Jen R.L. Stryke

'Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting progress in the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land.'—Mao Tse-tung

Aristotle Must Die!

Aristotle identifies two conditions for the existence of poetry[1]: humans have a natural instinct to 1) institute and 2) enjoy imitation, which is why we enjoy poetry. That is to say, the hypokeimenon of poetry that individuates it from other techne, such as the mechanical arts, is mimetic imitation. As such, Aristotle bifurcates poetry into two genres that correlate to the poet’s twofold mimetic nature. 1) The ‘serious poet’ metrically and rhythmically represents the ‘heroic action’ of the gods and great men of myth and history in the generic modes of the hymn, eulogy, epic, and, the apotheosis of all modes, tragedy. 2) The poet ‘of a less exalted nature’ assumes as his subject matter the ‘actions of inferior men’ in the satirical, lampooning, or comedic modalities. For Aristotle, then, great representative art is not a mere similitude of the surface appearance of things, but a proto-expressionist representation of the intrapsychic reality of certain human character types, virtues, passions and emotions.

While expanding the meaning of representation inward, Aristotle also circumscribes its external meaning by establishing a hierarchy of genres grounded upon the so-called ‘virtuosity’ of the subject matter and the techniques of representing it. Clearly, the lofty noble men of tragedy, and the lowly inferior men of comedy are delimited into class configurations: tragedy’s subject matter are kings and aristocrats who share the stage with the gods; comedy represents the proletarian subject: workers, servants, slaves, women and the poor.[2] Aristotle falsely naturalizes this socio-cultural hierarchy when he claims that art need not represent what actually transpired, as history does, but what plausibly could have or ought to have transpired. This, Aristotle says, is the creative aspect of art that makes it more scientific, and hence objective, than history, because art represents universal Truths, while history presents particular, contingent and ontic facts. Whereas Plato would ban art in his Ideal Republic, Aristotle conversely reasons that it is only through art that we can think the Ideal Republic that ought to be. Unfortunately, for Aristotle, this Ideal Republic involves the apportionment of people into social classes based upon the ontological status which he assigns them. Aristotelian tragedy, too, reinforces precisely this classification of culture, the community and human nature by showing how any attempt to alter one’s social position, such as by murdering the king to become him, is destined by Fate to cause ‘a change from good fortune to bad, in a sequence of events which follow one another inevitably’. Thus, for instance, the slave’s sanctioned place in the grotesque life of hard labour, and the king’s divine right to His idle life, are reinforced by their representation in art as given, natural and ontologically fixed.

We began by elucidating how Aristotle grounds his conception of the mimetic essence of art upon his ontology of humans as representative animals. We then noticed how Aristotle apportions art’s appropriate subject matter for representation based upon the degree of socio-political representation the subject already has within Athenian society. As such, Aristotle’s hierarchical criteria of appropriate subject matter, genres and techniques taken from aristocratic and religious cultures do not represent the social reality of human nature. Rather, Aristotelian art represents the ideology of the ruling classes, thereby propagating their beliefs, values and ideas about human nature that sustains their social echelon.


[1] Although Aristotle mainly discusses poetry and theatre, he also implicitly refers to music whose rhythm, tune and harmony are aspects of poetic theatre, and very briefly to painting, so that this paper sees it fit to generalize Aristotle’s specific foci on Ancient Greek poetry and theatre to the fine arts more broadly.

[2]Whereas the proletarian subject is subordinated within Aristotle’s hierarchy of culture and the community, a worse fate still of exclusion and erasure from the Aristotelian world to the realm of inconceivability is reserved for organisms and objects which Aristotle strips of all ontological citizenship: animals, inanimate objects, fruit, etc. It is not until modern art establishes a flat ontologico-aesthetic field upon which the equality of all objects reigns that such dead objects come to be represented in art as more than just symbols that stand-in for some other idea or object.

A Journey Through the Id of Twentieth Century Pop Culture Part Four: The Great Whatsit

What hit me?, Lime wonders as he sits at the end of the bed smoking amidst the gently floating cigarette spirits.

Oh, the last Wet Pussy.

He turns sluggishly to Laurie who lies sleeping in the bed. She looks just as cool and buttery and yet hardboiled asleep as she was wide-awake and wild last night. Her buttocks move soft and lazy under the bed sheets, like a white upside down heart beating bump-bump, bump-bump, bump-bump. He sees size and shape in her heart and, boy oh boy, those are two things, two other things, which he digs in a dame. His forefinger caresses the sole of a foot, and she smiles a smeared red lipstick smile in her serene sleep. And he wonders, whatever is she hiding?

But his wonder is interrupted by a woman’s scream, then a man’s laugh, and then another scream. It sounds like an orgy as wild as one of the Manson Family’s.

He puts on his Hawaiian shirt, leather jacket, black jeans and Beatles boots, his Aloha suit of armour, and then walks into the living room. A bunch of guys in blue and white sailor suits straddle a bouquet of freshly plucked go-go girls on the television screen. Where is Charlie Manson or all those hash-headed hippie women? There is, however, a boy.

Laurie’s son, Texas, sits all curled up in a ball on Lime’s maroon couch shaped after Mae West’s lips. Lime has ignored him until now and he can think of no reason to get up close and Oedipal all of a sudden. He walks past him and draws the Venetian blinds to shade his face. Striped sunlight shoots back at him through the blinds so that he looks as if he is trapped behind bars. He gives up on the go-go girls and the bothersome blinds and walks into the kitchen.

The refrigerator buzzes like modern radio as he opens it, dry retches, then pinches his nose. The electricity must have gone out during last night’s expressionistic thunderstorm, and the fridge is now redolent with rotten and mildewed food. He slams it shut so hard and fast that it actually shuts up. Then he rifles through the store cupboard and after a minute produces a can of Campbell’s chicken gumbo soup, like the Andy Warhol painting. The can looks rusted and is already half-open. A scraping sound emanates from within its black, chicken gumbo abyss.

Lime has The Jesus and Mary Chain song in his head,

How can something crawl within

my rubber holy baked bean tin?

It’s god to me, it’s god to me,

this is heart and soul.

God’s stuck, Lime thinks. God’s just as stuck as the rest of us.

Lime rips open the can, peers inside and jumps back before throwing the can across the kitchen like he is Joe Di Maggio hitting his first homerun. In bed. With Marilyn. The can hits the wall, then the floor, and then a rat crawls out. It’s as big as a small cat and soaking wet with chicken gumbo. It darts across the kitchen, under Lime’s legs, and down the gap between the store cupboard and the fridge.

And Lime laments, God’s a real rat bastard. It’s nothing but a rat, familiar of the underworld. It’s not God. It’s not even Jesus fucking Christ.

He sets a mousetrap in the gap and goes back into the living room. He looks at the Dali clock melting above Mae West’s lips. Its face sags like soft cheese and its hands drip and flow this way and that as if it were trying to tell Lime something, but in a language as foreign to him as ancient alien hieroglyphs. He had no way by which to comprehend the ooey-gooey consistency of time strung out beyond all recognition. He has an idea and pinches himself to check whether he is dreaming. He keeps pinching himself, working up a veritable red bruise before he remembers that the clock is a Dali clock. It never tells the right time; just keeps its own time, like Lime.

The lobster telephone rings almost as if it had been lying in wait for Lime to be standing right next to it before it did so. He picks up the receiver and holds it lowered somewhat so that Dick Doo Ron’s voice comes clearly from it.

“Hello?” Lime says and almost throws up. Oh, that last goddamned Wet Pussy.

“Haalloo baaaaby,” Dick Doo Ron says doing his best Big Bopper impersonation.

“Dick?”

“Yeah, this is the Big Bopper speaking”, Dick says. “I’m parked out front. Come on down and let’s get Ritchie Rich.”

The other receiver clicks. Lime puts his receiver down, then walks towards the door, but stops in his tracks.

He turns to Texas. The go-go girls giggle. The sailors are still going at it. They have the endurance of—well, of sailors.

“Oye, amigo,” Lime says, “when your mother wakes up, tell her I had to run to work. But tell her she can make herself at home and I’ll be back soon.” This is Lime’s big score after all, finding his one true love and her finding him. He’s not just going to let her go and lose her all of a sudden, not the most murdered woman in the world, not just when he has her. Not till death do they part. You get it?

Texas gazes living dead-like at the television, ignoring Lime.

“Tell her,” Lime says.

The little screwball still doesn’t nod or say anything. Lime rolls his eyes, then makes for the door, but stops again when Texas speaks all of a sudden.

“If you leave us now it’s gonna turn out bad for you,” Texas says with a quality of fate in his voice. He sure as hell is looking at Lime now. His Bugs Bunny eyes wear a comic, cosmic expression which seems to say, at this moment something really extraordinary is about to happen.

Presently Lime shrugs his shoulders, opens the door and walks out.

And you know what? The kid was right. Something does happen.

A red retro Chevrolet Impala is parked next to the curb with the engine still running. Lime walks towards it.

“Off with her head.”

Lime positively pirouettes to the house next door. It has a clean, white picket fence before beautiful red roses which bop in this boiling morning’s faint breeze. The roses remind Lime of the bittersweet taste of Wet Pussys. An old man tends to the roses and the rich green grass with a watering can. The neighbourhood kids nicknamed him Grandpa Death because he smells and looks like it. None of them, including Lime, like Grandpa Death, not because he reminds them of their own mortal corporeality, but because he doesn’t. Because he looks like he already died and just kept on living anyway.

“Off with her head. Ja git it?”, Death says as if he is moving his false teeth around in his mouth, jutting out his awfully gaunt chin in the process.

