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2016

Vol. 4

No. 1

Contents /
Andrei Platonov. The Anti-Sexus
p. 1019
Aaron Schuster. One or Many
Antisexes? Introduction to Andrei Platonovs The Anti-Sexus

20 1 36

.
.

Slavoj iek. Sexuality in the


Posthuman Age

54 2 70

Mladen Dolar. Running Wild

88 3 100

Keti Chukhrov. How Much Could


Sexuality Cost?

114 4 128

.
?

Oxana Timofeeva.
We Have Never Had Sex

144 5 162

182 6 222

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[]

Artemy Magun, Oxana Timofeeva,


Yoel Regev, Galina Rymbu, Yelena
Kostyleva, and others. The Love of
the Future: Openness/Totality
[Discussion]

Book Reviews /
Sr Rosendal on Frank Ruda,
Hegels Rabble: An Investigation
into Hegels 'Philosophy of Right'

266

i 270

. . .:
, :

Kirill Alexandrov on David S.


Stern (ed.), Essays on Hegels Philosophy of Subjective Spiri

276 ii 284

. .
.: (.),

Ivan Boldyrev on Katrin Pahl,


Tropes of Transport: Hegel and
Emotion

294 iii 304

. .:
, .

Agon Hamza on Slavoj iek,


Less Than Nothing: Hegel and
the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism
Galina Ivanova on Rebecca Comay, Mourning Sickness: Hegel
and The French Revolution; Artemy Magun, Negative Revolution:
Modern Political Subject and its
Fate After the Cold War
Gabriel Tupinamb on Adrian
Johnston, Prolegomena to Any Future Materialism, Vol. I. The Outcome of Contemporary French
Philosophy; Adrian Johnston,
Adventures in Transcendental
Materialism. Dialogues with
Contemporary Thinkers

314 iv 318

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322 v 326

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330 vii 338

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Editor
Artemy Magun
Deputy Editor
xana Timofeeva
Issue Editor
xana Timofeeva
Guest Review Editor
Ivan Boldyrev
Editorial Board
Marcia Cavalcante Schuback (Stockholm, Sweden)
Mladen Dolar (Ljubljana, Slovenia), Alexander Filippov (oscow, Russia)
Oleg Kharkhordin (St. Petersburg, Russia), Susanna Lindberg (Helsinki, Finland)
Boyan Manchev (Sofia, Bulgaria), Viatcheslav Morozov (Tartu, Estonia)
Mika Ojakangas (Juvaskyla, Finland), Alexei Penzin (oscow, Russia)
Sergei Prozorov (Helsinki, Finland), Ozren Pupovac (Berlin, Germany)
Viktor Vakhshtayn (oscow, Russia)
English Language Editor
Kirsty Kay
Copy Editor
Konstantin Kharitonov
Editorial Assistant
Svetlana Erpyleva










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Stasis, Vol. 4, No. 1, 2016 (Spring). SPb. : EUSP Press, 2016. 351 p.
ISSN 2310-3817
Circulation: 300
Web-page: http://stasisjournal.net
Contact address: Stasis Journal,
European University at St. Petersburg,
Gagarinskaya st., 3, St.Petersburg,
Russia 191187
E-mail address: stasis@eu.spb.ru
Editor-in-chief: amagun@eu.spb.ru
Editorial assistant: yerpylovas@gmail.com

, . 4, 1, 2016 (). . :
-, 2016. 351 .
ISSN 2310-3817
: 300
-: http://stasisjournal.net
: Stasis,
-,
. , 3, -, , 191187
: stasis@eu.spb.ru
: amagun@eu.spb.ru
: yerpylovas@gmail.com

.. ; ..
15.05.2016. 60841/16. .
.. .20,58. 300 .


196084, -, . , . 28
./ (812) 388-9000
e-mail: beresta@mail.wplus.net

The

AntiSexus

From the Editor


What Is To Be Done With Sex?
This issue continues the discussion between Slavoj iek, Alenka Zupancic, Mladen Dolar, Keti Chukhrov, Aaron Schuster, and Oxana Timofeeva, which took place in Ljubljana in May 2014. The idea for this discussion was inspired by the short essay The Anti-Sexus, written by Andrey
Platonov in 1926. This satirical essay is presented as an advertising brochure for a mass-produced masturbatory device, proposed by a large
Western company for the Soviet market. This machine is a great invention, says the brochure, because it can enormously improve the productivity of human labor all over the planet by liberating people from sexual
love and thus providing a perfect means of control over the population.
Platonovs The Anti-Sexus is a remarkable document from the
Russian Revolutionary avant-garde era, a highly unique period of cultural
breakthrough that questioned all our habitual ideas concerning human
society, proclaiming new models for politics, ethics, aesthetics, etc. For
this era sexuality was a major concern. Between the pre-revolutionary period and Stalins restoration of traditional family values, the 1917 Russian
October Revolution opened up a historical gap, where at least two contradictory tendencies dramatically coincided. One tendency was sexual liberation and emancipation at all levels of society. The other was the radical
asceticism of the revolutionary, the idea of giving up sexual life as a bourgeois vestige for the sake of building a better world. Each of these tendencies related to the idea of creating a new man, a man of a communist future, whose economy of desire would be organized in a completely different way.
In contemporary capitalism, the economy of sex has again become a
problem, but the stakes are different. They vary from a wide movement of
sexual liberation on the level of private and individual freedoms in Western countries, to puritanism or growing restrictions and prohibitions in
countries like Russia; from the widespread commodification of pleasure
(the society of enjoyment) to asexuality as an identity or individual
choice. New moral dilemmas appear when one prefers to masturbate

