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Title: The Ideology of Opposition and Identity:
Critique of Lacan's Theory of the Mirror-stage in Childhood
Author: Anthony Wilden
Excerpt: from System and Structure (1972)
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The Ideology of Opposition and Identity:
Critique of Lacan's Theory of the Mirror-stage in Childhood
Classical Political Economy nearly touches the true relation of things, without, however, consciously formulating it. This it cannot do so long as it sticks in its bourgeois skin.
On reading Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks (1952), one finds a number of references to Lacan and to the Lacanian school, and especially to the mirror-stage. J.-J. Goux (1968, 1969) has attempted to use the imaginary relationship between ego's and the 'symbolic function' of the phallus, in Marxist exchange theory (cf. Chapter I X), and Lacan's 1949 article on the mirror-stage has appeared in a British journal, The New Left Review (1 968), as did an article on Lacan by Louis Althusser.
But the theory of the mirror-stage cannot be lightly used in any critical sociological or economic theory, because it depends on a set of psychoanalytical values which are non-critical and anti-contextual. It is replete with Hegelianism; it is phallocentric; it is based on the equivalent of a 'human condition' which is then used to support the theory of the 'splitting of the subject' criticized in Chapter XVI; and it smells of the graveyard: the existential anguish of individual being-for-death. It is in fact tinged with the same ideological and personal dangers as those brought out in my analysis of Freud's theory of paranoia in Chapter X: it is aesthetically simple; it serves an unstated ideological function; and it invites identification on the part of the 'alienated' intellectual, on the one hand, or on that of his 'integrated' counterpart, on the other.
It is therefore of some importance to outline the theory and its sources, and to assay its deficiencies so as to indicate how it can be used in a critical theory of communication and exchange without its contributing unknown or unrecognized oppressive factors to the theory. We must of course recognize that, as the psychological source of the Imaginary commodity relationships between human beings under capitalism, the mirror-stage cannot be wished away, it must be dealt with.
2. The 'Mirror-stage'
Tuer la fortune d'un homme,
c'est quelquefois pis que de le tuer lui-meme.
Between the ages of six and eighteen months, the child who sees himself in a mirror demonstrates a rather particular kind of fascination with his own image. Lacan describes the child's relationship to his double in the mirror as that of an identification. It produces a transformation in the child's relationship to his 'self', which Lacan relates to the psychoanalytical theory of the imago (Jung). The child joyfully "takes on" his specular image; for Lacan, this represents the first stage of the emergence of the I, preceding that in which the child will objectify his I by an identification with a particular other (in the Imaginary) and preceding that in which his learning to speak will provide him the possibility of subjectivity in the linguistic sense. The specular identification is with the ideal ego - one of the avatars of Freud's later conception of the superego.
This primary identification is the root of all others. Thus the ego is constituted in the Imaginary before any significant 'socialization' has occurred. Since the child's motor functions are far from being coordinated at this age, what he sees as his double is the total gestalt of a body which he has not so far experienced as a totality: "This Gestalt is pregnant with correspondences which unite the I to the statue towards which man projects himself" (p. 95). Lacan goes on to discuss the role of the body image, as a double or reversed mirror-image, in hallucinations, dreams, and phantasies.
He then introduces zoological evidence to support this conception of the role of the image of the other in maturation. (2 )There is a question, he says, of "homeomorphic identification", on the one hand, and of mimesis conceived of as "heteromorphic identification", on the other. The latter poses the problem of the "signification of space for the living organism", and mimesis cannot, he says, be "ridiculously" reduced to the supposed "master law of adaptation" (p. 96). The "insidious capturing effect" (captation) of the specular image on the child is an indication of an "organic insufficiency". It is somehow related to the premature birth of all children, in the sense that considerable neurophysiological developments continue to take place after birth, notably the development of the cortex, which Freud tried to link to the development of the ego. (And which is sometimes referred to as the cortical mirror.) Thus the image in the mirror - or that of another person - presents to the child at this period an anticipated form of maturation which he has not as yet achieved. The image is consequently the locus of a relation of "primordial discord": the child's sense of his body as an uncoordinated aggregate is matched against an image of unity or harmony, whether in the mirror or in other people (p. 96).
This "discordance" between the child as an organism and his Umwelt is part of a process of development which Lacan describes as involving periods of the "stagnation of the forms of the ego" (moi). These stagnated forms give rise to "the most common structure of human knowledge". This structure is that which constitutes the ego and its objects in such a way that they can be characterized by attributes of "permanence, identity, and substantiality", which effectively make both ego and objects into (entities or 'things' (cf. Chapter VIII)). But these constituted structures are 'out of step', as it were, with the gestalts of the child's actual lived experience, which is governed by "animal desire" (p. 111). In a sense, the child is 'falling over himself' in front of his own image. According to Lacan, it is this "fixation of forms" which introduces a certain "rupture" into man's relationship with the world. It is consequently the condition which "indefinitely extends man's world and his power", and it confers on man's objects, "their instrumental polyvalency and their symbolic polyphony", as well as their potential as "armament" (ibid.). All human knowledge therefore begins as formally or structurally equivalent to "paranoid knowledge" (Ia connaissance paranoyaque), since each stage of the development of the ego represents a stage of "objectifying identification", similar to that in paranoia. (3)
The mirror-stage represents a sort of "structural crossroads" in which the "conflictual tension internal to the subject crystallizes" in the form of the ego. It is an erotic relation in which the human individual "fixes on himself an image which alienates him from himself". The mirror-stage provides the "energy" and the "form" in which the "passionate organization" which will be called the ego finds its origin (p. 113). Or, in the Hegelian vocabulary affected by Lacan at this period: "The subject identifies himself in his sentiment-of-Self with the image of the other, and ... the image of the other comes to captivate and master that sentiment in him" (p. 181).
3.Sartre's Transcendence of the Ego
Man exists only in so far as he is opposed.
Thus the stade du miroir is an alienation of the subject. One assumes that when he wrote these lines, Lacan had read with care Sartre's early phenomenological essay, The Transcendenceof the Ego (1936-7), or at least that he was very well acquainted with Sartre's Being and Nothingness (1943) and his Anti-Semite and Jew (1946). Sartre makes a distinction between the I and the me in the early essay (pp. 43-60): "The I is the ego as the unity of actions. The me is the ego as the unity of states and of qualities." These categories of the I and me later become the pour-soi (nothingness, existence, desire, project) and the en-soi (being, essence, self as past, the alienation of the pour-soi). In spite of their foundations in a theory of non-intersubjective consciousness, (5) the Sartrean categories have lost little of their relevance as relational metaphors: "The me is given as an object [of consciousness]" and remains unknown to us unless we look at it as other (pp. 86-7).6 "The ego is not the real totality of consciousness ... but the ideal unity of all the states and actions" (ibid.), for the ego is "by nature fugitive" (p. 89). Sartre goes on to discuss the "degradations" and "refractions" of the I in real life: ". . . The body and body-images can consummate the total degradation of the concrete I of reflection [the transcendent or psychically intuited ego] to the level of the 'I-concept'." The body may consequently serve as the "illusory fulfillment" of the I (my emphasis). One assumes from these passages that Sartre may also have read Wallon's article (1931) on the child.
