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May 17, 2006

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Mark Kaplan

HI Jodi, my first thought on this was -

Althusser hailed the police, yes, but also presumably wanted to be hailed. In other words, he wanted to be interpellated as a way of buttoning his subjectivity back in place after the ‘de-subjectifying’ act of murder. Rather than confront the void opened up by the act, the radically alien place or non-place you find yourself in, you opt for the security and reassurance of definition by the Law. To ‘turn oneself in’ is to disburden oneself.

Mark Kaplan

Actually, to borrow a phrase from above, the Law in this case offers 'the terms by which one's existence is secured'. You want 'Louis Althusser' to be confiscated and defined by a power outside you. This is your escape.

Mark Kaplan

As for 'a strange scene of love', Althusser can turn to the Law as to one who has remained steadfast - it was there all the time, it never deserted him, punctualy present when he needed it most, watching over him patiently.. and so he fled all to willingly into its arms. And it too embraced him without complaint or resentment.

Jodi

Mark--thanks. But, some questions. First, why is going to the law necessarily an act of avoidance rather than a vehicle for the confrontation, a means by which one confronts what has happened rather than by which one gains a kind of security? Your version gives law quite a lot of power--but why should that be the case? Perhaps law can't do all that. So, I want to suggest that there may be something else at stake other than disburdening, security, and open arms. What about a law that is more uncertain, more opaque? After all, the law does not end up welcoming or securing Althusser--he doesn't get to plead.

old

Nice post. On reading the 'additional passage' I thought of Jesus silence before Pilate.

Jodi

Thanks--I like your reference because it suggests quite a different model of coming or being before the law.

M.Kaplan

why is going to the law necessarily an act of avoidance rather than a vehicle for the confrontation

I don't think it's simply an act of avoidance. I was thinking more that (in a case like Althusser) it might 'avoid' the empty space opened up by the act (of murder), the dizzying 'loss of self'. His own name suddenly appears strange to him etc What the law then does is to fix that name in place, it takes over from him the task of definition, it locates what he has done within the Symbolic - it does all this on his behalf, and as it were selflessly. OUtside the law you wrestle with yourself and pace the floor; the law introduces an implacable clarity.

I also just want to return the question - & this may sound obvious or naive, but why is going to the law necessarily to 'confront what has happened'. Or, to 'confront what you have done' - is this not also the source of immense reassurance. I once talked to a prisoner in Brixton jail who spoke in just these terms.

I'm aware that this isn't really very clear, and may try and say something more over at CS.

Jodi

Mark: I object to this version--

"What the law then does is to fix that name in place, it takes over from him the task of definition, it locates what he has done within the Symbolic - it does all this on his behalf, and as it were selflessly. OUtside the law you wrestle with yourself and pace the floor; the law introduces an implacable clarity."

I don't think law provides implacable clarity, fixity, takes over definition, or necessarily works in behalf of the subject. I think that law can provide a bit of a breathing space from enjoyment, in a way that is necessarily fantastic. But, given that law is in and of language, clarity and fixity are necessarily impossible, there will be confusion, deferment, interpretation, postponement, contestation, negotiation, and perhaps a decision that will introduce its own exclusions.

Confront may be too strong a word, although I think it is an option. Respond is probably the most innocuous and is useful because it opens up a range of possible responses as well as the likelihood that the subject is unaware of why he might go to the law and that the attachment to law need not preclude critique but actually be an opportunity for it.

M.Kaplan

Is the law *especially* ambivalent, open to interpretation, deferred etc or just in the way that *all* things made of language are; and if the latter, then is ‘clarity’ to be found anywhere – is it only to be found in the imaginary, for example? The clarity of the law, for me, would be in its ability to interpellate: ‘You are guilty’ ‘thief’ etc Of course, this isn’t final, but this absence of finality wouldn’t be peculiar to the law.. But perhaps also there is a paradoxical reassurance in the movement of interpretation/ deferral to which you submit, which cannot be ‘in your hands’. Hmm

Actually, many questions come to mind, not necessarily productive ones. I think perhaps the best thing would be for me to go and look at the Butler.

Jodi

I don't want to claim that law is more ambivalent or open to interpretation that other types of discourse, but it may be that because of the violence of law and the claims to objectivity, fairness, and neutrality made for liberal law that its ambivalence is somehow more disturbing--in the wake of such ambivalence the sovereign decides and this has an irreducible irrationality.

Also, interpellation is never clear--for one, we don't know what we are guilty of. The movement of interpretations could be reassuring, as you suggest, or it could provoke anxiety and an urge to install a kind of false certainty. I would think that clarity is imaginary.

bob

"Also, interpellation is never clear--for one, we don't know what we are guilty of"

I don't understand this. There's an obvious sense in which we do know what we're guilty of (murder, theft etc). In Kafka, sure, we don't know, but is Kafka's law the reality of law as such?

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