The Desire of No Desire

Bosco Sodi

“Accusations of serious criminality, especially alleged sexual wrongdoing, are often their own convictions in the high court of public opinion because the stigma is so severe, and because definitively proving innocence in a disputed sex case often is impossible.”
Community of the Falsely Accused

“It may be that innocent people are being convicted, but we ought to be more worried about the guilty who might get away.”
Sir William Utting
Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Social Work

“Here we have a penal system that was racist in many respects, discriminatory arrests and sentences, conditions of work, modes of punishment. The persistence of the prison as the main form of punishment, with its racist and sexist dimensions, has created this historical continuity between the nineteenth- and early twentieth century convict lease system and the privatized prison business today. While the convict lease system was legally abolished, its structures of exploitation have reemerged in the patterns of privatization, and, more generally, in the wide ranging corporatization of punishment that has produced a prison industrial complex.”
Angela Davis

“Despite the rising rhetoric of humanitarian commitment, human life remains largely outside the protection of the law; so much so that one could easily argue that, even in the context of an increasing juridification of society, no right is more disregarded than the right to life for millions of human beings who are condemned to certain death from starvation, disease and war. “
Roberto Esposito

The recent Kevin Spacey accusations (perhaps more than those against Harvey Weinstein) has seemed to enter public discourse at the moment when a public was seeking distraction from the incomprehensible presidency of Donald Trump (and/or to confuse and mystify the desperate actions of U.S. imperialist aggressions in Africa and the near East). It has also come at a moment when Western, or at least U.S. and U.K. societies have cultivated a narrative that places the bourgeois victim at the forefront of individuality and heroism. And so in the court of public opinion the accusation is taken as true. I have not read a single mainstream article on the Spacey affair (or Weinstein, or Rattner or Louis CK) that even whispers a word of doubt about the *victims* accusation, or timing, or past history. Now this is celebrity gossip on a certain level. In the case of Spacey (an increasingly surreal saga) there are complaints from grown men who say actor touched them inappropriately. And TV networks are dropping scheduled airings of his films as if he had been dropped from historical memory. All of this for a man convicted of nothing. Now I suspect he probably is guilty of many of the accusations, and is guilty as well of being another rich arrogant white male who felt those below him were put there for his amusement and gratification. But, leaping to conclusions is a dangerous practice from a fragile precipice. (Here, just one of hundreds of cases handled by the Innocence Project …. Curious that some accusations, still, disappear overnight. Elie Weisel was accused but that is now just gone. Franco Moretti was, too, but denies it, and there is a quality of truth to the denial. In this climate of trial by twitter or snapchat or facebook, however, the presumption of innocence is a bygone relic it seems.

Harvey Quaytman

Richard Ofshe wrote…” A 1991 survey found not only that 12 percent of clinical members of the American Psychological Association had treated a patient with memories of ritual abuse by these evil cults, but that virtually all of these treating clinicians believed the accounts to be true.”

The recovered memories hysteria was the front edge, in a sense, of reductive cartoon level clinical descriptions of abuse, and of psychoanalysis in general, that has coalesced to manufacture the new identity of victim/survivor. Remember, too, that the military, as with the environment, leads the way: one need only watch Kirby Dick’s documentary The Invisible War. Military rape statistics are staggering. Second only, perhaps, to prison rape.
If rape of either gender occurs in prison, that is a far less appealing topic for tweet movements. I mean the prison population is always going to be invisible to puritan America. The constant placing of young offenders, overwhelmingly black, in general population, at the County level, often for years awaiting trial, is state rape by proxy. This state sanctioned practice — of proxy violence against black and brown offenders, or even just accused offenders, takes place every day in America’s largest city and county correctional facilities. For that is part of a conscious strategy by the punishment apparatus against those accused and awaiting trial — especially is they are suspected of gang affiliation.

However, it is the prosecutorial zeal that exists in contemporary culture that overshadows much of the rest. Richard Webster, during the height of the recovered memories debacles, noted the great satisfaction that many found in confessing to having been abused, and being able to work alongside social workers and other professionals in a battle against evil. It was the manufacturing of a victim/survivor identity (as Richard Beck labeled it). And that alongside the lust for punishment drives the engine of North American culture. The discussion really seems to lead back to several stories; one was of course the recovered memory cases (The McMartin Pre School, etc.) and then the Central Park Five, and perhaps even the Steubenville high school football rape story.

