......• The Parallax View •
The Parallax of the Critique of Political Economy
The three domains of reason (theoretical, practical, aesthetic) emerge through the shift in the subject's attitude, i.e., through "bracketing": the object of science emerges through bracketing moral and aesthetic judgments; the moral domain emerges through bracketing cognitive-theoretical and aesthetic concerns; and the aesthetic domain emerges through bracketing theoretical and moral concerns. For example, when we bracket moral and aesthetic concerns, a human being appears as non-free, totally conditioned by the causal nexus; if, on the contrary, we bracket theoretical concerns, it appears as a free autonomous being. Antinomies thus should not be reified - the antinomic positions emerge through shifts in the subject's attitude. 1 - However, Karatani's crucial breakthrough resides in his application of such a parallax reading onto Marx, in his reading of Marx himself as a Kantian.
"I replaced Freud's energetics with political economy," said Lacan in his Seminar XVII - did he really mean it? When, in his "critique of political economy," Marx deals with the opposition of the "classical" political economy (Ricardo and his labor-theory of value - the counterpart to philosophical rationalism) and the neo-classic reduction of value to a purely relational entity without substance (Bailey - the counterpart to philosophical empiricism), he resolves this opposition by way of repeating the Kantian breakthrough towards the "parallax" view: he treated it as a Kantian antinomy, i.e., value has to originate outside circulation, in production, AND in circulation. The post-Marx "Marxism" - in both its versions, Social Democratic and Communist - lost this "parallax" perspective and regressed into the unilateral elevation of production as the site of truth against the "illusory" sphere of exchange and consumption. As he emphasizes, even the most sophisticated theory of reification, commodity fetishism, from the young Lukacs through Adorno up to Fredric Jameson, falls into this trap: the way they account for the lack of revolutionary movement is that the consciousness of workers is obfuscated by the seductions of consumerist society and/or the manipulation by the ideological forces of cultural hegemony, which is why the focus of the critical work should shift to "cultural criticism" (the so-called "cultural turn") - the disclosure of ideological (or libidinal - it is here that originates the key role of psychoanalysis in Western Marxism) mechanisms which keep the workers under the spell of bourgeois ideology.
In a close reading of Marx's analysis of the commodity-form, Karatani ground the insurmountable persistence of the parallax gap in the "salto mortale" that a product has to accomplish in order to assert itself as a commodity:
The price /of iron expressed in gold/, while on the one hand indicating the amount of labour-time contained in the iron, namely its value, at the same time signifies the pious wish to convert the iron into gold, that is to give the labour-time contained in the iron the form of universal social labour-time. If this transformation fails to take place, then the ton of iron ceases to be not only a commodity but also a product; since it is a commodity only because it is not a use-value for its owner, that is to say his labour is only really labour if it is useful labour for others, and it is useful for him only if it is abstract general labour. It is therefore the task of the iron or of its owner to find that location in the world of commodities where iron attracts gold. But if the sale actually takes place, as we assume in this analysis of simple circulation, then this difficulty, the salto mortale of the commodity, is surmounted. As a result of this alienation -- that is its transfer from the person for whom it is a non-use-value to the person for whom it is a use-value - the ton of iron proves to be in fact a use-value and its price is simultaneously realised, and merely imaginary gold is converted into real gold. 2
This is Karatani's key Kantian/anti-Hegelian point: the jump by means of which a commodity is sold and thus effectively constituted as commodity is not the result of an immanent self-development of (the concept of) Value, but a "salto mortale" comparable to a Kierkegaardian leap of faith, a temporary fragile "synthesis" between use-value and exchange-value comparable to the Kantian synthesis between sensitivity and understanding: in both cases, the two irreducibly external levels are brought together. 3 For this precise reason, Marx abandoned his original project (discernible in the Grundrisse manuscripts) of "deducing" in a Hegelian way the split between exchange-value and use-value from the very concept of Value: in Capital, the split of these two dimensions, the "dual character of a merchandise," is the starting point. The synthesis has to rely on an irreducibly external element, as in Kant where being is not a predicate (i.e., cannot be reduced to a conceptual predicate of an entity), or as in Saul Kripke's Naming and Necessity, in which the reference of a name to an object cannot be grounded in the content of this name, in the properties it designates.
Which is why, although Marx's Darstellung of the self-deployment of the capital is full of Hegelian references, 4 the self-movement of Capital is far from the circular self-movement of the Hegelian Notion (or Spirit): the point of Marx is that this movement never catches up with itself, that it never recovers its credit, that its resolution is postponed forever, that the crisis is its innermost constituent (the sign that the Whole of Capital is the non-True, as Adorno would have put it), which is why the movement is one of the "spurious infinity," forever reproducing itself:
Notwithstanding the Hegelian descriptive style /.../ Capital distinguishes itself from Hegel's philosophy in its motivation. The end of Capital is never the 'absolute Spirit.' Capital reveals the fact that capital, though organizing the world, can never go beyond its own limit. It is a Kantian critique of the ill-contained drive of capital/reason to self-realize beyond its limit. 5
It is interesting to note that it was already Adorno, who, in his Three Studies on Hegel, critically characterized Hegel's system in the same "financial" terms as a system which lives of a credit it can never pay off. And the same "financial" metaphor is often used for language itself - among others, Brian Rotman determined meaning as something which is always "borrowed from the future," relying on its forever-postponed fulfillment-to-come. 6 That is to say, how does shared meaning emerge? Through what Alfred Schuetz called "mutual idealization": the subject cut the impasse of the endless probing into "do we all mean the same thing by 'bird'" by simply taking for granted, presupposing, acting AS IF they DO mean the same thing. There is no language without this "leap of faith."
