[-empyre-] Perforated Identites

Michael Angelo Tata, PhD mtata at ipublishingllc.com
Tue Apr 7 07:50:09 EST 2009

Unless, of course, we view the void as constitutive, in the manner of Sartre, yet outside the dialectics of a gaze under which subjects do battle.  I also wonder if Lacan can be reversed such that the splitting of my subjectivity is the occasion for joy, not guilt: how wonderful that I can never coincide with myself, that there will always be an excessiveness to my existence (as opposed to: How awful!  I am incomplete!  The Big Other is gonna get me.).


PS--Is Courbet on your Zizek jacket, Davin?  Mine is too tame to display genitalia so liberally and ostentatiously.  This is the image I'm thinking of:



Michael Angelo Tata, PhD  347.776.1931-USA


> Date: Mon, 6 Apr 2009 13:58:29 -0400
> From: davinheckman at gmail.com
> To: empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] Perversities
> The Abraham/Isaac story is interesting because if you were Abraham,
> this would indeed be a perverse proposition:
> God: "Go and kill your son."
> Abe: "Gee, God, do I have to?"
> God: "Of course. Now get him, drag up the hill, and kill him. It's a
> sacrifice."
> Abe: "OK. Isaac, get your pocket knife, we are going camping."
> Isaac: "Aww, Pa. You're the best!"
> Later that day...
> Abe: "Isaac, go lay on this rock and close your eyes. Oh, give me
> your pocket knife."
> Isaac: "OK, dad."
> God: "Abraham, I was just checking to see if you'd do it. Here's a
> ram. Kill that instead. No hard feelings, I hope."
> Incidentally, this kind of basic reading is really what a lot of folks
> get hung up on, both Christian and non. Fundamentalists will say the
> message is this: "See, you just have to do whatever God says, even
> kill your son. Or God will kill you." For Abraham, the story is a
> cruel joke. For everyone else, it is actually the opposite. It says,
> even if you think God is trying to tell you to kill your son, you
> really don't have to. You can just kill a ram, instead. Of course,
> it is all more figurative than that.... but that is the kind of
> central message... I suppose... of the whole redemption myth of
> Christianity.
> In a sense, there is something perverse about a number of the things
> that we associate with "the good" (whether we think of it in Christian
> terms or not). Gift giving always has to happen as an "exceptional
> instance" within the dominant order of things (unless you give with
> the expectation of compensation, in which case it is no longer a
> gift). Forgiveness, in order to be forgiveness, has to go beyond the
> sort of rational tit-for-tat that we associate with things like
> settlements, remediation, etc. Charity has to be given freely and
> without economic benefit to the giver--tax deductible "donations" to
> lobbying groups dedicated to tax "reform" don't count. In our case,
> these acts of goodness are considered to be exceptional to the
> workings of the market. (Consider even the glib dismissals of
> intellectuals on cable news and talk radio: "They are just writing
> about this to sell books! You are just trying to promote your career,
> you academic elitist!"... spoken by millionaire propagandists.... as
> if it would be perverse for an intellectual to criticize anything for
> altruistic reasons).
> I think there is some fertile ground for poststructuralists scholars
> here in the sense that we have a pretty well-developed, materialist,
> but anti-essentialist norm for human behavior under technocapitalism,
> especially in its late stage varieties. We have very thoroughly
> shaken, if not partially dismantled, any rational basis for
> metaphysical claims. With such a coherent norm in place--wealth is
> the measure of all things, and that wealth itself is relative,
> differential--you'd think it would be fairly easy to cling to this
> norm and follow it happily. Narratives historically have provided a
> sense of coherence and purpose in life. Yet people are absolutely
> miserable with this norm. All the "good" things that we can think of
> tend to be exceptions to this norm, rather than exemplifications of
> it. Even the happy story of a person who got rich usually is an
> account of an unlikely person (someone just like us) who made it.
> Does this mean that we are so disillusioned that we lack even faith in
> capitalism? Or, does it mean that most people are perverts, that we
> have always been perverts, and that whatever new good idea comes up,
> we will always idealize its obverse? Or does it mean that "goodness"
> is something real, and that it is not embodied in a morally neutral
> nexus like that of materialism?