Atul Dodiya

April Levy’s fine New Yorker piece on the latter

“Persona originally means mask and it is through the mask that the individual acquires a role and social identity.”

“According to Loewald, drive, in the late model, is indeterminate at first and comes only to acquire aim and force in the complex interchanges of early lífe, i.e., in relation to the environment. We are held, caressed, cooed at, coddled, fed at the breast, or in close bodily contact and we can also be neglected and cared for in an impersonal way. Later we are encouraged, corralled, admonished, disciplined, screamed at, etc. It is in these experiences that drives are not elicited but formed- we learn what it is to love, to master, to aggress-and their formation coincides with the development of psychic life itself.”
Benjamin Fong

Mircea Suciu

I cannot really have this discussion I don’t think without returning to Freud, and the much contested Death Drive. But not to Freud alone. But to psychoanalysis. Jean Laplanche pointed out that it was after WW1 that Freud came to see mastery of the object as relevant to aggression, and in turn to the binding together of disturbing stimuli altogether. Now, Benjamin Fong in a very good book on Freud (Death and Mastery _ psychoanalytic drive theory and the subject of late capitalism) writes in the introduction that it is in the interests of Capitalism that subjects see diversity and newness rather than the relentless repetitive reproduction of the same. I have had, just recently, a long debate about Freud. There is just something that offends in Freud and this is true on both the right and the left, and certainly in the sphere of today’s clinical psychiatry. All humans share certain drives, but how those drives are formed varies according to the environment in which an individual is brought up. It is also true that all humans are born dependent on the care of some other human.

Paul Burty Havilland, photography. (1910)

“In sum then, drives are formed in relation to the environment, but they are not just formed in any old thing: they appear in mammals with mouths, anuses, and genitals (not to mention opposable thumbs and large brains) that would, without fail, die upon birth were it not for an extended period of infancy in which they are absolutely dependent on their caretakers.”
Benjamin Fong

Now, the death drive is so appealing, to me anyway, because it is directly linked to (and is the engine for, as it were) the compulsive repetitive practices I have seen around me my entire life. The seemingly irrational need to repeat traumatic events. To recreate the worst mistakes and most harmful activities one can find. I think all opiate addicts (the ones that tend to read anyway) find Freud and in particular the Death Drive attractive. It simply feels right. My own adult life has been shaped by this addiction. That means something like half a century. But as Burroughs said somewhere, nothing is quite so boring as heroin addiction. So, I will dispense with any confessional here. Now the repeating of traumatic events also includes or implies, usually, a desire to master them. To fix them, somehow. To discover the release valve and then install it. Freud posited in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (back in 1905) a masculine need to master objects, and that this was part of masculine sexuality. And this in turn with aggressive anal behavior. It was (the hugely neglected) French Lacanian, Piera Aulagnier, who called the Death Drive, the desire of no desire. A term I quite like. Without going into the entire evolution of Freud’s ideas on the death drive (or Nirvana Principle) it is relevant here to look at the specifics of advanced capitalism in this light. The hoarding of wealth, I think, few would really argue, is irrational. Anal eroticism, sphincter control, the sense of shame for the child who cannot *master* his sphincter, are singularly revealing for contemporary America. And Fong notes the child also feels *aesthetically displeasing* when he has soiled him or herself. And this sense of retention and revulsion, the allegory of wealth and saving, of parsimonious piety — is all relevant. It also defers the reflective demands of desire. For what is it, really, that anyone *wants*? An inordinate amount of time and energy is spent today, for the vast majority of people, in avoiding having to think about what they want.

Izis Bidermanas, photography.

A society that sells artificial wants and artificial needs, that markets lust and titillation and sex, that traffics in images of 5 and 6 year old girls in lingerie ( is also a society that has to keep that same topic at arms length, as it were. As Roberto Esposito said of the death drive, but its true in several registers as a symbolic and structural referent…“unable to directly achieve its objective, it is forced to pursue it from the inside out. In so doing, it retains its objective in the horizon of meaning of its opposite: it can prolong life, but only by continuously giving it a taste of death.” Capitalism, or advanced capitalism, is constantly at work in various kinds of bait and switch mechanisms during the development of the psyche, and most of these continue on into adulthood in slightly altered form. One of the things it is clear that Lacan grasped from his earliest writings on psychoanalysis, was that in the mirror phase, there was built into misrecognition, a kind of dopleganger or echo affect. What was happening was also being undone, even as it happened. But I will return to that more below.

