nikki moore

Posts Tagged ‘Jacques Lacan’

repetition and difference

In Uncategorized on June 11, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Difference and Repetition[1]

I am reading this, these, books again and to aid memory, (short circuit thinking?) I am throwing a few notes out here, below.

“repetition is not generality”  Introduction, page 1, line 1

an interesting negative start.  an inverted heideggerian beginning?  rather than following a path only to say ‘ah, but we know better…’ deleuze gives it all away up front.  this is work of/on specificity.  Singularity. 

“to repeat is to behave in a certain manner, but in relation to something unique or singular which has no equal or equivalent.”  Introduction, page 1

whether this book is about the business of undoing umbrella terminology in its most insipid appearances or otherwise, whatever was at stake for deleuze, the text makes at least one thing clear: repetition is not generality.  what it is, what it might be is a behavior.  a certain behavior.  and not inconsequentially, repetition is a relation.  we can think this relation in human terms, mathematical terms or via language… this is only a start to suggestions, certainly not a sufficient list.  difference and repetition moves straight away to poetry:

“the repetition of a work of art is like a singularity without concept, and it is not by chance that a poem must be learned by heart.  the head is the organ of exchange, but the heart is the amorous organ of repetition” Introduction, pages 1-2

singularity without concept.   behavior with-out habit.  recognition without resemblance.  as jouissance for no one, each movement, each repetition is the appearing of something different.  point being: there is no big Other, no entitler of meaning here.  repetition is the appearing of the impossible in that no two things, outside of representation (or rather beneath it’s heavy burden) are ever truly repeated. 

how (or rather when) to say that we are treading shared and un-common turf?  clearly we are in the domain of derrida’s work on iterability, on differance, yet as difference makes clear we are never in a recurrence of the same.  Something shifts.  More on this to come…

for now, then, on to law.  if generality ‘belongs to the order of the law’ and “Law unites the change of the water with the permanence of the river”… law, meaning, signification are always blanket terms.  false in their generalizing blindness, but true in their adopted effects.  law, whatever definition you give to it, requires the illusion of constancy.  it requires times and places of equivalence wherein dictums can be applied and reapplied across circumstances, spectrums and specificities. 

“if repetition is possible it is due to miracle, not to law”  introduction, page 2

how to think the miracle and why to think miracle when thinking repetition?

if miracles are ever the question or the problem, they are so in their understood nomination as law breakers.  outlaws.  that or those that do not abide by the laws of the land.  is repetition then, on the side of the outlaws, as that which broaches and breaks the boundaries instilled by law?  yet the quote above does not draw an equivalence between repetition and miracle, it implies, instead something like debt:  “if repetition is possible it is due to miracle”.  what evolves in thinking repetition as indebted, (due to), miracle when thinking miracle as rigorously out-law? 

or rather, what devolves?  from lacan’s master signifier to althusser and judith butler on the interpellated subject (see past post), what the miracle undresses and will not underwrite is the subject derived by law – paternal, moral or natural.

“if repetition is possible, it is as much opposed to moral law as it is to natural law.” page 5

law as stabilizer, law as guarantor on the debt imbued subject, none of these make their appearance in the court(ing) of repetition.  because equality loses its terms, its definition, when no two things are equal.  when difference is and is all there is.  which is not to say that deleuze’s worlds are entirely groundless.  he is a structuralist, after (and in it) all.


[1] Given by Sagi Cohen, read with John Cochran: the title belongs to all and none.

safely beyond the risk of repeating myself…

In ritual, Subjection on May 6, 2009 at 7:59 pm

between fish’s review of terry eagleton’s ‘Reason, Faith and Revolution’ , larval subject’s discussion thereof yesterday and today, not to mention The Politics of Love, (with Hardt, Zizek, Westphal, Hent De Vries and others speaking) which I recently attended in Syracuse you might say we’re taking part in an a.tent.ion revival of and to all things theological.  from lacan and zizek on the neighbor, the undead, the truly terrifying in aspects of Christianity to Simon Critchley and Alain Badiou’s interests in the revolution generating potential of faiths… we are, i suppose, all on our knees… looking for an answer, or 3.

