martes, 19 de enero de 2010

The Void: Being or Subject, Badiou or Lacan?

Peter Hallward (2003), among others, has pointed out that a gap separates Badiou from the Lacanian conception of the Real , since truth concerns the subject’s engaged transformation of the Real in a (local) process of fidelity, whereas the Lacanian Real seems assigned to its immoveable resistance to the effects of the Symbolic, thus to a kind of perpetual inaccessibility from the realm of nomination. This is why Hallward suggests that the Lacanian associations with “…horror, brute materiality, mystery, and fixity” [ST, Pg. 15] must be dropped from Badiou’s ascription of the Real. In the end, for Badiou, it is this very inaccessibility of the Real which becomes transformed into a possibility for the subject incorporated to a truth. In Badiou’s more poetic language: “Miracles do happen.”

In the concluding chapter of his book, Hallward furthermore underlines Badiou’s greatest achievement as precisely having been the systematic “…separation of the merely ineffable, insignificant horror of death from the generic destitution demanded by any subjectivation” [Pg. 262]. The Real for Badiou is re-placed by the subject’s interventional link in a truth-procedure, and so is not the mere ‘limit-experience’ of a fixed point against the ontic order, in which the subject can be nothing but the gap between its own void and the internally excluded object of desire, with the excess of its death-drive founding its libidinal thrust (ultimately a ‘nothing counted for something’, the proper barred subject: $) [Ecrits, Pg. 861]. It is in this excess from symbolic appropriation which for Zizek (2003) finds nothing but ‘an indivisible remainder’, Badiou finds the potency of every situation for evental change, or as Bruno Bosteels (2002) adequately put: “Pinpointing the absent cause or constitutive outside of a situation, in other words, remains a dialectical yet idealist tactic, unless this evanescent point of the real is forced, distorted, and extended, in order to give consistency to the real as a new generic truth.” Contra Zizek’s support for such a Lacanian ‘excremental’ view on the subject, Hallward thinks in such a view the Real is ‘…incapable of provoking the slightest reaction from within either the domain of purely multiple being as being on the one hand, or the domain of an immortal subjectivation on the other.’ [Ibid] In this way, Hallward anticipates Badiou’s own brief opposition to the Lacanian (and Zizek’s) Real in a brief note to Logics of Worlds, where it is finally designated as an obstacle ‘…so ephermal, so brutally punctual, that it is impossible to uphold its consequences. The effects of this kind of frenzied upsurge, in which the real rules over the comedy of our symptoms are ultimately indiscernible from those of skepticism. ” [LW, Pg. 563]

I would certainly agree in that the fixity of the Real in the Lacanian is 'dynamized' by putting it in reach of the subject within the inventive production of Truth, thereby displacing the strict Lacanian conception’s limits to its encounter as limit (say, through the experience of anxiety). However, there is no reason why both ‘versions’ of the Real cannot overlap in what sustains the association to experiences of horror and brute materiality (the question of mystery remains undecided for me). This is because those experiences relate to the Real in both Lacan and Badiou by virtue of their ‘traumatic dimension’, their mark as points outside the situation’s symbolic appropriation or nomination, as sort of ‘limit experiences’ to the possible. It is ultimately just the fixity of the Real and the precise form of the subject’s relation to it which separates both conceptions. So while Lacan offers two options to cope with the Real in humanistic disavowal and the capitalist integration , Badiou’s insertion of the subject to the rare displacement of the Real in an event allows us to see how contemporary ideology conflates these two options under the obscuring gesture of the democratic fetish.

Finally, we can agree with Zizek in that the barred subject’s permanent split from the Real remains a point of excess to our symbolic life, and with Hallward in that Badiou’s theory of the event and participation of truth allows for a precise inventive contact with it at the point of the unnamable (the indiscernible of any situation). Since this point is clearly discernable in the ontological situation (as parts of generic subsets, in excess of the naming resources of the encyclopedia of knowledge. ) Badiou can preserve the evanescent character of the Real and admit the power of subjective intervention in the consequences of an event. So to Zizek’s qualification: “…a Truth-Event can operate only against the background of a traumatic encounter with the undead/monstrous Thing.” [TS, Pg. 162] Badiou could simply retort a triumphant ‘Yes! But it is precisely the form of action that to the monstrous limit-‘Thing’ that decides between a subject’s emergence in an inventive fidelity to the Truth-event, reactive denial, or obscurantist occultation’ . Or, as Bosteels (2002) has put, for Badiou it is insufficient for the production of truth a recognition of the Real as impasse, since what is ultimately at stake is its sequential displacement: “Can any new truth actually emerge in a couple from the sole recognition of the real that is their constitutive impasse? For Badiou, the truth of love or politics is neither this impasse nor its symptomatic outbreaks in the moments of crisis. The formal impossibility of the sexual or social bond, which certainly reveals itself in such a crisis, is at best a site for a possible event, but the truth of a love encounter or a political manifestation consists only in whatever a dual or collective subject makes happen afterwards, on the basis of this event as being generally applicable to the entire situation.”

