Thursday, December 29, 2016
- Elizabeth Shadows, "I don't know?
I don't know
I don't know anything
If you ask me a question
I give you a blank stare
That's your answer
I don't know how I feel
Its a dead end
Im not sure if I feel anything
It doesn't seem like it.
I don't know where I am
I think I'm at my house
But its at a distance
Is that weird?
I don't know myself
Am I lossing myself?
Maybe this is me.
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Friday, December 16, 2016
LODOVICO:-W. Shakespeare, "Othello" (Act V, Sc. II)
[To IAGO] O Spartan dog,
More fell than anguish, hunger, or the sea!
Look on the tragic loading of this bed;
This is thy work: the object poisons sight;
Let it be hid. Gratiano, keep the house,
And seize upon the fortunes of the Moor,
For they succeed on you. To you, lord governor,
Remains the censure of this hellish villain;
The time, the place, the torture: O, enforce it!
Myself will straight aboard: and to the state
This heavy act with heavy heart relate.
Thursday, December 15, 2016
ὃς μὲν ἀπηνής αὐτὸς ἔῃ καὶ ἀπηνέα εἰδῇ,
τῷ δὲ καταρῶνται πάντες βροτοὶ ἄλγε᾽ ὀπίσσω
ζωῷ, ἀτὰρ τεθνεῶτί γ᾽ ἐφεψιόωνται ἅπαντες.
ὃς δ᾽ ἂν ἀμύμων αὐτὸς ἔῃ καὶ ἀμύμονα εἰδῇ,
τοῦ μέν τε κλέος εὐρὺ διὰ ξεῖνοι φορέουσι
πάντας ἐπ᾽ ἀνθρώπους, πολλοί τέ μιν ἐσθλὸν ἔειπον
If a man is harsh himself and thinks harsh thoughts,
all men pray that pains should befall him hereafter
while he is alive. And when he is dead, all men ephepsióōntai [ridicule] him.
But if a man is blameless himself and thinks blameless thoughts,
the guest-strangers he has entertained carry his kléos far and wide
to all mankind, and many are they who call him esthlós [worthy].
Friday, December 9, 2016
Saturday, December 3, 2016
The “global minotaur” of the title is not Germany but the twin deficits of the US. Just as the bull-headed monster of Crete was fed a gory human tribute, so the US sat until recently at the heart of a system that siphoned capital towards Wall Street. This was then spewed out as economic demand — a GSRM of devilish force, keeping the world economy afloat for decades, but doomed to self-destruction. Along the way, this minotaur is deployed to explain everything that irks the leftist polemicist. The Wall Street mergers and acquisitions boom, the US defence budget, Walmart — all were just the creature’s “hand maidens”.
The destruction of the minotaur by a storm of its own making laid bare the instability of world demand. This is where the saga of Greece and the eurozone re-enters the tale. What Germany has built is a system of fixed exchange rates without any means of recycling surpluses towards deficit countries. Neither benign hegemon (like the US after the second world war) nor voracious, irresponsible minotaur, Germany squats sullenly atop the European economy, bargaining stagnation outside its borders for the security of its surplus.
Sunday, October 9, 2016
Saturday, October 8, 2016
Sunday, October 2, 2016
Sunday, September 25, 2016
Seeing red but yr pockets full
Yr closing in on yr decision of fame
Yr curtain closed on yr vision of hate
Yr big decision
You make a fist round the merry moon
Wonders! Marvels! and Miracles!
Step right up for the somnambulist sewn up
Yr heart is waking
Carry on with yr wasted youth
On yr back over rooftops
Chase you down to the beds of salt
Oh Cesare, yr just a victim, yr not the mind of yr violent cry
Who are you now? and who will you be? yr always asleep
Burning through the night
If the shadows are right
You sleep with one eye open
With yr conditions aside
And hear the organ play
Hoo Hoo Hoo
Hoo Hoo Hoo
Oh Cesare just a victim
Stand in line for another night
An order was made to the blue china cups
That the doctor made head calls
And you could bet his name was Caligari!
Hear the organ play
Hoo Hoo Hoo
Hoo Hoo Hoo
Hoo Hoo Hoo
Hoo Hoo Hoo
Friday, September 23, 2016
-Gwendolyn Brooks, "To be in Love"
To be in love
Is to touch with a lighter hand.
In yourself you stretch, you are well.
You look at things
Through his eyes.
A cardinal is red.
A sky is blue.
Suddenly you know he knows too.
He is not there but
You know you are tasting together
The winter, or a light spring weather.
His hand to take your hand is overmuch.
Too much to bear.
You cannot look in his eyes
Because your pulse must not say
What must not be said.
Shuts a door-
Is not there_
Your arms are water.
And you are free
With a ghastly freedom.
You are the beautiful half
Of a golden hurt.
You remember and covet his mouth
To touch, to whisper on.
Oh when to declare
Is certain Death!
Oh when to apprize
Is to mesmerize,
To see fall down, the Column of Gold,
Into the commonest ash.
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
-Emily Dickinson, "Wolfe Demanded During Dying"
Wolfe demanded during dying
"Which obtain the Day"?
"General, the British" -- "Easy"
Answered Wolfe "to die"
Montcalm, his opposing Spirit
Rendered with a smile
"Sweet" said he "my own Surrender
Sunday, August 28, 2016
This dualism is the “materialist truth” of the dualism of Ideas and material things, and it is against this background that one should envisage a return to Plato. Let us take an unexpected example: A Woman Throwing a Stone, a lesser known painting by Picasso from his surrealist period in the 1920s, offers itself easily to a Platonist reading: the distorted fragments of a woman on a beach throwing a stone are, of course, a grotesque misrepresentation, if measured by the standard of realist reproduction; however, in their very plastic distortion, they immediately/intuitively render the Idea of a “woman throwing a stone,” the “inner form” of such a figure. This painting makes clear the true dimension of Plato’s philosophical revolution, so radical that it was misinterpreted by Plato himself: the assertion of the gap between the spatio-temporal order of reality in its eternal movement of generation and corruption, and the “eternal” order of Ideas―the notion that empirical reality can “participate” in an eternal Idea, that an eternal Idea can shine through it, appear in it. Where Plato got it wrong is in his ontologization of Ideas (strictly homologous to Descartes’s ontologization of the cogito), as if Ideas form another, even more substantial and stable order of “true” reality. What Plato was not ready (or, rather, able) to accept was the thoroughly virtual, “immaterial” (or, rather, “insubstantial”) status of Ideas: like sense-events in Deleuze’s ontology, Ideas have no causality of their own; they are virtual entities generated by spatio-temporal material processes. Take an attractor in mathematics: all positive lines or points in its sphere of attraction only endlessly approach it, without ever reaching its form―the existence of this form is purely virtual; it is nothing more than the form towards which the lines and points tend. However, precisely as such, the virtual is the Real of this field: the immovable focal point around which all elements circulate―the term “form” here should be given its full Platonic weight, since we are dealing with an “eternal” Idea in which reality imperfectly “participates.” One should thus fully accept that spatio-temporal material reality is “all there is,” that there is no other “more true” reality: the ontological status of Ideas is that of pure appearing. The ontological problem of Ideas is the same as the fundamental problem addressed by Hegel: how is meta-physics possible, how can temporal reality participate in the eternal Order, how can this order appear, transpire, in it? It is not “how can we reach the true reality beyond appearances?” but “how can appearance emerge in reality?” The conclusion Plato avoids is implied in his own line of thought: the supersensible Idea does not dwell beyond appearances, in a separate ontological sphere of fully constituted Being; it is appearance as appearance. No wonder that the two great admirers of Plato’s Parmenides, Hegel and Lacan, both provide exactly the same formula of the “truth” of the Platonic supersensible Idea: the supersensible- Slavoj Zizek, "Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism"comes from the world of appearance which has mediated it; in other words, appearance is its essence and, in fact, its filling. The supersensible is the sensuous and the perceived posited as it is in truth; but the truth of the sensuous and the perceived is to be appearance. The supersensible is therefore appearance qua appearance … It is often said that the supersensible world is not appearance; but what is here understood by appearance is not appearance, but rather the sensuous world as itself the really actual.15. G. W. F. Hegel, "Phenomenology of Spirit," trans. A. V. Miller, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1977, p. 89.
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Thursday, July 21, 2016
- Bulleh Shah (h/t to nicrap)(Source of translation)
Not a believer inside the mosque, am I
Nor a pagan disciple of false rites
Not the pure amongst the impure
Neither Moses, nor the Pharoh
Bulleh! to me, I am not known
Not in the holy Vedas, am I
Nor in opium, neither in wine
Not in the drunkard`s craze
Niether awake, nor in a sleeping daze
Bulleh! to me, I am not known
In happiness nor in sorrow, am I
Neither clean, nor a filthy mire
Not from water, nor from earth
Neither fire, nor from air, is my birth
Bulleh! to me, I am not known
Not an Arab, nor Lahori
Neither Hindi, nor Nagauri
Hindu, Turk (Muslim), nor Peshawari
Nor do I live in Nadaun
Bulleh! to me, I am not known
Secrets of religion, I have not known
From Adam and Eve, I am not born
I am not the name I assume
Not in stillness, nor on the move
Bulleh! to me, I am not known
I am the first, I am the last
None other, have I ever known
I am the wisest of them all
Bulleh! do I stand alone?
Bulleh! to me, I am not known
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Is pleasure a rotten idea, mired in negativity and lack, which should be abandoned in favor of a new concept of desire? Or is desire itself fundamentally a matter of lack, absence, and loss? This is one of the crucial issues dividing the work of Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Lacan, two of the most formidable figures of postwar French thought. Though the encounter with psychoanalysis deeply marked Deleuze’s work, we are yet to have a critical account of the very different postures he adopted toward psychoanalysis, and especially Lacanian theory, throughout his career. In The Trouble with Pleasure, Aaron Schuster tackles this tangled relationship head on. The result is neither a Lacanian reading of Deleuze nor a Deleuzian reading of Lacan but rather a systematic and comparative analysis that identifies concerns common to both thinkers and their ultimately incompatible ways of addressing them. Schuster focuses on drive and desire—the strange, convoluted relationship of human beings to the forces that move them from within—“the trouble with pleasure."
Along the way, Schuster offers his own engaging and surprising conceptual analyses and inventive examples. In the “Critique of Pure Complaint” he provides a philosophy of complaining, ranging from Freud’s theory of neurosis to Spinoza’s intellectual complaint of God and the Deleuzian great complaint. Schuster goes on to elaborate, among other things, a theory of love as “mutually compatible symptoms”; an original philosophical history of pleasure, including a hypothetical Heideggerian treatise and a Platonic theory of true pleasure; and an exploration of the 1920s “literature of the death drive,” including Thomas Mann, Italo Svevo, and Blaise Cendrars.
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
- Friedrich Holderlin, "Mnemosyne"
The fruits are ripe, dipped in fire,
Cooked and sampled on earth. And there's a law,
That things crawl off in the manner of snakes,
Prophetically, dreaming on the hills of heaven.
And there is much that needs to be retained,
Like a load of wood on the shoulders.
But the pathways are dangerous.
The captured elements and ancient laws of earth
Run astray like horses. There is a constant yearning
For all that is unconfined. But much needs
To be retained. And loyalty is required.
Yet we mustn't look forwards or backwards.
We should let ourselves be cradled
As if on a boat rocking on a lake.
But what about things that we love?
We see sun shining on the ground, and the dry dust,
And at home the forests deep with shadows,
And smoke flowering from the rooftops,
Peacefully, near the ancient crowning towers.
These signs of daily life are good,
Even when by contrast something divine
Has injured the soul.
For snow sparkles on an alpine meadow,
Half-covered with green, signifying generosity
Of spirit in all situations, like flowers in May —
A wanderer walks up above on a high trail
And speaks irritably to a friend about a cross
He sees in the distance, set for someone
Who died on the path... what does it mean?
Died near a fig tree,
And Ajax lies in the caves of the sea
Near the streams of Skamandros —
Great Ajax died abroad
Following Salamis' inflexible customs,
A rushing sound at his temples —
But Patroclus died in the King's armor.
Many others died as well.
But Eleutherai, the city
Of Mnemosyne, once stood upon
Mount Kithaeron. Evening
Loosened her hair, after the god
Had removed his coat.
For the gods are displeased
If a person doesn't compose
And spare himself.
But one has to do it,
And grief is soon gone.
Monday, June 13, 2016
- Rudyard Kipling, "The Young British Soldier"
When the 'arf-made recruity goes out to the East
'E acts like a babe an' 'e drinks like a beast,
An' 'e wonders because 'e is frequent deceased
Ere 'e's fit for to serve as a soldier.
Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
So-oldier OF the Queen!
Now all you recruities what's drafted to-day,
You shut up your rag-box an' 'ark to my lay,
An' I'll sing you a soldier as far as I may:
A soldier what's fit for a soldier.
Fit, fit, fit for a soldier . . .
First mind you steer clear o' the grog-sellers' huts,
For they sell you Fixed Bay'nets that rots out your guts --
Ay, drink that 'ud eat the live steel from your butts --
An' it's bad for the young British soldier.
Bad, bad, bad for the soldier . . .
When the cholera comes -- as it will past a doubt --
Keep out of the wet and don't go on the shout,
For the sickness gets in as the liquor dies out,
An' it crumples the young British soldier.
Crum-, crum-, crumples the soldier . . .
But the worst o' your foes is the sun over'ead:
You must wear your 'elmet for all that is said:
If 'e finds you uncovered 'e'll knock you down dead,
An' you'll die like a fool of a soldier.
Fool, fool, fool of a soldier . . .
If you're cast for fatigue by a sergeant unkind,
Don't grouse like a woman nor crack on nor blind;
Be handy and civil, and then you will find
That it's beer for the young British soldier.