In a later work Sartre deals with the alienation of the ego in the terms of anti-Semitism. He speaks of the "longing for impenetrability" of certain people. They do not wish to change:
What frightens them is not the content of truth, of which they have no conception, but the form itself of truth, which is of an indefinite approximation. It is as if their own existence were in continual suspension. But they wish to exist all at once and right away (Sartre, 1946: 18, 19, my emphasis).
4. Being and Madness
Lacan's description of the splitting of the ego from Being (p. 187) matches rather precisely the Sartrean description of alienation. Lacan defines the paradox of man as "the madness by which man believes he is man" (p. 187) (i.e., by which he believes he is the territory of his own map). In this paradox appears the "fundamental illusion" to which man is enslaved - and, far more enslaved to it than to all the "Cartesian passions of the body". This illusion is the passion to be a man, which is "the passion of the soul par excellence" or in other words, the passion of narcissism. "Narcissis sim poses its structure on all of man's desires, be they the most sublime" (p. 188).
The ego is a locus of formation, information, and deformation. The identification involved is not only "the global assimilation of a structure", but also "the virtual assimilation of the development which that structure implies for an undifferentiated state" (i.e., the child) (pp. 88-9). This development is lived like a "temporal dialectic" which "projects the formation of the individual into the plan of history". The mirror-stage is a drama whose "internal force" is a precipitation of "insufficiency into anticipation". For the subject, who is caught in the trap of the "spatial identification" with another, it not only "machines" the fantasy of "the image of the body in bits and pieces" (corps morceld), but also that of the body as a totality, which has an "orthopedic" value. Precipitated from insufficiency to anticipation, the subject then takes on "the armor of an alienating identity", whose rigid structure will thenceforth mark his whole mental development.
Thus Lacan's analysis of this "passionate organization" called the ego, not only extends and elaborates the Sartrean existential analysis of psychosocial alienation, but grounds it in human development an-d in the Freudian terms of narcissism and identification. But Lacan's analysis also depends on the existential anguish of being-for-death. Lacan describes the genetic passage from the mirror-stage to the actual identification with an alter ego or counterpart, as that which dates the beginning of the paranoid alienation which is constituted when the "specular ego" becomes the "social ego". This movement marks that at which "all of human knowledge" (savoir) falls under the law of "mediation by the desire of the other" (p. 98). (Cf. Kojve, 1947: Chapter I.) This narcissistic process is linked to the Freudian death instinct, through the supposed opposition between the "sexual instincts" and the "destructive instincts".
In other words there is no social dimension to the foundation of the Imaginary, and it is ruled by death rather than by life. Consequently Lacan's critique of Sartre (pp. 93, 99) does not in fact greatly distinguish his premisses from those of existentialism, by which Lacan has been far more influenced than is usually admitted. Everything he says here about the "folly of being man" is in effect a commentary on the well-known passage in the last pages of Being and Nothingness (1943: 608):
Every human reality (human being) is a passion in that he projects the loss of himself in order to found being. He projects his own loss in order to constitute, by the very same act, that in-itself which escapes contingent existence because it is its own ground: the ens causa sui which religion calls God. Thus the passion of man is the reverse of the passion of Christ, for man loses himself in order that God may come to life. But the idea of God is contradictory, and we lose ourselves in vain: L'homme est une passion inutile.
(The idea 'of God' is in fact paradoxical rather than contradictory, for He is the locus of a double bind.)
5. Death and Narcissism: The Solipsist and the Salauds
Lacan elsewhere describes the narcissistic relationship as the first implicit experience of death (Lacan, 1953b). The pure duality of the discordance of the Imaginary engenders a 'tearing apart' (dichirement, in the Hegelian sense), or an 'abandonment' (dereliction: Heidegger's Verlassenheit), as at the origin of the 'human condition'. The anticipation of a future 'coming to realization' is like death, for in order to realize his 'identity', the subject has to take over his own mature functions in the world, on his own account, and escape the Imaginary situation of being the alienated witness of the acts of his own ego. (This is in fact how Freud describes the splitting of the subject in psychosis: Standard Edition, XXIV, 201-4.) Death, says Lacan, is the fourth element in the Oedipal relationship (which is usually conceived of as three-way). According to Lacan, the real father in our contemporary social system is most often a discordant, deficient, or humiliated father (Claudel), who is incapable of sustaining his symbolic function as the Other who is the locus of the law (the prohibition of incest). Consequently, the oedipal relation is more often pathogenic than normalizing in its effects. The family is thus pregnant with narcissism, rivalry, jealousy, and Imaginary identifications or doubles. If one interprets the imaginary relationship as a Hegelian struggle for recognition (Kojve, 1947), as Lacan does, then one understands that the "struggle for pure prestige" in the Imaginary cannot depend on any kind of real death. It is in effect dependent on an implicit or unconscious pact between the participants: that they shall both survive, for one cannot be recognized alone. The dialectic must depend therefore on imagined death, and this is the form of death that Lacan believes to be the significant mediating factor in all narcissistic relationships (relationships between ego's) and in neurosis. (8) No Hegelian reciprocal recognition is therefore supposed, although the asymptotic goal of reconciliation remains latent in the relationship. Thenceforth the subject's "original, intrapsychic rivalry with himself", discovered in the discord of the mirror-stage, is projected into the "aggressive interpsychic triad" of self, other, and mediating object which is described by the Hegelian theory of desire (p. 113). ('Intrapsychic' is, of course, hardly the correct term to describe the child's relation to his environment, but the preceding essays should make it unnecessary to go into detailed criticisms here.) In keeping with the lack of a socioeconomic dimension in his work, Lacan recalls at this point the metaphysical principles of Love and Strife, and remarks on the supposed "cosmic polarity of the male and female principles". This polarity, he says, is abolished by the "battle of the sexes" in contemporary society (pp. 121-2). (Cf. Chapter X.)
Metaphysical anguish over death, like psychoanalysis in itself, is a middle-class or aristocratic intellectual luxury. One need hardly mention Montaigne or Zeno on the theme of death, or the existential hero, who represents for the twentieth century the Hegelian and schizoid 'unhappy consciousness' - which results from the internalization of the master-slave dialectic by consciousness on its journey towards Absolute Knowledge. (In the sense that the Hegelian Phenomenology is a history of literature, Montaigne could presumably represent the sceptic consciousness, Pascal, the unhappy consciousness, and Rousseau, the antecedent of the romantic 'noble soul'.) The existential heroes are still with us. The Roquentin of Sartre's La Nausde, Stendhal's 'outsider', Julien Sorel (discovered 'after the event' by existentialist critics), Kafka's 'creature' in The Burrow, Dostoevsky's Underground Man, Beckett's absurd tramps, Camus's Sisyphus - and so on - continue to fulfill their function in the rationalization of socioeconomic alienation, especially as they continue to be represented by all whose moral alienation and impotence encourages them to identify with such 'romantic solipsists': to identify with them, for and against the salauds who re-present themselves:
The ultimate signification of the 'project', according to Being and Nothingness (1943), is the desire to be god. God is in any case defined as a projection of the Other.... In Being and Nothingness the Other who is desired is a tree, a stone, a statue, a tragic mask. In Nausea (1938), the despised salaud is a tree, a stone, a statue, a grotesque mask (Girard, 1965a: 426, 441).