> To get back to a question that Nick raised... the question of
> nothingness at the heart of religion (and the Courbet painting on the
> jacket of Zizek's book), I think you are right. I think that religion
> does look at the void and falls back into community. I think the
> central question of "faith" is always juxtaposed to this doubt. If we
> consider the poststructuralist turn as an empirical account of
> "original sin," and then look at some of the more recent responses
> coming from contemporary theory... it has strong parallels with
> religion. You have this sense that human life is doomed to
> uncertainty, indeterminacy, meaninglessness--that we have fallen. But
> then you have this desire to say, well, maybe if we pursue the meaning
> of life from the rational perspective of the human individual, we come
> up empty. But, if we pursue the meaning of life from the rational
> perspective of the community, perhaps it is possible to arrive at some
> sense of certainty, determination, and meaning that is grounded in the
> consensual understanding of the community (even if it is fleeting).
> At once, we must "sacrifice" the will of the individual, but we are
> "saved" from the void. It requires a certain "faith," of course. It
> begets certain rituals. And it creates an inerrant "word."
> I think this question of making something out of nothing is something
> inherently "good"--even if it can have a variety of bad aspects and
> effects. The underlying impulse to make something is utopian. I
> think that people are creative, in general, and consequently take
> great pride in filling voids. There is a tendency we have inherited
> from Freud to see voids and the things that fill them in gendered
> terms, and from there to extrapolate this into a variety of abstract
> directions, many of which tend to be viewed through the lens of
> psychopathology and patriarchy. Hence, many like a philosophy that
> stops at the void, but never tries to fill it at the risk of becoming
> "phallogocentric"... but in erecting an empty void as the object of
> wonder and meaning... We still are situating something there. Trying
> to put something in the ultimate nothing. (Imagine the irony of being
> the last philosopher to leave your mark on the void.) But, honestly,
> I think that all people, regardless of gender, want to make
> things--make meaning, make art, make money, make love, make babies,
> whatever--and I think they want to make things in excess of zero sum
> game systems. As a result, we can destroy the world through
> overproduction and overconsumption. We believe in a capitalism that
> can grow forever. We want to write and have fun and do all these
> things. We want to be famous. Whatever.
> And in spite of what we want, we also know we are going to die. The
> ethical issue I suppose is how do we keep on enjoying this excessive
> spirit... how do we extend it to as many people as possible.... how
> do we celebrate it? How do we do it without killing ourselves and
> everyone and everything else?
> Davin
> On Mon, Apr 6, 2009 at 3:54 AM, Michael Angelo Tata, PhD
> <mtata at ipublishingllc.com> wrote:
> > I think the point might be that Christianity can only be defended
> > perversely.  Even if we stick with Kierkegaard's analysis of the
> > Abraham/Isaac story, and with what Derrida does with it in his ethical
> > investigation into the “economic” meaning of the gift, I can only fulfill my
> > obligations as Christian by defying the ethical code to which I am
> > beholden.  If I only follow the equivalent of Kant's categorical imperative,
> > I fail in executing my duty, since my truest duty of all is to risk being
> > ejected from a social and even religious order by giving in to the absolute
> > responsibility I owe the Other.  I am irreplaceable, and my acts do not have
> > to be replicable by all or any: my responsibility is not general or generic.
> >
> >
> >
> > Zizek's perversity is not necessarily Derrida's, or Kierkegaard's, as his
> > involves my phantasmic relation to the Absolute, whose very fragility gives
> > birth to its sublimity.  In essence the Absolute needs me, in my singularity
> > and finitude, and hence displays a surprising fragility.  If anything, Zizek
> > calls to the fore the profoundly Judeo-Christian character of psychoanalytic
> > discourse in general, and I appreciate the risk he takes at formulating his
> > own ethical position on the matter.  That Courbet’s L’origine du Monde has a
> > central role in Zizek’s defense of the Christian legacy is as perverse as
> > perversity can get.
> >
> >
> >
> > I am not sure how to bring these reflections back around to the Market, free
