Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Faith in Futurity

In Marx and in Nietzsche -- though this is more pronounced in
Nietzsche -- I find a faith in the future that enables them to
imagine the possibility of a different form of life. Thus,
without giving into the temptation to define or describe what
this different form of life will be like, they nevertheless affirm the
possibility -- as the "negative" or "inverse" of the critique
of actuality (of capitalism, of nihilism).

It is the cracks or tensions within the actual that
permit them to imagine a different possibility. But the
possibility also remains at the level of imagination -- it does
not rise to the level of conceptualization. The conceptual
realm is merely critical. On the other hand, one needs
assurances that the imagined, the possible, is rational and not
mere fantasy.

In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud accuses communists
-- who are, after all, among the 'discontents' referred to in the
title -- of fantasy, the regression to a pre-Oedipal stage. There's a
lot of mileage to be gotten out of reading Anti-Oedipus as a
prolegomenon or preparation for a post-oedipal subjectivity --
if that's possible.

I think that it is; unfortunately, the deterioration of traditional
(authoritarian) family structures and the deterioration of the ego
seems to be a "post-oedipal" subjectivity, and if that's right, then
the post-oedipal subject is all the more vulnerable to direct
manipulation by market forces and the logic of exchange.

If one wanted to read Dialectic of Enlightenment and
Anti-Oedipus in conjunction (as I do), one might need to see
these two very different responses to Freud (and Marx, and Nietzsche)
as engaged in a conversation about the decline of oedipal subjectivity.

This decline points the way to both a reversion or regression
to pre-oedipal subjectivity ("the last man") and to a genuinely
post-oedipal subjectivity ("the Uebermensch").


Anonymous john c. halasz said...

Perhaps the opening conundrum could be put in terms of "truth" as openness and "truth" as referntial predication. It's the former and the concept formation it allows that enables the latter, even if the former makes little sense and could scarcely be evinced without the latter. But "truth" as reference also tends to cover over and constrict (the awareness of) "truth" as openness and reify its conceptual structure in the interest of mastering the "given". Perhaps the critical moment of conceptual imagination derives from the intersection of a reflection on underlying (and unmet) needs and an awareness of the way the potentials of concept formation are constricted and cut-off by the workings of "given" reality. Hence the impulse to form critical counter-concepts from without the very working of extant reality, which might appear to be "fantasies" precisely insofar as they are normatively unanchored in that reality. But the counter-normative appeal to their "reality" must be anchored in something other than reflection. In Marx, the appeal is to social relations, that in their joint-production, might give rise to collective processes of reflection on needs and possibilities. In Nietzsche, the appeal is more to the "happy few" capable of a prise de conscience, but with the implication that in the future the "necessity" of that prise de conscience would become broader and deeper. But in both cases, the possibility of a transformed form of life is rooted in an awareness of the historicity of concept formation and the openness that underwrites it.

As to Freud, isn't the point of the "Oedipus complex" that it gives rise to the structuring of personality formation through the integration of mimetic identifications, which involves the contradictory tension of submission to the other and the impetus to differentiation, with a destructive potential of de-structuring conflict latent in the impasses of a sacrificial submission to the other whom one makes oneself over into and assimilates oneself to out of the reproductive imperative of desires and expectations? And if so, wouldn't a "post-Oedipal" configuration involve breaking the bonds of identification and the demands for reproduction and assimilation that they encode? That would be destructive, if it would require a recuperation of a "pre-Oedipal" self, as never having actually existed since only a process of formation. But as a more genuine and accurate recognition of the actual and separate existence of the other from without the boundaries of the self, it could be a releasement of the differentiation of the self from the antagonistic compulsiveness of its relation to the other. That would not be a complete abolition of fantasy, but perhaps a re-accessing and restructuring of the affects and dispositions that structured (the relation to) the other from without the compulsions to "capture" others. The problem with the dogmatism of Freud is that it re-enforces the normalized paranoia of the "reality principle" by binding an entirely psychological subject to the reproduction of a social reality presupposed in its givenness. Perhaps the problem with psychoanalysis is that it forecloses any appeal to counter-concepts.

6:34 PM  

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