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January 22, 2009


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Mehmet Çagatay

Hi Ms. Dean,

This post reminded me perhaps the most recurring arrangement in the TV series "Malcolm in the Middle": While Louis delivers one of her standard tirades to discipline the boys Hal usually repeats her but nevertheless undermines the authoritarian massage whether intentionally with a mischievous wink or unintentionally due to his naturally eccentric attitudes. The presence of Hal adds the dimension of real to the scene and provides access to the jouissance which is thwarted by the pleasure principle, i.e. the principle of sticking to the level of minimum enjoyment to prevent the slightest unpleasant possibility.

The appearance of George Bush, a white American heir of an upper-class family from Texas who carries on his father's occupation, a devoted conservative cowboy who rides on religious moralism and unbridled American patriotism, as the president of the U.S fits in symbolic order such perfectly that although his message indicates the imperative to enjoy everything that is American, a particular way of life, freedom, democracy, etc. etc. yet only functions as a barrier that frustrates any seduction to access to the enjoyment from the content of the message beyond the principle. What is missing is the real element, the wink of an eye or something peculiar that resists to the hypothetical regularity of the symbolic.

On the other hand, the appearance of Barack Hussein Obama from top to toe is almost impossible to fit in the standard image of the leader of a country by anyone who has studied a little bit on American history. Everything about Obama is real that intrudes the symbolic reality. A black man from a Muslim background now delivers a speech by ranting and raving nearly the same the ideological message of his predecessor but there is a big difference: The whole scene is a giant wink of an eye that opens up the access to the full enjoyment of ruling ideology of the ruling class. This is why while words coming from Bush’s mouth are perceived as a terrible pain in the ass, they are now accepted as the sweet melodies complementing the long awaited mass political jamboree.


interesting--but I don't find it convincing; I prefer the view that views the US in terms in the collapse of symbolic efficiency and Bush as the awful little brother (accompanied by the obscene supplement of the evil Cheney) who combines with the Real to the exclusion of the foreclosed symbolic. This is readily apparent in his inability to use language and his repetition of words in order to make them seem/become true. Bush is not a Symbolic figure of respect, but an imaginary figure of competition.

Mehmet Çagatay

I agree with the distance between Obama's words and his word, but I think the effectiveness of this distance does not originate from the gap between signifiers and meanings in the proper symbolic exchange, it is his very existence, from his middle name to the color of his skin, that constructs this distance. Imagine, could we still assume the distance, the professional calm element of political rhetoric if he suddenly decides to talk about racism against black people or if he had modified just one word in his speech and said: "the Allah-given promise that all are equal"?


he gave a major address on race during the campaign...

Commentary has pointed out his difference from other black leaders, particularly Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

I don't think it makes sense to talk about 'his very existence' as if it were discernible in any way other than through the Symbolic (in all its torsions and gaps).

Mehmet Çagatay

"I don't think it makes sense to talk about 'his very existence' as if it were discernible in any way other than through the Symbolic (in all its torsions and gaps)."

Of course, of course, but what I'm saying is, even though everything is filtered by the Symbolic, some fragments of the real always escapes to symbolic exchange which serves as, as Zizek points out, "a kind of pawn guaranteeing its consistency". But know this. For instance, when I was watching one of Zizek’s videos with my brother, without taking any interest in what he says, all of a sudden he asked, "What is his problem with his hands and his nose?" therefore, without the presence any significant fragment of real in his appearance, George Bush lacks the symbolic consistence. Wait a minute, you might be right.

Mehmet Çagatay


"But you know this"... without the presence of"



I think this means I have convinced you? or are the gaps and corrections actually indications of another Real disrupting the possibility that you might be agreeing?

Mehmet Çagatay

I have some difficulties in posting your blog directly, buttons have strangely disappeared, so I'm grappling with proxies now.

What I am convinced so far:

Bush speech contains a psychotic dimension as it lacks the necessary supplement of the real, I mean, the real that returns in another form in the symbolic.

I'm convinced that my argument might be completely trivial since everything that I assume as Real in Obama might not be Real.

I'm convinced that the issue might be the restoration of symbolic efficiency, but not the drive to go beyond the pleasure principle.

Mehmet Çagatay

Sorry I know I've already chattered enough but let me add one thing. Last night I wrote:

"Bush’s speech contains a psychotic dimension as it lacks the necessary supplement of the real, I mean, the real that returns in another form in the symbolic."

It seemed to me this morning that the most likely judgment about my statement is I'm persisting on the idea that there is some other real beyond the symbolic. But, I was referring to Lacan's distinction between the origin of the repressed in neurosis and psychosis.



"There is no gap between himself and his words or his words and the world. He is fully identified with his words, completely certain, with no space for doubts or disagreement. This full identity of words and reality (White Noise) is properly psychotic. "

Sorry Jodi, this is kinda off topic/ish, but, where does this definition show up in Lacan. I am not insinuating that it does not show up, it is just i would like to read more about it.

Is the implication of this take on psychosis that one that does not wholly identify with his words is somehow operating 'normally'.

I am just thinking about a Patrick Bateman type (American Psycho) who is incapable of identifying with his words,(Or, as this post made me wonder, would it be correct to say that he does?) except in his moments of mania.

Would that orientation be accounted for by Lacan in any way? Someone for whom the lack of symbolic efficiency was a constant reminder of the world inability to provide a stable sense of self/identity?

Extremely interesting post, i was just hoping you would clear up this aspect of it for me, as it relates to something i am currently looking at,



Dave--Seminar III, The Psychoses.

The normal subject has doubts, compromises, lies, can tell the difference between person and role, says things she doesn't mean, etc. There are all sorts of ways we use language so that what we say isn't what we mean.

This isn't the case for the psychotic (Lacan says the psychotic cannot come up with new metaphors).

I don't recall enough of the details of American Psycho to say one way or the other. He could just be perverse and trying to institute the law by transgressing it. If he lies all the time, then he recognizes the difference between levels of meaning of words.

On your other question, it's interesting. My inclination (which is likely more Zizekian than Lacanian) is to say that the answer is the analyst who recognizes that the big Other doesn't exist. All the other positions want to deny or compensate for the lack in some way (or, if they are psychotic, lack the lack).

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