Ignoring him, Lime quickly turns back and walks toward the Chevrolet Impala. He hops in the back beside Jimmy Reb. Dick is in the driver’s seat with Johnny Rocko beside him. The gang exchange greetings and comradely invectives. Then Dick kicks the accelerator raw and the Chevrolet Impala screeches down the street and out into the orange baked boulevards of the burlesque town in the brutal summertime.

“Oh shoot,” the radio howls. “The killer sounds that fill your heart with so much joy never beat for as long as you would like. But hot damn this last killer sound was ‘He’s Not a Rebel’ by the dazzling Dolores ‘Lala’ Brooks and her consummate Crystals girl chain gang. What a way to jumpstart your day and doo run the bummer right out of another sun swept summer amidst the highways and byways of Orgone City. If that’s not hot enough for you, try the girls, boys. Tell ‘em I said howl-lo. Haw-haw-haw. What a buzz they’d get. That’s right, you’re turned on to your Radio of the Streets DJ, the one, the only, you know me, I’m yours, Buzz Rainbow Wolff. You’re back at the Buzz on the Fuzz hour and I’m playing all your favourite hits from the fifties and sixties.”

Buzz has a curl to his voice which sounds lewd and lascivious, even downright lecherous now as it clatters like a roller coaster of a thing. “But you can’t always get good news in a world this weird and wonderful. This Friday saw another death at the hands of the Sun God. That’s the twelfth death down for the count this summer. This next here number’s for all the dead and the dying, all the damned dear hearts who ain’t above going under on us. It’s ‘The End of the World’ by the country driftin’, hip twistin’ songstress of the south, Skeeter Davis. Oh no, dear hearts, you’re not alon—”

Dick fiddles with the radio dials and sweats feverishly, even as the air conditioner blows in his direction. He shudders all over and his face turns several shades whiter. For a minute Lime thinks that Dick is going to be one sick son of bitch. Then all at once the colour floods back into his face and he stops sweating and shuddering, draws a long, deep sigh, but still doesn’t say anything. He flips through several static channels and a free jazz station, before leaving it on a conspiracy theory talk show.

“Boy, am I thirsty. Can we stop at McDonalds and get milkshakes?” Jimmy asks Dick.

“I wouldn’t mind a lime milkshake,” Lime says.

“Well I am a social democrat,” Dick says, his voice calming but by no means calm. “I just compromise, compromise, compromise. We’ll stop at Wendy’s.”

“But McDonalds milkshakes are better,” Jimmy says.

“I’m not allowed to set within fifty feet of any of them fine McDonalds establishments,” Dick says. “Unless you want your goddamned milkshakes to cost me up to two years in the state penitentiary, we are going to Wendy’s. But first I want to show Lime something.”

“How’d you get a restraining order from McDonalds?” Lime asks.

“Now that’ s a story for another time,” Dick says, then looks at Lime through the rearview mirror. “You ever seen the Museum of Cinerama down on Providence Street?”

“Sure have.”

“You know the joint pretty well?”

“Like my hand knows my dick.”

“Well that’s just swell,” Dick says out of the corner of his mouth like a gangster in a b-grade movie. “So here’s the score. It’s a caper, and a cool one too. I’ve put the usual safeguards in place and then some so there’s no risk. I mean this caper is cop proof, stool pigeon proof, the works. And it’ll be quick and easy. Three minutes and we’re in and we’re out. No fuss, no muss and no bother. And yet what we’re getting away with will be sung about in all of the newspapers for all of the ages to come.”

“And just what are we getting away with?,” Lime asks.

“It’s a five man job,” Dick says, ignoring him. “The four of us and the fence. Rocko’s our boxman. He can open a safe like a dame who’s tight and teeming with secrets.”

“I can bust any lock in three minutes and any dame in two,” Rocko corrects him, his face illustrating the dictionary definition of confidence man.

“I’ll be our getaway driver in case something goes wrong,” Dick says, “which it won’t. But in case something does. Jimmy’s our hooligan. He’s like a circus geek. If nobody sticks their necks out like dumb chooks, he doesn’t bite them off.”

Lime looks at Jimmy looking at him and looking as sharp as six blades and a saw in his Charles Manson T-shirt. What scares Lime about Jimmy’s eyes isn’t that they glare at him as if they want to kill him, but that they don’t glare at him; just look straight through him like he isn’t even there, like he is already dead, a goddamned ghost.

“As for you,” Dick says to Lime. “You’re our cinephile. The Cinerama was constructed as a geographical chronology of Hollywood movie history. So you’ll be our tour guide taking us through time. And that just leaves our fence, a guy who goes by the name of El Rey. He’s the only trafficker in stolen goods and foreign fineries who can handle merchandise this hot.”

“What exactly is the merchandise?,” Lime asks again.

Dick smiles. Lime has never seen Dick smile before. Far from being domineering as he was up till now, he looks truly delightful. Mad even. Maybe it is because he is out of practice smiling. But he looks nowhere near as mad as he sounds when he says, almost titters, “we’re going to steal the head of Marilyn Monroe.” …

What Does Sideshow Bob Want?

In The Simpsons television show, there is a recurring character called Sideshow Bob. Every time Sideshow Bob appears, he is concocting and carrying out crazy, fantastical schemes to insert himself into the life of Bart Simpson in order to kill him. His ostensive object of desire, then, is the production of Bart Simpson’s corpse. In one episode, after many foiled murder plots, Sideshow Bob finally manages to ensnare Bart alone and off guard. Having at last before him the imago that he had fantasized about for so long, Sideshow Bob produces a knife, raises it over Bart, hovers it above his head, hesitates as if only to relish the sadistic spectacle, then all of a sudden relinquishes his knife. He proceeds to explain in song why he cannot kill Bart:

‘I’ve grown accustomed to his face,

And dreams of gouging out his eyes.

My plans to lacerate,

to disembowel,

to hear him howl.

The very reason that I live

is plotting how to watch him die’.

In other words, Sideshow Bob does not kill Bart because his desire is not to kill Bart, but is, rather, to cultivate the very process of desiring to kill him as such. So, if Sideshow Bob really were to kill Bart, then his whole life, which revolves around fantasizing and conspiring to enact exactly that, would lose its very raison d’être. This is to say, the real object-cause of desire is the endless reproduction of desire for a false, pseudo-object of desire, so as to enjoy the painful pleasure brought forth by the feeling of both hope and disappointment, of near fulfillment and sublime loss. It is made even clearer that desire itself is the real object-cause of Sideshow Bob’s desire when Bart chimes in, ‘you’ve grown accustomed to my face’, to which Sideshow Bob snaps back, ‘this isn’t a duet’. It is as if Sideshow Bob means to say: this has absolutely nothing to do with you, my supposed object of desire, because you are merely the means that I have devised to fulfill my real object-cause of desire, which I now recognize is the desire to desire itself. In Lacanese, Sideshow Bob’s supposed object of desire to kill Bart, and his real object-cause of desire to desire as much, demonstrate the bifurcation between the goal and the aim: whereas the goal is the object around which Sideshow Bob’s desire circulates, the aim, or the true goal, is the continuity of this circularity as such. So, achieving the goal actually only functions to obstruct and disrupt the true goal. This elucidates why, before Sideshow Bob encounters Bart, he sublimates the masochistic composition of his desire by playing Krusty the Clown’s sidekick, a Leopold Masoch-like role in which he experiences extreme abuse and trauma, from being bombarded in the face with pies, to being fired out of a cannon.

Sideshow Bob’s dialectic of desire is strikingly similar to one of Jacques Derrida’s more neglected notions: that of the paradoxical hunt. In the paradoxical hunt, the hunter persistently pursues her prey, chasing it away precisely so as to continue chasing after it, to keep it in sight and close at hand, but always at a distanciation just out of reach. In Derrida’s own words, ‘one pursues, sets off in pursuit of someone to make him flee, but one makes him flee, distances him, expulses him so as to go after him again and remain in pursuit. […] One sends him far away, puts distance between them, so as to spend one’s life and for as long a time as possible, coming close to him again. The long time is here the time of this distance hunt (a hunt for distance, the prey, but also a hunt with distance, the lure). The distance hunt can only hallucinate, or desire if you prefer, or defer proximity: lure and prey’. To put it in context, Derrida conceives of the paradoxical hunt in elucidating a phenomenon at play in the whole history of philosophy, at least since Plato. What Harold Bloom calls ‘the anxiety of influence’, it is the affectation which plagues all young and aspiring, or more precisely aiming (in the sense in which we earlier evinced what it means to aim), artists and thinkers as they struggle to respectively produce original works of art and systems of thought in the creeping shadows of their eminent elders—as Socrates affected Plato, for instance.

Speaking of paradoxical hunts, Brian de Palma’s film, Dressed to Kill, follows the hunt for a serial killer. The film’s most impressive scene is set in a museum in which Kate, a sexually frustrated housewife, catches eyes with a male stranger. Kate and the stranger then proceed to play a cat and mouse game of encircling and pursuing each other as they meander about the museum. Just as every time Kate gets close enough to address the stranger, she hesitates and loses sight of him; so every time the stranger is within reach of addressing her, she flees from him in a hysterical flurry. Indeed, as Freud says of the discourse of hysterics: ‘What they long for most intensely in their fantasies they flee from when they encounter it in reality, and they yield most readily to fantasies when there is no longer any need to fear for their realization’. Nonetheless, eventually Kate and the stranger ‘accidentally’ abscond into the same taxi together.

