Abstract

Hit happens. A rip, a quick cut by a razor. From the outside, something breaks through and in: an intervention into the stabilized form of psychic life. As if by fate or chance: disturbance, disruption—what will be felt as pain, a crisis or breakdown. A punch in the guts, a violation, a horrible, helpless, caught in the grips of. A terror, an after-awe, an anguish of ruination. Defensively: deflection, mis-recognition. Look, the birds are on fire. We are forced, overwhelmed, blown away. We hit a wall, crash, are shredded. And we come out on the other side, spilling down, ash and glass. And not even then, but only later, the question: what the…? Insistence, return, rehearsal, reenactment. Compulsive repeating: replay, rewind, replay. Mediations and remediations that still veer away. Then, maybe, a reach, a throw. In a potlatch of words and images, something like an approach. Out of which, maybe, a capture, a first remembering-forgetting of representation, the work of emplotment. Then, maybe, testing, reflection, analysis, judgment: a passage back, from the disturbed body to the shared word.

Keywords

Assure Assimilation Straw Ghost Opium 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, Jacques-Alain Miller, ed., Alan Sheridan, trans. (New York: Norton, 1981), pp. 53–63.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, George Schwab, trans. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 26: “The specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy.” The binary opposition to which the Nazi legal theorist sought to reduce politics as early as 1927 was certainly internalized by both the United States and the Soviet Union during the so-called Cold War. This mirroring between capitalism’s self-appointed defender of last resort and its alleged enemy unto death is of course entangled, through the battleground of Afghanistan, with the specific background to the attacks of 9/11. Indeed the Realpolitik captured in the formula “whoever is the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is itself the ethical and political lapse that the ruling American pragmatists have never yet understood. The unintended consequences that the CIA calls “blowback” are not, categorically, unforeseeable. As for Schmitt’s notion of sovereignty as the (state’s) power to declare the “state of emergency” and name the enemy, Walter Benjamin’s 1940 critique remains unsurpassed: “The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is [not the exception but] the rule” (CH 254/392). The emergency is only one from the perspective and interests of the ruling order; for the ones who are dominated and exploited, it is always an emergency. To be sure, it is not to be denied that there are political friends and enemies—even after all the critico-deconstructive equivocations have been registered. But who gets to name them, under what conditions and with what consequences—as well as the problem of how each is to be treated under international law, especially in conflicts in which the legality of a particular state or world system is ultimately at stake—are, contra Schmitt, all political questions as well. Incisive here is Jacques Derrida’s reading of Schmitt in Politics of Friendship, George Collins, trans. (London: Verso, 1997). These stakes are obviously in play in the so-called war on terror—from Guantánamo and Bagram to Abu Ghraib and who knows how many other secret prison and interrogation centers the world over.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000). Throughout these essays, I am responding to a first reading of this book, in particular to Hardt and Negri’s notion of a de-territorialized “Empire,” to their attempt to rethink the Marxist revolutionary subject as “the multitude,” and to their Deleuzian interpretation of globalization as the advent of global “immanence.”Google Scholar
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  7. 9.
    Although I write “the sublime,” using the definite article to refer to the category from the history of European aesthetics, it is more strictly correct to insist, as Thomas Pepper does, that there is no one sublime, if there ever was, rather than a multiplicity of effects and traditions gathered or forced together under this name. See Thomas Adam Pepper, Singularities: Extremes of Theory in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 213.Google Scholar
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    Herbert Marcuse, “Über den affirmativen Charakter der Kultur” [1937], in Schriften, vol. 3 (Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1979); in English as “The Affirmative Character of Culture,” in Jeremy J. Shapiro, trans., Negations: Essays in Critical Theory (Boston: Beacon, 1968).Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    In its anxious condemnation of any sign of the “irrational,” this tendency seems clearly to be a survival and dissemination of early Frankfurt School responses to mass-cultural orchestrations under fascist regimes. Among contemporary Marxist critics whose writings exhibit a consistent hostility to the sublime, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh would be exemplary. See Buchloh’s use of the term “sublime” within the hard, undialectical opposition he sets up between “ostentatious mourning” and “factual accuracy” in the essay “Hans Haacke: Memory and Instrumental Reason,” in Buchloh, ed., Neo-Avantgarde and Culture Industry: Essays on European and American Art from 1955 to 1976 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000), pp. 205–06.Google Scholar
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    Jean-François Lyotard, Peregrinations: Law, Form, Event (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), p. 41.Google Scholar
