13 November 2006

The Space of Possibility

In a beautiful section entitled "Enlightenment and Discipline", from his essay "On the American War Against Iraq", Badiou writes that, "From this point on, what is the principle task of thought and action? Let's simply say that it is to produce some separation from unlimited power" (Polemics, 55). A little further on he clarifies what he has in mind, by remarking that,
The fact was that on a world scale the existence of another political, and moreover statist, possibility was not in doubt. Today, however, a political possible must prove its possibility. Instead of differing over the condition of realizing the possible, what is at stake now is the very creation of the possible. This can only be created, it must be admitted, with the resources of that which is generally not admitted into the realm of the possible. (55).
Today we exist in a situation that can be defined as that of closure. That is, the space of the world is a space in which no other possibility is discernible, where the world is seen under the sign of necessity or as "having to be this way". We find that we are unable to discern an alternative way that things might be. The situation Badiou here describes is thus not unlike that of the analysand in the grips of her fantasy. Fantasy names not my desire for this or that thing, but rather the manner in which I understand what I am for the Other. Fantasy is a response to the question of what the Other wants, and my identity, my identifications, and my actions come to be organized around how I project this response onto the world. Whenever I say "the Other wants x", I am in the space of fantasy. Whenever I hesitate to speak because I might be sanctioned, I am in the space of fantasy. Whenever the democratic party refuses to advance and pursue certain policies because "the United States is too conservative" they were within the space of fantasy insofar as they are working on the premise that the Other itself knows what it wants and desires, and is not split, fissured, and desiring... That is, desire is here being defended against through the belief that the Other has a specific demand that could be known. As Lacan will say, the neurotic is that person who confuses desire and demand. The analysand is that subject that exists under the sign of closure, convinced, certain, that they know what the Other wants and desires, and for that reason paralyzed where the act is concerned. Their world is a total world, a world where the world exists as a totality, and a world, perhaps, that conspires against their every desire.

To traverse the space of fantasy is thus to open a space of possibility, to crack the imaginary unity of the world, so that new forms of acting, speaking, feeling, and being might become possible. The writer does not write because she believes that there is no place for her writing in the world... That she is doomed to be ignored by lines of force, privilege, and heirarchical power relations that present no place for her writing. In believing this, the writer is able to sustain her desire to write as she can continue to desire writing without being able to write. As Lacan remarks, "desire is a desire to desire" such that the "hysteric has a desire for an unsatisfied desire" and the "obsessional has the desire for an impossible desire". In not writing, the writer demonstrates her thesis: that there is no place for her writing as the lines of force, privilege, and heirarchical power relations all conspire against her-- all that is inegalitarian in the academic system and which academics systematically disavow --causing her to leave no legible trace of her writing that might upset these relations and create a space within the social world for her writing. The fantasy becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, a feedback loop that produces its own outcome. Desire is preserved, but at the cost of a profound frustration and sense of worthlessness that fractally iterates itself throughout the entirety of life, perpetually confirming the truth of the fantasy despite the irony that it is the analysand's own acts that produce this state of affairs. To traverse the fantasy is to discover the manner in which the Other is not such an omnipotent force that allows for no escape, that the power of the Other is essentially fragile and unstable, subject to change, and open to new emergences that couldn't have been predicted from the historical resources or "internal dialectic" of the situation itself... It is to discover that the Other itself is split, fissured, castrated, and desiring. It is only retroactively that any historical emergence takes on the appearance of being necessary.

How, then, is it possible to traverse the social fantasy, the fantasy of a total system without remainder or escape, the fantasy of the iron laws of power, the fantasy depicted in the film Cube? How is it possible to create a little possibility, to crack the "world", to make something appear that is invisible in the situation, or to produce a little bit of the real against the semiotic coding machines that would grind everything up in their State organizing machines?


Blogger Tolga said...

I remember a movie called "Liberty Heights" which mosttly touches on the subject of the relations between Jews. Afro-americans and white americans.
There were 2 acts that do not leave my mind.
One Jewish guy had give a testimony in the court that could result weith the arrest of one of his friends but basically he did not want to testify against him. The coflict was that he did not also want to swear on God in the court. He found a solution when asked by the juridicate to swear on god. He basically said "OK I will tell you what you want but I cannot swear on God",. This sentence made him lie on the ocaasion so that his friend was also saved from being arrested.
The second act came from another Jewish guy who loved a black girlwhose family was strictly opposed to any relation with whites. At the end of graduation from their highschool (all families of the students were their at the graduation ceremony), he asked the black girl what would happen if he kissed her in fornt of both his and her parents. She answered something like "probably my dad would die from heart attack and if he does not he can kill me!". The boy did not hesiate and kissed her on the lips.
Is not the second one the act that sinthome mentioning? No one ever could believe that a white could encourage to kiss a black girl publicly. Yet, in the movie nothing scandalous came from the parents, althoug they were shocked a bit.
What about the first act? By not swearing on God, he allowed himself lying. As far as I know, this is not considered as a real act by Lacanians since it cannot escape form the symbolic domain of Law. In that sense, tricking the law is not enough. But it is something, isn't it?
I am really confused about Zizek's condemnation of the excessive (perverted?) act. Form what Sinthome said, how can we separate the excessive act and true act? Is not the act excessive in its nature?

November 13, 2006 2:07 PM  
Blogger Tolga said...

I forgot to add that these events were taking place in 1950's or 1960s in the movie. That's why racial taboo was an issue, I suppose.

November 13, 2006 2:10 PM  
Anonymous bobo:) said...

hi Levi,

i like your expression "the appearance of being necessary." according to lacan's four-place structures, in fact, the place of the necessary is structurally equivalent to the place of semblance. every instance of the necessary, of what does not stop being written, is an instance of 'le semblant.'

November 14, 2006 3:28 PM  
Blogger sexy said...








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