File nietzsche/nietzsche.0509, message 6

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Date: Wed, 28 Sep 2005 12:13:51 -0400
Subject: [Nietzsche] Zizek, Norman O. Brown & the Psychology of Culture

Just Published:

by Richard Koenigsberg

According to Slavoj Zizek, the fundamental level of ideology is that of an
"(unconscious) fantasy structuring our social reality." Ideology is not a
"dreamlike illusion," rather is a "fantasy- construction which serves as a
support for our 'reality' itself." Matthew Sharpe notes that just as an
individual subject's discursive universe will "only ever be unified through
recourse to a fantasy," so too the public ideological frame wherein
political subjects take their bearings can only function through the vehicle
of what Zizek calls "ideological fantasies."

Norman O. Brown's writings in Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical
Meaning of History allow us to expand upon Zizek's views. In contemporary
theory, concepts such as culture, ideology, discourse and narrative usually
are taken as "givens." These concepts are used to "explain" the mind, but
are not themselves considered to be subject to explanation. However, one may
pose questions such as: Why do particular discourses become dominant within
a given society? Why do some narratives replicate whereas others do not? How
may we account for the structure and shape of particular ideologies, and the
passion with which they are embraced?

Whereas Lacanian theorists view the mind as a product of the symbolic order,
Norman O. Brown seeks to explain the nature of the symbolic order itself.
Brown states that culture represents a set of "projections of the repressed
unconscious." Symbolic objects in culture, according to Brown, exist to the
extent that they perform psychological functions for the subject. Culture,
Brown declares, exists in order to allow human beings to "project the
infantile complexes into concrete reality, where they can be seen and


The complete paper by Dr. Richard Koenigsberg is available as an on-line
To read: "Zizek, Norman O. Brown and the Psychology of Culture"





Brown states that culture--like the transference--is created by the
repetition compulsion and constantly produces "new editions of the infantile
conflicts." Culture thus may be viewed as "one vast arena in which the logic
of the transference works itself out." The fantasies that create the human
neurosis, Brown says, cannot be directly apprehended or mastered, "but their
derivatives in human culture can."

Culture, then, may be viewed as a symbolic medium that allows desires and
fantasies to become externalized and articulated as social reality. Culture
represents a screen for the projection of inner mental contents. Symbolic
objects in society constitute objectifications that permit us to "perceive"
our desires and fantasies. Culture therefore, according to Brown, "does for
all mankind what the transference was supposed to do for the individual."

We need no longer be content, therefore, with tautological concepts such as
"discourse" and "narrative." Brown's account of the relationship between the
subject and culture suggests that it is possible to explain or account for a
culture's discourses and narratives. Ideologies exist within societies as
modus operandi allowing members of society to express and articulate their
shared fantasies. To explain a specific ideology, therefore, we seek to
identify the nature of the desires and fantasies that are its source.

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