Beer, beer, beer for the soldier . . .
Now, if you must marry, take care she is old --
A troop-sergeant's widow's the nicest I'm told,
For beauty won't help if your rations is cold,
Nor love ain't enough for a soldier.
'Nough, 'nough, 'nough for a soldier . . .
If the wife should go wrong with a comrade, be loath
To shoot when you catch 'em -- you'll swing, on my oath! --
Make 'im take 'er and keep 'er: that's Hell for them both,
An' you're shut o' the curse of a soldier.
Curse, curse, curse of a soldier . . .
When first under fire an' you're wishful to duck,
Don't look nor take 'eed at the man that is struck,
Be thankful you're livin', and trust to your luck
And march to your front like a soldier.
Front, front, front like a soldier . . .
When 'arf of your bullets fly wide in the ditch,
Don't call your Martini a cross-eyed old bitch;
She's human as you are -- you treat her as sich,
An' she'll fight for the young British soldier.
Fight, fight, fight for the soldier . . .
When shakin' their bustles like ladies so fine,
The guns o' the enemy wheel into line,
Shoot low at the limbers an' don't mind the shine,
For noise never startles the soldier.
Start-, start-, startles the soldier . . .
If your officer's dead and the sergeants look white,
Remember it's ruin to run from a fight:
So take open order, lie down, and sit tight,
And wait for supports like a soldier.
Wait, wait, wait like a soldier . . .
When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
So-oldier of the Queen!
Thursday, June 9, 2016
Chaotic Rage (locale for 'Divine violence')--> Rebellion--> New Power (Organizing a New Society)--> Chaotic Rage (after the failed emancipatory project)
The Left currently supports social democracy only to prove the fact that it doesn't work vs abstract waiting for the revolution.
The problems of the commons:
1) The "capitalization" of the commons of culture (Microsoft)
Regression from profit to rent (rent is the tragedy)
Intellectual Property is the death-knoll of capitalism
2) The capitalization of the commons of ecology (global warming - replace brown w/green energy), the capitalization of "internal Nature" (biogenetic engineering) (sustainability)
3) The commons of humanity itself - Walls and Apartheids/ geo-political borders (included vs excluded ie- refugees) Antagonisms of capitalism: (commodities circulate but people can't)(ethics)
Zizek's grand idea: left needs to join Immigrant rights struggle with women/ minority struggles... insist upon this and the social struggle will sort it's way out from these apparently modest specific central inflexible demands. Let the truth materialize out of illusion.
Monday, May 16, 2016
- Isabella Valancy Crawford, "An Interregnum"
LOUD trumpets blow among the naked pines,
Fine spun as sere-cloth rent from royal dead.
Seen ghostly thro' high-lifted vagrant drifts,
Shrill blaring, but no longer loud to moons
Like a brown maid of Egypt stands the Earth,
Her empty valley palms stretched to the Sun
For largesse of his gold. Her mountain tops
Still beacon winter with white flame of snow,
Fading along his track; her rivers shake
Wild manes, and paw their banks as though to flee
Their riven fetters.
Lawless is the time,
Full of loud kingless voices that way gone:
The Polar Caesar striding to the north,
Nor yet the sapphire-gated south unfolds
For Spring's sweet progress; the winds, unkinged,
Reach gusty hands of riot round the brows
Of lordly mountains waiting for a lord,
And pluck the ragged beards of lonely pines-
Watchers on heights for that sweet, hidden king,
Bud-crowned and dreaming yet on other shores-
And mock their patient waiting. But by night
The round Moon falters up a softer sky,
Drawn by silver cords of gentler stars
Than darted chill flames on the wintry earth.
Within his azure battlements the Sun
Regilds his face with joyance, for he sees,
From those high towers, Spring, earth's fairest lord,
Soft-cradled on the wings of rising swans,
With violet eyes slow budding into smiles,
And small, bright hands with blossom largesse full,
Crowned with an orchard coronal of white,
And with a sceptre of a ruddy reed
Burnt at its top to amethystine bloom.
Come, Lord, thy kingdom stretches barren hands!
Come, King, and chain thy rebels to thy throne
With tendrils of vine and jewelled links
Of ruddy buds pulsating into flower!
Sunday, May 1, 2016
The Rev. Mr. Heckewelder, who is probably the best authority we have upon the Indians of this section of the country, states that Tamanend's memory was held in the highest esteem by his own people, but that he never heard them say much concerning him, as it was not their custom to talk of their dead except in a very general way, and that no white man that had any regard for their feelings ever broached the subject of their dead to them. The various traditions, both verbal and written, concerning Tamanend emanated from the whites and not from the Indians. We see that between the first record that we have of him in 1683 and the last in 1697 he must have impressed himself strongly upon not only the community but also upon the officials of the provincial government, for in the last account he is described in the deed, which of course was writ ten by the English, as the Great Sachem Tamaniens, and no other Indian is so described; so to have acquired the right to such a title he must have had at least a large part of the attributes ascribed to him. In further corroboration of the way in which his memory was held, we cite the old cannon presented by the Colony on Schuylkill to the Association Battery about 1747, on which appear the words "Kawania che Keekeru" (This is my right, I will defend it). By many writers this motto is ascribed to Tamanend, and justly so, we think, rather than to the Delaware Nation alone, for we would expect just such a sentiment to be chosen by a man endowed with such lofty ideas as these words express. (This was the motto of the Saint Tammany Society. See Independent, May 3, 1783.) Further, the records of this Society show that their principal day—May 1, or opening day—has been always spoken of by them as Tammany's day. Their tradition is that Tamanend himself made a treaty with the fathers of this Society giving them the right to fish in the waters of the Schuylkill and hunt game upon its banks.
We also find this motto at the top of the title-page of a pamphlet which is in verse: "Kawanio Che Keeteru, a true relation of a bloody battle fought between George and Lewis in the year 1755. Printed in the year MDCCLVI." Turning over the page, we find "The words I have chosen at the head of my Title Page I am told by a gentleman skilled in the Indian languages is very expressive of a Hero relying on God to bless his endeavors in protecting what he has put under his care." "To form some idea of its signification," he says, "you may imagine a man with his wife and children about him and with an air of resolution calling out to his enemy, All these God has given me and I will defend them." (In Hist. Soc. of Penna. Said to have been written by Nicholas Scull.)
This translation remained unchallenged until 1888, when Dr. Brinton, Professor of American Archæology and Linguistics in the University of Pennsylvania, pronounced the words Iroquois and not Delaware, and at his suggestion they were submitted to Mr. Horatio Hale, who translates them thus: "I am master wherever I am," and in a very able article gives his reasons for their being in this language rather than in the Delaware tongue. (American Antiquarian, January, 1886.)
As to the last resting-place of Tamanend, this is a subject upon which a great deal has been written. The tradition that he is buried by a spring in New Britain Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, about three and one-half miles north of Doylestown, near the banks of the Neshaminy, on the farm owned by Enos Detwiler, is generally believed. We would add, in further confirmation of the tradition, that Tamanend ended his life by setting fire to his wigwam. (Magazine of American History, Vol. XXIX. p. 255; also Historical Collections of the State of Pennsylvania, by Sherman Day; Davis's History of Bucks County; Watson's Annals MSS., p. 498.)
In the following lines, which appear in a song published in the Pennsylvania Evening Post, April 30, 1776, reference is made to his end and also to his great age:
"As old ago came on, he grew blind, deaf and dumb,
Tho' his sport ‘twere hard to keep from it,
Quite tired of life, bid adieu to his wife,
And blaz'd like the tail of a comit, my brave boys."
The fact that an old Indian was buried at the place named in 1740 is not contradicted by any of the historians; the only question being as to whether it was Tamanend or some other Indian. The chief argument used by those who thought it was some other than our saint was that he must have been a very old man, and that they should have expected some mention of him by his contemporaries between 1697 and 1740.
We do not think that the absence of mention makes this point good, for any one familiar with the newspapers and few local writings of the period well know that items concerning events or persons of their locality are very few and far between.
The tradition of the "State in Schuylkill," referred to, is another corroborating the fact that he lived long; for if he gave the right to fish to them when they started their Society, he must have been alive in 1782, which is the date of their birth as an organization.
The high esteem in which the subject of our theme was held is best shown by the transactions of the Society named in his honor.
SONS OF SAINT TAMMANY
Friday, April 22, 2016
-Cervantes, "Sir Belianis of Greece to Don Quixote de la Mancha"
I did my cutting, thrusting, hacking away, more
Than any other in a long line of valiant knights;
I was brave and bold and clever in arts of war,
Put over a hundred thousand wrongs to rights.
My deeds will live on in history
In courtly love I was gallant and skillful;
I took on giants like they meant nothing to me,
And in fighting duels I played by every rule.
I made Dame Fortune grovel at my knees
And was smart enough to grab opportunity
By the balls, make it do what I please,
I took on all comers with impunity
And was on top of my game in my heyday
But I envy your prowess, oh great Don Quixote!
Sunday, April 17, 2016
- Priscilla Leglette, "I Pay No Mind" (7/5/15)
I pay no mind to the man in the doorway
I've been learned that he will do no harm.
I diverge my attention from the knife in his hand,
Though I feel like calling out an alarm.
I pay no mind to what I hear inside
I've been learned that they don't mean a thing.
I keep the shriekings behind the bars of my cage
Though they often dance out when there's drinking
I pay no mind to deep grayscale urges.
I've been learned to work to give a damn.
I have a head who'd never lead me that way,
Though it's become harder to herd all the lamb.
I pay no mind to the changing of eyes
I've been learned that it's purely of face
I cover my own as I try to ignore them
Though they see how they're planning a race.
I pay no mind to the battles I witness
I've been learned to accept all our world.
I turn off the screen and cover my ears
Though the fists of my hands each have curled.
Friday, April 8, 2016
- wild is the wind, "The feral forces of true nature"
there remains a stirring pang
churning around within
a soothing ache invigorates
an insatiable, yet suppressed ,
a gnawing hunger craving
never curbed ,
abiding a leaching aloneness
that piercingly tingles inwardly
veritably suppressed fever
burns out of control
like a tameless wildfire ;
by the feral forces of nature
an intimately passionate
Friday, April 1, 2016
Heterotopia is a concept in human geography elaborated by philosopher Michel Foucault to describe places and spaces that function in non-hegemonic conditions. These are spaces of otherness, which are neither here nor there, that are simultaneously physical and mental, such as the space of a phone call or the moment when you see yourself in the mirror.
Foucault uses the term "heterotopia" (French: hétérotopie) to describe spaces that have more layers of meaning or relationships to other places than immediately meet the eye. In general, a heterotopia is a physical representation or approximation of a utopia, or a parallel space (such as a prison) that contains undesirable bodies to make a real utopian space possible.
Foucault uses the idea of a mirror as a metaphor for the duality and contradictions, the reality and the unreality of utopian projects. A mirror is metaphor for utopia because the image that you see in it does not exist, but it is also a heterotopia because the mirror is a real object that shapes the way you relate to your own image.
Foucault articulates several possible types of heterotopia or spaces that exhibit dual meanings:A ‘crisis heterotopia’ is a separate space like a boarding school or a motel room where activities like coming of age or a honeymoon take place out of sight.Foucault's elaborations on heterotopias were published in an article entitled Des espaces autres (Of Other Spaces). The philosopher calls for a society with many heterotopias, not only as a space with several places of/for the affirmation of difference, but also as a means of escape from authoritarianism and repression, stating metaphorically that if we take the ship as the utmost heterotopia, a society without ships is inherently a repressive one, in a clear reference to Stalinism.
‘Heterotopias of deviation’ are institutions where we place individuals whose behavior is outside the norm (hospitals, asylums, prisons, rest homes, cemetery).
Heterotopia can be a single real place that juxtaposes several spaces. A garden can be a heterotopia, if it is a real space meant to be a microcosm of different environments, with plants from around the world.
'Heterotopias of time' such as museums enclose in one place objects from all times and styles. They exist in time but also exist outside of time because they are built and preserved to be physically insusceptible to time’s ravages.
'Heterotopias of ritual or purification' are spaces that are isolated and penetrable yet not freely accessible like a public place. To get in one must have permission and make certain gestures such as in a sauna or a hammam.
Heterotopia has a function in relation to all of the remaining spaces. The two functions are: heterotopia of illusion creates a space of illusion that exposes every real space, and the heterotopia of compensation is to create a real space—a space that is other.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
A zairja (Arabic: زايرجة; also transcribed as zairjah, zairajah, zairdja, zairadja, and zayirga) was a device used by medieval Arab astrologers to generate ideas by mechanical means. The name may derive from a mixture of the Persian words zaicha ("horoscope; astronomical table") and daira ("circle").from Wikipedia
Ibn Khaldun described it as: "a branch of the science of letter magic, practiced among the authorities on letter magic, is the technique of finding out answers from questions by means of connections existing between the letters of the expressions used in the question. They imagine that these connections can form the basis for knowing the future happenings they want to know." He suggests that rather than being supernatural it works "from an agreement in the wording of question and answer ... with the help of the technique called the technique of 'breaking down'" (i.e. algebra). By combining number values associated with the letters and categories, new paths of insight and thought were created.
According to Ibn Khaldun the most detailed treatment of it is a pseudographical work "Za'irajah of the World" attributed to as-Sabti, which contains operating instructions in hundreds of lines of verse, beginning:Select a star rise. Figure out its signs.A manuscript in Rabat recounts Ibn Khaldun's introduction to the machine by Al-Marjānī in 1370 (772 AH), and claims that it was a traditional and ancient science. When Ibn Khaldun expressed skepticism, the pair asked the instrument how old it was, and was told by the machine it was invented by the prophet Idris (identified with the Biblical Enoch).
Reverse its root. Straighten it out with the cycle.
