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

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on August 31, 2018 @ 3:30 pm

Vygotsky argues that “inner speech develops through a slow accumulation of functional and structural changes, that it branches off from the child’s external speech simultaneously with the differentiation of the social and egocentric functions of speech, and finally that the speech structures mastered by the child become the basic structures of his thinking.” (p.94). He continues “thought development is determined by language i.e., by the linguistic tools of thought and by the sociocultural experience of the child. Essentially, the development of inner speech depends on outside factors; the development of logic in the child, as Piaget’s studies have shown, is a direct function of his socialised speech. The child’s intellectual growth is contingent on his mastering the social means of thought, that is, language.” Vygotsky concludes “If we compare the early development of speech and intellect… with the development of inner speech and verbal thought, we must conclude that the late stage is not a simple continuation of the earlier. The nature of the development itself changes, from biological to sociohistorical. Verbal thought is not an innate, natural form of behaviour, but is determined by a historical-cultural process and has specific properties and laws that cannot be found in the natural forms of thought in speech. Once we acknowledge the historical character of verbal thought, we must consider it subject to all the premises of historical materialism, which are valid for any historical phenomenon in human society. It is only to be expected that on this level the development of behaviour will be governed by the general laws of the historical development of human society.” (p.94-95).
On examining the relationship between thought and word Vygotsky argues “the meaning of a word represents such a close amalgam of thought and language that it is hard to tell whether it is a phenomenon of speech or a phenomenon of thought. A word without meaning is an empty sound; meaning, therefore, is a criterion of “word”, its indispensable component. It would seem, then, that it may be regarded as a phenomenon of speech. But from the point of view of psychology, the meaning of every word is a generalization or a concept. And since generalizations and concepts are undeniably acts of thought, we may regard meaning as a phenomenon of thinking. It does not follow, however, that meaning formally belongs in two different spheres of psychic life. Word meaning is a phenomenon of thought only insofar as thought is embodied in speech, and speech only insofar as speech is connected with thought and illuminated by it. It is a phenomenon of verbal thought, or meaningful speech – a union of word or thought.” (Vygotsky, p.212). Vygotsky suggests that the experimental investigations that he was part of confirm the basic thesis that ‘word meanings develop’. He takes into account with a critical eyes the school of association theory that the bond between word and meaning is an associative bond, established through the repeated simultaneous perception of a certain sound and a certain object. However he argues that “the association between word and meaning may grow stronger or weaker, be enriched by linkage with other objects of a similar kind, spread over a wider field, or become limited (i.e. it may undergo quantitative and external changes), but it cannot change its psychological nature. To do that it would have to cease being an association. From that point of view, any development in word meanings is inexplicable and impossible.” (p.213). Vygotsky then moves on to the influence of the Wurzburg school (as does Jaynes). Vygotsky argued that the Wurzburg school argued for the impossibility of reducing thinking to a mere play of associations in order to demonstrate specific laws governing the flow of thought. Vygotsky suggested that the upshot of this divorce of thought from association theory, left theories of speech even more in the sway of association theory. In Vygotsky’s history of speech and thought it was Gestalt theory that next tried to lift both thought and speech from association theory. Vygotsky’s criticism of the Gestalt school however is that they completely separated the functions of thought and speech which then “appears as simple analogy, a reduction of both to a common structural denominator… words enter into the structure of things and acquire certain functional meaning, in much the same way as a stick, to the chimpanzee, becomes part of the structure of obtaining the fruit and acquires the functional meaning of tool. The connection between word and meaning is no longer regarded as a matter of simple association, but as a matter of structure.” (p.215-216). Vygotsky argues that this move forward is an illusion and the same sweeping argument that was entertained by the associationists is here applies to structure, as Vygotsky says “all cats are gray in the dusk of Gestalt theory, as in the earlier fogs of universal associationism” (p.216). The two fundamental errors of the older theory remain: “the assumption of the identical nature of all connections and the assumption that word meanings do not change” (p.216). Vygotsky believes that the discovery that word meanings evolve leads psychology out a blind alley. “word