Sometime later, Kate awakens in the stranger’s apartment after having seemingly satisfied her sexual frustration. Deciding to leave before he awakens, she sits at his desk to write him a note and discovers a document indicating that he, and therefore she, has contracted a sexually transmitted disease. Running out of his apartment and into the elevator, Kate is confronted by the serial killer, who slashes her to death with a razor-blade. Kate’s post-coitum sadness unto death perfectly embodies—or is that disembodies?—Lacan’s claim that the fulfilment of desire is bound up with the death drive: ‘For the path toward death—this is what is at issue, it’s a discourse about masochism—the path toward death is nothing other than what is called jouissance’. This is to say, the fulfilment of Kate’s desire is at once pleasant as it bridges the lack in her being that begot her desire in the first place, and, paradoxically, unpleasant as it results in the dissolution of her self-identity as a subject, since this is formed precisely from that lack in her being. The titillation of Kate’s death drive through the fulfilment of her desire elucidates why she does not try to defend herself against the killer, but dolefully and halfheartedly bemoans, ‘no…no…no’. Here, we should also recall Freud’s claim that latent, unconscious desires manifest in consciousness as their opposites. It was Freud, then, who first provided a so-called ‘scientifico-medical’ backing to the rapist’s maxim: no means yes! In the final analysis, desire is nothing more, or less as it were, than the mere, simple longing for the sweet, so-long pure death of jouissance, of the absolute being of non-being: ‘The inanimate. A point on the horizon, an ideal point, a point that’s off the map, but one whose meaning reveals itself to a structural analysis. It is revealed perfectly by the fact of jouissance’. Given that Kate’s desires are sexual in kind, it is all too fitting that Lacan designates the word, jouissance, to denote the effectivity of fulfilled desire. Itself derived from Georges Bataille’s euphemism for the orgasm, la petite mort, jouissance is the compound-sensation of pleasure followed by the pain of its immediate loss.

To return to our main thread, the film then picks up with Dr. Elliott as he receives a call from his transgender analysand, Bobbi. Bobbi admits to killing Elliott’s analysand, Kate, as revenge for Elliott refusing to sign the necessary papers for Bobbi to undergo a sex change operation. Meanwhile, Liz Blake, a high-priced call girl who found Kate’s cadaver and caught a glimpse of Bobbi, enacts a plan to ensnare him/her. She disguises herself as one of Elliott’s analysand’s, whom she met and learnt about Bobbi from when they were summoned to the police station for being the last people to see Kate alive. Liz proffers sex to Elliot and strips down to her lingerie, thus distracting him long enough to leave his office and rifle through his appointment book for further information on Bobbi. When she returns to Elliott’s office, she finds Bobbi there instead. Before Bobbi can hurt her, s/he is shot by a policewoman who has been following Liz. This sends Bobbi’s wig flying, unveiling Elliott in drag: Elliott and Bobbi are one and the same person. During the denouement, another psychiatrist effectively explains that Elliott sublimated the dialectic of his desire by splitting his own subject into the two self-cancelling personalities of Elliott and Bobbi. On the one side, Bobbi wanted to become a woman, which Elliott refused to permit. On the other side, Elliott wanted to have sex with his analysands, whom Bobbi murdered to thwart this, his/her own desire. It is clear from the film’s spectacular murder montage sequences, equal to even Hitchcock’s best and bloodiest, that this self-destructive circuit-process of sustaining desire by sabotaging its fulfilment is much more satisfying than any standard Hollywood sex scene between Elliot and his analysands would have been.

The truth of desire is not only gleamed in the structure of fictions, but in our everyday lives, too. The consumer capitalist organisation of society, for instance, integrates the insatiability and unbridled dynamism of human desire through the mass production of new and intersubjective supposed objects of desire. What Lacan calls lathouses, these consumer capitalist objects of desire are specifically designed to be disappointing, so that our desire sustains itself by metonymically sliding from one product or trend, to another, more recent one: from the IPhone 4, to the IPhone 5, or from the fur based styles of this season, to the leather based styles of next season, and so on. In the domain of mass consumption, we are all like the child who cries and screams for want of the toy that her sibling plays with, then throws the toy away in a gesture of bewildered boredom when when she is finally given it. The aim (as diacritically opposed to the goal) of the critique of consumer ideology, then, should be to elevate people’s political consciousness by exposing the fundamental formative lack at the telltale heart of our desiring being, which can, therefore, never be made full by neither designer clothes, nor the latest gadgetry, nor any other shiny, new commodities. Just as capital does not exist to satisfy, desire does not exist to be satisfied; both capital and desire exist only to reproduce themselves for their own sake. If we desire to aphorize all that we have evinced above, we can say that all desire is the desire for more desire. This is what Lacan means when he says that, ‘jouissance is the jar of the Danaides’, the sisters who, in Ancient Greek mythology, were condemned to fill leaky jars with water for all eternity in the Underworld, that realm of life after death, of precisely the death drive.

To use another analogy from Ancient Greek mythology, desire functions like the eternal punishment of Tantalus, whom Zeus once welcomed to dine at his table in Olympus. In a kind of sublimated enactment of the death drive, Tantalus stole the gods’ jouissance of ambrosia and nectar from Zeus’ table to bring back to his people on earth and reveal the gods’ secrets. Consequently, he was made to stand for all eternity in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with long-hanging branches. The fruit was to forever elide his grasp and the water to always recede before he could drink from it, while over his head stood a precarious, portentous stone, like the one that Sisyphus was forced to roll up a hill for all eternity. The dialectic of desire precisely tantalizes us with temptation without satisfaction. As a supplement to this myth, Zeus threw Tantalus’ son, Pelops, out of Olympus, where the rivers of jouissance flow. Are we not all, then, the wretched sons and daughters of Tantalus?

Desire, then, is like the plight of Tantalus, or that of his son. It is like the matador who postures and gestures this way and that in order to bait the bull who, like we, the children of Tantalus, chases after him so. Even if the bull does not miss its mark, as it generally does, it is left with a red mess all over its face. It is like the fast changing Fata Morgana mirage, which ceaselessly shape-shifts from one spectacular image to another, but which always remains at the same distanciation however closer one ostensively walks towards it, until it finally vanishes into hot air. Then one realizes that what one was looking at was nothing other than oneself. Perhaps the most that we can hope to hope for is precisely this hope, this sublime nostalgia and sentimentality for a lost life-bliss, like the joy one experiences when listening to a sad, bittersweet song. To put it in the blue, downbeat lyricism of Mick Jagger,

‘You can’t always get what you want.

But if you try sometimes, you might find,

you get what you need’.

In Hume More Than Hume: Meillassoux’s Speculative Solution to Hume’s Problem of Causal Necessity

Hume’s Problem

As an empiricist, Hume claims that ‘impressions’, or our most vivid, direct and immediate perceptions, are the origins and foundations for all our ‘thoughts and ideas’, which are fainter perceptions of remembering impressions or anticipating possible impressions to come. For example, our thought of eating strawberries is not nearly as vivid in its sweetness and cannot even be conceived without first having actually eaten strawberries. As Hume puts it, ‘any impression either of the mind or body is constantly followed by an idea, which resembles it, and is only different in the degrees of force and liveliness. The constant conjunction of our resembling perceptions is a convincing proof that the one are the causes of the other; and this priority of the impressions is an equal proof that our impressions are the causes of our ideas’ (my emphasis). From this we can further construe that causality is the recurrence of a secondary event, which we call an effect, after a spatially and temporally contiguous primary event, which we call a cause. For instance, consider our past experience of touching a candle’s flame immediately prior to feeling pain. From this experience we infer that touching the flame caused us to feel pain. Moreover, we anticipate that this same cause will always, or at least probably, bring forth the same effect in the future; which is to say, we infer the idea of causal necessity.

The antinomy that the idea of causal necessity presents to empiricists like Hume, then, is that all our ideas are supposed to emanate from our experience. However, experience can only inform us about the past that is everything we have previously experienced and the present that is everything we are currently experiencing, but never about the future that has yet to be experienced. Consequently, experience cannot be the origin of our idea of causal necessity. As Hume points out, ‘As to past Experience, it can be allowed to give direct and certain information of those precise objects only at that precise period of time, which fell under its cognizance: but why this experience should be extended to future times, and to other objects, which for aught we know may be only in appearance similar; this is the main question on which I would insist’. In other words, there is nothing in our memory or impressions from which we can infer even the initial causal relation between, for instance, touching a flame and feeling pain, let alone the permanent stability or necessity of this causal relation. Hume’s classic formulation of this problem concerns the trajectory of billiard-balls motioning toward one another: ‘may I not conceive, that a hundred different events might as well follow from that cause? May not both these balls remain at absolute rest? May not the first ball return in a straight line, or leap off from the second in any line or direction? All these suppositions are consistent and conceivable. Why then should we give the preference to one, which is no more consistent or conceivable than the rest? All our reasonings a priori will never be able to show us any foundation for this preference’.

Critique of the Metaphysical Solution

The metaphysicist claims that the Cartesian God, Aristotle’s prime mover, Hume’s ‘ultimate cause of any natural operation’, or whatever their pet transcendental subject happens to be is what fixes, stabilizes and regulates the principle of uniformity of nature. As Hume puts it, ‘as these instances can never be discovered in body, the Cartesians, proceeding upon their principle of innate ideas, have had recourse to a supreme spirit or deity, whom they consider as the only active being in the universe, and as the immediate cause of every alteration in matter’. Hume, however, ripostes that the idea of a transcendental subject is of the category of complex ideas which do not directly emanate from experience, and hence have no basis in reality. Rather, this complex idea is actually a multitude of simple, atomistic ideas proper which do emanate from experience, but which are wrongly bundled together by our subject’s faculty for augmentation: ‘The idea of God, as meaning an infinitely intelligent, wise, and good Being, arises from reflecting on the operations of our own mind, and augmenting, without limit, those qualities of goodness and wisdom’.