Someone will perceive those things. He will achieve his purpose
And be given their letters in whose arrangement the evidence lies...
It has been suggested that Catalan-Majorcan mystic, Ramon Llull in his travels and studies of Arab culture, became familiar with the zairja, and used it as a prototype for his invention of the Ars Magna.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
- Naomi Shihab Nye, "Shoulders"
A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.
No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.
This man carries the world's most sensitive cargo
but he's not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,
HANDLE WITH CARE.
His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy's dream
deep inside him.
We're not going to be able
to live in this world
if we're not willing to do what he's doing
with one another.
The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.
Saturday, March 12, 2016
-Charles Baudelaire, "The Swan"
Andromache, I think of you! That false Simois
that narrow stream, meagre and sad, flowing there
where the immense majesty of your widowed grief,
shone out, growing from your tears,
stirred my fertile memory, suddenly,
as I was crossing the new Carrousel.
The old Paris is gone (the shape of a city
changes faster than the human heart can tell)
I can only see those frail booths in the mind’s eye,
those piles of rough-cut pillars, and capitals,
the weeds, the massive greening blocks, that used to lie
water-stained: the bric-a-brac piled in shop windows.
There, there used to be a menagerie:
One dawn, at the hour when labour wakes, there,
under the cold, clear sky, or, when the road-menders set free
a dull hammering, into the silent air,
I saw a swan, that had escaped its cage,
striking the dry stones with webbed feet;
trailing, on hard earth, its white plumage;
in the waterless gutter, opening its beak;
bathing its wings frantically, in the dust,
and crying, its heart full of its native streams:
‘Lightning, when will you strike? Rain when will you gust?’
Unfortunate, strange, fatal symbol, it seems
I see you, still: sometimes, like Ovid’s true
man transformed, his head, on a convulsive neck, strained
towards the sky’s cruel and ironic blue,
addressing the gods with his complaint.
Paris changes! But nothing, in my melancholy,
moves. New hotels, scaffolding, stone blocks,
old suburbs, everything, becomes allegory,
to me: my memories are heavier than rocks.
So, in front of the Louvre, an image oppresses me.
I think of my great swan, with its mad movements,
ridiculous, sublime, as exiles seem,
gnawed by endless longing! And then,
of you, Andromache, fallen from the embrace
of the great hero, vile chattel in the hands of proud Pyrrhus,
in front of an open tomb, in grief’s ecstatic grace,
Hector’s widow, alas, and wife of Helenus!
I think of the negress, consumptive, starved,
dragging through the mire, and searching, eyes fixed,
for the absent palm-trees of Africa, carved
behind the immense walls of mist:
Of those who have lost what they cannot recover,
ever! Ever! Those who drink tears like ours,
and suck on sorrow’s breasts, their wolf-mother!
Of the skinny orphans, withering like flowers!
So in the forest of my heart’s exile,
an old memory sounds its clear encore!
I think of sailors forgotten on some isle,
prisoners, the defeated! ....and of many more!
Note. Andromache was Hector’s wife who mourned his death in the Trojan War. The Simois and the Scamander (Xanthus) were the two rivers of the Trojan Plain. Pyrrhus is Neoptolemus, son of Achilles. Andromache fell to him as a spoil after the fall of Troy. Helenus was a son of Priam and brother of Hector. Baudelaire follows Virgil, The Aeneid III 289, where Aeneas reaches Epirus and Chaonia, and finds Helenus and Andromache. Helenus has succeeded to the throne of Pyrrhus and married Andromache. Aeneas finds Andromache sacrificing to Hector’s ashes in a wood near the city (Buthrotum) by a river named after the Simois. This is Baudelaire’s ‘false Simois’. Andromache explains that Pyrrhus has left her for Hermione, and passed her on to Helenus, who has been accepted as a Greek prince. Helenus has built a second ‘little’ Troy in Chaonia. Andromache is a symbol of fallen exile. The Carrousel is a bridge over the Seine in Paris, recent at the time of the poem. The Ovid reference is (arguably) to Cycnus, son of Sthenelus, changed to a swan, grieving for Phaethon (See Metamorphoses II 367 and also Virgil, Aeneid X 187). The Louvre Palace is now a Museum and Art Gallery, on the right bank of the Seine, in Paris.
Monday, March 7, 2016
Homer, "Iliad" (Book XVIII, The Shield of Achilles)
Thetis goes to the palace of Vulcan to obtain new arms for her son.
“Thee, welcome, goddess! what occasion calls
(So long a stranger) to these honour’d walls?
‘Tis thine, fair Thetis, the command to lay,
And Vulcan’s joy and duty to obey.”
To whom the mournful mother thus replies:
(The crystal drops stood trembling in her eyes:)
“O Vulcan! say, was ever breast divine
So pierced with sorrows, so o’erwhelm’d as mine?
Of all the goddesses, did Jove prepare
For Thetis only such a weight of care?
I, only I, of all the watery race
By force subjected to a man’s embrace,
Who, sinking now with age and sorrow, pays
The mighty fine imposed on length of days.
Sprung from my bed, a godlike hero came,
The bravest sure that ever bore the name;
Like some fair plant beneath my careful hand
He grew, he flourish’d, and he graced the land:
To Troy I sent him! but his native shore
Never, ah never, shall receive him more;
(Even while he lives, he wastes with secret woe;)
Nor I, a goddess, can retard the blow!
Robb’d of the prize the Grecian suffrage gave,
The king of nations forced his royal slave:
For this he grieved; and, till the Greeks oppress’d
Required his arm, he sorrow’d unredress’d.
Large gifts they promise, and their elders send;
In vain--he arms not, but permits his friend
His arms, his steeds, his forces to employ:
He marches, combats, almost conquers Troy:
Then slain by Phoebus (Hector had the name)
At once resigns his armour, life, and fame.
But thou, in pity, by my prayer be won:
Grace with immortal arms this short-lived son,
And to the field in martial pomp restore,
To shine with glory, till he shines no more!”
To her the artist-god: “Thy griefs resign,
Secure, what Vulcan can, is ever thine.
O could I hide him from the Fates, as well,
Or with these hands the cruel stroke repel,
As I shall forge most envied arms, the gaze
Of wondering ages, and the world’s amaze!”
Thus having said, the father of the fires
To the black labours of his forge retires.
Soon as he bade them blow, the bellows turn’d
Their iron mouths; and where the furnace burn’d,
Resounding breathed: at once the blast expires,
And twenty forges catch at once the fires;
Just as the god directs, now loud, now low,
They raise a tempest, or they gently blow;
In hissing flames huge silver bars are roll’d,
And stubborn brass, and tin, and solid gold;
Before, deep fix’d, the eternal anvils stand;
The ponderous hammer loads his better hand,
His left with tongs turns the vex’d metal round,
And thick, strong strokes, the doubling vaults rebound.
Then first he form’d the immense and solid shield;
Rich various artifice emblazed the field;
Its utmost verge a threefold circle bound;
A silver chain suspends the massy round;
Five ample plates the broad expanse compose,
And godlike labours on the surface rose.
There shone the image of the master-mind:
There earth, there heaven, there ocean he design’d;
The unwearied sun, the moon completely round;
The starry lights that heaven’s high convex crown’d;
The Pleiads, Hyads, with the northern team;
And great Orion’s more refulgent beam;
To which, around the axle of the sky,
The Bear, revolving, points his golden eye,
Still shines exalted on the ethereal plain,
Nor bathes his blazing forehead in the main.
Two cities radiant on the shield appear,
The image one of peace, and one of war.
Here sacred pomp and genial feast delight,
And solemn dance, and hymeneal rite;
Along the street the new-made brides are led,
With torches flaming, to the nuptial bed:
The youthful dancers in a circle bound
To the soft flute, and cithern’s silver sound:
Through the fair streets the matrons in a row
Stand in their porches, and enjoy the show.
There in the forum swarm a numerous train;
The subject of debate, a townsman slain:
One pleads the fine discharged, which one denied,
And bade the public and the laws decide:
The witness is produced on either hand:
For this, or that, the partial people stand:
The appointed heralds still the noisy bands,
And form a ring, with sceptres in their hands:
On seats of stone, within the sacred place,
The reverend elders nodded o’er the case;
Alternate, each the attesting sceptre took,
And rising solemn, each his sentence spoke
Two golden talents lay amidst, in sight,
The prize of him who best adjudged the right.
Another part (a prospect differing far)(255)
Glow’d with refulgent arms, and horrid war.
Two mighty hosts a leaguer’d town embrace,
And one would pillage, one would burn the place.
Meantime the townsmen, arm’d with silent care,
A secret ambush on the foe prepare:
Their wives, their children, and the watchful band
Of trembling parents, on the turrets stand.
They march; by Pallas and by Mars made bold:
Gold were the gods, their radiant garments gold,
And gold their armour: these the squadron led,
August, divine, superior by the head!
A place for ambush fit they found, and stood,
Cover’d with shields, beside a silver flood.
Two spies at distance lurk, and watchful seem
If sheep or oxen seek the winding stream.
Soon the white flocks proceeded o’er the plains,
And steers slow-moving, and two shepherd swains;
Behind them piping on their reeds they go,
Nor fear an ambush, nor suspect a foe.
In arms the glittering squadron rising round
Rush sudden; hills of slaughter heap the ground;
Whole flocks and herds lie bleeding on the plains,
And, all amidst them, dead, the shepherd swains!
The bellowing oxen the besiegers hear;
They rise, take horse, approach, and meet the war,
They fight, they fall, beside the silver flood;
The waving silver seem’d to blush with blood.
There Tumult, there Contention stood confess’d;
One rear’d a dagger at a captive’s breast;
One held a living foe, that freshly bled
With new-made wounds; another dragg’d a dead;
Now here, now there, the carcases they tore:
Fate stalk’d amidst them, grim with human gore.
And the whole war came out, and met the eye;
And each bold figure seem’d to live or die.
A field deep furrow’d next the god design’d,
The third time labour’d by the sweating hind;
The shining shares full many ploughmen guide,
And turn their crooked yokes on every side.
Still as at either end they wheel around,
The master meets them with his goblet crown’d;
The hearty draught rewards, renews their toil,
Then back the turning ploughshares cleave the soil:
Behind, the rising earth in ridges roll’d;
And sable look’d, though form’d of molten gold.
Another field rose high with waving grain;
With bended sickles stand the reaper train:
Here stretched in ranks the levell’d swarths are found,
Sheaves heap’d on sheaves here thicken up the ground.
With sweeping stroke the mowers strow the lands;
The gatherers follow, and collect in bands;
And last the children, in whose arms are borne
(Too short to gripe them) the brown sheaves of corn.
The rustic monarch of the field descries,
With silent glee, the heaps around him rise.
A ready banquet on the turf is laid,
Beneath an ample oak’s expanded shade.
The victim ox the sturdy youth prepare;
The reaper’s due repast, the woman’s care.
Next, ripe in yellow gold, a vineyard shines,
Bent with the ponderous harvest of its vines;
A deeper dye the dangling clusters show,
And curl’d on silver props, in order glow:
A darker metal mix’d intrench’d the place;
And pales of glittering tin the inclosure grace.
To this, one pathway gently winding leads,
Where march a train with baskets on their heads,
(Fair maids and blooming youths,) that smiling bear
The purple product of the autumnal year.
To these a youth awakes the warbling strings,
Whose tender lay the fate of Linus sings;
In measured dance behind him move the train,
Tune soft the voice, and answer to the strain.
Here herds of oxen march, erect and bold,
Rear high their horns, and seem to low in gold,
And speed to meadows on whose sounding shores
A rapid torrent through the rushes roars:
Four golden herdsmen as their guardians stand,
And nine sour dogs complete the rustic band.
Two lions rushing from the wood appear’d;
And seized a bull, the master of the herd:
He roar’d: in vain the dogs, the men withstood;
They tore his flesh, and drank his sable blood.
The dogs (oft cheer’d in vain) desert the prey,
Dread the grim terrors, and at distance bay.
Next this, the eye the art of Vulcan leads
Deep through fair forests, and a length of meads,
And stalls, and folds, and scatter’d cots between;
And fleecy flocks, that whiten all the scene.
A figured dance succeeds; such once was seen
In lofty Gnossus for the Cretan queen,
Form’d by Daedalean art; a comely band
Of youths and maidens, bounding hand in hand.
The maids in soft simars of linen dress’d;
The youths all graceful in the glossy vest:
Of those the locks with flowery wreath inroll’d;
Of these the sides adorn’d with swords of gold,
That glittering gay, from silver belts depend.
Now all at once they rise, at once descend,
With well-taught feet: now shape in oblique ways,
Confusedly regular, the moving maze:
Now forth at once, too swift for sight, they spring,
And undistinguish’d blend the flying ring:
So whirls a wheel, in giddy circle toss’d,
And, rapid as it runs, the single spokes are lost.
The gazing multitudes admire around:
Two active tumblers in the centre bound;
Now high, now low, their pliant limbs they bend:
And general songs the sprightly revel end.
Thus the broad shield complete the artist crown’d
With his last hand, and pour’d the ocean round:
In living silver seem’d the waves to roll,
And beat the buckler’s verge, and bound the whole.
This done, whate’er a warrior’s use requires
He forged; the cuirass that outshone the fires,
The greaves of ductile tin, the helm impress’d
With various sculpture, and the golden crest.
At Thetis’ feet the finished labour lay:
She, as a falcon cuts the aerial way,
Swift from Olympus’ snowy summit flies,
And bears the blazing present through the skies.
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
the breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
don’t go back to sleep.
you must ask for what you really want.
don’t go back to sleep.
people are going back and forth between the
door sill where the two worlds touch.
the door is round and open.
don’t go back to sleep.
Friday, February 26, 2016
Just moving in slow motion
To keep the pain to a minimum
Weightless, only wait for a fall
How long must I wait for you?
