‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part ten)

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by Schizostroller on June 6, 2018 @ 12:45 pm

To illustrate elusion Laing uses Sartre’s example of the waiter in a café, who Sartre charges with playing at being a waiter. He is both ‘a waiter’, it is his job, but he has to play a social role, there are certain accepted behaviours expected of a waiter, and he tries to emulate them in order to do his job. According to Laing, “there is the sense in which no man can ever be entirely what he is. However, the man who is actually impersonating himself assuming a role, is assuming a relationship to himself which is a very ambiguous one, in that he is both pushing himself into what he is doing, and at the same time not doing what he is doing.” (p.28). The sociologist who examined this dramaturgical game most famously is Erving Goffman in his book the Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. In this book Goffman argues that the best way to understand human action is by seeing people as actors on a ‘social stage’ who actively create an impression of themselves for the benefit of an audience and, in the sense that we are discussing similarities between elusion and the creation of the idealich, ultimately themselves. When we act in the social world, we put on a ‘front’ in order to project a certain image of ourselves (call this part of our ‘social identity’ if you like) – we create a front by manipulating the setting in which we perform (e.g. our living room), our appearance (e.g. our clothes) and our manner (our emotional demeanour). In these social settings we are called upon to put on various fronts depending on the social stage on which we find ourselves and the teams of actors with whom we are performing – the work-place or the school are typical examples of social stages which require us to put on a front. On these social stages we take on roles, in relation to other team-members and carefully manage the impressions we express in order to ‘fit in’ to society and achieve our own personal agendas. Managing the impressions we portray in everyday life involves projecting an ‘idealised image’ of ourselves, which involves concealing a number of aspects of our performance – such as the effort which goes into putting on a front, and typically hiding any personal profit we will gain from a performance or interaction. Unfortunately because audiences are constantly on the look-out for the signs we give off (so that they can ‘know who we are’) ‘performers can stop giving expressions, but they cannot stop giving them off’. This means that we must be constantly on our guard to practice ‘expressive control’ when on the social stage. There are plenty of things that can go wrong with our performance which might betray the fact that we are not really the person who our act suggests that we are – we might lose bodily control or make mistakes with our clothing, or as is often the case in mental health lose our sense of controlled emotional expression.
In the documentary the Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, Slavoj Zizek takes the architecture of the scene in house in Psycho and applies it to psychoanalysis. The basement is the id, where his mother’s body is, the ground floor is the ego, and the upstairs, first floor, where he hears, or even ‘becomes’, his mother, is the superego. In the example we are setting here in our portrayal of idealich and eleusion, this is the relation of self to self, this is its dimension. Vertical. In the Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Goffman also architecturally describes the stage, as acting out social roles is quite demanding, in addition to the front-stage aspect of our lives, we also have back-stage areas where we can drop our front and be more relaxed, closer to our ‘real selves’ (true/real ego), and where we can prepare for when we again need to go back front of stage and act in the world. In this sense the back stage is our unconscious and the background feelings we have, and the front of stage is our ego. This dimension is the relation of self to others, and is horizontal. Or transversal as Felix Guattari would argue in the Three Ecologies.

Lacan argues that the eleusion from the real ego to the Ichideal and the attempt to return is the relation of the imaginary to the symbolic. But with regards this structuration of the ego, and the relation of the Ichideal to Goffman’s theory of presentation of self in everyday life I want ot bring up an idea sometimes used in analytic philosophy and game theory, Common Knowledge. Common knowledge is understood as form of knowledge shared amongst a particular group of actors. There is common knowledge of something, that could be an idea, or a belief, or set of facts p amongst the set of actors G in that all the actor members amongst the set G know p, they all know that they know p, they all know that they all know that they know p, and so on ad infinitum. The reference to Goffman here is that this is associated with convention, whether in argumentation, rules of games like chess, or social behaviours. In computing, the Two Generals Problem is a thought experiment meant to illustrate the pitfalls and design challenges of attempting to coordinate an action by communicating over an unreliable link. It is related to the more general Byzantine Generals Problem (particularly with regard to the Transmission Control Protocol where The General Problem shows that TCP can’t guarantee state consistency between endpoints and why. A key concept in epistemic knowledge, this problem highlights the importance of common knowledge. I will be returning to this with regards the Byzantine General Problem, but before that I want to consider Axel Honneth’s theories of Recognition and Disrespect, which requires looking at the concept of alienation, as well as problems of discursivity in the knowledge base which will return us to Lacan’s understanding of the Reality Principle. In looking at common knowledge I want to look at the possibility of the imaginary affecting common Knowledge, especially art’s place in this, returning to Foucault’s portrait of Baudelaire as Modern flaneur and De Certeau’s Practice of everyday life. De Certeau argues in what he calls Reading as Poaching. In this chapter De Certeau contests the idea that consumers are passively guided and moulded by the media-products that are imposed on them. The assumption that the public is a passive recipient of the text is rooted in the Enlightenment’s ideological goal of the necessity of educating and reforming the public. The book was thought of as the perfect instrument to instruct. One can think of the significance of being able to read for the purposes of manumission in Henry Louis Gates Jr’s Signifying Monkey. Today the message of the book is no longer of primary importance. Rather, it is the book as a means to read that garners significance. De Certeau argues that “every reading modifies its object” (p.169). As such De Certeau opposes the image of reading as being a passive matter and states that reading is also a process of creative production, for the reader must actively construct a meaning on the basis of a collection of signs that the text presents. In spite of the normative power and conventions of the literate elite, a common poetics is practiced behind closed doors, if we think here of Goffman’s back-rooms. This is a creative and transgressive reading by means of which the reader deterritorializes him- or herself by traveling through invented, unknown lands that exist between self and image, between text and the reader’s social milieu, between the text that is read and other texts that are brought to the imagination through the reading process, and we can think here of Lacan’s idea of the Ichideal, and Laing’s idea of elusion. The emergence of this sort of reading has come hand in hand with the change from reading aloud to silent reading. Even though in silent reading the bodily activity has been reduced to the mobility of the eye, paying attention to the body as it responds to the practice of common poetics might help us explain the dynamics of this type of reading, and here we can think of Vygotsky’s discussion of the child’s development of inner speech.

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‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part nine)

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by Schizostroller on June 5, 2018 @ 5:26 pm

