To begin an essay or, even more ambitiously, a book, is one required to give a detailed account and justification of the reasons for which she or, in this case, he finds it necessary to interrupt the cacaphanous roar of today’s published opinion and Gerede and offer, in what’s no doubt an act of civil courage, thoughts and arguments about important matters destined to be dissolved by the stock piles of published material?
The search for a sensibility that would revolt against the existing socio-economic structures and attempt to conceive and implement a new, alternative society.
In concert with the now almost cliche barrage of (non)systems erected on an absent subject, I’d like to investigate the manner in which the socially and philosophically legimated articulation of subjectivity (defined here as the subject’s relationship to the external world, and, vice versa, the ways in which this relationship is mediated) results from the intended or unintended connivance of a small compadre of intellectuals. The individuals composing such groups often find novel methods and concepts with which to manuevre successfully through a given historical crisis and subsequently appropriate philosophical concepts in order to inundate the public with a new, redefined concept of human subjectivity suspiciously conducive to emerging economic models.
Furthermore, in what way did rational choice theory define the subject’s relationship to the external world? What kind of metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical consequences were the indirect result of adopting an economically-defined human subjectivity.
What kind of models of subjectivity were developed by those socialist intellectuals populating East Coast circles? Trotskites? Anarchists? Idealists? Pragmatists? Behaviorists?
It certainly doesn’t seem coincidental that Harvard and MIT served as a kind of governmental feeder system through which to better position intellectuals who were moved by metaphysical commitments supportive of the seemingly threatened capitalist model of the West. Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Yale, MIT, RAND, etc…all produced and reproduced rational choice theorists equipped to enter public service with the necessary philosophical tools and a strong network of support in order to influence public policy and conflate economics and its attendant models of human subjectivity with legislation and legal structure.
“Crucially, the assault on the subject has had serious consequences, for without a robust notion of subjectivity and agency there is no refuge for individual freedom and liberation, no loucs of struggle and opposition, and no agency for progressive political transformation.”
“From early on, however, the pleasure principle comes into conflict with a harsh environment and after a series of disciplinary experiences, ‘the individual comes to the traumatic realization that full and painless gratification of his needs is impossible.” Under the tutelage of the realist principle, the person learns what is useful and approved behavior, and what is harmful and forbidden. In this way, one develops one’s rational faculites, becoming a conscious thinking subject geared to a rationality which is imposed on him from outside.
The Reality Principle emerges at a specific point in the subject’s development and, upon entrance into consciousness, generates an awareness that unmitigated pleasure is, alas, not a possibility. Instead, the subject encounters a hostile world seemingly intent on thwarting the subject’s desire to gobble the world and its goods without obstruction. When the subject renounces its perverse intentions to unmitigated pleasure, a certain model of appropriate, rational behaviors emerge in which particular paths of behavior can be induced in order to maximize the amount of pleasure affordable and graspable in a world structured in such a fashion that minimizes unmitigated pleasure. Rationality becomes, then, not necessarily epistemological; rather, rationality is constructed, appropriate behavior given a certain context’s reality principle.
One particular problem I foresee with regard to Marcuse’s reconceptualisation of subjectivity and its concomitant relationship with society is the inability to restrict unmitigated individualism which, today, we see dissolves solidarity and imparts a passive subjectivity concerned only to the extent that his or her rights are being volated.
“Although industrialization has resulted in material progress, Freud’s analysis of the instinctual renunciations and unhappiness it has produced raises the question of whether our form of civilization is worth the suffering and misery.”
So, Marcuse’s arguments can be construed as in general agreement with various beacons of post-structural wisdom to the extent that he posits a socially-constructed subjectivity; however, Marcuse’s difference from today’s prevailing wisdom is crucial: he develops an alternative account of agency necessary to ground theory’s incessant calls for resistance.
Marcuse employs Freud’s structure of the pleasure principle and reality principle in conjunction with memory and repression in order to instigate a framework in which repressed memories of unmitigated pleasure and gratification return into the mature rationality of adult life and, thus, short-circuiting the dour and conservative balloon of subjectivity emergent subsequent to the onset of the reality principle. The reality principle, it seems, becomes an ontological necessity for rationalized subjectivity insofar as it generates linguistic expressions in support of claims like “you can’t always get what you want” “C’est la vie” “it is what it is”. Here, I’d like to introduce Adorno into the discussion for the simple reason that we often find Adorno, esp. in Minima Moralia, harking back to his seemingly elegic childhood wherein he found his world filled with unmitigated pleasure. Why does Adorno seem obsessed with his childhood? He often develops a philosophical hermeneutic in regard to Brahm’s lullaby, interpreting the words in ways that seem to expand beyond anything recognizable the song itself. This particular method employs ideas pilfered from Benjmain as the latter often found an expansive metaphysical treasure trove in the minutiae of everyday objects.