In this "theology of the Ego", in this " 'Jansenism' of the anti-hero",(9) says Girard, every desire is, in the last analysis, "a desire for the obstacle be cause it is a desire for the sacred". Roquentin is the opposite of the heroes of Sartre's youth, "and this opposite is a same who is blind to his sameness"
Proust's Mareel is another, perhaps more striking, twentieth century representative of the morbid narcissism of self-alienation:
The idea of death installed itself definitely in me like an amour.... But, after I had reflected on death from time to time as if she were a woman that I no longer loved, now the thought of death came to adhere so completely to the deepest level of my brain that I could not pay attention to any particular thing without that thing first traversing the idea of death.... The idea of death kept me company as incessantly as the idea of the self [moi].... [I realized that] at the time I became like one half-dead .... this great mirror of the mind was reflecting a new reality (1913-27: III, 1042-3).
Except for Svevo's hero, who is remarkably Proustian anyway, one could hardly find a better example of Lacan's 'imagined and imaginary death'.
But whereas a simple, uncritical, human sympathy and empathy might make one receptive to the 'security operations' of these writers, or to their commentators (such as Lacan), an equally simple understanding of the social function of the discourse of science forbids us to fall into the imaginary trap offered here. We cannot accept an invitation to identify man-and-womankind - and therefore ourselves - with the false consciousness of the academic, psychological, and literary 'false selves' (subjective or objective) of those who earn their livelihood in the production and distribution of the ideal commodities of the dominant ideology (Marx and Engels, 1845-6: 60-1). We see nothing less in this than another resurgence of the anarchistic -individualistic traits represented in the nineteenth century by the young Hegelians - characteristics which are particularly conservative of bourgeois morality, if in displaced and 'denegated' forms. (10)
6. The Confusion of the Symbolic with the Real: Science and Theology
The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. Frederick Douglass
In his promotion of the digital oppositions of phonemes and the uncertain status of the digital subject as shifter in his speech, Lacan seems to confuse the Symbolic with its alienation as a form of commodity exchange (Chapter IX). There seems to be a characteristic confusion of the structure of the Symbolic (difference) with its superstructure or content ('irreducible oppositions') (Chapter XVI, Sections 4 and 5). Thus Lacan either actually identifies the Symbolic with its Imaginary representation by the dominant ideology of digital identity and opposition, or else he implies that this is the state of affairs for modern man and woman. And since this ideology is a statement about the relationships in the material life of human beings, we discover that, like the so-called schizophrenic, our culture effectively confuses the Symbolic with the Real: (11)
For the bourgeois, it is so much the easier to prove on the basis of his language, the identity of the commercial and the individual, or even universal, human relations, since this language itself is a product of the bourgeoisie and therefore in actuality, as in language, the relations of buying and selling have been made the basis of all others (Marx and Engels, 1845-6: 249).
We can put this point another way: Lacan's statement that "there is no dialogue" betrays a particular definition of the Symbolic (language) which is peculiar to our culture. It reveals in fact a quest for communion - and a misunderstanding of communication - in terms all too similar to Sartre's description of the quest for the ens causa sui, or to the existential hero's desire for the obstacle. I have already pointed out the theological, rather than human, character of the principle of the Other in Lacan. Both death and being will remain equally theologized so long as the model of the dialogue is language in its digital, analytic, aspects, because it is through these categories that death and being can be reified. Lacan's psychoanalysis is not dialectical; it is epigenetic. As such, it is itself founded on analytical reason and deprived of any way of transcending itself by reference to the material context of death and being: the analog.
In other words, whatever may be said about the signifier as difference in the Lacanian theory, it is always implicitly conceived in the terms of absolute difference, i.e., as (Imaginary) opposition, rather than in the terms of simple digital distinction. We do not therefore discover the categories of Symbolic (digital) exchange value in Lacan, but solely those of Imaginary (digital) exchange (called the Symbolic). This is, of course, a metaphor of the actual alienation of exchange value in the Real. Moreover, since - according to the implicit values of the theory - both signifier and subject must be named in order to signify, the category of the Symbolic exchange of (analog) use value is entirely missing from the model.
If meaning is reduced to naming in this way, then all linguistic categories become theological categories. After all, the characteristics of God in our culture are, on the one hand, that he cannot be named, and, on the other, that he is the only being capable of saying "I am who I am". This is how Lacan describes the Other's locus in the Symbolic (Wilden, 1968a: 271). Consequently, the trap opened up for the subject in the Lacanian theory is precisely that of the institutionalized legalism of the Judeo-Christian culture itself: The Father is the only Being identical to himself. Is the Son therefore either identical to or similar to the Father? But the Father says: "You must (but you may not) be I, who am what I am." The rationalistic and legalistic categories of rcification which underlie the theory thus remain a simple representation of the double bind of the theological discourse itself. This is the inevitable result of defining all dialogue in the terms of language alone, rather than also in terms of the labor of relation.
The theological discourse is a metaphor of the scientific discourse: as a system of communication and exchange which seeks to discover the Word of God in Nature, through the digitalization of the Real and through the myth of 'pure' digital knowledge, the scientific discourse alienates itself in the reification of the lost object. The myth of 'objectivity' necessarily generates bad faith, accompanied by a necessary guilt - after all, even those trapped in the discourse of science are nevertheless human beings, what-
ever their behavioral values may manifestly represent. This filial guilt resulting from one's inadequately representing the Truth of the Word in one's productions, is a manifestation of the researcher's own reification in the competetive quest for Truth. Truth is represented by the myth of science as unmotivated and not subject to the relations of rivalry and desire. But so long as Truth continues to represent a vehicle of status rather than the 'quest for life itself', the fleeting improvised men of academia remain trapped in the oedipal relation of the 'enemy brothers' of Sophocles' Antigone, destroying each other in a battle of pure prestige for the Father's inheritance. But Antigone's absolutism is, of course, no solution. (In retrospect, the political message of Anouilh's 'modernization' of the play during the German occupation of France has been reduced to one more representation of the existential hero in his - her - solipsistic martyrdom. Martyrdom is a fine symbolic business - if it has political ends.)
Thus, according to the Lacanian theory, because the dominant ideology is one of the reification and the entification of human beings as objects of Imaginary exchange, the dominant category of linguistic signification - that of the human function which becomes an 'identity', a Name - drives the subject, already reified in the Real, to alienate himself in the Word. But language - through and because of its essence as relation - necessarily refuses all such possibilities of an actual linguistic reification to the subject, who is consequently lost in his pathological attempts to correlate and iden-
tify all the possible maps with all the possible territories in human existence. Lacan was quite correct in saying in 1953 that the Symbolic (language) cannot actually be reified, and that reification (or psychosis) confuses the Symbolic with the Real (Wilden, 1968a: 124). But so long as, in a real worldof oppressive relations, the question of subjectivity is necessarily posedfor the individual - rather than for the collective - then the subject'squest for identity will remain a quest for a justification of his aliena-
tion: a quest for a name in an Imaginary discourse, an empty word.