This presupposition, this "leap of faith," should not be conceived, in the Habermasian vein, as the normativity build into the functioning of language, as the ideal the speakers (should) strive for: far from being an ideal, this presupposition is the fiction, the AS IF..., that sustains language - as such, it should be undermined again and again in the progress of knowledge. So, if anything, this presupposed AS IF... is profoundly ANTI-normative. - To this, a Habermasian may reply that the ideal, the norm inscribed into language, is nonetheless the state in which this fiction would no longer be a fiction, i.e, in which, in a smooth communication, subjects would effectively mean the same thing. However, this reproach misses the point, which is not only and simply that such a state is inaccessible (and also undesirable), but that the "leap of faith" by means of which the subjects take it for granted that they mean the same thing not only has no normative content, but can even block further elaboration - why strive for something that we allegedly already have? In other words, what the reading of this AS IF... as normativity misses is that the "leap of faith" is necessary and productive (enabling communication) precisely insofar as it is a counterfactual fiction: its "truth effect," its positive role of enabling communication, hinges precisely on the fact that it is NOT true, that it jumps ahead into fiction - its status is not normative because it cuts the debilitating deadlock of language, its ultimate lack of guarantee, by way of presenting what we should strive for as already accomplished. 7
The tension between production and circulation process is again that of parallax: yes, value is created in the production process; however, in it created there as it were only potentially, since it is only ACTUALIZED as value when the produced commodity is sold and the circle M-C-M' is thus completed. Crucial is this temporal GAP between the production of value and its actualization: even if value is produced in production, without the successful completion of the process of circulation, there stricto sensu is no value - the temporality is here that of the futur antérieur, i.e., value "is" not immediately, it only "will have been," it is retroactively actualized, performatively enacted. In production, value is generated "in itself," while only through completed circulation process it becomes "for itself." This is how Karatani resolves the Kantian antinomy of value which is AND is not generated in the process of production: it is generated there only "in itself." And it is because of this gap between in- and for-itself that capitalism needs formal democracy and equality:
"What precisely distinguishes capital from the master-slave relation is that the worker confronts him as consumer and possessor of exchange values, and that in the form of the possessor of money, in the form of money he becomes a simple center of circulation - one of its infinitely many centers, in which his specificity as worker is extinguished. 8
What this means is that, in order to complete the circle of its reproduction, the capital has to pass through this critical point at which the roles are inverted: "/.../ surplus value is realized in principle only by workers in totality buying back what they produce." 9 This point is crucial for Karatani: it provides the key leverage from which to oppose the rule of the capital today: is it not natural that the proletarians should focus their attack on that unique point at which they approach the capital from the position of a buyer, and, consequently, at which it is the capital which is forced to court them? "/.../ if workers can become subjects at all, it is only as consumers." 10 It is perhaps the ultimate case of the parallax situation: the position of worker-producer and that of consumer should be sustained as irreducible in their divergence, without privileging one as the "deeper truth" of the other. 11 (And, incidentally, did not the planned economy of the State Socialism pay a terrible price for privileging production at the expense of consumption precisely by the failure in providing the consumers with unneeded goods, by producing things which nobody needed and wanted?) 12 - This brings us to Karatani's key motif: one should thoroughly reject the (proto-Fascist, if anything) opposition of the financial-speculative profiteering capital to the "substantial" economy of capitalists engaged in productive activity: in capitalism, the production process is only a detour in the speculative process of money engendering more money, i.e., the profiteering logic is ultimately also what sustains the incessant drive to revolutionize and expand production:
The majority of economists warn today that the speculation of global financial capital is detached from the 'substantial' economy. What they overlook, however, is that the substantial economy as such is also driven by illusion, and that such is the nature of the capitalist economy. 13
There are, consequently, three basic positions apropos money: (1) the mercantilist one: a direct naïve fetishist belief in money as a "special thing"; (2) the "classical bourgeois political economy" embodied in Ricardo, which dismissed money-fetishism as a mere illusion and perceived money as a mere sign of the quantity of socially-useful labor - value was here conceived as inherent to a commodity; (3) the "neoclassical" school which rejected labor theory of value and also any "substantial" notion of value: for it, the price of a commodity is simply the result of the interplay of offer and demand, i.e., of the commodities' usefulness with regard to other commodities. And Karatani is right to emphasize how, paradoxically, Marx broke out of he confines of the "classical" Ricardo labor-theory of value through his reading of Bailey, the first "vulgar" economist who emphasized the purely relational status of value: value is not inherent to a commodity, it expresses the way this commodity relates to all other commodities. Bailey in this way opened up the path towards the structural-formal approach of Marx which insists on the gap between an object and the structural place it occupies: in the same way that a king is a king not because of his inherent properties, but because people treat him as one (Marx's own example), a commodity is money because it occupies the formal place of the general equivalent of all commodities, not because say, gold, is "naturally" money. But it is crucial to take note of how both mercantilists and their Ricardian critics remain "substantialist": Ricardo was, of course, aware that the object which serves as money is not "naturally" money, he laughed at the naïve superstition of money and dismissed mercantilists at primitive believers in magic properties; however, by reducing money to a secondary external sign of the value inherent to a commodity, he nonetheless again naturalized value, conceiving it is a direct "substantial" property of a commodity. It is this illusion that opened up the way to the naïve early-Socialist and Proudhonian practical proposal to overcome the money fetishism by way of introducing a direct "labor money" which would just designate the amount each individual contributed to social labor. The strict formal homology between Marx and Freud should be emphasized here 14 - here are three key passages from Marx:
The determination of the magnitude of value by labor-time is therefore a secret, hidden under the apparent fluctuations in the relative values of commodities. Its discovery, while removing all appearance of mere accidentality from the determination of the magnitude of the values of products, yet in no way alters the mode in which that determination takes place. 15
Political Economy has indeed analysed, however incompletely, value and its magnitude, and has discovered what lies beneath these forms. But it has never once asked the question why labour is represented by the value of its product and labour-time by the magnitude of that value. 16
It is as clear as noon-day, that man, by his industry, changes the forms of the materials furnished by Nature, in such a way as to make them useful to him. The form of wood, for instance, is altered, by making a table out of it. Yet, for all that, the table continues to be that common, every-day thing, wood. But, so soon as it steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than "table-turning" ever was. The mystical character of commodities does not originate, therefore, in their use-value. Just as little does it proceed from the nature of the determining factors of value. For, in the first place, however varied the useful kinds of labor, or productive activities, may be, it is a physiological fact, that they are functions of the human organism, and that each such function, whatever may be its nature or form, is essentially the expenditure of human brain, nerves, muscles, etc. Secondly, with regard to that which forms the ground-work for the quantitative determination of value, namely, the duration of that expenditure, or the quantity of labor, it is quite clear that there is a palpable difference between its quantity and quality. In all states of society, the labor-time that it costs to produce the means of subsistence, must necessarily be an object of interest to mankind, though not of equal interest in different stages of development. And lastly, from the moment that men in any way work for one another, their labor assumes a social form.
Whence, then, arises the enigmatical character of the product of labor, so soon as it assumes the form of commodities? Clearly from this form itself. The equality of all sorts of human labor is expressed objectively by their products all being equally values; the measure of the expenditure of labor-power by the duration of that expenditure, takes the form of the quantity of value of the products of labor; and finally the mutual relations of the producers, within which the social character of their labor affirms itself, take the form of a social relation between the products. 17
The key explication is hidden in a footnote at the very end of the key chapter of The Interpretation of Dreams, on "The Dream-Work":
Formerly I found it extraordinarily difficult to accustom my readers to the distinction between the manifest dream-content and the latent dream-thoughts. Over and over again arguments and objections were adduced from the un-interpreted dream as it was retained in the memory, and the necessity of interpreting the dream was ignored. But now, when the analysts have at least become reconciled to substituting for the manifest dream its meaning as found by interpretation, many of them are guilty of another mistake, to which they adhere just as stubbornly. They look for the essence of the dream in this latent content, and thereby overlook the distinction between latent dream-thoughts and the dream-work. The dream is fundamentally nothing more than a special form of our thinking, which is made possible by the conditions of the sleeping state. It is the dream-work which produces this form, and it alone is the essence of dreaming- the only explanation of its singularity. 18
One should be therefore extremely attentive to the gap which separates Marx from Ricardo and his Leftist followers who already accomplished the move from appearance to essence, i.e., from the fascination with the domain of exchange to the site of production as its secret core; the basic move of Marx is the opposite one, the move back to the secret of the form itself. The key trap is not to be blinded by form, but to reduce form to a "mere form," i.e., to overlook how the secret essence NEEDS this form, how the form itself is essential.