meanings are dynamic rather than static formations. They change as the child develops; they change also with the various ways in which thought functions. If word meanings change in their inner nature, then the relation of thought to word also changes.” (p.217). Vygotsky continues “the relation between thought to word is not a thing but a process of continual movement back and forth from thought to word and word to thought. In that process, the relation of thought to word undergoes changes that themselves may be regarded as development in the functional sense. Thought is not merely expressed in words; it comes into existence through them. Every thought tends to connect something with something else, to establish a relation between things. Every thought moves, grows and develops, fulfils a function, solves a problem. This flow of thought occurs as an inner movement through a series of planes. An analysis of the interaction of thought and word must begin with an investigation of different phases and plans a thought traverses before it is embodied in words.” (p.218). In Vygotsky’s view a child masters external speech by starting from one read, then connecting two or three words; then, upon advancing to simple sentences and then to more complicated ones towards coherent speech made up of a series of sentences, that is the development of coherent speech proceeds from a part to the whole. However, with regards to meaning the first word of a child is a sentence. So semantically the child starts from the whole, from a meaningful complex, and only starts to master the separate semantic units, the meaning of words, later, and it is only then the formerly undifferentiated thought is divided into these units. Thus “the external and the semantic aspects of speech develop in opposite directions – one from the particular to the whole, from word to sentence, and the other from the whole to the particular, from sentence to word.” (p.219). This means the development of the vocal and semantic aspects of speech does not coincide, although this does not mean they are independent of each other. “In a sense, there are more differences than likeness between them. The structure of speech does not simply mirror the structure of thought; that is why words cannot be put on by thought like a ready-made garment. Thought undergoes many changes as it turns into speech. It does not merely find expression in speech; it finds its reality and form.” (p.219).
With regards the development of reasoning Vygotsky notes that Piaget observes that the use of subordinate clauses such as because or although etc. develop syntactically before their meaning is understood, grammar precedes logic. With regards signifying (discussed elsewhere) Vygotsky argues that any part of the sentence may become a psychological predicate, the carrier of topical analysis… entirely different meanings may lie hidden behind one and the same grammatical structure. Accord between syntactical organisation and psychological organisation is not as prevalent as we tend to assume – rather, it is a requirement that is seldom met… a spontaneous utterance, wrong from the point of view of grammar, may have charm and aesthetic value… absolute correctness is achieved only in mathematics” (p.220-221). Vygotsky continues “behind words, there is the independent grammar of thought, the syntax of word meanings. The simplest utterance, far from reflecting a constant, rigid correspondence between sound and meaning, is really a process. Verbal expressions cannot emerge fully formed, but must develop gradually. This complex process of transition from meaning to sound must itself be developed and perfected. The child must learn to distinguish between semantics and phonetics and understand the nature of difference. At first, he uses verbal forms and meanings without being conscious of them as separate. The word, to the child, is an integral part of the object it denotes. Such a conception seems to be characteristic of primitive linguistic consciousness.” (p.222). He concludes “The fusion of the two planes of speech, semantic and vocal, begins to break down as the child grows older, and the distance between them gradually increases. Each stage in the development of word meanings has its own specific interrelation of the two planes. A child’s ability to communicate through language is directly related to the differentiation of word meanings in his speech and consciousness… To understand this, we must remember a basic characteristic of the structure of word meanings. In the semantic structure of a word, we distinguish between referent and meaning; correspondingly, we distinguish a word’s nominative function from its significative function. When we compare these structural and functional relations at the earliest, middle, and advanced stages of development, we find the following genetic regularity: in the beginning, only the normative function exists; and semantically, only the objective reference; signification independent of naming, and meaning independent of reference, appear later and develop along the paths we have attempted to trace and describe… Only when this development is completed does the child become fully able to formulate his own thought and to understand the speech of others. Until then, his usage of words coincides with that of adults in its objective reference, but not its meaning.” (p.223-224).