Undone in the evening
How long must I wait for you
To become what I need?
Holding on, souvenirs
His words inked from birthdays
Goodbye to our empty ruins
Yeah that's when I saw her
Hold me back
Hold me back
All I am
All I am
Before the last dance
How come he's the one
To let me down
How come they glow
Different in the evening?
How come they stare
Distant into daylight?
Like it's all alright?
Like it's all alright?
Sunday, February 21, 2016
Friday, February 19, 2016
-Walt Whitman, from "Song of Myself 50"
There is that in me . . . . I do not know what it is . . . . but I know it is in me.
Wrenched and sweaty . . . . calm and cool then my body becomes; I sleep . . . . I sleep long.
I do not know it . . . . it is without name . . . . it is a word unsaid,
It is not in any dictionary or utterance or symbol.
Something it swings on more than the earth I swing on, To it the creation is the friend whose embracing awakes me.
Perhaps I might tell more . . . . Outlines! I plead for my brothers and sisters.
Do you see O my brothers and sisters?
It is not chaos or death . . . . it is form and union and plan . . . . it is eternal life . . . . it is happiness.
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
A couple months ago, Donald Trump was unflatteringly compared to a man who noisily defecates in the corner of a room in which a respectful drinking party is going on. Are other Republican candidates for the U.S. presidency substantially any better?- Slavoj Zizek, "The Return of Public Vulgarity"
We probably all remember the scene from Luis Buñuel’s The Phantom of Liberty in which relations between eating and excreting are inverted: People sit at their toilets around the table, pleasantly talking, and when they want to eat, they silently ask the housekeeper, "Where is that place, you know?," and sneak away to a small room in the back.
So are the Republican candidates’ debates—to prolong the metaphor—not like this reunion in Buñuel’s film? And does the same not hold for many leading politicians around the globe? Was Erdoğan not defecating in public when, in a recent paranoiac outburst, he dismissed critics of his policy toward the Kurds as traitors and foreign agents? Was Putin not defecating in public when (in a well-calculated public vulgarity aimed at boosting his popularity at home) he threatened a critic of his Chechen politics with medical castration? Was Sarkozy not defecating in public when, back in 2008, he snapped at a farmer who refused to shake his hand, "Casse-toi, alors pauvre con!" (a very soft translation would be "Get lost then, you bloody idiot!")?
And the list goes on. In a speech to the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem on October 21, 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested that Hitler had only wanted to expel Jews from Germany, not to exterminate them, and that, rather, it was Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Palestinian grand mufti of Jerusalem, who somehow persuaded Hitler to kill the Jews instead.
Netanyahu purported to describe an exchange between the two men in November 1941 in which al-Husseini told Hitler that if he expelled the Jews from Europe, “they’ll all come here [to Palestine].” According to Netanyahu, Hitler then asked, “What should I do with them?,” to which the mufti replied, “Burn them.” Many of Israel’s top Holocaust researchers immediately problematized these statements, pointing out that the exchange between al-Husseini and Hitler cannot be verified, and that the mass killings of European Jews by SS mobile killing units was already well underway by the point the two men met face to face.
We should be under no illusions about the meaning of statements like those of Netanyahu: They are a clear sign of the regression of our public sphere. Accusations and ideas that were till now confined to the obscure underworld of racist obscenity are now gaining a foothold in official discourse.
The problem here is what Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel called Sittlichkeit: mores, the thick background of (unwritten) rules of social life, the thick and impenetrable ethical substance that tells us what we can and cannot do. These rules are disintegrating today: What was a couple of decades ago simply unsayable in a public debate can now be pronounced with impunity.
It may appear that this disintegration is counteracted by the growth of political correctness, which prescribes exactly what cannot be said; however, a closer look immediately makes it clear how the "politically correct" regulation participates in the same process of the disintegration of the ethical substance. To prove this point, it suffices to recall the deadlock of political correctness: The need for PC rules arises when unwritten mores are no longer able to regulate effectively everyday interactions—instead of spontaneous customs followed in a nonreflexive way, we get explicit rules, such as when “torture” becomes an “enhanced interrogation technique.”
The crucial point is that torture—brutal violence practiced by the state—was made publicly acceptable at the very moment when public language was rendered politically correct in order to protect victims from symbolic violence. These two phenomena are two sides of the same coin.
We can discern a similar phenomenon in other domains of public life. When it was announced that, from July till September 2015, “Jade Helm 15”—a large U.S. military exercise—would take place in the Southwest, the news immediately gave rise to a suspicion that the exercises were part of a federal plot to place Texas under martial law in a direct violation of the Constitution. We find all the usual suspects participating in this conspiracy paranoia, up to Chuck Norris; the craziest among them is the website All News Pipeline, which linked these exercises to the closure of several Wal-Mart megastores in Texas: “Will these massive stores soon be used as 'food distribution centers' and to house the headquarters of invading troops from China, here to disarm Americans one by one as promised by Michelle Obama to the Chinese prior to Obama leaving the White House?”
What makes the affair ominous is the ambiguous reaction of the leading Texas Republicans: Governor Greg Abbott ordered the State Guard to monitor the exercise, while Ted Cruz demanded details from the Pentagon.
Trump is the purest expression of this tendency toward debasement of our public life. What does he do in order to “steal the show” at public debates and in interviews? He offers a mixture of “politically incorrect” vulgarities: racist stabs (against Mexican immigrants), suspicions on Obama’s birthplace and university diploma, bad-taste attacks on women and offenses to war heroes like John McCain.
Such tasteless quips are meant to indicate that Trump doesn’t care about false manners and “says openly what he (and many ordinary people) think.” In short, he makes it clear that, in spite of his billions, he is an ordinary vulgar guy like all of us common people.
However, these vulgarities should not deceive us: Whatever Trump is, he is not a dangerous outsider. If anything, his program is even relatively moderate (he acknowledges many Democratic achievements, and his stance toward gay marriage is ambiguous). The function of his “refreshing” provocations and vulgar outbursts is precisely to mask the ordinariness of his program.
His true secret is that if, by a miracle, he wins, nothing will change—in contrast to Bernie Sanders, the leftist Democrat whose key advantage over the academic politically correct liberal left is that he understands and respects the problems and fears of ordinary workers and farmers. The really interesting electoral duel would have been the one between Trump as the Republican candidate and Sanders as the Democratic candidate.
But why talk about politeness and public manners today when we are facing what appears to be much more pressing “real” problems? Because manners do matter—in tense situations, they are a matter of life and death, a thin line that separates barbarism from civilization. There is one surprising fact about the latest outbursts of public vulgarities that deserves to be noted. Back in the 1960s, occasional vulgarities were associated with the political left: Student revolutionaries often used common language to emphasize their contrast to official politics with its polished jargon. Today, vulgar language is an almost exclusive prerogative of the radical right, so that the left finds itself in a surprising position as the defender of decency and public manners.
That’s why the moderate “rational” Republican right is in a panic: After the decline of the fortunes of Jeb Bush, it is desperately looking for a new face, toying even with the idea of mobilizing Bloomberg.
But the true problem resides in the weakness of the moderate “rational” position itself. The fact that the majority cannot be convinced by the “rational” capitalist discourse and is much more prone to endorse a populist anti-elitist stance is not to be discounted as a case of lower-class primitivism: Populists correctly detect the irrationality of this rational approach; their rage directed at faceless institutions that regulate their lives in a nontransparent way is fully justified.
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Bitches receive stitches
Trolls receive 86's
Stick around if you're housebroken
Can't hold your shit, hold your tongue, you got to go
Should you choose to react like an imbecile
You'll in turn be treated so
Yes, we're being condescending
Yes, that means were talking down to you
With all that racket from your lips a-flapping
We assumed you didn't notice
Haters, isolators, no one misses these
Bitches receive stitches
Trolls receive 86's
Yes, we're being condescending
Yes, that means were talking down to you
With all that racket from your lips a-flapping
We assumed you didn't notice
Haters, isolators, no one misses these
Bitches receive stitches
Trolls receive 86's
You speak like someone who has never been
Smacked in the fucking mouth
That's OK, we have the remedy
You speak like someone who has never been
Knocked the fuck on out
But we have your remedy
You speak like someone who has never been
Smacked in the fucking mouth
That's OK, we have the remedy
You speak like someone who has never been
Knocked the fuck on out
But we have your remedy
Violence is Impotence
Saturday, February 13, 2016
Thursday, February 11, 2016
The most famous passage in Jack London’s Martin Eden is the final paragraph, describing the hero’s suicide by drowning:Slavoj Žižek, "King, Rabble, Sex, and War in Hegel"He seemed floating languidly in a sea of dreamy vision. Colors and radiances surrounded him and bathed him and pervaded him. What was that? It seemed a lighthouse; but it was inside his brain – a flashing, bright white light. It flashed swifter and swifter. There was a long rumble of sound, and it seemed to him that he was falling down a vast and interminable stairway. And somewhere at the bottom he fell into darkness. That much he knew. He had fallen into darkness. And at the instant he knew, he ceased to know.How did Martin arrive at this point? What pushed him to suicide was his very success – the novel presents the crisis of investiture in its simple but most radical form: after long years of struggle and hard work, Martin finally succeeds and becomes a famous writer; however, while he is floating in wealth and fame, one thing puzzles him,a little thing that would have puzzled the world had it known. But the world would have puzzled over his bepuzzlement rather than over the little thing that to him loomed gigantic. Judge Blount invited him to dinner. That was the little thing, or the beginning of the little thing, that was soon to become the big thing. He had insulted Judge Blount, treated him abominably, and Judge Blount, meeting him on the street, invited him to dinner. Martin bethought himself of the numerous occasions on which he had met Judge Blount at the Morses’ and when Judge Blount had not invited him to dinner.This little puzzling thing grows larger and larger, turning into the central obsession of his life:
Why had he not invited him to dinner then? he asked himself. He had not changed. He was the same Martin Eden. What made the difference? The fact that the stuff he had written had appeared inside the covers of books? But it was work performed. It was not something he had done since. It was achievement accomplished at the very time Judge Blount was sharing this general view and sneering at his Spencer and his intellect. Therefore it was not for any real value, but for a purely fictitious value that Judge Blount invited him to dinner.1His thoughts went ever around and around in a circle. The centre of that circle was “work performed”; it ate at his brain like a deathless maggot. He awoke to it in the morning. It tormented his dreams at night. Every affair of life around him that penetrated through his senses immediately related itself to “work performed.” He drove along the path of relentless logic to the conclusion that he was nobody, nothing. Mart Eden, the hoodlum, and Mart Eden, the sailor, had been real, had been he; but Martin Eden! the famous writer, did not exist. Martin Eden, the famous writer, was a vapor that had arisen in the mob-mind and by the mob-mind had been thrust into the corporeal being of Mart Eden, the hoodlum and sailor.Even his beloved Lizzy who didn’t want to marry him, is now desperately throwing herself at him, proclaiming that she loves him totally; when she proclaims that she is ready to die for him, Martin tauntingly replies:Why didn’t you dare it before? When I hadn’t a job? When I was starving? When I was just as I am now, as a man, as an artist, the same Martin Eden? That’s the question I’ve been propounding to myself for many a day – not concerning you merely, but concerning everybody. You see I have not changed, though my sudden apparent appreciation in value compels me constantly to reassure myself on that point. I’ve got the same flesh on my bones, the same ten fingers and toes. I am the same. I have not developed any new strength nor virtue. My brain is the same old brain. I haven’t made even one new generalization on literature or philosophy. I am personally of the same value that I was when nobody wanted me. And what is puzzling me is why they want me now. Surely they don’t want me for myself, for myself is the same old self they did not want. Then they must want me for something else, for something that is outside of me, for something that is not I! Shall I tell you what that something is? It is for the recognition I have received. That recognition is not I. It resides in the minds of others.What Martin cannot accept is the radical gap that forever separates his “real” qualities from his symbolic status (in the eyes of the others): all of a sudden, he is no longer a nobody avoided by respectable public but a famous author invited by the pillars of society, with even the beloved woman now throwing herself at his feet – but he is fully aware that nothing changed in him in reality, he is now the same person as he was, and even all his works were already written when he was ignored and despised. What Martin cannot accept is this radical de-centering of the very core of his personality which “resides in the minds of others”: he is nothing in himself, just a concentrated projection of others’ dreams. This perception that his agalma, what now makes him desired by others, is something that is outside of him, not only ruins his narcissism, but also kills his desire: “Something has gone out of me. I have always been unafraid of life, but I never dreamed of being sated with life. Life has so filled me that I am empty of any desire for anything.” It is this “conclusion that he was nobody, nothing,” which drove him to suicide.
Insofar as symbolic castration is also one of the names of the gap between my immediate stupid being and my symbolic title (recall the proverbial disappointment of an adolescent: is that miserable coward really my father?), and since a symbolic authority can only function insofar as, in a kind of illegitimate short-circuit, this gap is obfuscated and my symbolic authority appears as an immediate property or quality of me as a person, each authority has to protect itself from situations in which this gap becomes palpable. For example, political leaders know very well how to avoid situations in which their impotence would have been revealed; a father knows how to hide from the gaze of his son his humiliating moments (when his boss shouts at him, etc.). What is protected by such strategies of “saving one’s face” is appearance: although I know very well my father is ultimately impotent, I refuse to believe it, which is why the effect of witnessing the open display of his impotence can be so shattering. Such humiliating moments fully deserve to be called “castrating experiences,” not because father is shown castrated-impotent, but because the gap between his miserable reality and his symbolic authority is rendered palpable and can no longer be ignored by way of the fetishist disavowal.