Moreover, Hume recuses the metaphysicist for grounding her solution upon Leibniz’s principle of sufficient reason according to which everything must necessarily have a reason for being such as it is and not otherwise: ‘It is confessed that the utmost effort of human reason is to reduce the principles, productive of natural phenomena, to a greater simplicity, and to resolve the many particular effects into a few general causes, by means of reasonings from analogy, experience, and observation. But as to the causes of these general causes, we should in vain attempt their discovery; nor shall we ever be able to satisfy ourselves by any particular explication of them. These ultimate springs and principles are totally shut up from human curiosity and enquiry. […] Thus the observation of human blindness and weakness is the result of all philosophy, and meets us at every turn in spite of our endeavours to elude or avoid it’. Put otherwise, even if we could empirically determine the ‘general causes’ or physical laws which govern our universe, the principle of sufficient reason stipulates that even these general causes must be governed by their own superior and even more general causes, and so on ad nauseam. Or in Parmenidean terminology, ex nihilo nihil fit; videlicet nothing comes from nothing. Thus, Hume repudiates the ontological argument because it is not grounded upon experience, but upon the principle of sufficient reason, which is an argumentum ad infinitum.

The Inward Turn

Despite this, Hume only entertains in passing what our experience and a priori reasoning informs us about reality: given identical conditions, the effects can nonetheless differ for no reason whatsoever ex nihilo: ‘Their [objects’] secret nature, and consequently all their effects and influence, may change without any change in their sensible qualities. This happens sometimes and with regard to some objects: Why may it not happen always and with regard to all objects?’. Instead of pursuing this speculative turn of the screw, as, we shall see, Meillassoux does, Hume reformulates his problem so that the question becomes, not what else can we ontologically conclude about reality that is absolutely contingent, but rather what is the epistemological foundation for our belief in causal necessity? Hume identifies habitude as the human instinct that organizes our customary association of one event as the cause of another ensuing event after the recurrent spatial and temporal contiguity of these atomistic impressions in the same succession, from all of which emerges our inference that this seemingly constant conjunction will recur yet again. As Hume encapsulates his epistemic and sceptical solution, ‘The idea of necessity arises from some impression. There is no impression conveyed by our senses, which can give rise to that idea. It must, therefore, be derived from some internal impression, or impression of reflection. There is no internal impression, which has any relation to the present business, but that propensity, which custom produces, to pass from an object to the idea of its usual attendant. This therefore is the essence of necessity. Upon the whole, necessity is something that exists in the mind, not in objects; nor is it possible for us ever to form the most distant idea of it, considered as a quality in bodies’ (my emphasis).

Radicalizing the Humean A priori

Here, Hume makes an epistemic fallacy by reducing his original ontological problem about the nature of being to an epistemological and correlational problem about the nature of our perceptions. Conversely, Meillassoux claims that Hume’s former problem can be resolved by way of a speculation that is not subject to Hume’s critique of metaphysics, because it accesses a formulation of the absolute that is not an absolute being. This is to say, Meillassoux notices that if causal necessity is an epistemological contribution of our minds as the Humean a priori reveals it to be, then the facticity which we also believe to be our ‘human blindness or weakness’ to know the sufficient reason for why the world is such as it is and not otherwise, and hence to know why it is necessary, cannot also be an epistemological contribution of our minds. Obversely, facticity is the ultimate ontological property of reality-in-itself. Whereas previously we thought that causal necessity was in the world-in-itself and facticity was our vantage point of ignorance, the Humean a priori inversely reasons that causal necessity is our vantage point of ignorance while facticity is the world-in-itself. If facticity is not the fault of our finitude but the hypokeimenon of reality-in-itself, then precisely whenever we previously thought that our experience of the absence of reason within the world was not an experience of the world such as it is in-itself but only as it is for-us, we can now conclude that we were, paradoxically, experiencing the world-in-itself after all. In Meillassoux’s own words, ‘facticity will be revealed to be a knowledge of the absolute because we are going to put back into the thing itself what we mistakenly took to be an incapacity in thought. In other words, instead of construing the absence of reason inherent in everything as a limit that thought encounters in its search for the ultimate reason, we must understand that this absence of reason is, and can only be the ultimate property of the entity. We must convert facticity into the real property whereby everything and every world is without reason, and is thereby capable of actually becoming otherwise without reason’. Consequently, we can conclude that any so-called ‘cause’, such as the motion of Hume’s billiard-balls, could indeed produce ‘a hundred different events’ for no reason whatsoever. As Hume himself concedes, ‘There is no foundation for any conclusion a priori, either concerning the operations or duration of any object, of which it is possible for the human mind to form a conception. Any object may be imagined to become entirely inactive, or to be annihilated in a moment; and it is an evident principle that whatever we can imagine is possible’. What we effectively see emerging here is a formulation of the absolute which is strikingly similar to that of the pre-Socratic prima materia, the formless, matterless first matter. Although the Ancients conceived of it as something so great, so ineffable, that they thought it wise never to conceal its true name, Meillassoux identifies this world soul, this anima mundi, which is not so much the ultimate entity as the ultimate entitylessness of all entities, as ‘hyper-Chaos’ [surchaos]. Hyper-Chaos is that which begets itself, conceives and gives birth to itself; it is the mass spell of confusion which contains in itself all potentialities and virtualities, all entities and all worlds, including that virtuality that is the destruction of this virtuality itself.

Critique of the falsificationist solution    

Meillassoux’s speculative solution, which claims that the structure of reality itself could change without reason, must be distinguished from Karl Popper’s falsificationist solution, which claims that only the scientific theories about reality have changed and could change because of new experimental results and catalogued datum. In Popper’s own words, ‘It never happens that old experiments one day yield new results. What happens is only that new experiments decide against an old theory’. For example, physicists abandoned Newtonian physics for Relativity physics, not because of a transformation in the physical laws themselves around 1905 when Einstein’s ‘On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies’ was published, but because of a change in the hermeneutics of scientific experiments. Thus, Meillassoux claims that the falsificationist evades Hume’s real problem of whether it is possible to prove the future stability of reality-in-itself, rather than the future stability of empirical scientific discourse about reality. Indeed, given that the condition for the possibility of scientific praxis is experimental repeatability by which identical circumstances yield identical results ceteris paribus, Popper’s epistemic problem actually presupposes that Hume’s real, ontological problem has already been resolved in the affirmative. The fact(icity), however, that empirical scientific practice is possible within our universe prompts the falsificationist to proffer the obvious objection to Meillassoux’s solution: if everything, including even the structural invariants of our universe, could change for no reason whatsoever, then why don’t they? This is to say, why does absolute contingency always manifest empirically as the constancy of such physical and logical laws as the principle of uniformity of nature? Meillassoux sees this potentially crippling objection as a radicalization of Hume’s original ontological problem which, when reformulated in this way, can be resolved.

Critique of the transcendental solution

Earlier we saw how Hume employed an inverted proto-transcendental argumentation to claim that if causal necessity did not exist immanently within us, we would be unable to make sense of reality: ‘Without the influence of custom, we should be entirely ignorant of every matter of fact beyond what is immediately present to the memory and senses. We should never know how to adjust means to ends, or to employ our natural powers in the production of any effect. There would be an end at once of all action, as well as of the chief part of speculation’. Homologously, Kant argues that if causal necessity did not exist in reality-in-itself, reality would be such an anarchic flux that it would be unable to represent itself, and hence we would cease being altogether conscious of it. Therefore, the fact that we can consciously doubt whether causality exists in reality, paradoxically, necessitates its existence in reality. In Kant’s transcendental terminology, causality is the necessary condition of a minimal organisation of representation and givenness for the existence of the ‘objective’ deduction of the categories of sensibility, understanding and reason; which is to say, of consciousness. Or in his own words, ‘Unity of synthesis according to empirical concepts would be altogether contingent, if these latter were not based on a transcendental ground of unity. Otherwise, it would be possible for appearances to crowd in upon the soul, and yet to be such as would never allow of experience. Since connection in accordance with universal and necessary laws would be lacking, all relation of knowledge to objects would fall away. The appearances might indeed constitute intuition without thought, but not knowledge, and consequently would be for us as good as nothing’. By claiming that certain a priori subjective faculties function as the constituting agent of empirical knowledge, Kant at once repudiates Hume’s scepticism apropos the real of causal necessity, and yet bars empirical knowledge from accessing the noumena of things-in-themselves, but only the phenomena of things-for-us as they manifest through the faculties.

According to Meillassoux, however, Kant makes an unsubstantiated ‘necessitarian inference’ when he claims that the causal stability of structural invariants presupposes as its condition the necessity of these structural invariants. Kant’s necessitarian induction is as follows: 1) If structural invariants were contingent, they would frequently change without reason. 2) But they don’t change without reason. 3) Therefore, they cannot change without reason; videlicet they are necessary (even if thought is unable to provide the reason proper for their necessity). Meillassoux demonstrates that the ‘frequentialist implication’ in the first premise is grounded upon equi-probabilistic reasoning which presupposes the totalization of a priori conceivable universes. For example, a die has a totality of seven sides so that if it always lands on one side it is probably loaded. Homologously, Kant infers that there is a totality of possible universes so that, since we only experience one universe (the universe with causal necessity), it is probably ‘loaded’ by some necessary governing principle.

