Everything Solid Melts Into Air

| Levi Bryant | Larval Subjects |

Even though the idea of a unified world is an illusion in the universe of the master, because “the big Other does not exist”, there is still a “world” structured by S1, the master-signifier…

In the universe of the capitalist, by contrast, everything solid melts into air, and this by virtue of the fact that at no point in the social structure can S1 serve the function of guaranteeing the unity of S2.  S2’s, the battery of signifiers or knowledge becomes dispersed and ever flowing, without any sort of ultimate organizing principle or guarantee.  And isn’t this exactly what we see?  All of the grand signifiers that might have unified an identity such as ideological causes or national identities or religious identities seem curiously unstable.  Every identity seems to become simulated, unstable.  The sense or meaning of objects proliferate, or they come to appear as senseless as in the case of so much art today.  It all melts with only provisional moments of stability, not unlike the senselessness of Joyce’s epiphanies in Dubliners, where effects of meaning or significance, where relations to other signifiers, seem so curiously absent in these epiphanies.

This is why I have suggested that the universe of the capitalist is the age of psychosis.  In the work of the New Lacanian School, theorists such as Miller have proposed the radical hypothesis that psychosis is the basic structure of psychosis such that neurosis is a species of psychosis.  Psychosis, in the Lacanian framework, is premised on the foreclosure of the name-of-the-father (S1).  In psychosis there is a hole in the symbolic order where the name-of-the-father should be and it is for this reason that we get all the strange effects of psychosis, when triggered, such as the disintegration of oneself.  Psychosis is precisely that structure where S1 is unable to unify and structure S2 because it is foreclosed or absent.  And, as Lacan says, what is foreclosed in the symbolic returns in the real.  For example, in the case of Schreber, the foreclosure of the name-of-the-father returns in the real in the form of a God that is causing his disintegration.  In other  words, the psychotic is a subject for whom the discourse of the master is not operative.

discourse pf capitalistThe cure for psychosis, the way in which the psychotic is able to stitch himself together again and defend himself against the painful jouissance that invades his body, is, in one instance, the formation of a paranoid delusion.  The delusion is a reparation of the hold in the symbolic that manages to stitch together the imaginary (the body), the symbolic, and the real in a way that renders jouissance tolerable.  In the work of the New Lacanian School, it is suggested that we have seen something new appear today, the appearance of the “ordinary psychotic”, who is a sort of functional psychotic who has found a way to stitch together the imaginary, the symbolic, and the real.  Miller suggests that sometimes the psychotic manages to find this tolerable existence through an intense identification.  You’ll come across analysands that are intensely identified with their job or being a mother or a political figure or movement or rock star or author, etc.  He notes that there will be circumstances in which subjects lose their jobs and that’s when the schizophrenic disintegration comes into bloom.  The identification with the job in this instance was the knot that allowed them to function in the world, that tied together the real, imaginary, and symbolic in the absence of the name-of-the-father.  In other instances, the psychotic subject will construct a symptom that knots the three orders (I’m moving too quickly, I’m not indexing what the three orders look like when unknotted).  The symptom that the psychotic constructs or that is constructed in the course of analysis, allows them to form a tolerable existence.  Miller will suggest that the name-of-the-father is itself a symptom that allows for the neurotic psychosis and a manageable relation to jouissance.

So here’s where I find myself.  If psychosis is also a social structure and not just an individual structure of subjectivity, we have too unpalatable alternatives for the world we find ourselves today:  First, there is the construction of the psychotic paranoid delusion as a way of staving off schizophrenic disintegration so as to render jouissance, the invasion of the real, tolerable.  Perhaps this is what we are witnessing with the reign of conspiracy theories everywhere, with the rise of ultra-nationalisms, with religious fanaticisms that are buffeting the globe.  Given the persecutory nature of paranoid delusions, this is a rather horrifying solution to the absence of a stable relation between S1 and S2.  Second, we have the strategy of intense identification with figures, movements, jobs, etc.  This seems to have shortcomings similar to those of paranoid delusion.  Finally, there is the third strategy of constructing a symptom.  Perhaps that is the question today:  how is it possible to construct a symptom in the absence of the name-of-the-father in a way that would render existence tolerable and defend us from being swallowed in schizophrenic disintegration and jouissance?


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