Fragments

A Miscellany of Study

Sovereignty

A belief in the sovereignty of the subject through its rational ordering of representation does not emerge without some external support or confirmation.  Several social roles may serve as a model for imagining the mastery of the sovereign subject: the patriarchal father, the absolute despot, the chief executive officer, the owner of property, the artist, the animal trainer, the craftsperson, or the wealthy consumer, for example.  Each may form the basis for imagining an unfettered liberty and power over a specific domain.  On closer inspection, however, each of these social roles exists in a complex web of mutual influence and interaction with its correlative field.  To attain true mastery in each case, it is necessary to hold the capacity to break off the relation with the mastered object.  Thus, the owner of property is absolved from the corresponding obligations for care and maintenance of property by disposing of it, selling it in exchange, or allowing it to decay.  Ownership is the right to dispose of property.  The consumer exercises sovereignty in the selection of products by refusing to purchase others on offer.  Choice is rejection.  The craftsperson rejects recalcitrant materials.  The despot exercises sovereignty through power over life and death.  Sovereignty is a relation that exists only in its suspension.  It is exercised primarily as a threat, but the execution of the threat consists in dissolving the relation.  Such power may be exercised through violence, through severance, or through flight.  Yet as the image of negation, sovereign power exists only in the imagination.  In practice, the mind may be subjected to both physical force and the force of authority. (34-35)

Philip Goodchild | Theology of Money

Sex & The Simulacrum

What are the implications of introducing video into lovemaking?  Any neo-Luddite technophobia must be checked by the unavailability of a logical line that would differentiate video from mirrors or just looking in the enhancement of erotic pleasure.  But discomfort at this mechanization of vision — the fear that sooner or later sex without Sony won’t do it any more, and that this is only a last and hyperbolic instance of a culturally pandemic supplantation of the real by the simulacrum — also recognizes it as a final step in the internalization of the ubiquitous apparatuses of surveillance.  As the most intimate form of autosurveillance, it completes the industrialization of the body, becoming continuous with the total penetration of the spectacle and the corporation, the incorporation of desire itself. (222-223)

David E. James | “Hardcore: Cultural Resistance in the Postmodern” in Power Misses: Essays Across (Un)popular Culture

 

Bourgeois Freedom in the Secular City

The freedom with which [humanity] is concerned must not be confused with the individual autonomy bestowed on us by the industrial society; a society in which the field of obligation has been reduced to that of work.  A man must do what he is told during his work time, but in his leisure (non-work) he is free to do, believe, worship, read, what he likes.  It is only in so far as these activities touch on the work relationship that they are restricted.  This autonomy represents a new kind of society by comparison with the feudal one it replaced.  It is the bourgeois secular city; the society in which the ‘city’ takes no official notice of anything except secular work-relationships and professes indifference to how its citizens play or paint or love or pray or speak with each other.  All such ‘sacred’ activities are free.  (I call them ‘sacred’ in so far as they transcend the profane world which is more or less strictly regulated by social utility.)  In the secular city a man is very nearly completely collectivised during his work time and very nearly a completely autonomous individual for the rest of the time.  ‘The modern subjectivity in which we today experience ourselves as individuals and personal human beings, is a result of the disburdening of social intercourse by reducing it to terms of practical affairs.’  Progress in the bourgeois society essentially consists in diminishing as far as possible, by such means as automation, the proportion of man’s life that is spent in the slavery of work.  This liberal society is not yet a society of freedom in the christian sense.  Freedom fundamentally means being able to give oneself and thereby realise oneself; a free society is a set of media in which people are able to be open to each other, to love each other without fear. (156-158)

Herbert McCabe | Law, Love and Language

Resurrection & Revolution

The resurrection of Christ means that death is not just a matter of destruction, the end of life, but can be a revolution; the beginning of a new and unpredictable life.  All revolution means a radical change in the structures within which we have our existence, all revolution produces a new kind of man; resurrection is the revolution through death, the radical change of those structures within which we exist at all.  I mean that a man can survive other revolutions; there are structures, the structures of the body, which remain untouched by the most radical changes in his other media of communication.  Resurrection means that because of his link with the Father in Christ a man can suffer the destruction even of those basic structures, the ones that constitute his body, and rediscover his identity on the far side of death.  Because the current world is crucifying, Christ-rejecting, even in its bodily structure, mankind can only achieve its destiny, its unity in love, through a revolution that goes as deep as this, through the revolution of death.  The new world comes only through the death of this world.  Thus every revolution which deals with structures less ultimate than this is an image of, and a preparation for, the resurrection of the dead.  The Cuban or Vietnamese revolution is a type of the resurrection in the sense that we speak of Old Testament events as types of Christ.  In a sense every revolution draws upon powers that are not catered for in the preceding society, powers which therefore seem to be invisible because they transcend the terms of that society: ‘we are not just peasants, we are men, though you have forgotten it’.  The power and the spirit of every revolution thus comes from ‘outside’ the society that is overthrown.  The power and the spirit of the ultimate revolution, the resurrection, comes from ‘outside’ man altogether.  For the christian, this is what divinity is: God is he who raised Jesus from the dead. (133-135)

Herbert McCabe | Law, Love and Language

Capitalism & Human Nature

Whatever may be true of primitive societies it is at least arguable that the sophisticated society does present certain obstacles to understanding the nature of man, not, however, because it is industrialised but because it is capitalist or profoundly affected by capitalism.  As Karl Marx remarked, ‘According to Adam Smith, society is a commercial enterprise.  Every one of its members is a salesman.  It is evident how political economy establishes an alienated form of social intercourse as the true and original form and that which corresponds to human nature’.  A certain distortion of the nature of man is built into the capitalist culture which makes it difficult for us to recognise ourselves for what we are, to recognise, in fact, what we want. (59-60)

Herbert McCabe | Law, Love and Language