The Need for an Imagined Enemy: Must One Be a Saint to Know What they Want?

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Because I wish to outline the basis of a society formed around desire I depend on your complicity of my desire to keep the fantasy of this exercise real to you. if we start by charting typical injunctions we can locate our reliance on our own subjecthood. After all the psychoanalytic symbol system is our model, and as such we are able to extend our situation to that of the wounded group and their capacity to strike violence out of unbridled desire-surplus.

Whether we admit our mutual dependency on one another or not; that dependency will no doubt play itself out in what Lacan calls the “dialectic of desire.” Kant’s categorical imperative is an appropriate beginning point to lay the ground work. Our duty to one another is voluntary and therefore Kant believed as subjective citizens we are completely free. That freedom, as all freedom is however plagued with indeterminacy. For instance, I am conscious that I have a duty to you but that duty is what ever I decide it to be. Kant’s objective (as is the objective of most ethical philosophy) is to understand the basic injunction that keeps us as rational and subjective actors and to ultimately generate greater autonomy into what can always be considered a shared ethical situation. Because we are responsible interpreters of what our voluntary role may be (to one another) let’s dive into this potential.

On one side we tend to consume a state that’s beatific and stable; unaffected by human depravity. The other side of our desire is rooted in envy, a fantasizing of how the other is against me; a state “under-threat.” Freedom from the hold of this ambiguous dialectic is that of the modern saint. Because the desire we have of say the father is purely conceptual in this system, of psychoanalysis i.e. he will represent authority for me whether or not he exists, is an authoritarian or whatever. This is a cornerstone of the Lacanian stance. Our old classical figures of psychoanalysis are merely stand ins that we have already interpreted, leaving our interpretations unable to decipher their own texts.

The symbolic figures of the psyche are rooted in pure fantasy, which are inherently hallucinatory realizations of our own desire. Yet, the desire realized in our fantasies are rooted in the others desire. This dialectic of desire forms a compromise between the ‘envy of the other’ and the ‘ideal specter of the subject,’ of oneself. After all, the subject, (oneself) does not know what she wants, she is merely responding to ‘what do others want from me?’

Taking the system to the social context of imagined desire formed around a collective other, as dictated by the Big other, (the superego in the machine) is perhaps the more important question. Because, what we are dealing with is pure ideology formed around an imagined other.

The group forms a collective other by answering the question, “what does society want from me?” In every instance of the dialectic, the other has a lack; the other is fulfilling the lack as a surplus of the desire founded on not having a competent ability to castrate the desire formed in one’s own idealist state, (as mentioned above). Overall then, fantasy is simply the need to fill out a lack in the other. The filling of the lack in the other according to psychoanalysis is predicated on: the creation of the enemy/other as a “projection” of the insufficient parts of my own subjecthood onto the other or of the collective group in this case.

The dialectic of desire brings the subject into an even more oppressive stance to such an injunction. Since society forces us to choose freely that which is already forcefully imposed upon us, we subjects require a command in the guise of freedom. We want to obey and maintain the semblance of freedom to save face. The master of the psychoanalytic system was in charge of his unconscious, relying on his analysis qua the template of psychoanalysis itself, not society to reach the conclusion of the neurosis, the problem, etc. Lacan’s master as utterly unconscious. There is no structure to the master’s law. His unconscious complicity is also undergoing its own dialectic. For the analyst cannot help us because by reaching resolution for the subject always causes a lack of command for that subject, (which they require), whether they are aware or of that or not. The situation between master-slave is ultimately suffocating and requires a new master capable of providing a clear injunction, so the process continues.

Look at what the typical analyst will have resolved for her subject:

1. they must renounce their desire, which is founded on the dissolution/castration of the other. After all, the real statement of psychoanalysis is, “do unto others what you would want that person to do to you.” This inversion of the Christian moral system has one accept their identity as categorically founded on a deep injury, which the system requires.

2. That dissolution of “what the other expects of me” framework, and symbolic castration towards independence can be a great source of pleasure: one can now report to the superego, the “Big other” machine from a subjective position, with victim language, as such, they have control over their own language, accordingly they have mastered their desire.

Where has language gone in such a system? I hear myself speaking but at the same time, isn’t my voice really a parasite speaking in my own heart? Voice in the Lacanian desire dialectic is a spectral apparition that has survived its own death. Voice is the living dead. Lacanian cultural reality brings with it a strong political critique of the shared identity and group identity formation. The language a group is capable of controlling within their own struggle with their invented superego machine, i.e. their collective Big other.

Take the tragedy of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. When the cultural story a community has been telling about itself no longer makes sense, their surplus desire has no outlet, except violence. Violence is precisely an endeavor to strike a blow at the surplus value of enjoyment found in the other. Because the big other requires just like the subject: a simultaneous need for his own position of authority and the disavowal of that power hold. This point gets at the very essence of post modern micro oppression and what Foucault refers to as the dispersal of power relations into heterogeneous codes, laws and practices.

Because the master is also a subject unconscious of his own hold over the process of dissolution, he is forced to maintain that hold with the same amount of guilt as that of the subject undergoing the same struggle. The subaltern, (Iraqi, Palestinian, etc.)in this case fantasizes an enemy who the more he becomes elusive and his tactics of coercion and authority are concealed, the more his specter becomes real, the more his face becomes associated with a certain group. For instance, the fascist hatred of the Jew was based on the fantasy of the other behind the other, the others double is behind the scenes controlling the economy or what ever. The others double are stopping our progress and his hold over our freedom is uncastratable, making his specter the ultimate irreconcilable desire fantasy of the collective group.

How does all of this play out politically? The function of the political critique of the Lacanian view seeks to identify the symptom within the official public authority system which simultaneously disavows and needs its power. After all, such a system is inherently ideological. The kernel of the authority text which maintains the system must be accessed, rooted out and stomped to death.

For us though, Zizek’s brilliant understanding of the modern saint makes a great deal of sense in this system. The saint is he who is able to transcend the system of desire. The saint passes the power injunction wrought on by the dialectic of desire, she has transcended the interplay between the gapping lack of the other which you and I usually play out as excessive enjoyment, “the pleasure principle.”

When we go to answer, “What does society want from me,” we receive the answer: we are alienated from the question because we do not have the knowledge/equipment to answer, which has actually occurred in a dialectical reversal of the very question reflected back out to society. The internal unknown antagonism is the post structuralist view of society itself, based around this inherent antagonism as rooted in the gapping ethical unknown.

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