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Tolga has written a beautiful and thoughtful response to Foucault Is Dead’s recent post on communities and my recent post asking what will we have been. There Tolga writes,

OK. I am probably repeating a well-known cliche.

It seems to me, being in positions like “drug cultures, blogsphere” (though I have not been in the former and only reader of your ‘communitiy’) cannot hide the class conflict between the members. On the contrary, you realize it more, exactly because they are attempts to repress it.

Yesterday, I watched the longest mevie I have seen (it was 5.5 hours!), 1900 of Bertolucci. This post reminded me that movie, it just rang a bell. Its entire content was nearly about that conflict occuring between two main characters, the peasant (Depardieu) and patrone (De Niro).

In one scene they “try” to have sexual affair with a whore. In another, they dance with their couples in the same hall. When they are kids, wealthy De Niro desperately makes an effort to mimic the poor kid’s ugly habits: like screwing the earth, touching the face to mud etc. But it cannot be resolved. All these attempts are failures, which made the movie so wonderful to me.

In specific to Sinthome’s remarks about the multitude like continental philosophy blogosphere, as a reader of that community I can basically see those “real” contradictions and as Badiou said in one of his recent interviews:

“Negri remains inside this classical opposition, while using other names: Empire for state, multitude for movement. But new names are not new things.”

Shortly, as an outsider I think the differences are too much to make them that dream like multitude. Since new names are not new things.

Why do some of them prefer linkin Lenin’s Tomb for instance, while some are more intereted in their academic positions? Please, do not misunderstand, I am not judging anyone, just saying that they are rather different in the sense of real.
Sorry, if I got outside of the road. This was a quick light occured to me when I read your post.

First, I am in agreement with Tolga regarding the issue of antagonism. Nothing in my original post, nor, if I can be so bold, in, I think, FiD’s post, was meant to suggest that blogging or counter-cultural communities are somehow a solution to antagonism. Nonetheless, I think Tolga is right to draw attention back to the centrality of antagonism in the formation of these communities. When I evoked the word “multitudes”, Negri and Hardt didn’t even occur to me as, perhaps embarrassingly, they really aren’t central theoretical reference points for me. Perhaps this will change next year when I teach a learning community on empire with one of the anthropologists here at my college, where I plan to torture the students with Empire. Rather, in evoking the term “multitudes” I was instead trying to be polite, and to emphasize that those of us in this little blogosphere come from very different theoretical orientations, backgrounds, forms of employment, and lifestyles, thus underlining that we are not homegeneous, yet still find some way to discourse or engage one another. In fact, I think these differences are a productive principle as they tend to function as a curative to theoretical myopia that, for me at least, sometimes becomes an occupational hazard. If I am to discourse with, for instance, Kenneth Rufo who I very much appreciate, I must take into account our very different reference points. Such an encounter then becomes a creative moment where I’m drawn out of my own theoretical assumptions and become something other than what I was.
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Every semester I begin my introductory courses with Plato’s Euthyphro. There are a number of reasons for this. On the one hand, the Euthyphro is exemplary as a model of philosophical analysis, argumentation, and critique. On the other hand, this dialogue stages the manner in which action and belief interpenetrate, such that actions are based on beliefs and false belief leads to false action. Additionally, there are geographical reasons as well. Teaching in the Dallas Texas area– home of the megachurch and the central hub of apocalyptic variants of Evangelical Christianity –teaching the Euthyphro exposes students to questions of religion and faith that perhaps they have never before encountered. Finally, the Euthyphro inaugurates some basic and fundamental distinctions as to how all subsequent ethical and political philosophy will be conducted. However, it is also possible to see the Euthyphro as a criticism of ideology and as a sort of therapy strategically designed to both reveal Euthyphro’s attachments and precipitate a separation from those attachments. Socrates aims at nothing less than producing a sort of void in Euthyphro… A void, perhaps, that would have the effect of producing the possibility of freedom.
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NOTE: HTML and Lacanian mathemes don’t mix very well. In what follows I’ve used “*” to represent the “losange”, “punch”, or diamond in Lacan’s formulas for fantasy.