Is, however, the ultimate Marxian parallax not the one between economy and politics, between the "critique of political economy" with its logic of commodities and the political struggle with its logic of antagonism? Both logic are "transcendental," not merely ontico-empirical; and they are both irreducible to each other. Of course they both point towards each other (class struggle is inscribed into the very heart of economy, yes has to remain absent, non-thematized - recall how the manuscript of Capital volume III abruptly ends with it; and class struggle is ultimately "about" economic power-relations), but this very mutual implication is twisted so that it prevents any direct contact (any direct translation of political struggle into a mere mirroring of economic "interests" is doomed to fail, as well as any reduction of the sphere of economic production to a secondary "reified" sedimentation of an underlying founding political process).
This "pure politics" of Alain Badiou, Jacques Rancière, and Etienne Balibar, more Jacobin than Marxist, shares with its great opponent, the Anglo-Saxon Cultural Studies and their focus on the struggles for recognition, the degradation of the sphere of economy. That is to say, what all the new French (or French oriented) theories of the Political, from Balibar through Ranciere and Badiou to Laclau and Mouffe, aim at is - to put it in the traditional philosophical terms - the reduction of the sphere of economy (of the material production) to an "ontic" sphere deprived of the "ontological" dignity. Within this horizon, there is simply no place for the Marxian "critique of political economy": the structure of the universe of commodities and capital in Marx's Capital is NOT just that of a limited empirical sphere, but a kind of socio-transcendental a priori, the matrix which generates the totality of social and political relations. The relationship between economy and politics is ultimately that of the well-known visual paradox of the "two faces or a vase": one either sees the two faces or a vase, never both of them - one has to make a choice. In the same way, one either focuses on the political, and the domain of economy is reduced to the empirical "servicing of goods," or one focuses on economy, and politics is reduced to a theater of appearances, to a passing phenomenon which will disappear with the arrival of the developed Communist (or technocratic) society, in which, as already Engels put it, the "administration of people" will vanish in the "administration of things."
The "political" critique of Marxism (the claim that, when one reduces politics to a "formal" expression of some underlying "objective" socio-economic process, one loses the openness and contingency constitutive of the political field proper) should thus be supplemented by its obverse: the field of economy is IN ITS VERY FORM irreducible to politics - this level of the FORM of economy (of economy as the determining FORM of the social) is what French "political post-Marxists" miss when they reduce economy to one of the positive social spheres. In Badiou, the root of this notion of pure "politics," radically autonomous with regard to history, society, economy, State, even Party, is his opposition between Being and Event - it is here that Badiou remains "idealist." From the materialist standpoint, an Event emerges "out of nowhere" within a specific constellation of Being - the space of an Event is the minimal "empty" distance between two beings, the "other" dimension which shines through this gap.
What parallax means is that the bracketing itself produces its object - "democracy" as a form emerges only when one brackets the texture of economic relations as well as the inherent logic of the political state apparatus: they both have to be abstracted from, people who are effectively embedded in economic processes and subjected to state apparatuses have to be reduced to abstract units. The same goes also for the "logic of domination," the way people are controlled/manipulated by the apparatuses of subjection: in order to clearly discern these mechanisms of power, one has to abstract not only from the democratic imaginary (as Foucault does it in his analyses of the micro-physics of power, but also as Lacan does it in his analysis of power in Seminar XVIII), but also from the process of economic (re)production. And, finally, the specific sphere of economic (re)production only emerges if one methodologically brackets the concrete existence of state and political ideology - no wonder critics of Marx complained that Marx's "critique of political economy" lacks a theory of power and state. And, of course, the trap to be avoided here is precisely that of trying to formulate the totality parts of which are democratic ideology, the exercise of power and the process of economic (re)production: if one tries to keep in view all, one ends up seeing nothing, the contours disappears. This bracketing is not only epistemological, it concerns what Marx called the "real abstraction": the abstraction from power and economic relations is inscribed into the very actuality of the democratic process, etc.
Karatani's account, impressive as it is, cannot but solicit a series of critical remarks. As for his advocacy of the LETS (Local Exchange Trading System) economic model, it is difficult to see how it avoids the very trap of which Karatani is well aware, the trap of money which would no longer be a fetish, but would serve just a "labor-money," a transparent instrument of exchange designating each individuals' contribution to the social product. Furthermore, Karatani's account of the Marxian notion of surplus-value and exploitation is strangely short in that it totally ignores the key element of Marx's critique of the standard labor theory of value: workers are not exploited by way of not being paid their full value - their wages are in principle "just," they are paid the full value of the commodity they are selling ("labor force"); the key is rather that the use-value of this commodity is unique, it produces new value greater that its own value, and this surplus in appropriated by the capitalists. Karatani, on the contrary, reduces exploitation to just another case of a difference in price between value systems: because of the incessant technological innovation, capitalists can earn from selling the products of labor more than they have to pay their workers - capitalist exploitation is thus posted as structurally the same as the activity of merchants who buy and sell at different locations, exploiting the fact that, because of different productivity, the same product is cheaper here (where they buy it) than there (where they sell it):
/.../ only where there is a difference in price between value systems: A (when they sell their labor power) and B (when they buy the commodities), is surplus value realized. This is so-called relative surplus value. And this is attained only by incessant technological innovation. Hence one finds that industrial capital too earns surplus value from the interstice between two different systems. 19
Perhaps, these limitations are grounded in the constrants of Karatani's Kantianism. 20 When Karatani proposes his "transcendental" solution to the antinomy of money (we need an X which will be money and will not be money); when he reapplies this solution also to power (we need some centralized power, but not fetishized into a substance which is "in itself" Power); and when he explicitly evokes the structural homology with Duchamp (where an object becomes work of art not because of its inherent properties, but simply by occupying a certain place in the structure); does all this not exactly fit Lefort's theorization of democracy as a political order in which the place of power is originally empty, and is only temporary filled in by the elected representatives. Along these lines, even Karatani's apparently eccentric notion to combine elections with lottery in the procedure of determining who will rule us is more traditional than it may appear (he himself mentions the Ancient Greece) - paradoxically, it fulfills the same task as Hegel's theory of monarchy...