I want to focus on the Idealich and Ichideal for a while as it is one of the central components of this thesis looking at the formation of the subject described at the beginning of this series who projects a sense of self onto the Other. For the moment I want to raise a trope of the Hearing Voices Network that ‘the voices are real’, this particular phrasing was first raised by Ron Coleman in his book Recovery: An alien concept, but a similar phrasing , as has been mentioned, was mentioned by RD Laing (credited to a Dr Isaacs) in the 1961 book Self and Others, in which the phrase is ‘the phantasms are real’, RD Laing then deals with this dialectically and puts the phrase into a more social context, and I will be coming ot this in future articles, but suffice for now to acknowledge the egoistic nature of this Freudian concept is challenged elsewhere, and now to understand the ego’s share of this phenomenon, let us return to the Ichideal and Idealich.
Dr LeClaire states that according to Freud the sense of self has three origins: 1. Primary narcissistic satisfaction, 2. The measure of success, the satisfaction of the desire for omnipotence and 3. The gratification received from love objects. Leclaire isolates one of these for consideration “the development of the ego consists in an estrangement from primary narcissism and gives rise to a vigorous attempt to recover that state. This departure is brought about by means of the displacement of libido on to an ego-ideal imposed from without satisfaction is brought about from fulfilling this ideal. So the ego experiences a kind of estrangement, passing via a middle term, which is the ideal, and returns later to its primitive position.” (p.135-136). O. Mannoni remarks that this would be the structuration of the ego. Leclaire goes onto explain the this ambiguity of Freud suggests that this displacement of the libido onto an ideal can be either a displacement onto an image of the ego, an ideal that is dissimilar to the one that is already there, or it is a displacement onto something going beyond the form of the ego, something quite properly an ideal, a form. O.Mannoni argues that there is a distinction between the structuration of the ego and the development of the person, “because it is truly an ego that structures, but within a being that is developing” (p.137). Lacan concludes that this is quite properly structuration and it is this point that is the joint between the imaginary and symbolic.
It is that this point that I am minded again of Laing’s idea of elusion. Let us return to it again. Laing mentions ‘the complicated elusive relationship to one’s actual position’ in a chapter on ‘pretence and the elusion of experience’, he describes a thought experiment
1. One is sitting in a room
2. One imagines or pretends that the room is not a real room. But is a room that one is cinjuring up by one’s own imagination: (A-> B).
3. Having pretended this point almost to convincing oneself that the room is an imaginary toom, one then starts pretending that the room is a real room and not an imaginary room after all: (B -> A1).
4. One ends up, therefore by pretending that the real room is real, rather than perceiving it as real.
We can see here a relation to Lacan and LeClaire’s discussion of the ‘true/real ego’s’ relation to the ichideal. Where the phrase: “So the ego experiences a kind of estrangement, passing via a middle term, which is the ideal, and returns later to its primitive position”, is a description of an ‘elusive relationship’. Laing writes “In elusion, everything becomes elusive. Its symbols are will-o’-the-wisps, feathers, dust, fluff, straws in the wind – all that is difficult to grasp, grip, hold with one’s hands, pin down, control, handle, manipulate, define, catch. Not only the content of the situation but its qualities and modalities are eluded also. It evades being categorised as real or unreal imagination or phantasy. Beulah, the realm of the moon, under Chinese lanterns, rather than under the naked electric bulb… One finds that person who is entirely given over to a phantasy of something that can be searched for and found. He is only his very own searching. What one has is always not what one wants, and yet it is precisely the elusiveness of this want that one is unable to say what one wants, lacks, has not got, because what one wants (lacks) is precisely what one has not got… what is, what one is, what other people are, facts – this is not what is wanted. Those brute facts that cannot be eluded are repellent if not nauseating, disgusting, and obscene.” (p.30-31). This is Laing describing, what he labels, a hysteric’s relation to the reality principle as opposed to the idealich. This is as elusion is both a relation of self to self, and a relation of self to others.
One finds oneself thinking of Alvin Lucier’s sound-art performance I am sitting in a room. The performance involves Lucier (or the performer) speaking a few lines (“I am sitting in a room…” and so on) into a tape recorder in a room with a particular echoic effect. Thiese lines are repeated and then played back, and recorded again, and played back, over and over, the repetition creates an out of synch effect, and the intensity becomes an overwhelming noise or cacophony.
Laing continues “But if a person’s whole way of life becomes characterised by elusion, he becomes a prisoner in a limbo world, in which illusion ceases to be a dream that comes true, but comes to be the realm in which he dwells, and in which he has become trapped. To be constantly sustained, elusion requires great virtuosity: the dissonances of phantasy-imagination-reality can have great charm if kept implicit, but if too explicit they become cacophony.” (p.31). With regards the psychotic Laing argues that “the main-in-the-street: for instance, that he has a body which has an inside and an outside; that he has begun at his birth and ends biologically speaking at his death; that he occupies a position in space; that he occupies a position in time; that he exists as a continuous being from one place to the next and from one moment to the other. The ordinary person does not reflect upon these basic elements of his being because he takes his way of experiencing himself and others for granted. However the schizoid, and still more the schizophrenic, has a precarious sense of his own person (and other persons) as adequately embodied, as alive, as real, as substantial, and as a continuous being, who is at one place at one time, and at a different place at another time, remaining the ‘same’ throughout, and a sense of himself as an agent of his own actions (instead of a robot, a machine, a thing), and as the agent of his own perceptions (someone else is using his eyes, his ears etc).” (p.35). A state Laing describes as personal disintegration, as ontological insecurity. Laing paraphrases Winnicot when he says a hysteric is trying to get TO a madness. “Madness indeed seems to be sought by some hysterics as a way out of the elusiveness of everything. Madness would be something definite, an arrival, a relief. But although the hysteric may succeed in getting a certificate of insanity, it remains a counterfeit, a fraud which is tragic enough. The counterfeit can engulf the person’s life as much as the ‘real thing’. But ‘real’ madness eludes him as much as ‘real sanity’. Not all who would be can be psychotic.” (p.37).
Baudrillard discusses in Simulacra and Simulation the counterfeit. With regards the counterfeit he discusses money, a counterfeit that was the perfect copy in every way, is understood only in concept as a counterfeit, as it was not produced by the sovereign mint. The question for sanity is what is this sovereign guarantee? That Laing’s hysteric so desperately wants? If it exists at all? Is it the Master Signifier? For the psychotic in Laing’s description it is disintegration in the face of it. I want here for a moment to bring up a book that devoted itself to disintegrating Freud, alongside Marx and Nietzsche, and that is Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus. In it, as with Laing and Winnicot claiming the ‘hysteric’ is trying to get to madness, and that ‘not all who would be can be psychotic’, so Deleuze and Guattari state that “A schizophrenic out for a walk is a better model than a neurotic lying on the analyst’s couch.” (p2).

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‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part eight)

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by Schizostroller on June 3, 2018 @ 9:00 pm

There is an interesting point in Book I of Lacan’s seminars discussing ego-ideals and ideal-egos between LeClaire and Lacan in which they bring up paranoiac delusions of being watched, as was discussed in part 6, it is worth going over Lacan’s observations to further illuminate this experience, but first let us distinguish between ego-ideal and ideal-ego.
In a not to dissimilar vein to Attachment theory (although Bowlby denies the existence of the Freudian death instinct) Lacan argues Freud locates what he calls narcissism in the need for support (Anlenung) of the child (His Majesty the aby), as an exchange in this care giving role to the dependent, the parents project their ideals onto the child. Freud isolates ‘the fixation of love’ (Verliebtheit) in four forms of love: 1. What one is oneself, 2. What one was, 3. What one would like to be and 4. The person who was a part of oneself – the caregivers of childhood (amongst others). This is the Narzissmusttypus. There is a reversal where the subject takes its bearings from the woman who feeds and the man who protects. One can argue looking at the less theorietical and more evidence based attachment theory, that we can to an extent degender these roles, but still see them as bearings. And of course any failure as a consequence will also add to what, as was discussed later, tends towards the subject’s relation to the later fully formed Superego. However at this stage we are talking ego development and at this stage Freud’s argument according to LeClaire is that the parents projection of their ideals onto the child dictates the form the narcissism takes, and its relation to the fourfold typology above. One can think of Charles Fernyhough’s book on memory, ‘Pieces of Light’, where he notes that some of our earliest memories when they are in the third person are most likely memories made up of stories told to us throughout our life, and less memories of actual events that develop later, around 3-4 years, where the ‘I’, the ego takes centre stage and those memories are more likely to be first person (although if played with repeatedly such memories can sometimes take a simulation of first person narrative).
With regards the adult ego, they question whether it gets subsumed in object investments. However it seems in Freudian analysis one of the purposes of repression is the ego’s ethical and cultural requirements in that “the same impressions, experiences, impulses and desires that one man indulges or at least works over consciously will be rejected with the utmost indignation ny another, or even stifled before they enter consciousness” (p.132-133) LeClaire then goes on to say that Freud formulates the issue such as “We can say that one man has set up an ideal in himself by which he measures his actual ego, while the other has formed no such ideal. For the ego the formulation of an ideal would be the conditioning factor of repression. This ideal is now the target of the self-love which was enjoyed in childhood by the true [veritable/real – Das wirkliche Ich] ego… Narcissism seems to make its appearance displaced onto this new ideal ego, which finds itself in possession of all the ego’s precious perfections, in the same way as the infantile ego was. As always where the libido is concerned, man has here again shown himself incapable of giving up a satisfaction he once enjoyed… This ideal ego is now the target of the self-love which was enjoyed in childhood by the true[/real] ego… He is not willing to forgo the narcissistic perfection of his childhood and… he seeks to recover it in the form of an ego-ideal.”(p.133).
If we go back to the first article on Gombrich and Paredoilia, we can get a sense of what is projected. But we also have to bear in mind that this is an individual’s relation with the world, what Husserl would call a life-world, as well the reality principle which is the social, economic and discursive organisation of the lifeworld plus aleatory effects that are beyond the individual’s control, somewhat similar to Lacan’s Intrusions of the Real. From this we can see the individual is situated in many overlapping cybernetic dynamics that some theorists call a network, however some of these dynamics are closer to the individual for longer periods, such as family, school, work, including the intense time period of childhood especially up to the age of four and during puberty. This later adult then has this relation to a more worked through ideal-ego that has a history. However these dynamics that haunt the individual through memory and sometimes trauma can stem from dynamics that were authoritarian nexi, and these formations will remain if not worked through.