Merlin Carpenter

“Our psychological analyses lead us the deeper into a social sense the more they abstain from any reference to obvious and rational socio-economic factors. We will rediscover the social element at the very bottom of our psychological categories, though not by prematurely bringing into play economic and sociological surface causations where we have to deal with the unconscious, which is related to society in a much more indirect and complicated way”

The above quote is a favorite of mine. That much of the left, and the Soviets, sadly, rejected the very idea of the unconscious, suggests more about misreading Marx than it does, even, misreading Freud — mostly because they didn’t read Freud, essentially. But the point is that vulgar Marxist critiques have surfaced more of late on the left. And they coincide, oddly, with a growing antisemitism of the left. And this is suggestive of several things, but for the purpose of this posting, is is relevant because this revanchist scapegoating (driven by the return of Lyndon Larouche style anarcho libertarians, and a few pseduo leftish types) speaks to an exhaustion of dialectical thinking altogether. The simple causations, not just of sociological stripe, but trans disciplinary, are the endgame for positivism. And those simple formulas are inherently reactionary.

Johannes Vermeer (1665).

One of the issues that is raised regarding Freud is the complaint that he was suggesting something transhistorical, but was really only critiquing bourgeois consciousness in the early 20th century. Now, the problem is that Freud was investigating a bourgeoisie that was already psychically disintegrating. (and Fong notes Jessica Benjamin’s theory of the end of internalization – the erosion of the Oedipal complex because of the end of paternal authority. This was Benjamin’s way of depoliticizing both Freudian theory, and in particular Adorno and Horkheimer). It was largely Russell Jacoby’s take, that the later neo Freudian revisionists were elevating the study of an ego that was mostly no longer in existence. But either way there is nothing that precludes certain transhistorical truths even when our psychic make up is derived, mostly, from the forces and conditions into which we are born. The Vermeer painting here is a favorite of mine. For it captures something of this woman that makes it a work of genius (or whatever word you want) and not simply well crafted technique. Something we, four hundred years later, recognize. Although I suspect that recognition is weaker today. But the point here is how these questions relate to both the Death Drive, and to the seemingly irrational state of Western society today. And how is it that over four hundred years later one can see what Vermeer saw in this young woman.

Now Adorno and Horkheimer both saw *mimesis* as crucial in understanding culture. And they also saw that advanced capitalism worked to deaden the subject’s experience of Nature. It was a mimesis of death. And Fong is very good in explaining this I think.

“The subjective mind which disintegrates the spiritualization of nature masters spiritless nature only by imitating its rigidity.” In other words, the subject mimics the deadening imposed on the world by its own struggle for survival. Since, however, it is imitating its own projection, this “mimesis of death” is an antimimetic mimesis, an expression of mimesis that generates narcissism, insulating the subject further and further from any real encounter with the object.”

Ron Davis

Of course, the weakened ego of today is not exactly weak. It is rather (per Fong again via Loewald) *rigid*. For there is no strengthening that can restore its vitality. The loss of dynamic is irreversible in that sense. And Lacan saw in this loss of tension in the ego the channel or pathway to unbridled aggression. The mass media today, certainly as it exists in Hollywood product, is now manufacturing images of purely fascist deadness. This is precisely why TV and film from Hollywood is now so distressing to watch. For the human is mostly erased. That recognition one had with Vermeer, for example, is replaced with something that short circuits the normal mimetic procedure. A mimetic experience of that which is not recognized as even alive means these moving images, of violence and estranged dead sexuality, are scanned, read, and not experienced. Sexuality is then, in the West, increasingly invested in as one invests in the stock market. It is not only the monetizing of sexual relations, but more the calculus of prediction and return, of emotional yield. Or, rather, the facsimile of emotion. And driving some aspect of this, and its an open question how much, is a repetitive cul de sac of the unresponsive. One of the problems of not knowing what you want is that really, you do know what you DON’T want. You don’t want what you are being seduced to have. The age of marketing has slid into the selling of a kind of necrophilia of self. And that anal sadistic quality of male sexuality is intensified and valorized. If one goes back to watershed Hollywood neo fascist stuff, like Dirty Harry or Rambo, the camera caressing the weaponry at the expense, partially, of the human; today the caressing of the dead object is all there is. I wrote last time on the obsessive aspect of forensic crime scenes. It is the sacrifice of human emotion for voyeuristic necrophilia. But is more than that, actually.