Filled with exhaustion from the excitement of last night and the lack of sleep it engendered, I don’t really have much to say today, but I simply wanted to post this passage from Zizek’s Plague of Fantasies as it so nicely encapsulates the Lacanian theory of fantasy, first developed in Seminar 6, Le desir et son interpretation, and culminating in Seminar 14, La logique du fantasme.
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A colleague of mine alerted me to this interview with Chris Hedges, author of American Fascism, which discusses the danger of far right extremist fundamentalist movements. Of particular interest, I think, is his focus on the relationship between economic woes and growing economic anxiety, and the emergence of these apocalyptic movements, which I find to be both an interesting and important observation:

In the beginning of the book, you write briefly about covering wars in Latin America, the Middle East and the Balkans. How did that shape the way you understand these social forces in America? What similarities do you see?

When I covered the war in the Balkans, there was always the canard that this was a war about ancient ethnic hatreds that was taken from Robert Kaplan’s “Balkan Ghosts.” That was not a war about ancient ethnic hatreds. It was a war that was fueled primarily by the economic collapse of Yugoslavia. Milosevic and Tudman, and to a lesser extent Izetbegovic, would not have been possible in a stable Yugoslavia.

When I first covered Hamas in 1988, it was a very marginal organization with very little power or reach. I watched Hamas grow. Although I came later to the Balkans, I had a good understanding of how Milosevic built his Serbian nationalist movement. These radical movements share a lot of ideological traits with the Christian right, including that cult of masculinity, that cult of power, rampant nationalism fused with religious chauvinism. I find a lot of parallels.

People have a very hard time believing the status quo of their existence, or the world around them, can ever change. There’s a kind of psychological inability to accept how fragile open societies are. When I was in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, at the start of the war, I would meet with incredibly well-educated, multilingual Kosovar Albanian friends in the cafes. I would tell them that in the countryside there were armed groups of the Kosovo Liberation Army, who I’d met, and they would insist that the Kosovo Liberation Army didn’t exist, that it was just a creation of the Serb police to justify repression.

You saw the same thing in the cafe society in Sarajevo on the eve of the war in Bosnia. Radovan Karadzic or even Milosevic were buffoonish figures to most Yugoslavs, and were therefore, especially among the educated elite, never taken seriously. There was a kind of blindness caused by their intellectual snobbery, their inability to understand what was happening. I think we have the same experience here. Those of us in New York, Boston, San Francisco or some of these urban pockets don’t understand how radically changed our country is, don’t understand the appeal of these buffoonish figures to tens of millions of Americans.

As I argue in the conclusion to my recent paper on apocalypticism, the central feature of apocalyptic narratives seems to be that they present the time of action as deferred, as if we are powerless in the present, unable to do anything now to transform our social conditions as the forces of capital are too strong to be resisted and fought against. The time of the now, of the present, has disappeared. Or, put otherwise, the present no longer appears as an actable space. The middle class worker working for the corporation encounters lay-offs every few years as a result of stockholder decisions, shifts in global economy that require downsizing, and changes in technology, making them much like the Stoic slave Epictetus who can only endure his fate and turn inward, rather than change life under empire. So too with lower class workers who increasingly find themselves in competition with outsourcing and technologies that render their jobs obselete. This echoes, Poetix’s, K-Punk’s, and Jodi Dean’s thesis that today it is impossible to imagine a beyond or alternative to life under contemporary global capitalism. Fundamentalist apocalyptic narratives become powerfully attractive under such conditions, as they promise the possibility of a post-apocalyptic world where these antagonisms are resolved and the disruption at the heart of the social is finally pacified. The problem, of course, is that in being seduced by these narratives, the followers are led to endorse a number of other downright frightening things at the level of policy… Policies that are often directly against their own self-interests.

It seems to me that an element commonly missing from these discussions is the role played by the contemporary hegemony of the “discourse of the victim”. One of the uncanny points of identity between both left and right is the primacy of victim discourses as the only authentic position from which to formulate an ethics and politics. Thus we have victimhood as minority status on the left, and the perceived persecution of Christians and white heterosexual males as the dominant trope on the right. One question worth asking is why politics must today take the form of a discourse of the victim. I haven’t come up with any answers to this question, yet it does seem that “being-a-victim” confers one a minimal ontologically substantiality or identity in a world where identity has progressively been virtualized and rendered precarious by the collapse of the big Other. The dangers of rightwing discourses of the victim are, I think, readily apparent in terms of the sorts of action they thereby authorize.

The entire interview can be read for free if you watch and advertisement.

