Regarding this previous post, see also http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2012/07/is-modern-music-boring.html, on the homogenization (or evolution?) of pop music.

Will already has a post up on why psychoanalysis is worthwhile, and this question is something I often grapple with. I love reading Freud, Lacan and Zizek, but I have never undergone psychoanalysis and I’m not sure I ever will. Psychoanalysis is certainly not a science, and it is not really a philosophy either, so what is it? For that matter, what is philosophy, which is not a science, nor is it psychoanalysis. How are psychoanalysis and philosophy different from literary theory or political theory? Is all theory just theory? If they are different, are they different from these fields in different ways? And in what way are psychoanalytic concepts legitimate? Should they be reserved for “the clinic”, can they be exported to other disciplines? What does an analyst do, exactly? These are questions that still bug me. If you’ve got the answers, drop me a line in the comment box, thanks in advance.

Here is Zizek on psychoanalysis’ usefulness, predictably, he takes a Marxist approach:

This is why Lacan claimed that Marx had already invented the (Freudian) notion of a symptom: for both Marx and Freud, the way to the truth of a system (of society, of the psyche) leads through what necessarily appears as a ‘pathological’ marginal and accidental distortion of this system: slips of the tongue, dreams, symptoms, economic crises. (pg. 101, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce)

This “lab” is worth checking out, and it is especially interesting in light of the Lacanian Symbolic. I am thinking these “closed feedback loops” to be analogous with a Symbolic order sans Real. To de-jargonify, can we suppose that a virtual environment is an “ideal language,” a language without a single missing link, without paradox or contradiction?

Such an enclosed virtual Symbolic is wholly ossified and hermetically sealed. Suppose we generated a virtual space and then left the computer that was running the simulation alone for many years. Aside from the consumption of electricity, the virtual space would not have experienced any change because such a closed environment experiences no tension of any kind. The Real, qua disruptive gap, is not present. By being an entirely “dead” space, a virtual space is an entirely “full” space, it is seamlessly completed. Such a space is truely “timeless”, if time, as we experience it,  is simply the measurement of change.

The Paidia Institute also outlines, in their mission statement, the importance of elasticity and play, in its multiple meanings. Their site states, “Ideology itself—as an act of denomination—shares its semantic anatomy with play, ranging from a flexible system of widely accepted values to a rigid, bipolar structure of propaganda.” That is, propaganda is the purified Symbolic, and to extend my argument, it is the virtualization of the Real, rather than the realization of the virtual.

This is why dystopias like the one in The Matrix, despite its terrible script, are so chilling.  They ask the question, what if civilization became a virtual space, what if antagonism itself was completely repressed by a system of technology and authority?

“Antagonism, it’s worth fighting for”; I’m not sure if that phrase could function as a affected motto of the present counter-culture qua reborn Left, or as a cynical take on OWS’s failure to articulate concrete demands. Recalling the eternal Bards themselves, the Beastie Boys, “fight for your right to fight” is both viciously circular and absurdly accurate. Even as its future aims remain unclear, the OWS narrative is that we are currently fighting to be able to fight for that future.

And yet, this is precisely my problem with an attitude of “the alternative for its own sake“, the notion that to “think different”(trademark Apple Corporation) is enough. While I sympathize with Occupy, I am beginning to feel the need for a definitive project that can justify itself on its own grounds, without having to refer to The System in order to justify its “Resistance”. Resistance is, as Foucault thought, merely part of the regulative  functioning of power.  Resistance is not even disruptive in of itself, because its power  is actually predicated on the hegemonic power that it opposes. Part of the problem with OWS is that its future seems contingent on a deepened economic crisis, failing that, OWS may lose its momentum, unless it can tap into a Revolutionary “core”.

Meanwhile, the platform of mainstream politics is simply an attempt to “suture the gap”; to get things running smoothly, to add jobs, neutralize threats to American hegemony, and to otherwise virtualize the traumatic Real.

