Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Logic of Discourse and the Logic of the Market

“Within the new paradigm, the paradigm of the object plus-de-jouir, the object becomes something that can be calculated, evaluated. It does not follow the logics of love, but the logics of the market.” --Lieve Billiet

At the very moment that Lacan begins to speak about the logic of discourse, he is also speaking of an economics of jouissance. One only need realize that Lacanian structuralism and economics are the same thing. Every discourse-structure is a mode of production. Markets are situated in relation to the real—they are the means by which, through various contingencies and instantiations, the real stops not writing itself. They are enjoyment in its pure, raw state of impossibility, from which a surplus of enjoyment may be extracted as plus-de-jouir (Mehrlust).

“Modern societies are marked by the raising to the social zenith of the object a, the absolutization of the market (everything can be bought or sold), the disjunction of knowledge and power. In this context, the analytic discourse is no longer the reverse of the dominating discourse.”

This is fundamentally correct. As Lacan claims in ‘La psychanalyse dans sa reference au rapport sexuel,’ there is a correlation—not an opposition—between the age of capitalism and the extension of analytic discourse.

Capitalism has nothing to do with ‘greed’ in the pejorative sense, and is not even essentially about money, which after all is only a number assigned to a value. The denunciation of capitalist greed is an archaism, taking the discursive form of the hysteric criticizing the moral failures of the master, when in fact there are no masters of capitalism. The essence of capitalism is rather enjoyment—enjoyment in its movement from impossibility to contingency.

The second session of Seminar 16 must be read on this matter. When Lacan refers to Marx, he refers to Marx as the structuralist and the economist. We must be very careful, however, in being too quick to affirm the Marxian labour theory of value. There is no doubt that labour-markets, for instance the labour-markets in developing countries, are used to produce surplus-value. But labour-markets are not the only kind of markets, and the essence of the market is not necessarily exploitation. Rather, the essence of the market is the impossibility, or as Lacan says, the renunciation of jouissance. Lacan remarks that the malaise of civilization is that surplus enjoyment is only obtained through the renunciation of enjoyment. Enjoyment doesn’t stop not writing itself, but once in awhile, under certain conditions, it stops not writing itself—the former is the precondition of the latter.

In the capitalist’s discourse, knowledge is in the place of enjoyment (S2 in the upper right-hand corner of structure). This is reflected in the fact that the majority of wealth in the world-economy today takes the form of intellectual property. There is a strange kind of satisfaction enclosed in trademarks or other such intangible assets. The very intangibility of knowledge-satisfaction is what leads Lacan to assert that, like the sexual rapport, there is no such thing as intellectual property. Yet although such intangibility is by definition non-monetary, Lacan does claim that knowledge, at the extreme, is what is called ‘the price’—it is worth money, and more and more money, insofar as it produces—it is the price of renunciation of jouissance. Deals are made in this manner in the world of mergers and acquisitions today: certain things are given up and cut down, but a profit is expected. This does not necessarily imply exploitation of labour, although there are countless examples where exploitation is the mechanism. It is not a question of exploitation but one of failure of jouissance, and failure of jouissance is not unique to capitalism nor is it something that can be overcome.

The problem of capitalism is that it is not the subject that enjoys. In capitalism the subject is dominant and in the place of desire, but it is knowledge itself that enjoys. This is one crucial point of distinction between the capitalist’s discourse and analytic discourse. In analytic discourse the subject enters the place of impossible enjoyment, the place of the real. This occurs at the moment when knowledge becomes unconscious and enters the place of truth. The fundamental question, then, is one of what steps can be taken to effectuate this movement of knowledge out of the real into truth—out of impossibility into possibility.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lacan and Modality

By the time of his 19th seminar, Lacan started to associate the four places of discourse with four logical quantifications of "'the phallic function," as can be seen below:

For instance, the place of agency in discourse structure is here associated with the expression "there is one that is not subject to the phallic function" or "there is one that says 'no' to castration." Below it the place of truth is associated with the fact that "all are subject to the law of castration." In the place of production in the bottom-right corner "not all are subject to the law of castration," and above it "there is not one who says 'no' to castration." I won't go into detail on these expressions at this point.