LeClaire then discusses sublimation sought out of the relations of the formation of the ideal. “Sublimation is a process involving object libido. In contrast, idealisation deals with the object which has been ennobled, elevated and it does so without any modification in its nature. Idealisation is no less possible in the domain of ego libido than that of object libido” (p.134). Freud places the two libidos on the same plane. It is possible for the idealisation of the ego and a failed sublimation to then coexist. This formation of the ego-ideal intensifies the demands on the ego and as a consequence of the ethical and cultural needs of the ego mentioned earlier that have to interact with other egos who may not desire to be the object of sublimation so brings repression to the full. Lacan then points out that one of the libidos is on the plane of the imaginary and the other the symbolic – the law. “the demand of the Ichideal takes up its place within the totality of demands of the law” (p.134) Leclaire adds that “Hence sublimation opens up the expedient of satisfying this demand without repression” And Lacan responds that “That is successful sublimation”

We are left with the relation now of sublimation to psychosis. And from there we can look at how Foucault’s modern man’s life as art is relevant. Leclaire notes the relation of a psychical agency that ‘performs this task of seeing that narcissistic satisfaction from the ego-ideal is ensured and which, with this end in view, constantly watches the actual ego and measures it by that ideal” would ultimately lead to the formulation of the Superego. Here we can refer back to Freud’s comments on subjects who feel they are watched discussed earlier

It is here that I want to reference Bowlby again and recognise that he notes that Freud had a major turning point in his theory where he rejected early abuse and took his argument back to the child’s fantasies. But as Bowlby acknowledges violence and abuse can have major impacts on upbringing. Much of attachment theory is the importance of providing good enough parenting to create a reasonable ego-ideal. Trauma can negatively affect this. There is much research under the auspices of the Hearing Voices specialist institute Intervoice (Marius Romme, Sandra Escher, John Read and others) that links trauma to voice hearing, in some meta-analyses 65% of voice hearers have some kind of CSA or CPA. It is also woth noting that the subject of Freud’s research on psychosis, Schreber, had a father who was an inventor of equipment that was used to physically restrain and discipline children and Schreber’s father used it on his son.

One of Lacan’s students Maud Mannoni in her book the child and his illness, argued that the child developed symptoms threw the language ‘between’ the parents, in their relation, this creates a symbolic law that projects an ideal onto the child, the child learning through the phrases said what is expected of him/her, whether spoken directly to or spoken about the child. We can see here the beginnings of an authoritarian nexus and a cybernetics as described by Bateson and Laing. It is also worth noting that in the gestalt therapy of the Stones used in the Talking With Voices therapy, one of the ‘alters’ or personalities, that closest to the SuperEgo, is known as the Inner Critic, Hal and Sidra Stone argue that this protective alter develops more effectively my watching how others’ are treated and creating precautionary injunctions to prevent the subject getting into similar trouble. We can also understand this as listening to descriptions of character by third party witnesses that are between other rather than to the subject.

We can now imagine the situation post-2010 (or even earlier see my article Return of the Poor Law) where an increase in narratives of scroungers and welfare cheats, ‘skivers and strivers’ repeated in the media in a sustained propaganda attack on the welfare system would affect psychotics and other people with mental health issues who are already paranoid. What affect does this have on the sublimation of the ego-ideal?

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Here comes everybody. A play in 3 Acts

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by Schizostroller on June 1, 2018 @ 9:21 am

A play in 3 acts

Act 1:
Here comes everybody.

Act 2:
Here comes everybody’s friend, superlative.
They create a Weltanschauung together.

Act 3:
Consequently superlative leaves
Everybody depressed

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‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part seven)

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by Schizostroller on May 1, 2018 @ 8:27 pm

Whilst Miller and Rose’s concept of ‘technologies of government’ was introduced by Michel Foucault in his seminars on biopolitics and neoliberalism in the 1970s, one of the most well-known portraits of this society was Foucault’s friend Gilles Deleuze’s discussion of the Control Society, whilst much of the work published by Foucault in his lifetime focused on disciplinary societies of early Capitalism in the early 19th century, these followed on from the sovereign societies, that took tithes and a portion of production, the feudal system, but did not organise labour as the disciplinary society did. The disciplinary society had two main precepts, the individual and the mass, but, (Foucault argues in Birth of Biopolitics) from the 1950’s (Miller and Rose examine the Tavistock clinic as an example, mentioned earlier) and attempt was made to work on that organisation one that moulded differently. One of these methods was in changes in communication and work organisation. This relates in several ways to Bruno Latour’s ‘Action at a distance, But Deleuze lists them thus:
“In the prison system: the attempt to find “alternatives” to custody, at least for minor offences, and the use of electronic tagging to force offenders to stay at home between certain hours. In the school system: forms of continuous assessment, the impact of continuing education on schools, and the related move away from research in universities, “business” being brought into education at every level. In the hospital system: the new medicine “without doctors or patients” that identifies potential cases and subjects at risk and is nothing to do with any progress toward individualising treatment, which is how it’s presented, but is the substitution for individual or numbered bodies of coded ‘dividual’ matter to be controlled. In the business system: new ways of manipulating money, products, and men, no longer channelled through the old factory system.” (p.182).
The history of mental health care can be translated partially here, with the decarceration from the asylums, triggered by the Water Tower Speech of Enoch Powell in 1961, argued to be for cost cutting reasons by people like Andrew Scull. Pete Sedgwick saw this coming in his book PsychoPolitics, however he seemed to accuse anti-psychiatry of giving the language needed to the New Right, who then argued for the need for costs, whilst using both the language of anti-psychiatry, and the new forms of psychiatric medication such as Chlorpromazine as cover for the new market ideology that need not believe in paying for infrastructure, which the asylums maintenance was (one can only wonder whether this would have happened if modern forms of state financing such as Private Finance Initiatives were around, although the recent collapse of Carillion signifies the limits of that – one can wonder how where Lehman Brothers was an immediate result of the collapse, the Carillion collapse might be seen in a few years as a consequence of austerity). Bartlett and Wright’s Outside the Walls of the Asylum documents how poor the infrastructure required (according to the arguments of the anti-psychiatry movement and those aspects of the humanist (and sometimes religious – although often secular) social hygiene movement (that would burgeon into the Recovery movement) was due to the cost cutting after decarceration that led to the ‘crisis’ in Care in the Community, that happened very quickly, with CTOs for the ‘dangerous, single, mad male’ being the equivalent of ‘tagging’, and Philip Thomas and Pat Bracken’s Community Home Treatment teams being an equivalence of individualised and community treatment.
This is a historical change, it is caught up in the economic move after WWII of pseudo-Keynesianism (as catalogued by Rodney Lowe), and the organisation of the state, the power grab by neoliberals at the end of the seventies, followed by the collapse of the Soviet system in 1989-1991, that gave us first the Washington Consensus and then the Post-Washington consensus, the debate about structural adjustment that this debate on international development involved, and then post the 2008 economic crisis, in the UK, this structural adjustment was internalised in the form of austerity, until 2012 in most of the West, continued only in peripheral southern European states such as Greece and Spain (applied by external forces in the form of more powerful EU members), and the UK (applied internally with no compulsion from other nation states – followed in 2016 by Brexit).
It is in this milieu we get the combination of personalisation, ‘recovery models’, community treatment, CBT, DBT, Mindfulness, continued medication on the one hand and CTOs and benefit sanctions on the other, both applied to all service users who come in to contact with services.
But, what of this subject in receipt of services? This mental health patient or service user, this mad subject; the depressive, the psychotic? How do they carve themselves space? Although Deleuze was critical of Jacques Lacan I want to return to his work momentarily, to consider his (and Freud’s) understanding of the ego-ideal and the ideal ego. Freud argues that in a sense psychosis is related to a libidinous disinvestment, a withdrawal into his ego, only to ‘free it once more when he is cured’. Lacan argues that “Freud’s essential point is that it is almost of no importance whether a working over of the libido… is produced with real objects or with imaginary objects.” (p.130). Lacan mentions the German word Verarbeitung and the French word elaboration with reference to ‘working over’. We can think here of ‘talking with voices’ therapy, with regards the distinction between the working over of real objects (Hegel’s Master-Slave dialectic springs to mind here – where in the battle between the two in the struggle ‘to the death’ that leads to the Master-slave distinction both realise at a certain level they will not get recognition if the other dies, so in the unequal compromise the ‘moral of the story’ is that the Master gets no recognition, but does get ownership, and the Slave must seek recognition in his alienated labour producing ‘real objects’ for the Master) and imaginary objects, the work towards recovery that the therapy attempts to kick start by ‘working over’ imaginary objects. However Lacan notes that the issue with illness appears when the ‘libido becomes oriented towards unreal objects’ (as opposed to imaginary ones) here he also refers to Stauung, or damming up, O. Mannoni likens it to a Dutch dike where the level of water behind raises due to the damming. One can refer back to the cybernetics of Bateson and Laing here where double binds or some other linguistic entrapment causes an impossibility of movement, a blockage and consequently a damming up. Of course this requires a ‘vital’ element, else the subject can just leave, or move out (e-motion) from the scenario. A question I shall keep returning to is whether the more punitive aspects of the austerity regime since 2010 can, if not ‘cause’, at least intensify situations where such vital questions, or anxieties, are already there. In healthy subjects perhaps such a disciplinary regime, and let us be reminded that there is latent sovereign society in disciplinary societies, and latent sovereign AND disciplinary societies in control societies, and an economic crisis does lead to an intensification of punitive control measures, shock doctrine, on the part of Capital as historical economic necessity, just as the exploited look to protect theirs. With regards this working over Lacan refers to Freud quoting Heine invoking the word of God, “Illness is no doubt the final cause of the whole of the whole urge to create. By creating, I could recover. By creating, I became healthy.” (131). It’s almost a call for a work-cure! Some cruel contraption created by Schreber’s father combined with the labour of a Tuke retreat to ‘kill or cure’ the sick and needy, in a tory workfare warehouse. But I think not. As mentioned above alienation is the major obstacle, the difference Hannah Arendt invokes between a ‘work’ that has a finished product, and the ‘labour’ that The Master Tuke asks of the Slave that is monotonous and unfinished. And that is before we meet Marx’s theory, but there is a glimmer of hope. In his acknowledgment of Immanuel Kant, ‘What is Enlightenment? (Was Ist Aufklarung?)’, Michel Foucault invokes the Art of Life. After looking at some of the positives and negatives of Kant’s Enlightenment, Foucault questions modernity, and in the figure of Baudelaire, he finds the ‘heroic’ modern man (in the introduction to Hegel’s Reason In History, Hartman notes that there are four figures of history in Hegel’s World Spirit, the Citizen (who is moral when the State nears its ideal, immoral the more corrupt the state is), the Person (the legal subject of the state, the private individual), the Hero (he who embraces world spirit, Hegel’s bourgeois hero) and the Victim of history (as much an banal Eichmann as anyone who is, say, given current prejudices, disabled, ‘rotting on benefits’). In fact with regards the refusal of work of the Italian autonomists and the work of Kathi Weeks mentioned earlier one can envisage a ‘mad’ or ‘benefit’ (or the eponymous ‘working class hero’) that has nothing to do with ‘getting a job’. But, no matter, Foucault’s bourgeois hero of modernity was Baudelaire.
“Modernity for Baudelaire is not simply a form of relationship to the present; it is also a mode of relationship that has to be established with oneself. The deliberate attitude of modernity is tied to an indispensable asceticism. To be modern is not to accept oneself as one is in the flux of the passing moments; it is to take oneself as object of a complex and difficult elaboration: what Baudelaire, in the vocabulary of the day, calls dandysme. Here I shall not recall in detail the well-known passages on ‘vulgar, earthy, vile nature’; on man’s indispensable revolt against himself; on the ‘doctrine of elegance’ which imposes ‘upon its ambitious and humble disciples’ a discipline more despotic than the most terrible religions; the pages, finally on the asceticism of the dandy who makes of his body, his behaviour, his feelings and passions, his very existence, a work of art. Modern man, for Baudelaire, is not the man who goes off to discover himself, his secrets and his hidden truth; he is a man who tries to invent himself. This modernity does not ‘liberate man in his own being’; it compels him to face the task of producing himself.” (p.41-42).
This is a different subjectivity from that of the technologies of governmentality, a different type of biopolitics BUT as Deleuze points out with regards postmodern, neoliberal subjectivities, this is still a hangover of disciplinary societies, what would an art of life under contemporary conditions be?

