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Slavoj Žižek “Resistance Is Surrender”

November 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Žižek, Slavoj 2007. Resistance Is Surrender: What to Do about Capitalism. – London Review of Books Vol. 29 No. 22. (http://www.lrb.co.uk/v29/n22/slavoj-zizek/resistance-is-surrender).

The big demonstrations in London and Washington against the US attack on Iraq a few years ago offer an exemplary case of this strange symbiotic relationship between power and resistance. Their paradoxical outcome was that both sides were satisfied. The protesters saved their beautiful souls: they made it clear that they don’t agree with the government’s policy on Iraq. Those in power calmly accepted it, even profited from it: not only did the protests in no way prevent the already-made decision to attack Iraq; they also served to legitimise it. Thus George Bush’s reaction to mass demonstrations protesting his visit to London, in effect: ‘You see, this is what we are fighting for, so that what people are doing here – protesting against their government policy – will be possible also in Iraq!’

The lesson here is that the truly subversive thing is not to insist on ‘infinite’ demands we know those in power cannot fulfil. Since they know that we know it, such an ‘infinitely demanding’ attitude presents no problem for those in power: ‘So wonderful that, with your critical demands, you remind us what kind of world we would all like to live in. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, where we have to make do with what is possible.’ The thing to do is, on the contrary, to bombard those in power with strategically well-selected, precise, finite demands, which can’t be met with the same excuse.

Slavoj Žižek “Organs without Bodies”

October 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Žižek, Slavoj 2004. Organs without Bodies: Deleuze and Consequences. New York and London: Routledge

DELEUZE

The reality of the virtual […] stands for the reality of the Virtual as such, for its real effects and consequences. (3)

[…] the Deleuzian „transcendental“ is infinitely RICHER than reality – it is the infinite potential field of virtualitie out of which reality is actualized. (4)

[…] Deleuze’s notion of the virtual is a radical one in that its ultimate reference is pure becoming without being (as opposed to the metaphysical notion of pure being without becoming). This pure becoming is not a particular becoming of some corporeal entity, a passage of this entity from one to another state, but a becoming-of-it-itself, thoroughly extracted from its corporeal base. (9)

Foucault-Deleuze (10)

The moments of the emergence of the New are precisely the moments of Eternity in time. The emergence of the New occurs when a work overcomes its historical context. (11)

Becoming is […] strictly correlative to the concept of REPETITION: far from being opposed to the emergence of the New, the proper Deleuzian paradox is that something truly New can only emerge through repetition. What repetition repeats is not the way the past “effectively was” but the virtuality inherent to the past and betrayed by its past actualization. (12)

The truly New is not simply a new content but the very shift of perspective by means of which the Old appears in a new light. […] The standard opposition of the abstract Universal (say, Human Rights) and particular identities is to be replaced by a new tension between Singular and Universal: the Event of the New as a universal singularity. (14-15)

Perhaps the core of Deleuze’s concept of repetition is the idea that, in contrast to the mechanical (not machinic!) repetition of linear causality, in a proper instance of repetition, the repeated event is re-created in a radical sense: it (re)emerges every time as New […] (15)

[…] the true problem is not “How, if at all, could machines imitate the human mind?” but “How does the very identity of human mind rely on external mechanical supplements? How does it incorporate machines?” (16)

(1)   on the one hand, the logic of sense, of the immaterial becoming as the sense-event, as the EFFECT of bodily-material processes-causes, the logic of the radical gap between generative process and its immaterial sense-effect […]

(2)   on the other hand, the logic of becoming as PRODUCTION of Beings […] (21)

Either the Sense-Event, the flow of pure Becoming, is the immaterial effect (neutral, neither active nor passive) of the intrication of bodily-material causes or the positive bodily entities are themselves the product of the pure flow of Becoming. Either the infinite field of virtuality is an immaterial effect of the interacting bodies or the bodies themselves emerge, actualize themselves, from this field of virtuality. (22)

Insofar as the incorporeal Event is a pure affect (an impassive-neutral-sterile result), and insofar as something New (a new Event, an Event of/as the New) can emerge only if the chain of its corporeal causes is not complete, one should postulate, over and above the network of corporeal causes, a pure, transcendental, capacity to affect. This is also why Lacan appreciated so much the Logic of Sense: is the Deleuzian quasi cause not the exact equivalent of Lacan’s objet petit a, this pure, immaterial, spectral entity that serves as the object-cause of desire? (27)

Against this “idealist” stance, one should stick to Badiou’s thesis on mathematics as the only adequate ontology, the only science of pure Being: the meaningless Real of the pure multitude, the vast infinite coldness of the Void. In Deleuze, Difference refers to the multiple singularities that express the One of infinite Life, whereas, with Badiou, we get multitude(s) without any underlying Oneness. (29)

