Josephine Berry on Sat, 4 Mar 2000 13:58:28 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> NOTHING WORSE


I was merely making the point that Zizek makes about how the symbolic order
(not to be confused with the "electric media environment") becomes
oppressively closed through being at the same time radically open to
manipulation - a paradox in true Zizekian style. He gives the example of
filling out the unspoken silences in canonical texts: Jane Eyre (see Jean
Rhys' Wide Sergasso Sea), Star Trek hacking and so on. Electric media
environments accelerate the potential of filling out the gaps, the lacks,
the silences which the symbolic order depends upon in order to structure
reality. (The virtual symbolic castration threat which controls the real
penis). In this circumstance of having 'infinite choice', the function of
desire on which choice depends is foreclosed. How can you want something
when having something amounts to clicking one button for yes and another
for no, seemingly without conflict or consequence. Zizek quotes Lacan's
reversal of Dostoyevsky's famous statement, which becomes "If there is no
God, nothing is permitted."

I think the question is somehow where the radical potential lies - if at
all - in a frictionless symbolic order. Does it have to signal a psychotic
collapse or should we read it as a transitional moment of symbolic
transformation? In a sense, is it possible that the symbolic order could
ever cease to function and to resist if we are to remain being human?



of the death of the Master (text/signifier) that occurs in cyberspace;

>Maybe this isn't such a new situation.
>What you refer to as the "symbolic order" is really just the "electric media
>environment", isn't it?  And, this has been going on for, oh, 150+ years or
>so.  Ever since the introduction of the telegraph and its spawn . . . the
>Afterall, the "Symbolists" are hardly a new idea . . . are they?
>Pit Schultz posted a longish essay on some of this a while back.  "The
>Whatever Intellectual."  Or, whatever.
>In PoMo language this essay merely repeated what has been said a thousand
>times (better and shorter, much of the time) about the decline of the
>capacity for anyone to think and for anyone to speak and for anyone to create
>art and for anyone to . . . simply be a human being.  For, oh, 150+ years or
>It's interesting that you identify the "symbolic order" with a "tart."  I
>presume that you mean the "prostitute" meaning and not the "sweat-cake"
>meaning of the term . . . right?
>How about exploring the connotations of "SELLING-OUT" as "tarts" are fond of
>doing?  Is that a reasonable translation?  When did the problem of
>selling-out -- in particular selling one's own mortal soul -- become a widely
>noticed problem?
>Could Goethe have anything to inform us about all this?  Is "Faust" at all
>And, what are we to make of the fact that Thomas Mann's "Faust" is all about
>the characters of the Frankfurt School?  With Adorno as "Faust" himself!
>Hmmmm . . .
>Wyndham Lewis' 1926 extended-"pamphlet" titled "The Art of Being Ruled" is
>very informative on all these matters.  So is his 1934 "Men Without Art."  In
>fact, all of Lewis' work could be brought to bear upon these problems.
>And, more expansively, the problems of nettime itself.
>In "The Art of Being Ruled", Lewis mentions:
>"Everything in our life today conspires to thrust most people into prescribed
>tracks, in what can be called a sort of TRANCE OF ACTION.  Hurrying, without
>any significant reason, from spot to spot at the maximum speed obtainable . .
>. how is the typical individual at this epoch to do some detached thinking
>for himself?"
>Could this possibly relate to the need to get your information in "motion."
>Or, to the need to DO SOMETHING, about which so many of us appear to be
>deeply hypnotized.
>McLuhan (in an essay first published in 1944) describes what Lewis was up to
>when he says:
>"The particular means by which Lewis has extricated himself from the
>ideological machine of our epoch with its inevitable labelling process --
>'liberal,' 'socialist,' 'reactionary,' 'fascist,' 'individualist,' 'realist,'
>'romantic,' 'extrovert,' etc. -- is that of the painter's eye."
>Ah, yes, ART.  As in "The ART of Being Ruled"?
>Could it be that participating in the "ideological machine" is itself a form
>of SELLING-OUT?  Selling out one's own mortal soul?  For "winning" the
>certainty of one's own personal ideology . . . what is the price that you
>have to pay?
>And, what is the relationship between wanting to move our information and
>earlier rituals of the worshipping of the machines?
>Are we, once again, "Futurists" in search for our Mussolini?
>If we can't think anymore, if we can't speak anymore . . . are we still
>human?  Are we to blame all this on the "symbolic order"
>McLuhan (in his 1944 essay on Lewis) uses the old-fashioned term "Zeitgeist"
>and he offers:
>"This sort of revolutionary simpleton, this beaming child of the 'Zeitgeist'
>is precisely the sort of ruler the modern world cannot afford to have at the
>head of is enormous machinery.  Lewis presents a massive documentation and
>analysis of the art and science and philosophy which manufacture the
>'Zeitgeist' -- the 'Zeitgeist' being the force which manipulates the puppets
>who "'govern'" us . . . As a preparation for intelligent action. Lewis
>advocates self-extraction from the ideological machine by an arduous course
>of detachment, -- the scrutiny of the philosophy of the past four centuries
>as well as of the art and science which that philosophy has engendered.  For
>success in this task very few are well equipped today . . . So with the
>ordinary artist and politician -- they are immersed in matter, in their
>'Zeitgeist', and they call it "'timelessness,'" or they appeal to the
>relativity notion of all human action as an excuse for sinking deeper into
>the brainlessness of matter."
>Are we not ourselves to blame for the "symbolic order," for the "Zeitgeist,"
>for being "revolutionary simpletons."
>Is nettime itself "timeless"?
>Mark Stahlman

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