on my knees (or on my back?) as it is and as it were, i’m still working through ritual.  searching, undecided – you could call me a sunshine soldier of sorts… for today, i’m pushing on and look forward to your comments on Seligman et al’s book Ritual and its Consequences: An essay on the limits of sincerity.  

chapter 2: ‘ambiguity, ambivalence and boundaries’

first boundaries – it could be said and has been said that western civilization is fundamentally built on an ongoing extermination of its others (see: exterminate all the brutes, by sven lindqvist).  if anything, or rather, among many things, what lindqvists’ work points out is that for any communities we might hope to foster or construct or…, an awareness not only of the other but an at least more permeable and less genocidal boundary between ‘us and them’ would be the first order of business.   Seligman, et al enter this debate as follows:

…in this chapter we address those capacities of the human mind that allow the ‘as if’ world of ritual to come into being and to persist.  the ‘as if’ quality in turn allows ritual to deal with the ambiguities and ambivalence in interactions with unseen and influential beings, especially deities.  In dealing with ambiguities, ritual engages boundaries: boundaries are crossed, violated, blurred, and then, in an oscillating way, reaffirmed, reestablished, and strengthened. Among the paradoxes that attend the performance of ritual is the paradox that ritual plays out a completion, a closure that solves the problem at hand.  Yet, at the same time the very nature of the repetitiveness of ritual implicitly shows that the problem is not solved once and for all, that all is not complete and perfect.  (Ritual and It’s Consequences, p. 43)

there is much to attend to in this quote, but let’s begin with the deities, quasi-mysterious unseen and yet influential.  from here we could go in still many more directions, but to keep this within an immanent framework, i am proposing a link between these deities and Zizek’s concept of the neighbor, and/or Lacan’s Big Other, even potentially to Levinas’ ‘third’.  this is a gloss on something i’ll develop more deeply later, but when we think radical otherness, surely ‘god’ is at the top of that list.  modes of relating to that radical other that have instituted in religious contexts may (though certainly they do not necessarily) provide options for relating to the Other next door.  more needs to be done here, clearly…

too quickly, then, our next move through the above Seligman et al quote is to see the way that ritual engages boundaries.  and not simply known boundaries.  through blurring and oscillating known boundaries, incompletion arises as given and repetition echos and enhances this incompletion and openness.  weeks (months from now?) when this dissertation moves on to Derrida and iterability, this may become more (ironically) clear.

taking ritual out of its traditional background in religious practice, Seligman et al look to clinical psychoanalysis and the social sciences for examples of ritualized boundary play:  jokes, riddles, storytelling, lying, mythmaking and art are just such play-grounds at work.  recalling bed-time story time between a father and child helps layout both what is operative and what exceeds ritual in the process of boundary setting, testing and ongoing dissolution:

The little boy sits on his father’s lap, holding his favorite stuffed animal, while the father reads a story to him, the child having gone through the ritual of which book to read (it always turns out to be only one or two out of a large number of possibilities).  The father reads “Jack and the Beanstalk” and must read it the same way each time, but either father or child can make some variation if the other consents to it, usually done in a slightly teasing or playful manner.   The little boy and/or father might accentuate in  voice or gesture one or another of the characters… but it has to be in a particular way, with a particular verbal and nonverbal formula.  a videotape would show also the repertory of bodily gestures, the alternating enfoldings and then separations of the bodies of father and son, the fidgeting and touching of different body parts at different points int he story, the variations in how closely the stuffed lion is held…   (Ritual and its consequences, p. 48)

yes, it is a sweet, common enough story… but the authors’ suggestions are these:

if one were to observe and study this bedtime ritual over time, it would become clear how much is being enacted between father and son: issues of giants and little boys, tiny things that can grow big and straight and strong, little boys who can act like the father, mothers who encourage their little boy’s efforts at “manhood,” and the virtues of cleverness as a weapon of the weak…  (Ritual and its Consequences, p. 48)

ok, i can hardly stand much more of this beanstalk variety/virility… but even with the ‘point’ being…, emphasis falls here: over time the little boy learns to play his role in the story and his father’s, new rituals arise from set frames and these new rituals challenge what was ‘the only way’ before.  ambiguity and ambivalence are worked through, allowing the child to imagine himself as self and other.  