No. 1
Vol. 4 (2016)

rather than encounter another human being in a potentially destructive


(non-)relation.
Can or should sexuality be liberated? Can sexuality liberate? Can or
should one liberate oneself from sexuality? Why should sexuality be conceived as a uniquely troublesome point of human existence? From our
historical experience, relating to the sexual heritage of revolutionary
struggles of the past century, and in light of contemporary forms of solitude and libidinal malaise, we raise and discuss these questions. In the
course of this discussion, a certain sexual dialectics reveals itself as a series of contradictions. What if those things considered as emancipation
and liberation were in fact an ultimate anti-sexus strategy of our times
(Schuster)? How does this strategy, operated within a capitalist economy,
deeply transform human beings (iek)? How does psychoanalysis reply
to the popular idea of the sexual act as a universal cure (Dolar)? What are
the limits of psychoanalysis and is there a way out of the libidinal economy to which it refers (Chukhrov)? Finally, what is the difference between
sex and masturbation, and why does the slogan Make love, not war never work? In addition, we publish a discussion that took place in St. Petersburg in April 2015 between contemporary Russian poets and philosophers, dedicated to the future of sex and love, to their inevitable deadlocks, but also their utopian horizons.
The articles by Slavoj iek, Mladen Dolar, Keti Chukhrov, Aaron
Schuster, and Oxana Timofeeva were first published in the Slovenian language in the special issue ofProblemi(910, 2014), whereas the first English translation of the Anti-Sexus was published inCabinet(51, 2013).
We are thankful to Problemi for this selection and to Cabinet for granting
their permission to reprint Platonovs essay. Special thanks go to Mladen
Dolar and Aaron Schuster for their collaboration and active engagement
with this project.
Oxana Timofeeva


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EUSP, 2016

ISSN 2310-3817

Vol. 4

No. 1

p. 1019

Andrei Platonov

The Anti-Sexus1
On the following pages is the reprint from Cabinet of the first English
translation, by Anne O. Fisher, of Andrei Platonovs The Anti-Sexus,
written in 1926. Originally signed Andrei Platonov, translator from the
French, the text purported to be a promotional pamphlet translated into
Russian by Platonov. The Anti-Sexus was not published in its original
Russian until 1981, when it was included in a special issue of Russian Literature, with annotations provided by Thomas Langerak; the endnotes
provided here rely heavily on his authoritative commentary.

From the Translator


Below we have appended the text of an advertising pamphlet published in eight languages by the Industriale Internationale Rev in New
York.2
It is impossible to deny the exceptional literary and advertising talent of this pamphlets author, just as it is impossible to deny this businesslike compositions imperialistic cynicism, prim pornography, and
monstrous vulgarity, the magnitude of which provoke nothing less than
sorrow. However, there is something in the style of this brochure with a
decided whiff of Anatole France, if we may be so bold as to here pronounce
that noble, honest name; and this, in part, gave us the courage to publish
such an unprecedented work.
No document characterizes the epoch of the bourgeoisies living decay, its utter moral atrophy, better than the one appended below. Even we,
as experienced professional readers, have never read anything like it. Even
though were ready for anything these days from the warmongering bureaucrats and capitalist, fascist fat cats whove offered their testimonials
about the advertised device, we never thought they could be so completely devoid of sense and lacking in basic tact.
Comrade Shklovsky, who employed his formal method to comment
with such deft irony on all this drivel, is of course omitted from the preceding catalogue.
This article was first published in Cabinet no. 51 (Fall 2013).
Attentive readers may wonder why an advertising brochure written by Yakov
Habsburg, general agent for the Soviet lands and aimed at a Russian-speaking market
would be available in eight languages, including French (purported to be the language
of Platonovs source document), but not the most salient one, namely Russian. This is
presumably simply an oversight on the authors part.
1
2

10

The Anti-Sexus

Main Offices: BerlinLondonGenevaWashington. Branch Agencies: London, Paris, Copenhagen, Brussels, New York, Warsaw, Budapest,
Baghdad, Peking, Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Chicago,
Frankfurt (on Oder and on Main), Tokyo, Lisbon, Seville, Rome, Athens,
Montevideo, Constantinople, Angora, Calcutta, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Mecca, Cairo, Bethlehem, Alexandria, Bangkok, and Damascus, with
officers on every passenger vessel of the Hamburg-America line as well as
on the airlines Deruluft4 and Lufthansa.
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:
How varied are the epochs how varied the country locations how
varied the cultures where our worldwide company works. Nevertheless,
our patented products enjoy universal demand from the Arctic to the Antarctic, and even on those latter lands, and, additionally, in the wild countries between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Human passion reigns
supreme over time, location, climate, and economy.
The metalworking industrys manufacture and distribution of our
companys product for the satisfaction of these passions is a matter of
cosmic importance, both metaphysically and morally. It is exceptionally
symptomatic that, in contrast to common wisdom, the annual sales rate
3
The story was written in 1926, according to a letter from Platonov to his wife.
As Joe Shepards 1973 dissertation The Origin of a Master: The Early Prose of Andrei
Platonov (Indiana University, 1973: 185) shows, the name Berkman is a reference to
Alexander Berkman (18701936), an American anarchist of Russian descent, who lived
with Emma Goldman for a few years in immediate post-revolution Soviet Russia and
later described his disillusionment with Bolshevism in The Anti- Climax: The Concluding Chapter of My Russian Diary The Bolshevik Myth (Berlin: Maurer & Dimmick, 1925).
4
An actual joint German-Russian airline, founded in 1921.

11

Vol. 4 (2016)

The Anti-Sexus
Patented Devices
Berkman, Chteloy, and Son, Ltd.3

No. 1

Apparently its not physiology that has hit the mark (the brain is
one of the last organs to decompose); its a Russian Bolshevik slogan,
reason is the first thing to gofor those whom History wants to punish.
This is perfectly true, and this is why the entire world reeks to high
heaven of the Anglo Euro-Americansindeed, that whole imperialist
sectorsdemonstrable fiction.
Therefore the surest contra-antisexual agitprop is the publication
of this curious document, for now the fixed expression on peoples faces
will shift, and their faces will be illuminated by rosy-pink laughter: the
greatest friend of soul and stomach, and the fiercest enemy of all this suffocating industrial, moral, and physiological insanity.

Andrei Platonov

of our productgiven no difference in economic situation and size of


populationis the same in the northern latitudes as it is in the southern
latitudes, the tropics.
Hence, permit us to conclude that the physiology of man is virtually
identical and stands true despite any feature of location, level of culture,
time, race, presence of the printing press or lack thereof, ugliness of the
race or comeliness thereof, or other extraneous circumstance.
Hence, its clearly our achievement of complete satisfaction that results in such complete demand. Of its own accord, the entire world demands consumption, not production; the world doesnt even produce the
desire for pleasure when there is no chance of obtaining the latter. Considering our global experience in product sales our tireless pursuit of
perfection in the instrument models currently in production our everexpanding network of factories (the number of which reached 224 as of
Jan. 1, 1926) and our vigilant concern for consumers individual nuances
and resultant instrument modifications to adapt to said nuances, we have
decided to include the Soviet Union in our export market, as we consider
its volume sufficient to justify the organizational expenses inevitably associated with the unavoidable adaptation to a new markets specifics,
given that any commercial success must take into consideration all the
concrete characteristics of a particular situation. The worlds leading
moral authorities have declared our actions to be completely free of any
cause for concern, in fact, to be worthy of state sponsorship and private
philanthropic support, something our company was not slow to use to
our advantage, and which we will continue to use henceforth. The head of
the company, Mr. Berkman, has already been included on the list of nominees for the Nobel Prize and during the past year received the honoris
causa and honorary title of Doctor of Ethical and Aesthetic Sciences from
the Sorbonne. Without taking up too much of your highly valuable time,
permit us to share with you, in the most general of outlines, the principles
upon which our founders based this unique, worldwide company.
The sexual force of mankind was repressed during the epoch of war,
but flourished uncontrollably in the postwar period. It was this, in part,
that enabled our factories to work at capacity and our company to enjoy
financial prosperity. But it is this unregulated sexual life of mankind, so
pregnant with calamity due precisely to said unregulated stateit is just
this that causes the founders of our company such torturous spiritual
anxiety, just this that is the true reason for our affirmative activity. There
is also the well-known link between sexual feelings and morality.
The sanctity of the ancient institute of marriage is universally recognized, a sanctity that stems from the immutability of matrimonial love
and the eternity of the conjugal bed, fraught with supreme affirmative
delights and the resultant spiritual pacification. In marriage, truth is replaced by peace. Even if no philosopher in the world can prove which is
better, mankind, has proclaimed that peace is better than truth. And only

12

5
Ernest Rutherford (18711937), physicist, who laid the foundation for the
study of radioactivity and the construction of the atom; Kreuzkopf refers to the character
Peter Kreuzkopf in Platonovs story The Lunar Bomb, published in 1926; Kreuzkopf
constructs not a brick, but a spherical projectile in which he plans to be shot to the moon.

13

Vol. 4 (2016)

mankind can be the object of industrial and commercial activity; philosophers cannot be such an object.
Having taken all this into account, our company has filed for patents
in all the civilized countries for the Anti-Sexus, an electromagnetic instrument destined to regulate the realm of sex and, both together with this and
because of it, the highest function of man: his soul, that is to say, the divinity hidden within, which must now, finally, be made evident and available
for general use, as one of the common benefits of civilization. An unregulated sex is an unregulated soul; its unprofitable; it suffers and creates
more suffering; this, in the age of the universal scientific organization of
labor, in the age of Ford and radio, in the age of the League of Nations,
Rutherford, and plans for interplanetary travel by means of the living force
contained in the so-called Kreuzkopf brick5this cannot be tolerated.
Progress proceeds in an uneven, broken line, in other words, certain individual dots limp weakly behind. Our company has been called upon to even
out the line of progress; our company has been called upon to abolish the
sexual savagery of mankind and recall mans nature back to an advanced
culture of peace, and to a regular, calm, planned tempo of development.
In an age of social and economic crises when marriage is financially
difficult in an age of alimony when its almost impossible to have children and when woman has once more become just a poets fantasy now
that man is impoverished, we have been called upon to solve the global
human problem of sex and the soul.
Our company has transformed sexual feeling from a crude elemental
urge to an ennobling mechanism, we have given the world moral behavior. We have removed the element of sex from human relationships and
cleared the way for pure spiritual friendship.
Still, keeping in mind the high-value instant pleasure that necessarily accompanies contact of the sexes, we have endowed our instrument
with a construction affording a minimum of three times this pleasure, as
compared to the loveliest of women used at length by a prisoner recently
released after ten years in strict isolation. This is the measure of comparison, the quality quotient of our patented instruments.
Furthermore, a special regulator allows users to achieve pleasure of
any duration, from several seconds to several days, should our honorable
consumer happen to have that much free time. A special selector disc allows users to regulate the expenditure of semen in units of volume, and
thus to achieve the optimal level of spiritual equilibrium, that is, to prevent excessive depletion of the organism and overall loss of tone in daily
activities. Our motto is the spiritual and physiological fate of the cus-

No. 1

The Anti-Sexus

Andrei Platonov

tomer and the exercise of his sexual function: everything is in his hands
which rest on the corresponding regulators. And this we have achieved.
In addition, men of advanced age who have fallen out of sexual communion can use our devices to again become communicants. We work for
all ages and for all peoples.
For eight years now, weve been manufacturing just three models of
instruments for men, and three for women. The market evidently doesnt
demand additional variety, thanks to the wide range of variation allowed
in the configuration of each model, according to each consumers individual particularities. As a goodwill gesture to our new client, the Soviet
lands unique inhabitant, we have allowed special discounts, such as giving union members who buy collectively up to 20 percent off the current
list price as well as a one-year installment plan. The prices of our instruments for 1926 are as follows:
1. Model BS300042 for individual use, without sterilizer20 dol.
2. Model BS3001843 for use by a limited number of persons (for example, for male members of one family), with sterilizer40 dol.
3. Model BS3000000401 for use by unlimited numbers (to be installed in public toilets, train cars, workers barracks, at political rallies, in
theaters, on streets, in office buildings, and so forth), with automatic sterilizer100 dol.
Indicated pricing is for warehouse pickup and does not include discounts or packaging. There are the same three device models and usage
guidelines for women, but with a 15 percent increase in price. We emphasize again that our principles of action are unimpeachable, reposing on
the very pinnacle of morality we respectfully remind you of the need to
organize your soul, the most important part of yourself we stand guard
over your economic interests, protecting these from the encroachment of
elemental sexual forces thus we make so bold as to offer you the chance
to make an indispensable, one-time capital expenditure in order to cross
the line of expenses for sexual gratification off the debit side of your account book once and for all, and forthwith embark on the path of financial
and moral prosperity.
Awaiting your kind comments and orders, we remain respectfully
yours,
Yakov Habsburg, General Agent for the Soviet Lands.
Testimonials from Notable Persons about
our Anti-Sexus Instruments
War is the global passion of mankind. It will cease only when life on
earth ceases, no matter what tired people and their daydreaming politicians say. War is masculinity itself, and will abide as long as life remains
manly and progressive. The instruments of Mr. Berkman, Mr. Chteloy,

14

The Anti-Sexus

Close analysis of the production cost of the Anti-Sexus instrument


proved it to be overly expensive. I asked the Financial Department to recalculate this cost based on our raw materials and equipment and ascertain whether we could reduce it. They reported that reductions of thirty
are possible, for now. As of next year we will begin manufacturing the
Anti-Sexus at our factory in Detroit.
In addition, we have approved installment payment plans of up to
five years, which will make the instrument perfectly affordable for each
and every citizen.

15

Vol. 4 (2016)

Berkman, Chteloy, and Son have founded a gleaming new era in the
moral service of mankind. Theres no doubt that the optimal historical
situation is for the human brain to regulate everything in the universe,
and that this regulation should manifest itself as an electrical transformer
that turns wild forces of nature into standardized automatons. This task
of regulating conjugal physiology into an exact, routine form faced me
back when I was twenty-five and had just gotten married, but at that time
my thought process, distracted by mechanical exercises, couldnt concentrate on it. I regret this. Maybe then I wouldnt have set up enterprises for
the fabrication of automobiles, Id have set out to fabricate devices that
automate and normalize morality, which is more suitable to my spiritual
framework.
But Berkman, Chteloy, and Son foresaw my youthful thoughts and
put them into large-scale operation for the good of mankind. I am deeply
glad for this.
I wish this new industry, so brilliantly organized by Berkman, Chteloy, and Son, worldwide success. I hope this marvelous companys beneficent product enjoys market development by having breeders expand
production to include the planets entire animal population, not just people, whose numbers will be fatefully limited by the action of this same
companys instruments. Taking this measure will increase the assets side
of the companys balance sheet and, along with it, the moral fortitude of
the world.
Henry Ford

No. 1

and Son will, I am sure, play a great role in the upcoming war, when
thousands of young men amassed on the front lines will be serviced by
them.
Even as recently as the last war, military leaders reckoned with soldiers spirits. Forced chastity creates an excess of nerves. Nervous soldiers
mean defeat. We need armies of men with spiritual equilibrium, who are
capable of decades of war. The abovementioned instruments have been
drafted to assist military leaders in their difficult work on the path to
victory.
Hindenburg

Andrei Platonov

Thus we will completely wipe out prostitution, once and for all, and
every unemployed male will also obtain these instruments. Well free the
young working men from the obligation to get married, too, which will
stabilize their budgets, allowing us to proceed without having to give
them the raises which so hinder our continued progress and technical improvements in our factories.
Ford, Jr. (Ezekiel)6
Better to drain your seed into a piece of metal, if you do not wish to
transform it into a tree of knowledge, than into the defenseless body of a
human being, created for friendship, ideas, and sanctity.
Gandhi
The devices of Mr. Berkman, Mr. Chteloy and Son make it easier for
the metropolis to manage the hot-tempered colonial races and to reduce
the number of useless revolts against civilization which are based, as we
now know, on nothing more than the unsatisfied sexual urges of young
men. Its also become much easier to post first-class administrative men
to the colonies now that their wives arent in continual danger of rape, as
used to be the case. And another thing: these very administrators wives,
furnished with the companys equipment, no longer need allow, indeed
invite, rape.
Chamberlain
Im against the Anti-Sexus. It doesnt allow for intimacy, for the living
interaction of peoples souls, but its this interaction thats always foremost
whenever the sexes unite, even in those cases when the woman is a commodity. This interaction has its own value, independent from sexual intercourse: its that fleeting feeling of friendship and sweet affinity, that feeling
of your loneliness melting away, that no antisexual mechanism can give.
Im for the actual closeness of people, for them breathing into each others
mouths, for one pair of eyes gazing straight into another, for how you truly
feel your own soul during the crude act of intercourse, and for enriching it
at the expense of some other soul that just happened along. This is why Im
against the Anti-Sexus. Im for the living, suffering, laughable, stuck-in-arut human being who blows his stock of meager life-juice just to feel a moment of fraternity with another derivative being. And Im also against all
this mechanized stuff because I am, was, and ever shall be for whats real,
for whats pitiful and laughable, but alive and poised to become powerful.
Charlie Chaplin
6
Fords sons name was not Ezekiel, but Edsel; the substitution may be a jab
at Fords documented anti-Semitic sentiments, or, since Ezekiel prophesied the horrific
destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, to be followed by the end of Jewish exile and
the victorious construction of a new Temple, Platonov could have been hinting that
Fords manufacturing empire was also to undergo spectacular defeat.

16

Once we make coitus an individual act by ousting its live second half,
once we remove all obstacles to the exercise of sexual function and render
it commonly available, we will be on the direct road to chastity and to the
dominance of the principle of rejuvenation: the utilization of our internal
secretions, our glandular discharges, inside our own bodies.
Prof. Steinach7
After using the Anti-Sexus you relive your younger days, then sleep
soundly. I havent slept this well in twenty-five years. Some fount of youth
that had been running dry in me has begun flowing again. Im very grateful to the manufacturers of the Anti-Sexus. My daughter has suggested I
found a Berkman, Chteloy, and Son Institute of Permanent Youth. I gave
the approval and the money for this glad affair.
Morgan
7
Dr. Eugen Steinach (18611944) was an Austrian researcher into endocrinology who, just before World War I, pioneered the Steinach operation (ligation of the
vas deferens) in his search for a procedure to restore mens youth, vitality, and sexual
vigor. Celebrities, artists, and other public figures testified en masse to the operations
spectacular results.

17

Vol. 4 (2016)

Note from the Company


While we take C. Chaplins protest into consideration, and while we
do not avoid publishing negative testimonials, the Company also makes it
known that our best engineers have been asked to develop a workable
design for a new Anti-Sexus that will affect not only the sexual realm but
the higher nerve centers simultaneously, thus mechanically creating
those priceless feelings of communion with the cosmos and friendship on
a higher plane with all living things about which Mr. Chaplin so exhaustively expressed his regret.
The Company expects to be able to create this feeling of communion
with life not as an abstract sensation, but as the charming, concrete figure
of a woman or man (depending on the customers sex), a figure of whatever is most intimate and desirable for each customers psychological
structure and nervous system. However, the Company does not expect to
achieve broad distribution of this particular instrument model, since it is
well established that loveand in Mr. Chaplins testimonial he is clearly
referring to real, albeit transitory, lovelove is not a quality common to
all people, so we dont expect planning production based on it to be commercially viable. Love, as contemporary science has proven, is a psychopathic condition that is characteristic for certain constitutions predisposed to nerve degeneracy, not for healthy, practical men. Still, we work
not only for all ages and all peoples, but also for all organic systems in all
their variety, since our Company strives first and foremost for moral order
and convenience the world over.
On behalf of the Company, Mr. Berkman

No. 1

The Anti-Sexus

Andrei Platonov

With the introduction of these antisexual instruments, we have lost


the specific set of beautiful and powerful motions accompanying divine
passion. This is to be regretted. But we have gained a specific sexual comfort, a certain amount of time saved, the equilibrium of a healthy constitution, and independence from womanly caprice. This is to be welcomed.
And another thing: I think that contemporary film will compensate for
this lost set of coital motions by purging them of everything thats unconscious, thats beastly and elemental, and replacing them with a powerful,
virginal bodys airy motion through space.
Doug. Fairbanks
The future belongs to civilization, not to culture: the future will be
won by he who is spiritually dead and intellectually pessimistic. Marriage,
styled spiritually after Faust, is inconceivable in the vulgar plane of true
civilization; the only thing conceivable there is the mechanical process of
discharging excess raw organic force that cant be sublimated into the
spirit. The Anti-Sexus machine is yet another herald of the age we are now
entering, where civilization is a dead, comfortable building whose foundation is overgrown with the green grass of a lively, but lost, culture.
Oswald Spengler
The Anti-Sexus machine is utterly indispensable for long trips and
very easy to use. Its now absolutely obligatory to include these among
the essential supplies of any expedition aiming to be the least bit scientifically organized and equipped. The presence of these machines is an
additional plus for the expeditions success.
Sven Hedin
I heard this little ditty once when I was in Russia: Lucky fellows live
with milkmaids. As the rest of us have learned, lads like this have got it
made: cream and butter at every turn!
At a time when Europes growing poorer by the day and Russias none
too rich herself, when not every man will marry a milkmaid, we need a
mechanical milkmaid. The Anti-Sexus mechanism has been called
forth to take her place. Mankind spends around five hundred billion rubles
each year on prostitution, not counting the indirect cost in health, the
colossal waste of time, the existence of a whole international class of socially detrimental male and female prostitutes, and so forth and so on.
The money we save, which would total around a trillion rubles a year,
would be enough to buy milk, cream, and butter for every man, with no
need to make such satisfactory fare dependent on taking a milkmaid to
wife.
Yes. But its the Anti-Sexus, after all, that gave us this savings of a
trillion a year and universal access to the milk supply! Therefore its more
effective than any economic reform, no matter how revolutionary.
Keynes

18

The Anti-Sexus

Note from the Company


Since it is impossible to fit all the testimonials in here, the Company
is planning to issue three volumes dedicated specifically to the evaluation of our instruments by global luminaries of thought, feeling, poetry,
science, good, utility, social democracy, finance, politics, communism,
technical skill, and aesthetism. The upcoming volume will contain the
evaluative deliberations of Messrs. Averbakh, Zemlyachka, Kornely Zelinsky, Soong Ching-ling, Bachelis, Grossman-Roshchin, Deterding,
S.Budantsev, Lawrence Windrower, Osinsky, General Po-Lu-Ghui, Tarasov-Rodionov, Prof. Westinghouse, Kirshon, and many other respected
authorities.8

8
Most of these names are of prominent early Soviet literary and political figures, many identified with the writers group RAPP (Russian Association of Proletarian
Writers) that was dominant until the creation of the Writers Union in 1932 and whose
critics habitually attacked Platonov. Soong Ching-ling (18901981) was a Chinese political leader; in 1925, she would have been in the Russian news because her first husband Sun Yat-Sens KMT (Kuomintang, Nationalist Party) established an alternative
regional government in Guangzhou, which was followed in 1928 by the new KMT leader
Chiang Kai-sheks Russian-supported military victory. Some names are invented (Lawrence Windrower and Po-Lu-Ghui, which puns on a dirty word in Russian). George
Westinghouse (18461914, not a professor) invented the compressed-air brake for
trains and went on to be a leader in the electric industry, both pursuits of which Platonov, an engineer who worked on electrification and land reclamation projects, had
first-hand knowledge.

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Vol. 4 (2016)

Women too shall pass, just like the Crusades. The Anti-Sexus will
come upon us, unavoidably, like the morning sun. But its plain as day: the
point is the form, the style of the automatic age, and absolutely not its
essence, which doesnt exist. After all, thats one thing theres not enough
of in this world: existence. Sweet shame made into state practice, though
it remains a treat. Now one doesnt have to live so dimly, as if in a condom.
Viktor Shklovsky

No. 1

I dont write. Usually I act. I regard the Anti-Sexus as an indispensable requisite for every cultured person, a requisite both at home and on
the front. Our king decreed the Anti-Sexus free from all taxes and duties.
Women emancipated from the duties and the consequences of sex will
become increased assets to our country. Every member of the Fascists
union is obligated to own an Anti-Sexus, and everyone has to have one,
from a slovenly bum to our sovereign king.
Mussolini

EUSP, 2016

engl

ISSN 2310-3817

Vol. 4

No. 1

p. 2035

One
or
any
Antisexe
s?
Int
roduction
toPlaton
Andrei
ovs

The
AntiSexus
Aaron Schuster

Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam,


University of Chicago

One or Many Antisexes?


Introduction to Andrei Platonovs
The Anti-Sexus
Abstract
This essay is intended as an introduction to Andrei Platonovs
short satirical brochure for a universal masturbation machine,
titled The Anti-Sexus. I discuss some of the philosophical issues
the pamphlet raises about capitalism and desire, death drive and
satisfaction. Part of the trickiness of the text is that it is difficult
to discern exactly who or what Platonov is lampooning. Is there a
way to think about sexuality that avoids the alternatives of the
invisible handjob of the market, revolutionary puritanism, and
bureaucratic regulation? The essay makes connections between
Platonovs antisexualism and Viktor Shklovskys literary
formalism, a more recent treatment of the same theme in
Stanisaw Lem, and Norbert Wieners apocalyptic cybernetics.
Keywords
Communism, Masturbation, Platonov, Psychoanalysis, Sex

20

One or Many Antisexes?

The Revolution demands concentration. It cannot tolerate orgiastic conditions.


Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, reported in Clara
Zetkin, Reminiscences of Lenin

1
Alain Badious recent hypertranslation renders the passage as follows:
Ionce happened to be around when a journalist whod come to interview him asked
him, rather rudely, I must say: So, Sophocles, hows it going, sex-wise? Are you still
able to make love to a woman? The poet shut him up but good: You hit the nail on the
head, citizen! he replied. Its an amazing thing for me to be relieved of sexual desire,
to be free at last from the clutches of a wild, raving monster! (Badiou 2012: 3).

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Vol. 4 (2016)

Sexuality in itself I find repulsive.I would gladly do without it.I only


wish all mankind had reached that point.I am sick and tired of being a
slave to these filthy urges (Pierre 1992: 85). This is how Antonin Artaud
opens the sixth session of the surrealists Investigations on Sexuality, a
series of roundtable discussions held in 1928 and later between 1930 and
1932, which read like a cross between the Kinsey Report, male clubhouse
banter, and a Monty Python sketch. Artauds brief contributionhe attended only half of one sessionis striking in its contrariness. Turning to
Benjamin Pret he asks how far is your mind tainted by sex, and then
goes on to lecture Andr Breton about the need to distinguish sexual lust
from amorous sentiment (Pierre 1992: 85). When questioned about how
long he can go without making love, the dramatist of cruelty doesnt miss
a beat: Years (Pierre 1992: 86). Later confronted with the favorite surrealist theme of the Womanhe is asked by Raymond Queneau whether
he thinks that there is one woman who is his destinyArtaud counters
with a dry, de-sublimating humor: yes, he replies, but quickly adds that he
shall probably never meet this woman, at least not in this life, and that he
also has a very low opinion of her (Pierre 1992: 89). Artauds contempt for
sexuality may seem extreme and anomalous, but it is in fact rooted in a
venerable speculative tradition. In the opening pages of Platos Republic,
one of the foundational texts on justice and politics in the Western canon,
we read the following conversation: I was once present when someone
asked the poet Sophocles: How are you as far as sex goes, Sophocles? Can
you still make love with a woman? Quiet, man, the poet replied, I am
very glad to have escaped from all that, like a slave who has escaped from
a savage and tyrannical master (Plato 1997: 974, 329b-c).1 Sophocles,

No. 1

Asceticisms

Aaron Schuster

who knows something about the troubles caused by sex, is invoked as a


moral authority and advocate of negative sexual freedom. In order to be a
true master one must be rid of the mad master. There is a fateful convergence of sex and politics here, announced at the very outset of the dialogue. It is as if Plato had said to himself, what better way to begin your
magnum opus on the governance of the State than with a digression on
the virtues of impotence? Already it is hinted that the construction of the
ideal polis can only be an affair of philosopher-eunuchs.
Skipping ahead a few thousand years, we see that this peculiar Platonic nexus of (anti)sex and politics is not only alive and well, but receives
a new and even brutal urgency. If part of the twentieth centurys revolutionary program to create a radically new social relation and a New Man
was the liberation of sexuality, this aspiration was marked by a fundamental ambiguity: is it sexuality that is to be liberated, delivered from
moral prejudices and legal prohibitions, so that the drives are allowed a
more open and fluid expression, or is humanity to be liberated from sexuality, finally freed from its obscure dependencies and tyrannical constraints? Will the revolution bring an efflorescence of libidinal energy or
demand its suppression as a dangerous distraction to the arduous task of
building a new world? In a word, is sexuality the object or the obstacle of
emancipation? This was one of the key issues that confronted the early
architects of the Russian Revolution, producing different theories and
lively debates until the whole question was abruptly settled with the imposition of so-called Stalinist family values in the 1930s.2 As it turns
out, these two contrasting positions on sex and revolution are not as incompatible as they might first appear. Their opposition may be sublated
or sublimated so that the liberation of sexuality goes together with its
rationalization and control; this can take the form of Soviet total regulation (sex in the service of society) or else Western capitalist exploitation
(the commodification of pleasure, or the invisible handjob of the market). But there is another and more radical way of conceiving this intersection. According to this logic, it is the apparent stumbling block to freedomsex as a savage and unruly forcethat opens up its very possibility,
precisely in the way that it throws life off its rails. This is the paradoxical
thesis defended by psychoanalysis, which explains its slippery position
with regard to the question of sexual liberation that historically it did so
much to advance. On the one hand, psychoanalysis effects a daring expansion of the concept of sexuality and a destruction of the normative
frameworks that previously captured it: human beings are in essence a
riot of polymorphous perverse impulses without any pre-given instinctual program to guide them. There is no natural order of desire, deviation
2
For an overview of sexual politics in Russia in the twentieth century, see
Banting, Kelly and Riordan, Sexuality in Kelly and Shepherd (1998: 31151). See also
Gregory Carleton (2005).

22

The Anti-Sexus
In 1926 Russian Marxist author Andrei Platonov composed a remarkable text that remained, like so many of his other writings, unpublished
during his lifetime: The Anti-Sexus.3 The work is a fictional brochure,
translated from French by Platonov, by the company Berkman, Chteloy,
and Son, Ltd., advertising an electromagnetic instrument that promises to
relieve sexual urges in an efficient and hygienic manner. The device is
available in both male and female models, with a special regulator for the
duration of pleasure, and may be fitted for either personal or collective
use. The occasion for the pamphlet is the companys expansion into the
Soviet market after its success in many other parts of the world. The brochure includes a statement touting the virtues of the Anti-Sexus and the
companys mission to abolish the sexual savagery of mankind (Platonov
2013: 50), and is followed by testimonials from a number of illustrious
figures, from Henry Ford and Oswald Spengler to Gandhi and Mussolini.
The Anti-Sexus, we are told, has many benefits and applications: it is perfect for maintaining soldiers morale during wartime, for maximizing the
productivity of factory workers, for taming restless natives in the colonies.
It also fosters true friendship and human understanding by taking sexual
3
The Anti-Sexus was first published in Russian in 1981, in a special issue of
Russian Literature, with annotations provided by Thomas Langerak. It has been translated into Dutch (De Antisexus, Amsterdam: Pegasus, 1986), German (Der Antisexus
in Am Nullpunkt: Positionen der russischen Avantgarde, Frankfurt am Mein: Suhrkamp,
2005), and Greek (, Athens: Armos, 2009). For the English translation, used in
this text, by Anne O. Fisher, see The Anti-Sexus in Cabinet no. 51 (2013): 4853.