I hate people who use the term “kafkaesque”, but I simply don’t know how else to describe the sort of jouissance embodied in this little nugget in a post entitled “Liberals ARE Patriotic” that I came across over at R*dst*te (I would link to the original article, but having witnessed the moderators of this blog go after academics and those with whom they disagree by posting personal information and contacting employers, I simply don’t want any attention from them). Trying to be “reasonable” by explaining how liberals conceptualize patriotism (rather than dismissing them outright as being unpatriotic… why this should be a criteria for involvement in political discourse is beyond me), the author presents the following list of democratic beliefs:

  • Liberal Ideals…

    * It is the job of the Federal Government to bring both order and fairness to society.
    Every demographic group has a right to an equal outcome.
    * Every person has the right to a living wage, to quality healthcare and to a comfortable retirement.
    * It is the responsibility of the Federal Government to take the measures it deems necessary to insure equality of outcomes.
    * Every individual has the right to live their lives without interference from other groups within the society, except where the Federal Government determines such interference is necessary in order to assure equal outcomes.
    * We must respect the right of every other nation to order their society in a way that seems right to them and we have no right, and certainly no obligation, to impose any set of “values” on another group of people.
    * The sole purpose of “diplomacy” is to understand the motivation and values of other societies and to find ways to accommodate them in order to live peacefully.
    We are just one member of the Community of Nations that make up the World.
    * All conflicts between nations must be decided by an independent third party who can rule on the issues between the various States in a manner that will best serve all States. The appropriate channels for resolution of disputes would be the United Nations and/or the World Court.
    * No nation has the right to act in their own “national interest” when such action does perceived harm to another nation’s “national interest”. In such cases, the dispute must be resolved by the UN or WC.

  • Conservative Ideals…

    * The fundamental job of the Federal Government is to protect national security.
    * Every individual should have equal opportunity based on their individual abilities.
    The Federal Government has no responsibility or inherent right to equalize outcomes or to economically provide for individuals.
    * The Federal Government should seek to implement policies which promote and reward the values of individualism and entrepreneurship.
    * It is the responsibility of individuals within the society to order their own lives and to determine how society shall be ordered.
    * In all dealings with other nations, the Federal Government must first consider the national interest of the people of this country.
    * The Federal Government must never submit to an independent third party in dispute resolution where such resolution is not in the national interest of this country.
    * A strong and effective military, and the willingness to use it, are critical to our national interest and our national survival.

Having read this author for a few years now, he’s genuinely trying to understand the liberal perspective in this post and is trying to give an accurate representation of what those on the left believe. This comparison is not intended as a parody, nor is it an intentional distortion of leftist positions.

If I’m led to describe his portrayal of liberal ideals as “kafkaesque”, then this is because the literature of Kafka always represents bureaucracy in a distorted and larger than life form, where the faces of the various functionaries are elongated and twisted in different ways, where the ledgers of the law contain pornographic pictures, where speech is incomprehensible, etc. What Kafka manages to capture is the phantasmatic dimension unconsciously underlying the subject’s relationship to bureaucratic mechanisms, where institutions are experienced as all powerful, impersonal, machines relating to the subject as objects of its jouissance. Here the bureaucracy doesn’t have the subject fill out this or that form that must then be taken to this or that office, only to be faced with filling out another form, for some pragmatic reason, but precisely because this machine draws jouissance from relating to me in this way, from making me jump through these hurdles. Similarly, when I go to the department of motor vehicles to renew my license, I am not made to wait in a long line because the process is technically slow, but rather just because the institution enjoys making me wait in long lines and exerting its control over me.

This is the dimension of fantasy as it relates to bureaucracy. I might very well know that forms take a long time to process and that the department of motor vehicles lacks the funding to upgrade its computers to speed up the process, but at the level of my unconscious experience of the institution, I cannot help but believe that the institution draws sadistic enjoyment from making me wait in this way, that the forms are purposefully designed to be confusing and misleading, that I am purposefully being made to feel that I am nothing, that I am a mere subject of the instutition’s power, with no power of my own. Try as I might to rationalize why the line is moving so slow, when I finally get before the civil servant I can’t help but be short and irritable, unable to shake myself of the belief that somehow he’s enjoying the time I lost standing in line for hours and my confused anxiety over whether or not I filled out the paperwork correctly. Unconsciously I feel like Schreber in relation to God… A subject of God’s sadistic jouissance, where God himself is completely unaware that I am a subject or have thoughts.

