The American Social Bond

Apparently “learning communities” are a big thing in American Universities. I’ve already been invited into a few of them at GVSU. It seems to me that they perform the same function as fraternities do here (see for example Wilson C. McWilliams’ classic book _The Idea of Fraternity in America_): put simply, they provide glue to temporarily mend an impossible social bond. Emile Durkheim was onto something, then, more than one hundred years ago, when he wrote about the importance of the occupational association for mending ruptures in social morality. The logic is no different, but he could not have known the extent to which Americans require this corrective.

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I finished a new book

I am calling it Be Wary of the Image: Lacan Against Early American Sociology. It is about 100,000 words and split into an introduction, and four chapters (with two sections in each chapter). I will post more later.

Writing from the Real

My writing practice:

(1) I write without knowing where it will go or what I will contribute; this is a stream of consciousness exercise and within any few paragraphs I find myself radically changing my argument or position.

(2) I stumble upon something, a profound insight which came out of nowhere; it was not foreseen, and it came as if from the real itself.

(3) I explore its consequences as far as possible (as Freud put it in his speculative “Beyond the Pleasure Principle:” merely to see where it will go and how far can go). In other words, I remain in fidelity with the impossible new insight which goes beyond my knowledge and beyond my abilities to comprehend its place within my discourse.

(4) I exhaust its possibilities within the document by writing and organizing the entire world of my essay around the rupture, stitching the entire essay up to accept the insight until nothing within the world of my essay is untouched by it.

A Man’s Love

I had a very interesting conversation last night with a Freudian colleague. However, this person is more than a colleague, he is also a friend. We discussed love. I remembered during the conversation something that Jacques-Alain Miller said in an interview once upon a time:

One only really loves from a feminine position. Loving feminises. That’s why love is always a bit comical in a man. But if he lets himself get intimidated by ridicule, then in actual fact he’s not very sure of his virility.

I always found this to be an incredible statement. The point that Miller is making is that to love is always to love from the position of lack, of vulnerability; it is to love from the position outside of the symbolic and imaginary coordinates that structure one’s existence.

This is why love is real.

It seems to me that Lacan had two positions on love. I wrote about these in a previous blog post. However, I realize now that these are just two implications of a single proposition.

Love is always giving one’s lack, it is always giving what one doesn’t have, and, moreover, it always occurs with respect to the real.

What makes this feminine? Well, we need to be clear about what Lacan meant when he described femininity. I am not going to reiterate Lacan’s theory of feminine sexuality.

Instead I want to draw another connection.

If, within the clinic, the transference is established as a type of love from the analysand, that is, as a love that makes up for the lack of a sexual relation, then, finally, for the analyst there is a different type of love. The analyst gives to the analysand what she doesn’t have by rejecting or frustrating the demand.

What is the outcome? I quote Vanheule:

[T]he Lacanian conclusion of the treatment – the identification with the Real of the symptom, the choice of jouissance, and the creation of a neosubject – is a particular process that is situated entirely in the line of femininity.

What is meant by “neosubject?” The neosubject, in my opinion, is the creation of a subject in fidelity with the real of the symptom. Or, in other words, it is a subject in fidelity with the processes of creation. Vanheule writes: “a woman is ‘naturally’ invited to create something of herself, in the very process of becoming a woman.”

There is no such thing as a man who loves, except, then, from the feminine position.

Miller says:

a man in love has flashes of pride, bursts of aggressiveness against the object of his love, because this love puts him in a position of incompleteness, of dependence. That’s why he can desire women he doesn’t love, so as to get back to the virile position he suspends when he loves. Freud called this principle the ‘debasement of love life’ in men: the split between love and sexual desire.

Freemasonry

I often get asked why I became a Freemason. The honest answer is that I am not exactly sure. Moreover, it is not exactly rational. I began becoming interested in Freemasonry when I was younger and an anarchist. I discovered that a lot of my intellectual heroes were freemasons. And then I realized that I was interested in mysticism. This was enough to get me asking questions about the order.

I met with several Freemasons to discuss joining. I was never taken by my colleagues. They were all certainly good people but they were never wise in the sense that I connected with them – or, put another way, there was never any “transference.” In fact, at times I found a lot of the other masons too simple minded. Many of them would repeat the same old tired cliches about why they joined, what the fraternity does to people, and what it is all about. I never found these answers satisfying. Indeed, I never found any of the fraternal aspects satisfying.

