False Consciousness & Discourse

Jukka Laari jlaari at tukki.jyu.fi
Mon Jun 19 14:17:10 MDT 1995

On Mon, 19 Jun 1995, Guy Yasko wrote:

1. " ... was trying to convey the idea that Zizek's authoritarian streak
lies in the way he positions himself as a master of Lacan's esoteric
texts who applies it to Hitchcock and and the sinking of the Titanic."

That's good point! I try to remember... On the other hand, that's good
old marxist spirit  [remember the film "Bladerunner" where one cyborg or
android says 'that's the spirit' to police who's scared as rabbit but
then fights back?]  to try to 'know' and 'explain' everything...

2. " I understand the need for simplifying, but given Lacan's
obscurantism [a], I don't think the texts allow for something like
applied Lacanianism [b]."

What do you mean by obscurantism? I've understood that Lacan (and Zizek)
use the term in a sense of 'enemy of enlightenment' and 'someone who is
against the freedom of thinking'. But I'm not sure at all, so correct me
if I'm wrong.

(For example: Lacan once blamed Paul Ricouer as obscurantist because of
his book on Freud and psychoanalysis - Ricour turned freudianism into
some kind of 'hermeneutical crab'? Funny part is that for me that
particular book by Ricour has been pretty important, because once we've
read it one long winter, and it surely helped me to get into Freud more

About applied Lacanianism: For me that side isn't important. If I'd work
on the history of ideas or of philosophy - then things would be
different. At the moment I don't care much how right or wrong someone's
Lacan-interpretation might be. Different theoreticians are supposed to
help me to organise my obscure ideas into (conceptually) well articulated
and argumented theories.

(For example, Lawrence Grossberg is one of those very rare researchers,
who has tried to produce at least some kind of theory of affect in the
context sociological problems. I mean a question of how and why
socio-cultural changes do happen. Why whole ways of life do change? One
dimension in modern world is 'mass communication' or 'popular culture'
(esp. TV) and its part in cultural changes. People do attach to figures
or heroes of films and TV-series in some weird way. Now, I'm not a
psychologist, so my knowledge on issues like identification is very
restricted. But that's not a big problem: point of view is after all
sociological. Zizek seems to be very productive from my point of view,
because he is insisting that psychoanalysis doesn't have psychological
('individualistic') concern, that the point is in intersubjective
dimension of our 'inner workings'. Back to Grossberg. Despite of his
productive insights into the 'affectual logic' of habits, there seems to
be some problems in theorization of Grossberg. Especially the lack of
clearly developed theory of ideology (and its integration with affect
theory) - which has to be integrated (I think) into every sociological
theory, not to mention of socio-cultural change. Now Zizek seems to be
offering something which seems to point to possibility, at least
outline, of integrated theory of affectual and ideological...  Now you
see, why I'm not worried about the cogency of Zizek's interpretation of

3. " As to the political program, I agree that it's an attempt to
provide a theoretic guide for contemporary politics. In some ways, it
links to the Laclau and Mouffe program, but I don't how far they would
travel together. Zizek seems more concerned with the "sublime object of
ideology," i.e. the Real, than Laclau and I think Laclau and Mouffe
would object to this at some point."

I don't know. Guess you're right. And if we overlook the context of
zizekism, then we have to forget SZ: concentrating only on Real isn't
surely very productive! So we have to categorize him into some nice cell
on our theoretico-political map...

SZ himself criticises both Althusser and, say, Gilles Deleuze, as well
as Juergen Habermas: Althusser concentrated only on the relation of
Imaginary and Symbolic in his theoretization, when Deleuze has put weight
on the relationship between Real and Imaginary. So he (SZ) concentrates
on Real-Symbolic -relationship in order to get the picture right. And
what about Habermas? He denies the whole problematic - and remains in the
prison of petit bourgeois kantianism (to put in aggressively)... For me
much more important is Zizek's insistence that Habermas hasn't understood
the real nature of the social/symbolic (including language and
communication), and that we have to look at Lacan in order to fully grasp
all the implications of psychoanalytic conception of these issues.  (I
would add, that we shouldn't totally forget Russians like Bakhtin,
Volosinov and Vygotsky...)

4.  " Have you read Jameson's _Political Unconscious_? The
Hegel/Lacan/Althusser connection is here, too, but many people in Japan
dismiss Jameson as just another Lukacsian. "

I've thought, still do, that Jameson has quite a lot to offer. Especially
his insistence that we have to 'historicize' all the time. I mean, in
order to understand some new phenomenon or 'discourse', we have to
analyze it in its concrete context.

5. "I still think one can learn a great deal from Lukacs and Marx, though."

Surely! What I have in mind is something like that: think about near
future - and 150 years of marxism, and then add someone who wants to
find out what it's all about... It takes whole lifetime to read all that
stuff... and to figure out what that all means to him/her. So there'd
better be handful of introductory, analytical, and historiographical
books that he/she can rely on. Then (later, if he/she has time) comes
those Heaviest of All Classics.

In a matter of fact, I think we are already in such a situation. No one
has time to read that mass of books called marxist canon.

Yours, Jukka Laari

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