The structure of how this conservative experiences liberals is akin to the sort of phantasmatic universe described by Kafka. Moreover, this experience of liberals isn’t confined to the author of the post, but is echoed by a number of other conservatives that frequent the site. On the one hand, all of the ideals listed under conservatives are ideals of autonomy, where the agent retains his own freedoms and ability to determine his life, while others aren’t given advantages that they do not deserve and have not earned. On the other hand, all the ideals listed under liberals are premised on relinquishing others of their autonomy, outrightly humiliating Americans (the attitude of liberals towards the United States is portrayed as one of inherent guilt), and on unjustly giving others benefits and advantages they don’t deserve. Note, for instance, how equality is somehow shifted to equality of outcome such that liberals are saddled with the belief that no one can achieve more than others, and how they are portrayed as advocating the view that everyone should be comfortable without any work. Liberals are thus portrayed as stealing the enjoyment of those who have worked hard and of enjoying the manner in which they humiliate hard workers and the United States (as can be seen in the discussion of the role to be played by the United Nations).

What’s interesting here is that a number of self-identified liberals spoke up, criticizing this list, and pointing out the many ways in which it is inaccurate, but even when confronted with evidence to the contrary, the conservative defenders of the list said “This list is not about you, but those you support. The description is true even if it doesn’t fit you.” Thus, like Sade’s heroines, liberal jouissance is understood to remain identical and eternal in all possible universes, even when faced with counter-examples. Just as Sade’s heroines can endure the most abusive tortures and retain all their beauty– thereby marking a distinction between the sublime object of desire and its material embodiment –there’s a sublime figure of the liberal that all liberals contain even when they say otherwise.

Like Kafka’s universe, it must be horrible to live in a universe where one experiences oneself as perpetually having to defend against this theft of enjoyment. Two questions jump out to me: First, what kind of rhetorical gesture, what sort of dialogue, can target this sort of phantasmatic jouissance? It is clear that ordinary rational means of communication are impotent when faced with such fantasies as protestations to the contrary always fall on deaf ears. Second, what is it that produces such a phantasmatic experience? What unconscious deadlocks, what social antagonisms, lead one to believe something like what is stated above? What defensive function does this fantasy serve and how does it function to prolong and sustain desire?

N.Pepperell over at Rough Theory has written a very nice response to my musings on the ubiquity of apocalyptic fantasies in contemporary culture, drawing on Adorno. Expressing hesitation over certain elements of my claims, N.P. writes:

Sinthome thus expresses the hope that apocalyptic fantasies manifest a desire for something other than their explicit content – something more than the desire for destruction and death. I raise this point, not to hold up Freud’s text against Sinthome’s appropriation – for we have no obligation for interpretive fidelity to Freud’s work and, in any event, even Freud’s “typical” examples contain permutations that might be amenable to Sinthome’s appropriation (Freud suggests that “typical” dreams can manifest historical content, for example – ephemeral wishes once felt, but long since rejected, etc.) – but because I think it provides a good frame for understanding Adorno’s very different attempt to merge psychoanalytic theory with sociology in the service of critique. If Freud offers two interpretive paths, one of which Sinthome has followed in the hopes that apocalyptic fantasy might signify a nonmanifest content – a longing for transcendence – we can understand Adorno’s work as an attempt to reflect seriously on the second path – on the possibility that certain mass movements might genuinely desire to achieve what their fantasies express: destruction and death.

I do not have much to add to N.P.’s excellent analysis, except to point out that I do not believe there’s any substantial disagreement here between my claims and what she’s drawing from Adorno. This point comes into greater clarity with regard to other fantasmatic structures. An acquaintance of mine suffers from an overwhelming sense of guilt that pervades nearly every aspect of his daily life. For instance, his wife will ask him to do something innocuous and straightforward and he’ll be paralyzed by anxiety feelings of guilt, encountering her request not as a simple request, but as an accusation claiming that he failed to do something that he should have done. Similarly, whenever faced with some form that he must fill out for the government or his job, he encounters this form as implying that he’s done something wrong in much the same way that Joseph K’s engagements with the castle and the court all imply some ambiguous and unfathomable guilt in The Castle and The Trial. Finally, his dream life is pervaded by dreams where he commits some horrible act of crime and is to be punished.

The point not to be missed here is that the manifest content of this frame with respect to how he organizes his intersubjective relations and relations to the world– the frame through which he views and interprets the address of others to him –is taken as a genuine and true reading of what is actually going on. He genuinely, for instance, experiences his wife as accusing him, and this leads him to act in response to these accusations, demonstrating that he is in fact innocent, that she is the guilty one (for not telling him before), etc., thereby generating conflict between himself and his spouse.