Meillassoux rejects that such calculatory estimations can be applied either empirically or rationally to the universe-in-itself in the same way in which they can be applied to things, such as dice, within the universe. Empirically speaking, obviously no one has actually experienced the entire set of possible universes. Apropos rationalism, Meillassoux invokes the series of transfinite cardinals within Cantor’s set-theoretical axiomatic, which demonstrates that for every infinite there necessarily exists an infinite of a superior cardinality or ‘larger’ infinite in the set of its parts. It, thus, becomes impossible to conceive of a final infinite of possible universes. As Meillassoux puts it, ‘this series [of transfinite cardinals] itself cannot be totalized, in other words, it cannot be collected together into some “ultimate” quantity. For it is clear that were such a quantitative totalization to exist, then it would also have to allow itself to be surpassed in accordance with the procedure of the grouping of parts. Thus, the set T (for Totality) of all quantities cannot “contain” the quantity obtained by the set of the parts of T. […] For this totality of the thinkable is itself logically inconceivable, since it gives rise to a contradiction. We will retain the following translation of Cantor’s transfinite: the (quantifiable) totality of the thinkable is unthinkable’.

Simply put, the transfinite demonstrates that equi-probabilistic reasoning can be applied to events, such as the trajectory of billiard-balls or dice, which are given to us experientially within the universe and hence subject to its aleatory laws of chance, but not to the universe itself. Consequently, if the number of possible universes cannot be totalized, then an absolute contingency capable of bringing forth laws which are contingent but stable beyond all probability can be rationally conceived. As Meillassoux encapsulates, ‘But this is just another way to emphasize—something Hume was the first to maintain—that from a determinate situation, one can never infer a priori the ensuing situation, an indefinite multiplicity of different futures being envisageable without contradiction. Grafting the Humean thesis onto that of Cantorian intotality, we see emerging a time capable of bringing forth, outside all necessity and all probability, situations which are not at all pre-contained in their precedents, since according to such a perspective, the present is never pregnant with the future’. Although there are other axiomatics in which the possible universes are numerically totalizable, what tips the speculative scales in favour of the set-theoretical axiomatic is that it alone can function as the language of the real with which philosophy could recommence thinking the absolute.

Conclusion

We begun by elucidating how Hume critiques the metaphysical solution to his problem of causal necessity for being grounded upon sufficient reason, of which neither experience nor reasoning provides any fulcrum for. We then noticed how Hume’s own epistemic and sceptical solution of situating causal necessity in the mind actually avoids his real, ontological problem. What Meillassoux’s speculative solution indicates, then, is that Hume himself was not Humean enough in failing to radicalize what both experience and reasoning tell us: given the same succession of phenomena, the outcome can still differ for no reason whatsoever. This is to say, by integrating Cantor’s Theorem into the Humean a priori to recuse Kant’s transcendental solution of the real of causal necessity, Meillassoux demonstrates through reasoning what Hume demonstrates empirically: everything is without necessity and is, thus, capable of becoming wholly other without reason or cause. In being in Hume more than Hume, Meillassoux’s hope is to reawaken philosophy from its Kantian slumber of examining things only as they are apprehended by us, and once again leave us thrown upon the open fields, cast outside of ourselves into the absolute wilderness from whence we came.

The Cartesian Unconscious

Descartes’ Desire

In his Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes objects to how pre-modern philosophical and scientific thought supposes that we can commence epistemological inquiry immediately by observing the world—what Husserl calls ‘the natural theoretical attitude’. Rather, Descartes claims that we must first inquire into the validity and limitations of that which we use to observe the world, which is to say, our minds as the origins and foundations for all our knowledge about it. Certainly, it is not certain whether our minds are valid observers, since we are often deceived. As Descartes puts it, ‘All that up to the present time I have accepted as most true and certain I have learned either from the senses or through the senses; but it is sometimes proved to me that these senses are deceptive, and it is wiser not to trust entirely to any thing by which we have once been deceived’. Here, Descartes heralds modern science and psychology’s self-reflexive step of positing the human subject as the first object of epistemological inquiry.

Given that everything Descartes hitherto accepted as true was perceived by his senses that prove deceptive at least every time he dreams, he must begin his inquiry by doubting everything until he conceives of an axiomatic framework of logic that is ‘absolutely certain and indubitable’. Syllogistically speaking, this axiom is cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am). This is to say, Descartes cannot doubt that he is thinking like he can doubt that he is walking, because doubt itself is a form of thinking, while walking is not. In Descartes’ own words, ‘of a surety I myself did exist since I persuaded myself merely because I thought of something. But there is some deceiver or other, very powerful and very cunning, who ever employs his ingenuity in deceiving me. Then without doubt I exist also if he deceives me, and let him deceive me as much as he will, he can never cause me to be nothing so long as I think I am something’. In other words, Descartes is rendered certain of his existence, paradoxically, by his very act of doubting such, since he can at least say he exists as a doubting or thinking substance. While Descartes may be other things, sum res cogitans (I am a thinking thing) is the only claim that Descartes can accurately make about himself: ‘to speak accurately I am not more than a thing which thinks, that is to say a mind or a soul, or an understanding, or a reason […]’.

The Correlationist Knot

However, if all Descartes can say for certain is that he is thinking, then he can never know whether he is observing the world of things, or representations of those things as perceived by his certainly existing mind—what speculative realists and object-oriented ontologists call the correlationist knot. In other words, since our perceptions are at least sometimes deceived, we can never distinguish which of our perceptions, if any, are representations affected by the world of things, and which of them are causally motivated by our own minds. Indeed, even our perceptions of our bodies are representations. For instance, an anorexic who sees themselves as obese is not seeing their body such as it actually is, but such as it is represented by the distorted coordinates of their mind. Presumably, at least some of these representations are causally motivated by the world of things: ‘I conjecture with probability that body does exist; but this is only with probability, and although I examine all things with care, I nevertheless do not find that from this distinct idea of corporeal nature, which I have in my imagination, I can derive any argument from which there will necessarily be deduced the existence of body’. However, given that Descartes’ desire is to conceive of an ‘absolutely certain and indubitable’ fulcrum for our truth claims, probabilistic reasoning is simply not sufficient.

The Necessity of God, and the Cartesian Circle

For Descartes to traverse the correlationist knot, he posits the existence of an undeceiving God as the axiomatic condition for validating our epistemology: ‘I must inquire whether there is a God as soon as the occasion presents itself; and if I find that there is a God, I must also inquire whether He may be a deceiver; for without a knowledge of these two truths I do not see that I can ever be certain of anything’. But Descartes’ God is not the God of organised religion. Rather, Descartes uses God as an umbrella term for any transcendental subject that fixes truth and, hence, validates our truth claims: ‘By God I understand a substance that is infinite, eternal, immutable, independent, all-knowing, all-powerful, and by which I myself and everything else, if anything else does exist, have been created'; ‘And so I very clearly recognise that the certainty and truth of all knowledge depends alone on the knowledge of the true God, insomuch that, before I knew Him, I could not have a perfect knowledge of any other thing. And now that I know Him I have the means of acquiring a perfect knowledge of an infinitude of things, not only of those which relate to God Himself and other intellectual matters, but also of those which pertain to corporeal nature insofar as it is the object of pure mathematics’.

However, Descartes’ ontological argument is paradoxical. First, Descartes ‘proves’ God’s existence by virtue of certain self-evident proofs. Then, he claims that only God validates the very same proofs he used to prove His existence: ‘For first, we are sure that God exists because we have attended to certain proofs that established this fact; but afterwards it is enough for us to remember that we have perceived something clearly, in order to be sure that it is true; but this would not suffice, unless we know that God existed and that he did not deceive us’. As Lacan encapsulates the function of God and the cogito as truth procedures, and the Cartesian circle that results: ‘what the I think is directed towards as it lurches into the I am, is a real. But the true remains so much outside that Descartes then has to reassure himself—of what, if not of an-Other that is not deceptive, and which shall, into the bargain, guarantee by its very existence the bases of truth, guarantee him that there are in his own objective reason the necessary foundations for the very real, about whose existence he has just reassured himself, to find the dimension of truth’. Perhaps, then, by reading Descartes’ God as Lacan’s Other, we can distinguish those representations produced by our minds from those produced by a real.

Descartes avec Lacan

For Lacan, the human subject is not born as Descartes’ cogito (or ‘I’), but as what Lacan calls the Real of our pure, original subjectivity. The cogito is formed later when we are alienated from the Real by entering the verbal realm of speech and language. Speaking a language is alienating because we ourselves did not invent language specifically to articulate the Real of our desires. Rather, all human languages were developed by Others existing long before us to articulate their desires, which have since become social conventions. Just as language can function without referring to the corporeal things words supposedly signify, but simply in relation to other words in a self-reflexive network (much like we can think through mathematical theorems without anything in-the-world being present), so is our self-concept expressed in language disparate from our Real, empirical self. All of this is condensed in Lacan’s cryptic aphorism, ‘the signifier is the subject for another signifier’. Or, inversely put, the subject (‘I’/cogito for Descartes) is the effect of a network of signifiers that forms a language.

The cogito, then, is what Lacan calls our conscious ego, which actually represses (rather than expresses) our Real. Descartes, thus, mistakes our Real self as the ‘I’, which is rather the agent of our Real self’s alienation from itself. As Lacan puts it, ‘The promotion of consciousness as being essential to the subject in the historical after-effects of the Cartesian cogito is the deceptive accentuation of the transparency of the I in action at the expense of the opacity of the signifier that determines the I; and the sliding movement (glissement) by which Bewusstein [consciousness] serves to cover up the confusion of the Selbst [self]’.