Lacan associates the four positions further with the four traditional modal categories of the necessary, the possible, the impossible and the contingent. These are carved out through the function of "the written" (l'ecrit): the necessary marks that which "doesn't stop writing itself," the impossible that which "doesn't stop not writing itself," the contingent that which "stops not writing itself," and the possible that which "stops writing itself." The specific modalities linked to each of the four corners can be seen in Lacan's schema below:

Readers of Lacan will be most familiar with the category of the impossible as applied to the real: "the real is the impossible." This expression must be taken in a technical sense, as in for example the logical conjunction of a term with its denial. That is only one corner, however. I won't elaborate, as for now I am just laying groundwork. I only wish to note at this point that the superimposition of these four modal categories with the permutations of discourse will yield some very interesting results.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Lacan's Four-place Structures

Lacan's mathemes circulate through structures of discourse. Usually referred to as 'the four discourses,' although Lacan has also written a fifth, these structures are based on a fundamental framework. There are four corners to each structure, which I will sometimes refer to here as the places of discourse:

The analyst's discourse is centred in the middle here, but it is only one of the possible discourse-structures. Of importance here are the four places of semblance (semblant), truth (verité), jouissance, and surplus-jouissance (plus-en-jouir). These are by no means the only associations that Lacan makes with each position.

The top-left corner of semblance is dominant in each structure: every discourse is based a on semblance. This position is associated with agency, desire, commandment, as well as other things.

The bottom-left corner is the truth of the structure is question, 'propping-up' the discourse and the semblance it is based upon. Lacan's general comments on truth apply here: for one thing, it can only be half-said, and thus this position can be associated with a kind of split. Lacan's aphorism that "truth has the structure of fiction" also sheds light on the relationship between the place of truth and the place of semblance insofar as the former subtends the latter.

In the top-right corner we find the place of jouissance, sometimes translated in English as 'enjoyment.' It is also the place of the Other, and we can see from the left-to-right arrow how all discourse aims at an Other (as well as at jouissance). When Lacan applies his discourses to the political/economic sphere, he refers to this position as the 'means of production' that the agency of the discourse commands; or, more generally, as work. There is also a sense in which this position is that of the real, which I intend to explore in later posts.

The bottom-right corner of the plus-en-jouir, finally, is the position of surplus, remainder, or production of jouissance in some form or other. In a sense, every discourse-structure can be seen as a mode of production.

Generally speaking, each of these positions links in some way to every other, except for the bottom two. The separation between the bottom-right and bottom-left corner constitutes a fundamental gap in the structure of discourse.

What comes to fill these four positions? Four little letters, in various permutations: $, a, S1, S2. Their turning from one place to another consitutes a shift of discourse. The specific discourses that Lacan writes can be seen below:

I think that this initial primer will be sufficient for now. This will be a fundamental starting-point.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Sense and Reference

There can be no doubt that one of the key terms of Lacanian psychoanalysis is that of the phallus. It is not often clear, however, how we are to approach this term in its structural functionality. In his 18th seminar, Lacan clarifies one possible approach through a remark on the German title of his 1958 essay, 'The Signification of the Phallus':

"I insist that 'Die Bedeutung des Phallus' is in reality a pleonasm. In language, there is no other Bedeutung than that of the phallus" (1971/06/09).

'Bedeutung' means reference. I suggest here that this category should be treated in as technical a manner as possible, in the tradition of Frege's distinction between sense and reference. This initial analysis can take us a long way, and I want to affirm it as one starting point.

Jacques-Alain Miller ('The Symptom: Knowledge, Meaning and the Real') has already taken such an approach, associating sense with the matheme S2 whereas reference is tied to the matheme S1 (the master-signifier, homologous to the phallic signifier):

For now, I will only go as far to say that this framework gives us a great deal to work with, particularly since these two terms are manipulable through the permutations of the four discourses. The possibility of a rigourous logical analysis of the Lacanian orientation is at hand, informed by a logical analysis of language.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Introductions II -- The Short Session

I don't intend to elaborate too much here unless required. I intend to be concise in a manner proportionate to each comment's internal leverage. OK, let's begin.

Introductions I

I am Bobo, a reader of Lacan named Bobo whose body I intend to eat and drink here as Bobo, and digest--reader's digest. Readers-Lacan digest, all quotes from Lacan unless otherwise noted. At times, where no such quotes provided, I will go so far as to eat Bobo all on my own. Jouis!