Thecategory of naming as reification in our culture is not to be confused with the essential category of taxonomy in human thought. Classification requires denomination, but the classificatory categories of la science du concret in "untamed thought" (Levi-Strauss, 1962a, 1962b) do not name entities; they name relations. But it is precisely this epistemological confusion which betrays the utopianism of structuralism as a defense against real alienation. In transplanting the categories of a symbolic discourse (concrete science) into an Imaginary one ('abstract' science, ideology) by a process of reducing the first to the second, the structuralist 'law of relation' reveals its social function: that of concealing the categories of real responsibility and punctuation in socioeconomic communication. In other words, it is through this reductionist confusion of logical typing that logical typing is denied. The punctuation of categories in our society is not a one-dimensional question of linguistic syntax; it is a multidimensional economic question.
So long as one approaches the Lacanian text from an extra-psychoanalytic perspective, there is much of value in that text. I believe that we can separate what is valuable in it from the oppressive ideology which accompanies the text, just as we can separate Freud from his bioenergetic models and from his oppression of his followers, or Marx from his inability to transcend in his personal life the categories of nineteenth-century racism (e.g., Hyman, 1959: 142). But this requires us to remain intransigently critical about those overriding characteristics of the Lacanian perspective which reveal it to be a classical theory of political economy which cannot get out of its bourgeois skin.
Other readers may perhaps find themselves more sympathetic to the Lacanian text as a whole than I find myself to be. If so, however, they should perhaps ask themselves about the form of exploitative violence represented by Lacan's style, to say nothing of its manifest elitism. I have said elsewhere that the Ecrits represent an ensemble of double binds directed at the reader. But there is nothing 'benevolent' about them. The reader has not simply to follow Lacan's directions to "put himself into the text" in order to understand it (at the analog level). If he is to escape his own ideological self-alienation, and if he is to break the chain of aggressivity which Lacan's text invites him to turn upon those who 'don't know' - as I have repeatedly seen done by those using Lacan's work - then he must be able to transcend that text as the locus of the Other as violence.
No text which retains the characteristic of a mystery religion or of a secret society can ever be trusted. So long as the High Priests are the only ones who can read and write, or who can interpret the sacred texts, or who can read the messages of auguries and dreams, the people at large will be forced to trust in the 'leadership' of those whose values can never be the values of humanity at large.
The supposed expertise in 'reading the secret hearts of human beings' which our society confers on the psychoanalyst makes him a particularly dangerous culture hero. In a culture of the expert like our own, there are few people who, whereas they revere the 'scientist', are not in fact afraid of the analysts - and they, in turn, are afraid of themselves. Their expertise is illusory. One must reply to the constantly unspoken question behind this fear: No, Virginia, he cannot read your secret thoughts the way you once thought your parents did. There is no Santa Claus (cf. Lacan, cited in M.Mannoni, 1970: 195, footnote).
So long as the discourse of science continues to represent the Word of God who is dead but does not know it, and so long as we use that discourse as a protective image which we more or less successfully place between ourselves and our own 'finitude', no transcendence of the values of that discourse is possible. Our own finitude is not, however, our own individual death, as Heidegger or Lacan would put it, but rather the objective necessities of closure at the digital level of a human 'discourse' which is in fact collectively open at each and every level to restructuring.
In a word, we must be able to transcend a discourse in which paradox is insoluble in order to deal with a discourse in which paradox is inescapable, and therefore essential. A rule which is universal and to which there are no imaginable exceptions ceases by that fact to be a rule (Whorf).
7. One Way Out
Unlike Lacan, Marx fully understands the values - if not the processes - of symbolic communication and exchange in the 'cool' culture, and without any trace of a utopian desire for the lost object. For Marx, exchange is the major agent of the evolution of "human individualization" (Marx, 1857-8: 96. Cf. Chapter IX). And, he says, in a particularly eloquent passage, when we peel away the narrow bourgeois form of "production as the aim of man" and the bourgeois form of "wealth as the aim of production" (as distinct from the "ancient conception" of "man as the aim of production"), we can ask a new question:
What is wealth, if not the universality of needs, capacities, enjoyments, productive powers, etc., of individuals produced in universal exchange?
What is this, in fact, "if not a situation where man does not reproduce himself in any determined form, but produces his totality?" (pp. 84-5).
In the face of repressive material and spiritual alienation, the intellectual may well decide to choose to oscillate between the paradoxical injunctions of the Imaginary - to lose himself in the endless Kierkegaardian circles of repetition, unable to choose either the either or the or, always in mortal fear of his mastery, constantly seeking recognition, lost in the objectification of his own individualism, 'sick unto death' in his narcissistic anguish. Or he may decide to take the way out offered by the example of Marx, the way of political and personal growth, of morphogenesis, of constant evolution, the way of critical metacommunication. It is probably more likely, however, that he will alienate himself in the impossible lost object of his illusory quest for 'pure knowledge' - for all knowledge comes with dirt under the fingernails - or subsume his alienation in the Dostoevskian underground, in Kafka's courtrooms, or in his Skinner boxes and his pages of equations, in his 'consultations', in his mortgage, and in his 'service to the university'. He may indeed take the path Zeno took, for whom the most important decisions have to do with cigarettes, for whom the lived time of human experience is an unbearable responsibility, and who endlessly repeats his voyeur-sadistic relation to the rest of humanity from whom he has been severed by his own parasitism.
But, on the other hand, he may take the pathway of higher logical type offered by someone like Frantz Fanon, as in his eloquent appeal to Symbolic unity over and above Imaginary identity and schizoid opposition. Since the settler defines the colonized person as an absolute evil, says Fanon, then the colonisd can only begin his redefinition (his repunctuation) of the relationship by similarly defining the settler. The relation is, however, a Manichean one only for the colonialist - and for his representation by liberal newsmen in the mother country - for it is the coloniser who is in fact responsible for the violence of the colonized. The necessary reaction against the settler's violence generates the collective labor relationship through which the colonized's communication surpasses in logical typing that of the atomistic and individualistic colonialist. In the struggle for liberation, the colonized comes to transcend the original violence of the coloniser. Thus for the colonized person, life can only spring up again out of the rotting corpse of the settler.... It so happens that for the colonized people ... violence, because it constitutes their only work, invests their characters with positive and creative qualities. The practice of violence binds them together as a whole, since each individual forms a violent link in the great chain, a part of the great organism of violence which has surged forth in reaction to the violence of the coloniser in the beginning. The groups reciprocally recognize each other and the future nation is already indivisible (1961: 93, translation modified).