other make-believes make the scene as well.  but not all ritualizing social examples are childhood sweetness and light.  ritual and repetition often have overtones of trauma built into their mention for good reason.  freud’s fort-da begins here, but post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and sexual abuse are potentially ritualizing traumas as well.  in these cases, loss and/or abuse are re-cycled through repetition compulsions, fetishizations, and both verbal and non-verbal ritualized interchange.  

as we enter these critical domains of split and fracture, i am going to pause, post and re-group.  i look forward to your feedback.


my re-Kant

In Love, resurrection, Subjection on April 26, 2009 at 10:53 am

“Only a woman could ask such an evil question,” Zizek said as he laughed and answered me during the Q & A at Tilton Gallery last Thursday.  And maybe it is true.  Had I been a man, perhaps the question wouldn’t have been evil.


Zizek spoke Thursday, in honor of the latest lacanian ink edition, on architecture.  Stating upfront that a) all he knows could by now be old hat, and b) all he hopes for may already be done… he took up the question of post-modernism, a la Frederic Jameson.  Zizek’s interest in buildings is, not surprisingly, focused on the interstitial functional spaces: the space between the walls filled with electrical wires, plumbing and cockroaches, as well as the hallway space, the bathrooms and the closets/pantries.  His dream was to see a space made only of these functionary forms exteriorized. From this brief run through his architectural musings, you can see Zizek was right on both precursory precautionary counts – all he knows of architecture is indeed old hat (his anaylses of Frank Gehry, Liebeskind, etc were standard fare) and his proposal that buildings aetheticize their functionary spaces have already been accomplished in works like the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris. But these comments are no blight – he knew, himself that the content of his talk was not his strongest suit.  

What he is keenest at, what he is known for, is the way he can take the commonplace and find the implicit ideological function within, and he was no less brilliant at this last Thursday than he usually is.  His primary point, if there is every just one point to his work, was that post-modern consumerism and capitalism have shifted through the following three stages, landing for the moment, on the last:  1) initially, consumer goods functioned toward desire fulfillment; think early capitalism as Marx saw it,  this then shifted to 2) a period where goods functioned as status symbols; think the Baby Boomer era, to finally 3) today, when goods function as experience creators; think Starbuck’s Ethos Water.  As Zizek explained, Ethos, including the name and its pseudoethical overtones, is intended not primarily to feed your thirst or to make you look savvy for shopping at Starbucks, but its point is to say: by ‘bringing water to third world peoples with each purchase’ you are buying that warm fuzzy feeling you get when ‘helping others’ while also buying, for $2.50, exoneration and forgetfulness.  Essentially you could call it an aestheticizing of goods/forms, and Zizek claims, this is precisely what you can call post-modernism.


in my last post on Zizek and Badiou, prior to last thursday’s talk but after syracuse, i wandered around in what I thought to be Zizek and Badiou’s shared aestheticization of the form of Christianity.  And here, so blatantly praising and decrying the aestheticization of form in architecture and post-modernism, respectively, Zizek of course drew my breath and made my heart almost stop: sitting 10 feet from him I knew I would need to ask if he would indeed acknowledge his own aestheticizing work as part of this P-word.

Thus the question so evil only a woman could ask it…

“Tonight you have called the aesthticization of form in architecture post-modern, and I am wondering if, by this, you would also agree that your work formalizing Christianity, thinking specifically of the Puppet and the Dwarf, and Alain Badiou’s work, in his book on St. Paul, are post-modern in that they are aiming toward form rather than content?”