Karatani takes here a heroic risk at proposing a crazy-sounding definition of the difference between the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and the dictatorship of the proletariat: "If universal suffrage by secret ballot, namely, parliamentary democracy, is the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, the introduction of lottery should be deemed the dictatorship of the proletariat." 21 In this way, "the center exists and does not exist at the same time": 22 it exists as an empty place, a transcendental X, and it does not exist as a substantial positive entity. But is this effectively enough to undermine the "fetishism of power"? When an accidental individual is allowed to temporarily occupy the place of power, the charisma of power is bestowed on him, following the well-known logic of fetishist disavowal: "I know very well that this is an ordinary person like me, BUT NONETHELESS... (while in power, he becomes an instrument of a transcendent force, power speaks and acts through him)!" Does all this not fit the general matrix of Kant's solutions where the metaphysical propositions (God, immortality of the soul...) are asserted "under erasure," as postulates? Consequently, would it not the true task be precisely to get rid of the very mystique of the PLACE of power?
"...ce seul objet don't le Neant s'honore"
Let us take a closer look at Marx's classical description of the passage from money to capital, with its explicit allusions to the Hegelian and Christian background. First, there is the simple act of market exchange in which I sell in order to buy - I sell the product I own or made in order to buy another one which is of some use to me: "The simple circulation of commodities - selling in order to buy - is a means of carrying out a purpose unconnected with circulation, namely, the appropriation of use-values, the satisfaction of wants." 23 What happens with the emergence of the capital is not just the simple reversal of C-M-C /Commodity-Money-Commodity/ into M-C-M, i.e., of investing money into some commodity in order to sell it again and thus get back to (more) money; the key effect of this reversal is the ETERNALIZATION of circulation: "The circulation of money as capital is, on the contrary, an end in itself, for the expansion of value takes place only within this constantly renewed movement. The circulation of capital has therefore no limits." 24 Crucial here is the difference between the capitalist and the traditional miser, hoarding his treasure in a secret hide-out, and the capitalist who augments his treasure by throwing it into circulation:
The restless never-ending process of profit-making alone is what he aims at. This boundless greed after riches, this passionate chase after exchange-value, is common to the capitalist and the miser; but while the miser is merely a capitalist gone mad, the capitalist is a rational miser. The never-ending augmentation of exchange-value, which the miser strives after, by seeking to save his money from circulation, is attained by the more acute capitalist, by constantly throwing it afresh into circulation. 25
This madness of the miser is nonetheless not something which simply disappears with the rise of "normal" capitalism, or its pathological deviation. It is rather inherent to it: the miser has his moment of triumph in the economic crisis. In a crisis, it is not - as one would expect - money which loses its value, and we have to resort to the "real" value of commodities; commodities themselves (the embodiment of "real /use/ value") become useless, because there is no one to buy them. In a crisis,
money suddenly and immediately changes from its merely nominal shape, money of account, into hard cash. Profane commodities can no longer replace it. The use-value of commodities becomes value-less, and their value vanishes in the face of their own form of value. The bourgeois, drunk with prosperity and arrogantly certain of himself, has just declared that money is a purely imaginary creation. 'Commodities alone are money,' he said. But now the opposite cry resounds over the markets of the world: only money is a commodity. /.../ In a crisis, the antithesis between commodities and their value-form, money, is raised to the level of an absolute contradiction. 26
Does this not mean that at this moment, far from disintegrating, fetishism is fully asserted in its direct madness? 27 In crisis, the underlying belief, disavowed and just practiced, is thus DIRECTLY asserted. It is crucial how, in this elevation of money to the status of the only true commodity ("The capitalist knows that all commodities, however scurvy they may look, or however badly they may smell, are in faith and in truth money, inwardly circumcised Jews."), 28 Marx resorts to the precise Pauline definition of Christians as the "inwardly circumcised Jews": Christians do not need external actual circumcision (i.e., the abandonment of ordinary commodities with use values, dealing only with money), since they know that each of these ordinary commodities is already "inwardly circumcised," that its true substance is money. - It is even more crucial how Marx describes the passage from money to capital in the precise Hegelian terms of the passage from substance to subject:
In truth, however, value is here /in the capital/ the active factor in a process, in which, while constantly assuming the form in turn of money and commodities, it at the same time changes in magnitude, differentiates itself by throwing off surplus-value from itself; the original value, in other words, expands spontaneously. For the movement, in the course of which it adds surplus-value, is its own movement, its expansion, therefore, is automatic expansion. Because it is value, it has acquired the occult quality of being able to add value to itself. It brings forth living offspring, or, at the least, lays golden eggs. /.../
In simple circulation, C-M-C, the value of commodities attained at the most a form independent of their use-values, i.e., the form of money; but the same value now in the circulation M-C-M, or the circulation of capital, suddenly presents itself as an independent substance, endowed with a motion of its own, passing through a life-process of its own, in which money and commodities are mere forms which it assumes and casts off in turn. Nay, more: instead of simply representing the relations of commodities, it enters now, so to say, into private relations with itself. It differentiates itself as original value from itself as surplus value; as the father differentiates himself from himself qua the son, yet both are one and of one age: for only by the surplus value of 10 pounds dies the 100 pounds originally advanced become capital, and so on as this takes place, so soon as the son, and by the son, the father is begotten, so soon does their difference vanish, and they again become one, 110 pounds. 29
In short, capital is money which is no longer a mere substance of wealth, its universal embodiment, but value which, through its circulation, generates more value, value which mediates-posits itself, retroactively positing its own presuppositions. First, money appears as a mere means of the exchange of commodities: instead of the endless bartering, one first exchanges one's product for the universal equivalent of all commodities, which can then be exchanged for any commodity we may need. Then, once the circulation of the capital is set in motion, the relationship is inverted, the means turn into an end-in-itself, i.e., the very passage through the "material" domain of use-values (the production of commodities which satisfy individual's particular needs) is posited as a moment of what is substantially the self-movement of the capital itself - from this moment onwards, the true aim is no longer the satisfaction of individuals' needs, but simply more money, the endless repeating of the circulation as such... This arcane circular movement of self-positing is then equated with the central Christian tenet of the identity of God-the-Father and his Son, of the immaculate conception by means of which the single Father directly (without a female spouse) begets his only son and thus forms what is arguably the ultimate single-parent family.