[…] affects are not something that belong to a subject and are then passed over to another subject; affects function at the preindividual level, as free floating intensities that belong to no one and circulate at the level “beneath” intersubjectivity. This is what is so new about imitation afecti: the idea that affects circulate directly, as what psychoanalysis calls “partial objects”. (35)

This is what Hegel’s motto “one should conceive the Absolute not only as Substance, but also as Subject” means: “subject” is the name for a crack in the edifice of being. (45)

We are […] within the very heart of the problem of freedom: the only way to save freedom is through this short circuit between epistemology and ontology – the moment we reduce our process of knowledge to a proves external to the thing itself, to an endless approximation to the thing, freedom is lost, because “reality” is conceived of as a completed, positive order of Being, as a full and exhaustive ontological domain. (58 – of Kant)

The “ultimate fact” of Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism is the absolute immanence of the continuous flux of pure becoming, while the “ultimate fact” of Hegel is the irreducible rupture of/in immanence. (60)

Therein resides Hegel’s true lesson: immanence generates the specter of transcendence because it is already inconsistent in itself. […] immanence is not an immediate fact but the result that occurs when transcendence is sacrificed and falls back into immanence. (61)

(1)   First, truth is posited as the inaccessible Beyond, something that can only be approached, something that the subject always misses;

(2)   Then, the accent shifts to the psychoanalytic notion of truth as intervening in the moments of slips and distortions, in the interstices of “ordinary” discourse: truth erupts when the continuous line of our speech gets interrupted and perturbed;

(3)   Finally, we arrive at a third position, that of moi, la verité, je parle. The shift from subject to object is crucial here. It is not that what the subject says is true – it is truth itself which speaks, which turns from predicate (a qualification of subject’s statements) to subject (of enunciation). It is here that Truth turns into an “organ without a body” that starts to speak. (63)

[…] the “object” that starts to speak is the object that stands for the lack/inconsistency in the big Other, for the fact that the big Other doesn’t exist. “I, truth, speak” does not mean that through me, the big metaphysical Truth itself speaks, but means that the inconsistencies and slips of my speech directly connect to the inconsistencies and the non-all of the Truth itself. (63-64)

What this means is that the true task of thought is to think together the notion of the “object which speaks” and the inexistence of the big Other. “I, truth, speak” does not involve the magic overcoming of skepticism and uncertainty but involves the transposition of this uncertainty into truth itself. (64)

[…] “transcendence” is a kind of perspective illusion, the way we (mis)perceive the gap/discord that inheres to immanence itself. In the same way, the tension between the Same and the Other is secondary with regard to the noncoincidence of the Same with itself. (65)

Instead of demonstrating how “there is nothing that is not political,” one should rather focus on the opposed question: how is it that Being itself is political, how is our ontological space structured so that nothing can escape being tainted by the political? The answer, of course – or, rather, one of the answers – would be the above-described structure of the gap dividing the One from within, the inherent doublure, as the most elementary ontological fact. (67-68)

This, then, is what Deleuze seems to get wrong in his reduction of the subject to (just another) substance. Far from belonging to the level of actualization, of distinct entities in the order of constituted reality, the dimension of the “subject” designates the reemergence of the virtual within the order of actuality. “Subject” names the unique space of the explosion of virtuality within constituted reality. (68)

Subject thus relates to substance exactly like Becoming versus Being: subject is the “absolute unrest of Becoming (absolute Unruhe des Werdens)” (i.e., a state of things conceived from the perspective of its genesis). (69 – Hegel)

Foucault-Deleuze II (71): […] in Foucault, power is the encompassing unity of itself and its opposite (i.e., the resistance to itself), whereas in Deleuze, desire is the encompassing unity of itself and its “repression” (i.e., its negating force).

Revolution is not the assertion of spontaneity and rejection of every discipline but the radical redefinition of what counts as true spontaneity or discipline. (73)

[…] for something to exist, it has to rely on something that stands out, that disturbs the balance. (74)

[…] virtualization and actualization are two sides of the same coin: actuality constitutes itself when a VIRTUAL (symbolic) supplement is added to the pre-ontological real. In other words, the very extraction of the virtual from the real (“symbolic castration”) constitutes reality – actual reality is the real filtered through the virtual. The function of the quasi cause is therefore inherently contradictory. Its task is, at one and the same time, to perform a push toward actualization (endowing multiplicities with a minimum of actuality) and to counter actualization by way of extracting virtual events from the corporeal processes that are their causes. One should conceive of these two aspects as identical. The properly Hegelian paradox at work here is that the only way for a virtual to actualize itself is to be supplemented by another virtual feature. (84-85)

[…] sexuality can universalize itself only by way of desexualisation, only by undergoing a kind of transubstantiation in which it changes into a supplement-connotation of the neutral, asexual literal sense. (91)