But how long does it take for the intellectual to learn that he too - if more on a spiritual than on the material plane - is a victim of (internalized) colonial oppression? (12)
8. Master and Slave in Context
We know from the study of other cultures that the particular form of the master-slave dialectic posited as 'at the origins' by Lacan is a socioeconomic, rather than a purely psychological process. But we nevertheless have to recognize its actual existence and function. If we want fully to understand the controlling functions of this principle of 'divide and rule' in contemporary society - the real existence of this form of the societal manipulation of learned insecurity - then Lacan's analysis of it in the terms of the Imaginary is essential. However, Lacan has never drawn the logical consequences of his own theory in this respect, as his phallocentrism and his virulent attacks on his own ex-disciples (e.g., Laplanche and Pontalis) amply demonstrate. And the lack of a contextual reference in many of those beholden to the Hegelian-Freudian perspective is rather unfortunately demonstrated in a very bad book by 0. Mannoni (1950) on colonization. (Mannoni, now a member of the l'ecole Freudienne, lived for some time in Madagascar before its independence.) In reading Fanon's remarkably restrained critique of this text, one sees Mannoni seeking to reduce all real socioeconomic and psychosocial relationships to psychological equality and Imaginary identity. (Cf. also my remarks on Ellul's Propaganda in Chapter XIV.) Mannoni has since moved to a 'white-liberal' position (1969), but the work continues to exist as an example of the mispunctuation of context or relationship (it 'arrived' in the U.S. in 1964). Fanon's remarks turn out to fit rather precisely my own critique of closure, of one-dimensionality, of the way analytic reason is used in the scientific discourse, and of the imperialism of the 'professional' who illegitimately extends his knowledge of part of the field to the field as a whole (Introduction).
After making the necessary corrections to Mannoni's absurd statements to the effect that only a psychological approach can properly analyze the colonial situation; that because white laborers in South Africa are as racist as the managers, racism cannot be the result of economics; that colonial exploitation and racism are different from 'other' forms of exploitation and racism; that "European civilization and its best representatives are not responsible for colonial racism"; and that France is one of the least racist of all countries;(13) Fanon summarizes:
After having sealed the Malagasy into his own customs, after having evolved a unilateral analysis of his view of the world, after having described the Malagasy within a closed circle, after having noted that the Malagasy has a dependency relation toward his ancestors ... 0. Mannoni, in defiance of all objectivity, applies his conclusions to a bilateral totality - deliberately ignoring the fact that since the [French subjugation of the island], the Malagasy has ceased to exist (1952: 94, my emphasis).
If it were not that on any university campus, in the mass media, and in social science, one is regularly faced with similar examples of class- and race-bound vested interest masquerading as science, it would hardly seem necessary to refer to such an obviously racist book. Fanon knows only too well the double bind of the people of color under white oppression: turn white or disappear (p. 100). But Mannoni interprets the Malagasy's behavior as the result of an innate "dependency complex". Replies Fanon: "What Mr. Mannoni has forgotten is that the Malagasy alone no longer exists; he has forgotten that the Malagasy exists with the European" (pp. 96-7). Fanon then turns to Mannoni's interpretations of Malagasy dreams - nearly all dreams of terror - and insists that they must be restored to their proper time and place: and the time is a period in which thousands upon thousands of Malagasy were massacred; the place, an island where Third World troops from other French colonies, imbued with white racist attitudes (there are no others under colonialism and neocolonialism), not only make up the army, but the police torturers as well (pp. 104-6).
" THE RIFLE OF THE SENEGALESE SOLDIER IS NOT A PENIS, BUT A GENUINE RIFLE, MODEL LEBEL 1916."
9. The Violence of the Reduction of the Cultural to the Ontological
The Imaginary is the domain of the 'either/or' - and therefore of the double bind (Chapters IV and V). In 1956, in an unpublished seminar (M. Mannoni, 1970: 68, note 1), Lacan spoke of the "ambiguous echo", constantly felt by the subject, of the "relation of exclusion" set up by the master-slave relationship in the Imaginary. The subject will always fear that the 'other' who has conceded an 'ego' to him will take back his mastery. This schizoid relation to the other is a metaphor of the subject's relation to himself. The ego, as a product of Freud's 'reality principle' - or rather, I would say, of Marcuse's far more relevant 'performance principle' (1955) - is said to be necessarily a "function of mastery". Thus the master and the slave are both 'outside' and 'inside': "Every purely Imaginary equilibrium or balance with the other is always marked by a fundamental instability."
I would suggest, however, that Fanon's version of the relation, in which the colonial master 'frees' the slave in order to put him to work, is a more accurate depiction of the real situation of the oppressed in relation to the violence of the system in which the slave - woman, man, child - must perform. Elsewhere Lacan compares the situation of the Imaginary subject to the Hegelian 'noble soul' - who appears elsewhere as Laing's 'disembodied' false self (1960) - but Lacan takes a position which is the oppo-
site of Laing's. Lacan describes every manifestation of the ego as "compounded equally of good intentions and bad faith". The usual "idealistic or revolutionary protest against the chaos of the world" only betrays, "inversely, the very way in which he who has a part to play in it manages to survive". However psychologically true of some people this may be - of the negative bourgeois, for instance (cf. Mitchell, 1971: 27) - the members of Fanon's 'wretched of the earth' might find this recapitulation of Hegel's 'law of the heart' - which reduces all real situations of oppression to paranoid relationships in which "the persecutors are identical with the (once-loved) images of the ego-ideal" (Lacan 1953b: 13) - entirely typical of the way the 'objectivity' of the discourse of science almost invariably turns out to be a renewed attack on the oppressed and a justification of the oppressor.
According to Lacan, the question of the subject's existence is posed for him "in the discourse of the Other" (the unconscious), not only as the simple anxiety (at the level of the ego) that is described by the term 'instability' above, but more profoundly as a question about his status in the "unconscious discourse": "What am I there?" (Lacan, 1966: 549). Lacan replies that the subject is represented in the conscious discourse by a signifier (a shifter), which allows him to "identify himself" in language by "losing himself in it like an object" (Lacan, 1953b: 11; Wilden 1968a: 63). I have already criticized this proposition from an epistemological point of view (Chapter XVI). At the level of the primal repression, however, according to Lacan, the subject is represented by a missing signifier, by a signifier which is lacking. This definition, which seems to say only that the primary process cannot say '1' - as the domain of the analog, it is I-in-relation-to-the-others - is, of course, related by Lacan to the Symbolic value of castration as a lack, and to the phallus as what represents that lack in the Symbolic order.
The question "What am I there?" is said by Lacan to concern two primordial questions: sex identity and "contingency in being" (cf. the quotation from Sartre on the contingency of the pour-soi, in Section 3 above). These two questions "conjugate their mystery and bind it to the symbols of procreation and death" - which presumably include Eros and Thanatos, at one level, and, at another level, the phallus and the Other (or the dead father) (Lacan, 1966: 549). Since it is language - the locus of the Other -
which is responsible for the "synchronic precedence of the signifier over the subject" in his genetic development, then what is required in psychoanalysis, says Lacan, is a 'topological' or 'pre-subjective' logic of the signifler. Significantly enough, that is a logic of differential relations in which all contextual punctuations are possible. Its 'pre-subjectivity' however, is presumably that of what precedes the digital subject. Since that is the analog subject-in-relation, there is some possibility that, used in context, such a topology could be useful to the theory of communication and exchange.
Nevertheless, a moment's thought about the psychosocial violence of our culture might lead us to frame our answers to the demand of the digital subject: "What am I there?" in a radically different way.