Bartlett, Peter and Wright, David – Outside the Walls of the Asylum (1999) Continuum
Deleuze, Gilles – Negotiations (1995) Columbia
Foucault, Michel, and Rabinow, Paul – The Foucault Reader (1991) Penguin
Lacan, Jacques – Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953-1954: The seminar of Jacques Lacan Book 1 (1991) Norton
Lowe, Rodney – The Welfare State in Britain since 1945 (1998) Palgrave
Miller, Peter and Rose, Nikolas – Governing The Present (2008) Polity
Sedgwick, Peter – Psychopolitics (1982) Routledge
Scull, Andrew – Decarceration (1984) Polity

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‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part six)

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by Schizostroller on April 30, 2018 @ 11:13 pm

In the last article we ended with ‘active ignoring’. I now want to introduce ‘priming’. Referring back to the first article on E.H. Gombrich and pareidolia, Reisberg notes the theoretical proposal on ‘priming’: “We perceive most easily, and most effectively, when we are prepared for the upcoming stimulus” (p.85) – to select an input we prepare for it. “Obviously we don’t prepare for distractors as we don’t want to perceive these, so we have a mechanism that is the inverse of ignoring: to ignore, our action focuses on the distractor stimuli – we block them, while we don’t block the desired input. Preparation, in contrast, does the reverse: The action is focused on the desired inputs, not the distractors. We take steps to facilitate the perception of the former, while we don’t take those steps for the distractors”.
This covers a certain amount of issues of focus and concentrated perception, including ‘leakage’. One does not perceive the contents of the unattended channel , but, what if the unattended channel contains your name? Your detectors are well primed for this. The same goes for fire alarm training and rehearsals. And inverse the same structure goes for stage rehearsals for a play. But what of other priming, for example its relation to anxiety, exploited by the famous underworld ‘game’, the Jesus Con (as mentioned in the TV series Sneaky Pete, sung about (the process, although not mentioned by name) by the band NoMeansNo on the album Small Parts Isolated and Destroyed, where someone is gas lighted into breakdown, and then another member of the con-team comes in to ‘save’ them). And does this behaviour ideologically relate to the Shock Doctrine and austerity? And what effect does that have on mental health. Is it really all just subjective paranoia? To be saved by the more individualistic and self-disciplinary recovery methods, the contemporary ‘Kill or Cure’ of EP Thompson’s 18th century Methodist.
We are minded here of the first article’s reference to Freud’s theory of anxiety. I wrote that: “Freud argues that anxiety is an affective state “that is to say, a combination of certain feelings in the pleasure-unpleasure series with the corresponding innervations of discharge and a perception of them” (p.113). He distinguishes realistic anxiety from neurotic anxiety. In realistic anxiety we have an increase in sensory attention and motor tension and a sense of preparedness for flight or flight that will can be limited to a signal (triggered by repetitions of old traumas) allowing the remainder to adapt itself to the situation. There are three types of neurotic anxiety, the first a free floating general apprehensiveness; secondly ‘phobias’; the third that can emerge independently as an attack or more persistent state, “but always without any visible basis in an external danger” (p.114).” What kind of climate do sanctions, ‘brown envelope syndrome’, the recent rulings on PIP and ‘agoraphobia’ due to the unbalanced prejudice towards mental health that the PIP is seen as embodying, the UN council’s ruling on the treatment of disability, the Bedroom Tax, create with regards ‘external danger’, yet in a world saturated with media imagery of the ‘underserving benefit claimant’, DBT for Personality Disorder, the Layard report that has led to recommendations of CBT for even psychosis? A world where complaining of such threats is seen as ‘unrealistic’ by mental health professionals who for the increasingly strictured work environment and their long term careers would rather not (at least amongst some/ enough) acknowledge. Where homeless death is on the increase such dynamics are closer to a ‘vital’ relationship with finitude and threat for people already suffering severe mental health issues than under other economic and social policy environments, where those sanctioned include large numbers of people struggling with mental health issues, and a large number of those homeless also having mental health issues. The issue is not one solely based on self-neglect. During the rest of the next couple of articles I shall relate government technologies to the actions of the Superego. In his book the Introductory lectures on Psychoanalysis Freud describes the Superego as follows: “The superego applies the strictest moral standard to the helpless ego which is at its mercy; in general it represents the claims of morality, and we realise all at once that our moral sense of guilt is the expression of the tension between the ego and the super-ego” (p.92). He comes to the idea of the Superego through encountering mental patients who struggle with the phantasy of being observed, “they complain to us that perpetually, and down to their most intimate actions, they are being molested by the observation of unknown powers – presumably persons – and that in hallucinations they hear these persons reporting the outcome of their observations… Observation of this sort is not yet the same thing as persecution, but it is not yet far from it; it presupposes that people distrust them, and expect to catch them carrying out forbidden actions for which they would be punished. How would it be if these insane persons were right, if in each of us there is present in his ego an agency like this which observes and threatens to punish, and which in them has merely become sharply divided from their ego and mistakenly displaced into external reality?” (p.90). The onus is on me in the next few articles to make solid the connection with ideology, but let me first point out Peter Miller and Nikolas Rose’s theory of technologies of government and action at a distance.
“’Government’, of course, is not only a matter of representation. It is also a matter of intervention. The specificity of governmentality, as it has taken shape in ‘the West’ over the last two centuries, lies in this complex interweaving of procedures for representing and intervening. We suggest that these attempts to instrumentalise government and make it operable also have a kind of ‘technological’ form. If political rationalities render reality into the domain of thought, these ‘technologies of government’ seek to translate thought into the domain of reality, and to establish ‘in the world of persons and things’ spaces and devices for acting upon these entities of which they dream and scheme.” (p.32).
Freud, after noting the experience of the paranoid mental patients formed the idea that ‘the separation of the observing agency from the rest of the ego might be a regular feature of the ego’s structure’ (p.91). “The content of the delusions of being observed already suggests that the observing is only a preparation for judging and punishing, and we accordingly guess that another function of this agency must be what we call our conscience. There is scarcely anything else in us that we so regularly separate from our ego and so easily set over against it as precisely our conscience. I feel the inclination to do something that will give me pleasure, but I abandon it on the ground that my conscience does not allow it. Or I have let myself be persuaded by too great an expectation of pleasure into doing something to which the voice of conscience has objected and after the deed my conscience punishes me with distressing reproaches and causes me to feel remorse for the deed. I might simply say that the special agency which I am beginning to distinguish in the ego is conscience. But it is more prudent to keep the agency as something independent and to suppose that conscience is one of its functions and that self-observation, which is an essential preliminary to the judging activity of conscience, is another of them. And since when we recognise that something has a separate existence we give it a name of its own, from this time forward I will describe this agency in the ego as the ‘super-ego’.” (p.91).