Over the course of our discussions– which have largely been of a theoretical and impersonal nature, often about the structure of the moebius strip and rhetoric –he has increasingly come to believe that, in fact, these guilt affects have little or nothing to do with anything unfolding in the present. Rather, when he was very young his mother died of cancer and underwent a long and very painful treatment. During this there were times when he would wish for her to die. At present, then, his working hypothesis is that this ubiquitous guilt is a sort of return of the repressed wherein he seeks punishment for these wishes. Indeed, for Freud one of the central marks of obessessional neurosis, the mechanism of repression operative in repression, is a splitting that occurs between affect and signifier, such that the affect is displaced and appears elsewhere in our intersubjective relations. Freud points out that the obsessional, unlike the hysteric, is often quite aware of particular events, but recollects these events without their proper affective content. Instead, the affect becomes connected to signifiers that appear completely unrelated to the originary signifying content. My friend’s repetition of this guilt in relation to events unrelated to his wish for his mother’s death can thus be seen as serving two functions: On the one hand, it provides him with the punishment he believes himself to deserve. On the other hand, it gives him the opportunity to prove, again and again, his innocence by acting in the present with regard to whatever manifest content happens his way, demonstrating that he has been unjustly accused.

The point, then, that I am trying to make is that the manifest content can very well be treated as the “real McCoy”, as the real problem, and we perpetually take up action in relation to this manifest content. The case is similar with regard to apocalyptic fantasies. It is both possible for apocalyptic fantasies to be expressive of frustration with social relations, yearnings for a different type of social order, and repressed wishes for all of society to collapse so that this social order might become possible, and for the subjects inhabited by these fantasies to misrecognize their desire and treat the manifest content as something to be promoted or fought against exactly as Adorno suggests. Zizek makes a similar point apropos the Jew and anti-Semitism. For Zizek, the anti-Semite’s animosity towards the Jew is expressive of a series of social antagonisms that have nothing to do with Jews themselves. They are representative of the anti-Semite’s own disavowed desire (for a more detailed discussion of Zizek’s analysis of anti-semitism see here). However, none of this prevents the anti-Semite from targeting the Jew as a source of violence and unjust legislation, by treating the manifest content of the symptom as a genuine reality. For me, then, the question is that of how fetishistic fascination with the manifest content can be shifted so as to focus on both these disavowed desires and latent content pertaining to social antagonisms.

As a final caveat I would like to add that my basic position is that psychoanalysis is not a psychology but a theory of intersubjectivity. As Freud puts it in the very first paragraph of Group Psychology and the Analysis of Ego,

The contrast between individual psychology and social or group psychology, which at a first glance may seem to be full of significance, loses a great deal of its sharpness when it is examined more closely. It is true that individual psychology is concerned with the individual man and explores the paths by which he seeks to find satisfaction for his instictual impulses; but only rarely and under certain exceptional conditions is individual psychology in a position to disregard the relations of this individual to others. In the individual’s mental life someone else is invariably involved, as a model, as an object, as a helper, as an opponenet; and so from the very first individual psychology, in the extended by entirely justifiable sense of the words, is at the same time social psychology as well. (SE 18, 69)

Lacan pushes this thesis to its logical conclusion, treating psychoanalysis not as a psychology, but rather as a transcendental theory of the analytic setting… Or more properly, transference. As such, all questions of psychoanalysis are already questions of the social field, not of individual minds. This is one reason that Lacan was led to investigate topology for forms of relation not premised on outside/inside binaries, but rather continuous relations between self, Other, and world.

In an interesting post over at I Cite, Jodi Dean makes reference to a pessimistic discussion about the future unfolding over at K-Punk and Poetix. In the context of this discussion, the question revolves around the issue of whether or not the damage to the world is irrevocable and whether another world is possible (i.e., whether there’s a limit to capitalism or an alternative to capitalism). Rather than directly taking a stand on these questions, I would instead like to approach the issue psychoanalytically from the standpoint of collective fantasies.