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

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on August 29, 2018 @ 6:58 pm

Vygotsky points out that “no matter how we approach the controversial problem of the relation between thought and speech, we shall have to deal extensively with inner speech” (Vygotsky, p.84). Vygotsky tackles Piaget’s concept of egocentric speech, a form of speech that speech that the young child first learns. Piaget argues that children’s conversation falls into two camps: egocentric speech; and socialised speech. With egocentric speech the child mainly talks about herself, no attempting to place herself at the point of view of the hearer. “The child does not try to communicate, expects no answers and does not even care whether anyone listens to him. It is similar to a monologue in a play.” (Vygotsky, p.26). Socialised speech is different; “here a child begs, commands, threatens, conveys information, asks questions” (p.26). Piaget argues that even by age six the child’s speech is still predominantly egocentric. “Piaget emphasises that egocentric speech does not provide communication. It is rather chanting, rhyming, and accompanying the major melody of the child’s activity.” (p.28). As a lot of this talk is the child talking about their own activities, the fact that this occurs less in later stages of maturity means that it develops and moves to different stages of speech. According to Vygotsky, Piaget argues that this form of egocentric speech dies off, Vygotsky suggests that Piaget does not give sufficient attention to the development of inner speech, that Vygotsky thinks egocentric speech turns in to. “From the point of view of functional psychology, all silent thinking is nothing but ‘egocentric speech’” (p.32).
Vygotsky suggests that the total development runs as follows: “the primary function of speech, in both children and adults, is communication, social contact. The earliest speech of the child is essentially social. At first it is global and multifunctional; later its functions become undifferentiated. At a certain age the social speech of the child is quite sharply divided into egocentric speech and communicative speech… Egocentric speech emerges when the child transfers social, collaborative forms of behaviour to the sphere of inner-personal psychic functions. The child’s tendency to transfer to his inner processes the behaviour patterns that were formerly were social is well known to Piaget. He describes in another context how arguments between children give rise to the beginnings of logical reflection. Something similar happens, we believe, when the child starts conversing with himself as he has with others. When circumstances force him to stop and think, he is likely to think aloud. Egocentric speech, splintered off from general speech, in time leads to inner speech, which serves both autistic and logical thinking.” (p.34-35). Vygotsky goes on to say that “egocentric speech as a separate linguistic form is the highly important genetic link in the transition from vocal to inner speech, an intermediate stage between the differentiation of the functions of vocal speech and the final transformation of one part of vocal speech into inner speech.” (p.35). He states that the conception of speech development hinges on the interpretation given to egocentric speech so Vygotsky’s schemata of social, egocentric then inner speech differs from the schemata of the behaviourist pattern of vocal speech, whisper, inner speech which again differs from Piaget’s nonverbal autistic thought through egocentric thought and speech to socialised speech and logical thinking.
Vygotsky talks of the behaviourism of Watson, he suggests Watson questions whether we can know when this stage occurs, but Vygotsky suggests that problem is posed incorrectly, “there are no valid reasons to assume that inner speech develops in some mechanical way through the gradual decrease in the audibility of speech (whispering)”. (p.84). Vygotsky continues “there are no grounds for assuming that the two processes, so different functionally (social as opposed to personal adaptation) and structurally (the extreme elliptical economy of inner speech, changing the speech pattern almost beyond recognition) may be genetically parallel and concurrent.” (p.85). Vygotsky argues that whispering is only phenotypically different not genotypically, and that his own research suggests “structurally there is almost no difference between whispering and speaking aloud; functionally, whispering differs profoundly from inner speech and does not even manifest a tendency toward the characteristics typical of the latter.” (p.85). However whilst disagreeing with Watson’s thesis, Vygotsky notes that he hit on the right methodological approach: “to solve the problem, we must look for the intermediate link between overt and inner speech”. In conclusion Vygotsky states “in considering the function of inner speech in adults after the development is completed, we must ask whether in their case thought and linguistic processes are necessarily connected, whether the two can be equated. Again, as in the case of animals and of children, we must answer ‘no’.” (p.88). He continues “Schematically, we may imagine thought and speech as two intersecting circles. In their overlapping parts thought and speech coincide to produce what is called verbal thought. Verbal thought, however, does not by any means include all forms of speech. The thinking manifested in the use of tools belongs in this area, as does practical intellect in general.” (p.88).
Julian Jaynes discusses the issue of being conscious of being conscious, “in being conscious of consciousness, we feel it is the defining attribute of all our waking states, our moods and affections, our memories, our thoughts, attentions and volitions. We feel comfortably certain that consciousness is the basis of concepts, of learning and reasoning, of thought and judgment, and that it is so because it records and stores our experiences as they happen, allowing us to introspect on them and learn from them at will. We are also quite conscious that all this wonderful set of operations and contents that we call consciousness is located somewhere in the head… On critical examination, all these statements are false. They are the costume that consciousness has been masquerading in for centuries.” (Jaynes, p.21). Jaynes argues that using the method of introspection to illuminate consciousness is akin to shining a torch in a dark room, and upon finding that the parts of the dark room that the torch is shining on are bright with light, assuming that the whole room is lit up. Jaynes looks at different perspective on our understanding of consciousness, and then discounts certain cognitive relations, cognitive relations that we have been discussing in reference to the Reisberg text, Jaynes refutes the idea that “consciousness is an actual space inhabited by elements called sensations and ideas” (p.8); he also refutes that