The corrective that is the Anthropocene
October 12, 2013
Terence Blake of terenceblake.wordpress.com makes an interesting comparison between Latour and Zizek, triggered by Adam Kotsko’s An Interview over Zizek at itself.wordpress.com. Below is my rather brief commentary on the comparative relation between Latour and Zizek.
I think in the end Latour’s conservatism will complement Zizek’s view of religion, though each differs in his approach towards what Zizek calls the Big Other (or God, if you will), if we look into how in the same manner Zizek proposes a more conservative treatment of the reality of the Oedipalized master that has died along with God (in this sense the death of God is the death of the Oedipal Father that paves the way for a more symbolic One, the master signifier). Zizek does not fully support autonomy in terms of withdrawing from the present order if we mean the present as a social symbolic that is individually or collectively localized in particular ways of appropriating the death of God, which by all means are ways also of appropriating a symbolic stand-in for the God (the Oedipal Father) that will never return. Zizek’s approach to the death of God is nothing new. Like Freud he proposes an end to mourning to give way to a more manageable melancholic attitude towards the Other by replacing that which will never return with an object-relation that serves as a stand-in, a memory simply put. In Lacan this memory is properly symbolic, hence, the social symbolic as a whole object-relation construction. It is here where Lacan’s conservatism is at its best. After a period of mourning the period of conservatism or willful recovery follows. Suffice it to say that it is in object-relations that society is enabled to survive despite the death of God.
It is important that we mention here Zizek’s criticism of Occupy movement where he repeats Lacan’s criticism of the student revolts of May 1968 by taking the Occupiers to task for their failure to create a sustainable community (sustainable in the psychoanalytic sense of preserving psychic energies that would have been otherwise utilized for more socially productive ends other than protesting). In other words, we must become aware of the logic of protest–it is simply symptomatic of our mourning for the death of God that despite the turn to object-relations is not completely appeased. Like the repressed it will find a way to reveal the cause of the symptom. Moreover, resistance or protest must be fully rationalized as to not bring the phantoms of the past back to the present (the Ur-phantom is of course the Father); instead, these phantoms must be sublated in the present such that it would no less appear that their mourning has found its proper culmination in the object-relation of the present. Here, Zizek combines the lessons of Hegel and Lacan.
But protests are also instructive if not edificatory for they sustain our relation to memory (the memory of the death of God). But just enough as to not turn us away from the reality of the everyday, or the reality of the mediation of object-relations that sustain our existence despite the lack of reason for existence. Something must remain untouched, a sacred, if you will. In this sense Latour does not withdraw from the present assuming the present is already the accomplished space of Freudo-Lacanian social symbolic that cannot anymore encourage another death. (Humanity has reached its utmost atmospheric limit in language which makes our last struggle atmospheric in nature [no less the anthropocene triggered by human intervention, for instance, in the atmosphere]). Zizek does not also withdraw from ‘this’ present assuming that the act of withdrawing is simply and nothing else but the act of pointing towards that which withdraws (Heidegger), or that which speaks of ‘end times’ (social entropy for Zizek), or that which today should allow for a cosmopolitan approach to the maximization of what’s left of solar entropy (Stengers, Latour; Sloterdijk, but also Lovelock, Crutzen). It is language that withdraws. Or, might one also say that it is withdrawing toward the last scene of Man which is now beginning to express itself independent of human pointing?
1. http://itself.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/an-interview-over-zizek/ An Interview over Zizek
Latour’s Enunciative Ontology and the Conservatism of Values: A Deleuzean Rejoinder