One of the things I began noticing a few years ago is that I was encountering patients whose sexual and amorous fantasy life was deeply bound up with visions of apocalypse or the destruction of civilization. For instance, I would encounter patients who had all sorts of fantasies about post-apocalyptic settings such as life after an eco-catastrophe, nuclear war, a massive plague, or a fundamental economic and technological collapse, where, at long last, they would be able to be with the true objects of their desire and their life would finally be meaningful (struggling to survive, to rebuild the world, etc). As I reflected on this phenomenon a bit, I began to notice that these sorts of fantasies populate the social space everywhere. In cinema there is an entire genre of apocalyptic films from both rightwing and leftwing perspectives such as Independence Day, Armageddon, The Day After Tomorrow, Dante’s Peak, Volcano, Deep Impact, and many more I cannot remember. In the world of “literature” the Left Behind novels have been a stunning success, selling millions of copies and leading to popular television shows and made for television movies. In news media, of course, we are perpetually inundated with apocalyptic threats from eco-catastrophe, to the bird flu, to the threat of massive meteors hitting the earth or supervolcanos exploding or even a star going supernova and evaporating our atmosphere, to terrorist attacks employing nuclear or bio-weaponry. The Discovery and Science Channel regularly devote shows to these themes.

While I am certainly not dismissing the possibility of these threats, the psychoanalytic approach suggests that we ask how our desire is imbricated with these particular representations or scenerios and enjoins us to analyze how our thought collectively arrives at these visions of the present rather than others. How is it that we are to account for the the ubiquity of these scenerios in popular imagination… An omnipresence so great that it even filters down into the most intimate recesses of erotic fantasy as presented in the consulting room? In The Interpretation of Dreams Freud presents an interesting take on how we’re to understand anxiety dreams such as the death of a loved one. There Freud writes that,

Another group of dreams which may be described as typical are those containing the death of some loved relative– for instance, of a parent, of a brother or sister, or of a child. Two classes of such dreams must at once be distinguished: those in which the dreamer is unaffected by grief, so that on awakening he is astonished at his lack of feeling, and those in which the dreamer feels deeply pained by the death and may even weep bitterly in his sleep.

We need not consider dreams of the first of these classes, for they have no claim to be regarded as ‘typical’. If we analyse them, we find that they have some meaning other than their apparent one, and that they are intended to conceal some other wish. Such was the dream of the aunt who saw her sister’s only son lying in his coffin. (p. 152) It did not mean that she wished her little nephew dead; as we have seen, it merely concealed a wish to see a particular person of whom she was fond and whom she had not met for a long time– a person whom she had once before met after a similarly long interval beside the coffin of another nephew. This wish, which was the true content of the dream, gave no occasion for grief, and no grief, therefore, was felt in the dream. (SE 4, 248)

No doubt this woman experienced some guilt for her desire for this man and therefore preferred to dream her nephew dead as an alibi of seeing him once again, rather than directly facing her desire. Could not a similar phenomenon be at work in apocalyptic scenerios? In all of these films there is some conflict at work at the social and romantic level. For instance, in The Day After Tomorrow, the husband is estranged from his wife and the boy lacks the courage to announce his love for the young woman. Society is also presented as having run amock in its pursuit of capital, as can be seen in the deleted scenes involving the Japanese business man and the shady deal prior to his death. In short, Freud’s point is that we should look at horrifying manifest content such as this as enabling the fulfillment of some wish. My thesis here would be that whenever confronted with some horrifying scenerio that troubles the analysand’s minds or dreams, the analyst should treat it like a material conditional or “if/then” statement, seeking to determine what repressed wish or desire might become possible for the analysand were the scenerio to occur (e.g., being fired would allow the analysand to pursue his true desire, the loss of a limb would allow the analysand to finally escape her father’s desire for her to play violin, etc).

Here, perhaps, would be the key to apocalyptic fantasies: They represent clothed or disguised utopian longings for a different order of social relations, such that this alternative order would only become possible were all of society to collapse. That is, could not the omnipresence of apocalyptic fantasies in American culture be read as an indication that somehow we have “given way on our desire” or betrayed our desire at a fundamental social level? That is, these visions simultaneously allow us to satisfy our aggressive animosity towards existing social relations, while imagining an alternative (inevitably we always triumph in these scenerios, even if reduced to fundamentally primative living conditions… a fantasy in itself), while also not directly acknowledging our discontent with the conditions of capital (it is almost always some outside that destroys the system, not direct militant engagement).

As such, these fantasies serve the function of rendering our dissatisfaction tolerable (a dissatisfaction that mostly consists of boredom and a sense of being cheated), while fantasizing about an alternative that might someday come to save us, giving us opportunity to be heroic leaders and people struggling to survive rather than meaningless businessmen, civil servants, teachers, etc. Perhaps the real question with regard to this pessimism, then, is that of how the utopian yearnings underlying these representations and the antagonisms to which they respond might directly be put to work.

Special props to N.Pepperell for drawing my attention to this discussion… Though N.P. has no responsibility for my lame and simplistic thesis.

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