Saturday, June 30, 2012

Smashing the Spinning Plates





How long can the Eurocrats in Brussels keep the dinnerware in motion?


The outcome of the June 17 Greek election—a narrow victory for the conservative New Democracy over the leftist Syriza party, and the prompt formation of a “pro-European” coalition government—predictably unleashed a gigantic sigh of relief all over Europe. The catastrophe was averted, European unity had prevailed, etc. But, in fact, a great opportunity was missed, a unique chance for Europe to finally confront the depth of its economic and political deadlock. The sigh of relief effectively meant: We avoided the awakening. We can continue to dream.

CNN’s Richard Quest recently offered a metaphor for this dream when he compared the European officials to:
[T]he proverbial “plate spinners” from the circus. Those talented artists who balance spinning plates on sticks, ever increasing the number of sticks, rushing from one to the other, giving them a tug and pull to keep them moving, always aware that if they are too slow or too fast, one of the plates will crash to the ground. 

That is exactly what we have in Europe today. Only the artists are European Central Bank president Mario Draghi, Eurogroup head Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president José Manuel Barroso et al, while the plates are Greece, Spanish banks, Italian deficits, eurobonds and German chancellor Angela Merkel. … Daily it seems there are more plates spinning, and the antics of the spinners become more frantic as they rush from one to the other, ever proclaiming that the act is coming to a close. Unfortunately that is not the case. The plate spinning is likely to continue for some time to come.

Spinning plates is effectively what the Brussels Eurocrats are doing: endlessly postponing the critical reckoning by way of adding new plates and thus making the balance more and more fragile. Syriza was accused of promoting leftist fictions—but it is the austerity plan imposed by Brussels that is a fiction. In a strange gesture of collective make-believe, everyone knows that the Greek state cannot ever repay its debt, and everyone ignores the obvious nonsense of the financial projections on which the plans are based.
So why does Brussels impose these plans? What matters in contemporary capitalism is that agents act upon their putative beliefs about future prospects, regardless of whether they really believe in those prospects. 

And, as we also all know, the true aim of these rescue measures is not to save Greece, but to save the European banks.

There is a wonderfully dialectical joke in Ernst Lubitsch’s classic comedy Ninotchka: the hero visits a cafeteria and orders coffee without cream; the waiter replies: “I’m sorry, sir, we have no cream. Can it be without milk?” In both cases, the customer gets coffee alone, but this single coffee is each time accompanied by a different negation, first coffee-with-no-cream, then coffee-with-no-milk.

Greece is in the same predicament: The situation is difficult, and Greeks will get some kind of austerity—but will they get that austerity without cream or without milk? It is here that the European establishment is cheating. It is acting as if Greeks will get the coffee of austerity without cream (that the fruits of their hardship will not profit only European banks but also themselves), but they are effectively offering Greeks coffee without milk (only the banks, and not the Greeks, will profit from this hardship).

To illustrate the mistake of enacting austerity measures as the main strategy to combat the crisis, Paul Krugman often compares them to the medieval cure of blood-letting. That’s a nice metaphor that should be radicalized even further. The European financial doctors, who are themselves not sure about how the medicine works, are using the Greeks as test rabbits and letting their blood, not the blood of their own countries. There is no blood-letting for the great German and French banks—on the contrary, they are getting continuous and enormous transfusions.

Syriza is not a group of dangerous “extremists.” Rather, it is bringing pragmatic common sense to clear the mess created by others. It is those who impose austerity measures who are dangerous dreamers, who think that things can go on indefinitely the way they are, just with some cosmetic changes. Syriza supporters are not dreamers—they are the awakening from a dream which is turning into a nightmare. They are not destroying anything, they are reacting to a system that is gradually destroying itself.

Syriza is a radical Left movement that stepped out of the comfortable position of marginal resistance and courageously signaled their readiness to take power. This is why, according to some, the Greeks should be penalized—or, as Bill Frezza recently wrote in Forbes, under the headline, “Give Greece What It Deserves: Communism”: “What the world needs, lest we forget, is a contemporary example of Communism in action. 

What better candidate than Greece? … Just toss them out of the European Union, cut off the flow of free Euros, and hand them back the printing plates for their old drachmas. Then stand back for a generation and watch.” The old story of Haiti after 1804 repeats itself here: Greece should be exemplarily punished to block once and for all any temptation for a radical Left solution to the crisis.

Some have argued Syriza lacks the proper experience to govern, and this should be admitted: Yes, they lack the experience in how to bankrupt a country, in how to cheat and to steal. This brings us to the absurdity of the European establishment’s politics: They preach the dogma of paying taxes—and against Greece’s institutional corruption—and put all their hopes on the coalition of the two parties that institutionalized that corruption in the first place. The New Democracy victory was the result of a brutal campaign full of lies and scare-mongering—the politics of fear at its purest, drawing a picture of Greece with hunger, chaos and police state terror in the case of the Syriza victory.

The EU pressure on Greece to implement austerity measures fits perfectly with what psychoanalysis calls superego. Superego is not an ethical agency proper, but a sadistic agent that bombards the subject with impossible demands, obscenely enjoying the subject’s failure to comply with them. The paradox of the superego is that, as Freud saw clearly, the more we obey its demands, the guiltier we feel. Imagine a vicious teacher who imposes on his pupils impossible tasks, and then takes pleasure in jeering when he sees their anxiety and panic. This is what is so terribly wrong with the EU demands: their austerity policies don’t even give Greece a chance—its failure is part of the game.

There is an (apocryphal, for sure) anecdote about the exchange of telegrams between German and Austrian army headquarters in the middle of WWI: the Germans sent the message “Here, on our part of the front, the situation is serious, but not catastrophic,” to which the Austrians replied, “Here, the situation is catastrophic, but not serious.” This is the true difference between Syriza and others. For the others, the situation is catastrophic but not serious; they want to continue with business as usual. For Syriza, the situation is serious but not catastrophic, since courage and hope should replace fear.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"EROTICA INC." Oct. 23, 2000


EROTICA INC. -- A special report.; Technology Sent Wall Street Into Market for Pornography
By TIMOTHY EGAN
Published: October 23, 2000

[…]
Why file criminal charges against a lone video retailer, Mr. Spencer argued, when some of the biggest corporations in America, including a hotel chain whose board of directors includes W. Mitt Romney, president of the Salt Lake City Olympics organizing committee, and a satellite broadcaster heavily backed by Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the News Corporation, were selling the same product?
''I despise this stuff -- some of it is really raunchy,'' said Mr. Spencer, a public defender who described himself as a devout Mormon. ''But the fact is that an awful lot of people here in Utah County are paying to look at porn. What that says to me is that we're normal.''
It took only a few minutes for the jury to find Mr. Peterman not guilty on all charges. His case illustrates what has happened to an industry that used to be confined to the margins of commerce, in the seedy parts of most towns, run by people who never dreamed of taking their companies to Wall Street.
Spurred by changes in technology that make pornography easier to order into the home than pizza, and court decisions that offer broad legal protection, the business of selling sexual desire through images has become a $10 billion annual industry in the United States, according to Forrester Research of Cambridge, Mass., and the industry's own Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
Whatever the phenomenon may say about the nature of American society, the financial rewards are so great that some of the biggest distributors of explicit sex on film and online include the country's most recognizable corporate names.
The General Motors Corporation, the world's largest company, now sells more graphic sex films every year than does Larry Flynt, owner of the Hustler empire. The 8.7 million Americans who subscribe to DirecTV, a General Motors subsidiary, buy nearly $200 million a year in pay-per-view sex films from satellite, according to estimates provided by distributors of the films, estimates the company did not dispute.
EchoStar Communications Corporation, the No. 2 satellite provider, whose chief financial backers include Mr. Murdoch, makes more money selling graphic adult films through its satellite subsidiary than Playboy, the oldest and best-known company in the sex business, does with its magazine, cable and Internet businesses combined, according to public and private revenue accounts by the companies.
AT&T Corporation, the nation's biggest communications company, offers a hard-core sex channel called the Hot Network to subscribers to its broadband cable service. It also owns a company that sells sex videos to nearly a million hotel rooms. Nearly one in five of AT&T's broadband cable customers pays an average of $10 a film to see what the distributor calls ''real, live all-American sex -- not simulated by actors.''
For all the money being made on sex -- legally -- by mainstream corporations, the topic remains taboo outside the boardroom. The major satellite and cable companies do very little marketing of their X-rated products, and they are not mentioned in annual reports except in the vaguest of euphemisms.
None of the corporate leaders of AT&T, Time Warner, General Motors, EchoStar, Liberty Media, Marriott International, Hilton, On Command, LodgeNet Entertainment or the News Corporation -- all companies that have a big financial stake in adult films and that are held by millions of shareholders -- were willing to speak publicly about the sex side of their businesses.
''How can we?'' said an official at AT&T. ''It's the crazy aunt in the attic. Everyone knows she's there, but you can't say anything about it.''
For hotels, the sex that can be piped through television generates far more money than the beer, wine and snacks sold from the rooms' mini-bars. Just under 1.5 million hotel rooms, or about 40 percent of all hotel rooms in the nation, are equipped with television boxes that sell the kind of films that used to be seen mostly in adults-only theaters, according to the two leading companies in the business. Based on estimates provided by the hotel industry, at least half of all guests buy these adult movies, which means that pay-per-view sex from television hotel rooms may generate about $190 million a year in sales.
At home, Americans buy or rent more than $4 billion a year worth of graphic sex videos from retail outlets and spend an additional $800 million on less explicit sexual films -- all told, about 32 percent of the business for general-interest video retailers that carry adult topics, according to compilations done by two trade organizations that track video rentals. Chains like Tower Records now stock nearly 500 titles in their so-called erotic category, far more than films about history or dinosaurs.
On the Internet, sex is one of the few things that prompts large numbers of people to disclose their credit card numbers. According to two Web ratings services, about one in four regular Internet users, or 21 million Americans, visits one of the more than 60,000 sex sites on the Web at least once a month -- more people than go to sports or government sites.
Though estimates have been greatly inflated by some e-commerce sex merchants, analysts from Forrester Research say that sex sites on the Web generate at least $1 billion a year in revenue, providing a windfall for credit card companies, Internet search engines and people who build Web sites, among others in the commercial food chain.
Some of the most popular Web properties -- which feature quick links to sites labeled ''Virgin Sluts'' and ''See Teens Have Sex'' -- are owned by a publicly held company in Boulder, Colo. That company, New Frontier Media, has stock traded like any other, and it expects its video network to be in 25 million homes within a few years. It does business with several major companies, including EchoStar and In Demand, the nation's leading pay-per-view distributor, which is owned in part by AT&T, Time Warner, Advance-Newhouse, Cox Communications and Comcast.
Another company, LodgeNet, whose chairman is Scott C. Petersen, does $180 million in annual business selling sex videos and other forms of room entertainment to hotels. LodgeNet is a major employer in Sioux Falls, S.D., its home base. It is a client of the accounting giant Arthur Andersen, and nearly a fifth of the company's public shares are held by a Park Avenue investment firm, Red Coat Capital Management of New York.
''We feel good about what we do,'' said Ann Parker, a spokeswoman for LodgeNet, which trades on the Nasdaq market. ''We're good corporate citizens. We contribute to local charities.''
The biggest provider of hard-core sex videos and adult Web content, Vivid Entertainment Group of Van Nuys, Calif., whose founders and principal owners are Steven Hirsch and David James, has been making the rounds of investment bankers of late, preparing for an initial public stock offering next year that could ultimately lead to the first porn billionaire.
''The adult entertainment business is just exploding,'' said Bill Asher, the president of Vivid, whose offices are in a new granite and glass building that houses investment and venture capital firms. ''Right now there are a lot of people making a lot of money. Somebody's got to take control of it, and we figure it might as well be us. We see ourselves as the designated driver of this business.''
To the astonishment of Mr. Flynt, who began in the pornography business by selling poor-quality pictures of naked girls as a way to build interest in his strip clubs, his competitors in the $10 billion annual adult market are mainstream corporations whose board members are among the American business elite.
''We're in the small leagues compared to some of those companies like General Motors or AT&T,'' Mr. Flynt said. ''But it doesn't surprise me that they got into it. I've always said that other than the desire for survival, the strongest desire we have is sex.''
The Technology Factor
Look, Ma, No Staples!
Thirty years ago, a federal study put the total retail value of hard-core pornography in the United States between $5 million and $10 million -- or about the same amount that a single successful sex-related Web site brings in today. It seemed likely that the industry would remain where it had always been -- largely out of sight, but profitable, and faced with consistent legal problems.
What kept the market relatively small, in the view of people in the industry, were the barriers between consumer and product. Typically, a person would have to go to a run-down part of town, among people considered less than savory, to find hard-core adult films or bookstores. These retail outlets frequently were raided by law enforcement authorities, further adding to the risk for a consumer -- a risk of shame, or arrest.
In 1975, the Sony Corporation released the videocassette recorder to the broad market, and within 10 years, about 75 percent of all American households owned a VCR. Once the venue had moved from theater to the privacy of the home, the adult entertainment industry was never the same. For example, a single film, ''Deep Throat,'' generated more than $100 million in sales, thanks in large part to the popularity of VCR's, Frederick S. Lane III writes in his book ''Obscene Profits: The Entrepreneurs of Pornography in the Cyber Age'' (Routledge, 2000).
But even with most Americans owning VCR's, people still had to take a trip to the video store, risking some embarrassment. Pay-per-view television and the Internet removed the final barriers.
Cable and satellite programmers allow people to buy a variety of sex-based programming, from Playboy, on the lighter side, to the Hot Network, owned by Vivid, and the Erotic Television Network, distributed by New Frontier, on the more explicit end of the spectrum. Consumers could watch movies of people having sex without ever leaving home.
What investors and bigger corporations soon discovered was the vast audience for pornography -- once the privacy barrier was eliminated. Twenty percent of all American households with a VCR or cable access will pay to watch an explicit adult video -- and 10 percent will pay frequently, according to the distributors New Frontier and Vivid. That interest explains, in part, why the production of pornographic films has grown tenfold in the last decade. There are now nearly 10,000 adult movies made every year, according to an annual survey of the films produced in the Los Angeles area.
Last year, there were 711 million rentals of hard-core sex films, according to Adult Video News, an industry magazine that is to pornographic films what the trade publication Billboard is to records. It even has its own film awards -- modeled after the Oscars.
But video rentals have reached a plateau over the last two years. The future is pay-per-view at home -- driven by the easy access and good technical quality of digital television -- and pay-per-view from the Internet, driven by the technological innovations of new cable and phone lines that carry far more images, more quickly, to a computer screen.
''Videos changed the way people could view porn because they were able to watch in the privacy of their homes,'' said Barry Parr, an electronic commerce analyst with International Data Corporation. ''Internet pornography takes that a step further -- they can do it with absolute privacy.''
The number of people visiting sex sites on the Web doubled over the last year, outpacing the number of new Internet users. Some of the more popular sex Web sites attract in excess of 50 million hits, or visits, a month, according to the ratings services Nielsen/ Net and Media Metrix. About one in a thousand people who visit a site will subscribe, for fees averaging $20 a month, according to some of the leading Web pornography providers and Flying Crocodile Inc., a company based in Seattle that tracks and services the sexual-content market.
At the same time that technology was making it easier for people to view pornography, legal obstacles were falling. The 1973 Supreme Court case Miller v. California established a threshold for defining illegal pornography; a major test was that it had to be considered obscene to the ''average person, applying contemporary community standards.''
Initially, the case helped prosecutors clamp down on publications and movies. But that proved to be short-lived. If ''Deep Throat'' could sell $100 million worth of copies, then what was the community standard?
''The court may have handed off the determination of obscenity to the local community, but the standards of local communities had fundamentally changed,'' writes Mr. Lane in ''Obscene Profits.''
When Mr. Peterman was prosecuted for distributing obscene material in Utah last year, he became one of the few video retailers in the nation charged with such a crime in recent years. In a state long regarded as a bastion of family-values morality, more than 4,000 people signed petitions supporting his prosecution.
But Mr. Peterman showed that he had 4,000 regular customers for sex videos. His lawyer argued that Mr. Peterman was not violating community standards, because people in Utah County bought 20,000 adult sex videos from one satellite programmer alone in the period that Mr. Peterman was said to have broken the law; it was double the volume in most cities the size of Provo. And in the Provo Marriott, guests were paying for nearly 3,000 explicit adult videos every year, according to court testimony. After the Peterman trial, that hotel dropped its adult movies.
''My client was just a little guy,'' Mr. Spencer said, ''a mom-and-pop dealer in a very big business.''
The Corporate Factor
It's the Demand, Companies Say
At a time when political campaigns from the presidential level down to that of the local school board have made an issue of sexual excess in broadcasting, the corporate entanglements in the pornography business have blurred the lines of the debate.
In Missouri this year, Senator John Ashcroft, a Republican, ran ads denouncing ''Hollywood's decaying influence'' on society, singling out his Democratic opponent, Gov. Mel Carnahan, for accepting donations from Christie Hefner, the Playboy executive.
Mr. Carnahan, who died last week in a plane crash, had countered by pointing to donations to Mr. Ashcroft from Charles W. Ergen, chief executive of EchoStar, which sells adult pay-per-view through its fast-growing DishNetwork satellite division.
''If he's going to start that, he's in greater trouble than I am,'' Mr. Carnahan had said.
Mr. Ashcroft's supporters had replied that there was still a distinction between the two companies: EchoStar did not produce pornography -- it merely sold it, while Playboy created its own videos and pictures, they said.
''We added adult at the request of our customers,'' said Judiann Atencio, a spokeswoman for EchoStar. ''We have something for everybody, from Irish hurling to cricket. Adult is there if you want it.''
When AT&T announced that it would start offering the hard-core Hot Network to its 2.2 million digital cable subscribers beginning in August, they were castigated by critics and pressured by religious and civic groups that hold stock in the company.
A group of mutual-fund investors, which included the Sisters of Charity of New York, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and the Mennonite Church, told AT&T its members did not want their three million shares invested in a company that sold pornography.
''At the heart of our concern is the concept of mainstream companies getting into hard-core pornography,'' said Mark Regier, who manages a mutual fund for 800,000 members of the Mennonite faith. ''For a company with AT&T's tradition and its charitable work to be involved with pornography at this level is unbelievable. And I don't think many people understand what it means to take away the barriers to this kind of material, such as AT&T is doing.''
For AT&T, there are sound business reasons to start carrying the highly profitable Hot Network. Unlike distributors of mainstream Hollywood pictures, sex-film distributors typically offer the programmers a split of 80 percent of the revenue, compared with 50 percent or less for routine features.
Impulse buys, in which customers tap a code into a remote and a movie follows, have also spurred in-home sales of pornographic films.
''Impulse technology -- that's been just incredible,'' said Mr. Asher of Vivid Entertainment, which makes hundreds of adult films and claims that it sells a million copies a month to cable, satellite, home video and hotel retailers. ''You have about 35 million homes with this kind of technology now,'' Mr. Asher said, ''and it's growing enormously. It's easy and it's private -- that's the key.''
Although the companies that program explicit sex films will not give out their revenue figures for this category, a report by the Showtime Event Television company found that adult pay-per-view took in $367 million last year -- a more than sixfold increase from the $54 million of 1993, easily outpacing the growth of pay-per-view ''events'' like boxing and wrestling.
Time Warner, EchoStar, General Motors and AT&T all say they are simply responding to a growing American market that wants pornography in the home. At the same time, the companies say new technology makes it possible for parents to keep such programming away from children.
''We call it choice and control,'' said Tracy Hollingsworth, a spokeswoman for AT&T Broadband, the company's cable division. ''Basically, you use your remote to block out any programming you don't want. But if you want it, we offer a wide range of programming that is available in the market we're in.''
Hotel chains have made similar decisions when, this year, several groups urged them to get rid of the adult pay-per-view programs that are in nearly 60 percent of all middle- to high-end hotels. Only one chain, the relatively small Omni Hotels, chose to remove the sex films.
''What we noticed was that early on, the content was R-rated, but then it migrated rather quickly to really raunchy stuff -- just hard-core porn,'' said Jim Caldwell, the president of Omni. ''I thought: What are we doing? We don't have topless waitresses in the restaurant.''
Mr. Caldwell said more than 50 percent of all guests were buying the sex films. ''The anonymity is the big thing,'' he said.
Omni's decision to remove pay-per-view sex videos from the company's 15,000 rooms will cost the company more than $1.8 million a year, Mr. Caldwell said. But he said he had received phone calls and letters of thanks from 50,000 people -- more than for any other corporate decision.
Much larger hotel chains, like Marriott, which calls itself the world's largest hotel management firm, with nearly 300,000 rooms in the United States, and Hilton, with 290,000 rooms under its control, have not made changes.
Some critics said Marriott, run by several prominent members of the Mormon Church, though not affiliated in any way with the church itself, should drop its adult movies, given the stand against explicit sexual materials that Mormons have long taken. But company officials said they were mostly franchisers, and could not make unilateral decisions for the hotel owners who paid to be a part of the Marriott chain.
The two companies that provide hotels with pornographic films are both traded on Wall Street and have enjoyed big run-ups in their stock prices over the last few years. The leader, On Command, based in Denver, is worth more than $400 million, and its principal owner is Liberty Media, controlled by John C. Malone, the cable and telecommunications magnate who sits on the board of AT&T and recently agreed to buy up to 15 percent of the shares of Mr. Murdoch's News Corporation.
The chairman and chief executive of On Command is Jerome H. Kern, a former New York corporate lawyer active in civic and volunteer causes, serving on the board of New York University and as a director of Volunteers of America in Colorado.
On Command would not discuss how much money it is making on adult films. But in its annual report, the company said it was generating $23 a room each month for the 835,000 hotel rooms it reaches. The company goal is to get into an additional one million hotel rooms. Analysts say at least half the revenue comes from adult films. The company recently began offering all-day erotic television to hotel customers, for a single price of $15.99.
''Talk about your captive audience,'' said Mr. Asher of Vivid. ''I've heard that in some hotels, 85 to 90 percent of all profits from in-room spending comes from adult channels.''
The Money Factor
Big Profits Now, Bigger Ones on Way
While the big companies that deliver sex films to homes and hotels will not talk about how popular explicit sexual materials are, the makers and distributors say the volume is enormous. And court testimony and documents that were made public in the Peterman case also offered some insight into the profit potential.
''Despite the fact that this material isn't marketed, revenue-wise, it's one of our biggest moneymakers,'' said Peggy Simons of TCI Cable, in court testimony in Mr. Peterman's case. TCI, controlled by Mr. Malone, has since been bought by AT&T.
''When we talk to the companies one-on-one, they tell us we're great, that we're a huge moneymaker for them,'' said Mr. Asher, whose company owns the Hot Network, which is available in 16 million homes. ''And by the way, I tell my biggest customers -- don't say you ever met me.''
In trying to take public his company, which now does about $80 million a year in sales, Mr. Asher said, ''The biggest problem I have is the image of the adult business. People think it's run by the mob, or a bunch of guys with gold chains. I grew up in Paris, Illinois. I have a master's of business administration degree.''
The Hot Network portrays people having sex in a variety of methods -- what the company calls ''widely accepted sexual activity'' -- and prohibits scenes of violence, nonconsensual sex, drug use, forced bondage and sex with minors.
Analysts of electronic commerce and telecommunications say the mainstream sex market might be leveling off, but new technology is likely to bring in even more consumers.
''The novelty of it has not worn off yet, and I don't believe it will wear off,'' said Sean Calder, a vice president for e-commerce at Nielsen/Net Ratings, which gauges the popularity of Web sites. ''The numbers point to a huge personal need. We see lots of people logging on at 3 in the morning.''
The $30 billion project to rewire the cable industry with lines capable of bringing more material, and allowing people to buy on impulse, will play a big part in the emerging home pornography market.
''These companies like AT&T, they're thinking ahead to a time, perhaps in 10 years, when 50 million Americans will have broadband capability and all their television and Internet will be interactive through one big box,'' said Bryn Pryor, technology editor for Adult Video News, the trade magazine.
''But it's not just technology that made the big boys get into it,'' Mr. Pryor said. ''This just happens to be a business where you can't lose money.''
[…]

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Slavoj Žižek comes to Seoul asking unconventional questions about global problems




By Choi Won-hyung staff reporter  
 
Slavoj Zizek, a Slovenian cultural theorist known for his radical blend of realpolitik and pop culture, is visiting Korea this week after having been away since his 2003 appearance at the Conference of Korean Philosophers.
The first stop on his itinerary this time was a conversation with Hong Se-hwa, a noted progressive writer in Korea. The meeting coincided with the 62nd anniversary Monday of the start of the Korean War, saw Zizek talking about the current crisis in the capitalist system, and what “progressives” and “leftists” should be aiming for at such a time. He also spent two hours sharing his thoughts on the division of the Korean Peninsula and the continuity of the regime in Pyongyang.
Hong began the conversation on the topic of the recent second round of elections in Greece as a way of gauging the direction of the financial crisis in Europe. In light of the results, he asked what Zizek expected to see with the crisis in the global capitalist system.
Zizek argued that the situation in Greece, which is closely linked to Europe’s most developed economies, was a good example of the inability of even Western states to move forward from the current crisis of capitalism or sustain a welfare state.
He also voiced concern that democracy might suffer a setback from the ultimate victory of New Democracy, which supports austerity measures leveled against Greece. Zizek said that what worried him most in the crisis are the moves toward a “divorce” in the marriage between democracy and capitalism.
Although capitalism has supported democracy to date, Zizek predicted, the new model of post-neoliberal capitalism would not require it. He pointed to a global trend, and the resulting problems, of non-democratically elected “technocrats” making the important decisions in countries like Russia, Italy, and Greece.
He also took a positive view of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which drew support in the election by presenting a clear choice between accepting austerity and negotiating the bailout. Zizek said that SYRIZA brought order to the Greek chaos, and that a victory for it might have opened the way for a new type of citizenship.
He argued that while the coalition failed to come to power after a below-the-belt propaganda offensive charging that they would bring “Stalinism” to Greece, its ability to increase its support levels from under 5% to between 25% and 29% by searching for a “way of surviving in the Eurozone” provided an instructive example for the rebuilding of a new left-wing party in South Korea.
Hong went on to ask about the difficulties leftists are facing around the world. He noted the South Korean example, in which the military dictatorship was brought to an end by the June 1987 democracy struggle, but the next ten years of reformist liberal administrations ended up dividing the working class and strengthening big business through intensive restructuring.
Zizek was pessimistic about the prospects, observing that the left, despite its critique of capitalism, was unable to do anything when crisis struck, and remains in a profound state of crisis. Whereas the left wing of the past believed it was enough to know what would happen and organize people who agreed with it, he argued, the current situation is one where there is no way of knowing what is going on, and the left is not asking the “big questions.”
He also said another limitation of the current left is its tacit acceptance of democracy and capitalism, with an interest on how to make things better by working within the system.
He argued that the left, rather than presenting a utopian perspective and dogma for a solution, needs to be a presence asking the question of what an be offered to people, from a perspective that problematizes a system that divides people through embracing and excluding -- what the philosopher calls the “new Apartheid.”
The important thing, he added, was not giving answers but asking the right questions.
What practical steps need to be taken to rebuild the left? According to Zizek, the question of what people really feel represents change is more important what how many people have called for the same thing. The task of the left, he added, was to look squarely at a complex reality where pragmatism is bound together with idealism.
The conversation segued into accounts of the difficulties faced by the South Korean labor movement. Hong described the occupation of a crane last year by Korean Confederation of Trade Unions member Kim Jin-suk to protest layoffs at Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction, the Hope Bus campaign to support her struggle, and the plight of layoff victims at Ssangyong Motors, who failed to draw the same level of interest from civil society despite the deaths of 22 union members in the wake of the firings.
Zizek said that helping out when the basic social system is not functioning properly is not an issue of philosophy. Like coming to the aid of someone who lies bleeding in the street, he said, helping people is a fundamental part of an ethical society that goes beyond the discussion on neoliberalism.
The philosopher showed a particular interest in the division of the peninsula and the North Korean regime. He noted that unlike other communist countries where bureaucrats dominate the system, North Korea follows a heredity succession, even going so far as to invoke supernatural phenomena.
Zizek said he was very interested in what contributed to North Korea developing such a unique system in the present day and age. He also said that despite opting for “isolation” over the years, Pyongyang was actually far more dependent on the outside, relying on food aids and focusing on establishing diplomatic relations with Washington and Tokyo.
Zizek’s visit attracted notice because he was the one who suggested it. He plans to meet with the public in seven o’clock lecture meetings at the Kyung Hee University Peace Hall on Wednesday and the Konkuk University New Millennium Hall on Thursday. He is scheduled to depart Saturday after a weeklong stay.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Why Tolerance is Not a Virtue



For example, "Did you notice how almost automatically we tend to translate issues of sexism, racism or ethnic violence, whatever, into the terms of tolerance?" he says. But tolerance is a value shaped by a particular perspective: "We have different cultures. What can we do? We can only tolerate each other."

The question "Why can't we all just get along?" suggests a particular framework for thinking about the answer. Implicit is the idea that a solution to institutionalized racism and sexism lies in convincing the dominant group to relinquish their biases and share the power.

Never once did Martin Luther King Jr. use the word tolerance in his speeches, says Žižek. "For him (and he was right) it would have been an obscenity to say white people should learn to tolerate us more." The goal of the Civil Rights Movement was not simply appealing to liberal magnanimity, but demanding equity, including economic equity. Tolerance is a request that represents a retreat from that ambitious vision. When King marched on Washington D.C., he didn't say, "learn to live with us." He said, "We're here to cash a check":

One hundred years [after the Emancipation Proclamation], the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. 

In the "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, delivered in solidarity with striking workers during the Memphis Sanitation Strike the day before he died, King addressed the issue of tolerance head-on, saying, 

"True peace is not merely the absence of tension. It's the presence of justice." In Memphis, he called for non-violence, but he also emphasized the importance of direct action: protest, boycotts, and challenges to the U.S. government.

What's the Significance?

Tolerance is a gift we give each other (or don't). Rights, on the other hand, are inalienable. Distinguishing between the two requires conscious thought. At stake is the difference between reaction and reason, conventional wisdom or a code of ethics. Whenever a question or an issue appears to "go without saying," it's philosophy that helps us understand what is not being said.

Tolerance is one example of conventional wisdom setting the tone for the conversation. Ecology is another. 

"It’s a terrible crisis," says Žižek, but the way we formulate it matters. We can see it "either as a pure technological problem or in this New Age way – we, humanity, are too arrogant, we are raping the mother earth, whatever, it’s already the way we perceive the question that mystifies the problem. Here philosophy enters correcting the question, enabling us to ask the right question."  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Good Thinking is Good Questioning




http://bigthink.com/ideas/44699

Slavoj Zizek: More than ever we need philosophy today.  Even the most speculative (in the sense of reflecting on itself) science has to rely on a set of automatic  presuppositions, like a scientist simply presupposes in his or her very approach to nature a set of implications of how the nature functions, what's the causality in nature and so on and so on.  And philosophy teaches us that.  Philosophy teaches us what we have to know without knowing it in order to function, even in science -- the silent presuppositions.

I claim that what is happening, for example, in quantum physics in the last 100 of years -- these things which are so daring, incredible, that we cannot include into our conscious view of reality -- that Hegel’s philosophy, with all it’s dialectical paradoxes, can be of some help here.  I claim that reading quantum physics through Hegel and vice versa is very productive.

I’m not saying -- I’m not a philosophical megalomaniac -- that philosophy can provide answers, but it can do something which maybe is even more important, you know?  As important as providing answers and a condition for it, maybe even the condition, is to ask the right question. 

There are not only wrong answers.  There are also wrong questions.  There are questions which deal with a certain real problem but the way they are formulated they effectively obfuscate, mystify, confuse the problem.  

For example, my eternal example, we have to fight of course today sexism, racism and so on.  But did you notice how almost automatically we tend to translate issues of sexism, racism or ethnic violence, whatever, into the terms of tolerance?  This, for me, doesn't go by itself.  This presupposes already a certain horizon where you naturalize the order.  We have different cultures.  What can we do?  We can only tolerate each other.  And to give you a proof how this is not self-evident: download speeches by Martin Luther King and put on search words precisely like tolerance and so on. . . . Never, he never uses them.  For him -- and he was right -- it would have been an obscenity to say white people should learn to tolerate us more, or whatever.  

You see, this would be one example, not to mention ecology.  Now, ecology may be the ruin of us all -- it’s a terrible crisis, but the way we formulate it, either as a pure technological problem or in this New Age way – we, humanity, are too arrogant, we are raping the mother earth, whatever, it’s already the way we perceive the question that mystifies the problem.  Here philosophy enters correcting the question, enabling us to ask the right question.  

Interviewed by Megan Erickson

Friday, June 22, 2012

Prisons, Privatization, Patronage



http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/22/opinions/krugman-prisons-privatization-patronage.html?_r=1

by Paul Krugman

Over the past few days, The New York Times has published several terrifying reports about New Jersey’s system of halfway houses — privately run adjuncts to the regular system of prisons. The series is a model of investigative reporting, which everyone should read. But it should also be seen in context. The horrors described are part of a broader pattern in which essential functions of government are being both privatized and degraded.

First of all, about those halfway houses: In 2010, Chris Christie, the state’s governor — who has close personal ties to Community Education Centers, the largest operator of these facilities, and who once worked as a lobbyist for the firm — described the company’s operations as “representing the very best of the human spirit.” But The Times’s reports instead portray something closer to hell on earth — an understaffed, poorly run system, with a demoralized work force, from which the most dangerous individuals often escape to wreak havoc, while relatively mild offenders face terror and abuse at the hands of other inmates.

[…] What’s behind this drive?

You might be tempted to say that it reflects conservative belief in the magic of the marketplace, in the superiority of free-market competition over government planning. And that’s certainly the way right-wing politicians like to frame the issue.

But if you think about it even for a minute, you realize that the one thing the companies that make up the prison-industrial complex — companies like Community Education or the private-prison giant Corrections Corporation of America — are definitely not doing is competing in a free market. They are, instead, living off government contracts. There isn’t any market here, and there is, therefore, no reason to expect any magical gains in efficiency.

And, sure enough, despite many promises that prison privatization will lead to big cost savings, such savings — as a comprehensive study by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, concluded — “have simply not materialized.” To the extent that private prison operators do manage to save money, they do so through “reductions in staffing patterns, fringe benefits, and other labor-related costs.”

So let’s see: Privatized prisons save money by employing fewer guards and other workers, and by paying them badly. And then we get horror stories about how these prisons are run. What a surprise!

So what’s really behind the drive to privatize prisons, and just about everything else?

One answer is that privatization can serve as a stealth form of government borrowing, in which governments avoid recording upfront expenses (or even raise money by selling existing facilities) while raising their long-run costs in ways taxpayers can’t see. We hear a lot about the hidden debts that states have incurred in the form of pension liabilities; we don’t hear much about the hidden debts now being accumulated in the form of long-term contracts with private companies hired to operate prisons, schools and more.

Another answer is that privatization is a way of getting rid of public employees, who do have a habit of unionizing and tend to lean Democratic in any case.

But the main answer, surely, is to follow the money. Never mind what privatization does or doesn’t do to state budgets; think instead of what it does for both the campaign coffers and the personal finances of politicians and their friends. As more and more government functions get privatized, states become pay-to-play paradises, in which both political contributions and contracts for friends and relatives become a quid pro quo for getting government business. Are the corporations capturing the politicians, or the politicians capturing the corporations? Does it matter?

Now, someone will surely point out that nonprivatized government has its own problems of undue influence, that prison guards and teachers’ unions also have political clout, and this clout sometimes distorts public policy. Fair enough. But such influence tends to be relatively transparent. Everyone knows about those arguably excessive public pensions; it took an investigation by The Times over several months to bring the account of New Jersey’s halfway-house-hell to light.

The point, then, is that you shouldn’t imagine that what The Times discovered about prison privatization in New Jersey is an isolated instance of bad behavior. It is, instead, almost surely a glimpse of a pervasive and growing reality, of a corrupt nexus of privatization and patronage that is undermining government across much of our nation.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Suture (Elements of the Logic of the Signifier)


Jacques-Alain Miller
http://www.lacan.com/symptom8_articles/miller8.html
[…]
Concept of the Logic of the Signifier

What I am aiming to restore, piecing together indications dispersed through the work of Jacques Lacan, is to be designated the logic of the signifier - it is a general logic in that its functioning is formal in relation to all fields of knowledge including that of psychoanalysis which, in acquiring a specificity there, it governs; it is a minimal logic in that within it are given those pieces only which arc necessary to assure it a progression reduced to a linear movement, uniformally generated at each point of its necessary sequence. That this logic should be called the logic of the signifier avoids the partiality of the conception which would limit its validity to the field in which it was first produced as a category; to correct its linguistic declension is to prepare the way for its importation into other discourses, an importation which we will not fail to carry out once we have grasped its essentials here.

The chief advantage to be gained from this process of minimisation is the greatest economy of conceptual expenditure, which is then in danger of obscuring to you that the conjunctions which it effects between certain functions are so essential that to neglect them is to compromise analytic reasoning proper.

By considering the relationship between this logic and that which I will call logician's logic, we see that its particularity lies in the fact that the first treats of the emergence of the second. and should be conceived of as the logic of the origin of logic - which is to say, chat it docs not follow its laws, but that, prescribing their jurisdiction, itself falls outside that jurisdiction.

This dimension of the archeological can be grasped most succinctly through a movement back from the field of logic itself, where its miscognition. at its most radical because closest to is recognition is effected.

That this step repeats something of that which Derrida has shown to be exemplary to phenomenology [1] will conceal to none but the most hasty this crucial difference, that here miscognition finds its point of departure in the production of meaning. We can say that it is constituted not as a forgetting, but as a repression.

To designate it I choose the name of suture. Suture names the relation of the subject to the chain of its discourse; we shall see that it figures there as the clement which is lacking, in the form of a stand-in. For, while there lacking, it is not purely and simply absent. Suture, by extension - the general relation of lack to the structure - of which it is an element, inasmuch as it implies the position of a taking-the-place-of.

It is the objective of this paper to articulate the concept of suture which, if it is not named explicitly as such by Jacques Lacan, is constantly present in his system.

Let it be absolutely clear that it is not as philosopher or philosopher's apprentice that I am speaking here - if the philosopher is as characterized by Heinrich Heine in a sentence quoted by Freud, "with his nightcaps and the tatters of his dressing-gown, patching up the gaps in the structure of the universe". But take care not to think that the function of suturation is peculiar to the philosopher: what is specific to the philosopher is the determination of the field in which he operates as a "universal structure". It is important that you realize that the logician, like the linguist. also sutures at his particular level. And, quite as much. anyone who says "I".

In order to grasp suture we must cut across what a discourse makes explicit of itself, and distinguish from its meaning, its letter. This paper is concerned with a letter - a dead letter. It should come as no surprise if the meaning then dies.

The main thread of this analysis will be Gottlob Frege's argument in Grundlagen der Arithmetik, [2] crucial here because it puts into question those terms which in Peano's axiomatic, adequate for a construction of a theory of natural numbers, are taken as primary - that is, the zero, the number, the successor. [3] This calling into question of the theory, by disintricating, from the axiomatic where the theory is consolidated, the suturing, delivers up this last.

The Zero and the One

Here then is the question posed in its most general form;
what is it that functions in the series of whole natural
numbers to which we can assign their progression?
And the answer, which I shall give at once before establishing it:
in the process of the constitution of the series,
in the genesis of progression,
the function of the subjet, miscognized is operative.
This proposition will certainly appear as a paradox to anyone who knows that the logical discourse of Frege opens with the exclusion of that which is held by empiricist theory to be essential for the passage of the thing to the unit, and of the set of units to the unit of number: that is, the function of the subject, as support of the operations of abstraction and unification.

For the unity which is thus assured both for the individual and the set, it only holds in so far as the number functions as its name. Whence originates the ideology which makes of the subject the producer of fictions, short of recognizing it as the product of its product - an ideology in which logical and psychological discourse are wedded, with political discourse occupying the key position, which can be seen admitted in Occam, concealed in Locke, and miscognized thereafter.

A subject therefore, defined by attributes whose other side is political, disposing as of powers, of a faculty of memory necessary to close the set without the loss of any of the interchangeable elements, and a faculty of repetition which operates inductively. There is no doubt that it is this subject which Frege, setting himself from the start against the empiricist foundation of arithmetic. excludes from the field in which the concept of the number is to appear.

But if it is held that the subject is not reducible, in its most essential function, to the psychological, then its exclusion from the field of number is assimilable to repetition. Which is what I have to demonstrate.

You will be aware that Frege's discourse starts from the fundamental system comprising the three concepts of the concept, the object and the number, and two relations, that of the concept to the object, which is called subsumption and that of the concept to the number which I will call assignation. A number is assigned to a concept which subsumes objects.

What is specifically logical about this system is that each concept is only defined and exists solely through the relation which it maintains as subsumer with that which it subsumes. Similarly, an object only has existence in so far as it falls under a concept, there being no other determination involved in its logical existence, so that the object takes its meaning from its difference to the thing integrated, by its spatio-temporal localization, to the real.

Whence you can see the disappearance of the thing which must be effected in order for it to appear as object - which is the thing in so far as it is one,

It is dear that the concept which operates in the system, formed solely through the determination of subsumption, is a redoubled concept: the concept of identity to a concept.

This redoubling. induced in the concept by identity, engenders the logical dimension, because in effecting the disappearance of the thing it gives rise to the emergence of the numerable.

For example, if I group what falls under the concept "child of Agamemnon and Cassandra", I summon in order to subsume them Pelops and Teledamus. To this set I can only assign a number if I put into play the concept "identical to the concept: child of Agamemnon and Cassandra". Through the effect of the fiction of this concept, the children now intervene in so far as each one is, so to speak, applied to itself - which transforms it into a unit, and gives to it the status of an object which is numerable as such. It is this one of the singular unit, this one of identity of the subsumed, which is common to all numbers in so far as they are first constituted as units.

From this can be deduced the definition of the assignation of number: according to Frege "the number assigned to the concept F is the extension of the concept identical to the concept F". Frege's ternary system has as its effect that all that is left to the thing is the support of its identity with itself, by which it is the object of the operative concept, and hence numerable.

The process that I have just set out authorizes me to conclude the following proposition, whose relevance will emerge later, - the unit which could be called unifying of the concept in so far as it is assigned by the number is subordinate to the unit as distinctive in so far as it supports the number.

As for the position of the distinctive unit, its foundation is to be situated in the function of identity which, conferring on each thing of the world the property of being one, effects its transformation into an object of the (logical) concept.

At this point in the construction, you will sense all the importance of the definition of identity which I am going to present.

This definition which must give its true meaning to the concept of number, must borrow nothing from it [4] - precisely in order to engender numeration.

This definition, which is pivotal to his system, Frege takes from Leibniz. It is contained in this statement: eadem sunt quorum unum potest substitui alteri salva veritate. Those things are identical of which one can be substituted for the other salva veritatewithout loss of truth. Doubtless you can estimate the crucial importance of what is effected by this statement: the emergence of the function of truth. Yet what it assumes is more important than what it expresses. That is, identity-with-itself. That a thing cannot be substituted for itself, then where does this leave truth? Absolute is its subversion.

If we follow Leibniz's argument, the failing of truth whose possibility is opened up for an instant, its loss through the substitution for one thing of another, would be followed by its immediate reconstitution in a new relation: truth is recovered because the substituted thing, in that it is identical with itself, can be the object of a judgement and enter into the order of discourse: identical with itself, it can be articulated.

But that a thing should not be identical with itself subverts the field of truth, ruins it and abolishes it.

You will grasp to what extent the preservation of truth is implicated in this identity with itself which connotes the passage from the thing to the object. Identity-with-itself is essential if truth is to be saved.

Truth is. Each thing is identical with itself.

Let us now put into operation Frege's schema, that is, go through the three-stage itinerary which he prescribes to us. Let there be a thing X of the world. Let there be the empirical concept of this X. The concept which finds a place in the schema is not this empirical concept but that which redoubles it, being "identical with the concept of X". The object which falls under this concept is X itself, as a unit. In this the number, which is the third term of the sequence, to be assigned to the concept of X will be the number 1. Which means that this function of the number 1 is repetitive for all things of the world. It is in this sense that this 1 is only the unit which constitutes the number as such, and not the 1 in its personal identity as number with its own particular place and a proper name in the series of numbers.

Furthermore, its construction demands that, in order to transform it, we call upon a thing of the world - which, according to Frege, cannot be: the logical must be sustained through nothing but itself.

In order for the number to pass from the repetition of the 1 of the identical to that of its ordered succession, in order for the logical dimension to gain its autonomy definitively, without any reference to the real, the zero has to appear.

Which appearance is obtained because truth is, Zero is the assigned to the concept "not identical with itself". In effect, let there be the concept "not identical with itself". This concept, by virtue of being a concept, has an extension, subsumes an object. Which object? None. Since truth is, no object falls into the place of the subsumed of this concept, and the number which qualifies its extension is zero.

In this engendering of the zero, I have stressed that it is supported by the proposition that truth is. If no object falls under the concept of non-identical-with-itself, it is because truth must be saved. If there are no things which are not identical with themselves, it is because non-identity with itself is contradictory to the very dimension of truth. To its concept, we assign the zero. It is this decisive proposition that the concept of not-identical-with-itself is assigned by the number zero which sutures logical discourse.

For, and here I am working across Frege's text, in the autonomous construction of the logical through itself, it has been necessary, in order to exclude any reference to the real, to evoke on the level of the concept an object not-identical-with-itself, to be subsequently rejected from the dimension of truth.

The zero which is inscribed in the place of the number consummates the exclusion of this object. As for this place, marked out by subsumption, in which the object is lacking, there nothing can be written, and if a 0 must be traced, it is merely in order to figure a blank, to render visible the lack.

From the zero lack to the zero number, the non-conceptualisable is conceptualized.

Let us now set aside the zero lack in order to consider only that which is produced by the alternation of its evocation and its revocation, the zero number.

The zero understood as a number, which assigns to the subsuming concept the lack of an object, is as such a thing - the first non-real thing in thought.

If of the number zero we construct the concept, it subsumes as its sole object the number zero. The number which assigns it is therefore 1.

Frege's system works by the circulation of an element, at each of the places it fixes: from the number zero to its concept, from this concept to its object and to its number - a circulation which produces the 1. [5]

This system is thus so constituted with the 0 counting as 1. The counting of the 0 as 1 (whereas the concept of, the zero subsumes nothing in the real but a blank) is the general support of the series of numbers.

It is this which is demonstrated by Frege's analysis of the operation of the successor, which consists of obtaining the number which follows n by adding to it a unit: n' the successor of n, is equal to n + 1, that is, ... n... (n + 1) = n'... Frege opens out the n + 1 in order to discover what is involved in the passage from n to its successor.

You will grasp the paradox of this engendering as soon as I produce the most general formula for the successor which Frege arrives at: "the Number assigned to the concept member of the series of natural numbers ending with n follows in the series of natural numbers directly after n".

Let us take a number. The number three. It will serve to constitute the concept member of the series of natural numbers ending with three. We find that the number assigned to this concept is four. Here then is the 1 of n + 1. Where does it come from? Assigned to its redoubled concept, the number 3 functions as the unifying name of a set: as reserve. In the concept of' member of the series of natural numbers ending with 3", it is the term (in the sense both of element and of final element).

In the order of the real, the 3 subsumes 3 objects. In the order of number, which is that of discourse bound by truth, it is numbers which are counted: before the 3, there are 3 numbers - it is therefore the fourth.

In the order of number, there if an addition the 0 and the 0 counts for 1. The displacement of a number, from the function of reserve to that of term, implies the summation of the 0. Whence the successor. That which in the real is pure and simple absence finds itself through the fact of number (through the instance of truth) noted 0 and counted for 1.

Which is why we say the object not-identical with itself invoked-rejected by truth, instituted-annulled by discourse (subsumption as such) - in a word, sutured.

The emergence of the lack as 0, and of 0 as 1 determines the appearance of the successor. Let there be n; the lack is fixed as which is fixed as 1: n + 1; which is added in order to give n' - which absorbs the 1.

Certainly, if the Lot n + 1 is nothing other than the counting the zero, the function of addition of the sign + is superfatory, and we must restore to the horizontal representation of the engendering its verticality: the 1 is to be taken as the primary symbol of the emergence of lack in the field of truth, and the sign + indicates the crossing, the transgression through which the 0 lack comes to be represented as 1, producing, through this difference of n to n' which you have seen to be an effect of meaning the name of a number.

Logical representation collapses this three-level construction. The operation I have effected opens it out. If you consider the opposition of these two axes, you will understand what is at stake in logical suturing, and the difference of the logic which I am putting forward to logician's logic.

That zero is a number: such is the proposition which assures logical dimension of its closure.

Our purpose has been to recognize in the zero number the suturing stand-in for the lack.

Remember here the hesitation perpetuated in the work of Bertand Russell concerning its localization (interior? or exterior to the series of numbers?).

The generating repetition of the series of numbers is sustained by this, that the zero lack passes, first along a vertical axis, across the bar which limits the field of truth in order to be represented there as one, subsequently cancelling out as meaning in each of the names of the numbers which are caught up in the metonymic chain of successional progression.

Just as the zero as lack of the contradictory object must be distinguished from that which sutures this absence in the series of numbers, so the 1, as the proper name of a number, is to be distinguished from that which comes to fix in a trait the zero of the not-identical with itself sutured by the identity with itself, which is the law of discourse in the field of truth. The central paradox to be grasped (which as you will see in a moment is the paradox of the signifier in the sense of Lacan) is that the trait of the identical represents the non-identical, whence is deduced the impossibility of its redoubling, [6] and from that impossibility the structure of repetition, as the process of differentiation of the identical.

Now, if the series of numbers, metonymy of the zero, begins with its metaphor, if the o member of the series as number is only the standing-in-place suturing the absence (of the absolute zero) which moves beneath the chain according to the alternation of a representation and an exclusion - then what is there to stop us from seeing in the restored relation of the zero to the series of numbers the most elementary articulation of the subject's relation to the signifying chain?

The impossible object, which the discourse of logic summons as the not-identical with itself and then rejects as the pure negative, which it summons and rejects in order to constitute itself as that which it is, which it summons and rejects wanting to know nothing of it, we name this object, in so far as it functions as the excess which operates in the series of numbers, the subject.

Its exclusion from the discourse which internally it intimates is suture.

If we now determine the trail as the signifier, and ascribe to the number the position of signified, the relation of lack to the trait should be considered as the logic of the signifier.

Relation of Subject and Signifier

In effect, what in Lacanian algebra is called the relation of the subject to the field of the Other (as the locus of truth) can be identified with the relation which the zero entertains with the identity of the unique as the support of truth. This relation, in so far as it is matrical, cannot be integrated into any definition of objectivity - this being the doctrine of Lacan. The engendering of the zero, from this not-identical with itself under which no thing of the world falls, illustrates this to you.

What constitutes this relation as the matrix of the chain must be isolated in the implication which makes the determinant of the exclusion of the subject outside the field of the Other its representation in that field in the form of the one of the unique, one of distinctive unity, which is called "unary" by Lacan. In algebra, this exclusion is marked by the bar which strikes the S of the subject in from of the capital A, and which is displaced by the identity of the subject onto the A, according to the fundamental exchange of the logic of the signifier, a displacement whose effect is the emergence of signification signified to the subject. Untouched by the exchange of the bar, this exteriority of the subject to the Other is maintained, which institutes the unconscious.

For: - if it is clear that the tripartition which divides (1) the signified-to-the-subject, (2) the signifying chain whose radical alterity in relation to the subject cuts off the subject from its field, and finally (3) the external field of this reject, cannot be covered by the linguistic dichotomy of signified and signifier; - if the consciousness of the subject is to be situated on the level of the effects of signification, governed, so much so that they could even be called its reflections, by the repetition of the signifier: - if repetition itself is produced by the vanishing of the subject and its passage as lack - then only the unconscious can name the progression which constitutes the chain in the order of thought.

On the level of this constitution, the definition of the subject comes down to the possibility of one signifier more.

Is it not ultimately to this function of excess that can be referred the power of thematisation, which Dedekind assigns to the subject in order to give to set theory its theorem of existence? The possibility of existence of an enumerable infinity can be explained by this, that "from the moment that one proposition is true, 1 can always produce a second, that is, that the first is true and so on to infinity". [7]

In order to ensure that this recourse to the subject as the founder of iteration is not a recourse to psychology, we simply substitute for thematisation the representation of the subject (as signifier) which excludes consciousness because it is not effected for someone, but, in the chain, in the field of truth, for the signifier which precedes it. When Lacan faces the definition of the sign as that which represents something for someone, with that of the signifier as that which represents the subject for another signifier, he is stressing that in so far as the signifying chain is concerned, it is on the level of its effects and not of its cause that consciousness is to be situated. The insertion of the subject into the chain is representation, necessarily correlative to an exclusion which is a vanishing.

If now we were to try and develop in time the relation which engenders and supports the signifying chain, we would have to take into account the fact that temporal succession is under the dependency of the linearity of the chain. The time of engendering can only be circular - which is why both these propositions are true at one and the same time, that subject is anterior to signifier and that signifier is anterior to subject - but only appears as such after the introduction of the signifier. The retroaction consists essentially of this: the birth of linear time. We must hold together the definitions which make the subject the effect of the signifier and the signifier the representative of the subject: it is a circular, though non-reciprocal, relation.

By crossing logical discourse at its point of least resistance, that of its suture, you can see articulated the structure of the subject: as a "flickering in eclipses", like the movement which opens and closes the number, and delivers up the lack in the form of the 1 in order to abolish it in the successor.

As for the + you have understood the unprecedented function which it takes on in the logic of the signifier (a sign, no longer of addition, but of that summation of the subject in the field of the Other, which calls for its annulment). It remains to disarticulate it in order to separate the unary trait of emergence, and the bar of the reject: thereby making manifest the division of the subject which is the other name for its alienation.

It will be deduced from this that the signifying chain is structure of the structure.

If structural causality (causality in the structure in so far as the subject is implicated in it) is not an empty expression, it is from the minimal logic which I have developed here that it will find its status.

We leave for another time the construction of its concept.

Notes:

[1] Edmund Husserl, L'origine de la géometrie, translation and introduction by Jacques Derrida, PUF, 1962.

[2] German text with English translation published under the title The Foundations of Arithmetic, Basil Blackwell, 1953.

[3] Our reading will not concern itself with any of Frege'g various inflections of his basic purpose, and will therefore keep outside the thematisation of the difference of meaning and reference, as well as of the later definition of the concept in terms of predication, from which is deduced its non-saturation.

[4] Which is why we must say identity and not equality.

[5] I leave aside the commentary of paragraph 76 which gives the abstract definition of contiguity.

[6] And, at another level, the impossibility of meta-language (cf by Jacques Lacan, Cahiers pour 1'analyse, No I, 1966).

[7] Dedekind, quoted by Cavailles (Philosophie mathémathique, p 124, Hermann, 1962).
This text was published in French in Cahiers pour l'analyse 1, Winter 1966, subsequently its English version translated by Jacqueline Rose appeared in Screen 18, Winter 1978.

Less than Nothing (audio)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dead Donkey on a Piano

Mount Fuji does not exist



e-flux

FRAC Île-de-France – Le Plateau

Mount Fuji does not exist
7 June–29 July 2012

FRAC Île-de-France – Le Plateau
Place Hannah Arendt
Rue des Alouettes / Rue Carducci
75019 Paris, France
Hours: Wed–Fri, 2–7pm
Sat & Sun, 12–8pm
Entrance free

T +33 1 76 21 13 41
info@fracidf-leplateau.com

www.fracidf-leplateau.com

James Lee Byars, Lenka Clayton & Michael Crowe, Hamish Fulton, Julien Gasc & Bruno Persat,Mark Geffriaud, Chitti Kasemkitvatana, Yuki Kimura, Benoît Maire, Pratchaya Phinthong, The Play, Chloé Quenum, Shimabuku

Curated by Elodie Royer & Yoann Gourmel

Legend has it that Mount Fuji can be seen from anywhere in Japan. On several occasions we tried to check this hypothesis. People had told us you could glimpse it from the train window going to Tokyo. That in clear weather it revealed itself from the upper floors of certain buildings in the city. That in the Five Lakes region, you could not miss it. That if you took such and such a train, boat, or cable car you were sure to discover it in all its serene and conical majesty. Yet we saw nothing of Mount Fuji. The experience of contemplating it vanished every time behind thick layers of mist, replaced by the even thicker layers of its representation, drawn, photographed, sculpted, reproduced on prints, posters, and post cards, in Zen gardens, on restaurant menus, and bank notes. By standing in for the experience of it, its permanent and symbolic presence underpins the legend: Mount Fuji can be seen from anywhere in Japan. Everywhere and nowhere, at once. Tantamount to saying it does not exist.

Mount Fuji Does Not Exist. What we tell, we take it from experience, our own or that reported by others. Together they marry some of the contours of this exhibition, bringing together artists with a preference for a relation to the work as process, experience lived and shared, making way for a host of appropriations and interpretations. The artistic gestures that it encompasses are situated as much in their formalization as in the stages, which take part in their execution, and in the situation, which they may give rise to. This relation to art in constant motion, beyond fashions and the need to produce an object that is "art," lies at the heart of this exhibition. A discreet art, sidestepping all ostentation and spectacularization, in favour of actions undertaken in the daily round over and above their representation. With no end purpose, the work of art here is thus at once everywhere and nowhere—in its object, its experience, and its memory.

The works on view therefore waver between a collective dynamic based on gestures dodging all need for productivity, a descent into the everyday probing the nature of existence and the substance of things, a mysterious handwritten letter that is addressed to you, a longing for perfection, everlasting and furtive, a reflection in a window pane, a walk embarked upon 43 years ago, a quest for the void, a few grams of gold mined from tons of electronic waste, a ground in bits whose fragments are so many draughts. Appearing in different modes and timeframes, they try to describe this permanent displacement between here and there: from the evocation of a one-day exhibition in 1967 to a collection of books, from a small ad published in a daily newspaper to a set of photographic documents recording ephemeral actions, from a musical composition in the making to a drift on the Seine.

Sometimes, a work of art has that astonishing character which time has no hold over, imposing itself all the more lastingly on the memory, by the way it leaves its recipient, the concern for shedding light on it, creating more depth for it in the light of its own experience. So everyone has the potential to become the trustee of a precipitate of experience, which we can thus take away, conserve, and bring forth when we feel the need.

–Elodie Royer and Yoann Gourmel


e-flux
311 East Broadway
New York, NY 10002, USA