Sunday, April 6, 2014

Seeking No Jouissance, but My Own

Although there is no intersubjectivity proper in drive, drive nonetheless involves its own mode of relating to otherness: desire addresses itself to the symbolic big Other, it seeks active recognition from it, while drive addresses itself to the silence in the Other - the Other is here reduced to a silent witness, to a mute presence which endorses the subject's jouissance by way of emitting a silent sign of acknowledgment, a "Yes!" to drive. In order to exemplify this status of the Other in drive, let's not be afraid to reach for the lowest of the low - Lassie Comes Back. At the very end of the film, the dog, though wounded and tired, nonetheless proceeds along the streets of the small town towards the school, in order to be there when her master's (the young boy's) classes end. On her way, she passes the workshop of the local blacksmith; when the blacksmith, an old, bearded man, catches sight of the blood-stained animal approaching the school exactly on time, he nods silently, in agreement.... This silent nod is a Yes! to the Real of the drive, to the dog's uncompromising drive to "always return to her place" (see Lacan's definition of the Real as "that which always returns to its place"). And, perhaps, therein resides also the last gesture of the psychoanalyst recognizing the conclusion of the cure: in such a silent Yes!, in the pure gesture of acknowledging that the analysand has traversed her/his fantasy, that she/he has reached beyond the enigma of Che vuoi?, and turned into a being of drive....

Or, to put it in yet another way: desire as the desire of the Other remains within the domain of transference and the (big) Other; the ultimate experience here is that of anxiety, i.e. the experience of the opaque trauma of the Other's desire, of what does the Other want from me (Che vuoi?). Drive, on the contrary, is outside transference and the reference to the Other (for that reason, the dissolution of transference is tantamount to the passage from desire to drive: there is no desire without transference). At the level of desire, the encounter with the Real occurs as the encounter of the Other's desire; at the level of drive, the Real is directly drive itself. Or, to put it in yet another way: desire is the desire of the Other, while drive is never the drive of the Other. With respect to literary references, this move "beyond desire" (to drive) is also a move beyond Kafka: the work of Kafka probably gives body to the experience of Che vuoi?, to the enigma of the impenetrable desire of the Other, at its most extreme, while drive involves the suspension of the dimension of the Other's desire - the Other who says "Yes!" to drive is not the Other of Che vuoi?.

Another way to formulate the opposition between desire and drive is to say that desire stands in relation to interpretation as drive does in relation to sublimation: the fact that sublimation is, as a rule, mentioned apropos of drive, not of desire (Freud himself never speaks of the "sublimation of desire"), while, on the other hand, one also never speaks of the "interpretation of drive" but always links interpretation to desire, bears witness to a profound theoretical necessity. The title of Lacan's seminar from 1958-59 ("Desire and its interpretation") is to be taken as a direct assertion of their ultimate identity: desire coincides with its own interpretation, i.e. when the subject endeavors to interpret (its or, originally, the Other's) desire and never finds the ultimate point of reference, when it forever slides from one reading to another, this very desperate attempt to arrive at "what one really wants," is desire itself. (Or, to elaborate: insofar as the coordinates of desire are provided by the "fundamental fantasy," and insofar as this fantasy emerges as an attempt to provide an answer to the enigma of Che vuoi?, of the Other's desire, in short: as the interpretation of this desire, of what the Other "effectively wants from me," desire as such is sustained by interpretation.) In a strictly homologous way, drive is its sublimation: there is no "direct" drive which is afterwards sublimated, since the "nonsublimated drive" is simply the biological instinct: "drive" designates the moment when an instinct is "sublimated" - cut off from its natural point of satisfaction and attached to an object which acts as the stand-in for the impossible Thing - and, as such, is condemned to the repetitive movement of encircling - never directly "swallowing" - its object. (This difference between instinct and drive also overlaps with the difference between the two French terms for knowledge, connaissance and savoir: instinct is an innate knowledge which tells the animal organism how to act (how to copulate, where to fly in winter, etc.), while humans lack such a knowledge and therefore have to rely on symbolic tradition - see, for example, Longinus' Daphnis and Chloe, in which the two lovers must resort to the knowledge of older, experienced people so as to learn how to copulate: relying on their instinct, or imitating animals, doesn't help much....)

We can see, now, how we are to conceive the opposition between desire and drive. Insofar as desire remains our horizon, our position ultimately amounts to a kind of Levinasian openness to the enigma of the Other, to the imponderable mystery of the Other's desire. In clear contrast to this attitude of respect for the Other in its transcendence, drive introduces radical immanence: desire is open to the transcendence of the Other, while drive is "closed," absolutely immanent. Or, to put it in a slightly different way, desire and drive are to be contrasted as are subject and object: there is a subject of desire and an object of drive. In desire, the subject longs for the (lost) object, whereas in drive, the subject makes herself an object (the scopic drive, for example, involves an attitude of se faire voire, of "making-oneself-seen," not simply of wanting to see). Perhaps this is how we are to read Schelling's notion of the highest freedom as the state in which activity and passivity, being-active and being-acted-upon, harmoniously overlap: man reaches his acme when he turns his very subjectivity into the Predicate of an ever higher Power (in the mathematical sense of the term), i.e. when he, as it were, yields to the Other, "depersonalizes" his most intense activity and performs it as if some other, higher Power is acting through him, using him as its medium - like the mystical experience of Love, or like an artist who, in the highest frenzy of creativity, experiences himself as a medium through which some more substantial, impersonal Power expresses itself. The crucial point is to distinguish this position from that of the pervert, who also undergoes a kind of "subjective destitution" and posits himself as the object-cause of the Other's desire (see the case of the Stalinist Communist who conceives himself as the pure object-instrument of the realization of the Necessity of History). For the pervert, the big Other exists, while the subject at the end of the psychoanalytic process assumes the nonexistence of the big Other. In short, the Other for whom the subject "makes herself... (seen, heard, active)" has no independent existence and ultimately relies on the subject herself - in this precise sense, the subject who makes herself the Other's object-cause becomes her own cause.
-Slavoj Zizek, "From Desire to Drive: Why Lacan is Not Lacaniano"

2 comments:

Always On Watch said...

Off topic....Maybe you have something to say about my post today.

-FJ said...

I'll most certainly look! :)