Is then capital the true Subject/Substance? Yes and no: for Marx, this self-engendering circular movement is - to put it in Freudian terms - precisely the capitalist "unconscious fantasy" which parasitizes upon the proletariat as the "pure substanceless subjectivity"; for this reason, the capital's speculative self-generating dance has a limit, and it brings about the conditions of its own collapse. This insight allows us to solve the key interpretive problem of the above quote: how are we to read its first three words, "in truth, however"? First, of course, they imply that this truth has to be asserted against some false appearance or experience: the everyday experience that the ultimate goal of the capital's circulation is still the satisfaction of human needs, that capital is just a means to bring about this satisfaction in a more efficient way. However, this "truth" is NOT the reality of capitalism: in reality, capital does not engender itself, but exploits the worker's surplus-value. There is thus a necessary third level to be added to the simple opposition of subjective experience (of capital as a simple means of efficiently satisfying people's needs) and objective social reality (of exploitation): the "objective deception," the disavowed "unconscious" fantasy (of the mysterious self-generating circular movement of the capital), which is the TRUTH (although not the REALITY) of the capitalist process. Again, quote Lacan, truth has the structure of a fiction: the only way to formulate the truth of the capital is to render this fiction of its "immaculate" self-generating movement. And this insight also allows us to locate the weakness of the above-mentioned "deconstructionist" appropriation of Marx's analysis of capitalism: although it emphasizes the endless process of deferral which characterizes this movement, as well as its fundamental inconclusiveness, its self-blockade, the "deconstructionist" retelling still describes the FANTASY of the capital - it describes what individuals believe, although they don't know it.
This shift from goal-oriented stance of consumption towards the properly capitalist stance of self-propelling circulation allows us to locate desire and drive with regard to capitalism. Following Jacques-Alain Miller, a distinction has to be introduced here between lack and hole: lack is spatial, designating a void WITHIN a space, while hole is more radical, it designates the point at which this spatial order itself breaks down (as in the "black hole" in physics). 30 Therein resides the difference between desire and drive: desire is grounded in its constitutive lack, while drive circulates around a hole, a gap in the order of being. In other words, the circular movement of drive obeys the weird logic of the curved space in which the shortest distance between the two points is not a straight line, but a curve: drive “knows" that the shortest way to attain its aim is to circulate around its goal-object. At the immediate level of addressing individuals, capitalism of course interpellates them as consumers, as subjects of desires, soliciting in them ever new perverse and excessive desires (for which it offers products to satisfy them); furthermore, it obviously also manipulates the "desire to desire," celebrating the very desire to desire ever new objects and modes of pleasure. However, even if it already manipulates desire in a way which takes into account the fact that the most elementary desire is the desire to reproduce itself as desire (and not to find satisfaction), at this level, we do not yet reach drive. Drive inheres to capitalism at a more fundamental, systemic, level: drive is that which propels the entire capitalist machinery, it is the impersonal compulsion to engage in the endless circular movement of expanded self-reproduction. We enter the mode of drive the moment the circulation of money as capital becomes "an end in itself, for the expansion of value takes place only within this constantly renewed movement. The circulation of capital has therefore no limits." (One should bear in mind here Lacan's well-known distinction between the aim and the goal of drive: while the goal is the object around which drive circulates, its (true) aim is the endless continuation of this circulation as such.) The capitalist drive thus belongs to no definite individual - it is rather that those individuals who act as direct "agents" of the capital (capitalists themselves, top managers) have to display it.
Miller recently proposed a Benjaminian distinction between "constituted anxiety" and "constituent anxiety," which is crucial with regard to the shift from desire to drive: while the first one designated the standard notion of the terrifying and fascinating abyss of anxiety which haunts us, its infernal circle which threatens to draws us in, the second one stands for the "pure" confrontation with objet petit a as constituted in its very loss. 31 Miller is right to emphasize here two features: the difference which separates constituted from constituent anxiety concerns the status of the object with regard to fantasy. In a case of constituted anxiety, the object dwells within the confines of a fantasy, while we only get the constituent anxiety when the subject "traverses the fantasy" and confronts the void, the gap, filled up by the fantasmatic object - as Mallarme put it in the famous bracketed last two lines of his "Sonnet en -yx," objet a is ce seul objet dont le Néant s'honore /this sole object with which Nothing is honoured/."
Clear and convincing as it is, Miller's formula misses the true paradox or, rather, ambiguity of objet a: when he defines objet a as the object which overlaps with its loss, which emerges at the very moment of its loss (so that all its fantasmatic incarnations, from breasts to voice and gaze, are metonymic figurations of the void, of nothing), he remains within the horizon of desire - the true object-cause of desire is the void filled in by its fantasmatic incarnations. While, as Lacan emphasizes, objet a is also the object of drive, the relationship is here thoroughly different: although, in both cases, the link between object and loss is crucial, in the case of objet a as the object-cause of desire, we have an object which is originally lost, which coincides with its own loss, which emerges as lost, while, in the case of objet a as the object of drive, the "object" IS DIRECTLY THE LOSS ITSELF - in the shift from desire to drive, we pass from the lost object to loss itself as an object. That is to say, the weird movement called "drive" is not driven by the "impossible" quest for the lost object; it is a push to directly enact the "loss" - the gap, cut, distance - itself. There is thus a DOUBLE distinction to be drawn here: not only between objet a in its fantasmatic and post-fantasmatic status, but also, within this post-fantasmatic domain itself, between the lost object-cause of desire and the object-loss of drive.
This is why one should not confuse death drive with the so-called "nirvana principle," the trust towards destruction or self-obliteration: the Freudian death drive has nothing whatsoever to do with the craving for self-annihilation, for the return to the inorganic absence of any life-tension; it is, on the contrary, the very opposite of dying - a name for the "undead" eternal life itself, for the horrible fate of being caught in the endless repetitive cycle of wandering around in guilt and pain. The paradox of the Freudian "death drive" is therefore that it is Freud's name for its very opposite, for the way immortality appears within psychoanalysis, for an uncanny EXCESS of life, for an "undead" urge which persist beyond the (biological) cycle of life and death, of generation and corruption. The ultimate lesson of psychoanalysis is that human life is never "just life": humans are not simply alive, they are possessed by the strange drive to enjoy life in excess, passionately attached to a surplus which sticks out and derails the ordinary run of things.
What this means is that it is wrong to claim that the "pure" death drive death drive would have been the impossible "total" will to (self)destruction, the ecstatic self-annihilation in which the subject would have rejoined the fullness of the maternal Thing, but that this will is not realizable, that it gets blocked, stuck to a "partial object." Such a notion retranslates death drive into the terms of desire and its lost object: it is in desire that the positive object is a metonymic stand-in for the void of the impossible Thing; it is in desire that the aspiration to fullness is transferred to partial objects - this is what Lacan called the metonymy of desire. One has to be very precise here if we are not to miss Lacan's point (and thereby confuse desire and drive): drive is not an infinite longing for the Thing which gets fixated onto a partial object - "drive" IS this fixation itself in which resides the "death" dimension of every drive. Drive is not a universal thrust (towards the incestuous Thing) braked and broken up, it IS this brake itself, a brake on instinct, its "stuckness," as Eric Santner would have put it. 32 The elementary matrix of drive is NOT that of transcending all particular objects towards the void of the Thing (which is then accessible only in its metonymic stand-in), but that of our libido getting "stuck" onto a particular object, condemned to circulate around it forever.