Miller and Rose suggest that with regard ‘technologies of government’, “we use the term ‘technologies’ to suggest a particular approach to the analysis of the activity of ruling, one which pays great attention to the actual mechanisms through which authorities of various sorts have sought to shape, normalise and instrumentalise the conduct, thought, decisions and aspirations of others in order to achieve the objectives they consider desirable.” (p.32)
Freud looks to the origins of the ‘super-ego’ he says, “even if conscience is something ‘within us’, yet it is not so from the first. In this it is a real contrast to sexual life, which is in fact there from the beginning of life and not only a later addition. But, as is well known, young children are amoral and possess no internal inhibitions against their impulses striving for pleasure. The part which is later on taken by the super-ego is played to begin with by an external power, by parental authority. Parental influence governs the child by offering proofs of love and by threatening punishment which are signs to the child of loss of love and are bound to be feared on their own account. This realistic anxiety is the precursor of later moral anxiety. So long as it is dominant there is no need to talk of a super-ego and of a conscience. It is only subsequently that the secondary situation develops (which we are all too ready to regard as the normal one), where the external restraint is internalised and the super-ego takes the place of the parental agency and observes, directs and threatens the ego in exactly the same way as earlier the parents did with the child. The super-ego, which thus takes over the power, function and even the methods of the parental agency, is however not merely its successor but actually the legitimate heir of its body” (p.92-93)[italics my own]. Freud goes on to note though that the severity of the super-ego does not stem solely from the disciplinary parenting, although it does seem to take the disciplinary, punitive aspects, even when ostensibly and for the most part the home circumstances were a loving, caring one.
Miller and Rose try to point out that in their discussion of ‘technologies of government’, they are not talking solely of ‘totally administered societies’. But in fact from the nineteenth century, the problem for liberal democracies became one of ‘governing a territory and population that were independent realities with inherent processes and forces’. “With the emergence of such an idea of ‘society’, the question became ‘How is government possible? That is, what is the principle of limitation that applies to governmental actions such that things will occur for the best, in conformity with the rationality of government and without intervention’ (Foucault in Miller and Rose)” (p.33).
for this reason Miller and Rose look to the ‘indirect’ mechanisms of rule in liberal democracies, that is ‘those that have enabled, or have sought to enable government at a distance’. In order to conceptualise this, Miller and Rose look to the theories of ‘action at a distance’ of Bruno Latour. This concept relates to “the complex mechanisms through which it becomes possible to link calculations in one place with action at another, not through the direct imposition of a form of conduct by force, but through a delicate affiliation of a loose assemblage of agents into a functioning network. This involves alliances formed not only because one agent is dependent on another for funds, legitimacy or some other resource which can be used for persuasion or compulsion. It is also because one actor comes to convince another that their problems or goals are intrinsically linked, that their interests are consonant, that each can solve their difficulties or achieve their ends by joining forces or working along the same lines. This is not so much appealing to mutual interests as… the construction of allied interests through persuasion, intrigue, calculation or rhetoric… one actor or force is able to require or count upon a particular way of thinking and acting from another… Hence persons, organisations, entities and locales which remain differentiated by space, time and formal boundaries can be brought into loose, approximate and always mobile and indeterminate alignment. Language, again, plays a key role in establishing these loosely aligned networks, and in enabling rule to be nrought about in an indirect manner.” (p.34).

Freud, Sigmund – 2: New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1975) Pelican
Miller, Peter and Rose, Nikolas – Governing The Present (2008) Polity
Reisberg, Daniel – Cognition (1997) Norton
Thompson, E. P. – The Making of the English Working Class (1984) Pelican

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Whipped by the mob

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by Schizostroller on April 27, 2018 @ 10:35 am

You might like to think were you to be whipped up by a mob it would be King mob, but you weren’t.
You might like to think were you to be whipped up by a mob it would be John Wilkes’ mob, but you weren’t.
You might like to think were you to be whipped up by a mob it would be John Reeves’ mob, but you weren’t.

You were whipped up by Rev. Lovejoy’s wife’s mob, and the remnants of your political integrity burnt with it.

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Who Is Salome Bentham (part two)

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by Schizostroller on April 5, 2018 @ 8:27 pm

The question for Bentham’s panopticon, with every individual kept under surveillance in his or her cell, is to maintain individuality breaking up the group-mind and its free association, or a means to process deindividuation? One can argue that this image of the division of labour, not so much between specialties, as into piecemeal bit-work, whether the factory, or the call centre or admin office, or even, as they are called, ‘units, in receipt of social security benefit. This relation is an authoritarian direction of a group and requires each ‘unit’ to have a personal relationship with the watcher (a watcher who need not always be the same personage) but who is always the same unitary personality. The censure is of any free association without the pre-defined utilitarian purpose, progress, from the tower.

Bateson notes that “the schizophrenic avoids or distorts anything which might seem to identify either himself or the person he is addressing. He may eliminate anything which implies that this message refers to, and is a part of, a relationship between two identifiable people, with certain styles and premises governing their behaviour in that relationship. He may obscure the fact that he is speaking in metaphor or some special code, and he is likely to distort or omit all reference to time and place… What remains is likely to be a metaphoric statement unlabelled as to context. Or, in extreme cases, there may be nothing left but a solid acting out of the message, ‘There is no relationship’”.

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Deleuze writes “we are led to believe that problems are given ready-made, and that they disappear in the responses or the solution. Already under this double aspect, they can be no more than phantoms. We are led to believe that the activity of thinking, along with truth and falsehood in relation to that activity, begins only with the search for solutions, that both of these concern only solutions. This belief probably has the same origin as the other postulates of the dogmatic image: puerile examples taken out of context and arbitrarily erected into models. According to this infantile prejudice the master sets a problem, our task is to solve it, and the result is accredited true or false by a powerful authority. It is also a social prejudice with the visible interest of maintaining us in an infantile state, which calls upon us to solve problems that come from elsewhere, consoling or distracting us by telling us we have won simply by being able to respond: the problem as obstacle and the respondent as Hercules.”

