When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender
This I could not do
(Leonard Cohen, The Partisan)
9th November 2019
The One-All Alone And The Posthuman
Object a, as the object cause of desire, represents what is internally exclude from a symbolic system, what marks its limit as an extimate remainder. Object a is thus, at once, what is the most intimate, since it is what causes desire, and what is the most external, since it is what can neither have an adequate representation, nor be entirely satisfied—except, of course, when we clumsily try to access it through the Imaginary frame of our fantasy, via the endless chasing of a virtually infinite chain of substitutable objects. In other word, object a, inasmuch as it represents what can neither be fully represented nor satisfied, is what can also potentially enslave us in a desperate search for satisfaction. And it is this very weak spot that capitalism exploits, trapping us in what Lauren Berlant calls a form of cruel optimism. Through object a, the capitalist discourse is plugged directly onto our fantasy. And it is through its attempts to fulfill them with gadgets that the capitalist discourse is actually turning each one of us as consumers into enslaved workers. To put it in a formula, the harder we are trying to gain satisfaction through the acquisition of new gadgets, the more we are enslaving ourselves to the very fantasmatic structure that creates and sustain in the first place our insatiable appetite for satisfaction.
To problematize this apparent paradox, Lacan suggested, in a conference called Speaking to the Brick Wall, that what characterizes the capitalist discourse in proper is its rejection of any forms of castration, which means its rejection of any symbolic limits when it comes to the satisfaction of the drives. Lacan, commenting on this kernel of the capitalist discourse, said “What distinguishes the discourse of capitalism is this — verwerfung, rejection from all field of the symbolic, with all the consequences that I have already mentioned, and rejection of what? Of castration. Every order, every discourse that relates to capitalism leaves aside what we will simply call matters of love. (96) If Lacan associates the notion of love with the one of castration, it is simply because love is the only experience in which the tyranny of the drives encounters a limit. The thirst for private satisfaction encounters the demand of an other that suddenly has a power over us. The dictatorship of surplus-enjoyment is temporarily suspended, castrated, in the name of love. This is why Lacan argues in his Seminar VIII on Plato’s Banquet, that love is what elevates object a at the status of an object agalma, which is to say, at the status of the perfect metaphor of one’s lack. And this is why, also, love is generally not considered valuable by the capitalist discourse, since the capitalist discourse needs, in order to keep its business a-flow, to maintain object a on the side of wha Lacan called, in his Seminar X on Anxiety, the object paela, which is to say on the side of the replaceable object, always calling anxiously for a new one.
More problematically, one could add that it is precisely to counter the anxiety generated by this endless search that the capitalist discourse has also invented, through the help of science, a system of mental health adjusted to its anxious movement. With the help of neuroscience and medications, or the development of short term cognitive-behavior therapy, exclusively designed to treat isolated symptom (most of the time related to addictive or phobic behaviors), the capitalist discourse has invented all sorts of mental treatments for its own disease—the disease of what Jacques-Alain Miller has called, the One-all-alone, the posthuman. Miller writes,
"The relation between the two sexes is going to become more and more impossible, so that, to put it this way, the One-all-alone will be the posthuman standard, the One-all-alone, all alone to fill out questionnaires in order to receive one’s evaluation, and the one-all-alone commanded by a surplus-jouissance that is presented under its most anxiety generating aspect. (A Fantasy)"
Such is the paradox that lies at the core of the capitalist discourse. While, one the one hand, it forces its consumers to maintain an anxious relationship to object a, in order for them to keep consuming new objects of the object palea kind (the object that is replaceable), on the other it monitors the subject to make sure that, although deprived innerly of any form of castration, its relationship to pleasure remains nonetheless contained within certain measurable boundaries. In other words, the capitalist discourse is a discourse that takes object a as its cause, and assign to the subject a form of “push to jouissance.” And it is also a discourse that controls and limits the modes of enjoyment of each subject through multiplied medical control procedures. To say it otherwise, the more the contemporary subject is invited to “enjoy” alone, the more its mode of enjoyment is being monitored and controlled, and the more the contemporary subject end up being isolated and segregated. But how can psychoanalysis oppose this movement of scientific evaluation of the subject’, while not opposing this scientific discourse in the name of Religious, but in the name of the very impossibility that the discourse of science has discovered when it refused to abide the social fantasy of inscribing, in one form or another, the sexual link, upon which rests the social bond.
Issue # 7 of The Lacanian Review
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