[…] psychoanalysis (and Deleuze) allows us to formulate a paradoxical phenomenology without a subject – phenomena arise that are not phenomena of a subject, appearing to it. This does not mean that the subject is not involved here – it is, but, precisely, in the mode of EXCLUSION, as the negative agency that is not able to assume these phenomena. (96)

Badiou-Deleuze-Laclau (107)

The materialist solution is thus that the Event is nothing but its own inscription into the order of Being, a cut/rupture in the order of Being on account of which Being cannot ever form a consistent All. (107) – all there is is the ontological nonclosure of the order of being (Badiou)

CONSEQUENCES

1: Science: Cognitivism with Freud

We subjects are passively affected by pathological objects and motivations; but, in a reflexive way, we ourselves have the minimal power to accept (or reject) being affected in this way. Or, to risk a Deleuze-Hegelian formulation, the subject is a fold of reflexivity by means of which I retroactively determine the causes allowed to determine me, or, at least, the mode of this linear determination. “Freedom” is thus inherently retroactive. (112)

[…] one should paradoxically claim that this assertion of the excess of the effect over its cause, of the possibility of freedom, is the fundamental assertion of Deleuze’s materialism. That is to say, the point is not just that there is an immaterial excess over the material reality of multiple bodies but that this excess is immanent to the level of the bodies themselves. If we subtract this immaterial excess, we do not get “pure reductionist materialism” but instead get a covert idealism. No wonder that Descartes, the first to formulate the tenets of modern scientific materialism, was also the first to formulate the basic modern idealist principle of subjectivity: “There is a fully constituted material reality of bodies and nothing else” is effectively an idealist position. (113)

A self is precisely an entity without any substantial density, without any hard kernel that would guarantee its consistency. […] The consistency of the self is thus purely virtual; it is as if it were an Inside that appears only when viewed from the Outside, on the interface-screen […] The Self is not the “inner-kernel” of an organism but a surface-effect. A “true” human Self functions, in a sense, like a computer screen: what is “behind” it is nothing but a network of “selfless” neuronal machinery. (117)

The Deleuzian topic of pseudo cause can thus be correlated to the Hegelian notion of the (retroactive) positing of presuppositions; the direct causality is that of the real interaction of bodies, whereas the pseudo causality is that of retroactively positing the agent’s presuppositions, of ideally assuming what is already imposed on the agent. (119)

A (self)conscious living being displays what Hegel calls the infinite power of Understanding, of abstract (and abstracting) thought – it is able, in its thoughts, to tear apart the organic Whole of Life, to submit it to a mortifying analysis, to reduce the organism to its isolated elements. (Self)Consciousness thus reintroduces the dimension of DEATH into organic Life: language itself is a mortifying “mechanism” that colonizes the Organism. (120)

There is no real Other out there, but there is nonetheless the fiction of the big Other that enables us to avoid the horror of being alone. (129)

The “postsecular” striving to formulate the “limits of disenchantment” all to quickly accepts the premise that the inherent logic of Enlightenment ends up in the total scientific self-objectivization of humanity, in the transformation of humans into available objects of scientific manipulation, so that the only way to retain human dignity is to salvage religious legacy by way of translating it into a modern idiom. Against this temptation, it is crucial to insist to the end in the project of Enlightenment. Enlightenment remains an “unfisihed project” that has to be brought to its end, and this end is not the total scientific self-objectivization but – this wager has to be taken – a new figure of freedom that will emerge when we follow the logic of science to the end. (133) – faced with the genome, I am nothing, and this nothing is the subject itself.

About Dennet’s dangerous idea of Darwin – 138

The initial move of a human being is not thought, reflexive distance, but the “fetishization” of a partial moment into an autonomous goal: the elevation of pleasure into jouissance – a deadly excess of enjoyment as the goal-in-itself. (143)

2: Art: Talking Heads

When we see ourselves “from outside”, from this impossible point, the traumatic feature is not that I am objectivized, reduced to an external object for the gaze, but, rather, that it is my gaze itself that is objectivized, which observes me from the outside, which, precisely, means that my gaze is no longer mine, that it is stolen from me. (155)

This, precisely, is what revolutionary cinema should be doing: using the camera as a partial object, as an “eye” torn from the subject and freely thrown around […] (154)

The gaze is not simply transfixed by the emergence of the excessive-unbearable Thing. Rather, it is, that the Thing (what we perceive as the traumatic-elusive point of attraction in the space of reality) is the very point at which the gaze inscribes itself into reality, the point at which the subject encounters itself as gaze. (163)