So this returns us to our comparison between Salome and Antigone. Antigone defied her Uncle, and was locked in a cave for her efforts; Salome danced for him, and received a gift. The issue is not who is more or who is less noble, but that the Uncle here is Utility. There is a sense where Salome is as Tantalus was killing his son and serving him up to Zeus and the Gods, a crime for which he was left up to his neck in mud craning his neck for Dionysius’ (my) grapes. Except Salome found an unrelated substitute, one she desired, a partial object of her Uncle’s hatred and lust focused into the head of John the Baptist who was prophesising the new Gawain who would behead the Green Knight and end the sovereign’s tyranny and the need to scapegoat.
Earlier in the German Ideology (before the criticism of Bentham cited above) Marx argued “The production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and material intercourse of men, the language of real life”, he later refers also to another double: “The production of life, both one’s own in labour and of fresh life in procreation, now appears as a double relationship: on the one hand as natural, on the other as a social, relationship.” However returning to Bentham, Marx notes “The theory of exploitation owes its further development in England to Godwin, and especially to Bentham, who gradually re-incorporated the economic content which the French had neglected…”
Someone else who talks of doubling up is Henry Louis Gates Jr. he cites Gary Saul Morson’s elaboration on Bakhtin’s concept of double-voiced discourse: “The audience of a double-voiced word is therefore meant to hear both a version of the original utterance as the embodiment of its speaker’s point of view (or ‘semantic position’) and the second speaker’s evaluation of that utterance from a different point of view. I find it helpful to picture a double-voiced word as a special palimpsest in which the upper-most inscription is a commentary on the one beneath it, which the reader (or audience) can know only reading through the commentary that obscures in the very process of evaluating”. Gates jr. then notes “Signifyin(g) is black double-voicedness”. There are many definitions of Signifyin(g) amongst them are that it is “a technique of indirect argument or persuasion”, “a language of implication”, “to imply, goad, beg, boast, by indirect verbal or gestural means.” “The name ‘signifying’ shows the monkey to be a trickster, that set of words or gestures achieving Hamlet’s ‘direction through indirection.’ “The Monkey, in short, is not only a master of technique… he is technique, or style, or the literariness of language: he is the great Signifier. In this sense, one does not signify something; rather, one signifies in some way”.
How does one operate caught in a panopticon? Or a labyrinth for that matter? One Signifies. But what of the Panopticon today? Foucault saw it as an aspect of the disciplinarian society, but Deleuze saw a burgeoning control society, building on the old disciplinarian society, itself having emerged from the previous sovereign (feudal) society. Like the evolution of the brain each society building on the previous never losing those basal urges, stemming back to fight or flight, pleasure and disgust. “The various placements or sites of confinement through which individuals pass are independent variables: we’re supposed to start all over each time, and although all these sites have a common language, it’s analogical. The various forms of control, on the other hand, are inseparable variations, forming a system of varying geometry whose language is digital (though not necessarily binary). Confinements are molds, different moldings, while controls are a modulation, like a self-transmuting molding continually changing from one moment to the next, or like a sieve whose mesh varies from one point to the another. This comes out well in the matter of wages: the factory was a body of men whose internal forces reached an equilibrium between the highest possible production and the lowest possible wages; but in a control society businesses take over from factories, and a business is a soul, a gas. There were of course bonus systems in factories, but businesses strive to introduce a deeper level of modulation into all wages, bringing them into a state of constant metastability punctuated by ludicrous challenges, competitions and seminars. If the stupidest TV game shows are so successful, it’s because they are a perfect reflection of the way businesses are run. Factories formed individuals into a body of men for the joint convenience of a management that could monitor each component in this mass, and trade unions that could mobilise mass resistance; but businesses are constantly introducing an inexorable rivalry presented as healthy competition, a wonderful motivation that sets individuals against one another and sets itself up in each of them, dividing each within himself. Even the state education system has been looking at the principle of ‘getting paid for results’: in fact just as businesses are replacing factories, school is being replaced by continuing education and exams by continuous assessment. It’s the surest way of turning education into a business.
In disciplinary societies you were always starting all over again (as you went from school to barracks, from barracks to factory), while in control societies you never finish anything. – business, training, and military service being coexisting metastable states of single modulation, a sort of universal transmutation. Kafka, already standing at the point of transition between two kinds of society, described in The Trial their most ominous judicial expressions: apparent acquittal (between two confinements) in disciplinary societies, and endless postponement in (constantly changing) control societies.”

Guattari gives a possible direction for Signifyin’(g) in the control society with his concept of transversality, Gary Genosko describes the practical and political implications thus: “The superego is, after all, a tough nut to crack since, according to Freud, it is primarily coloured by one’s parents (especially one’s father) but is also open to later influences such as the media, as well as a variety of archaic influences (some phylogenetic influences), not to mention long abandoned objects, which places it in the topography farther from consciousness than the ego”. Transversality is related to transference from here, Gosko later points out with relation to the group: “Subjectivity is a group phenomenon. It is completely deindividuated and depersonalised and ecologised, a consequence of foregrounding the social environment of the institution.” The coefficient of collective paranoia was for Guattari to be complimentary and inverse to the coefficient of transversality, where the former is restrictive and reticent, the latter is connective and communicative.
However, if Signifyin(g) is style, then there is a style to nonsense, if we remember the refusal of the psychotic in Bateson to speak clearly, or at all, to the tyrant in the tower, the ‘entitled’ one, so nonsense is the result, but what we want is nonsense with style. Once can signify transversally all day, in order to elude control, but to own the means of articulation when surfing the signifiers, then knowing them to be multiple-voiced, one must make sure it is the signified that stays connected.
As Marx said of Proudhon “Economists explain how production takes place in the above-mentioned relations, but what they do not explain is how these relations themselves are produced, that is, the historical movement which gave them birth. M. Proudhon, taking these relations for principles, categories, abstract thoughts, has merely put into order these thoughts, which are to be found alphabetically arranged at the end of every treatise on political economy. The economists’ material is the active, energetic life of man; M. Proudhon’s material is the dogma of the economists. But the moment we cease to pursue the historical movement of production relations, of which the categories are but the theoretical expression, the moment we want to see in these categories no more than ideas, spontaneous thoughts, independent of real relations, we are forced to attribute the origin of these thoughts to the movement of pure reason. How does pure, eternal, impersonal reason give rise to these thoughts? How does it proceed in order to produce them?
If we had M. Proudhon’s intrepidity in the matter of Hegelianism we should say: it is distinguished in itself from itself. What does this mean? Impersonal reason, having outside itself neither a base on which it can pose itself, nor an object to which it can pose itself, nor a subject with which it can compose itself, is forced to turn head over heels, in posing itself, opposing itself, and composing itself – position, opposition, composition. Or, to use Greek – we have thesis, antithesis and synthesis. For those who do not know Hegelian language, we shall give the consecrating formula – affirmation, negation, and negation of the negation. That is what language means. It is certainly not Hebrew; but it is the language of this pure reason, separate from the individual. Instead of the ordinary individual with his ordinary manner of speaking and thinking we have nothing but this ordinary manner in itself – without the individual.”

With regards making sense Deleuze asks “how are we to avoid the consequence that an impossible object, one which is self-contradictory, has a sense even though it has no ‘signification’ (the being-square of a circle)? Or again how are we to reconcile the transience of an object with the eternity of its sense? Finally, how are we to avoid the following play of mirrors: a proposition must be true because its expressible is true, while the expressible is true only when the proposition itself is true? All these difficulties stem from a common source: in extracting a double from the proposition we have evoked a simple phantom. Sense so defined is only a vapour which plays at the limit of things and words. Sense appears here as the outcome of the most powerful logical effort, but as Ineffectual, a sterile incorporeal deprived of its generative power. Lewis Carroll gave a marvellous account of all these paradoxes: that of the neutralising doubling appears in the form of the knight who always gives a new name to the name of the song – and between these two extremes lie all the secondary paradoxes which form Alice’s adventures.”

We need to own not just the means of production but the means of articulation too, but Salome Bentham’s Uncle is averse to noise, to the clatter of improvisation, he can’t stand all these codes. We must be governed. We must be units for production, not the very creators of the world ourselves. So Salome Bentham demands we offer up our knowledge, our creative processes on a plate, a silver one, offer up our own heads, like Jesus-Gawain, as a substitute for her own head, perhaps in the hope of some wine from that trickle-down effect. She wants our efforts decoded into plain English so we can be co-opted more efficiently. In this sense she is very much hegemonic. But she is no singular personality. She is what Deleuze calls an assemblage: “an assemblage, in its multiplicity, necessarily acts on semiotic flows, material flows, and social flows simultaneously.” But she is an assemblage that under austerity works in the social superego as tyrant nomos trying to make sure someone else gets it. She is an externality in the Milton Friedman sense. She is alienation as Entäusserung rather than Entfremdung.

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Who Is Salome Bentham (part one)

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by Schizostroller on April 2, 2018 @ 7:44 pm

WHO IS SALOME BENTHAM?