To which Zizek replied, “No, you see this as an aestheticization?  My claim is that I am in fact more Christian than the christians.  I was just at a conference in Syracuse…” And instantly I knew he was right.  I had been to the talk at Syracuse and I had sloppily lumped Zizek’s work with Badiou’s in the formalism outcry.  In fact, Zizek said something, many things, both profound and radical about Christianity in that talk.  And  while I will work up the notes for another post, today I must simply re-cant, my previous post.  I stand corrected and happily so: Zizek is not after the form of Christianity but what he would call the dirty little secret that lies within: when Jesus cried out, ‘Father, Father why have you forsaken me?’ God himself became an atheist.  The (Kantian) ramifications are such that we must and do operate in a moral/ethical sphere that inverts Dostoevsky’s famous saying that ‘Without God everything is permissible,’ to say instead, something like only without God is nothing permissible – as morality must take the place of the unknowable and inaccessible absolute.  

There is much more to say here.  For now, I am simply issuing a happy re-Kant and hoping I haven’t lead too many astray.



void transaction

In Uncategorized on April 6, 2009 at 10:45 pm

there is something i am trying to say.

i could start it around amy hollywood: hysterical, heretical women… speaking, over-speaking and hyper-signifying.

i could start it with marx as well, the gaping empty proletariat upon which history was to be made, to be written.

i could work it from badiou’s void, from heidegger’s nothing, lacan’s lack…

kierkegaard’s don juan.

yes, now i’ve hit it.

or they  have.

or they’d like to…

irigaray, though i don’t agree with her bases, begins these rounds.  the open, the clearing, the forgotten void is that from which all thinking comes and fills and endlessly forgets.  she could have gone further.  but she didn’t have to as marx, badiou, heidegger, lacan… they had already gone the distance.  

what distance?  what’s the point?

what we’ve looked at as an obsession with death, with violent clearings, with absence, lack and emptiness is, well… we’ve been here before

and again i’m just circling.  

coming up empty handed…

what about sublimation?  kristeva’s creativity?  

yes, this sounds right for the moment: filling the void, it is, like christianity in nietzsche in zupancic 

hyperspeak.  not the panacea, the numbing, but its opposite.  the influx of joy, passion, meaning and making.

we don’t call it hyperdrive any more, so what… networking?

is this social networking? making links to fill time and space?  

yes, maybe.  and what is specific about the way that is male, or at least not female is the insemination.  the dispersal into what appears to be nothing.  and certainly isn’t (if it is woman) and is (if it is lacan’s real, heidegger’s nothing)

now, now we are getting no.where.

where do i start?

In Love, Subjection on December 2, 2008 at 6:11 pm

and again… precisely.

what does conversation with the divine sound like? (perhaps it isn’t sounding?)  Amy Hollywood, in Sensible Ecstasy, paints the picture of the painters of 13th century hagiography as voyeurs, theological peeping toms: men looking for the proof of god in a woman’s body.

…i may be wrong, but isn’t that what men are always up to?

but the question is not what men are up to, but what women are up for… who they are up for and what they are up against.

what am i talking about?  

moving from bataille to lacan (though frankly i think bataille could have sat this one out) and from Christina the Asthonishing to Luce Irigaray, is it too much to say that Hollywood is brilliantly working a philo-theological Love Connection?  Or is it more precisely, Hollywood Squares?  It was a hokey show, but the grid was nice – 3 boxes across by three boxes down.  What if we mixed the two game shows?  Then we could plant Beauvoir in the upper right of our tic-tac-toe grid and quiz her. Just guessing, but it seems safe to say that her ideal date would be with God, I mean with man… what I am trying to say is it would be with the ideal(ized) man.  

“When in the Second Sex Beauvoir argues that women attempt to justify their existences through an other, whether human or divine, she echoes these accounts of her own early adolescent experience (found in When Things of the Spirit Comes First as well as in Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter).  In her autobiographical writings the movement is from love of God to love of man; in the Second Sex, she reverses this trajectory: ‘Love has been assigned to woman as her supreme vocation, and when she directs it toward a man, she seeks God in him; if circumstances deny her human love, if she is disappointed or demanding, it is in God himself that she will choose to adore the divinity’ (DS II 582; SS 743) In both forms of experience, women attempt to justify their existence through another. ”  Hollywood, Amy.  Sensible Ecstasy, p. 127

Back to our game grid, just to Beauvoir’s right, in the top row on center, we might find Saint Theresa of Avila whose writings are the intellectual sign of subjectivity beyond body, beyond sex.  Saint Theresa and Beauvoir might meet up in human society, in their engagement with the world. Clearly Theresa’s ideal lover would be the object outside herself – be it God, or, as it would be for Beauvoir, project.