Indeed, ‘I’ obviously does not express each of us in our full specificities, but is only an imprecise and general term that we all use alike to articulate ourselves. Thus, Descartes’ ‘I’ is not identical to itself, but is ‘sliding’ (glissement) or split between our Real, empirical subject, and our (inter)subject as it is distorted and repressed through the language of an-Other. In other words, the Real of our desires are compromised by articulating them in the Other’s language by which our desires cannot help but resemble the Other’s desires. This is what Lacan means when he says, ‘man’s desire is the desire of the Other’. It is precisely through the Other of God that Descartes constitutes ‘his’ desire, too: ‘I always had an excessive desire to learn to distinguish the true from the false’ (my emphasis).

It is in these terms of desire that Descartes’ God functions as Lacan’s Other or what Lacan also calls the subject supposed to know (what we do not): ‘He [Descartes] puts the field of this knowledge at the level of the vaster subject, the subject supposed to know, God’. For the purposes of psychoanalysis, the subject supposed to know is the psychoanalyst who embodies the knowledge to cure the analysand (patient). Descartes and Lacan both claim that the human subject requires an-Other to constitute itself as coherent, conscious egos for Lacan and I’s for Descartes. They differ, however, insofar as Descartes claims that God actually knows, and, hence exists: ‘[…] it follows, not only that something cannot proceed from nothing, but likewise that what is more perfect—that is to say, which has more reality within itself—cannot proceed from the less perfect’. What psychoanalysis proves, however, is that the subject supposed to know does not actually have to know. After all, psychoanalysts are just human subjects who, like ourselves, can be deceived. Rather, it is enough that the subject/analysand precisely supposes or believes that the Other/psychoanalyst knows what they do not. As Lacan puts it, ‘[…] we have no need of the idea of a perfect, infinite being—who would dream of attributing these qualities to his analyst?—to introduce the function of the subject who is supposed to know’.

Homologously, Lacan proves the world’s existence and our own without God’s existence guaranteeing them, and Descartes’ consequent Cartesian circle. Although Lacan’s subject supposed to know, unlike Descartes’ God, does not actually know, it must nonetheless exist for us to suppose as much. As Lacan avers, ‘Note in passing that in avoiding the I thinkI avoid the discussion that results from the fact that this I think, for us, certainly cannot be detached from the fact that he [Descartes] can formulate it only by saying it to us [an-Other], implicitly—a fact that he forgets’. Simply put, we exist as we do, as what Descartes calls substances, only, like signifiers, in relation to Other structurally akin substances. This is even literally true when (m)Others give birth to us as helpless foetuses dependent upon (m)Others to satisfy our alimentary desires. This is precisely Lacan’s project for psychoanalysis: to make the analysand recognize that their conception of the Other and its desires is not actually the Other, nor its desires—what Lacan calls traversing the fantasy. Put otherwise, psychoanalysis only functions on condition that there is an ontologically real Other independent of our misrepresentation or fantasy of them. Psychoanalysis, thus, proves the existence of ourselves, an-Other substance like ourselves, and a space in which we both exist and which we might call a world. It is superfluous, then, for Descartes to posit the existence of a different, infinite substance (God) to prove as much. True, Lacan’s subject supposed to know cannot guarantee further claims about us and the world. But Descartes posits the very same epistemological limitations for us finite substances even if God exists. As Lacan continues, ‘I think you will appreciate the elegance of such a solution [as Descartes’], which leaves a whole portion of the truths, in particular the eternal truths, in God’s charge’. We can, therefore, appeal to Ockham’s razor and repudiate Descartes’ God, which elucidates nothing necessary and saves us from elucidating Him as well.

Of the Unconscious as Traversing the Cartesian Circle, but Not the Correlationist Knot

            For Lacan, the subject-Other correlate as proof of a world—and, hence, as the condition for our being able to speculate about it—is none other than the unconscious (in-)itself: ‘the unconscious is the discourse of the Other’. Earlier, Descartes’ correlationist knot presented us with the problem that, whenever we tried to think of anything beyond thought, we, thus, rendered it a thought. Now, far from being the unconscious of popular culture and New Age pseudo-Jungians, Lacan maintains, ‘where is this unconscious that is supposed to bring us to a divine truth? […] Descartes did not know, except that it involved the subject of a certainty and the rejection of all previous knowledge—but we know, thanks to Freud, that the subject of the unconscious manifests itself, that it thinks before it attains certainty’. But Descartes abstains from judgement whenever he cannot absolutely perceive a subject’s truth. Here, Descartes is deceived that he is not deceived. For the unconscious’ traumatic truth is that we cannot consciously distinguish the truth from our error. Syllogistically speaking, we can conclude for now, as Lacan does, that ‘by virtue of thinking—I am’.

Concluding Speculations

            What Lacan’s subject-Other correlate proves, which Descartes’ God does not, is that there is a network or world for sustaining the existence of ourselves and Others like ourselves, whom are necessary to constitute each other as cogito, ergo sum and sum res cogitans. Lacan’s Other or subject supposed to know’s structuring effects on the cogito is to leave this ‘transcendental’ trace, and hence proof of a world—although not this world independent of our thought. In other words, we have proved that there is a reality that justifies asking epistemological questions such as, ‘what can we know about it?’ Whether there is an ‘absolutely certain and indubitable’ critical apparatus, however, for examining reality is beyond the space and time of this paper. For now, then, we must assume ourselves as subjects supposed to know in order to inquire about the world at all. The only pragmatic epistemology that is not premised by some extrinsic transcendental subject or master discourse that I am aware of is speculative realism. Indeed, in my next paper, I hope to develop precisely the critical apparatus for examining the world in-itself by way of speculative materialist, Quentin Meillassoux’s revival of Locke’s non-relational, thought-independent primary qualities in arguing for absolute knowledge. Till then, what Lacan’s subject-Other correlate substitute for Descartes’ God allows us to conclude is that there is a world, a world that we might never know, that we can perhaps know partially, even if we don’t know that we know it (unconsciously), but a world that is certainly and indubitably able to be speculated about.

Of the Dead Who Do Not Die

‘Is it possible that existence is our exile and nothingness our home?’—Emil ‘self-proclaimed Hitlerist’ Cioran

There was something about former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s funeral that seemed strangely anachronistic. More than anything else, his seven-day long service resembled the medieval paintings in which the king’s deathbed, like Chávez’s open casket, was transformed into a veritable throne toward which millions of mourners passed through the death house’s doors to pay their final respects. What was even more out of joint with the times, as Hamlet would have put it, was that those millions of Chávistas didn’t seem as sorrowful as they did delighted. They acted as if Chávez wasn’t so much dead as he was alive there before them—alive then in death more than he ever was in life. As one mourner so poetically put it, Chávez was—or is that is?—‘one of the dead that don’t die’.

In an essay that has little to do with our present subject, Walter Benjamin mentions in passing how over the ages we have come to conceal the once ubiquitous and quotidian presence of death. For instance, in the nineteenth century, every bedroom in every household had been the site of at least someone’s, and, indeed, probably many a person’s death. Today, however, we hide death in nursing homes and sanatoriums, usually on the pretexts of health and hygiene (read: bio-power). In Benjamin’s own words, ‘In the course of modern times dying has been pushed further and further out of the perceptual world of the living. There used to be no house, hardly a room, in which someone had not once died. Today people live in rooms that have never been touched by death, day dwellers of eternity, and when their end approaches they are stowed away in sanatoria or hospitals by their heirs’. All of this begs us to ask the transcendental question: what were the conditions for realizing this effect of diminishing the function of death in our lives, and, thus, marginalising the dead and the dying?

If we compare the first hunter-gatherer human societies with our own advanced industrial-capitalist societies (a fitting comparison given that our societies might very well be humanity’s last), we can see just how severely death is dying, so to speak, in the different ways we treat meat. For the hunter class of those prehistoric societies, confronting death was their everyday nine to five occupation. Could any one of us imagine doing what they did as much they did, namely breaking animals’ bones with their bare hands, or rupturing their bodies with spikes and spears, before revealing, even revelling in their organs and limbs splayed and almost surgically splattered about in fountains of blood flown forth upon their faces and in their eyes? Faced with this humanly frequent, all too humanly frequent sight, would the human hunter-self not have projected its own mortal corporeality onto the animal prey-self, so that the opening up of the animal’s insides represented precisely man’s opening up of himself at his most traumatically Real kernel, which is to say, as the blood and guts that might demystify the black box of the organism’s body? Is this not why in such societies the exchange value for animal sacrifice was the cultural practice of rituals of thanks performed around the animal carcass, which situated the site of death upon sacred ground? This whole process of animal hunting and killing resembles nothing so much as a macabre and histrionic dance on the animal’s grave, where one foot might occasionally slip and fall in, like the drawn-out death sequences in Jean-Luc Godard’s films.

How different things are today, then, when animal sacrifice is performed in a no less ritualistic style, only in slaughterhouses run by automatons, because no humans dare trespass there for fear of being seen as a part of something obscene that as such must be kept out of sight. Would we still eat buckets of Kentucky fried chicken and cheap, mass-produced cheeseburgers if we had to do what our ancestral hunters did to produce them? Here, one is even tempted to compare society’s cover-up of animal sacrifice with the veil thrown over human sacrifice in the form of worker exploitation. For the ruling bourgeois ideology sees even the workers which sustain itself as repulsive as rotting animal corpses, so that the workers, too, must be distantiated far away and behind the walls of such Third World kingdoms as the Foxconn slave labour camps. (Indeed, for anyone who still fetishistically disavows that class warfare is alive and well today more than ever, see the Chairman of Foxconn, Terry Gou’s comments precisely comparing ‘his’ workers to ‘animals who should be managed’). To continue the analogy to its subjectively destituting conclusion, would we still buy iPhones, iPads, Xboxes, Nintendo Wiis, and so on, if we had to purchase them directly from the emaciated and ashen-faced child-peasants, whom we could still barely see from behind production line conveyor belts, perhaps set up in Apple shop windows?