Wily Ronis, photography.

But let me return for a moment to Freud and the Frankfurt School. What has changed, I think, in the last sixty years, is that the culture industry is no longer providing ersatz satisfaction and escape. It is now more unconscious, in a sense. The desire to escape is closer now to the desire to escape the desire to escape. The Desire of no desire. Alongside this is an internalizing of Hollywood image and story, however truncated the stories, that is no longer in some way interpretive. Fong says the culture industry gives the audience the ability to not be themselves. And that the rigid ego is particularly grateful for the chance to not be itself. And so far so good, but under contemporary conditions in the West, the choices the subject makes for escape, or for losing oneself, or the idea of wanting to escape this intolerable desire TO escape, are never make actionable. A very military word, that. In other words, as Fong says, the current electronic media apparatus is stubbornly adhering to the status quo regardless of content. Everything is made into the same thing. Ideas, choices, likes or dislikes, purchases…it is all distressingly the same experience.

Fong discussing the weakened ego writes…

“…it makes much more sense to describe this loss as superego weakness (keeping in mind again that the superego is not understood here as a father sublimate): the superego fails to provide the ego with the tension of a real adversary, becoming much more like a motivational coach who only castigates the ego for failing to live up to preestablished norms.”

Douglas Eynon

Paul Ricoeur’s book on Freud devotes one very cogent chapter to the Death Drive. And for Ricoeur the important aspect is the desire of the psyche – or organism – to conserve. That repetition is linked, indeed, to mastery, but this in turn is expressed in obsessive needs for perfection (etc). Ricoeur also notes how Freud used the term *mute* to describe the death drive. That life, that Eros, speaks. Death does not.

“Death works in silence.”
Paul Ricoeur

Jimmie Akesson, Swedish Democrats.

But there is a paradox here, for under advanced capitalism there seem to be a whole host of strategies to avoid silence. Sleep deprivation is one (see Jonathan Crary’s book 24-7). The entire electronic industry seem bent on making everything make a sound. Now there is clear aggression in this, but it is also the system, the imposition of noise on the underclass. The very wealthy, the ruling class if you like, can afford quiet. I am no longer sure they take advantage of that privilege, but for the working poor there is only incessant noise. The discipling of the masses includes noise pollution. And there is discussion to be had about technology in general and the invention of gratuitous sound. And nothing is as morbid as the noise of Capitalism. So, there is a quality of purification to Thanatos. The cleansing dimension of conservancy. Ricoeur also notes that there must be a relation between the super ego and destructiveness that is independent of anything erotic. This aside strikes me as very valuable and no doubt true. And if the withering or weakening of the super ego is tied in with the rigid or weak ego, then destructiveness and sadism are now inscribed in ways indelible to change.

Jose Maria Sicilia

The rise of fascism, again, in Europe, has a quality of both vacancy, psychologically, and a hyper violence potentially. The violence, or hyper violence would be a natural outgrowth of the petrification of desire — that the desire for escaping from the anxieties of escape, of temporarily *losing oneself* accounts for the strange anodyne look to many of Europe’s new leaders. The new far right party in Germany (the AfD…or, the Alternative for Germany….called the alternative for dumb) is led by strangely bland men, as is the FrP in Norway, a sort of diluted party of xenphopbia, and the Swedish Democrats in Sweden. There is an almost neurasthenic quality, a childish fetal edge to these spread sheet fascists. Macron in France is like this, too. A Ken doll trotted out to sell toothpaste. That blandness, that undercooked look, is tied in with a lack of maturity. The psychic child begins to resemble a child physically.

“I have made sense of this theory of psychic transformation in claiming that a) Eros’s sway over the superego is weakened by the direct death drive gratification provided by the products of the culture industry and b) Thanatos’s claim on the superego is strengthened by the aggressive sublimation involved in technological advance..”
Benjamin Fong

Doug Dubois, photography.

Capitalism administers society in the image of its own rigidity. Big Pharma, and electronic media dovetail to form the apparatus of psychic submission. And here is where the return of Puritan zeal is taking its form in adaptive strategies often called *heroic*. The celebrity scandals around Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, and now a dozen others feel somehow mediated by class obedience, perhaps paradoxically. There are no au pairs or maids, no female factory workers complaining. And the level of abuse, sexual and otherwise, they absorb is most certainly far greater than actresses.