“According to Beauvoir, what marks Teresa off from other mystics is that the divine supports her in projects that go beyond the self and involve active engagement with the world and other beings in the world.” Hollywood, p. 134 

To the right of Saint Theresa of Avila, Hollywood has already placed Jacques Lacan.  Focusing on Seminar 20: Encore where Lacan articulates the fallibility of the signifier and introduces the concept of signifiance Hollywood’s Sensible Ecstasy tells the story of a breakup so divisive it is (de)foundational, not only for language, but for bodies as well.  We now know this story as the tale of metaphysics’ impossibility, and also as the impossibility of masculine (phallic) wholeness and/or meaning.  It is hard to pair Lacan with anyone on the Love connection.  Not only does he theorize the unbridgeable gap between men and women, he refuses to partner with those who try.

Take Irigaray for example.  Or don’t.  Hollywood points out that the argument over Irigaray’s essentialism is largely based on a misreading (albeit one she invites via other problematics) of her textual injunction to create a feminine divine with stories, vocabulary and sociality strong enough to overcome the phallic slide and insight desire via mutual recognition.  Lacan will hear nothing of it.

We’ll have to leave an X over his square.  Or would a hollow O be more appropriate?

For tonight, the rest of these grid assignments and XOXO’s will have to wait until I am more awake. 


“Beauvoir insists that this divine person is male.  Whereas in a pathological case of erotomania, a woman explains that ‘each time I seek God, I find a man” (DS II 584, SS 745). the mystic sees God both in men and in their absence”  Hollywood, Amy. Sensible Ecstasy, p 127

“Isn’t it pretty to think so?”  Ernest Hemingway

light as a…

In Subjection on November 10, 2008 at 9:03 pm

feather.  stiff as a board.

it’s a game you play in junior high, maybe earlier.  willing yourself to be lighter than air and hard as a rock.  

i could never make it work.

so today i’m reading zizek’s ticklish subject.  trying to read, trying to find to read…

and Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Penelopiad’.


First, on ‘The Deadlock of Transcendental Imagination, or, Martin Heidegger as a Reader of Kant’:

in a fascinating discussion of heidegger reading kant, zizek points to (creates?) a mis-step in heidegger’s reading of kant’s theory of the imagination.  to do so, zizek first proposes that Heidegger’s project is, contrary to popular belief, political.  It is a decisionism, Dasein’s decisionism given throwness and all the rest.  All the rest for Heidegger of course being an engagement with the nazi’s that zizek considers a wrong step in the right direction: i.e. rather than revamping the project of Being and Time to pull out the subjectivist transcendental centers that still remained (ex: starting with dasein to get to the existential analytic) (which are said to be the flaws that lead to his nazi affiliations) heidegger should have instead, stuck to those subjectivist approaches.  “nazism,” zizek writes, “was not a political expression of the ‘nihilist, demoniac potential of modern subjectivity’, but, rather its exact opposite: a desperate attempt to avoid this potential” (p.21).

(purportedly zizek means this for heidegger… because clearly…) but moving on…

along these lines, (those above) heidegger’s unfinished project of Being and Time is unfinished for the same reasons that heidegger saddled up with the nazi’s.  it is a problem of imagination.  really.  “what heidegger actually encountered in his pursuit of Being and Time was the abyss of radical subjectivity announced in Kantian transcendental imagination, and he recoiled from this abyss into his thought of the historicity of Being” (p.23).

