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May 09, 2008


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patrick j. mullins

optimism and pessimism are two aspects of the same distorted common feeling

That's very interesting, but may not always be common, even accounting for different perceptions of distortion. This becomes interesting when one individual use value/exchange value entity interacts with another use/value/exchange value entity (or perhaps, combination). The result is both consonant and dissonant and extremely satisfying.

'what the inverted spectacle returns to us.'

This 'inverted spectacle' is not something that seems all that inverted as such, as far as I can tell, but rather a private continuing of the externalized part.

"Conceptually it's possible to separate the common good from the spectacle that inverts and returns it to us, but only conceptually, not actually.

Actually we encounter our hope for change channeled and manipulated into mainstream political parties and candidates, into commodities and ads and packaged experiences that promise to be different, this time, to be spectacular."

Yes, but they are also the same, this conceptual and this actual. It is like the atheism and the 'God is awesome'. They're both true, because neither is provably false. It seems that one has to choose between one and the other, but that's not certain either.

Really good stuff.


Are you saying that we relate to the spectacle as we would a psychoanalyst, at least in the context of this returning our linguistic nature to us in inverted form? The last sentence of your post especially gives this impression, insofar as we relate to an analyst as a canvas for painting our imaginary relations.


Thanks, Patrick. I agree that it (the feeling) may not be common. I'm only talking here about spectacle. So, blogs posts or branded images or catchy tunes might interact in ways that are consonant and dissonant (and pleasurable) that has nothing to do with this larger common good associated with the spectacle. But maybe you are also saying that there is an affective dimension of spectacle that is also not common?
And this links to the inversion of common good that is returned to us in spectacle? That seems right to me--part of the inversion is the separation, fragmentation, individuation of what is common (in good old Marxist terms--your favorites!--it's the separation from us of our species being; it seems to me that Agamben's linguistic being is the same as species being, but that he doesn't want to say species being because he is also concerned with the 'operations of the anthropomorphic machine').

Your point that it seems as if one must choose but that this choice or situation of choosing may not be certain (actual) is good--I've not thought of the juxatposition around atheism or conceptual/actual like that before but I like it (Paul is a master of this; where I am constantly absolutizing, he is forever ambiguating, repeating the refrain 'why choose?' and resisting all my attempts to posit absolutes).

Joe--isn't Lacan's point that we always gets our messages back to us in inverted forms? that this is not primarily an aspect of the analytic relation but that the analytic relation works in part because of this larger truth?

patrick j. mullins

I think I was musing on the possibility that the spectacle may not always be anything very separated off, but that we have to identify it as such so that we can even talk about it (this is pretty rudimentary, I know), so it's therefore largely a matter of 'big news' that is heard by the largest number of people. Also, 'common' is not meant in the class way (or it is meant that way, because I want to include all aspects of it, but not exclusively) or only in the 'common good' way or only to mean 'commonplace'. When there are exchange value and use value (I'm glad I at least read Kapital, so I can be an amateur...), determined both on two sides (which is what people definitely are often doing, but don't want this emphasizes, although I don't mean that this is nearly always balanced) as fairly in balance--what I mean is, when there is a determination to be sure that there is both a valuing of use value AND of exchange value simultaneously on both sides of something--then sometimes (although not nearly all, and probably not most of the time) there is an odd balance, which is why various sensations of both use value and exchange value could be experienced 'in common' by previously seemingly opposed parties or entities--and these could happen across vast social divides or less wide social divides (or at least that is my experience of this sometimes happening.)

Some of the inverted part of the spectacle might be related to Deleuze's deterritorializations, at least sometimes they might be, atlhough you and Joe are talking about a more lacanian perspective. But this 'not wanting to talk about the linguistic being and species being as the same' due to 'operations of the anthropomorphic machine' is interesting (also possibly suggesting Deleuze, but perhaps so obvious I'm totally off.)



Does refraining from absolutizing necessarily involve refraining from choosing? Couldn't the lack of an absolute in fact be the condition for choosing?


Aidan--that's so weird/funny! I was saying something similar to Paul last night with respect to why I don't think Derrida's critique of Schmitt hits the mark: it's only because the friend/enemy distinction is not absolute that it is a site of/for the political. My point in the comments, though (poorly stated, I admit) has more to do with Paul's ability to accept ambivalence (ala Melanie Klein) and resist the compulsion to choose that the lack of an absolute enables. I, on the other hand, am more likely to choose or decide or adopt a position or draw a line --often just so it can be rejected/contested, just so that an argument/antagonism can clearly emerge.

Patrick, thanks. I need to think about this some more. I'm taken by the idea that spectacle might not be separate, differently put, that there is a problem in presuming the boundaries or self-identity or obvious nature of 'the spectacle.' This is a good point. So, if I decide I like using Agamben on this, I need to be careful--proceeding as if a spectacle were self-evident ignores the ways something is constituted as spectacle and this very constitution will then impact/inflect 'common good'. As I write this I recall a movie I saw in NYC a year or so after 9/11. It was called 9-11 or 11-9 and was a bunch of mini films 9 or 11 minutes long from all over the world, all about 9/11.


I suppose my response (without wanting to labour the point) would be that, to take the above example, to truly choose atheism is in fact to accept radical ambivalence, the lack of an entity that would give a meaning to the terrifying, 'eternal silence of infinite spaces'. In fact, is it possible that not choosing is a way to derive all the comforts of belief without having to commit yourself, in that the acceptance of the possibility of a supreme being (of there being some underlying sense to it all) might do the trick just as well as (if not better than) 'God is awesome'?

I realise this is slightly off topic...

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