Occasional snapshots of objects hazily passing through my brain.
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“When we are shown scenes of starving children in Africa, with a call for us to do something to help them, the underlying ideological message is something like: “Don’t think, don’t politicize, forget about the true causes of their poverty, just act, contribute money, so that you will not have to think!”
In a close reading of Marx’s analysis of the commodity-form, Karatani ground the insurmountable persistence of the parallax gap in the “salto mortale” that a product has to accomplish in order to assert itself as a commodity:
The price /of iron expressed in gold/, while on the one hand indicating the amount of labour-time contained in the iron, namely its value, at the same time signifies the pious wish to convert the iron into gold, that is to give the labour-time contained in the iron the form of universal social labour-time. If this transformation fails to take place, then the ton of iron ceases to be not only a commodity but also a product; since it is a commodity only because it is not a use-value for its owner, that is to say his labour is only really labour if it is useful labour for others, and it is useful for him only if it is abstract general labour. It is therefore the task of the iron or of its owner to find that location in the world of commodities where iron attracts gold. But if the sale actually takes place, as we assume in this analysis of simple circulation, then this difficulty, the salto mortale of the commodity, is surmounted. As a result of this alienation — that is its transfer from the person for whom it is a non-use-value to the person for whom it is a use-value - the ton of iron proves to be in fact a use-value and its price is simultaneously realised, and merely imaginary gold is converted into real gold.
This is Karatani’s key Kantian/anti-Hegelian point: the jump by means of which a commodity is sold and thus effectively constituted as commodity is not the result of an immanent self-development of (the concept of) Value, but a “salto mortale” comparable to a Kierkegaardian leap of faith, a temporary fragile “synthesis” between use-value and exchange-value comparable to the Kantian synthesis between sensitivity and understanding: in both cases, the two irreducibly external levels are brought together. For this precise reason, Marx abandoned his original project (discernible in the Grundrisse manuscripts) of “deducing” in a Hegelian way the split between exchange-value and use-value from the very concept of Value: in Capital, the split of these two dimensions, the “dual character of a merchandise,” is the starting point. The synthesis has to rely on an irreducibly external element, as in Kant where being is not a predicate (i.e., cannot be reduced to a conceptual predicate of an entity), or as in Saul Kripke’s Naming and Necessity, in which the reference of a name to an object cannot be grounded in the content of this name, in the properties it designates.
To succumb to the urge to act now and retaliate means precisely to avoid confronting the true dimensions of what occurred .. it means an act whose true aim is to lull us into the secure conviction that nothing has REALLY changed.
As Badiou demonstrated apropos the Stalinist show trials, this violent effort to distill the pure Real from the elusive reality necessarily ends up in its opposite, in the obsession with pure appearance: in the Stalinist universe, the passion of the Real (ruthless enforcement of the Socialist development) thus culminates in ritualistic stagings of a theatrical spectacle in the truth of which no one believes. The key to this reversal resides in the ultimate impossibility to draw a clear distinction between deceptive reality and some firm positive kernel of the Real: every positive bit of reality is a priori suspicious, since (as we know from Lacan) the Real Thing is ultimately another name for the Void. The pursuit of the Real thus equals total annihilation, a (self)destructive fury within which the only way to trace the distinction between the semblance and the Real is, precisely, to STAGE it in a fake spectacle.
Lacan shares with Nietzsche and Freud the idea that justice as equality is founded on envy: the envy of the other who has what we do not have, and who enjoys it. The demand for justice is ultimately the demand that the excessive enjoyment of the other should be curtailed, so that everyone’s access to enjoyment will be equal.
This is an exceptionally clear presentation of a notoriously unclear thinker.
Heidegger still has this trust,… ‘Open yourself to language’, ‘Language speaks through you’. But Lacan’s idea is that, at the most elementary, when language speaks to you, you are tortured; there is radical discordance. … Subject is for Lacan precisely that ‘x’ which is the outcome of this torture.
I … appreciate … Elfriede Jelinek. She had a wonderful, very Lacanian, phrase: we must torture language to make it tell the truth. That is the big topic of her work, language as torturing.