the problem lies in designation.  with imagination being the site of spontenaity in Kant the question is: phenomenal or noumenal?  “on the one hand, [kant] conceives of transcendental freedom (‘spontenaity’) as noumenal: as phenomenal entities, we are caught in a the web of causal connections, while our freedom (the fact that, as moral subjects, we are free, self-originating agents) indicates the noumenal dimension.”  yet kant’s own reasoning shows that given access to the noumenal we would in fact be puppets, bound to the law and utterly dictated by it.  So whither transcendental freedom?

zizek points out that heidegger reads kant faithfully through this problematic and levels a fair critique at his regression to traditional metaphysics.  yet when kant (unknowingly?) splits the noumenal into two parts (that which cannot be known and that which appears to the subject as the unknowable) something radical takes place that opens a path for Hegel’s later reading of “imagination qua the ‘activity of dissolution” and ultimately gives zizek grounds to stake out an invasion/inversion of the subject.

Drawing from an amazing passage in Hegel’s phenomenology on this dissolution: “To break an idea up into its original elements is to return to its moments, which at least do not have the form of the given idea, but rather constitute the immediate property of the self.  …The activity of dissolution is the power and work of the undestanding, the most astonishing and mightiest of powers, or rather the absolute power. …But that an accident as such, detached from what circumscribes it, what is bound and is actual only in its contects with others, should attain an existence of its own and a separate freedom – this is the tremendous power of the negative, it is the energy of thought, of the pure ‘I'” (p.30).

the power of imagination, as cited in this passage from hegel is the power to tear apart.  It is not, then, reason which dissects and does violence to thought, but imagination which is a more originary violence, and always already ‘dismembering’ of thought.  zizek reiterates this in an investigation of kant’s work on the sublime, again inverting the traditional reading of the sublime as violent to thought, to reason, instead to the sublime which is the ‘real’ of imagination, barely veiled by reason as what it already is.  

“Our (Hegelian) point, however, is that this mythical/impossible starting point, the presupposition of imagination, is already the product, the result, of the imagination’s disruptive activity.  In short, the mythic, inaccessible zero-level of pure multitude not yet affected/fashioned by imagination is nothing but pure imagination itself, imagination at its most violent, as the activity of disrupting the continuity of the inertia of the pre-symbolic ‘natural’ Real” (p.33).

Ok, so then moving quickly as this recap is surely dragging…

‘The Passage through Madness’.  zizek resituates normality as a paranoiac psychosis (via lacan) and doesn’t stop before citing sexual difference (again via lacan) in kant’s work on the sublime.

where he goes next will have to wait until i’ve had some sleep…


In Subjection on November 2, 2008 at 12:19 am

once again.  jean-luc nancy

and philippe lacoue-labarthe

the title of the letter: a reading of lacan

tracing in the old-school sense, the sort that really needed tracing paper and a perfectly dulled pencil or a steady pen.  is it the text that traces, or the authors? isn’t the issue insistently at hand that regardless of which who traces, there is no underlayer, no subtext to be traced… or perhaps there is a subtext, a figure, a man’s discourse even, but it isn’t lacan himself.  there can be no corresondence.  between the tracing pencil and the (what? what lies beneath there is something instead that acts as carbon paper. an inversion, (diversion is the opperative) and the trace becomes the line to follow, the line that marks, just and only that which is the re-mark.

so much between these sheets.

Nancy & Lacoue-Labarthe, running their fingers over Lacan, (like braille?) but not the whole of him.  just the hole of him in fact…

Following Lacan’s work in “The Agency of the Letter”, Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe perform a close reading of that article in the first chapters of The Title of the Letter.  One movement of the text writes as follows:

In order to ground psychoanalysis as something other than one of the many sciences, and against depth psychology (theories of the unconscious prevailing) Jacques Lacan entered university discourse, philosophical discourse, by re-positioning psychoanalysis somewhere in the halls between classrooms, rather than solely in the halls of the hospital or clinic.  But somewhere is too vague: directly outside the door of linguistics, and right around the corner from anthropology would be more precise. So just inside the faculty mailboxes of Saussure and Strauss, Lacan did a bit of sorting.  Between inter-campus mailings and university paystubs, Lacan ends up –  upturning Saussure’s algorithm of signification.  Coming out on top, Lacan’s S over s (Signifier over the signified) is the well known inversion.  For Lacan, the fractional (fractured…) algorithm that I can’t produce on this keyboard illustrated the Signifiers inability to cross the fractional line, its barring in fact, from and to the signified loosened the strings and cut the ties for any subject from the Cartesian ego.


to be continued…

mourning has broken..?