“The species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything that ever before existed in the world; our contemporaries will find no prototype of it in their memories. I seek in vain for an expression that will accurately convey the whole of the idea I have formed of it; the old words despotism and tyranny are inappropriate: the thing itself is new. . . . The first thing that strikes the observer is an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure their petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. . . . Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. The power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep
them in perpetual childhood.”

A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Vol. 2.

“As one former friend and colleague once wrote, “I know you never did any of these things, but when I think of what it was you were accused of, I have to ask myself how well I really know you.” That is the power of accusation—it provokes such fears in those who hear the charges that, as Joseph Goebbels well understood, they will distance themselves from the accused rather than risk the possibility of supporting someone who might be guilty.”
Dr. Janice Harper

Maria Lassnig

Tocqueville wrote that in the late 19th century. Americans as children. Now, a final return to the Death Drive per se. Lacan was the thinker who most reclaimed the death drive (though Melanie Klein also did, albeit in a slightly mediated and abbreviated form). For Lacan saw that the Mother, the caregiver, the one for whom the infant looks for union, and gratification, will eventually morph into the *other* who is experienced as menace, as the engulfing force that threatens autonomy. The source of dread. The death drive projected outward is then recognized. It is imitated — and here several tentacles come together. Mimesis and projection, but also the desire to reduce others to nothingness. Or rather, to reduce others with whom the subject identifies, even if mistakenly, to eliminate the independence of the other. Fong suggests (and here he is discussing Lacan) that to achieve this reduction of the outside threat, the subject, the rigid ego-self, the subject internalizes that dread of which it is so dwarfed and terrified, even. The mechanisms activated here have the sum end result of distancing the subject from the world. Everything becomes a kind reduction (and the cooking metaphor actually seems appropriate).

“The role of institutionalized “ethics” as an instrument for ratifying coercion as care is especially important in psychiatric ethics, many authorities in the field appealing to their own or to society’s “moral intuition” as a guide to professional conduct.”
Thomas Szasz

Vilhelm Hammershoi

The issue is not whether the parent is, indeed, aggressive, but that the child will reach a phase where it is experienced as such. The societal factor is what changes at this intersection. In late Capitalism the rigidity of the ego, in this case the caregiver, confirms or ratifies the child’s fear. For there is no community bond to mitigate an absent of disfigured caregiver. There is only rivalry and competition. The looming botoxed face of Mother and the steroidal mutation of Dad. Freud hinted, at the end of Civilization and Its Discontents, that the death instinct, or death drive, denied affirmation. It was *no* when there should be,logically, a *yes*. Negation, then. Ricoeur notes…“Thus we meet with an unexpected result, there exists a negativity that does not belong to the instincts but defines consciousness; conjointly with time, motor control, and the reality principle.”

The contemporary lust for punishment is embedded in a matrix of compulsive obsessive masturbatory technologies — addictive and serving to remove qualities of realness and substance from others, and from the world. Hence the punishment is even less satisfactory than usual. The scapegoating mechanism is becoming incidental because there is so social cohesion to re-stitch together. In Lacanian terms, perhaps, the symbolic is less able to depict the tensions of reality.

Paul Fägerskiöld

The actual violence of the world is simply psychologically managed, the better to allow for internalizing the narcissistic projections of a childish emotional make up. A weak or rigid ego focuses on its carefully contained projections; projections which return to the subject in order to be dealt with punitively — a punishment that desires not anguish or suffering, but nothingness. The culture of managed perception insists it not know real violence, of which it materially benefits, but better only a theatrical morality play at the heart of which are symbols of screen escape. The desire to escape the desire to escape finds Harvey Weinstein. Finds Kevin Spacey. They are google material icons. They are not part of the life of the subject, except as they exist in the contained landscape of moral policing.


  1. Well as one of the people I think you’re saying Freud “offends” (it’s not exactly how I would put my dispute with Freud), I find this discussion very interesting but evading the basic assertions that can and must be contested (and is this is your position, defended) in Freud (Freud in particular, as opposed to anyone concerned about human psychology, Saint Augustine or Mme Guyon or Confuscius or Maimonides); nobody contests that one can observe in adults a lot of self destructive behaviour, or that addiction is common. But addiction is more not-present in our species in its history than present. There is a lot of self destructiveness that is new and must be new because the species could not have survived to civilization, in conditions of great and frequent scarcity and small numbers, had these behaviours characterized our species for the first million years of its existence. These matter for the determination of whether Freud’s explanations for these observable behaviours (the wholly unexplained, merely give drives, and the wholly unexplained psychic capacity to repress them) are plausible or not.

    “The hoarding of wealth, I think, few would really argue, is irrational.” What could irrational here mean (if what is meant is the rationality deplored by Adorno, that would result in a paradox, as the irrational would be the generous and playful, so hoarding wealth would be selfless magnanimity. The rationality attributed to the divinely infused universe by Descartes would render another sense, etc) Freud seems to assume a late-arriving bourgeois common sense sort of rationality (post Benthamite utilitarian), but how then can hoarding wealth be irrational if the drives are as Freud says they are, and hoarding wealth, which presupposes a certain degree of control of others that is necessary for this hoarding to be practicable, is the best way to increase control of everyone around you (hoarding wealth, denying others access to wealth, fencing the well means everyone else has to obey you in order to get water like at the end of Sahara )? In any case hoarding wealth in women is both the evolutionary and the social advantage for men par excellence. The (form and content of the) rationality this violates isn’t obvious, it has to be stipulated. (We recall what Marcuse makes of the fact that Freud in an apparently neurotic determination declares that desire or need for money is never operating unconsciously because its not a childhood wish.) It seems to me people are often defending Freud by saying but look the sicknesses he wanted to cure were very real. Nobody disputes this. Everyone sees these phenomena he set out to cure. Freud had a very specific explanation for them, which was offered as a scientific explanation (Freud is now often loved just for offering descriptions that are fruitful for a certain kind of art making or discussion of films rather than with the alleviation of psychic pain), and which has to be evaluated scientifically. It’s true that Freudian psychoanalysis — which is very rare now but still performed — has cured some neurotics. I don’t think there is any record of successes at all with psychosis. The persistence of self destructive behaviours in humanity is not a proof of the existence of a inborn death drive and the psychic mechanism of repression that moulds its expressions; no progress has been made by Freudians in scientific description of the drives or the psyche’s capacities. The proofs are often tautological. The whole thing begins with a Benthamite rationality (the puzzle is, why do people repeatedly do things that give themselves pain and reduce their social determined measures of “success”? And the answer is, there’s something some force some demon iinborn that we can saying nothing about concretely, have no idea what its made out of or how it works, but its a kind of force and agent, drives them to do it, by driving toward death through various obstacles erected by other functions of the psyche. And how do we know this is the cause? Well look, so many people are neurotically self destructive! The illness’ manifestations itself is offered as proof of the highly speculative (and traditional in many ways, as the force of the devil in human motives is long established) explanation for it.

    Marx famously said that the ruling class universalizes its self interest. And in Freud we can see a case of it also universalizing its mishigas. Its peculiar psyche becomes the eternal psyche, of our species, or even of all mammals, just offered in this same gesture of mastery that it is supposedly explaining (one is forced to accept an hypothesis as a fact, reality itself is expropriated as if it were the result of a controlled experiment and submitted as proof). The neuroses of the imperial males in their unstable competitive and sadistic hierarchy are read as the nature of organic matter itself (a criticism Marx wisely advanced against Darwin, who found whiggish British society with its ruthless individual competition embedded in nature). Things like this: “For Lacan saw that the Mother, the caregiver, the one for whom the infant looks for union, and gratification, will eventually morph into the *other* who is experienced as menace, as the engulfing force that threatens autonomy. The source of dread. The death drive projected outward is then recognized.” are universalizing the perceptions of a dominant minority that arise as post-facto interpretations (and not much more reliable than recovered memories of satanic ritual whether before the Inquisition or the tabloids)

  2. I mean the Freudian and Lacanian view of this is imputing to infants a form of hyperindividualist egoist idealism, a ab ovo neurotic idealism, and insisting they don’t think/feel/experience dialectically and materially, when the very fact of the survival of the sexually reproduced species, wholly dependent in lengthy infancy, for so long suggests we must

  3. John Steppling says:

    Its always hard to argue freud with you because you so willfully misread him. And misunderstand him, and I often wonder if this is intentional. You are after all a defender of Voloshin. So, Im not going to repeat the previous debate. Id love if others cared to debate these questions, but I wonder if they will. Anwyay…working down…yes there is a lot of addictive behavior that is new. Didnt i say that? Look, the entire point, which seems to have been missed, is that conditions and environment shape drives. Aspects are transhistorical. Much is not. But they interact.

    Hoarding. Adorno is speaking of something else re: rationality (which again I suspect you know). The idea of the hoarding of wealth is irrational. Yes, but lets lay out what should have been given. Excrementa are the first savings, as it were. The constipated child saves his biological wealth and such traits, learned, and a first step toward developing an economic mentality. “It is inherent in the money complex to attribute to what is not food the virtues of what belong to food”. (Norman O Brown). I dont understand at all the rest of your comments. But one of the problems here is that you conflate contexts. We arent speaking of descartes, for example, and i fail to even remotely understand the relevance of that aside. But onward….so no there is no paradox. You simply have to try to not confuse categories I think.

    The death drive is not an explanation of aggression. Im not sure how many times this has to be explained to you. But then I just wrote an entire 4000 plus words about this and its as if you didnt read it because you want to repeat ad nauseam the same confused complaint. But its interesting that the final retort is always there is no scientific evidence. Indeed.


    Look, one does wonder, Freudianly speaking, why you bother to argue what you consider patently false. I mean again, you consider Voloshin the final word on the unconscious as i recall. So, what drives this? Who are you writing to? Its like a PSA on your part? But what is irritating is much of this has been answered (no freud doesnt think its his eternal psyche. Nobody, not Freud, not me, suggests eternal statis. Jung does to some extent, but even he is misread I think. The lacan quote is hardly universalizing anything. I dont know how to explain to someone who refuses to listen, how to read this stuff. You may disagree and clearly do…fine. Im sure another reading of Voloshin is well worth your time. But you cant say oh this is the universalziing of a dominant minority. But fine….duly noted. You consider this all on the level of satanic ritual. Understood.

  4. John Steppling says:


    “I mean the Freudian and Lacanian view of this is imputing to infants a form of hyperindividualist egoist idealism, ”

    no its not.

    the second part I dont understand. (at all).

  5. Freud’s hypothesis about the death instinct:

  6. One of my comments vanished: which was to say this is what the psychoanalytic power play is for: to say you can only contest any hypothesis of Freud’s if you are a neurotic lunatic. You’re dismissing all my arguments that I share with masses of serious people with the gesture that it has to be some neurosis making me intolerant of Freud’s genius.

    Like my refusal to accept that money=shit and therefore hoarding money must be just a repetition of infantile haording shit. Actually money isn’t shit, it has myriad real uses, hoarding it has myriad real effects, all accessible to human judgement, and they can’t be dismissed as merely a neurotic repetition. Adults typically don’t hoard shit unless it can be turned into money like in Our Mutual Friend , Here is a perfect example of the flimsiness and absurdity of this kind of explanation of human behaviour, and the insistence on portraying adults as kind of helplessly determined zombies animated by infantile experience (or classical greek experience, this cohering very well with the bogus philological determinisms of Nietzsche and Heidegger). One has to get serious about defining rationality, no, if ever claiming to judge anything as contrary to it? Certainly there is a consensus that hoarding shit would be irrational except in the case of manure or other utility where the shit can be capitalized, but that hoarding wealth is not irrational and is not simply a pathological substitute form of shithoarding but an entirely different and meaningful adult social practise.

  7. Oops I mean I am here responding to the charge of mindlessness and neurosis, that I am “offended” by Freud, implicitly because he cuts too close to some hidden something or other, I’m not sure. So obviously it is rational and indeed almost a duty for me to try to clarify why this is not a legitimate response, and there’s nothing infantile and neurotic and inherently sick about evaluating Freud’s hypotheses. And yes in fact the death instinct is proposed as an explanation for specific phenomena of the psyche and behaviour. Its not just a nickname Freud decides to give to the fact of organisms’ death, but part of a theory of why people act as we do and suffer as we do.

  8. Psychoanalysis’ assertions regarding infantile development, taking for example what is above described as a subjective bourgeois experience — the experience of the mother as source of nourishment and, then, as persecutor — in fact take as their root the natural physical and psychical development of the infant. The development of empathy and ambivalence relates to the growth of teeth and, with them, the capacity to inflict pain. The growing consciousness of one’s own shit, etc. These are experiences of huge intensity of which the infant has only a certain, albeit growing capacity to make sense. To say that the growing separation from the maternal breast, and the realisation of mother’s being-in-the-world for other people as well as the infant, is experienced viscerally by said infant, is hardly imputing bourgeois adult psychology unto him or her. In fact it forms the basis of an analysis which takes the human psyche as a ‘de facto’ social production. It is coherent with and complementary to materialist analysis of a broader kind.

  9. I raised Volosinov because he made key observations to which all the most popular 20th century critiques of Freud, including Lacan’s which you (usually) seem to accept as both in fact valid and not an instance of Lacan’s necessarily pathological refusal to recognize Freud’s omniscience, trace. My view is Volosinov is really insightful about media and psyche, but he didn’t have the pretensions to advancing medical psychiatry that freud and lacan did, and his hypotheses are much more modest and for this reason alone have weathered advances in the physical sciences better.

  10. John Steppling says:

    Oisin’s comment is pretty pertinent. But I think Molly, since you simply reject the entirety of psychoanalysis, there isnt much point is going round and round AGAIN. Ive written a lot on this, and you are going to reject even the most basic discussion of Freudian and psychoanalytic theory, and so what point is there to try to figure out what you are saying here. Beyond , as I say, rejecting all of it. You have a clear hostility to this topic and that’s duly noted. We are so far apart then more discussion seems pointless.

  11. Molly Klein says:

    A lot of Freud proposals about widespread female lack of self knowledge and unreliability represent his rationalizations of his thoroughly commercial decision to insist that his patients who were being molested by fathers were really their own victimized fantasizing about incest. The degree of irrationality and delusion he ended attributing to everyone derives from this professional need to find a way to acquit the Viennese bourgeoisie of widespread child abuse. His theories werent created in an historical vaccuum. The methods of peofessional, class, gender power deployment Freud used to persuade his patients they had merely fantasized sex with their fathers have become standards of psychological manipulation

  12. Molly Klein says:

    I don’t have a hostility, I’m fascinating by freud’s success and very happy to discuss it. It seems that you are hostile to the content of my remarks and in Freudian fashion want to pathologize them .

  13. Molly Klein says:

    Oisin what Freud does is transform the non trauma of mother infant relations and universal infantile experience (as per silenus in sophocles’ oedipus, it’s being born that’s the real problem) into the true original trauma that all further trauma merely repeats to render all political solutions to human suffering pointless (there is no ground for the assumption that this relation of separation is traumatizing and that the development of teeth, which most mammals develop, in humans has these psychic consequences: the fact of the repressive function, of the ego instincts against the sex instincts, is what freud attributes psychic malaises to, not the mere having mammalian bodies. He doesn’t suggest cats are also neurotic, despite their teeth and mothers, it’s only the rational animal)

  14. Molly Klein says:

    The *reasoning* that Freud’s accounts assume the infant produces (the Oedipus process requires baby’s first syllogism) is a mysterious precausal event. The infantile consciousness which is assigning meanings and symbols to experience of plenitude and frustration is implausibly advanced and informed (it requires no social gender for example, it invents gender based on observed maternal capacities and castration from scratch with deduction); a great deal of social convention is conveniently located in inborn data requiring only recognitions. The ego fascinates readers less than the id and the non conscious (though Freud has been mainly shifted from medicine to pop philosophy, he is often read like fiction or belle lettrelistic criticism), so the mysterious activity of its capacities in advance of their creation in stages is the object of suspended disbelief. It is so normalized, this egoistic infant whose primary impulse is exclusive possession, for whom Mother Other Woman is accessed as a concept in advance of all concepts, that people really find it impossible to imagine infancy without this preprogrammed form of property, even though we all actually had one.

  15. John Steppling says:

    you will not bait me into another round of this. You can admit your hostile, its fine. Nobody is pathologizing your remarks. I just think its obvious where you stand. And Im unbelievably tired of this discussion. Speaking of repetition. !!

  16. Hobb Beckett says:

    “I read recently that we are living in a Tucker Max culture. Mr. Max, bro icon, was the author of libidinal epics like “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell” that sold millions of copies by celebrating cruelty and a total lack of concern for women’s humanity. But Mr. Max eventually realized that his casual, unthinking misogyny was destroying him and everyone he loved. He undertook a substantial course of classic Freudian analysis in an attempt to become a decent man. I can only wish we were living in a Tucker Max culture. That is the culture we desperately need.”

    The Unexamined Brutality of the Male Libido – Stephen Marche – NOV. 25, 2017

    Is that the culture we desperately need?

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