For Hegel, the definition of a king is a subject who accepts this radical decenterment, i.e., to quote Marx, the fact that he is a King because others treat him as a King, not the other way round – otherwise, if he thinks that he is a King “in himself,” he is a madman (recall Lacan’s claim that a madman is not only a beggar who thinks he is a King but also a King who thinks he is a King). According to a legend, during the decisive battle between the Prussian and the Austrian army in the 1866 war, the Prussian king, formally the supreme commander of the Prussian army, who was observing the fight from a nearby hill, looked worried at (what appeared to him) the confusion in front of his eyes, where some of the Prussian troops even seemed to be retreating. General von Moltke, the great Prussian strategist who planned the battle deployment, turned to the King in the middle of this apparent confusion and told him: “May I be the first to congratulate your majesty for a brilliant victory?” This is the gap between S1 and S2 at its purest: the King was the Master, the formal commander totally ignorant of the meaning of what went on in the battlefield, while von Moltke embodied strategic knowledge – although, at the level of actual decisions, the victory was Moltke’s, he was correct in congratulating the King on behalf of whom he was acting. The stupidity of the Master is palpable in this gap between the confusion of the master-figure and the objective-symbolic fact that he already won a brilliant victory. We all know the old joke referring to the enigma of who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays: “Not William Shakespeare, but someone else with the same name.” This is what Lacan means by the “decentered subject,” this is how a subject relates to the name which fixes its symbolic identity: John Smith is (always, by definition, in its very notion) not John Smith, but someone else with the same name. As already Shakespeare’s Juliet knew, I am never “that name” – the John Smith who really thinks he is John Smith is a psychotic. This key point was missed by the young Marx in his critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right; after quoting the beginning of Par 281:Both moments in their undivided unity – (a) the will’s ultimate ungrounded self, and (b) therefore its similarly ungrounded objective existence (existence being the category which is at home in nature) – constitute the Idea of something against which caprice is powerless, the ‘majesty’ of the monarch. In this unity lies the actual unity of the state, and it is only through this, its inward and outward immediacy, that the unity of the state is saved from the risk of being drawn down into the sphere of particularity and its caprices, ends and opinions, and saved too from the war of factions round the throne and from the enfeeblement and overthrow of the power of the state.2Marx adds his comment full of (all too commonsensical) irony:The two moments are [a] the contingency of the will, caprice, and [b] the contingency of nature, birth; thus, His Majesty: Contingency. Contingency is thus the actual unity of the state. The way in which, according to Hegel, an inward and outward immediacy [of the state] is to be saved from collision, [due to caprice, factions,] etc., is incredible, since collision is precisely what it makes possible. /. . ./ The prince’s hereditary character results from his concept. He is to be the person who is specified from the entire race of men, who is distinguished from all other persons. But then what is the ultimate fixed difference of one person from all others? The body. And the highest function of the body is sexual activity. Hence the highest constitutional act of the king is his sexual activity, because through this he makes a king and carries on his body.3Marx concludes with the sarcastic note that the Hegelian monarch is nothing more than an appendix to his penis – to which we should say: yes, but that’s precisely Hegel’s point, i.e., such an utter alienation, such a reversal by means of which a person becomes an appendix of its biological organ of procreation, is the price to be paid for acting like the state’s sovereignty embodied. (Note also the irony of the situation: insofar as the gap between my immediate bodily being and my symbolic identity is the gap of castration, being reduced to one’s penis is the very formula of castration.) One can clearly see, from the quoted Par 281, how the institution of hereditary monarchy is for Hegel the solution to the problem of caprices and war of factions, in short, of the contingency of social life of power. One overcomes this contingency not with a deeper necessity (say, in the sense of Plato’s philosophers-kings, rulers whose knowledge legitimizes their power), but with an even more radical contingency: one posits at the top a subject reduced to an appendix of his penis, a subject who did not make himself what he is (through the labor of mediation), but is immediately born into it. Of course, Hegel is fully aware that there is no deeper necessity secretly pulling the strings and guaranteeing that the monarch will be a wise, just and courageous person – on the contrary, in the figure of the monarch, contingency (of his properties and qualifications) is brought to an extreme, all that matters is his birth. (Also in inherent philosophical terms, we can see here how radical Hegel is in his assertion of contingency: the only way to overcome contingency is through its redoubling.) In socio-political life, stability can only be regained when all subjects accept the result of this contingent process, since the contingency of birth is exempted from social struggles.
An obvious counter-argument arises here: does Hegel not remain caught in an illusion of purity – namely of the purity of expert knowledge of state bureaucracy which only works rationally for the common good? True, he concedes an irreducible impurity (being caught in the contingent play of partial interests and factional struggles) of political life, but is not his illusory wager that, if one isolates this moment of impurity (subjective caprice) in the figure of the monarch, this exception will make the rest, the body of state bureaucracy, rational, exempted from the play of conflictual partial interests? Is thus, with this notion of state bureaucracy as the “universal class,” the state not depoliticized, exempted from the properly political differend? However, while Hegel is well aware that political life consists of the contingent “war of factions round the throne,” his idea is not that the monarch takes upon himself this contingency and thus magically turns state bureaucracy into a neutral machine, but that, on account of his being-determined by the contingency of biological descendance, the King himself is in a formal sense elevated above political struggles.
In Lacanese, the passage from inherent notional self-development which mediates all content to the act/decision which freely releases this content is, of course, the passage from S2 (knowledge, the chain of signifiers) to S1 (the performative Master-Signifier). (In a strictly homologous sense, the Hegelian Absolute Knowing is a knowledge which is “absolved” from its positive content.) Schelling was thus wrong in his critique of Hegel: the intervention of the act of decision is purely immanent, it is the moment of the “quilting point,” of the reversal of constative into performative. Does the same not go for the King in the case of State, according to Hegel’s defense of monarchy? The bureaucratic chain of knowledge is followed by the King’s decision which, as the “completely concrete objectivity of the will,” “reabsorbs all particularity into its single self, cuts short the weighing of pros and cons between which it lets itself oscillate perpetually now this way and now that, and by saying ‘I will’ makes its decision and so inaugurates all activity and actuality.” Hegel emphasizes this apartness of the monarch already when he states that the “ultimate self-determination” can “fall within the sphere of human freedom only in so far as it has the position of a pinnacle, explicitly distinct from, and raised above, all that is particular and conditional, for only so is it actual in a way adequate to its concept.”(Ibid.) This is why “the conception of the monarch” isof all conceptions the hardest for ratiocination, i.e., for the method of reflection employed by the Understanding. This method refuses to move beyond isolated categories and hence here again knows only raisonnement, finite points of view, and deductive argumentation. Consequently it exhibits the dignity of the monarch as something deduced, not only in its form, but in its essence. The truth is, however, that to be something not deduced but purely self-originating is precisely the conception of monarchy.In the next paragraph (280) Hegel further elaborates this speculative necessity of the monarch:This ultimate self in which the will of the state is concentrated is, when thus taken in abstraction, a single self and therefore is immediate individuality. Hence its ‘natural’ character is implied in its very conception. The monarch, therefore, is essentially characterized as this individual, in abstraction from all his other characteristics, and this individual is raised to the dignity of monarchy in an immediate, natural, fashion, i.e., through his birth in the course of nature.Remark: This transition of the concept of pure self-determination into the immediacy of being and so into the realm of nature is of a purely speculative character, and the apprehension of it therefore belongs to logic. Moreover, this transition is on the whole the same as that familiar to us in the nature of willing, and there the process is to translate something from subjectivity (i.e., some purpose held before the mind) into existence. But the proper form of the Idea and of the transition here under consideration is the immediate conversion of the pure self-determination of the will (i.e., of the simple concept itself) into a single and natural existent without the mediation of a particular content (like a purpose in the case of action).
In the so-called ‘ontological’ proof of the existence of God, we have the same conversion of the absolute concept into existence. /. . ./
Addition: It is often alleged against monarchy that it makes the welfare of the state dependent on chance, for, it is urged, the monarch may be ill educated, he may perhaps be unworthy of the highest position in the state, and it is senseless that such a state of affairs should exist because it is supposed to be rational. But all this rests on a presupposition which is nugatory, namely that everything depends on the monarch’s particular character. In a completely organized state, it is only a question of the culminating point of formal decision (and a natural bulwark against passion. It is wrong therefore to demand objective qualities in a monarch); he has only to say ‘yes’ and dot the ‘i’, because the throne should be such that the significant thing in its holder is not his particular make-up. /. . ./ In a well organized monarchy, the objective aspect belongs to law alone, and the monarch’s part is merely to set to the law the subjective ‘I will’.
The speculative moment that Understanding cannot grasp is “the transition of the concept of pure self-determination into the immediacy of being and so into the realm of nature.” In other words, while Understanding can well grasp the universal mediation of a living totality, what it cannot grasp is that this totality, in order to actualize itself, has to acquire actual existence in the guise of an immediate “natural” singularity. (The Marxists who mocked Hegel here paid the price for this negligence: in the regimes which legitimized themselves as Marxist, a Leader emerged who, again, not only directly embodied the rational totality, but embodied it fully, as a figure of full Knowledge and not merely the idiotic point of dotting the i’s. In other words, a Stalinist Leader is NOT a monarch, which makes him much worse . . .) One can also say that Understanding misses the christological moment: the necessity of a singular individual to embody the universal Spirit. – The term “nature” should be given its full weight here: in the same way that, at the end of Logic, the Idea’s completed self-mediation releases from itself Nature, collapses into the external immediacy of Nature, the State’s rational self-mediation has to acquire actual existence in a will which is determined as directly natural, unmediated, stricto sensu “irrational.”
Recall here Chesterton’s appraisal of the guillotine (which was used precisely to behead a king):The guillotine has many sins, but to do it justice there is nothing evolutionary about it. The favourite evolutionary argument finds its best answer in the axe. The Evolutionist says, ‘Where do you draw the line?’ the Revolutionist answers, ‘I draw it here: exactly between your head and body.’ There must at any given moment be an abstract right or wrong if any blow is to be struck; there must be something eternal if there is to be anything sudden.4It is from here that one can understand why Badiou, THE theorist of the Act, has to refer to Eternity: act is only conceivable as the intervention of Eternity into time. Historicist evolutionism leads up to endless procrastination, the situation is always too complex, there are always some more aspects to be accounted for, our pondering of pros and cons is never over . . . against this stance, the passage to act involves a gesture of radical and violent simplification, a cut like that of the proverbial Gordian knot: the magical moment when the infinite pondering crystallizes itself into a simple “yes” or “no.”
A propos school exams, Lacan pointed out a strange fact: there must be a minimal gap, delay, between the procedure of measuring my qualifications and the act of announcing the result (grades). In other words, even if I know that I provided perfect answers to the exam questions, there remains a minimum element of insecurity, of chance, till the results are announced – this gap is the gap between constatif and performatif, between measuring the results and taking note of them (registering them) in the full sense of the symbolic act. The whole mystique of bureaucracy in its most sublime hinges on this gap: you know the facts, but you can never be quite sure of how these facts will be registered by bureaucracy. And, as Jean-Pierre Dupuy points out, the same holds for elections: in the electoral process also, the moment of contingency, of hazard, of a “draw,” is crucial.5 Fully “rational” elections would not be elections at all, but a transparent objectivized process. Traditional (pre-modern) societies resolved this problem by invoking a transcendent source which “verified” the result, conferring authority on it (God, King . . .). Therein resides the problem of modernity: modern societies perceive themselves as autonomous, self-regulated, i.e., they can no longer rely on an external (transcendent) source of authority. But, nonetheless, the moment of hazard has to remain operative in the electoral process, which is why commentators like to dwell on the “irrationality” of votes (one never knows where votes will swing in the last days before elections . . .). In other words, democracy would not work if it were to be reduced to permanent opinion polling – fully mechanized-quantified, deprived of its “performative” character; as Lefort pointed out, voting has to remain a (sacrificial) ritual, a ritualistic self-destruction and rebirth of society.6 The reason is that this hazard itself should not be transparent, it should be minimally externalized/reified: “people’s will” is our equivalent of what the Ancients perceived as the imponderable God’s will or the hands of Fate. What people cannot accept as their direct arbitrary choice, the result of a pure hazard, they can accept if it refers to a minimum of the “real” – Hegel knew this long ago, this is the entire point of his defense of monarchy. And, last but not least, the same goes for love: there should be an element of the “answer of the Real” in it (“we were forever meant for each other”), I cannot really accept that my falling in love hinges on a pure contingency.7
Even such a superb reader of Hegel as Gerard Lebrun falls short here in inscribing Hegel into the Platonic tradition of “philosophers-kings”: every exercise of power has to be justified by good reasons, the bearer of power has to be properly qualified for it by his knowledge and abilities, plus power should be exercised for the good of the entire community – this notion of power sustains Hegel’s concept of state bureaucracy as the “universal class” educated to protect state interests against the particular interests of members and groups of the civil society. According to Lebrun, Nietzsche counters this received notion by questioning its underlying premise: what kind of power (or authority) is it which needs to justify itself by evoking the interests of those over whom it rules, i.e., which accepts the need to provide reasons for its exercise? Does such a notion of power not undermine itself? How can I be your master when I accept the need to justify my authority in your eyes? Does this not imply that my authority depends on your approval, so that, acting as your master, I effectively serve you (recall Frederick the Great’s famous notion of the King as the highest servant of his people)? Is it not that authority proper needs no reasons, since it is simply accepted on its own? As Kierkegaard put it, for a child to say that he obeys his father because the latter is wise, honest and good, is a blasphemy, a total disavowal of the true paternal authority. In Lacanian terms, this passage from “natural” authority to authority justified by reasons is, of course, the passage from the master’s discourse to the university discourse. This universe of justified exercise of power is also eminently anti-political and, in this sense, “technocratic”: my exercise of power should be grounded in reasons accessible to and approved by all rational human beings, i.e., the underlying premise is that, as an agent of power, I am totally replaceable, I act in exactly the same way everyone else would have acted at my place – politics as the domain of competitive struggle, as the articulation of irreducible social antagonisms, should be replaced by rational administration which directly enacts the universal interest.
