File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2003/lyotard.0302, message 54


Subject: RE: what is at stake with fear?
Date: Fri, 14 Feb 2003 05:20:15 -0600


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All,

I agree with Steve that this recent discussion has made me think more
about philosophical issues, but these seem to revolve around the concept
of subject as much as the concept of fear itself. 

The usual depiction of Lyotard is that early on, in his Libidinal
Economy days, he was interested in Freud, but that he turned to Kant by
the time he came to the Differend.  This may be true, but I also think
the late Lyotard, with his discussions of the enfans and the
intractable, came to understand this Kantian subject at the end of his
life in a very psychoanalytical way.  He certainly wasn=92t alone in this
endeavor.  If anything has changed for me during the past year with
regard to my understanding of Lyotard, it is the extent to which I now
realize how much he share affinities in these concerns with other
thinkers.  In other words, the shift of focus has been to move away from
Lyotard and towards the general problematic of the divided subject
instead. 

 As Steve has pointed out, Kristeva and Adorno both have interesting
things to say on this topic. I have also found the unholy trinity of
Lacan, Zizek and Badiou very insightful in this area as well.  It is not
that all these thinkers share with Lyotard a similar understanding or
agreement.  It is rather that there seems to be a kind of constellation
at work here; a problematic site productive of engendered affinities.

This understanding of the subject, as least as I see it, tends to be
psychoanalytical, and therefore it regards the subject, not as a thing
or substantial entity, but rather as a kind of belated response to
trauma, one that occurs after the breech. Freud=92s famous statement =93Woe
es War, Soll Ich Werden=94 seems relevant here.  Usually this is
translated by Ego Psychology as =93Where the id was, there the ego shall
be=94 but this certainly gets it wrong, implying that there are two
pre-existing faculties, one of which is merely substituted for the other
by way of social conformity. In Lacan simpler and more direct reading,
it becomes =93Where it was, I shall be.=94  This gives it much more of an
ethical flavor.  There is more of a sense of a subject and not merely an
ego (which always remains an object!). One emerges from the symptom to
assume responsibility for what was once only unconscious.

What all of this has to do with fear should be fairly obvious.  It is
not so much the fear itself, but how we respond to fear that makes the
difference.  Will we acknowledge this fear as a symptom, a form of
jouissance, a fate, and testify to it as such or merely attempt to
overcome this fear through a new kind of repression?

In my previous posting, perhaps I sounded like I was nostalgic for a
simpler time in the nineteenth century which cherished a belief in
progress that now seems incredibly na=EFve.  What life under capitalism
has taught us during the past century is that instability is the very
condition of capitalism and this instability remains the breeding ground
for fear. 

Of course, this fact is known by the masters and often used to
manipulate us.  As Adorno described it in =93Minima Moralia=94 in a slightly
different context:

=93Terror before the abyss of the self is removed by the consciousness of
being concerned with nothing so very different from arthritis or sinus
trouble. Thus conflicts lose their menace. They are accepted, but by no
means cured, being merely fitted as an unavoidable component into the
surface of standardized life.  At the same time they are absorbed, as a
general evil, by the mechanism directly identifying the individual with
social authority, which has long since encompassed all supposedly normal
modes of behavior.=94

This week seemed almost comical with reports that stores were running
out of duct tape and plastic as panicked citizens rushed to protect
their homes in response to the recommended advice that such methods be
used to protect against an attack of biological warfare. After this
occurred, other =91experts=92  stepped forward to point out that such
methods, if effective, would merely lead to suffocation after a few
days.  The choice seems clear for the American public - death by
biological weapons or death by asphyxiation, the Janus-like face of
terror.

Beyond all this, there remains a horizon of the banalization of fear and
terror with the recommended cure, imposed upon us by authority; as one
that will relieve us of our anxiety only at the cost of surrendering to
greater social control. The more fragile alternative to this situation
is that perhaps this reaction to fear will lead to the belated birth of
a more ethical subject. One who embraces fear as a symptom and uses it
instead as a weapon with which to confront a duplicitous regime that
wants to benefit from fear through manipulation.  

I agree that even though economic issues may be driving much of the
politics, economics alone do not explain completely what is happening.
We are not merely economic subjects, but always subjects yet-to-be.
What is really at stake is not merely the global economy, but who we
might become.  Fear is a tool that works both ways. Where fear once was,
I shall be.

eric

-----Original Message-----



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All,

 

I agree with Steve that this recent discussion has made me think more about philosophical issues, but these seem to revolve around the concept of subject as much as the concept of fear itself.=A0

 

The usual depiction of Lyotard is that early on, in his Libidinal Economy days, he was interested in Freud, but that he turned to Kant by the time he came to the Differend.=A0 This may be true, but I also think the late Lyotard, with his discussions of the enfans and the intractable, came to understand this Kantian subject at the end of his life in a very psychoanalytical way.=A0 He certainly wasn’t alone in this endeavor.=A0 If anything has changed for me during the past year with regard to my understanding of Lyotard, it is the extent to which I now realize how much he share affinities in these concerns with other thinkers.=A0 In other words, the shift of focus has been to move away from Lyotard and towards the general problematic of the divided subject instead.=A0

 

=A0As Steve has pointed out, Kristeva and Adorno both have interesting things to say on this topic. I have also found the unholy trinity of Lacan, Zizek and Badiou very insightful in this area as well.=A0 It is not that all these thinkers share with Lyotard a similar understanding or agreement.=A0 It is rather that there seems to be a kind of constellation at work here; a problematic site productive of engendered affinities.

 

This understanding of the subject, as least as I see it, tends to be psychoanalytical, and therefore it regards the subject, not as a thing or substantial entity, but rather as a kind of belated response to trauma, one that occurs after the breech. Freud’s famous statement “Woe es War, Soll Ich Werden” seems relevant here.=A0 Usually this is translated by Ego Psychology as “Where the id was, there the ego shall be” but this certainly gets it wrong, implying that there are two pre-existing faculties, one of which is merely substituted for the other by way of social conformity. In Lacan simpler and more direct reading, it becomes “Where it was, I shall be.”=A0 This gives it much more of an ethical flavor. =A0There is more of a sense of a subject and not merely an ego (which always remains an object!). One emerges from the symptom to assume responsibility for what was once only unconscious.

 

What all of this has to do with fear should be fairly obvious.=A0 It is not so much the fear itself, but how we respond to fear that makes the difference. =A0Will we acknowledge this fear as a symptom, a form of jouissance, a fate, and testify to it as such or merely attempt to overcome this fear through a new kind of repression?

 

In my previous posting, perhaps I sounded like I was nostalgic for a simpler time in the nineteenth century which cherished a belief in progress that now seems incredibly na=EFve.=A0 What life under capitalism has taught us during the past century is that instability is the very condition of capitalism and this instability remains the breeding ground for fear.=A0

 

Of course, this fact is known by the masters and often used to manipulate us. =A0As Adorno described it in “Minima Moralia” in a slightly different context:

 

“Terror before the abyss of the self is removed by the consciousness of being concerned with nothing so very different from arthritis or sinus trouble. Thus conflicts lose their menace. They are accepted, but by no means cured, being merely fitted as an unavoidable component into the surface of standardized life.=A0 At the same time they are absorbed, as a general evil, by the mechanism directly identifying the individual with social authority, which has long since encompassed all supposedly normal modes of behavior.”

 

This week seemed almost comical with reports that stores were running out of duct tape and plastic as panicked citizens rushed to protect their homes in response to the recommended advice that such methods be used to protect against an attack of biological warfare. After this occurred, other ‘experts’=A0 stepped forward to point out that such methods, if effective, would merely lead to suffocation after a few days.=A0 The choice seems clear for the American public - death by biological weapons or death by asphyxiation, the Janus-like face of terror.

 

Beyond all this, there remains a horizon of the banalization of fear and terror with the recommended cure, imposed upon us by authority; as one that will relieve us of our anxiety only at the cost of surrendering to greater social control. The more fragile alternative to this situation is that perhaps this reaction to fear will lead to the belated birth of a more ethical subject. One who embraces fear as a symptom and uses it instead as a weapon with which to confront a duplicitous regime that wants to benefit from fear through manipulation. =A0=A0

 

I agree that even though economic issues may be driving much of the politics, economics alone do not explain completely what is happening. =A0We are not merely economic subjects, but always subjects yet-to-be.=A0 What is really at stake is not merely the global economy, but who we might become.=A0 Fear is a tool that works both ways. Where fear once was, I shall be.

 

eric

 

-----Original Message-----


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