Berry shit, bury shit. Forbidden fruit. With wisdom there was understanding. Repression is supposed to be at the root of neurosis but what of psychosis? Who is Salome Bentham, the spirit of co-optation? Max Weber saw Verstehen as a way of interpreting the world but how do we change it? Wodin earned his reputation for wisdom because when challenged on that wisdom he knew something no-one else knew. This is often said to be something of one’s own, but not always. What is in my pocket? What issues does that hold for recognition? What for governance? Is part of the basis for empathy the ability to recognise another without having to truly know them – respecting their situation, an act that is the opposite of the cognitive bias known as a fundamental attribution error?

The point of Bentham’s Panopticon for Foucault was to designate a mechanism through which the functioning of disciplinary power was made more subtle and economic by means of presenting people an idea of excessive surveillance. When people internalize the presence of this surveillance there is no need for actual human gaze anymore: people act as if there is somebody watching. The question is not only who watches the watchers, that is Hermes Trismegistus in those of us who recognise the existence of a demiurge, but also how do we evade such surveillance. How do we hide in the harem, the joy division, the libidinal economy when we are all prostitutes? Do we just make noise? How do we bring it?
Marx wrote of Bentham’s utilitarianism that “the apparent stupidity of merging all the manifold relationships of people in the one relation of usefulness, this apparently metaphysical abstraction arises from the fact that, in modern bourgeois society, all relations are subordinated in practice to the one abstract monetary-commercial relation.” He continues later “When the sentimental and moral paraphrases, which for the French were the entire content of the utility theory, had been exhausted, all that remained for its further development was the question how individuals and relations were to be used, to be exploited… Hence no other field of speculative thought remained for the utility theory than the attitude of individuals to these important relations, the private exploitation of an already existing world by individuals.” The question remains what field of speculative thought is for those who have internalised Thatcher’s “there is no alternative” to the idea that there is a society or phenomenological world beyond individuals and family. Individuals and family governed by the market economy. There is an anonymous quote that goes “the best minds discuss ideas; the second ranking talks about things; while the third and lowest mentality — starved for ideas — gossips about people.” Gilles Deleuze discussed the control society, but before he wrote about that he stated “Stupidity is not animality. The animal is protected by specific forms which prevent it from being “stupid”. Formal correspondences between the human face and the heads of animals have often been composed… Such correspondences, however, take no account of stupidity as a specifically human form of bestiality” Giorgio Agamben talks of outlaws, of those exiled, whether criminals of fools, as being ‘wolf-heads’. Agamben writes “Rodolphe Jhering was… the first to approximate the figure of Homo Sacer to that of the wargus, the wolf-man, and of the Friedlos, the ‘man without peace’ of ancient Germanic law”. One can think of the imagery of Viking berserkers, úlfheðnar, who were Odin’s warriors, he ruled both the aristocracy and outsiders.

“Germanic and Anglo-Saxon sources underline the bandit’s liminal status by defining him as a wolf-man (wargus, werewolf, the Latin garulphus, from which the French loup garou, “werewolf”, is derived): thus Salic law and Ripuarian law use the formula wargus sit, hoc est expulsus in a sense that recalls the sacer esto that sanctioned the sacred man’s capacity to be killed, and the laws of Edward the Confessor (1030-35) define the bandit as a wulfesheud (a wolf’s head) and assimilate him to the werewolf (lupinum enim gerit caput a die utlagationis suae, quod ab anglis wulfesheud vocature, “He bears a wolf’s head from the day of his expulsion, and the English call this wulfesheud”). What had to remain in the collective unconscious as a monstrous hybrid of human and animal, divided between the forest and the city – the werewolf – is, therefore, in its origin the figure of the man who has been banned from the city”
But returning to Deleuze again and a society of individuals before we reach a society of control he states “a tyrant institutionalises stupidity, but he is the first servant of his own system and the first to be installed within it. Slaves are always commanded by another slave. Here too, how could the concept of error account for this unity of stupidity and cruelty, of the grotesque and the terrifying, which doubles the way of the world?” However he then states that “Cowardice, cruelty, baseness and stupidity are not simply corporeal capacities or traits of character or society; they are the structures of thought as such.”

Wilfrid Bion argues that “the activity we know as ‘thinking’ was in origin a procedure for unburdening the psyche of accretions of stimuli… there [then] exists an omnipotent phantasy that it is possible to split off temporarily undesired, though sometimes valued, parts of the personality and put them into an object” having noted earlier that “the link between intolerance of frustration and the development of thought is central to an understanding of thought and its disturbances”.

But what of the Salome Bentham, the spirit of co-optation? Is she a spirit or a chorus? Laing talks of the paranoid nexus, “in the typical paranoid ideas of reference, the person feels that the murmurings and mutterings he hears as he walks past a cinema queue are about him; as he is alone in a pub, a burst of laughter behind his back is at some joke that has been cracked at his appearance;

everyone in the coffee bar where he is sitting is being careful not to look at him, etc. However, what is discovered when one gets to know such a person more than superficially is that what tortures him is not so much his delusions of reference, but his harrowing suspicion that he is of no importance in fact to anyone.
Thus what constantly preoccupies and torments the paranoid person is basically the precise opposite of what may at first be most apparent. He appears to be persecuted by being so much the centre of everyone else’s world, but he is preoccupied with the thought that he never occupies first place in anyone’s affections.” This is the situated position, the directly lived experience, from whence an activist stance can come. Whilst acknowledging the individual there is the issue of collusion, as Laing argues “the one person does not merely wish to have the other as a hook, or to induce the other to become, the very embodiment of that other whose co-operation is required as ‘complement’ of the particular identity he (p) feels impelled to sustain. The other, in such circumstances, can experience a peculiar feeling of guilt for not being the embodiment of the complement demanded by p’s self-adopted identity. However, if he does succumb, if he is seduced, he may become estranged from his own true possibilities, and is guilty thereby of betraying himself.

So we have met Bentham, utilitarian designer of the Panopticon, but who is Salome?

Salome is the daughter of Herod, she of the seven veils, she who asked for John the Baptist’s head on a plate. Is she an Anti-Gone or an Anti-Antigone? Where in relation to the cave is she? Where in relation to the back-lit cell? But to avert going down the path of condemnation of sexuality, an easy path to follow, we must first look at the relation between Bentham and repression and the denial of it. What is Salome’s relation to the coming insurrection?
With regards Salome’s treatment of John the Baptist, Freud observes “It can also be observed that the unpleasurable nature of an experience does not always unsuit it for play…” One should not assume Salome’s dance for Herod is entirely pleasurable for Salome “…we may be quite sure that these frightening experiences will be the subject of the next game; but we must not in that connection overlook the fact that there is a yield of pleasure from another source. As the child passes over from the passivity of the experience to the activity of the game, he hands on the disagreeable experience to one of his playmates and in this way revenges himself on a substitute.”

Recalling our wolf-heads we are reminded of Little Red Riding Hood, the wolf and grandma, and of course the castrating wood-cutter who comes to chop off his head, or other parts. At least in Red Riding Hood she gets to speak, it is a story of the deep, dark forest. It is in Echo and Narcissus that the once great interlocutor, she whose intercourse could best the greatest debaters amongst the Gods. Who would we rather deal with here, Narcissus or the Werewolf, the loup gorou, Loop Guru, one of the subliminal kids. But remember Narcissus does not get past the mirror phase, something that at least Snow White’s wicked step-mother succeeds in doing. No, the wolf-head is an outsider, a bandit, a man of the wilderness, who can be killed at any time. Much like John the Baptist.

So where does this wilderness man or woman come from? We must turn to Leviticus 16:8-10, “He is to cast sacred lots to determine which goat will be reserved as an offering to the LORD and which will carry the sins of the people to the wilderness of Azazel. Aaron will then present as a sin offering the goat chosen by lot for the LORD. The other goat, the scapegoat chosen by lot to be sent away, will be kept alive, standing before the LORD. When it is sent away to Azazel in the wilderness, the people will be purified and made right with the LORD.”

This is a slightly different turn of history to the criminal wolf-head, this is a scapegoat for a communal sin. And so we return to group theory, Freud makes a few comments on Le Bon’s theory of the group: “A group is impulsive, changeable irritable. It is led almost exclusively by the unconscious… nothing about it is premeditated. Though it may desire things passionately, yet this is never so for long, for it is incapable of perseverance. It cannot tolerate any delay between its desire and the fulfilment of what it desires. It has a sense of omnipotence; the notion of impossibility disappears for the individual in a group.
A group is extraordinarily credulous and open to influence, it has no critical faculty, and the improbable does not exist for it. It thinks in images, which call one another up by association (just as they arise with individuals in states of free imagination), and whose agreement with reality is never checked by any reasonable agency. The feelings of a group are always very simple and very exaggerated. So that the group knows neither doubt nor uncertainty… Since a group is in no doubt as to what constitutes truth or error, and is conscious, moreover, of its own strength, it is as intolerant as it is obedient to authority… It wants to be ruled and oppressed and to fear its masters. Fundamentally it is entirely conservative.”