The basic paradox here is that the specifically human dimension - drive as opposed to instinct - emerges precisely when what was originally a mere by-product is elevated into an autonomous aim: man is not more "reflexive"; on the contrary, man perceives as a direct goal what, for an animal, has no intrinsic value. In short, the zero-degree of "humanization" is not a further "mediation" of animal activity, its re-inscription as a subordinated moment of a higher totality (say, we eat and procreate in order to develop higher spiritual potentials), but the radical narrowing of focus, the elevation of a minor activity into an end-in-itself. We become "humans" when we get caught into a closed, self-propelling loop of repeating the same gesture and finding satisfaction in it.
We all recall one of the archetypal scenes from cartoons: while dancing, the cat jumps up into the air and turns around its own axis; however, instead of falling back down towards the earth's surface in accordance with the normal laws of gravity, it remains for some time suspended in the air, turning around in the levitated position as if caught in a loop of time, repeating the same circular movement on and on. (One also finds the same shot in some musical comedies which make use of the elements of slapstick: when a dancer turns around him- or herself in the air, s/he remains up there a little bit too long, as if, for a short period of time, s/he succeeded in suspending the law of gravity. And, effectively, is such an effect not the ultimate goal of the art of dancing?) In such moments, the "normal" run of things, the "normal" process of being caught in the imbecilic inertia of material reality, is for a brief moment suspended; we enter the magical domain of a suspended animation, of a kind of ethereal rotation which, as it were, sustains itself, hanging in the air like Baron Munchhausen who raised himself from the swamp by grabbing his own hair and pulling himself up. This rotary movement, in which the lineral progress of time is suspended in a repetitive loop, is DRIVE at its most elementary. This, again, is »humanization« at its zero-level: this self-propelling loop which suspends/disrupts linear temporal enchainment. This shift from desire to drive is crucial if one is to grasp properly the crux of the "minimal difference": at its most fundamental, the minimal difference is not the unfathomable X which elevates an ordinary object into an object of desire, but, rather, the inner torsion which curves the libidinal space and thus transforms instinct into drive.
Consequently, the concept of drive makes the alternative "either burned by the Thing or maintaining a distance" false: in a drive, the "thing itself" is a circulation around the void (or, rather, hole, not void). To put it even more pointedly, the object of drive is not related to the Thing as a filler of its void: drive is literally a counter-movement to desire, it does not strive towards impossible fullness and, being forced to renounce it, gets stuck onto a partial object as its remainder - drive is quite literally the very "drive" to BREAK the All of continuity in which we are embedded, to introduce a radical imbalance into it, and the difference between drive and desire it precisely that, in desire, this cut, this fixation onto a partial object, is as it were "transcendentalized," transposed into a stand-in for the void of the Thing.
Bruno Boostels' central Badiouian reproach to this topic of death drive qua self-relating negativity (from his unpublished essay "Badiou without Zizek") is that, by way of giving priority to the Act as a negative gesture of radical (self-relating) negativity, as "death drive" in actu, I in advance devalue every positive project of imposing a new Order, the fidelity to any positive political Cause:
what causes are there to be kept alive from a psychoanalytical perspective, if for the latter the most radical act consists in the subject's defining gesture of pure negativity that precedes and undermines every one of the possible candidates? /.../ Before any inscription of a new truth even has a chance to take place, actually blocking this process in advance by virtue of a structural necessity, the death drive always already has had to come first to wipe the slate clean.
The first thing to note here is how Boostels simply "axiomatically" opposes Lacan's and Badiou's respective notions of act, constraining Lacan to the paradigm of "tragic failure," to the primacy of negativity over any of its positivizations, while, for Badiou, all "death drive" phenomena are the result of the failure (betrayal, exhaustion) of a positive emancipatory project (do we not find here an echo of the old theological notion of Evil as a mere absence of Good, not as a positive power in itself?). Such a direct confrontation says nothing about the truth value of the two competing theories: Boostels's ultimate reproach to Lacan is tautological: that he is not Badiou - of which Lacan is, for sure, guilty.
Is, however, the opposition between the primacy of negativity and the primacy of the positive Truth really as simple and symmetrical as that? Is Boostels, in order to take side with Badiou, not compelled to conflate two notions o negativity: the "pure" self-relating negativity and negativity as an ethico-practical failure, as a betrayal of a positive project? In order to approach this topic properly, one would have to focus on the crucial, but often ambiguous, role of the Unnamable in Badiou. To cut a long story short: while, for Badiou, the unnamable Real is the unfathomable external background of a process of Truth (the resisting X which cannot ever be fully "forced" by the Truth), for Lacan, the Unnamable is absolutely inherent, it is the Act itself in its excess over its nominations. Badiou's rationalism remains at the level of the external opposition of Reason and the Unnamable (the Unnamable as the obscure background of Reason): there is no place in it for the moment of "madness" in the very core of Reason itself. A reference to German Idealism is crucial here: following Kant, Schelling deployed the notion of the primordial decision-differentiation (Ent-Scheidung), the unconscious atemporal deed by means of which the subject chooses his eternal character which, afterwards, within his conscious-temporal life, he experiences as the inexorable necessity, as "the way he always was":
The deed, once accomplished, sinks immediately into the unfathomable depth, thereby acquiring its lasting character. It is the same with the will which, once posited at the beginning and led into the outside, immediately has to sink into the unconscious. This is the only way the beginning, the beginning that does not cease to be one, the truly eternal beginning, is possible. For here also it holds that the beginning should not know itself. Once done, the deed is eternally done. The decision that is in any way the true beginning should not appear before consciousness, it should not be recalled to mind, since this, precisely, would amount to its recall. He who, apropos of a decision, reserves for himself the right to drag it again to light, will never accomplish the beginning. 33
With this abyssal act of freedom, the subject breaks up the rotary movement of drives, this abyss of the Unnamable - in short, this deed is the very founding gesture of naming. Therein resides Schelling's unheard-of philosophical revolution: he does not simply oppose the dark domain of the rotary movement of pre-ontological drives, this unnamable Real which cannot ever be totally symbolized, to the domain of Logos, of articulated Word which cannot ever totally "force" it (like Badiou, Schelling insists on how there is always a remainder of the unnamable Real - the "indivisible remainder" - which eludes symbolization); at its most radical, the unnamable Unconscious is not external to Logos, it is not its obscure background, but, rather, the very act of Naming, the very founding gesture of Logos. The greatest contingency, the ultimate act of abyssal madness, is the very act of imposing a rational Necessity onto the pre-rational chaos of the Real.