consciousness is necessary for concepts, arguing there is no necessary connection between them as root concepts are prior to experience, language lets words stand in for a concept; nor is consciousness necessary for learning, associative learning can be show to go ahead without any consciousness that it has occurred, for example the well-known Pavlovian response can be replicated by playing a certain type of music while eating a delicious meal can provoke a saliva response next time the music is played. Even though if you know about the phenomenon beforehand and are conscious of the contingency between the music and food then the learning does not occur. So consciousness is both unnecessary for the learning and can actually reduce this type of learning ability. In the learning of skills, as was discussed with regards Bateson, learning skills like tossing a coin, archery, football, or the piano consciousness does not take part in the acquiring of the skill, and even after the skill is learnt self-consciousness can undermine the application of those skills. Solution learning or instrumental learning is a more complex case. Jaynes points out that consciousness does indeed play a part in working out the solution to some goal, he argues, though, not always a necessary one. For example a group of psychology students were asked to compliment every female student wearing red, within a week a lot more people were wearing red, but on interview no-one was aware of having been influenced; Jaynes also argues that consciousness is not necessary for thinking, one of the examples Jaynes uses is very interesting with regards the type of Mindfulness course that is offered on many ‘recovery’ courses. There is a mindfulness technique that involves being given raisin, and really being ‘mindful’ of the raisin, its texture, what it looks like, its size, taste, what it feels like to chew it. This is a form of deliberate and focused introspection that allows one to be mindful of the moment, to be ‘present’ as the courses suggest is good for one’s mental health. In the experiment Jaynes describes one is asked to take two glasses with slightly different amounts of liquid in them and assess their weight. One is asked to introspect, just as the mindfulness course asks us to with the raisin, and then decide the different weights of the glasses. When one considers where this decision comes from it is discovered this introspection takes no part in the decision which is supplied by one’s nervous system. Another constraint takes place with regards partially-constrained association (as opposed to free association), it was found that once the stimulus word was given thinking was automatic. This is related to the use of priming in the discussion of cognitive thinking earlier. “Thinking, then, is not conscious. Rather it is an automatic process following a struction and the materials on which the struction is to operate.” (p.39). Jaynes goes on to say “Nor is this different from the case of speech which I mentioned earlier. When we speak, we are not really conscious either of the search for words, or of putting the words together into phrases or of putting the phrases into sentences. We are only conscious of the ongoing series of structions that we give ourselves, which then, automatically, without any consciousness whatever, result in speech. The speech itself we can be conscious of as it is produced if we wish, thus giving some feedback to result in further structions. So we arrive at the position that the actual process of thinking so usually thought to be the very life of consciousness, is not conscious at all and that only it preparation, its materials, and its result are consciously perceived.” (p.40-41); Jaynes then goes on to argue that consciousness is not necessary for reason, he says “reasoning refers to a gamut of natural thought processes in the everyday world. Logic is how we ought to think if objective truth is our goal – and the everyday world is very little concerned with objective truth. Logic is the science of the justification of conclusions we have reached by natural reasoning. My point here is that, for such natural reasoning to occur, consciousness is not necessary. The very reason we need logic at all is that most reasoning is not conscious at all.” (p.41). He describes reasoning from particulars, that is if I note that a particular piece of wood floats on one pond I might conclude that this piece of wood will float on a different pond. David Hume notes that much reasoning works along these lines, and Saul Kripke uses this Humean logic to discuss Ludwig Wittgenstein on language. And we will be returning to this later when analysing CBT’s relation to language. But for now we return to Jaynes who argues that this type of reasoning is simply expectation based on generalisation, there is nothing particularly extraordinary about it and it is an ability common to all higher vertebrates. “Such reasoning is the structure of the nervous system, not the structure of consciousness” (p.42). “But more complex reasoning without consciousness is continually going on. Our minds work much faster than consciousness can keep up with. We commonly make general assertions based on our past experiences in an automatic way, and only as an afterthought are we sometimes able to retrieve any of the past experiences on which an assertion is based. How often we reach sound conclusions and are unable to justify them! Because reasoning is not conscious. And consider the kind of reasoning that we do about others’ feelings and character, or in reasoning out the motives from of others from their actions. These are clearly the result of automatic inferences by our nervous systems in which consciousness is not only unnecessary, but, as we have seen in the performance of motor skills, would probably hinder the process.” (p.42). Jaynes is referring to the unconscious processes that Freud thought could be teased out with free association. Partially due to the automatic responses mentioned in the experiments on partially-constrained associative processes. Joyce refers to the thinking processes that scientists claim bring about solutions to their scientific and mathematical problems. Often when not working on the problem itself. “The essential point here is that there are several stages of creative thought: first, a stage of preparation in which the problem is consciously worked over; then a period of incubation without any conscious concentration upon the problem; and then the illumination which is later justified by logic… The period of preparation is essentially the setting up of a complex struction together with conscious attention to the materials on which the struction is to work. But then the actual process of reasoning, the dark leap into huge discovery, just as in the simple trivial judgment of weights, has no representation in consciousness. Indeed, it is sometimes almost as if the problem had to be forgotten to be solved.” (p.44).
Which brings us back to Vygotsky.