What, then, does it mean, exactly, that the (partial) object itself starts to speak? It is not that this object is subjectless but that this object is the correlate of the “pure” subject prior to subjectivization. Subjectivization refers to the “whole person” as the correlate of the body, whereas the “pure” subject refers to the partial object alone. When the object starts to speak, what we hear is the voice of the monstrous, impersonal, empty-machinic subject that does not yet involve subjectivization […] if we take “subject” as the starting point, there are two opposites to it: its contrary (counterpart) is, of course, “object”, but, its “contradiction” is a “person” (the “pathological” wealth of inner life as opposed to the void of pure subjectivity). In a symmetrical way, the opposite counterpart to a “person” is a “thing”, and its “contradiction” is the subject. “Thing” is something embedded in a concrete life-world, in which the entire wealth of the meaning of the life-world echoes, while “object” is an “abstraction”, something extracted from its embeddedness in the life-world. (174-175)

The key point here is that the subject is not the correlate of “thing” (or, more precisely, a “body”). The person dwells in a body while the subject is the correlate of a (partial object), of an organ without a body. […] One should thus reject the topic of the personality, a soul-body unity, as the organic Whole dismembered in the process of reification-alienation: the subject emerges out of the person as the product of the violent reduction of the person’s body to a partial object. (175)

It is only the “transcendental” Lacan (the Lacan of the symbolic Law that constitutes human desire by way of prohibiting access to the noumenal maternal Thing) who can be said to invoke a democratic politics that, in the same way that every positive object of desire falls short of the void of the absolute-impossible Thing, asserts that every positive political agent just fills in the void at the center of power. (176)

It is only within this distance that subjectivization proper can take place: what makes me a “human subject” is the very fact that I cannot be reduced to my symbolic identity, that I display a wealth of idiosyncratic features. (179)

3: Politics: A Plea for Cultural Revolution

Deleuze’s account of fascism is that, although subjects as individuals can rationally perceive that it is against their interests to follow it, it seizes them precisely at the impersonal level of pure intensities: “abstract” bodily motions, libidinally invested collective rhythmic movements, affects of hatred and passion that cannot be attributed to any determinate individual. It is thus the impersonal level of pure affects that sustains fascism, not the level of represented and constituted reality. (188)

[…] the struggle for liberation is not reducible to a struggle for the “right to narrate”, to the struggle of deprived marginal groups to freely articulate their position, or, as Deleuze puts it when answering and interviewer’s question, “You are asking if societies of control and information will not give rise to forms of resistance capable of again giving a chance to communism conceived as a ‘transversal organization of free individuals’. I don’t know, perhaps. But this will not be insofar as minorities will be able to acquire speech. Perhaps, speech and communication are rotten … To create was always something else than to communicate.” (190)

In immaterial production, the products are no longer material objects but new social (interpersonal) relations themselves. It was already Marx who emphasized how material production is always also the (re)production of the social relations within which it occurs; with today’s capitalism however, the production of social relations is the immediate end/goal of production. The wager of Hardt and Negri is that this directly socialized, immaterial production not only renders owners progressively superfluous […]; the producers also master the regulation of social space, since social relations (politics) is the stuff of their work. The way is thus open for “absolute democracy”, for the producers directly regulating their social relations without even the detour of democratic representation. (196)

As Claude Lefort and others amply demonstrated, democracy is never simply representative in the sense of adequately re-presenting (expressing) a preexisting set of interests, opinions, and so forth since these interests and opinions are constituted only through such representation. In other words, the democratic articulation of an interest is always minimally performative: through their democratic representatives people establish what their interests and opinions are. As Hegel already knew, “absolute democracy” could actualize itself only in the guise of its “oppositional determination”, as terror. There is, thus, a choice to be made here: do we accept democracy’s structural, not just accidental, imperfection, or do we also endorse its terroristic dimension? (197)

The tautological repetition […] signals the urge to repeat the negation, to relate it to itself – the true revolution is “revolution with revolution”, a revolution that, in its course, revolutionizes its own starting presuppositions. (210-211)

[…] in a radical revolution, people not only “realize their old (emancipatory, etc.) dreams”; rather, they have to reinvent their very modes of dreaming. Is this not the exact formula of the link between death drive and sublimation? It is only this reference to what happens after the revolution, to the “morning after”, that allows us to distinguish between libertarian pathetic outbursts and true revolutionary upheavals. These upheavals lose their energy when one has to approach the prosaic work of social reconstruction – at this point, lethargy sets in. In contrast to it, recall the immense creativity of the Jacobins just prior to their fall, the numerous proposals about new civic religion, about how to sustain the dignity of old people, and so on. (211-212)

With the full deployment of capitalism, especially today’s “late capitalism”, it is the predominant “normal” life itself that, in a way, gets “carnivalized”, with its constant self-revolutionizing, its reversals, crises, reinventions, so that it is the critique of capitalism, from a “stable” ethical position, that more and more appears today as an exception. How, then, are we to revolutionize an order whose very principle is constant self-revolutionizing? Perhaps, this is the question today. (213)