From the side of the subject, the fixity of the Real assigns the subject to the constancy of its libidinal structure, identifiable as the gap sustained by the fantasy towards the embodied impossible object-cause of desire (objet a). On the other hand, the possible displacement of the Real marks the subject’s rarity to militant engagement in truth-procedures: “The choice is here between a structural recurrence, which thinks the subject-effect as void set, thus identifiable with the uniform networks of experience, and a hypothesis of the rarity of the subject…both returning the void to, and reinsuring it within a function of suture to being…”[BE, Pg. 432] Robert Hughes (2007) does well to remind us, however, that this ‘contact of the Real’ is not strictly its transformation into a consistency as Zizek (2007) remarks, (the void as such is never a positive term of the situation, outside ontology), but a displacement. Or, put differently, in Badiou’s own words, “what we know of truth is merely knowledge” [Conditions 192f]. For more on this separation see Hughes’ objection to Zizek “From Purification to Subtraction: Badiou and the Real”, where he writes: “Badiou seems well aware that the status of the truth as real is lost in that very process and that has instead relapsed into mere knowledge…” [Pg. 177]

Below we will see how the horrific contact with the real (the Lacanian lamella designated above in film) can be also the very site which needs to be bereft of its evental potency, insofar as both descriptions describe within a specific situation the impossible point which demands deferral and occultation, outside the confines of the symbolic. Horror cinema uses this for the elevation of suspense and tension; the impending appearance of the traumatic image guarantees this experience in the anticipatory suffering of fear as an experience of the proximity of the Real. In politics the deferral is accomplished to substitute the experience of the Real, to obscure (in Badiou’s precise sense) the unbearable image which threatens the symbolic and its revolutionary (evental) potency, thus avoiding contact with it, pacifying the unease of foreseeing its direct confrontation. From this it is a short walk to the conception of mortification as a category for politics; the imperative to rebel against the democratic materialist obscuring of the horrific Real which pacifies the emancipatory potency of evental sites in an ideological blackmail advertised as the struggle for ‘democratic peace’ and against violence.

It is to this purpose that Badiou has forged the bedrock for a new typology for describing the distinct forms of subjective constitution, which renders palpable the exceptional character in which a subject can appear in a concrete situation, and in towards concrete ‘destinations’ with respect to Truth .

(15) As Bruno Bosteels (2002) shows, elsewhere Badiou designates on the other hand the Lacanian dialectical fixation on the primacy and indivisibility of the symbolic in the logic of place, blocking the path towards the production of new truths, and thus indexing it (along Mallarmé) to the risk of idealism. Bosteels writes “…the problem of this doctrine is precisely that, while never ceasing to be dialectical in pinpointing the absent cause and its divisive effects on the whole, it nevertheless remains tied to this whole itself and is thus unable to account for the latter’s transformation” (Pg. 179) In this ‘oscillation’ between the priority of the symbolic (as the site for an algebra of the subject) and the primacy of the Real, Badiou’s Theory of the Subject rescues the materialist necessity to take sides with the latter (materialist) nearness to the Real within a transformative theory of agency; to ask finally whether the real ‘…cannot also on rare occasions become the site for a newly consistent truth’. [Ibid, Pg. 181]

13 comentarios:

rakis dijo...

I think Lacan also permits ex nihilo creation of the New on the base of Anxiety as a lack of lack, meaning that the subject will always remain at a distance from totality.
Anxiety is the cause of subjective change because it lacks a support of representation.
On the contrary, Badiou's formalism cannot explain subjective change.

Daniel Sacilotto dijo...

But Hallward's suggestion is precisely that such a creation ex nihilo is insufficient to think of novelty. Badiou's notion of the event through subjective agency does allow to explain novelty through the subtrative generic procedure indicated through the account of forcing, thereby anchoring change on a specific situation. This is superior, I think, to the mere thought of change ex nihilo allowed for by the Lacanian act.

rakis dijo...

Well, a lacanian woyld say that Badiou's faith on an event is in the logic of fantasy

Daniel Sacilotto dijo...

That is why the logic of the event does not imply a faith in any abstract sense, it is a concrete procedure of action which constructs a subset of the situation, i.e. the generic.

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