Does Adorno imagine his childhood for any particular reason? And, is the reason to be found in something like that developed by Marcuse? “Marcuse suggests that remembrance of past experiences of freedom and happiness could put into question the painful performances of alienated labor and manifold oppressions of everyday life. These memories are embedded in individual experiences of a happier past and historical conditions that offered more and better freedom, gratification, and happiness.” Here, though, Marcuse seems to run amiss. There’s a particular method of argumentation which relishes the sour look of the following interjection: Marcuse harks back to a more civilized world in which unmitigated pleasure and gratification actually existed. Such nostaligia is illusory. Such a society never existed. it functions only as a futural projection of the imagination.
Could there be a film in which society has entered our minds in order to remove memories of childhood? What would adult subjectivity look like without a memory of our childhoods? Marcuse seems to have a pretty demented view of childhood and the past as if the past stores only wonderful experiences and memories.
“He stresses the importance of great art for liberation because it refuses to accept as final the limitations imposed upon freedom and happiness by the reality principle.” Marcuse holds that the psychoanalytic liberation of memory and restoration of phantasy provide access to experiences of happiness and freedom which are subversive of the present life.
“Against the timelesssness of the id and the absolute hedonism of the pure pleasure ego, which left unchecked themselves would make disciplined labor impossible, pleasure must be temporally dismembered so that it can be doled out in small separate doses outside the workday–after hours, as it were.
poete maudit–accursed poet living outside of or against society. Alfred De Vigny in Stello calls the poet, “la race toujours maudite par les puissants de la terre” The race which will alwas be cursed by the powerful ones of the earth.” Promesse de bonheur– promise of happiness
Recherche du temps perdu–Remembrance of Things Past
I like this particular passage in Sternberg’s Johannine sympathies wherein she opposes the paternalistic beginnings of law and Oedipus by claiming that “In the beginning was the Mother’s Voice.” That is, the mother’s voice is the first language with which the baby is exposed, a musical language. Hence, it’s not surprising the erotic joy I often experience at the sound of the feminine voice. Orpheus’ ability to pacify the animals via song as a symbol of the overcoming of the opposition between man and anture, subject and object.
There’s a certain sense in which post-Kantian philosophy adheres to Aristotle’s hierarchy of the modes of being: neos theos, thought thinking itself. Thought thinking the conditions of its own possibility, its own inner structure and constitution. “In need of nothing beyond itself.” The criterion recommended by Aristotle for such a life is the following: “it is the best life for humans because it is most closely akin to the life of god and is a life such as the best which we enjoy but a short time.”
Sartre Interlude: Sartre’s existential marxism granted a privledged position to the early Marx, namely the 1844 Manuscripts, which focus more intently on alienation than, say, dialectical materialism. Also, “a gradual transition from a Cartensian, a temporal approach to reality to a realization of the need to consider both the historical placing of thought and the historical moment of the thinker. thus Sartre takes a new look at the notion of “ideology,” namely that what an age takes as “universal reason” is basically a notion of reason defined by a rising class to fit its needs.” An interesting claim made by Catalano re Sartre’s development of his position states that the latter developed in response to his articulation of Hegel and Heidegger’s positions. I find this interesting because one’s position, here Sartre’s, becomes funneled through those positions against which one develops his or her own position.
Sartre’s philosophical development betrays the fundamental rift comprising competing methodologies in the current academic division of labor currently constitutive of academic philosophy departments. We already noted briefly above that Sartre began to dissociate himself from Cartesian currents carrying thought out of its historical situatedness; instead, he moved from Descartes and Husserl to examine the “tie between the historical depth of human relatins and these relations as a presence before us was to beome an integral aspect of the Critique, with its progressive-regressive movement.”T The point I find interesting here is the method of examination within the thought of Husserl with which Sartre sympathized. That is, the nature of human experience and human experience of epistemic or social phenomenon were priveldged at the expense of the socio-historical form in which the relationship between the subject and world was articulated. Husserl, of course, later gave the historical its due. One can maintain the “conditions for the possibility” of experience and the structural and syntactical structure of phenomenal experience; however, this particular engagement with the world would be fused with the way in which one’s conclusions regarding said conditions are historically situated. What are the large scale, objective conditions that allow THESE human relations, rather than others, to be possible. For example, colonialism, racism, and revolutionary action. The particular practice in which we everyday engage continue and sustain very specific social structures that inherently perpetuate social injustices. Therefore, in order to eliminate and eradicate these injustices we must focus ever more intently not simply on particlar systemic and structural manifestations of injustice; rather, we need to focus, instead, on the structure and system itself and the way in which our behavior as citizens and consumers perpetuates an unjust system.
One particular anecdote I found interesting regarding the early development of the RAND corporation was the claim by its initial director, after they’d decided to develop a social sciences unit, that they understood the objective conditions, numbers, planes, things, etc…but, they didn’t understand the human.