We might consider the institutionalized sexism, racism, and corruption of the university, the sciences, and the arts (Ridgeway, 1968; Millett, 1970). We might wonder at the 'soul-murdering' activities of our schools (Clark, 1965; Herndon, 1968; Kozol, 196914) - which can apparently be differentiated in their approach to their 'socializing function' by the quantitative measure of Rytalin dispensed daily to children possessed of 'MBD'. We could remark on the manipulative functions of the 'American Way of Death' (Jessica Mitford), or of institutionalized guilt, competition, performance, and individualism. One could examine the mechanization and merchandising of sexuality as a commodity in our culture (Brown, 1959). We could consider the wholesale psychological, sexual, and economic violence of male chauvinism or sexism against fifty-one per cent of the population (Millett, 1970; Morgan, ed., 1970). We would not have to mention the violence of psychoeconomic racism, of television, of movies, or of our present colonial wars, both at home and abroad (Graham and Gurr, 1969), if it were not for the fact that the very existence of these manifest forms of violence provides a refuge for us (mostly male) intellectuals against our own daily acts of violence. This is a violence often committed in the name of 'education', 'standards', 'objectivity', 'rationality', 'science', and 'both sides of the question'. The source of this violence presumably lies in the social manipulation of our fear of others (i.e., of ourselves) (Sartre, 1946: 53), especially of students, women, and the 'masses'. It is often triggered by jealousy of the young, but it is more usually the straightforward result of paranoid justifications of our own insecurity, which we project as aggressivity emanating from the others we control. We have said nothing about the violence of psychiatry and 'mental health' (Cooper, 1967: 14-33; Goffman, 1961: 171-320), or about that of the family,(16) or about the destructive and anti-human effects of restricted, non-qualitative, cultural definitions of intelligence, rationality, and retardation.(17) Nor have I mentioned the escalating technological and organizational violence of our culture, or the institutionalized intellectual elitism and paternalism of anthropology, in its persistently ethnocentric relation to the 'others', the 'savages', which has been paternalistically refuted by Levi-Strauss. (18) I doubt whether I have remembered everything that I could have mentioned, but an omission here or there does nothing to change the general picture. However, there is also another form of violence, a covert form which is perhaps the most devastating of all for those subjected to it. This is the passive violence of the refusal to recognize covert or real violence.(19) It may be expressed in deeds; or in positions, stances, attitudes, rules, codes, manners; in inertia, cynicism, 'scientific objectivity', coyness, humor; in refusal, disavowal, negation, or disconfirmation - but also and especially at all levels, in words. (20)
I therefore choose to answer Lacan's question with Fanon, whose discourse on the violence of the Other puts all the phantasies and aggressions of the discourse of science in their proper place:
Because it is a systematic negation of the other person and a furious determination to deny the other person all attributes of humanity, colonialism forces the people it dominates to ask themselves the question constantly: "In reality, who am I?" (1961: 240).
This is not a metaphysical question to be answered by a simple recourse to logic, linguistics, psychoanalysis, or communication theory. It is a real and material question - but we may have already run out of time in which to answer it.
10. Summary of Lacan's Position
To sum up Lacan's position: the subject is alienated from himself by the perceptual relationship of the Imaginary, founded on the mirror-stage, which generates the ego as an entity modeled on the body-image. The subject then seeks to discover his identity in language (Lacan's Symbolic order), which is articulated on the lack and, it appears, is ultimately reducible in the Lacanian theory to the circulation of the phallus as an Imaginary representation with a Symbolic function. The phallus is a signifier for Lacan, and since for him the signifier is ultimately no more than a bundle of binary oppositions, he is able to play on the supposed opposition of presence and absence between the phallus and the lack (of object) in order to describe the phallus as Imaginary in form (founded on opposition) and Symbolic in function (because it mediates human relationships, because it is a gift, like a word, because it circulates like a 'sign' in the 'matrimonial dialogue'). If the subject seeks to identify himself in language, the Lacanian theory implies that he becomes identified with a signifier (rather than with an entity, as in the Imaginary). This may mean that he is identified as the phallus - as a signifier in someone else's discourse, as a correspondence with the desire of the mother (that he be the phallus). It may mean that he is identified with a name, position, or title; in other words, that he is identified by a reification of words (like Sartre's anti-Semite). Thus, where the subject seeks his own identity in the realm of being, he finds the other; where he seeks identity in language, he finds a lack. According to the theory, he may however, discover his "Symbolic identification" with his repressed, unconscious desire. This is in effect his identification with the desire of the Other, from which all the demands he places on others in the Imaginary are assumed to derive (Safouan, 1968: 267-8).
The Symbolic identification, therefore, by definition, is an identification with the values of the status quo - or rather with those of the status quo ante.
11. The Ego's Attempts to Square the Circle
Lacan has attacked the use of the term 'adaptation' to describe the child's relationship to his environment. And yet, in spite of the essentially static or repetitive character of the Lacanian theory, there is a restricted level at which it can be said to be dialectical, which requires Lacan to use the language of adaptation. The description of the function of the imago in the article on the mirror-stage, in fact defines a psychological ecosystem. The function of the imago is "to establish a relation of the organism to its reality" or, in other words, "of the Innenwelt to the Umwelt". And even if this proposition fails to bring out the fact that this relation had already been established, at various other levels, by the communicational processes originating with conception, Lacan does not, in this early text, simply leave the question of relation at this gestaltist level.
To those readers accustomed to the terminology of linguistics or to the phenomenological and existential concept of intersubjectivity, now much less fashionable than it was, the terminology of these essays may sound strange. But terminology is not simply a question of fashion, for the new epistemology which this terminology attempts to articulate fulfills its function in the dialectical movement of the 'lack of object' we call truth by its suppression and conservation (Aufhebung) of the theoretical antecedents without which it could not be. The concepts I have used are all as new as the dawn and as old as humankind. Thus, as I now look back on the work of Lacan from a different perspective, it is of no small interest to discover that the same basic gestalt notions of wholeness, relation, goal, organization, and the observer's contribution to the observed which founded general systems theory and structural phonology in the nineteen-thirties, led Lacan to begin his early theoretical development by an implicit definition of the symbiotic sender-receiver relationship of the natural ecosystem. Moreover, he situated the origins of the existential and methodological distinction between the sender and the receiver in the Imaginary, and carefully defined the pathological reification of this essential difference there. He strikes at this reification of the line drawn across the message circuit between (what we define as) 'organism' and (what we define as) 'environment' in a particularly poetic way, which uses all the metaphorical recourses of language:
Ainsi la rupture du cercle de I'Innenwelt a I'Umwelt engendre-t-elle la quadrature inŽpuisable des rŽcolements du moi (1966: 97).
RŽcolement refers to a baliff's inventory, to the reading back of an affidavit or deposition to the depositor, to the old practice in forest law of verifying the terms of the exploitation of a timber sale by a judicial process involving the act of contradiction (a relationship of legal adversaries, technically called contradicteurs). Thus this passage might be rendered as follows:
Thus is it that the rupture of the circle joining the Innenwelt ('organism') to the Umwelt ('environment') engenders those inexhaustible attempts to square the circle which characterize the ego as it verifies its inventory in the Imaginary, as it reviews the possessions it has expropriated, as it checks the symmetries of word and deed, map and territory, as it makes sure that the statements on both sides match each other.
The ego thus makes sure there are no differences, only Imaginary identities and oppositions. And therefore it breaks the ecosystemic relation of the unit of mind.