The absence of death is, paradoxically, present elsewhere and everywhere, too. For instance, we see the same phenomenon on a microcosmic, centennial scale in the transition from the Grand Guignol to the Holocaust. The Grand Guignol was a French theatre production company during the first half of the twentieth century, which performed plays comprised entirely of vignettes of macabre horror and spectacular violence—much like today’s torture porn horror movies such as Saw, Hostel, The Human Centipede, and so on. Needless to say, the Grand Guignol was a bloody success until World War II, when the Nazis occupied France and the Holocaust penetrated French society. Soon enough, the Vichy French State was murdering masses of Jews and resistance fighters alike, using methods that seemed to have been inspired precisely by the Grand Guignol’s most extreme excesses. Here, the concept of the Grand Guignol broke down as its plays were no longer experienced as play, as imaginative, impossible, or as entertaining by a French audience freshly exposed to the big budget historical horror movie unfolding all around them.

That death is an extremely traumatic thing is precisely the condition for films like Poltergeist and Paranormal Activity about ghastly looking ghosts seeking vengeance out of malice for the living, and Dawn of the Dead and Frankenstein about mindless reanimated corpses with a predilection for consuming live flesh, to function as frightening. In psychoanalytic terms, these living dead embody Freud’s concept of the death drive. Although perhaps it would have been more fitting for Freud to have called the death drive its opposite, the life drive, because the death drive is, paradoxically, a kind of will to immortality gone awry. This is to say, the death drive is the organism’s desire for eternal life at all costs, which manifests as the repetition of that which is dead but, nonetheless, persists in a mutilated form much like the livelihood of the living dead. Here, the problem posed by the living dead is, not how to live forever, but on the contrary, how to die so as to avoid living this life that is no life.

How is it that one can be dead but living? Homologously, Jacques Lacan reformulates Freud’s concept of the death drive as the paradox that we only die twice. This is to say, we experience both a Symbolic death, before our Real, biological death. Like a ghost of philosophy past, Hegel speaks of something similar apropos Napoleon Bonaparte: Napoleon died a Symbolic death, the death of his function in-the-world, his historical necessity, as it were, when he was decisively defeated in battle for the first and final time, before he died a Real, physical death years later in prison, when he was already forgotten by history.

However, if the persistence of the living dead is indeed perturbing, it is because, unlike in the case of Napoleon, they are really, but not symbolically, dead. Simply put, the living dead are so terrifying because they have experienced their Real death, but not yet their Symbolic death. In other words, to reformulate Jean Luc-Godard’s famous remark about the cinematic subject so that it speaks of the human subject, every human must have a birth, a life and a death—but not necessarily in that order. For instance, sticking to examples derived from the great old men of history, the first Chairman of the Republic of North Korea, Kim Il-sung died in 1994. It was only after the fact, however, that the North Korean constitution was revised so as to promote Kim Il-sung to the official position of Eternal President. His grandson and current Supreme Leader of the Republic, Kim Jong-un, is still constitutionally subordinate to the demands of the Eternal President. Kim Il-sung persists, then, exactly as per the living dead in horror movies: he is dead physically and at the level of the Real, but nonetheless wrecks havoc upon the living whenever his grandson spouts rhetorical (read: Symbolic) threats of war on the pretence that the Eternal President spoke to him and ordered him to do so on his behalf. Perhaps, then, even Christopher Hitchens, as obese with bad ideas and hypocrisy as he was, was justified in calling North Korea the first nectocracy.

For North Koreans who are born, grow up and die only ever knowing a life under the Kims’ necrocratic regime, what constitutes their social reality would be a qualitatively different universe of discourse and meaning to what constitutes our own. Would they credulously believe everything that the State tells them? Would they believe, for instance, that the ‘scientific’ community recently reconfirmed the existence of unicorn lairs? And would they believe that their State leaders are veritable Gods who perform miracles such as controlling the weather and, according to one compulsory primary school textbook, being so sanitary as to never shit or piss? Would they have believed that the very same Gods themselves coached the State soccer team to, as it turned out, staggering defeat after staggering defeat in the last World Cup? Perhaps all of this is not so strange to them, given that these Gods dress like Elvis, with greasy, slicked back hair, Vegas-era jumpsuits and giant shades in public, while in private they make use of what is purportedly the world’s largest pornographic film collection. If some North Koreans do indeed believe all of this, it would certainly be a shock for them were their Gods to be unmasked as the mere mortal men that they really are. It would be much like what transpired after Japan’s surrender in World War II, when the Japanese emperor was forced to confess on public radio that he wasn’t actually a God. To the emperor’s true believers, his confession would have been as traumatic as it would be for Christian fundamentalists to have their God, grey beard and all, finally manifest here on earth, perhaps on the Late Show with David Letterman, only to confess that He wasn’t a God either, before promoting His upcoming indie art house sequel to the Spanish Inquisition.

From all of this we can finally construe why Hugo Chávez’s funeral was such a celebratory, rather than a sobering, event. Clearly, the interim government administration led by Chávez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, put much laborious effort into preserving Chávez’s Symbolic livelihood. This is why the government announced that Chávez’s body would be embalmed and placed on ‘permanent display’, so that he can continue to live on ‘eternally’. This is also why Maduro described himself as ‘a son of Chávez’ during his inaugural speech, just as Chávez himself always described the people as Chávez: ‘I am Chávez. You are Chávez. We are all Chávez’. The logic of Chávez’s veritable cult of personality resembles precisely that of Trotsky’s dream about Lenin after he had died: as Lenin inquired about how his revolution was proceeding, it became clear to Trotsky that Lenin did not realize that he was dead, and so continued to live. Homologously, if Chávez is not really dead it is because he has still to complete his Symbolic or historical role of building socialism for the twenty-first century. This is all too different from the way in which we in the West commemorate a revolutionary event, such as May ’68, as if it was the culmination of the revolution itself, when really it was not even the prolegomenon, but only the preproduction, the revolutionary dress rehearsal for a play about the end of our world at the beginning of another.

Perhaps the difference is that Chávez at his most radical kernel, which is to say, as symbolic of the communist Idea(l) of universal emancipation for everyone, might very well be the one idea that never truly dies. For it is as if every child is born a blank slate, except for this one idea in mind. If the communist Idea(l) is not exactly inherent, it at the very least emerges in each of us when we have inevitably experienced the material conditions of the class organisation of our societies. For instance, even the present North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, who has never known anything but the privileged and protected life of a dictator’s son, nonetheless once reportedly remarked to his father when he was just a child: ‘We are here, playing basketball, riding horses, riding jet skis, having fun together. But what of the lives of the average people?’ It would, thus, seem that every child, independent of the circumstantial and accidental factors that constitute their subject’s history, thinks to ask at least once in their life this simple question, ‘Why isn’t everyone equal?’ And, perhaps, another, ‘How do I make it so?’ It is because of men and women, though children at heart, like Chávez, and even more than Chávez, the millions of Chávistas whose eyes point always askew toward a child’s paradise, that Chávez was, as he is, as he always will be, one of the dead who do not die.

All Power to the Sisters, and Naturally to the Brothers

‘Woman!—she is his slave, she has become

A thing I weep to speak—the child of scorn,

The outcast of a desolated home.

Falsehood, and fear, and toil, like waves have worn

Channels upon her cheek, which smiles adorn,

As calm decks the false Ocean—well ye know

What Woman is, for none of Woman born

Can choose but drain the bitter dregs of woe

Which even from the oppressed to the oppressors flow’

—Percy Bysshe Shelley: The Revolt of Islam

Capitalism IS sexist, biology is NOT

It is true that women are biologically distinct from men insofar as only women have the reproductive organs for bearing children. Women’s inferior social status, however, does not originate from their biological uniqueness. Rather, this second-class sex of women is socio-culturally constituted by class organisations of society, which are, indeed, inherently sexist.

For the past 150 years, anthropologists (Lewis H. Morgan, Friedrich Engels, Evelyn Reed, Chris Harman, and so on) have been telling us that sexism neither existed in primitive human societies, nor exists in our ancestral animal nature. On the contrary, their research suggests that humans are not biologically restricted to a certain range of instinctive behaviours. In other words, there is no form of oppression of certain groups of humans by other groups of humans that can be naturalised.[1] Rather, humans have the capacity to control, use and shape the world into that which it is not naturally in order to constitute the means of producing the necessities of life, hence what those necessities are, by, for instance, rubbing two sticks together to produce fire as a new human need. A human is, hence, an absurdity in itself, without its being in the world.

In our present patriarchal class society founded on private property, workers are, therefore, alienated from constituting their own humanity insofar as they do not control the world; that is to say, they do not control the modes and means of production, which are lawfully ‘owned’ by both the private and State industrial capitalists. And given that private property is, in turn, founded on patriarchal institutions, such as the traditional family, the church, and so on, many women, then, are still alienated twice over, insofar as they cannot even sell their labour to engage in any form of production in-the-world, however exploitative. True, stay-at-home women work, but there is a world of difference between social production, as exploitative as it is in capitalist enterprises, and stay-at-home women’s unwaged slave labour performed in isolation, which phenomenally constricts their thoughts, gestures, actions, feelings, and social relations to given oppressive templates.

