happened to him, he happened to the world). Yes, his giant project was ridiculous and artificial, but he still became a supreme figure with this action because he raised this ridiculous projectto the dignity of the Thing, he laid down his whole life for this Cause. Whoever or whatever he is, it is certain that he is not ridiculed and is naïve, and we need such naivety in our age, for a very certain reason: Anna is free, and Hayut is tailing his own selfish needs while manipulating others and making gains. Freedom does not hide in the secret core of my Self, which others cannot succumb/reach/comprehend, nor does it give me a position in which I can manipulate others from a safe distance. Freedom lies in my unconditional identification with the role I have decided to play in the eyes of others.

(source)

Turkish: Işık Barış Fidaner

security vulnerability of the safe vulnerability