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

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — 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.


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

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — 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).


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

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — 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?


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

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — 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


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

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — 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


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

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — 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.


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

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on March 26, 2018 @ 12:56 pm

For Sigmund Freud and later Jacques Lacan, transference was a highly important part of therapy. The projection on to the therapist of all our issues. According to both this came out in the language the client speaks, as if the ego is incapable of getting to the point (we would have no Adam Curtis documentaries if there was not some pleasure in this!) The role of the therapist is to play a secure, safe reflection of those anxieties that prevent more direct communication. That said Freud argued that such indirectness was a product of civilisation. With regards this indirectness I will return later with regards signifying and hostile prejudiced environments, but in the meantime I will not that modern CBT prefers the term ‘therapeutic relationship’, and work by the CBT psychologist Professor Richard Bentall has shown this is a valid indicator of the efficacy of therapy beyond the actual method used. But still the relation remains the same as Lacan quoting Freud says “the sick ego promises us the most complete candour – promises, that is, to put at our disposal all the material which its self-perception yields; we assure the patient of the strictest discretion and place at his service our experience in interpreting material that has been influenced by the unconscious. Our knowledge is to make up for his ignorance and to give his ego back its mastery over lost provinces of his mental life. This pact constitutes the analytic situation” (p.65) The power relationship is the same whether Freudian psychoanalysis, Integrative psychotherapy, CBT or the Talking with Voices therapy. In view of this I want to return to transference and counter transference, as in the last few articles we have looked at the idea of projection as not only something humans do, without it we would have no art, but also something that may be involved in voice hearing, and other psychoses. Is there transference going on in the psychotic’s relation with the Other that leads to these phantasms? Is this pathological as the idea that these phantasms are hostile is the failure to resolve trauma and histories of distorted communication, given that they may be reflected feelings of distress, and all is needed is some compassionate, guided normative techniques? Or are there understandable feelings of threat, to take a contemporary example ‘brown envelope syndrome’, the fear of the DWP envelope that lands on the doorstep during a period of austerity, that has involved cuts to essential services and punitive sanction regimes aimed at those in receipt of state support? Are such people ‘loony lefties’? Their failure to get with the program their own fault, their symptom, for not ‘doing the homework’ and recovering, after all there is ‘nothing wrong with capitalism’, is there? Or is the expectation of ‘working to recovery’ under such conditions a ‘doubling up’ of responsibility expecting people who are feeling iller than they were before due to an attack on their safety net (a vital relationship) to work harder than before at their recovery? I will look at both Freud and Lacan’s idea of transference and then Silvia Federici and Kathi Weeks’ ideas of ‘non-work’ as work and how such a conception includes ‘recovery’. As Maurizio Lazzarato argues in Signs and Machines, ‘we all work’.
Lacan points out that “[the] stake is full speech… but the remarkable fact that the analytic method, if it aims at attaining full speech, starts off on a path leading in the diametrically opposed direction, in so far as it instructs the subject to delineate a speech as devoid as possible of any assumption of responsibility and that it even frees him from any expectation of authenticity. It calls on him to say everything that comes into his head. It is through these very means that it facilitates, that at least once can say, his return on to the path which, in speech, is below the level of recognition and concerns the third party, the object.” (p.108). One would think, that alone, in one’s room, going mad one could say, or shout, what one likes at the ‘voices’… and yet we pay. In echoes, in returning light beams, in counter-commands, often for at least 24 hours… sometimes weeks later, although when that occurs the construct’s mask is hiding another mask.
Lacan argues that the effectiveness of an analyst’s intervention lies in transference, but what is transference, he argues it quite simply les in ‘the speech act’: “each time a man speaks to another in an authentic and full manner, there is, in the true sense, transference, symbolic transference – something takes place which changes the nature of the two beings present… The function of transference should be located on the imaginary plane. So it is to specify it that the notions… the repetition of prehistoric situations, unconscious repetition, the putting into effect of a reintegration of history – history in the opposite sense to the one I once put forward , since it is a question of an imaginary reintegration, the past situation only being experienced in the present, without the knowledge of the subject, in so far as its historical dimension is misrecognised by him- you’ll note I didn’t say unconscious.” what they don’t uncover though is “the reason, the function, the signification of what we observe in the real.” (p.109).
