- The most elementary definition of ideology is probably the well-known phrase from Marx’s ’Capital’: ”They do not know it, but they are doing it.” The fundamental level of ideology, however, is not of an illusion masking the real state of things but that of an (unconscious) fantasy structuring our social reality itself. (The Sublime Object of Ideology)
When I first visited the states I was shock by your toilets here. Romanticism onwards there was the idea of so-called european trinity - anglosaxan economy, french politics, german metaphysics, poetry, philosophy - as the basic spiritual stances of Europe. Sorry, that’s it! French politics, revolutionary, shit should disappear as soon as possible. Anglosaxan, american lets be pragmatic, blah blah blah. German metaphysics, poetry, you inspect, reflect on your shit. So isn’t it totally crazy that in a vulgar, common phenomenon like that you find certain differences that you truly cannot account for in functional terms so you have to evoke all this. You claim OK I’m out of ideology, post-ideological era, then you go to the toilet, produce shit and you're up to your shit in ideology.
The central idea of ideology for me is not this idea is determining you are a christian, you are a marxist, or whatever, today liberal, I dont know, but the idea is precisly that ideological propositions do not determine us totally, we can not be reduced to our public image, there is a warm human being behind. I think this is ideology at it’s purest! The most horrible anti-ideological act, for me, and really horrible, terrifying, is to fully identify with the ideological image. The ultimate act is what we think is our true self, that is the true acting. Usually our truth to that which we are really committed existentially is in our acts more than what is supposed to be behind the acts. So again my point is I like philosophy as an anonomous job...
What we encounter here, I think, is precisly Lacans reversal of the famous Dostojevski motto ”If God doesn’t exist everything is permitted”: ”If God doesn’t exist everything is prohibited”. How? On the one hand, again, you are allowed to have a full life of happiness and pleasure, but in order to be happy and so on, you should you avoid dangerous excesses so in the end everything is prohibited. You can not eat fat, you can not have coffee, you can not have nothing, precisly in order to enjoy it. So todays hedonism combines pleasure with constraint. It is no longer the old notion of the right measure between pleasure and constraint, like ”sex, yes, but not to much, proper measure.” No, it’s something much more paradoxical. It’s kind of immediate coincidence of the two extremes. It’s as if action and reaction coincide. The very thing which causes damage should already be the counter-agent, the medicine. The ultimate example I encountered recently in California, I don’t know if you can buy it also here in New York, is chocolate laxative. And there it says as propaganda ”Do you still have constipation? Eat more of this chocolate.” The thing is already its own counter-agent. And the negative proof of the hegemony of this [...] is the fact that today the true unconstrained consumption in all it’s main forms (drugs, free sex, smoking) is emergine as the main danger.
- How do we account for this paradox that the absence of Law universalizes Prohibition? There is only one possible explanation: enjoyment itself, which we experience as ”transgression”, is in its innermost status something imposed, ordered - when we enjoy, we never do it spontaneously, we always follow a certain injunction. The psychoanalytic name for this obscene injunction, for this obscene call, ”ENJOY”, is SUPEREGO. (For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment As A Political Factor)
The traditional notion of psychoanalysis is that because of some inner obstacles you internalised, identified [...] with paternal of other social prohibitions you can not set yourself free to enjoy - pleasure is not accessible for you. It is accessible to you only in patological forms of feeling guilty and so on. So then the idea is that psychoanalysis allows you to suspend, to overcome these internalised prohibitions so it enables you to enjoy. The problem today is that the commandment of the ruling ideologies to enjoy in different ways - it can be sexual enjoyment, consumtion, commodity enjoyment, up to spiritual enjoyment, ”realize yourself”, whatever - and I think that the problem today is not how to get rid of your inhibitions and to be able to spontaneously enjoy. The problem is how to get rid of this injunction to enjoy.
- It is this paradox which defines surplus enjoyment: it is not a surplus which simply attaches itself to some normal, fundamental enjoyment, because enjoyment as such emerges only in this surplus, because it is constitutively an excess. If we subtract the surplus we lose enjoyment itself, just as capitalism, which can survive only be incessantly revolutionizing its own material conditions, ceases to exist if it stays the same, if it achieves an internal balance. This, then, is the homology between surplus value - the ’cause’ which sets in motion the capitalist process of production - and surplus-enjoyment, the object-cause of desire. (The Sublime Object of Ideology)
When people ask me why do I combine Lacan with Marx, my first answer is that Lacan already did it! I think for example that it is only true that the strict psychoanalytic lacanian notion of phantasy that we can really grasp what Marx was aiming at with his notion of commodity fetischism. I think its precisly the use of lacanian notions like phantasy - in the strict lacanian sense - or excess enjoyment, and so on and so on, not to mention the Real, that we can understand todays phenomena like new fundamentalist forms of racism, like the way our so called permissive societies are functioning. Again, here, the psychoanalytic notion, especially the way it was conceptualized by Lacan, the psychoanalytic concept of Superego, as injunction to enjoy, as an obscene category, not as an properly ethical category, is of great help. So, again, I think that if freudian theory in its traditional configuration was appropriate to explain the standard capitalism which relied on some kind of more traditional ethic of sexual control, repression, and so on, then Lacan is perfect to explain the paradoxes of permissive late capitalism.
- ”Diet & decaf, this soda is it!” The more you drink, the more you want. The more you want, the more you buy. Drink nothingness itself, the pure semblance of property. This soda is NEVER it! This example makes palpable the link between three notions: Marxist surplus-value, Lacan’s objet petit a as surplus enjoyment, [and] the paradox of the superego. The more you have, the more you want, the more you drink, the more you are thirsty, the more you obey the superego, the more you are guilty. (The Fragile Absolute: Or, Why is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For?)