And, since we are dealing with German Idealism here, one should gather the courage to propose another paradoxical identification: what if this curved structure of drive is none other than that of what Hegel meant by "self-consciousness"? The crucial mistake to be avoided is to grasp the Hegelian self-consciousness as a kind of meta-Subject, a Mind, much larger than an individual human mind, aware of itself: once we do this, Hegel has to appear as a ridiculous spiritualist obscurantist, claiming that there is a kind of mega-Spirit controlling our history. Against this cliché, one should emphasize how Hegel is fully aware that "it is in the finite consciousness that the process of knowing spirit's essence takes place and that the divine self-consciousness thus arises. Out of the foaming ferment of finitude, spirit rises up fragrantly." 34
However, although our awareness, the (self)consciousness of finite humans, is the only actual site of spirit, this does not entail any kind of nominalist reduction - there is another dimension at work in "self-consciousness," the one designated by Lacan as the "big Other" and by Karl Popper as the Third World. That is to say, for Hegel, "self-consciousness" in its abstract definition stands for a purely non-psychological self-reflexive ply of registering (re-marking) one's own position, of reflexively "taking into account" what one is doing. Therein resides the link between Hegel and psychoanalysis: in this precise non-psychological sense, "self-consciousness" is in psychoanalysis an object - say, a tic, a symptom which articulates the falsity of my position of which I am unaware. Say, I did something wrong, and I consciously deluded myself that I had the right to do it; but, unaware to me, a compulsive act which appears mysterious and meaningless to me "registers" my guilt, it bears witness to the fact that, somewhere, my guilt is remarked. Along the same lines, Ingmar Bergman once noted that, towards the end of their careers, both Fellini and Tarkovsky (whom he admired) unfortunately started to make "Fellini films" and "Tarkovsky films," and that the same feature is the cause of the failure of his Autumn Sonata - it is a "Bergman film done by Bergman." What this means is that, in The Autumn Sonata, Bergman lost the spontaneous attitude towards his creative substance: he started to "imitate himself," to reflexively follow his own formula - in short, The Autumn Sonata is a "self-conscious" film, even if Bergman himself was psychologically totally unaware of it... This is the function of the Lacanian "big Other" at its purest: this impersonal, non-psychological, agency (or, rather, site) of registering, of "taking note of" what takes place.
This is how one should grasp Hegel's notion of State as "self-consciousness" of a people: "The state is the self-conscious ethical substance." 35 A State is not merely a blindly running mechanism applied to regulate social life, it always also contains a series of practices, rituals and institutions that serve to "declare" its own status, in the guise of which the State appears to its subjects as what it is - parades and public celebrations, solemn oaths, legal and educational rituals which assert (and thereby enact) the subject's belonging to the State:
the self-consciousness of the state has nothing mental about it, if by 'mental' we understand the sorts of occurrences and qualities that are relevant to our own minds. What self-consciousness amounts to, in the state's case, is the existence of reflective practices, such as, but not limited to, educational ones. Parades displaying the state's military strength would be practices of this kind, and so would statements of principle by the legislature, or sentences by the Supreme Court - and they would be that even if all individual (human) participants in a parade, all members of the legislature or of the Supreme Court were personally motivated to play whatever role they play in this affair by greed, inertia, or fear, and even if all such participants or members were thoroughly uninterested and bored through the whole event, and totally lacking in any understanding of its significance. 36
So it is quite clear to Hegel that this appearing has nothing to do with conscious awareness: it does not matter what individuals' minds are preoccupied with while they are participating in a ceremony, the truth resides in the ceremony itself. Hegel made the same point a propos the marriage ceremony, which registers the most intimate link of love: "the solemn declaration of consent to the ethical bond of marriage and its recognition and confirmation by the family and community constitute the formal conclusion and actuality of marriage," which is why it belongs to "impertinence and its ally, understanding," to see "the ceremony whereby the essence of this bond is expressed and confirmed /.../ as an external formality," irrelevant with regard to the inwardness of passionate feeling. 37
This, of course, is not the whole story: Hegel also emphasized the need for a subjective element of individual self-awareness only through which a State fully actualizes itself - there has to be an actual individual "I will!" which immediately embodies the will of the State, therein consists Hegel's deduction of monarchy. However, here, we are in for a surprise: the Monarch is not the privileged point at which the State is fully aware of itself, of its nature and spiritual content; the Monarch is rather an idiot who merely provides the purely formal aspect of "This is my will! So be it!" to a content imposed on it from outside: "In a fully organized state, /.../ all that is required in a monarch is someone to say 'yes' and to dot the 'I'; for the supreme office should be such that the particular character of its occupant is of no significance." 38 The State's "self-consciousness" is thus irreducibly split between its "objective" aspect (the self-registration in State rituals and declarations) and its "subjective" aspect (the person of the Monarch conferring on it the form of individual will) - the two never overlap. The contrast between the Hegelian Monarch and the "totalitarian" Leader who is effectively supposed to know cannot be stronger.
However, in a unique case of ethical perversion, "totalitarianism" itself exploits this gap of reflexivity that characterizes the structure of self-consciousness. In her Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt described the self-reflexive twist the Nazi executioners accomplished in order to be able to endure the horrible acts they performed: most of them were not simply evil, they were well aware that they are doing things which bring humiliation, suffering and death to their victims; the way they dealt with it was to accomplish the "Himmler trick," so that, "instead of saying: What horrible things I did to people!, the murderers would be able to say: What horrible things I had to watch in the pursuance of my duties, how heavily the task weighed upon my shoulders!" 39 In this way, they were able to turn around the logic of resisting temptation: the temptation to be resisted was the temptation to succumb to the very elementary pity and sympathy in the presence of human suffering, and their "ethical" effort was directed towards the task of resisting this temptation NOT to murder, torture and humiliate. In a kind of recapitonnage, my very violation of spontaneous ethical instincts of pity and compassion is thus turned into the proof of my ethical grandeur: to do my duty, I am ready to assume the heavy burden of inflicting pain on others... 40 No wonder Eichmann considered himself a Kantian: in him, the Kantian contrast between the subject's spontaneous egotistic strivings and the ethical struggle to overcome them is turned around into the struggle between the spontaneous ETHICAL strivings and the "evil" effort to overcome these barriers which make it so difficult for us to accomplish a terrible act of torturing or killing another human being, as in the short poem by Brecht apropos a statue of a Japanese demon, in which Brecht emphasizes the immense effort it takes to be truly evil.
1 More closely, with regard to morals, Kant rejects both the rationalist notion of a transcendent (metaphysical or communal) substantial Good as well as the individualist-utilitarian notion of ethics grounded in the calculus of pleasures, profits and emotions - they are all "heteronomous." If we are to arrive at autonomous ethics, one should bracket BOTH communal substantial notions of Good and individual "pathological" pleasures and emotions.
2 Karl Marx, "A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy," in Collected Works, vol. 29, New York: International Publishers 1976, p. 390.
