“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:
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..?”