12. Phallocentrism in the Body-image
...Upon this penis-envy follows that hostile embitterment displayed by women against men, never entirely absent in the relations between the sexes, the clearest indications of which are to be found in the writings and ambitions of 'emancipated' women. Freud, The Taboo of Virginity
Later on, however, Lacan put the question of organism and environment in another way: "What relation does the 'libidinal subject' whose relationships to reality are in the form of an opposition between an Innenwelt and an Umwelt have to the ego?" (1953a: 11, my emphasis). In this restatement in English of the article of 1949, Lacan goes to some pains to demonstrate a dsocial consciousness'. He makes connections between technology, industrialization, and organization, on the one hand, and the "psychological impasse of the ego of contemporary man", on the other, which is demonstrated in the "progressive deterioration in the relationships between men and women". He speaks of the context of psychoanalysis in the history of mankind, and of the possibility of "more human relationships" which are offered by the analytical dialogue. He recognizes the paradox of the analytical situation, which is one in which the one who knows admits by his technique that he can free his patient from the shackles of his ignorance only by leaving all the talking to him (p. 13).
But Lacan does not recognize that freedom can never be given, that it can only be taken. And the different use of the term 'opposition' in his preliminary question already begins to reveal the rationalist, linguistic, and digital epistemology upon which all the rest of his work will be based, as one might well expect, given its primarily phenomenologist, existentialist, and logocentric sources. For, latent within this manifest context of concern for "man", we find an original Imaginary opposition at the basis of Lacan's value system. This opposition is revealed in his further discussion of the body-image. He refers to the "imaginary anatomy" on which the body-image is constructed. This anatomy varies with the more or less confused ideas about bodily functions in different cultures. Such phenomena seem to exhibit the autonomous structure of the gestalt, he points out. And then he makes the correlation which will become a prime mover in his system:
The fact that the penis is dominant in the shaping of the body-image is evidence of [these autonomous gestalt structures]. Though this may shock the sworn champions of the autonomy of female sexuality, such dominance is a fact and one moreover which cannot be put down to cultural influences alone (p. 13, my emphasis.)
It is indeed the societal rupture of the circle of difference between man and woman which engenders the imaginary champions of the autonomy of phallontricism. (21) It is their 'narcissism of minor differences' which results in the 'paranoia of symmetry' by which the oppressor projects his own desire onto those he oppresses. Lacan's world is at first sight simply a Manichean one, but the objectively demonstrable colonialist designs of 'man' on 'woman' in our society mean that no man is for woman simply her other in the mirror. He is also her master and exploiter; he is the Other. Lacan forgets that the woman is not alone, that she is defined by men, and that with the coming of sexism, 'woman' ceased to exist.
Just as the colonialist creates the 'native' - and the liberal creates the 'black intellectual' - by destroying the Antillean, the white creates the 'black' or the 'brown' or the 'red' or the 'yellow' by destroying the human being. And just as it is the anti-Semite who creates the 'Jew' by refusing his 'Jewishness', the social democrat makes his contribution to the alienation and objectification of the other's differences, by being 'color blind', by accepting him in the universal - as 'Man' - but never in the particular (Sartre, 1946: 55). So too man in the flesh creates 'woman' in the body, and he raises her on a pedestal the more effectively to objectify her. He makes 'phallus' = pouvoir = savoir, and justifies the violence of his verbal, psychological, and economic oppression by conferring ontological status on it. He replies to the woman's anguish, necessarily expressed in her questions about being and identity - and addressed (God forbid!) to Him - by one form or another of the defensive words of the petrified anti-Semite:
There is nothing I have to do to merit my superiority and neither can I lose it. It is given once and for all. It is a thing(p. 27).
13. Concluding Unscientific Postscript
The theoretical questions around which this book is articulated are those which lie behind - in a real and material sense - every other question about future evolution, ecology, revolution, and the liberation of women and men throughout the world, at every level, from the oppressive values of a decadent civilization. I know little - yet - of the possible solutions - but the first step is to discover the real nature of the questions. And only when man-and-womankind can truly say: "We and the earth, our mother, are of one mind", will these questions have been answered in the most real and material sense. Then and only then will the human revolution have finally taken place....
Oui, mais ilfaut parier. Cela n'est pas volontaire, vous Žtes embarquŽ
1. The mirror-stage, first mentioned by Lacan in 1936, is prefigured in an article by Henri Wallon (1931), whose later work was used by Jakobson and Halle in justifying the theory of the binary opposition of phonemes (Wallon, 1945; Jakobson and Halle, 1956: 47; cf. Wilden, 1968a: 154, 159-77). The first published article dealing with the mirror-stage appeared in 1947 (Lacan, 1966: 178-92). It is mentioned again in 1948, in an article on aggressivity (Lacan, 1966: 110-20). The main article, entitled "The mirror-stage as formative of the function of the I as this function is revealed in the psychoanalytical experience", appeared in 1949 (Lacan, 1966: 93-100). A summary later appeared in English (Lacan, 1953a).
2. He mentions Jean Lhermitte, L'Image du corps (Paris: NRF, 1939); the work of Silberer; the work of Harrison, Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B Vol. 126, No. 845 (February, 1939); and that of Chauvin, Annales de la SociŽtŽ entomologique de France, Third Trimester (1941). In studying the processes of larval maturation in Schl'stocerca and Locusta, and their development into solitary or gregarious adults, Chauvin showed that the visual perception of another individual of the same or a similar species could result in morphological and behavioral changes. Lacan interprets Chauvin's work in gestalt terms, and quotes Chauvin's conclusion: "There must be a sort of recognition involved here, however rudimentary it may be. And if one says recognition, then surely we are implying that there is some sort of psycho-physiological mechanism involved?" The image thus has a "morphogenic effect" (p. 191) in a "homeomorphic identification" (p. 96).
3. Lacan finds support for this theory in the work of Charlotte Bihler, Elsa Kohler, and the Chicago School. He speaks of the originally "undifferentiated" relation between the young child and his counterparts at around eight months of age. The mirror-stage comes to dominate all such relations until about the age of two and a half. Lacan denies any primary relation of EinfŸhlung or empathy. He cites the phenomenon of transitivism s proof. This describes a situation in which one child will attribute his own actions to another, or so identify with the other child as to feel injured when the other child fails down (p. 113).
4. Cf. Chapter Ill on the Hegelian-Kojavian theory of desire, and Chapter II, Section 4, on cathexis and intentionality.
5. For Sartre, I as for Husserl, consciousness is a monad (Sartre, 1936-7: 108; Husserl, l 29: 148-51, 157). Husserl's "transcendental intersubjectivity" represents an ideal, rather than a state of affairs that can be grounded in phenomenology. It i.s in the domain of communication, not in that of consciousness, or of unconsciousness, or of perception, that Laing's "false self", Lacan's moi, and the phenonienological and psychoanalytical "(choice of) object" are both constituted and open to transcendence. As distinct from his personal relation to his readers (Sartre, 1964), Sartre's epistemology seems never to have gone beyond the monad: "It is impossible to exist in an environment of men without their becoming objects for me, and for them through me, without my being an object for them, without my subjectivity taking on its objective reality through them as the interiorization of my human objectivity" (1960: 186). The remarks on the gift as reciprocal debt which follow this passage in his text, demonstrate very clearly the relationship between marker and information (Chapter VI) but without any manifest consciousness of this function on Sartre's part.