In her book Caliban and the Witch, Silvia Federici uses the character Caliban from King Lear as a metaphor for the ‘body’ of the dispossessed in the 17th century, who from the 18th century onwards would be ‘disciplined’ into a working class ‘body’ as observed by many from Michel Foucault to E.P. Thompson. But it is in Prospero that she finds a metaphor for the new burgeoning bourgeoisie “who combines the celestial spirituality of Ariel and the brutish materiality of Caliban. Yet he betrays an anxiety over the equilibrium achieved that rules out any pride for “Man’s” unique position in the Great Chain of Being. In defeating Calban, Prospero must admit that “this thing of darkness is mine,” thus reminding his audience that our human partaking of the angel and the beast is problematic indeed.” (p.134).
Kathi Weeks describes work as “productive co-operation organised around but not necessarily confined to, the privileged model of waged labour” (p.14). She invokes Moishe Postone when she remarks that “the normative explanation of waged work as an individual responsibility has more to do with the socially mediating role of work than its strictly productive function. Work is the primary means by which individuals are integrated not only into the economic system, but also into social, political, and familial modes of cooperation.” (p.8). Weeks goes on to say that “the category of the wok society refers not just to the socially mediating and subjectively constitutive roles of work but to the dominance of its values” (p.11). If we take Federici’s invocation of Shakespeare’s Prospero as the mark of a new burgeoning bourgeois ethic, then Max Weber’s book the ‘Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’ described the ascetic belief’s relation with Capitalism and the creation of not just the working classes but a ‘work ethic’. Weeks notes that “On the one hand, the Protestant work wthis is, as Weber emphasizes, a fundamentally ascetic morality, one that ‘turned with all its force against one thing: the spontaneous enjoyment of life and all it had to offer’ (Weber). ‘Life’ with its wealth of possibilities is subordinated to the disciplinary demands of work… ‘Of all the pillars of the work ethic.’ Daniel Rodgers observes, ‘the predilection to see the moral life as a mustering of the will against the temptations within and the trials without remained the strongest, the least affected by the industrial transformation’ (Rodgers). The ‘sanitising effects of constant labour’ and the focus on work as the arena in which the individual can, with the proper self-discipline, will his or her self-development and transformation continue to be affirmed today under the conditions of Post-Fordist production. Nonetheless, as a worldly asceticism – rather than an Otherworldly one – the prescription was and remains rife with difficulties. The worldliness of, for example, unruly bodies, seductive pleasures, and spontaneous enjoyment poses as constant challenge to the mandate for such focused attention and diligent effort in properly productive pursuits.” (p.48). One thinks here both of the ‘mental hygiene’ movement, and as a counter-discourse Albert Camus’ argument in the Myth of Sisyphus that sin without God leads to the Absurd. However those who have an association with ‘recovery work’ have to deal with another aspect of Kathi Weeks’ theory, and that is what constitutes ‘non’work’. Weeks argues that “the work wthic is not only a racialized but genered construction… This was enabled by the historical process through which work… became equated with waged work, waged work was linked to masculinity, and unwaged domestic work was reconceived as non-productive women’s work. This lack of recognition of feminized domestic labour emerged with early industrialisation, as unwaged household work came to stand as the (naturalised and feminised) model of nonwork that served to contrast and thereby sustain a (now masculinised) concept of work… Unwaged women (and those waged women who found themselves judged in relation to this normative model), not subject to the morally purifying and invigorating effects of work discipline, were a justifiably dependent class. The work ethic could then be embraced as a masculine ethic while nonwork – a rather more expansive category including everything from leisure practices and consumption work to unwaged agriculture, household and caring labour – was devalued with its association with a degraded femininity.” (p.63). I want to argue that ‘recovery work’ fits into this category of ‘nonwork’. However under late capitalism it is more divisive than this, as Maurizio Lazzarato argues in his criticism of the relation of language and the increasing technologisation that leads to automation in late Post-fordist capitalism, Signs and Machines, he notes that when we use a self-service machine we are doing the work that would have been done by a cashier for free whilst paying to increase the supermarket’s profits. The same goes when we use comparison websites to buy plane tickets or shop for insurance, jobs that travel agents or insurance brokers used to do. This not only affects unemployment but also is work we do in our everyday life for free, in the name of efficiency and expediency. It is in this sense he argues that we ‘all work’. In the final two articles I will be looking at the biopolitics of recovery and strategies of survival, and hopefully resistance in such a modern society.

Camus, Albert – Myth of Sisyphus (2005) Penguin
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
Lazzarato, Maurizio – Signs and Machines (2014) Semiotext(e)
Thompson, E. P. – The Making of the English Working Class (1984) Pelican
Weeks, Kathi – The Problem with Work (2011) Duke


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

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on March 23, 2018 @ 9:57 pm

In the synopsis to the article ‘Talking with Voices’, Corstens, Longden and May point out that “Although people who hear voices may dialogue with them, they are regularly caught in destructive communication patterns that disturb social functioning.” But who are these people talking to? In Laing he uses the term ‘phantasm’, Deleuze and Guattari (Guattari was a psychiatrist at La Borde clinic, with a practice looking at institutional domination (his solution was transversal dynamics) similar to the issues encountered by Goffman, Laing and Basaglia so sitting nicely within 60’s and 70’s anti-psychiatry) use the term ‘assemblage’ (in plain terms an assemblage is an internally moving phantasm – Laing’s use of ‘elusion’ and ‘elision’ implies this but the term ‘assemblage’ is more explicit about it). The French structuralist psychoanalyst uses the term ‘Other’, but this is what the voice hearer projects on to that causes the phantasms, this is a phenomenological argument about the limits of consciousness and from this perspective, including neuroscientifically, all other explanations of voice hearing come under this rubric, any that posit an experience beyond the limit require some rupture of this boundary (Lacan uses the term ‘intrusion of the Real – there I some sense where this is aleatory). This of course is a materialist argument, I am sure there are spiritual arguments that claim otherwise, of course there are also plenty that are fine with this phenomenological limit. But from there we can ask a valid corollary question, ‘what type of nexus would violate such a limit, or at least lead to the experience of such boundaries being violated’. One technical term for the experience of such an apparent violation would be thought intrusion. The usual techniques and strategies used to address this issue focus on the individual as the locus of strategies and techniques, even if arguments of authoritarian nexi are valid, although as mentioned above in theories of transversality, psychiatrists such as Guatarri have tried to deal with such group dynamics at an institutional level, in Anglo-Saxon political theoretical history (since 1700s) individual liberty has been very much associated with economic laissez faire and a minimal state and as such, despite being an organ of the state, the NHS has to walk a line honouring such traditions lest it come under attack from more hegemonic capitalist forces (although of course one could argue ‘what the hell, it’s being dismantled anyway’. Still I am no accelerationist, and although I accept the validity of at least venturing such an argument, I have no idea to do so here) and so most British psychological techniques and strategies stay within this liberal individualist vein and as such more social strategies are at best tolerated, most often scorned. However from a political mental health activists’ point of view the terrain upon which to explore social and hegemonic realties that exist from people who come under the rubric of various self-descriptions, from mental health patients, service users, survivors, mad to experts by lived experience of mental distress, in their relation with the state and the means of production, is fertile and open. The history of the German group the SPK is worth mentioning here, as well as the legacy of the Mental Patients union (MPU) (both from the 1970’s), the various splinter factions that came out of it, the later Survivors Speak Out, UK Advocacy Network, after them Mad Pride, Asylum, Hearing Voices Network, even, to an extent, the National Service User Network today. And it is precisely here that we have a relation to the Other.
according to Corstens, May and Longden “VH [voice hearing] is understood as having a “protective” function: a manifestation of a vital defensive manoeuvre whereby transforming internal conflict into voices is psychologically advantageous. In lieu of this position, many people hearing disturbing voices have found that a turning point for recovery is changing the relationship through finding different ways of understanding and communicating with their voices” they go on to argue that “Organised in opposites, so-called primary and disowned selves, these parts help us adapt to the demands of our daily interactions. Dominant selves want us to succeed in life by meeting the demands of social situation, yet in doing so they push away our more vulnerable parts. These (disowned) selves become repressed and unable to play a significant role, thereby restricting the repertoire of selves.” And they continue “An important principle is that we are not necessarily trying to change the voices, nor banish them from the person’s life: instead, we are trying to explore the relationship; help the voice-hearer reclaim control and ownership of their experiences; and understand the voices’ motives for appearing in a negative way. Indeed, both the voice and voice-hearer are generally unhappy in their mutual conflict, so improving understanding between both parties is an important aspect of the process. Further outcomes include discovering more positive ways of negotiating and relating to voices, altering power dynamics, enhancing coping, and heightening awareness and understanding of voice characteristics.” As a therapy I want to argue that this is a form of self-creation strategy, a form of subjectivisation that comes under the rubric of biopolitics. As such it can play either hegemonic or counter-hegemonic roles. According to Paul Rabinow and Nicholas rose, biopolitics entails one or more truth discourses about the vital character of living human beings; an array of authorities considered competent to speak that truth; strategies for intervention upon collective existence in the name of life and health; and modes of subjectification, in which individuals work on themselves in the name of individual or collective life or health.” They argue “that while exceptional paroxysmal forms of biopower, linked to the formation of absolutist dictatorship and mobilization of technical resources, can lead and have led to a murderous thanatopolitics, biopower in contemporary states takes a different form. It characteristically entails a relation between letting die (laissez mourir) and making live (faire vivre) that is to say strategies for the governing of life.” In short they are techniques of modifying ways of living, with the treat of the extinction of life held over us (although rarely in liberal societies overtly – and most often merely a relation to finitude, the realisation that we ultimately die, and the possibility of exploiting that anxiety through networks of power for purposes of governmentality). The ‘duty’ here is both one of subject rule, and the vital instinct of survival, our subjectivity (our continuous, constantly changing, sense of self and identity in a power relation with the ‘world’ and it’s representations including the economy and state, as well as families and friends) being borne of this contest.
As such, I want to explore the idea of governmentality (an idea of governance that is more than just police and laws – Max Weber’s famous ‘the state has the monopoly on legitimate coercion’) and the activist practices of people like Michel De Certeau, Henri Lefebvre and the Italian autonomist tradition, that take such aspects of subjectivity and turn it back against the hegemonic forces that shape our very lives, and as a consequent can affect our mental health not just at the individual and corporeal level, but by psychological strategies, techniques (including marketing), language and government policy of a form that Bruno Latour calls ‘action at a distance’. And from there outline democratic strategies for regaining control of our lives and narratives.

Corstens, Dirk; Longden, Eleanor; May, Rufus – Talking with voices: Exploring what it is expressed by the voices people hear (2011) Psychosis 1-10 iFirst Article
Crossley, Nick – Contesting Psychiatry (xxxx)
Rabinow, Paul; Rose Nikolas – Thoughts on the Concept of Biopower today (2003) Article available on Research Gate
SPK – SPK Turn Illness Into a Weapon (1993) KRRIM


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace