Somewhere or other Lacan speaks of a fundamental choice of subjective-structure that precedes any actualized form that subjective-structure might take. Thus you get the choice of hysteria that protests the legitimacy of any particular master, figure of authority, or father, leader, or expert, the choice of obsessional neurosis that constantly licks the heels of every master while secretly stealing pathetic bits of enjoyment behind his back by pissing in his lemonade, the pervert that shows the neurotic what his desire is really about, and finally the psychotic that bucks the whole damned system, refusing it altogether. Zizek, in his writings on Schelling, speaks of this as a choice that precedes choice or a sort of transcendental choice to choose. In other words, you get your average obsessional sort of neurosis that chooses not to choose, saying that the game is set, that this is the way things are, and that our only option is to steal little bits of jouissance while maintaining the system.

Zizek’s tells a marvelous vulgar joke that perfectly exemplifies this logic. A peasant couple encounters a nobleman on a dirt road. Evoking the ancient law of prima nocta, the nobleman demands the right to sleep with the peasant’s wife. However, to add insult to injury he demands that the husband hold the nobleman’s testicles while he does the deed so they don’t get dirty from the road. After the dirty deed has taken place and the nobleman has trotted off, the husband laughs hysterically. Distraught by her husband’s response after this terrible encounter, his wife asks how he can possibly laugh. The husband responds, full of mirth, that he didn’t hold the master’s balls. Such is always the logic of those who want to be recognized by their master’s. Here the husband thinks he’s scored a major victory, but he’s kept everything important in place just as it was before. He steals his little bit of jouissance, but it only functions to sustain the unjust system within which this event took place. This, for example, is the universe of the Larry Craig’s, Sanford’s, etc., that keep the system in place while stealing bits of enjoyment behind the scene, but also the logic of all of those who identify with their oppressors, believing that they will get their eye and recognition. They strive to get recognition from their masters even as they despise them. On the other hand, there are those that prior to any choice they make recognize that the frame of decision is itself arbitrary and can be changed. The philosophical difference here might be characterized in terms of the difference between Badiou and Deleuze on the one hand, and Habermas and Rawls on the other. In the latter case we are constrained by a lifeworld and can only act and decide within the framework of those constraints. The constraints themselves cannot be questioned or interrogated. In the former case, by contrast, it is the frames themselves that are contested and the entire issue revolves around how those frames might be abolished or transformed. Of course, the latter position always wins out because you cannot show an alternative possibility, but only enact it. As a result, the latter position is always the “sensible” or “common sense” position.

Prior to where anyone stands on any particular issue, there seems to be a fundamental existential decision that precedes any “ontic” decision one might make regarding social and political issues. There are, basically, two types of people in the world, though this point can only be made through ontic examples. There are those who side with the insurance companies, holding that the reason prices are so high is that there are spurious lawsuits against doctors for malpractice. And then there are those that side with the people, seeing insurance companies as profit driven entities designed to inflate cost for their own benefit. There are those who side with corporations, believing that policy should be designed for their benefit because, after all, they’re the ones that give us jobs, and then there are those that side with the workers seeing little or no connection between the interests of corporations and the interest of workers. There are those that side with the protesters on May of ’68 against an oppressive academic and work regime, and then there are those who see May of ’68 as a youthful burst of naivete that had no meaning whatsoever. There are those that side with the raped woman and then those who said she shouldn’t have dressed so provocatively. Most recently there are those who side with Gates and those who think he was an uppity black man who should have been more respectful to the officer. And then there are those that claim that all intellectual work should be constrained by the tradition and strictly defined by that framework. Where one falls is always a fundamental existential decision that precedes any specific decision one might make. What is interesting is how those who have chosen not to choose somehow nonetheless end up talking endlessly about the pie in the sky naive ones who have chosen to choose, almost as if the former are aware of their own ephemeral and irrelevant place in the order of things.

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