6. Both Lacan and Sartre quote Rimbaud's "je est un autre". Cf. also Heidegger: "Everyone is the other and no one is himself"; "I myself am not the 'who' of Dasein, the they-self [das Man-selbst] is its 'Who' " (1927: 165, 312).
7. The adjective 'virtual' is commonly applied to 'intention' in theology, to 'image' in optics, and to 'displacement' in mechanics.
8. See also M. Safouan (1968: 267-8). Elsewhere Lacan makes the phallus the fourth term. He is apparently trying to map the oedipal relation onto the four terms of the family of the 'other civilization', which must necessarily include the maternal uncle or his equivalent as the condition of its existence (Levi-Strauss, 1958: 56-7; Ortigues, 1966: 72-82; Wilden, 1968a: 100, 146-8, 303-6; Lacan, 1966: 348, 362). Lacan does say that all dual relationships are mediated by death or by le mort (the 'dummy' or the 'dead man'); death is the absolute master (Hegel) (p. 121); the Symbolic Father is the dead father, and so on.
9. Goldmann (1955) distinguishes four political types of Jansenism in the seventeenth century:
1 The Moderates (Amauld d'Andilly, Choiseul): Compromise (unwillingly) with the evil and hypocrisy of the world.
2 The Centrists (Antoine Amauld, Nicole, Pascal before 1657): Fight within proper limits for truth and good in a world where the Jansenist has a place, however reduced.
3 The Non-Tragic Extremists (Jacqueline Pascal): Profess good and truth in a radically evil world, which persecutes and proscribes, but withdraw from it.
4 The Tragic Extremists (Racine's heroes before 1689; Pascal after 1662, Barcos): Say nothing, withdraw.
All condemn the world with no historical hope of change. Only Pascal's Pensces (1670) provide any sort of metacommunication about the role of truth in the world.
10. Cf. Marcuse on the concept of repressive desublimation (1962).
11. Cf. Lacan's commentary on the Freudian Verneinung, which he confuses with Aufhebung (Lacan, 1966: 369-99):
In the Symbolic the gaps [i.e., the absence of 'Signorelli'l are as significant (as signifiers) as are the plenums.
In reading Freud today, it looks as if it is the gaping of a void [the forgetting of 'Signorelli'] which constitutes the first step in his whole dialectical movement. This perhaps explains the schizophrenie's insistence on reiterating this step. But in vain, since for him all the Symbolic is Real (p. 392).
The last sentence refers to the Wolf Man's 'rejection of castration'. The 'rejection' retums to him from 'outside' in the form of a hallucinated injury to his finger and to a tree.
12. This statement is not intended to encourage any romantic illusions about brotherhood between the races in a social system which makes it objectively impossible. And these passages must be read in the context of the following:
The settler is not simply the man who must be killed. Many members of the mass of colonialists reveal themselves to be much, much nearer to the national struggle than certain sons of the nation (1961: 146)
13. It is in fact the extraordinarily subtle manipulation of racism which distinguishes French colonialism from the British form. The overt superiority of the British colonialist was that of a man who would not in general ever accept on personal terms what he called the'educated native'in a system of colonial schools in which at least literacy was widespread. In contrast, the covert superiority of the highly limited French colonial education system created a 'native bourgeoisie' thoroughly identified with French values. These 'lucky few' were accepted as being 'practically white'. Their poets write in French. Their leaders represented the colony in the French Assembly. Thus they became completely alienated from the 'ignorance' and the 'backwardness' of their own people.
It is the French system which is in general being practiced by American universities today, through their policies of 'compensatory education', although there is still plenty of evidence of the British attitude among the faculty. The white-dominated university is an ever-present cooptative danger to the minorities; it is also at least the repository of technological information - e.g., medicine, health science, communications - which is essential to them.
14. And many personal communications from teachers in extension classes.
15. Cf. Ridgeway, 1968:
... While the activities of the professor-entrepreneurs are cast in the form of corporations, their values are those of the university, patronizing and authoritarian. The essence of their propaganda is efficiency, the governing myth of American corporate society. Thus they offer for sale different ways of achieving the same thing: a static, boring consumptive middle class through a constant change of machine parts (pp. 71-2).
Cf. also pp. 57-68 on the activities of the academic 'gamesters' in domestic and foreign counter-insurgency.
16. Laing and Esterson, 1964; Bateson, Haley, Jackson, and Weakland, 1956; Watzlawick, Beavin, and Jackson, 1967.
17. Millett, 1970; M. Mannoni, 1964, 1967; Fanon, 1952, 1961, 1964. Cf. Piaget, 1968; Jensen, 1969; E. Mayr, 1963.
18. Cf. the remarks on Piaget in Chapter XI. The American publishers of La PensŽe Sauvage (which is the name of a wildflower) in fact destroy Levi-Strauss's thesis before you can even open the book by entitling it The Savage Mind.
(19) Consider the following statement by a "Professor of Educational Sciences", taken from the introductory chapter of a book intended to refute the racist use ofthe psychometrics of so-called intelligence (Richardson and Spears, eds., 1972:16)(cf. also Chapter XIV, Section 7):
...Our aim - in research as in teaching - is to discover what constraints limit the growth of an individual's full intellectual powers. Yet even if, for the sake of argument, we were to grant the most extreme possibility - that all black children are born less intelligent than all white children, a wildly unlikely state of affairs - we are still little the wiser. Dimly, we may feel that something of educational importance is at stake; yet when the proposition is examined in detail, its practical implications trickle away. [It] does not tell us, for example, whether black children and white children should be taught separately or together, it gives no clues as to how each child should be lured into the use of his brains....
What can one say about this complex and grossly insensitive interweaving of alienating values about children, 'intellect', and 'education', and the concomitant use of a "wildly unlikely" example which reveals the identity between the writer and those he is supposedly opposing?
(20) Cf. Fanon, 1952: 138, note 24, on the White as the Real or Imaginary master. On pp. 161-4 Fanon offers a contextual criticism of the mirror-stage, pointing out that only for the (middle-class) white is the particular other an "absolute not-self" in the Imaginary. For the Antillean, all perception is Imaginary, in other words, white; and all whites are the Other. Fanon remarks on Lermitte's conception of the body-image on p. III: "The elements that I used had been provided for me not by 'residual sensations and perceptions primarily of a tactile, vestibular, kinesthetic, and visual character', but by the other, the white man, who had woven me out of a thousand details, anecdotes, stories." Any woman in our culture could say the same.
Compare also the effects of white exploitation in Africa, as represented by the importation of the mechanistic and objectifying vocabulary of industrialization from English into the indigenous languages: sexual intercourse is described as ukushanta (shunting), a light complexion is referred to as a passport, a mistress becomes a spare wheel or a piece-work woman, and so on (Epstein, 1959). This article is distinguished by the total absence of consciousness on the part of the 'objective' observer in question, about what he is actually in the process of describing.
(21) As Melanie sings it: "Freud's mystic world of meaning needn't leave us mystified - It's really very simple - What the psyche tries to hide - A thing's a phallic symbol if it's longer than it's wide ......"