3 With this accent on the salto mortale of capitalist circulation, on how capitalism lives and thrives on the credit from the future, on the wager that the cycle of circulation will be accomplished, one is almost tempted to put it in Heideggerian terms: the essence of credit is the being-credited of the essence itself...
4 See, among others, Helmut Reichelt, Zur logischen Struktur des Kapitalbegriffs, Frankfurt: Europaische Verlagsanstalt 1970, and Hiroshi Uchida, Marx's Grundrisse and Hegel's Logic, New York: Routledge 1988.
5 Karatani, op.cit., p. 9.
7 The same logic of living off the credit borrowed from the future also goes for Stalinism. The standard evolutionary version is that, while the Stalinist socialism did play a certain role in enabling the rapid industrialization of Russia, starting with the mid-60s, the system obviously exhausted its potentials; however, what this judgment fails to take into account is the fact that the entire epoch of the Soviet Communism from 1917 (or, more precisely, from Stalin's proclamation of the goal to "build socialism in one country" in 1924) lived on borrowed time, was "indebted to its own future," so that the final failure retroactively disqualified the earlier epochs themselves.
8 Karl Marx, Grundrisse, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books 1993, p. 420-421.
9 Karatani, op.cit., p. 20.
10 Karatani, op.cit., p. 290.
11 Is a nice linguistic example of the parallax between production and consumption not that of the different use of "pork" and "pig" in today's English? "Pig" refers to animals with whom farmers deal, while "pork" is the meat we consume - and the class dimension is clear here: "pig" is the old Saxon word, since Saxons were the underprivileged farmers, while "pork" comes from French "porque," used by the privileged Norman conquerors who mostly consumed the pigs raised by farmers.
12 When post-Marxist Leftists speak of "consumtariat" as the new form of proletariat (see Alexander Bard and Jan Soderqvist, Netrocracy: The New Power Elite and Life After Capitalism, London: Reuters 2002), what they indicate is the ultimate identity of worker and consumer - it is for THIS reason that, in capitalism, a worker has to be formally free.
13 Karatani, op.cit., p. 241.
14 I first developed this moment in Chapter 1 of The Sublime Object of Ideology, London: Verso Books 1989. And, against Karatani's anti-Hegelianism, one should remember that this notion of form is more Hegelian than Kantian: "Thus in the movement of consciousness there occurs a moment of being-in-itself or being-for-us which is not present to the consciousness comprehended in the experience itself. The content, however, of what presents itself to us does exist for it; we comprehend only the formal aspect /das Formelle/ of that content, or its pure origination. For it, what has thus arisen exists only as an object; for us, it appears at the same time as movement and a process of becoming."( G.W.F.Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1977, p. 56.)
15 Karl Marx, Capital, p. 166.
16 Karl Marx, op.cit., p. 167.
17 Karl Marx, op.cit., p. 163-164.
18 Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books 1977, p. 650.
19 Karatani, op.cit., p. 239.
20 What cannot but strike the eye of anyone well-versed in the history of Marxism is the conspicuous absence of the reference to Alfred Sohn-Rethel in Karatani's book: Sohn-Rethel directly deployed the parallel between Kant's transcendental critique and Marx's critique of political economy, but in the opposite critical direction (the structure of the commodity universe IS that of the Kantian transcendental space).
21 op.cit., p. 183. Karatani evokes here the example of old Athenian democracy; but is not the ultimate combination of ballots and lots advocated by him the unique procedure for electing the Doge in Venice, established in 1268, after a Doge tried to obtain hereditary monarchic powers? Thirty members would first be balloted for, then a ballot held to select nine of them. These nine then nominated 40 provisional electors who in turn chose twelve by lot who then elected 25. These were reduced to nine, who then each nominated five. The 45 so nominated were reduced by casting lots to eleven; nine of the eleven votes were needed to choose the final 41 who, meeting in conclave, would elect the Doge... The aim of this procedure was, of course, to prevent any group or family to exercise undue influence. Furthermore, in order to prevent the Doge himself from getting too much power, there was a list of duties he could not undertake (his sons or daughters could not marryoutside the Republic, he was only allowed to open official letters in the presence of others, etc.).
23 Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, New York: International Publishers 1967, p. 253.
24 Karl Marx, op.cit., p. 254. - It is with this shift to the universal form of circulation as an end-in-itself that we pass from pre-modern ethics, grounded in a reference to some substantial supreme Good, to the paradigmatically modern Kantian ethics in which it is ultimately only the form of duty that matters, i.e. in which duty is to be accomplished for the sake of duty. What this means is that Lacan's emphasis on how Kant's ethics is the ethics inherent to the Galilean-Newtonian universe of the modern science, has to be supplemented by the insight into how Kant's ethics is also the ethics inherent to the capitalist logic of circulation as an end-in-itself.
25 Karl Marx, op.cit., p. 254-255.
26 Karl Marx, op.cit., p. 236-7.
27 This paradox is structurally homologous to that of Casanova who, in order to seduce a naïve peasant girl, draw a circle on the grass and claimed that staying within it protects you from all dangers light being hit by a lightning; when, however, immediately afterwards, an actual violent storm broke out, Casanova, in a moment of panic, himself stepped into this circle, acting as if he believed in its power although he knew very well it was just part of his deception...
28 Karl Marx, op.cit., p. 171.
29 Karl Marx, op.cit., p. 171-173.
30 See Jacques-Alain Miller, "Le nom-du-père, s'en passer, s'en servir," available on www.lacan.com.
31 See Jacques-Alain Miller, op.cit.
32 See Eric Santner, On the Psychotheology of Everyday Life, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2001.
33 F.W.J. von Schelling, Ages of the World, Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press 1997, p. 181-182. For a more detailed reading of this notion, see Chapter 1 of Slavoj Zizek, The Indivisible Remainder, London: Verso Books 1997.
34 G.W.F. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, vol. III, Berkeley: University of California Press 1985, p. 233.
35 G.W.F. Hegel, Philosophy of Mind, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1971, p. 263.
36 Ermanno Bencivenga, Hegel's Dialectical Logic, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2000, p. 64.
37 G.W.F. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1991, p. 204-205.
38 G.W.F. Hegel, op.cit., p. 322-323.
39 Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: a report on the banality of evil, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books 1963, p. 98.
40 Stalinism was not far behind Nazism in inventing "ethical" justifications of evil measures. In, in the early thirties, Western humanist fellow-travelers were shocked to learn that the Soviet Union expanded death penalty to children from 12 years onwards - since Bukharin and some other main candidates for show trials had children of that age, the measure was meant to put additional pressure on them and thus to assure their participation in the trials. One of the Soviet explanations was that, in Soviet Union, the most highly developed country in the history of humanity, children mature faster than in the West, they become adult already at the age of 12, so they should also share the full responsibilities of the adults...
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