In Law, resurrection on October 30, 2008 at 4:13 am

“There shall be no mourning [il n’y aura pas de deuil].”  Jean-Francois Lyotard

out from the concept that there is novelty in negation alone.  out from the idea that critique is in itself production.  out from.  out with.  and just letting it all hang out.

Today in Badiou’s third and final lecture at Cardozo, we thought the disappearance of the law.  Ironically,  I find as I write that I have skipped negation itself, skipping Badiou’s second lecture in this journaling process and skipping the 2nd of the Hegel’s dialectical three.  It is (was) an unknowing performance that perhaps betrays my all-too-eager desire to jump the gun.  with badiou and otherwise.

So, deferring as the Derrida I read today…

Badiou began with a recap:  after defining law as that which is always mediating between law and something else, he moved on to retrace two possibilities for the transformation of the law:  

1) modification

2) event, the creation of new possibilities, opening the space for equality and for new subjects of the law

For law as event, in law as event, the first steps are taken toward the disappearance of the law itself, heading toward what Badiou calls the limit point or (though he would never say so?) toward what Derrida describes as the ‘to come’ that can never arrive but is always on its way.  Finding this conception in Marx, particularly the Communist Manifesto of 1848, Badiou recalled that Marx’ goal was ultimately the destruction of private property.  For Marx the question of the state is in direct relation to private property, and Badiou sees the (anachronistic) mirror of this concept in Plato as well.  For both, Badiou claims, there is the question of equality: private property is the objective form of inequality, the material form of desire as the real relationship to law.  From this Badiou recalls Engel’s trio – 

law . desire . property

and claims that if we have communism (as it was in Marx) as the will to restrict private property, this is in conjunction or collusion with the will to restrict the law and initiate its disappearance.  For Marx, this disappearance would come to fruition in the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Before Stalin or Mao (mis)appropriated this term, this potential, the dictatorship of the proletariat was the form of the state without law.  It is a dictatorship because it is not a state from the point of view of the law, but the destruction of the state as such, a state not separated from civil society and as the end of that very separation.  It is the destruction of bureaucracy, if by bureaucracy we can name the separation of the state from its people.

This is critical in that, for Marx, the social form of private life is the family, i.e., the bureaucratized form of private life, where laws about marriage, children, etc are administrated.  Against this, Marx aimed to 

1) abolish marriage as a contract, aiming for free association of sexed positions

2) create organized public education of children, bringing that out of the family realm into the public

3) suppress inheritance

in order to block all laws concerning private life and move toward the disappearance of law in private, social and business realms in order to end private property, family organization and the state.  (See Engels’ book on these 3 pillars by the same name).  In these movements of law to their limit point, criminal law would also disappear as theft, etc, were negated.  At this point, the juridical status of the body would also fall to question and disappearance.  Badiou noted that in the past the body was the property of the family and thus wars, marriages, etc were the domain of the family.  Next the state assumed jurisdiction, evening ordering the body to its own death in state wars.  What we have now, Badiou claims, is something more like a mercenary body, a body whose jurisprudence belongs to the domain of money. Looking to the 1970’s feminist revolt and claims like ‘my body is mine’ that came in its wake, Badiou recalls this point of resistance as an attempt to block the family . property . state trio.

Ultimately, Badiou summed this up by saying that from Plato until today, if society is a direct production of life itself, then concrete equality is incompatible with private property and familial selfishness.  Badiou then moved toward a picture of the possibilities for change, for bringing the law closer to its limit point and finds these not in the revolutionary mandates of the 60’s and 70’s, but in locally realized politics of experimentation.  He said we have to think a new experiment & experience that is open to all society.  Closed experiments, such as those that are an attempt to realize a principle in concrete life, are not political for Badiou… they are instead moral, because there is no circulation between the small group and society.  They equal a general lesson which is akin to a moral vision as the direct relationship between a principle and its reality.  What occurs, he says, in this corrupt form, is the supression of mediation into something akin to a moral commandment, a moral sacrifice destined to terror and sacrifice, which is not equal to a truth.  

