Monday, August 30, 2004

Improbable quantities of rain continue to fall on us. Still deep in the Lacan-made-simple (or at least practical) book. It's funny how psychoanalysis has fallen into disfavor in the U.S. On the one hand, it obviously operates at a great distance from our positivist, show-me, WYSIWYG attitudes when it comes to the exercise of rationality. Classify every little disorder and isolate its location in the brain or nervous system, then concoct the appropriate pharmaceutical. But on the other hand, psychonalysis is a terrific example of pragmatic principles in its operation: it's true because it works. So psychoanalysis seems to open up a fault line in the American intellecutal character between positivism and pragmatism. Maybe. The dismaying thing about Lacan is the strongly implicit social conservatism, most visible here in a long footnote of Fink's where he reflects on the potential damage done by societal changes that diminish the role of the father (both the literal and Symbolic father) and the Law he's supposed to lay down, such as single parenthood, gay couples, etc. Here's the end of the note:
If we are to preserve some notion of a just Law above and beyond the particular laws of the land—given the current legitimation crisis of the legal, juridical, and executive branches of government [note that this was written a half-decade before the Supreme Court crowned Bush]—a just Law that is equitably and uniformly enforced, we must have an experience of Law at home which at least approaches that ideal to some degree. As rare as this experience may be in the stereotypical nuclear family, practices currently being advocated seem likely to make it rarer still. As Lacan once said, in a pessimistic vein, "I won't say that even the slightest litle gesture to eliminate something bad leaves the way open to something still worse—it always leads to something worse" (Seminar III, 361).
I have a complicated response to this. On the one hand, I recognize in my own life the importance of the operation of Law, though there a number of different Laws or Law-schemas operating in my life in contradiction with each other, causing a certain amount of confusion (the Ten Commandments generally hold sway with me, but there's an even more basic Law that I took in at a very early age which might simply be called "fairness." Interesting that it was my mother who would most often trot out the old saw, "Sometimes life isn't fair" when she was laying down a contradictory Law, like me needing to go to bed before the guests arrived. Was my father then the guarantor of fairness? Hm). And I think there are a number of good laws on the books, like the basic ones prohibiting crimes against persons, against property (though when someone possesses too much property—how to define it?—I have Robin Hood-like instincts), and the fulfillment of contracts freely and knowledgably entered into. But I'm also attracted to more utopian, anarchist systems: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law." Fink and Lacan would call that a recipe for psychosis on a massive scale, and perhaps they're right. It seems like anarchy could only be trustworthy in the hands of those with more or less traditional, non-anarchic upbringings, because if anarchy isn't brought out of the realm of the Symbolic (that is, language) then it will surely be anarchy in the pejorative sense (produced by the Imaginary, realm of rivalry and violence). Which doesn't mean anarchy doesn't transgress the Symbolic; its whole point is to contest arbitrary systems of hierarchy and value. But the state of being that we would live in if the Symbolic were destroyed is literally unImaginable. It seems that if you accept Lacan, you have to reject the notion of a revolution in the psyche and settle for reform, amelioration, and coping. And in what meaningful sense could you pursue a political revolution while leaving the psyche founded upon the nuclear family and the Father-function as is?

Clearly when I'm done with Fink, who is making so much that was obscure about Lacan's ideas clear to me (though I have congenital difficulty with the mathemes), I'll have to return to Deleuze and Guattari and Anti-Oedipus, probably the best known rejection of psychoanalysis' reactionary tendencies. But from what I recall of their work, it always again makes the most sense as a means of subverting existing structures. Nobody has a plan for the new structure within which we will experience total liberation and redemption. I instinctively gravitate toward the notion that the redeemed world will look exactly like this one, only with some slight yet all-determining difference. A difference in the orientation toward nature, both inside and outside the human being. Lacan derides this idea as "pastoral," as the notion of the drives coming to have a "natural" home, as opposed to having them written onto the body; D & G celebrate the possibility of a schizophrenic "body without organs." I'll have to think on this some more. What it will eventually have to do with Pound or Williams or Zukofsky or Johnson or Lisa Robertson, God only knows.

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