It was the ritual that pulled me in. The rituals were rich in symbolic meaning. Each degree had a way of introducing obscurity precisely through a short-circuit. By “short-circuit” To put it in Lacanian terms: I simply mean that the ritual always found a way to bring the “symbolic” and the “real” together and to bypass the “imaginary.” And then there were logics: the three degrees, taken together, offer a nice logic of change, of historical movement, of personal development, and so on.

There was never enlightenment. There was only more darkness. Things became more confusing and more difficult to follow. This was the strength of freemasonry, as I see it. When the blindfold is removed during the initiation the masons suggest that “…and then there is light.” There is a sense in which the candidate moves from darkness and poverty to light and richness. But this is not at all what happens. Quite the opposite: as I moved through the degrees — into the Scottish Rite — I became more comfortable with being poor and penniless, more comfortable with not knowing, and more aware that the position of the “master” is nothing but semblance.

The master mason is not at all a master. That is the paradox.

These scattered thoughts are not worth very much. Today I still believe that Freemasonry changed me, though I know not exactly how. However, I do not believe that it is an order to which I need to anymore belong.

A brief note on Slavoj Zizek

I want to make a few remarks about Slavoj Zizek.

As many of you know, I am a former student of Slavoj Zizek. I was one of his “slaves” (teaching assistants) at the European Graduate School in Switzerland. He supports me by advancing a recommendation (letter) for employment. I also regularly correspond with him by email.

Last year I found myself moving deep into clinical material. As a consequence, I found myself less interested in the work of Slavoj Zizek and Alain Badiou.

However, more recently I have returned to their work.

Slavoj has been in some trouble recently. It seems to me that there are four major popular oppositions to Slavoj Zizek.

(1) his support of Avital Ronell

(2) his ostensibly postmodern cultural marxism

(3) his obscenity

(4) his so-called authoritarianism

My personal position is that I support Slavoj and his work. I do not see any substance to these critiques. I have yet to read an informed and well argued critique of his work.

Recently, also, Slavoj has been citing my work a bit more. For example, he cited my discussion of the “Light phone” and “Black Panther” (the film) in his latest book. I find this humbling, to say the least. At the same time, I have just completed a translation of a piece by Alain Badiou (with Badiou’s permission) for a major theory journal.

On the question of the choice between Jacques-Alain Miller and Slavoj Zizek et al., I choose neither.

Some Theses on the Religions of the Book

Here are some quick thoughts that develop previous blog posts on the three religions of the book.

God.

S.
Judaism gave us a symbolic god, that is, the name of the father. It emphasized the form of god – he is that he is, YHWH, a pure symbolic inscription (not meant to be spoken, thus the lack of vowels). (S-S)

I.
Christianity gave us the imaginary god, that is, the god of the body, of the image, in Christ. (S-I)

R.
Islam gave us the real god, that is, the god that is in us more than ourself, the god that Hegel referred to without realizing it when he claimed that the spirit is the bone. This is the god who has many names of the father, and who, for that reason, is not in the symbolic at all. (S-R)

Words.

S.
Islam gave us the symbolic words. These are the names of the father, that is, the mystical “cuts,” that have no meaning. (S-S)

I.
Judaism gave us the imaginary words. These are the rules that structure the law and refer to our relations with bodies here on earth. (I-S)

R.
Christianity gave us the real of words, that is, the holy spirit: a lack of relation among the community that is sustained through love. (R-S)

Bond.

S.
Christianity gave us a lack of relation among our neighbours. Christ was established as a break from within the community of Jews. (S-S) Christ, on the cross, related to god from a position of atheism, introducing the symbolic function as a hole.

I.
Islam gave us an imaginary relation among our neighbours. This is the community of Ummah, the community of humanity under god that is beyond all other imaginary contexts (nation, class, etc). (I-S)

R.
Judaism gave us the community of the real: those afraid of the thundering sound who formed a bond at the foot of the mountain, and then were destined to receive the symbolic law. (R-S)

Whereby R-S-I refer to the Lacanian registers of the Real, Symbolic, and Imaginary.