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    Three of the most important recent attempts to rethink the knots of transformational agency are Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (London: Verso, 1985); Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International, Peggy Kamuf, trans. (London: Routledge, 1994); and Hardt and Negri, Empire. On the global field of practice in which the new models are emerging and being tested, see the continuing series of essays and interviews, “A Movement of Movements?” inaugurated in New Left Review 9 (May/June 2001); and William F. Fisher and Thomas Ponniah, eds., Another World Is Possible: Popular Alternatives to Globalization at the World Social Forum (Nova Scotia: Fernwood; Selangor: Sird; Capetown: David Philip; and London and New York: Zed, 2003).Google Scholar
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    Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialektik der Aufklärung: Philosophische Fragmente (Frankfurt/Main: Fischer Verlag, 1969), p. ix; in English as Dialectic of Enlightenment, John Cumming, trans. (New York: Continuum, 1998), p. xi, translation modified.Google Scholar
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    The most obvious and important of such differences is that Heidegger’s opening to the Ereignis of the “truth of Being” involves a deliberate suspension of critical faculties—the allegedly de-objectifying posture Heidegger called Inständigkeit (“standing-within”) and the related comportment of Gelassenheit (composed “letting-be” or “releasement toward objects”)—that Adorno refused to abide. See e.g., Heidegger’s discussion of Inständigkeit as a “preserving” practice of reception in the 1935/36 Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1960), pp. 67–8; in English as “The Origin of the Work of Art,” in Albert Hofstadter, trans., Poetry, Language, Thought (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), pp. 66–7. Cf. Adorno’s rejection of an aesthetics reduced to a phenomenology “from below” (AT 510/343) and his notion, clearly formulated as a reply to Heidegger, of “standing-firm” (Standhalten) as the happiness of not selling out to “accumulated, speechless pain” (AT 13/15 and 65–6/39–40).Google Scholar
  14. 19.
    See Adorno’s correspondence with Herbert Marcuse on the German student movement, introduced by Esther Leslie, in New Left Review 233 (January/February 1999), pp. 118–36; and Rolf Wiggershaus, The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories and Political Significance, Michael Robertson, trans. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995), pp. 609–36.Google Scholar
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    Adorno, “Resignation,” in Henry W. Pickford, trans., Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 10.2; in English as “Resignation,” in Henry W. Pickford, trans., Critical Models (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  16. 21.
    Pepper, Singularities, p. 23: “Reading [Minima Moralia] must be an experience that never spares the reader the constant need to examine his or her specific differences. Identification as a readerly strategy belongs to the New Old Right, which is why we don’t have to throw out Adorno because he rejects, for example, Jazz: it is only the uncritical desire to seek a Master, thus to be a Slave, that would demand of a great thinker that his taste always be correct.” It would be remiss to fail to also acknowledge, at this point, the compelling critical assessments of Fredric Jameson’s Late Capitalism: Adorno, or, the Persistence of the Dialectic (London: Verso, 1990), especially Jameson’s retrospective remarks in his introduction, “Adorno in the Stream of Time,” pp. 1–12.Google Scholar
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    Horkheimer and Adorno, Dialektik der Aufklärung, p. ix; Dialectic of Enlightenment, p. xi, translation modified.Google Scholar
  18. 23.
    See e.g., Derrida, “L’Animal que donc je suis,” in Marie-Louise Mallet, ed., L’Animal autobiographique: autour du travail de Jacques Derrida (Paris: Galilée, 1999), behind which loom the 1968 essay “The Ends of Man,” in Derrida, Margins of Philosophy, Alan Bass, trans. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), and Derrida, Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question, Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby, trans. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), pp. 47–57.Google Scholar
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    Derrida, “The future of the profession or the university without condition (thanks to the ‘Humanities,’ what could take place tomorrow),” in Tom Cohen, ed., Jacques Derrida and the Humanities: A Critical Reader (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 29.Google Scholar
  20. 25.
    Benjamin, “Linke Melancholie,” in Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhäuser, eds., Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 3 (Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1972); in English as “Left-Wing Melancholy,” Michael W. Jennings, Howard Eiland, and Gary Smith, eds., in Ben Brewster, trans., Selected Writings, vol. 2 (Cambridge, MA: Belknap/Harvard University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  21. 26.
    See Immanuel Wallerstein, “The Eagle Has Crash Landed,” Foreign Policy (July/August 2002), pp. 60–8; “Revolts Against the System,” New Left Review 18) (November/December 2002), pp. 29–39; and “Entering Global Anarchy,” New Left Review 22 (July/August 2003), pp. 27–35.Google Scholar

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© Gene Ray 2005

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  • Gene Ray

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