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‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part five)

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by Schizostroller on March 29, 2018 @ 1:51 pm

In the seminar of Jacques Lacan known as Freud’s Papers on Techniques, Lacan discusses schizophrenia and the libido. For Freud, Lacan argues “The register of desire is… an extension of the concrete manifestations of the sexuality, an essential relation maintained by the animal being with the Umwelt, its world”. However he also suggests that “if one generalises excessively the notion of libido, because, in so doing, one neutralises it”. The idea of the libido is meaningless if it functions in the same way as the Real, “on the contrary, the libido takes on its meaning by being distinguished from the real, or realisable relations, from all the functions which have nothing to do with the function of desire, from everything touching on the relations of the ego and of the external world.” (p113-114). Lacan then argues that in schizophrenia “something happens which completely disturbs the relations of the subject to the real, swamping the foundation with form.” Lacan charges that Jung’s understanding of psychosis that culminates in the observation that for the psychotic to find a cure, “what the subject must do is realise himself as an individual in possession of genital functions,” (p.114) leaves psychoanalytic theory vulnerable to a neutralisation of the libido. Thus Freud distinguishes between sexual libido and egoistical libido. Lacan’s argument is that the Urbild ‘which is a unity comparable to the ego, is constituted at a specific moment in the history of the subject, at which point the ego begins to take on its functions.” This means that the human ego is founded on the basis of the imaginary relation.” (p. 115).
According to Lacan, for Jung, “psychic interest comes and goes, goes out, comes back, colours etc. It drowns the libido in the universal magma which will be the basis of the world’s constitution… Psychic interest is nothing other than an alternating spotlight, which can come and go, be projected, be withdrawn from reality, at the whim of the pulsation of the psyche of the subject.” (p.115). there are limits to this metaphor though, “it does not allow one to grasp the differences that there might be between a directed, sublimated retreat of interest in the world which the anchorite may achieve, and that of the schizophrenic, whose result however structurally quite distinct, since the subject discovers he is completely stuck.” (p.115-116). Lacan suggests that here Freud moves on from Jung’s distinction between religious ascetism and schizophrenia, to a distinction between neurosis and psychosis, a distinction that Lacan argues lies “in the refusal to recognise, in the refusal, in the barrier opposed to a reality by the neurotic, we note a recourse to fancy.” This is a function that in Freud’s terminology refers to the imaginary. However Freud argues that when “it comes to the psychotic subject, if he loses the realisation of the real, he doesn’t find any imaginary substitute.” This is the distinction from the neurotic.
Lacan talks of the idea of the psychotic being caught up in waking dreams, but he argues the imaginary cannot be the function of unreal, it must be more than this. If the argument is that the psychotic is denied access to the imaginary (the neurotic’s ‘fancy’, the foundation of the ego), when the psychotic reconstructs his world the function involved must therefore be the category of the symbolic. Lacan wonders whether it may be that the specific structure of the psychosis may be a symbolic unreal “or in a symbolic umarked by the unreal” (p. 117). There is a relation here to the sieged fortress of the psychotic, that he/she is ‘stuck’ in, has withdrawn to, may have elective affinities with the iron cage of instrumental rationality that Max Weber spoke of, much criticised on Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment. But the question remains where, then, is the imaginary?
In her book Caliban and the Witch, Silvia Federici describes the two differing projects of Descartes and Hobbes with regards the burgeoning focus on the mechanisms of the body in 17th century Western thought, “in Descartes, the reduction of the body to mechanical matter allows for the development of mechanisms of self-management that make the body the subject of the will. In Hobbes, by contrast, the mechanization of the body justifies the total submission of the individual to the power of the State. In both, however, the outcome is a redefinition of bodily attributes that makes the body, ideally, at least, suited for the regularity and automatism demanded by capitalist work-discipline” (p.140). Federici argues that what died with this type of project “was the body as receptacle of magical powers that had prevailed in the mediaeval world. In reality it was destroyed.” The irrational became a crime. “This state intervention was the necessary ‘subtext’ of Mechanical Philosophy. ‘Knowledge’ can only become ‘Power’ if it cannot enforce its prescriptions… This is why, at the peak of the ‘Age of Reason’ – the age of scepticism and methodical doubt – we have a ferocious attack on the body.” (p.141).
“Eradicating magical practices was a necessary condition for the capitalist rationalization of work, since magic appeared as an illicit form of power and an instrument to obtain what one wanted without work, that is a refusal of work in action. ‘Magic kills industry,’ lamented Francis Bacon, admitting that nothing repelled him so much as the assumption that one could obtain results with a few idle expedients, rather than with the sweat of one’s brow… Magic, moreover, rested upon a qualitative conception of space and time that precluded a regularization of the labour process.” (p.142). Federici notes that the ‘revival of magical beliefs is possible today because it no longer constitutes a social threat. The mechanization of the body is so constitutive of the individual that, at least in industrialized countries, giving space to the belief in occult forces does not jeopardize the regularity of social behaviour… however this was not an option for the 17th century ruling class which, in this initial phase of capitalist development, had not yet achieved the social control necessary to neutralise magic, nor could they functionally integrate magic into the organisation of social life. From their viewpoint it hardly whether the powers that people claimed to have, or aspired to have, were real or not, for the very existence of magical beliefs was a source of social insubordination.” (p.143).
Federici notes that with regards the refusal of work implied by magical beliefs “particularly important… was the attack on the ‘imagination’ (‘vis imaginativa’) which in the 16th which in 16th and 17th century Natural Magic was considered a powerful force… Hobbes devoted a chapter of the Leviathan to demonstrating that the imagination is only a ‘decaying sense’, no different from memory, only gradually weakened by the removal of the objects of our perception.” (n.16, p.157).
We have looked at the libido’s relation to ego formation, and looked at the historical relation of the body to magical thinking and the suppression of the imaginary, and the importance of this to the work-ethic, especially that of the exploited subject. So to understand the contemporary condition, rather than using psychoanalysis I want to look at modern cognitive psychology, especially the idea of purposive thought (or selective attention) and divided attention, then I will return to the earlier points I made about anxiety and voice hearing. One of the experiments on selective attention utilises ‘shadowing’, this is where subjects echo back the speech of another (say radio or TV) whilst listening to it. However, in the experiment, the listener wears stereo headphones, with one channel containing the ‘to be followed’ speech (attended channel) whilst the other channel (the unattended channel) plays a different message. This is known as dichotic listening. Certain observations are made from this; the first is that it is relatively easy to follow the attended channel; another is that very little is noticed from the unattended channel. This does not mean however that the subject is deaf to it, in fact whilst testing on semantic content (even when limited to seven words) the scores are little more than random, on attributes (whether human speech, high or low voice, male or female) the subjects scored highly. However, sometimes, the inputs from the unattended channel do leak into the subjects’ awareness, for example if a series of names are embedded into the semantic content of the unattended channel, including the subject’s own name, then whilst the subjects are still for the most part oblivious, a third heard their own name. Other content can also be noticed for example the last movie seen, the name of the subject’s most frequently attended and favourite restaurant. The same is the case for words with personal importance.
William Burroughs famously devised a thought experiment designed to ruin a café he had had bad business with. Conversations occurring in the cafe would be recorded and played back at a delayed interval, thus causing discordant, anxious and uncomfortable feelings amongst the clientele, driving them away. This is also the uncomfortable feelings low-level voice hearing can cause (where high-level voice hearing includes descriptions of the subject’s behaviour when alone – leading to paranoid beliefs about being bugged or hacked etc. Think of Philip K Dick’s Through a Glass Darkly).
So whilst for the most part there is a general insensitivity to the unattended channel, it is clear that some content ‘leaks through’. There are several explanations for the general insensitivity, but one of them is the ability to ignore, to ‘tune out’ the unattended channel. It seems that given sufficient practice subjects can teach themselves to tune out even severe distractors (an issue for Burroughs’ experiment). Such techniques are called ‘active ignoring’. However there seems to be a two-part theory of attention: not only do we block the processing of distractors, we are able to promote the processing of desired stimuli.

Federici, Silvia – Caliban and the Witch (2009) Autonomedia
Lacan, Jacques – Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953-1954: The seminar of Jacques Lacan Book 1 (1991) Norton
Reisberg, Daniel – Cognition (1997) Norton.

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace