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March 25, 2005


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Mark Kaplan

Just to ask a naive question, but what exactly is 'overidentification'? In a way, it counds like a tautology. But what is this 'over-'? Also, the way it's phrased - 'for that moment of analysis' - makes it cound like this overidentification is only a heuristic device on Zizek's part, strategic and temporary. If so, can there be 'strategic overidentification'? Also, from Parker's description, 'overidentification' sounds rather like imminent critique - ??


I try to talk about (or, actually, employ the idea of) over-identification in something I just posted on the Schiavo matter. That might give a better example. But, as I understand it, the concept relies on the fact that interpellation is never complete. There is always a remainder, a part of me that says "I'm not fully that." And, successful interpellation, interpellation that produces the proper subjects for an ideological formation, relies on that little bit of extra. It relies on it in various ways--as an element of freedom in the subject, as a source of non-compliance that lets the system work, as an opening to the obscene supplement that encourages people to do things that violate the official rules. But, if people overidentify, all this goes away. The example I like to use is what would happen if there was a massive Christian revival and all Christians returned to their work places all the items they had taken home over time--there would be problems of paper clips and accounting and all sorts of things. Or, if people never lied--it would be a horrible nightmare. Or, if the anti-tax world of rightwing neo-liberals actually came to past... or, Zizek's example, communists really believed in the mission of the Party? So, overidentification explodes the truth of something--realizing it (even momentarily) without remainder in way that expresses its truth without repressing or hiding its obscenity.

I hope this isn't too long. It might also not be clear and could be worth a longer, more systematic, slower, and clearer set of exchanges.

One last thing--the difference with immanent critique, as I see it, is that immanent critique works more as a formal operation as it explores contradictions rather than with literalizing or identifying with or claiming the truth of the elements of a formation.


Here's a better way to express the difference from immanent critique: immanent critique can be done through logic, reading, reason, interpretation. Overidentification can be more affective, performative. To this extent, like the music from Laibach and the whole NSK art experiment, it works at a different level.


Perhaps this Zizek quotattion, from the documentary Predictions of Fire about Laibach, is to the point:

"The big question that everybody is asking himself or herself a-propos of Laibach of course is: Are they taking themselves seriously or is this meant in an ironic way? Well, I think of course that this is the wrong alternative. Because the automatic assumption of this question is that if your attitude towards a certain social system, system of social values, etc., is ironic then you are subversive; you take it seriously, you are a conformist, etc. I think that the whole point, the basic underlying premise of Laibach strategy is that -- and this holds not only for Slovenia but let's say generally, for so-called late capitalism in general even -- that the system itself has as its inherent condition of functioning that its own ideology must not be taken seriously. In other words, cynicism as today's prevailing mode of ideology means that it is the positive condition of the functioning of the system that its own ideology must by its own subject not be taken seriously. An ideal subject today is the one who has ironic distance towards the system, etc., etc. And the reverse of this is that the only way, I would even say, to be really subversive is not to develop critical potentials, or ironic distance, but precisely to take the system more seriously than it takes itself seriously."



Thanks! I was thinking about this today as I was preparing to teach the legal case on 2 Live Crew--some defend it as literalizing racist views of black male sexuality so as to explode them. I'm not sure. And, now this makes me reflect more on Laibach situation--it seems like there should be ways to distinguish between subversive identification or when identification is subversive and when it is simply celebratory.

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