Noticing the proliferation of neologisms in my thought lately– “phallusophy”, “Diotimatics”, “spectralogy”, etc. –I naturally found myself worrying whether or not there’s a structural psychosis at work in my theory. This takes a little explaining. The core of my thought is ontologically anarchistic. Indeed, The Democracy of Objects probably should have been entitled The Anarchy of Objects (there will be a book or chapter entitled The Anarchy of Machines in the future). Now what is an anarchic ontology? It is an ontology that forecloses transcendent terms such as God, Platonic forms, a-historical essences, sovereigns, fathers, a-historical structures, transcendent subjects, etc. All of these beings are treated as naturalistic, social, nation, and psychological transcendental illusions (cf. Difference and Givenness). Within an anarchistic ontology, everything unfolds within immanence, without anything standing outside of history, becoming, time, etc. An anarchic ontology is an ontology without fathers; or rather, it is an ontology where the name-of-the-father is foreclosed or banished both ontologically and socially as a necessary term. It is a queer ontology.
The formal matrix of any anarchic theory– whether ontological or political –consists in the rejection of the masculine side of Lacan’s graph of sexuation (to the left, above). The left-hand side of the graph of sexuation is the masculine side. If we read the two propositions in the upper left-hand quadrant together we get “there exists an entity that is not subject to withdrawal” and “all entities are subject to withdrawal”. Why does Lacan association this side of the graph with masculine sexuation? Because what he has presented here is a highly formalized version of the Oedipus complex and the myth of the primordial father in Totem and Taboo. Within this framework, the primordial father is not subject to “castration” in that he has free reign over all women, including his own mother and daughters. The incest prohibition is not yet in effect, yet all of his subjects are subject to a limitation on their enjoyment: the primordial father enjoys all the women, whereas the “band of brothers” is forbidden to do so. By contrast, in the Oedipus, the father is the origin of the Law and therefore not himself subject to it. Rather, it is the child that is subject to the Law and the limitations it imposes on jouissance. I deal with all of this in much more detail in the 6th chapter of The Democracy of Objects.
It is because of the key role that the father plays in the Oedipus and the myth of the primal father that Lacan associates the left-hand side of his graph with masculinity. What Lacan here formalizes is the elementary structure of patriarchy and phallocentricism (and incidentally, throughout all of his work Lacan never ceased to criticize the Oedipus, the phallus, the father, etc. He was the first “anti-oedipus”). So why does Lacan torture us with all this formalization rather than simply talking about the myth of the primal father and the Oedipus? Because of the Imaginary. The danger of images is that we become over literal, failing to see the structure for the trees. Because we think of the “father”– the top proposition in the masculine side of the graph of sexuation –we end up saying and wondering about stupid things like whether or not a child with two mothers can be an ordinary neurotic because a dick isn’t present. Moreover, we fail to see structural isomorphisms between things that are phenomenologically different yet structurally identical. For example, we might think that Sarah Palin is a victory for feminism, despite the fact that she occupies the structural position of a masculine sovereign (likewise with Thatcher). Or we fail to recognize that centralized management around a boss, theism with a transcendent God, societies organized around Nation, etc., are all structurally identical forms of organization… They’re all Oedipal or patriarchal. Formalization helps us to see beyond the image to a shared structure or set of isomorphisms. This is the genius of the Lacanian matheme; it allows us to see the structure for the different types of trees, and thereby allows us to pursue a more generalized a-theism (one need not believe in a divine, supernatural God to remain a theist, the Pope and Laplanche’s demon will do), a more thorough anti-patriarchy, and a consistent anarchism. Anarchism is anti-Oedipal, anti-Sovereign, and anti-Patriarchal thought and practice. This is why I propose a feminine ontology in chapter 6 of The Democracy of Objects. And that feminine, anarchic ontology, that flat ontology, of course, entails an anarchic politics… A posthuman, anti-sovereign, anti-patriarchal, flat politics without fathers or sovereigns.
Yet the burning question of all anarchic orientations of thought in politics and ontology is whether or not they’re doomed to psychosis. In Lacan’s earlier work, he argues that psychosis arises from the foreclosure of the name-of-the-father. Because the name-of-the-father is foreclosed in the symbolic, the psychotic subject is incapable of metaphoric operations (insofar as the placement of the name-of-the-father over the desire of the mother is the originary metaphoric operation allowing substitution in desire to take place). On the one hand, you thus get endless metonymy in psychosis (celebrated by Deleuze and Guattari in their desiring machine), while on the other you get a proliferation of neologisms. Finally, you get words treated as things.
You can see why I’m a bit uncomfortable here. I have endlessly proposed that texts/signifiers aren’t simply about things, they are things. In other words, I treat them– like Laruelle –as a sort of matter or thing upon which operations are carried out; a key feature of psychosis. Likewise, I am endlessly proliferating neologisms, taking great delight in their invention (it’s at the core of my theoretical jouissance). Here it’s important to proceed with caution. As an individual subject, I’m a pretty ordinary neurotic. Indeed, I’m a “good” hysteric. I endlessly worry and think about what the other desires of me. I defend against jouissance. I protest and find ways to maintain unsatisfied desire. I continuously challenge masters/fathers, etc. I am not making a claim about my own individual psycho-pathology, but about the structure of my discourse. They’re different.
The key question for anarchist politics/ontology is whether it leads necessarily to psychosis (my orientation here is anarcho-communist). Putting the issue in more positive terms, is it possible to form a social relation that isn’t premised on masculine sexuality or Oedipus/Sovereignty/Theism and the discourse of the master? My friends Ellie Ragland and Ken Reinhard and I went 20 rounds about this years ago at the Lacan and Theology conference hosted by University of Texas at Arlington and organized by Timothy Richardson. They insisted that the Lacanian structures uncovered by the matheme are Real and historically invariant, while I insisted that they’re Real, but historically variant. I based my argument on first on Lacan’s Family Complexes, where he analyzes a shift from totemic cultures where the symbolic and imaginary name-of-the-father are different to our current bourgeois cultures. There he argues that neurosis is a unique and new historical configuration that arises when the name-of-the-father is no longer the totem served by the maternal uncle, but where the biological/imaginary father stands in the place of the name-in-the-father (my ancient article on this issue is forthcoming in the next issue of Speculations). This, Lacan argues, generates a new topology of subjectivity. I further based my argument on the fact that Lacan introduces a 5th discourse, the discourse of the capitalist, that no longer fits with the discourse of the master. A few years ago, I demonstrated that there are not 4 discourses, but actually 24; though 16 of them might remain virtual or unactualized. Additionally, Lacan argues that despite the name-of-the-father being foreclosed in Joyce’s art, he manages to form a sinthome that allows him to link the three orders together through his art (he’s not a traditional psychotic). Finally, the very fact that the feminine side of the graph sexuation exists– and is presumably neither phallocentric nor psychotic –suggests the possibility of an anarchic alternative not organized around patriarchy, the phallus, or the name-of-the-father. The feminine side of the graph of sexuation is an ontology without transcendent deity or sovereign, nor without masters. This is the option I’m trying to take: can we form a society without masters? In this connection, I argued in The Democracy of Objects that it’s actually the masculine side of the graph of sexuation that’s semblance, masquerade, and fiction (which Lacan himself clearly suggests in placing the barred subject beneath the S1 of the discourse of the master). So my ultimate question, perhaps, is what a queer society/politics would look like; or a society without masters/fathers/sovereigns… Even human sovereigns.