For the evental form of law, that which initiates the disappearance of the law, there must be a local yet open experience.  This experience must be proposed to everyone and, as such, is equal to the proposal of the disappearance of the initiating law itself. 

Thus saith Badiou.

Jeanne Schroeder followed Badiou’s talk with what she called a Lacanian feminist view to jurisprudence.  Looking both back and forth she recalled that Locke situated the origin of private property in the idea of ones ownership of his own body.  She traced this through Hart and went straight to Lacan’s four discourses of the symbolic order: the Master, the University, the Hysteric and the Analyst and located the lawyer as the Hysterical figure.  This allowed her to describe law as a broken instrument, always pinned to failure where the only right is that ‘you are wrong’.  For Schroeder the symbolic order is where the subject is created by mediating and creating desire via the family, property and state.  This desire is founded on a necessary separation in order for desire to operate across the distance and she cited Lacan’s injunction: Don’t give way to your desire.  Linking this to Kant, Schroeder pointed to the necessary separation between individuals and the moral law, reminding us that if there were no separation, we would all be marionettes…

Now that I have built and padded this text, ensuring a separation of my own body of writing from the (now textual) bodies of Badiou and Schroeder… am I free to desire what is apart?

or have I in fact simply sublimated their law into my own skin?  

In the shared agnosticized dialogues of both Badiou and Schroeder, there is a barely hidden throw-back to the theological argument for free will.  Oversimplified, this argument (extracted from Wikipedia) runs as follows:

1) Emanuel Swedenborg (founder of The New Church) argued that if God is love itself, people must have free will.

2) If God is love itself, then He desires no harm to come to anyone: and so it is impossible that he would predestine anyone to hell.

3) On the other hand, if God is love itself, then He must love things outside of Himself; and if people do not have the freedom to choose evil, they are simply extensions of God, and He cannot love them as something outside of Himself.

***In addition, Swedenborg argues that if a person does not have free will to choose goodness and faith, then all of the commandments in the Bible to love God and the neighbor are worthless, since no one can choose to do them – and it is impossible that a God who is love itself and wisdom itself would give impossible commandments.

Clearly neither Badiou nor Schroeder are arguing for the existence of God.  But the overlap, the formal movement of their arguments maps out the same dance.  For Badiou, mediation between idea and creative reconstitution must exist to avoid the terrorizing moralist’s dialogue.  For Schroeder, desire must be mediated by the law (distance) in order to continue to desire.  Interestingly both site Lacan as their body guards in this endeavor.  Both look to Lacan to undo the ‘law of the Father’ whether in defense of feminism (Schroeder) or in defense of the possibility of new possibilities (Badiou).  Is it fair to find in this formal cohesion the shadow of Heidegger, the shadow of a philosophy which, even in its most active strivings knew it could not escape the bounds of metaphysical presence?  And if so, are we still, despite Badiou’s phenomenal effort, still bound to endless mourning?

What would Badiou say here?  Is he content with the (hollow) strength of the phallus?

When I asked him how one (he) could posit a universality without defaulting to the law of the father, he turned to Lacan and said the following:  Law constitutes both what is forbidden and what is impossible, but these two terms are not the same.  It is impossibility, not the forbidden, that is creative.  The Law of the Father is on the side of the Forbidden, yet in Lacan we already see the move to elevate the phallus from impotence to impossibility.  The move out from the law of the Father is the move toward the formalization of social order, not a despotic interdiction, running the gammit between impotence and impossibility.

Why is it that I still see, in this rising, this elevating, the swelling of a cross..?

– Sincere thanks to Alain Badiou for his October 27th, 28th and 29th presentations given at both Cardozo Law School and the New School for Social Research, the content of which is summarized here, and in “eyes or ears..?”