> > trade, or the housing crisis, but I'm sure there's a way.  Any ideas?
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > *******************************************
> > Michael Angelo Tata, PhD  347.776.1931-USA
> > http://www.MichaelAngeloTata.com/
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >> Date: Sun, 5 Apr 2009 11:08:53 -0500
> >> From: jtabbi at gmail.com
> >> To: empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> >> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] entanglement
> >>
> >> A belated word, regarding 'worth.'
> >>
> >> As Jeff notes, it's a Holy Grail and likely to remain one because if
> >> the 'real worth' of commodities were ever determined, that would be
> >> the end of markets as we know them today.
> >>
> >> Imagine that the dollar value of commodities could be known precisely,
> >> and suppose this knowledge could be circulated immediately and
> >> accurately, and suppose also that the kind of analytical instruments
> >> used by disciplined traders were available to everyone. Further,
> >> suppose that political conditions were stable, and not only stable but
> >> more or less hands off so that trading could carry on relatively
> >> freely, without protections or government interventions that skew the
> >> market.
> >>
> >> (Jeff you're right, I am fond of utopian scenarios: they're good for
> >> thought-experiments.)
> >>
> >> I imagine, fairly soon, the temptations to gamble would decrease, and
> >> the field would be left to disciplined professionals free to
> >> participate in a self-regulating market. Capital would flow toward
> >> industries grounded in real productive capacity. Inequalities would be
> >> greatly lessened but in this ideal case, wouldn't the low level of
> >> profits make the capitalist game entirely uninteresting to producers
> >> and traders?
> >>
> >> Wouldn't a totally free and totally transparent market, and the
> >> removal of barriers to trade, also remove the basic social
> >> underpinnings of the market system?
> >>
> >> Unlike that town in Germany (where the bank really was robbed after a
> >> TV documentary), Global free trade is not just my own or the media's
> >> utopian fiction. Globalization is a narrative that has gained
> >> worldwide traction (in admittedly less than ideal circumstances but
> >> when are economic conditions ever ideal?). One could mark the
> >> beginning of the experiment with the inauguration of a global
> >> neo-liberal turn during the time of Reagan, Thatcher, Pinochet, and
> >> Deng (to name just the four world leaders pictured on the paperback
> >> cover of Harvey's Brief History of Neo-liberalism). (Harvey's title,
> >> by the way, always struck me as cutting two ways: the book, under 200
> >> pages, is a 'brief history,' but Harvey's hope and expectation is that
> >> the history of Neoliberalism itself will be relatively brief, in the
> >> overall 500-year-plus duration of modern capitalism.)
> >>
> >> Whether that history turns out to be an anomaly or the end or the
> >> fulfilment of capital's Longue Duree, global neo-liberalism is
> >> decidedly not a history of 'free trade.' “In principle,” Wallerstein
> >> writes, “in a capitalist world-economy the virtual market exists in
> >> the world as a whole. But ... there are often interferences with these
> >> boundaries, creating narrower and more ‘protected’ markets.” Like all
> >> perpetual-motion machines, the totally free market functions only “as
> >> an ideology, a myth, a constraining influence, but never as a
> >> day-to-day reality.” (World-Systems Analysis)
> >>
> >> There will always be utopias and Holy Grails, and there will always be
> >> governmental interferences (or, where governments are week, black
> >> markets organized by other, more directly violent means). The
> >> available options seem, to me, not to do without protections and
> >> interventions, but to determine what KIND of interventions people can
> >> live with. Of course, much depends on WHO is involved in these
> >> decisions, whose interests are represented, which economists are
> >> listened to, and which networks can be used to advance which agendas.
> >>
> >> A pleasant Sunday morning to everyone - on this day away that remains
> >> one of the legacies of an earlier, Christian era of captial's
> >> development. (And Michael: part of me, maybe a seventh part, is
> >> convinced by Zizek's "perverse" defense of Christianity.)
> >>
> >> Joseph
> >> _______________________________________________
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> >> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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