i liked her better as a Habermasian

Last week, jane dark and Jodi Dean exchanged notes on poetics, arguing about the extent to which words in a poem function by conveying information. Their cross-talk was thought-provoking in a lot of ways, though I think dark clearly had the best of the  debate – and it seems Dean herself concedes that now – with the argument summed up nicely here:

The appropriate averral here would probably have been a simple repetition of Wittgenstein’s now-familiar admonition, “‘Do not forget that a poem, even though it is composed in the language of information, is not used in the language-game of giving information.” The doubt around Zizek’s account is that it finally treats of symbolic efficiency within the terms of giving information, even if that information is allowed its ambiguity, mutability, elasticity and so forth.

But Dean still worries that there is some kind of political danger involved in such an understanding of meaning. She writes:

And then politics: can it evade information? can the political be conceived strictly in terms of noise? Zizek’s wager is that the Real appears in the torsions and gaps of the symbolic. Again, this is where I get confused: in the wake of the decline of symbolic efficiency, the Real and the imaginary collapse together; there is a kind of soupy muck of Real and imaginary violence interpenetrating each other, immune to critique and interpretation, or critique and interpretation become just more knots of excess and volence. The Real, then, is made to appear. It’s appearing, or its being made to appear, is what is lost, resistant to politicization and challenge.

Well, Dean can drop this dilemma any time she likes just  by ceasing to  insist on a separation of what Zizek calls the Real  – a kind of ineffable, metaphysical truth – and the imaginary – the world of surfaces – and acknowledge that everything we can comment on in a politically (or not) useful sense has to be represented through some “imaginary” order. If such a Real order exists its exactly the type of thing about which, to go back to Wittgenstein, we must remain silent.  What appears in “torsions and gaps in the symbolic” are just reworkings of the symbolic.

When she asks if the political can be conceived “strictly in terms of noise”, the answer is yes, insofar as “noise” is taken to mean representation that bears no relation to the order of the Real. Politicization and challenge take place, but they are only achieve resolution in terms imminent, constructed, contingent , whatever – any resources for political practice fall under the broad category that Zizek calls “the imaginary.” There’s really nothing of political importance to Zizek’s Lacanian distinctions of order – Real, imaginary, and symbolic – and Dean might as well let it go. The model of politcs she worked with in her Solidarity of Strangers didn’t need such a typology, for example.


~ by staticandme on February 8, 2009.

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