Gender doesn’t exist

As such, the classification of women as ‘women’, and, hence, of sexual difference, insofar as it only exists to classify women as oppressed and men as oppressor, must be transcended if women, and men, are to free themselves from such power relations and confront each other as human-ends. Even first to third wave feminism, hereafter called liberal feminism, reifies ‘women’ as an objective, natural and transhistorical category with common characteristics. Liberal feminists, thus, also punitively compel women to conform to their historical, anachronistic ideal of women, which only further alienates women from themselves.

Indeed, such a male-female gender polarity, however, is not the Real of our ontological kernel, but is socio-culturally constructed through what Michel Foucault calls ‘regulative discourses’: the repeated bombardment of heteronormative stimuli set against the threat of ostracism, prohibition and taboo. These discourses are both institutionalised by, for instance, the marriage contract, the family, scientific and medical theories, the church, the advertising and consumer industry, film, television, and the mass media, and personalised through the internet, eating disorders, sexual rejection, and even casual conversations.[2] And the gender processed person, then, internalises such social norms as the ideological illusion of a stable gender, which they identify with through performing it as bodily movements, gestures, and so on.

For Judith Butler, the drag is the key figure who destabilizes the mechanisms performed in the construction of sexual difference: even the very so-called corpoReal of our origins can be transcended by the drag to fit the Real of their identity, which they embody as radically disembodied, indeterminate and free for them to choose, not from a stable male-female sexual polarity, but from a chaotically oscillating, free flowing sexual spectrum. However, as the case of the drag demonstrates, although we may choose the discourses which constitute ourselves, our choice is greatly constricted by the historical conventions of our time, which we inherit from the past and which most of us uncritically assimilate as seemingly seamlessly as we inherit our eye colour.[3] As such, our perceptions and experiences of meanings in gender are limited less by our biological bodies than they are by the historical interpretations of said bodies hitherto. For instance, the heteronormative conflation of gender and sexuality, of men as sexually attracted to women, women as sexually attracted to men, and homosexuality as a sexual deviation from this, is just one such interpretation of our biology rather than a fact about our biology itself.

In this sense, the personal is, indeed, political: gender and socio-political processes are interdependent and reciprocal. But so as not to subsume our efforts for universal emancipation into lifestyle politics, the politics of apolitics, the State’s institutional policies must first and foremost be altered, rather than the individual performances of gender constituted by those policies.

Against liberal feminism

The wavering women’s movement hitherto, however, is not the means for realising this universal emancipation, as it makes men’s rights under our present capitalist system for women its be-all and end-all fetish. For the majority of women, which is to say, working women, be they waged or unwaged, are by no means emancipated when their bourgeois sisters succeed in business and political professions, but are even exploited by them, turning sister against sister. In this sense and this sense only, we can say that this feminism has nothing to do with women, or more precisely, feminism is the oppression of women by women.[4] In other words, sexist State policy cannot ever be altered by participating in, or rather, submitting to the present parliamentary and bureaucratic systems as politicians and voters. For this State of things must first be smashed.

Although, certainly, liberal feminism’s fight for equal rights, public employment, and so on, was once fundamental for politicising the personal, namely for getting women to identify with the proletariat. For women’s identification as proletarian is the only means by which they might realise their women’s liberation as the liberation of all, or at least, the 99%. Indeed, as we shall see, our capitalist form of class society did not invent women’s oppression, but it simultaneously enhanced it, whilst also creating the conditions for both patriarchy and capitalism’s overcoming.

A plea for a gentler identity: the Marxist-feminist alternative

Conversely, a Marxist-feminist class and gender analysis integrates immediate reform, such as women’s rights, and ultimate revolution,  that is the general class struggle, without reducing one to the other. Indeed, Marx and Engels brutally critiqued such uncompromising dogmatic Marxists who repudiated reforms on ‘principle’ alone. Nor do working women divide the proletariat when they fight for their economic improvement, just as working men do, but actually expand it.

All of this is to say that liberating women means that, not the State, but society must nationalize its economic resources from the private ownership of the patriarchal capitalists. This would, thereby, enable the socialization of housework and child care—work which women still almost solely do. Clearly, the women’s movement is fundamental to this socialization, as sexism plays a dominant role in sustaining the consumer housewife and beauty markets.

A Marxist-feminist explanatory model, then, and not merely just one or the other in itself, is most perspicuous given that class and gender processes are interdependent, each simultaneously functioning as each other’s effect and cause. As such, Marxist-feminists do not privilege any singular, specific social site, be it workplace, household, body, and so on, wherein the repressive social processes at work might be transcended, thereby influencing some or all other processes at some or all other sites.

What is to be done?

The first step in the fight against women’s oppression is the brutal, uncompromising critique of all the main arguments put forward by both sexists and some so-called ‘feminists’ to justify, naturalise and legitimise women’s oppression in order to sustain their privileged positions. Then, the first step in the different but, nonetheless, intimately connected fight for women’s liberation is for all those who identify themselves as in some sense belonging to the category of women to perceive themselves as a physical and psychological site onto which patriarchal capitalist socio-cultural standards are inscribed for the benefit of their male and capitalist (both male and female) oppressors. As such, they will also come to comprehend that this site can be transformed both by asserting their own sense of autonomy and self-creation therein, and by recognizing a multitude of interdependent social processes (economic processes, gender processes[5], etc.) interacting for the benefit of each woman as a self in itself, hence all women as selves in themselves within the wider community. It is not that such a tentative position on feminism should not be debated and developed dialectically, for, indeed, it should; just always from the practical perspective of revitalising gender studies and its praxis in no less than radical militant feminism as an emancipatory project to subvert the—again, once more!—not natural, but social roots of women’s oppression.


[1] What these modern anthropologists’ discrediting of their predecessors who claimed precisely the opposite ultimately demonstrates, however, is that it is erroneous to argue against racism, sexism, for feminism, etc., based upon a theory of our prehistory that, as has happened before, could again be discredited by a new archaeological discovery or technique of antique inquiry.

[2] Indeed, the fact that the official ruling patriarchal capitalist ideology puts so much effort into containing gender deviations speaks precisely to the intensity and frequency of gender deviations.

[3] Or better yet, the shape of our noses that were once considered to provide proof of the biological inferiority, hence, extermination, of 6 million Jews. Women’s oppression, then, and the phrenological pseudo-science of Nazism are intimately homologous.

[4] This is why I earlier emphasised that appeals to primitive human societies as matriarchal and based on mother right are counterintuitive. That is to say, these appeals still enforce a division of labour as necessarily based on sexual difference between men and women. Moreover, they also presume that women’s reproductive capacity (read: women’s biology) defines her.

[5] It will have been observed by now that I haven’t explained what gender processes actually are in the body of this paper. This is because: 1) although I do not signify when, at times I, nonetheless, use the term, gender processes, to mean two different kinds of gender processes (one macrological and explained by way of Marxian class analysis; the other micrological and explained by way of Foucaultian power relations); and 2) given this, and given that I wrote the paper for the purposes of condensing and clarifying my melage of thoughts on feminism more than anything else (which, on a number of points, I have already come to dissent from), a more detailed discussion of such processes requires significant assumed knowledge, namely of Marxian economics and Foucaultian power relations.

Basically, however, gender processes is a term transfigured from Marx’s class processes. For Marx, there are fundamental class processes (workers’ production of goods and services as surplus) and subsumed class processes (capitalists’ (im)purely non-productive appropriation and distribution of that surplus). These class processes, which are actually social processes necessary for producing the conditions of any society’s existence and functioning, become precisely class processes (read: exploitative) when the fundamental processes are performed by a different group of people than the subsumed processes. Homologously, I think, there are fundamental gender processes (such as a wife who produces meals not just for herself, but for her husband), and subsumed gender processes (a husband’s appropriation of his wife’s cooking as surplus). This is exploitative because the wives here are producing more than they themselves are consuming, with this being the very definition of the surplus that creates the conditions for class processes.

But this is by no means intended to be (mis)used as a dogmatic Marxist-feminist methodology. For instance, if class processes are the production, appropriation and distribution of goods and services, then another definition of gender processes is: the production, appropriation and distribution of meanings in gender. In this case, the exploiters are the producers of meanings in gender (patriarchal capitalists of the beauty market/fashion industry, for example), the appropriators are the exploited women (and exploited men, for that matter), and the distributors are both men and women, both the exploiters and the exploited.

Indeed, Foucault’s explanatory model of power relations, that is viewing power relations between men and women, homosexual men, homosexual women, heterosexual men and women and homosexual men and women, transgenders, and so on, is also useful here in elucidating gender. In this sense, then, gender processes as power relations are infinitesimal, difficult to trace mechanisms at the micrological level that condition how differently gendered subjects behave towards each other. To continue my example of gender processes in the traditional household, the gender processes as power relations that sustain the other gender processes as class processes is the marital ideology, whereby husbands and wives promise to love, honour, cherish and obey one another. And this marital ideology, in turn, both causes and is caused by religious institutions that legitimize the wife’s subordinate, surplus producing position in the traditional household as the direct and inexorable expression of human nature, of God’s design (see also discussion of Foucault’s regulative discourses in section of paper entitled ‘Gender doesn’t exist’).

Finally, I should also explain that the reason I use the traditional nuclear household (as opposed to other forms of the household) as an example here is because it is the first site of our introduction to class processes (and which, incidentally, assume the form of gender processes), wherein class and gender are normalized so that our eventual encounter of them in society among other social sites seems not nearly as insufferable.

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