Is, however, Lebrun right in imputing to Hegel such a notion of justified authority? Was Hegel not fully aware that true authority always contains an element of the tautological self-assertion? “It is so because I say it is so!” The exercise of authority is an “irrational” act of contingent decision which cuts short the endless chain of enumerating reasons pro et contra. Is this not the very rationale of Hegel’s defence of monarchy? The State as a rational totality needs at its head a figure of “irrational” authority, an authority not justified by its qualifications: while all other public servants have to prove their capacity to exert power, the king is justified by the very fact that he is a king. To put it in more contemporary terms, the performative aspect of state acts is reserved for the king: the state bureaucracy prepared the content of state acts, but it is the signature of the king which enacts them, enforcing them upon society. Hegel was well aware that it is only this distance between the “knowledge” embodied in state bureaucracy and the authority of the Master embodied in the king which protects the social body against the “totalitarian” temptation: what we call “totalitarian regime” is not a regime in which the Master imposes its unconstrained authority and ignores the suggestions of rational knowledge, but the regime in which Knowledge (the rationally justified authority) immediately assumes “performative” power – Stalin was not (presenting himself as) a Master, he was the highest servant of the people legitimized by his knowledge and abilities.
Hegel’s insight points toward his unique position between the Master’s discourse (of the traditional authority) and the university discourse (of the modern power justified by reasons or the democratic consent of its subjects): Hegel knew that the charisma of the Master’s authority is a fake, that Master is an impostor – it is only the fact that he occupies the position of a Master (that his subjects treat him as a Master) which makes him a Master. However, he was also well aware that, if one tries to get rid of this excess and impose a self-transparent authority fully justified by expert knowledge, the result is even worse: instead of being contained to the symbolic head of State (King), “irrationality” spreads over the entire body of social power. Kafka’s bureaucracy is such a regime of expert knowledge deprived of the figure of the Master – Brecht was right when, as Benjamin reports in his diaries, during a conversation on Kafka, he claimed that Kafka is “the only genuine Bolshevik writer.”8
Is, then, Hegel’s position cynical? Does he tells us to act as if a monarch is qualified by his properties, celebrate his glory, etc., although we know well that he is nobody in himself? A gap nonetheless separates Hegel’s position from cynicism: the Hegelian (utopian?) wager is that one can admire a monarch not for his supposed real qualities, but on behalf of his very mediocrity, as a representative of human frailty. Here, however, things get complicated: is the excess at the top of the social edifice (king, leader) not to be supplemented by the excess at its bottom, by the “part of no part” of the social body, those with no proper place within it, what Hegel called Poebel (rabble)? Hegel fails to take note how the rabble, in its very status of the destructive excess of social totality, its “part of no-part,” is the “reflexive determination” of the totality as such, the immediate embodiment of its universality, the particular element in the guise of which the social totality encounter itself among its elements, and, as such, the key constituent of its identity.9 (Note the dialectical finesse of this last feature: what “sutures” the identity of a social totality as such is the very “free-floating” element which dissolves all fixed identity of any intra-social element.)10 This is why Frank Ruda is fully justified in reading Hegel’s short passages on rabble (Pöebel) in his Philosophy of Right as a symptomatic point of his entire philosophy of right, if not of his entire system.11 If Hegel were to see the universal dimension of the rabble, he would have invented the symptom (as Marx – who saw in the proletariat the embodiment of the deadlocks of the existing society, the universal class – did).12 That is to say, what makes the notion of rabble symptomatic is that it describes a necessarily produced “irrational” excess of modern rational state, a group of people for which there is no place within the organized totality of the modern state, although they formally belong to it – as such, they perfectly exemplify the category of singular universality (a singular which directly gives body to a universality, by-passing the mediation through the particular), of what Rancière called the “part of no-part” of the social body:§ 244 When the standard of living of a large mass of people falls below a certain subsistence level – a level regulated automatically as the one necessary for a member of the society – and when there is a consequent loss of the sense of right and wrong, of honesty and the self-respect which makes a man insist on maintaining himself by his own work and effort, the result is the creation of a rabble of paupers. At the same time this brings with it, at the other end of the social scale, conditions which greatly facilitate the concentration of disproportionate wealth in a few hands.We can easily perceive here the link between the eminently political topic of the status of the rabble and Hegel’s basic ontological topic of the relationship between universality and particularity, i.e., the problem of how to understand the Hegelian “concrete universality.” If we understand “concrete universality” in the usual sense of the organic subdivision of the universal into its particular moments, so that universality is not an abstract feature in which individuals directly participate, and the participation of the individual in the universal is always mediated through the particular network of determinations, then the corresponding notion of society is a corporate one: society as an organic Whole in which each individual has to find its particular place, i.e., in which I participate in the State by fulfilling my particular duty or obligation. There are no citizens as such, one has to be a member of a particular estate (a farmer, a state official, mother in a family, teacher, artisan . . .) in order to contribute to the harmony of the Whole. This is the Bradleyian proto-Fascist Hegel who opposes atomistic liberalism (in which society is a mechanic unity of abstract individuals) on behalf of the State as a living organism in which each part has its function, and within this space, rabble has to appear as the irrational excess, as the threat to social order and stability, as outcasts excluded and excluding themselves from the “rational” social totality.
But is this truly what Hegel aims at with his “concrete universality”? Is the core of the dialectical negativity not the short-circuit between the genus and (one of) its species, so that genus appears as one of its own species opposed to others, entering a negative relationship with them? Recall Ambedkar’s rejoinder to Gandhi: “There will be outcasts as long as there are castes.” As long as there are castes, there will always be an excessive excremental zero-value element which, while formally part of the system, has no proper place within it, and as such stands for the (repressed) universality of this system. In this sense, concrete universality is precisely a universality which includes itself among its species, in the guise of a singular moment lacking particular content – in short, it is precisely those who are without their proper place within the social Whole (like the rabble) that stand for the universal dimension of the society which generates them. This is why the rabble cannot be abolished without radically transforming the entire social edifice – and Hegel is fully aware of this; he is consistent enough to confess that a solution of this “disturbing problem” is impossible not for external contingent reasons, but for strictly immanent conceptual reasons. While he enumerates a series of measures to resolve the problem (police control and repression, charity, export of rabble to colonies . . .), he himself admits that these are only secondary palliatives which cannot really resolve the problem – not because the problem is too hard (i.e., because there is not enough wealth in society to take care of the poor), but because there is too much excessive wealth – the more society is wealthy, the more poverty it produces:§ 245 When the masses begin to decline into poverty, (a) the burden of maintaining them at their ordinary standard of living might be directly laid on the wealthier classes, or they might receive the means of livelihood directly from other public sources of wealth (e.g., from the endowments of rich hospitals, monasteries, and other foundations). In either case, however, the needy would receive subsistence directly, not by means of their work, and this would violate the principle of civil society and the feeling of individual independence and self-respect in its individual members. (b) As an alternative, they might be given subsistence indirectly through being given work, i.e., the opportunity to work. In this event the volume of production would be increased, but the evil consists precisely in an excess of production and in the lack of a proportionate number of consumers who are themselves also producers, and thus it is simply intensified by both of the methods (a) and (b) by which it is sought to alleviate it. It hence becomes apparent that despite an excess of wealth civil society is not rich enough, i.e., its own resources are insufficient to check excessive poverty and the creation of a penurious rabble.Note the finesse of Hegel’s analysis: he points out that poverty is not only a material condition, but also the subjective position of being deprived of social recognition, which is why it is not enough to provide for the poor through public or private charity – in this way, the poor are still deprived of the satisfaction of autonomously taking care of their own lives. Furthermore, when Hegel emphasizes how society – the existing social order – is the ultimate space in which the subject finds his/ her substantial content and recognition, i.e., how subjective freedom can actualize itself only in the rationality of the universal ethical order, the implied (although not explicitly stated) obverse is that those who do NOT find this recognition have also the right to rebel: if a class of people is systematically deprived of their rights, of their very dignity as persons, they are eo ipso also released from their duties toward the social order, because this order is no longer their ethical substance. The dismissive tone of Hegel’s statements about the “rabble” should not blind us to the basic fact that he considered their rebellion rationally fully justified: the “rabble” is a class of people to whom systematically, not just in a contingent way, recognition by the ethical substance is denied, so they also do not owe anything to society, are dispensed of any duties toward it.
The negativity – the non-recognized element of the existing order – is thus necessarily produced, inherent to it, but with no place within the order. Here, however, Hegel commits a failure (measured by his own standards): he doesn’t venture the obvious thesis that, as such, rabble should immediately stand for the universality of society. As excluded, lacking recognition for its particular position, the rabble is the universal as such. At this point, at least, Marx was right in his critique of Hegel, since he was here more Hegelian than Hegel himself – as is well known, this is the starting point of the Marxian analysis: the “proletariat” designates such an “irrational” element of the “rational” social totality, its unaccountable “part of no part,” the element systematically generated by it and, simultaneously, denied the basic rights that define this totality, as such, the proletariat stands for the universality dimension, i.e., its emancipation is only possible in/through the universal emancipation. In a way, EVERY act is proletarian: “There is only one social symptom: every individual is effectively proletarian, that is to say, he does not dispose of a discourse by means of which he could establish a social link.”13 It is only from such a “proletarian” position of being deprived of a discourse (of occupying the place of the “part of no part” within the existing social link) than an act can emerge.
How, then, do the two excesses (the excess at the top and the excess at the bottom) relate to each other? Does the link between the two not provide the formula of a populist authoritarian regime? In his 18th bru- maire, the analysis of the first populist-authoritarian regime (the reign of Napoleon III), Marx pointed out that, while Napoleon III played one class against the other, stealing from one in order to satisfy another, the only true class base of his rule was the lumpenproletarian rabble. In a homologous way, the paradox of fascism is that it advocates hierarchic order in which “everybody at his/her proper place,” while its only true social base is rabble (SA thugs, etc.) – in it, the only direct class link of the Leader is the one which connects him to rabble, it is only among the rabble that Hitler was truly “at home.”
Hegel is of course aware that objective poverty is not enough to generate rabble: this objective poverty must be subjectivized, changed into a “disposition of mind,” experienced as radical injustice on account of which the subject feels no duty and obligation toward society. Hegel leaves no doubt that this injustice is a real one: society has a duty to guarantee the conditions for a dignified free autonomous life to all its members – this is their right, and if it is denied, they also have no duties toward society:
Addition: The lowest subsistence level, that of a rabble of paupers, is fixed automatically, but the minimum varies considerably in different countries. In England, even the very poorest believe that they have rights; this is different from what satisfies the poor in other countries. Poverty in itself does not make men into a rabble; a rabble is created only when there is joined to poverty a disposition of mind, an inner indignation against the rich, against society, against the government, &c. A further consequence of this attitude is that through their dependence on chance men become frivolous and idle, like the Neapolitan lazzaroni for example. In this way there is born in the rabble the evil of lacking self-respect enough to secure subsistence by its own labor and yet at the same time of claiming to receive subsistence as its right. Against nature man can claim no right, but once society is established, poverty immediately takes the form of a wrong done to one class by another. The important question of how poverty is to be abolished is one of the most disturbing problems which agitate modern society.14
It is easy to discern the ambiguity and oscillation in Hegel’s line of argumentation here. He first seems to blame the poor themselves for subjectivizing their position as that of rabble, i.e., for abandoning the principle of autonomy which obliges subjects to secure their subsistence by their own labor, and for claiming as their right to receive means for survival from society. Then he subtly changes the tone, emphasizing that, in contrast to nature, man can claim rights against society, which is why poverty is not just a fact but a wrong done to one class by another. Furthermore, there is a subtle non sequitur in his argumentation: he passes directly from indignation against the rich/society/government to the lack of self-respect (implied by the demand to receive from society subsistence without working for it) – rabble is irrational because they demand decent life without working for it, thus denying the basic modern axiom that freedom and autonomy are based on the work of self-mediation. Consequently, the right to subsist without laborcan only appear as irrational because /Hegel/ links the notion of right to the notion of the free will that can only be free if it becomes an object for itself through objective activity. To claim a right to subsist without activity and to claim this right at the same time only for oneself, according to Hegel, therefore means to claim a right that has neither the universality nor the objectivity of a right. The right that the rabble claims for Hegel is therefore a right without right and /. . ./ he consequently defines the rabble as the particularity that unbinds itself also from the essential interrelation of right and duty.15But indignation is not the same as the lack of self-respect: it does not automatically generate the demand to be provided for without working. Indignation can also be a direct expression of self-respect: since rabble is produced necessarily, as part of the social process of the (re)production of wealth, it is society itself which denies them the right to participate in the social universe of freedoms and rights – they are denied the right to have rights, i.e., their “right without right” is effectively a meta-right or reflexive right, a universal right to have rights, to be in a position to act as a free autonomous subject. The demand to be provided for life without working is thus a (possibly superficial) form of appearance of the more basic and in no way “irrational” demand to be given a chance to act as an autonomous free subject, to be included in the universe of freedoms and obligations. In other words, since members of the rabble were excluded from the universal sphere of free autonomous life, their demand is itself universal – theirclaimed right without right contains a latent universal dimension and is itself not at all a mere particular right. As a particularly articulated right it is a right that latently affects anyone and offers the insight into a demand for equality beyond the existing objective statist circumstances.16There is a further key distinction to be introduced here, a distinction only latent in Hegel (in the guise of the opposition between the two excesses of poverty and wealth) elaborated by Ruda: members of the rabble (i.e., those excluded from the sphere of rights and freedoms) “can be structurally differentiated into two types: there are the poor and there are the gamblers. Anyone can non-arbitrarily become poor, but only the one that arbitrarily decides not to satisfy his egoist needs and desires by working can become a gambler. He relies fully on the contingent movement of bourgeois economy and hopes to secure his own subsistence in an equally contingent manner – for example by contingently gaining money on the stock-market.” The excessively wealthy are thus also a species of rabble in the sense that they violate the rules of (or exclude themselves from) the sphere of duties and freedoms: they not only demand from society to provide for their subsistence without work, they are de facto provided for such a life. Consequently, while Hegel criticizes the position of the rabble as being the position of an irrational particularity that egoistically opposes its mere particular interests against the existing and rationally organized universality, this differentiation between the two distinct rabbles demonstrates that only the rich rabble falls under Hegel’s verdict: “While the rich rabble is, as Hegel judges correctly, a mere particular rabble, the poor rabble contains, against Hegel’s judgment, a latent universal dimension that is not even inferior to the universality of the Hegelian conception of ethics.”
