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Posts Tagged ‘Maurice Blanchot’


In Subjection on March 1, 2009 at 2:50 pm


something about death is at issue in this shift.

the history of subjectivity, or the compilation of works on subjectivity lay bare the hegelian fantasy that I becomes an I only in the encounter with death.  pealing back from this encounter, I, or the slave, becomes aware of the value of life and enters into voluntary subjection as the price to be paid for continuing to live.  of course there has been work before and after hegel, on this ‘subject’ but even religious texts posit the true I as a consequence of death and/or sacrifice.

yet what about we?

for heidegger, das man is precisely the step before the encounter with death.  literally, ‘we’ are not dead yet.

for blanchot, I is spoken in death, as death, and community finds itself only in death.  

for derrida, we is impossible.  even the kantian we without god is still a we without we.

for nancy, we is all there is, yet he stands with blanchot in the community toward death as well.


is heidegger the only way out of this?  if the I can only be spoken after the tango with death, am I philosophically drawn to we, to ‘the they’ because that morbid romanticism isn’t necessary in the originary ‘being-with’…?


sons of bitches.

In Law, Subjection on January 14, 2009 at 12:23 am

funny. has bitch listed as, of course, a female dog.  but under the subheading ‘offensive’ you’ll find

1) a woman considered to be overbearing

2) a man considered to be weak or contemptible

but as no one (well, not that badiou is everyone) is talking about women today, perhaps there’s no purpose in bringing all this up.


lacanian ink #32, badiou has a really delightful little piece on aleatory sons.  and i do mean delightful.  this piece is almost poetic.  at least i think Badiou should consider it so… for a man concerned with false sutures, with ‘improper ties’ between philosophy and poetry (think deconstruction)  in fact there are moments when he comes so close to the work of Avital Ronell, well… you do wonder if the son got in this purist’s eyes.  and perhaps blindness is the works’ very strength.  perhaps without a certain closing of the eyes, this piece couldn’t have been written at all. but then, i am getting ahead of myself.

in ‘The Son’s Aleatory Identity in Today’s World” Badiou plays the role of a concerned (albeit disconcerting) father figure. he begins this role with the claim that between freud’s totem and taboo and moses and monotheism and the lives of our present day sons, some serious ground has been lost.  in the cited texts, the original freudian construction had boys hating their jouissance loving fathers quite literally to death.  post-burial, the return of the father, in law, brought order, regularity and simply job descriptions for men-to-be.  this regularity bred (yes it did) love.  love for order, love for harmony.  love for (are we forgetting a few historical ‘heartbreaks’ or just reading metaphorically?)… you get the idea.  

but, here, now, in Badiou’s view, that idea, those ideas, they are all gone.  today, according to “The Son’s Aleatory Identity…” sons have no clear track.  or they have three + 1 tracks… none of which lead to decapitation or patricide, rendering them, therefore, clearly insufficient. Badiou describes these tracks as follows:

first, right from the start, track one is perversion – think tattooing, marking, a physical, mental and technical working to differentiate the (fore)skin in order to bring sons into their own by right.rite… right.  as we’ve seen from badiou before, this perversion looks very much like what badiou nicknames pornography: i.e. anything which is a rejection of its intended purpose, (purpose in this case being the  making of a subject.)  

the second option looks just like terrorism, mainly because it is. in option 2, perversion inverts to traditional dogmatism and we have sons sacrificing themselves for ideas and ideals which are not only planes in the sky but pie in the sky as well.  (these are terrible puns, but it is late… in the day and otherwise.)

the third and presumably final option is simply that of the sell-out.  badiou calls him something more glamorous but essentially this son is a harvard grad with a secured job on wall street attached to his diploma.  he’s been groomed for this.  protected by, what badiou calls a policing (see Avital Ronell’s “Trauma TV” in Finitude’s Score for stellar work on the police force) that structures society and separates the wheat from the chaff while meritoriously concealing a deep seated nihilism.

the point of all three of these options is, for badiou, that the real points have all been blunted.  we are left with miserable, and clearly fatherless sons: perverts, terrorists and sell outs abound and there is nothing to be done about it. 

or almost nothing.  badiou ends the article with the +1: Rimbaud, who, it seems, lived the bastard trinity himself… yet rose above.  found his true father.  learned to kill, and thereby reinstall a saving symbolic.   he, like philosophy was saved by “‘His body!  The dreamed-of redemption, the shattering of grace meeting with new violence’.  “This,” writes Badiou, “could be the maxim of our common efforts in the service of the new initiation of our sons.”    

as we’ve seen and read before from badiou, whether he is calling to the lawless or the fatherless, (the point being always, with lacan, that they are the same), the shadow of the cross is never far behind.  this time, when law recedes, grace – and grace by the sword no less – can be found to (in full christian chorus) ‘bridge the gap’.  but what gap is badiou bridging?  is ‘aleanation’ being equated with grace?  if so, if you’ll follow me following blanchot, something interesting may be seen:

“luck and grace, in being compared, help to determine certain relations to the law.  grace is unjust, an unjustified gift that does not take what is right into consideration, while confirming it nonetheless…  the law is empty authority, before which no one in particular can maintain himself and which could not be softened by mediation, the veil of grace  that would make this approach tolerable… the circle of the law is this: there must be a crossing in order for there to be a limit, but only the limit, in as much as uncrossable, summons to cross, affirms the desire (the false step) that has always already, through an unforeseeable movement, crossed the line.”  (The Step Not Beyond, Maurice Blanchot p. 24) 

in all of this law and grace and line crossing we are back to the stake, to the totem, with freud.  the empty authority of the father must be surpassed, the father must be killed, but only to return in such a way (as law redoubled after death) that shows he was never lost or cut off to begin with…


“the law says ‘in spite of you’ [“malagre toi”] familiarity that indicates no one.  grace says, ‘without you, without your being there for anything and in your own absence’, but this familiarity which seems to designate only the lack of anyone, restores the intimacy and the singularity of the relation.” (Blanchot, Step Not Beyond, p 25)

here what Blanchot writes, is that the subject Badiou is building, searching out, hoping for in Rimbaud, in grace, is a ‘lack of anyone’.  it is an empty subject.  one who was singled out not by merit (that would be law), not by familiarity (that would be favoritism, or…) but by sheer… luck?

“luck joins these two traits.  luck comes only through playing.  and the game does not address itself to anyone in particular.  he who is lucky is not lucky and is not so for himself or because of himself.  the ‘without you’ of luck frees, through the familiar address, for the anonymous” (Blanchot, Step Not Beyond, p. 26)

In this de.scription, Blanchot addresses what Badiou has yet to formalize.  the empty, anonymous recipient of “grace, the rupture and the new violence” are the same bastard sons Badiou had hoped to make into subjects. yet, by reinstating a randomly violent, virilent father, luck-loving father, could these sons really be anything but hollow receptacles, anonymous ‘without you’s’ targeted by a grace without stability, a father’s love that knows nothing more of his son than that he is a body, a replica, a random recipient of his, the father’s, good graces?  yet, perhaps this is Badiou’s dream.  perhaps this is the hollowing out he has been up to since his book on st. paul.  it might, in fact, be his savior made in fumbling textual flesh: and is that what all this sword raising is heading toward?  hollow subjectivities?  haven’t we seen these before (in marx, in the march of history, in hegel, in…)?  and if this hollow recipient of the event, of truth, is not on Badiou’s hit parade, what is he doing with luck, grace and law that doesn’t end in a pew?

By now, with ‘grace meeting with new violence’ and ‘the new initiation of our sons’, I’m simply (and surely not the only one) thinking: Where are these boys’ (overbearing) mothers?  

Wouldn’t a few good bitches just clean up this whole messy problem of contemptible and weak fathers?

Or did I miss something?  because really, Alain, even web.ster could see that one coming…


the little virgin of no.thing

In Subjection on November 25, 2008 at 8:32 pm

man at zero point.  woman as lack.  

nietzsche said we would rather will nothing than not will at all… 

but are we thus fascinated, is this simply a hole-y enterprise?  something of nihilism, and then, of course, no.thing of nihilism at all?

we’ve quit the human.  a hollow concept, it offers little more than a container for ambitions, progress and, of course, the holocaust.

we quit woman before we began her.  as lack, lacuna, she never began to begin.

but perhaps the real drive was man all along.  is this self-castration?  the drive to find nothing, no.thing, so that any appearing can be read as pure joy?

what am i trying to say?  why do we represent the masses as hollow mass?  why is the proletariat (Marx) or generic humanity (badiou) all that is available to convey the movement of historical being?  are they simply the virgin Many?

maurice blanchot writes:  “This search for point zero is necessarily ambiguous: it lends itself to all misrepresentations and encourages all simplifications… It is also easy – and perhaps useful – to denounce the illusory character of this search for point zero.  Not illusory, however, but imaginary, almost according to the meaning given this word by mathematics: imaginary is the reference to a man without myth, as is imaginary the reference to the man dispossessed of himself, free of all determination, deprived of all “value,” and alienated to the point where he is nothing but the acting consciousness of this nothing, the essential man of point zero, whose theoretical model certain analyses of Marx have proposed and in relation to whom the modern proletariat discovers itself, defines and affirms itself, even if it does not truly satisfy such a schema.”  p. 80

so perhaps this is something new and perhaps this is something very very old:  womb envy?  virginity… and the empty vessel?  perhaps we haven’t escaped that metaphor, just as we haven’t escaped others.  and unlike irigaray’s theory of the forgotten mother, this mother has not been forgotten. she simply hasn’t been properly named.  the masses, the workers, those who carry the event.  

the blessed virgin.  the penultimate no.thing.

are we still looking to her tearing statues for hope?