Link, the response is on their comment board, jump over to see the words wherein I reiterate old motifs (hipsterrunoff, authenticity, capitalism) and iterate new ones (virtualization, buzz, media-capital). Was that an appropriate use of “iterate”?

Astute readers may recall my previous post on ‘Culture Wars‘ wherein I dabbled in 9/11 truthing, communism 2.0, and wrote this:

However, we also live in a time that loves to leap to conclusions. As a result, as a culture we thrive on jumping the shark before there was even a golden achievement in place. Think of the so-called ‘enthusiasm gap,’ following Barack Obama. His momentous victory, his Nobel Peace prize, all before he had delivered anything but face-melting rhetoric solos.

Or think of the recent Odd Future phenomenon, the way a band was able to generate so much hype through a finely tuned, internet driven, buzz machine, that they blew up and had a career almost overnight; and now they are looking to publish a book about their lifestyle.

Likewise, Justin Bieber gathered ‘Beliebers’ with astonishing speed, achieving a career and a retrospective movie in almost the same instant that the masses first heard of him. Both of these artists are talented, but lets turn to 60′s media theorist Marshall McLuhan who coined such phrases as ‘the global village,’ and ‘the medium is the message.’

The message from Odd Future and Justin Bieber is only partially about their music, the real message is the self-perpetuating hype that they generate. Justin Bieber is popular and notorious because he is popular and notorious. At a certain tipping point, Odd Future generated buzz about the amount of buzz that they generated. We have hit a critical feedback loop in the media machine.

In my reply to the post on Cyborgology (link again) I revisit this “critical feedback loop in the media machine” as media-capital, which I construe as analogous to financial capital. While financial capital invests money for the sake of earning more money, media capital invests advertising for the sake of generating more advertising (in the form of blogs, tweets, etc.)  My point is that speech is the currency of the day.

I am also indebted to David Harvey for my current understanding of capital as an investment cycle, which he outlines in his reading of Marx’s Capital.  I can’t offer a specific quote, if you’re interested you will have to wade through his lectures, which are available free online.

And I’m back. We’ll see for how long this time.

Los 'indignados' protesting in Barcelona

Al Jazeera ran this article yesterday in which Santiago Zabala argues that being a communist in modern society is possible only because of the failure of the Bolshevik programme. A point I would agree with, however the claim that it is a necessary position is, to my mind, quite shaky. What I think is most important here, and seems likely it represents some background context, which the author mistakenly assumes is mutually held, is that the Revolutionary Act of Soviet communism (that is, Lenin’s revolution), precisely is an act in the sense that it was an impossible performance which, through its having been carried out, altered the very definition of what was possible. This is to say, being a communist is of course not “necessary given the existential threats posed by capitalism.” Rather this only means that one should challenge the hegemonic hold of capitalism over society, and further, even articulating such a problem is, by its very nature, to claim a counter-hegemonic discourse. The existential threats which are posed are not only invisible from within the hegemonic discourse, they constitute the very kernel of the Real, that is, they are the internal negative bounding of hegemony.

Zabala then proceeds to argue that, “Instead of pursuing once again the contest against capitalism for unfettered development, weak communism can now embrace the cause of economic degrowth, social distribution and dialogic education as an effective alternative to the inequity that global capitalism has submitted us to.” This call to throw away the positive proscriptions of the communist project, in order to take up the claims of anarchism and deconstructionism is an obvious expansion of the model of Marxism. In fact it represents a bloating of communism which expands its claims until the ever larger number of demands inscribed within the signifier ‘communism’ causes it to become an empty signifier that is less and less able to represent the particular claims of Marxism. Ultimately this model means abandoning the Marxist project in order to hold out the signifier communism as that which would represent the perceived lack of fullness of society. The very idea of communism is abandoned in order to represent a counter-hegemonic discourse of expanded inclusion, built upon the idea of social equality. This new signifier ‘communism’ no longer “aspire[s] to construct another Soviet Union,” because it has shed its proscriptive project and abandoned its material aims. It has embraced the Lacanian (r)evolution of Freud by abandoning material condition for psychic power.