One can thus demonstrate that, in the case of the rabble, Hegel was inconsistent with regard to his own matrix of the dialectical process, de facto regressing from the properly dialectical notion of totality to a corporate model of the social Whole. Is this inconsequence a simple empirical and accidental failure of Hegel, so that we can correct this (and other) similar points and thereby establish the “true” Hegelian system? The point is, of course, that, here also, one should apply the fundamental dialectical guideline: such local failures to deploy properly the mechanism of the dialectical process are its immanent symptomal points, they indicate a more fundamental structural flaw of the basic mechanism itself. In short, if Hegel were to articulate the universal character of rabble, his entire model of the rational State would have to be abandoned. However, does this mean that all we have to do here is to enact the passage from Hegel to Marx? Is the inconsistency resolved when we replace rabble with proletariat as the “universal class”? Here is how Rebecca Comay summarizes the socio-political limitation of Hegel:Hegel is not Marx. The rabble is not the proletariat, communism is not on the horizon, and revolution is not a solution. /. . ./ Hegel is not prepared to see in the contradiction of civil society the death knell of class society, to identify capitalism itself as its own gravedigger, or to see in the disenfranchised masses anything more than a surge of blind, formless reaction, ‘elemental, irrational, barbarous, and terrifying’/. . ./, a swarm whose integration remains unrealized and unrealizable, an ‘ought’. /. . . / But the aporia, untypical for Hegel, points to something unfinished or already crumbling within the edifice whose construction Hegel declares to be completed, a failure of both actuality and rationality that undermines the solidity of the state he elsewhere celebrates, in Hobbesian language, as an earthly divinity.17Is then Hegel simply constrained by his historical context, did he come too early to see the emancipatory potential of the “part of no-part,” so that all he could have done was to honestly register the unresolved and unresolvable aporia of his rational state? But does the historical experience of the XXth century not render problematic also Marx’s vision of the revolution? Are we today, in the post-Fukuyama world, not exactly in late Hegel’s situation? We see “something unfinished or already crumbling within the edifice” of the liberal-democratic Welfare state which, in the utopian Fukuyama moment of the 1990s, may have appeared as the “end of history,” the finally found best possible politico-economic form. Perhaps, then, we encounter here yet another case of non-synchronicity: in a way, Hegel was more right than Marx, the XXth century attempts to enact the Aufhebung of the rage of the disenfranchised masses into the will of the proletarian agent to resolve social antagonisms ultimately failed, the “anachronistic” Hegel is more our contemporary than Marx.
We can also see how wrong was Althusser when, in his crude opposition between overdetermined structure and the Hegelian totality, he reduced the latter to a simple synchronicity that he called “expressive totality”: for (Althusser’s) Hegel, every historical epoch is dominated by one spiritual principle which expresses itself in all social spheres. However, as the example of the temporal discord between France and Germany demonstrated, non-contemporaneity is for Hegel a principle: Germany was politically in delay with regard to France (where the revolution took place), which is why it could only prolong it in the domain of thought; however, revolution itself emerged in France only because France itself was in delay with regard to Germany, i.e., because France missed Reformation which asserts inner freedom and thus reconciles secular and spiritual domains. So far from being an exception or an accidental complication, anachronism is the “signature” of consciousness:experience is continually outbidding itself, perpetually making demands that it (i.e., the world) is unequipped to realize and unprepared to recognize, and comprehension inevitably comes too late to make a difference, if only because the stakes have already changed. (6)This anachronistic untimeliness holds especially for revolutions: “The ‘French’ Revolution that provides the measure of ‘German’ untimeliness is itself untimely. /. . ./ There is no right time or ‘ripe time’ for revolution (or there would be no need of one). The Revolution always arrives too soon (conditions are never ready) and too late (it lags forever behind its own initiative)” (7). We can see now the stupidity of those “critical Marxists” who propagate the mantra that Stalinism emerged because the first proletarian revolution occurred at the wrong place (the half-developed “Asiatic” – despotic Russia instead of Western Europe – revolutions ALWAYS, by definition, occur at the wrong time and place, they are always “out of place.” And was the French Revolution not conditioned by the fact that, because of its absolutism, France was lagging behind in capitalist modernization?
But is this non-contemporaneity irreducible? Is the Absolute Knowing, the concluding moment of the Hegelian system, not the moment when, finally, history catches up with itself, when notion and reality overlaps in full contemporaneity? Comay rejects this easy reading:Absolute knowing is the exposition of this delay. Its mandate is to make explicit the structural dissonance of experience. If philosophy makes any claim to universality, this is not because it synchronizes the calendars or provides intellectual compensation for its own tardiness. Its contribution is rather to formalize the necessity of the delay, together with the inventive strategies with which such a delay itself is invariably disguised, ignored, glamorized, or rationalized. (6)This delay – ultimately not only the delay between the elements of the same historical totality, but the delay of the totality with regard to itself, the structural necessity for a totality to contain anachronistic elements which only make it possible for it to establish itself as a totality – is the temporal aspect of a gap which propels the dialectical process, and far from filling in this gap, “absolute knowing” makes it visible as such, in its structural necessity:Absolute knowing is neither compensation, as in the redemption of a debt, nor fulfilment: the void is constitutive (which does not mean that it is not historically overdetermined). Rather than trying to plug the gap through the accumulation of conceptual surplus value, Hegel sets out to demystify the phantasms we find to fill it. (125)Therein resides the difference between Hegel and historicist evolutionism: the latter conceives historical progress as the succession of forms, each of which grows, reaches its peak, and then becomes oudated and disintegrates, while for Hegel, disintegration is the very sign of “maturity,” i.e., there is no moment of pure synchronicity when form and content overlap without delay.
So, back to Europe, perhaps we should conceive the very European trinity as a Borromean knot of anachronisms: the model-like excellence of each nation (British economy, French politics, German thought) is grounded in an anachronistic delay in other domains (the excellence of German thought is the paradoxical result of their politico-economic backwardness; the French Revolution was grounded in the delay of capitalism due to French state absolutism; etc. In this sense, the European trinity worked like a Borromean knot: each two nations are linked only through the intermediary of the third (in politics, France links England and Germany, etc.).
We should risk here a step further and demystify the very notion of a world-historical nation, a nation destined to embody the level the world history has reached at a certain point. It is often claimed that, in China, if you really hate someone, the curse you address at him is: “May you live in interesting times!” As Hegel was fully aware, in our history, “interesting times” are effectively the times of unrest, war and power struggle with millions of innocent by-standers suffering the consequences: “The history of the world is not the theatre of happiness. Periods of happiness are blank pages; for they are periods of harmony, periods of the missing opposition.”18 Should we then not conceive the succession of great “historical” nations which pass one to another the torch of embodying for a period progress (Iran, Greece, Rome, Germany . . .) not as a blessing of being temporarily elevated into a world-historical range but, rather, as a transmitting of a king of contagious spiritual disease of which one (a nation) can get rid only by passing it over to another nation, a disease which brings only suffering and destruction to the people contaminated by it. Jews were a normal nation living in a happy “blank page” of history until, for reasons unknown, god selected them as a chosen nation, which brought them only pain and dispersion – Hegel’s solution is that this burden can be passed on and one can return to the happy “blank page.” Or, to put it in Althusserian terms, while people live like individuals, from time to time some of them have the misfortune of being interpellated into subjects of the big Other.
So, back to rabble, one can argue that the position of “universal rabble” perfectly renders the plight of today’s new proletarians. In the classical Marxist dispositif of class exploitation, capitalist and worker meet as formally free individuals on the market, equal subjects of the same legal order, citizens of the same state, with the same civil and political rights. Today, this legal frame of equality, this shared participation in the same civil and political spaces, is gradually dissolving with the rise of the new forms of social and political exclusion: illegal immigrants, slum-dwellers, refugees, etc. It is as if, in parallel to the regression from profit to rent, in order to continue to function, the existing system has to resuscitate pre-modern forms of direct exclusion – it can no longer afford exploitation and domination in the form of legal and civil authority. In other words, while the classic working class is exploited through their very participation in the sphere of rights and freedoms, i.e., while their de facto enslavement is realized through the very form of their autonomy and freedom, through working in order to provide for their subsistence, today’s rabble is denied even the right to be exploited through work, its status oscillating between that of a victim provided for by charitable humanitarian help and that of a terrorist to be contained or crushed; and, exactly as described by Hegel, they sometimes formulate their demand as the demand for subsistence without work (like the Somalia pirates).
One should bring together here Hegel’s two failures (by his own standards), rabble and sex, as aspects of the same limitation. Far from providing the natural foundation of human lives, sexuality is the very terrain where humans detach themselves from nature: the idea of sexual perversion or of a deadly sexual passion is totally foreign to the animal universe. Here, Hegel himself commits a failure with regard to his own standards: he only deploys how, in the process of culture, the natural substance of sexuality is cultivated, sublated, mediated – we, humans, no longer just make love for procreation, we get involved in a complex process of seduction and marriage by means of which sexuality becomes an expression of the spiritual bond between a man and a woman, etc. However, what Hegel misses is how, once we are within the human condition, sexuality is not only transformed/civilized, but, much more radically, changed in its very substance: it is no longer the instinctual drive to reproduce, but a drive that gets thwarted as to its natural goal (reproduction) and thereby explodes into an infinite, properly metaphysical,passion. The becoming-cultural of sexuality is thus not the becoming-cultural of nature, but the attempt to domesticate a properly un-natural excess of the metaphysical sexual passion. This excess of negativity discernible in sex and apropos rabble is the very dimension of “unruliness” identified by Kant as the violent freedom on account of which man, in contrast to animals, needs a master. So it is not just that sexuality is the animal substance which is then “sublated” into civilized modes and rituals, gentrified, disciplined, etc. – the excess itself of sexuality which threatens to explode the “civilized” constraints, sexuality as unconditional Passion, is the result of Culture. In the terms of Wagner’s Tristan: civilization is not only the universe of the Day, rituals and honors that bind us, but the Night itself, the infinite passion in which the two lovers want to dissolve their ordinary daily existence – animals know no such passion. In this way, the civilization/Culture retroactively posits/transforms its own natural presupposition: culture retroactively “denaturalizes” nature itself, this is what Freud called the Id, libido. This is how, here also, in fighting its natural obstacle, opposed natural substance, the Spirit fights itself, its own essence.Elisabeth Lloyd suggests that female orgasm has no positive evolutionary function: it is not a biological adaptation with evolutionary advantages, but an “appendix” like male nipples.19 Male and female both have the same anatomical structure for the first two months in the embryo stage of the growth, before the differences set in – the female gets the orgasm because the male will later need it, just like the male gets nipples because the female will later need them. All the standard explanations (like the “uterine upsuck” thesis – orgasm causes contractions that “upsuck” sperm and thus aid conception) are false: while sexual pleasures and even clitoris ARE adaptive, orgasm is not. The fact that this thesis provoked a furor among feminists is in itself a proof of the decline of our intellectual standards: as if the very superfluity of the feminine orgasm does not make it all the more “spiritual” – let us not forget that, according to some evolutionists, language itself is a by-product with no clear evolutionary function. One should be attentive not to miss the properly dialectical reversal of substance at work here: the moment when the immediate substantial (“natural”) starting point is not only acted-upon, transformed, mediated/cultivated, but changed in its very substance. We not only work upon and thus transform nature – in a gesture of retroactive reversal, nature itself radically changes its “nature.” (In a homologous way, once we enter the domain of legal civil society, the previous tribal order of honor and revenge is deprived of its nobility and all of a sudden appears as common criminality.) This is why the Catholics who insist that only sex for procreation is human, while coupling for lust is animal, totally miss the point, and end up celebrating the animality of men.
Why is Christianity opposed to sexuality, accepting it as a necessary evil only if it serves its natural purpose of procreation? Not because in sexuality our lower nature explodes, but precisely because sexuality competes with pure spirituality as the primordial metaphysical activity. The Freudian hypothesis is that the passage from animal instincts (of mating) to sexuality proper (to drives) is the primordial step from physical realm of biological (animal) life to metaphysics, to eternity and immortality, to a level which is heterogeneous with regard to the biological cycle of generation and corruption. (This is why the Catholic argument that sex without procreation, whose aim is not procreation, is animal, is wrong: the exact opposite is true, sex spiritualizes itself only when it abstracts from its natural end and becomes an end-in-itself.) Plato was already aware of this when he wrote about Eros, erotic attachment to a beautiful body, as the first step on the way toward the supreme Good; perspicuous Christians (like Simone Weil) discerned in sexual longing a striving for the Absolute. Human sexuality is characterized by the impossibility to reach its goal, and this constitutive impossibility eternalizes it, as is the case in the myths about great lovers whose love insists beyond life and death. Christianity conceives this properly metaphysical excess of sexuality as a disturbance to be erased, so it is paradoxically Christianity itself (especially Catholicism) which wants to get rid of its competitor by way of reducing sexuality to its animal function of procreation: Christianity wants to “normalize” sexuality, spiritualizing it from without (imposing on it the external envelope of spirituality (sex must be done with love and respect for the partner, in a cultivated way, etc.), and thereby obliterating its immanent spiritual dimension, the dimension of unconditional passion. Even Hegel succumbs to this mistake when he sees the properly human-spiritual dimension of sexuality only in its cultivated/mediated form, ignoring how this mediation retroactively transubstantiates/eternalizes the very object of its mediation. In all these cases, the aim is to get rid of the uncanny double of spirituality, of a spirituality in its obscene libidinal form, of the excess which absolutizes the very instinct into the eternal drive.
It is easy to see the parallel between rabble and sex here: Hegel doesn’t recognize in rabble (more than in state bureaucracy) the “universal class”; he doesn’t recognize in sexual passion the excess which is neither culture nor nature. Although the logic is different in each case (apropos rabble, Hegel overlooks the universal dimension of the excessive/discordant element; apropos sex, he overlooks the excess as such, the undermining of the opposition nature/culture), the two failures are linked, since excess is the site of universality, the way universality as such inscribes itself into the order of its particular content.
The underlying true problem is the following one: the standard “Hegelian” scheme of death (negativity) as the subordinate/mediating moment of Life can only be sustained if we remain within the category of Life whose dialectic is that of the self-mediating Substance returning to itself from its otherness. The moment we effectively pass from Substance to Subject, from Life(-principle) to Death(-principle), there is no encompassing “synthesis,” death in its “abstract negativity” forever remains as a threat, an excess which cannot be economized. In social life, this means that Kant’s universal peace is a vain hope, that war forever remains a threat of total disruption of organized state Life; in individual subjective life, that madness always lurks as a possibility.
Does this mean that we are back at the standard topos of the excess of negativity which cannot be “sublated” in any reconciling “synthesis,” or even at the naive Engelsian view of the alleged contradiction between the openness of Hegel’s “method” and the enforced closure of his “system”? There are indications which point in this direction: as it was noted by many perspicuous commentators, Hegel’s “conservative” political writings of his last years (like his critique of the English Reform Bill) betray a fear of any further development which will assert the “abstract” freedom of the civil society at the expense of the State’s organic unity, and open up a way to new revolutionary violence.20 Why did Hegel shrink back here, why did he not dare to follow his basic dialectical rule, courageously embracing “abstract” negativity as the only path to a higher stage of freedom?
Hegel may appear to celebrate the prosaic character of life in a well organized modern state where the heroic disturbances are overcome in the tranquillity of private rights and the security of the satisfaction of needs: private property is guaranteed, sexuality is restricted to marriage, future is safe . . . In this organic order, universality and particular interests appear reconciled: the “infinite right” of subjective singularity is given its due, individuals no longer experience the objective state order as a foreign power intruding onto their rights, for they recognize in it the substance and frame of their very freedom. Lebrun asks here the fateful question: “Can the sentiment of the Universal be dissociated from this appeasement?”(214) Against Lebrun, our answer should be: yes, and this is why war is necessary – in war, universality reasserts its right against and over the concrete-organic appeasement in the prosaic social life. Is thus the necessity of war not the ultimate proof that, for Hegel, every social reconciliation is doomed to fail, that no organic social order can effectively contain the force of abstract-universal negativity? This is why social life is condemned to the “spurious infinity” of the eternal oscillation between stable civic life and wartime perturbations – the notion of “tarrying with the negative” acquires here a more radical meaning: not just to “pass through” the negative but to persist in it.
This necessity of war should be linked to its opposite, the necessity of a rebellion which shatters the power edifice from its complacency and makes it aware of its dependence on the popular support and of its a priori tendency to “alienate” itself from its roots, or, as Jefferson famously wrote, “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing”: “It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government. God forbid that we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”21 Both times, a “terrorist” potential is unleashed: the first time, it is the state which unleashes absolute negativity that shatters individual subjects out of their particular complacency; the second time, it is the people themselves who remind the state power of the terrorist dimension of democracy by way of shattering all particular state structures. The beauty of the Jacobins is that, in their terror, they brought together these two opposed dimensions: their terror was simultaneously the terror of the state against individuals and the terror of the people against particular state institutions or functionaries who got too identified by their institutional places (the reproach to Danton was simply that he wanted to raise himself above others . . .). Needless to add that, in a properly Hegelian way, the two opposed dimensions are to be identified, i.e., that the negativity of the state power against individuals sooner or later inexorably turns against (the individuals who exercise) the state power itself.
Apropos war, Hegel is thus again not fully consequent with regard to his own theoretical premises: if he were to be consequent, he would have to accomplish the Jeffersonian move, i.e., obvious dialectical passage from external war (between states) to “internal” war (revolution, i.e., rebellion against one’s own state power) as a sporadic explosion of negativity which rejuvenates the edifice of power. This is why, in reading the infamous Paragraphs 322–4 of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, where Hegel justifies the ethical necessity of war, one should be very careful to perceive the link between his argumentation here and his basic propositions on the self-relating negativity that constitutes the very core of a free autonomous individual – Hegel here simply applies this basic self-relating negativity constitutive of free subjectivity to relations between states:§ 322 Individuality is awareness of one’s existence as a unit in sharp distinction from others. It manifests itself here in the state as a relation to other states, each of which is autonomous vis-a-vis the others. This autonomy embodies mind’s actual awareness of itself as a unit and hence it is the most fundamental freedom which a people possesses as well as its highest dignity./. . ./ An entirely distorted account of the demand for this sacrifice results from regarding the state as a mere civil society and from regarding its final end as only the security of individual life and property. This security cannot possibly be obtained by the sacrifice of what is to be secured – on the contrary.
§ 323 This negative relation of the state to itself is embodied in the world as the relation of one state to another and as if the negative were something external. In the world of existence, therefore, this negative relation has the shape of a happening and an entanglement with chance events coming from without. But in fact this negative relation is that moment in the state which is most supremely its own, the state’s actual infinity as the ideality of everything finite within it. It is the moment wherein the substance of the state – i.e., its absolute power against everything individual and particular, against life, property, and their rights, even against societies and associations – makes the nullity of these finite things an accomplished fact and brings it home to consciousness.
/. . ./ War is not to be regarded as an absolute evil and as a purely external accident, which itself therefore has some accidental cause, be it injustices, the passions of nations or the holders of power, &c., or in short, something or other which ought not to be. It is to what is by nature accidental that accidents happen, and the fate whereby they happen is thus a necessity. Here as elsewhere, the point of view from which things seem pure accidents vanishes if we look at them in the light of the concept and philosophy, because philosophy knows accident for a show and sees in it its essence, necessity. It is necessary that the finite – property and life – should be definitely established as accidental, because accidentality is the concept of the finite. From one point of view this necessity appears in the form of the power of nature, and everything is mortal and transient. But in the ethical substance, the state, nature is robbed of this power, and the necessity is exalted to be the work of freedom, to be something ethical. The transience of the finite becomes a willed passing away, and the negativity lying at the roots of the finite becomes the substantive individuality proper to the ethical substance.
/. . ./ In peace civil life continually expands; all its departments wall themselves in, and in the long run men stagnate. Their idiosyncrasies become continually more fixed and ossified. But for health the unity of the body is required, and if its parts harden themselves into exclusiveness, that is death. Perpetual peace is often advocated as an ideal towards which humanity should strive. With that end in view, Kant proposed a league of monarchs to adjust differences between states, and the Holy Alliance was meant to be a league of much the same kind. But the state is an individual, and individuality essentially implies negation. Hence even if a number of states make themselves into a family, this group as an individual must engender an opposite and create an enemy. As a result of war, nations are strengthened, but peoples involved in civil strife also acquire peace at home through making wars abroad. To be sure, war produces insecurity of property, but this insecurity of things is nothing but their transience – which is inevitable. We hear plenty of sermons from the pulpit about the insecurity, vanity, and instability of temporal things, but everyone thinks, however much he is moved by what he hears, that he at least will be able to retain his own. But if this insecurity now comes on the scene in the form of hussars with shining sabres and they actualize in real earnest what the preachers have said, then the moving and edifying discourses which foretold all these events turn into curses against the invader.
The function of what Hegel conceptualizes as the necessity of war is precisely the repeated untying of the organic social links. When, in his Group Psychology, Freud outlined the “negativity” of untying social ties (Thanatos as opposed to Eros, the force of social link), he (in his liberal limitation) all too easily dismissed the manifestations of this untying as the fanaticism of the “spontaneous” crowd (as opposed to artificial crowds: Church and Army). Against Freud, we should retain the ambiguity of this movement of untying: it is a zero level that renders open the space for political intervention. That is to say, this untying is the pre-political condition of politics, and, with regard to it, every political intervention proper already goes “one step too far,” committing itself to a new project (Master-Signifier). (Badiou also jumps all too directly from mere “animal life” to the political Event, ignoring the negativity of the death-drive which intervenes between the two.) Today, this apparently abstract topic is actual again: the “untying” energy is largely monopolized by the New Right (Tea Party movement in the US, where the Republican Party is more and more split between Order and its Untying). However, here also, every Fascism is a sign of failed revolution, and the only way to combat this Rightist untying will be for the Left to engage in its own untying – and there are already signs of it (the large demonstrations all around Europe in 2010, from Greece to France and the UK, where the student demonstrations against university fees unexpectedly turned violent). In asserting the threat of “abstract negativity” to the existing order as a permanent feature which cannot ever be aufgehoben, Hegel is here more materialist than Marx: in his theory of war (and of madness), he is aware of the repetitive return of the “abstract negativity” which violently unbinds social links. Marx re-binds violence into a process of the rise of a New Order (violence as the “midwife” of a new society), while in Hegel, this unbinding remains non-sublated.
One cannot emphasize enough how these “militaristic” ruminations are directly grounded in Hegel’s fundamental ontological insights and matrixes. When Hegel writes that the state’s negative relation to itself (i.e., its self-assertion as an autonomous agent whose freedom is demonstrated through its readiness to distance itself from all its particular content) “is embodied in the world as the relation of one state to another and as if the negative were something external,” he evokes a precise dialectical figure of the unity of contingency and necessity: the coincidence of external (contingent) opposition and immanent-necessary self-negativity – one’s own innermost essence, the negative relation-to-oneself, has to appear as a contingent external obstacle or intrusion. This is why, for Hegel, the “truth” of the external contingent opposition is the necessity of negative self-relating. And this direct coincidence of the opposites, this direct overlapping (or short-circuit) between extreme internality (the innermost autonomy of the Self) and the extreme externality of an accidental encounter, cannot be “overcome,” the two poles cannot be “mediated” into a stable complex unity. This is why Hegel surprisingly evokes the “solemn cycles of history,” making it clear that there is no final Aufhebung here: the entire complex edifice of the particular forms of social life has to be put at risk again and again – a reminder that the social edifice is a fragile virtual entity which can disintegrate at any moment not because of contingent external threats, but because of its innermost essence. This regenerating passage through radical negativity cannot ever be “sublated” in a stable social edifice – a proof, if one is needed, of Hegel’s ultimate materialism. That is to say, the persisting threat that the radical self-relating negativity will put at risk and dissolve any organic social structure points toward the finite status of all such structures: their status is virtual-ideal, lacking any ultimate ontological guarantee, always exposed to the danger disintegration when, triggered by an accidental external intrusion, their grounding negativity explodes. The identity of the opposites does not mean here that, in an idealist way, the inner spirit “generates” external obstacles which appear as accidental: external accidents which cause wars are genuinely accidental, the point is that, as such, they “echo” the innermost negativity that is the core of subjectivity.Notes
1. Quoted from http://london.sonoma.edu/Writings/MartinEden/.
2. All passages from Hegel’s Philosophy of Right are quoted from http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/prindex.htm.
3. Quoted from http://marxists.catbull.com/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/index.htm.
4. K.Chesterton, Orthodoxy, San Francisco: Ignatius Press 1995, p. 116.
5. Jean-Pierre Dupuy, La marque du sacre, Paris: Carnets Nord 2008.
6. See Claude Lefort, Essais sur le politique, Paris: Editions du Seuil 1986.
7. See Slavoj Žižek, Looking Awry, Cambridge (Ma): MIT Press 1991.
8. Quoted from Stathis Gourgouris, Does Literature Think?, Stanford: Stanford University Press 2003, 179.
9. I am here fully solidary with Benjamin Noys who, in his The Persistence of the Negative (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 2010), emphasizes and deploys the link between the vicissitudes of the “purely philosophical” notion of negativity and the shifts and impasses of the radical politics: when one talks on negativity, politics is never far behind.
10. One can even establish a link between Hegel’s residual anti-Semitism and his inability to think pure repetition: when he gives way to his displeasure with the Jews who stubbornly stick to their identity, instead of “moving forward” and, like other nations, allowing their identity to be sublated /aufgehoben/ in historical progress, is his displeasure not caused by the perception that Jews remain caught in the repetition of the same?
11. I rely here on Frank Ruda’s Hegel’s Rabble. An Investigation into Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, New York: Continuum 2011.
12. I owe this formulation to Mladen Dolar.
13. Jacques Lacan, “Le troisieme,” Lettres d’Ecole freudienne de Paris, No 16 (1975), p. 187.
14. Quoted from Hegel, op.cit.
15. Ruda, op.cit., p. 132.
16. Op.cit., ibid.
17. Rebecca Comay, Mourning Sickness. Hegel and the French Revolution, Stanford: Stanford University Press 2011, p. 141. Numbers in brackets refer to the pages of this book.
18. Georg W. F. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, p. 26–27.
19. See Elisabeth Lloyd, The Case of the Female Orgasm, Cambridge: Harvard University Press 2006.
20. Hegel died a year after the French revolution of 1830.
21. Quoted from Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, New York: HarperCollins 2001, 95.