23

Vol. 4 (2016)

is the very nature of the drives. Yet instead of this leading to any direct
affirmation or progressive libidinal politics, analysis also discovers the
human being as a deeply antisexual creature, an animal whose enjoyment
poses intractable problems for it. If we understand the different psychopathologies that Freud studied not merely as mental illnesses but as anthropological types, distinct ways of being human, then we might view
each as structured around a specific form of asceticism. For every subject
his or her own ascetic ideal. Neurotics are busy dreaming of sex, excited by
fantasies that they nonetheless shudder to realize; perverts seem more
outwardly lustful but in fact strive to dominate and control enjoyment
with their strict conditions and rituals, above all what perverts seeks to
control is their own loss of control; and psychotics, the most radical of the
three, are too directly permeated by the drives and want to get rid of them
altogether. Nowhere is sexuality lived as something simple or harmonious, as an unproblematic bodily pleasure. Sex and antisex are strangely
bound together.

No. 1

One or Many Antisexes?

Aaron Schuster

folly out of the social equation. The translator has added a critical pre
face where he condemns the cynicism and vulgarity of the enterprise, even
while praising the pamphlets writerly merits. He explains that the reason
he decided to publish the text was to openly reveal the bourgeoisies moral bankruptcy. No Bolshevik can read this capitalist drivel without a hearty
laugh. The Anti-Sexus thus advertises itself as the surest form of contra-antisexual agitprop (Platonov 2013: 48).
On a literary level, the construction of the text involves a subtle and
playful dialogue with literary theorist Viktor Shklovsky, whose notion of
estrangement (ostranenie) is exemplified by the essays multilayered irony. If art is a tool to revitalize dull perceptions, what better way to challenge clichs about human intimacy than with the fiction of an automated
pleasuring machine? Shklovsky is in fact cited as one of the devices supporters, whose purely formalist charactermechanized masturbation
as the universal form of modern enjoyment, stripped of any essential contenthe astutely discerns: The Anti-Sexus will come upon us, unavoidably, like the morning sun. But its plain as day: the point is the form, the
style of the automatic age, and absolutely not its essence, which doesnt
exist (Platonov 2013: 53). There is a wonderful joke here, as if Platonov
were arguing that the masturbation machine is the ultimate literary device, and that literary formalism is ultimately a form of intellectual masturbationthe preeminent pleasure of the scientific age. Explaining his
new scientific critical method, Shklovsky writes We know how life is
made and how Don Quixote and the car are made (Steiner 1984: 45) and,
one could add, how sex is made too. Curiously enough, in the same year as
the composition of The Anti-Sexus, Platonov appears in Shklovskys fictionalized memoir Third Factory as an engineer in the Voronezh district
(the authors real life birthplace and profession). One evening, while talking about literature, Platonov ends up recounting a myth of sexual origins
which is strikingly similar to that of the Symposium (evidently a play on
Plato/Platonov), though with a surprising transsexual twist: As Platonov
explained, a single being was once split into a man and a woman. Each
half was supplied with distinctive features. The song dwelled on those
features. They kept joining together in bizarre combinations (Shklovsky
2002: 80).
Though a relatively minor work, The Anti-Sexus occupies a key
place in Platonovs oeuvre, highlighting the problematic character of sexuality within it. Platonov was one of the great, if not the greatest, novelists of the post-revolutionary period, a member of the industrial proletariat sincerely dedicated to the communist cause, yet a chronicler of its
most absurd and horrible tragedies. (Fredric Jameson once argued that
the desire for communism has not yet found its Freud or Lacan, letting it
be understood that Platonov comes the closest [1994: 97]). Though the
pamphlet is presented as a piece of contra-antisexual agitprop, we
should take care to observe that contra-antisexual does not simply trans-

24

4
On Platonovs revolutionary puritanism, see Naiman (1988: 32122, passim)
and Borenstein (2000: 191224).
5
In a kind of reversal of courtly love, instead of the endless postponement of
satisfaction producing its own precarious pleasure (the joy of desiring, Freudian forepleasure), here we have a ready-to-hand satisfaction aimed at stuffing and snuffing out
desire. If the irony of courtly love is that the troubadour-lover is not actually missing
anything, he is filled with longing and desire, the irony of the Anti-Sexus is that its
promise of trouble-free delight could only end up reproducing the lack: frictionless
satisfaction gives rise to a vague sadness, the feeling of being full yet nonetheless still
missing somethingnamely, the lack itself.

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Vol. 4 (2016)

late into pro-sexual. As Slavoj iek points out, one of the fascinating
things about this dense little text is the difficulty in discerning the authors actual position (2012: 9). At first the gambit appears relatively
straightforward: Platonov is satirizing the capitalist exploitation and
commodification of sensual pleasure, precisely as an antisexual sexuality. But at a deeper level, Platonov also seems to be mocking his own previous proletarian-puritanical stance.4 Platonovs early writings advocate
a strict revolutionary asceticism, with roots leading back to religious cults
and especially the mystical doctrine of Nikolai Fedorov, but we may also
detect an echo of the old Platonic problem of desire and utopia (again we
see the Plato-Platonov connection; in fact, Platonov is the pen name of
Andrei Platonovich Klimentov, Platon being the Russian form of the
Greek Plato). In reality there are a number of different anti-sexualities at
stake in The Anti-Sexus, which together make up the richness of the
text: a radical extirpation of sexual desire la Artaud, the capitalist subordination of Eros to the logic of the market, the scientific manipulation
of our innermost feelings, a purely formalized avant-garde enjoyment
without content, the Soviet regulation of everyday life, a revolutionary
puritanism in the service of future happiness, a cold machinic death
drive
Let us return to the obvious question: why call it Anti-Sexus and not
Pro-Sexus? After all, what the company is advertising is a machine meant
to fulfill sexual desires, certainly a sex-friendly device, as opposed to, say,
that frightful gear (two words: metal spines) designed by the Victorians to
deter masturbation. It is as if Platonov had literalized Soviet sexologist
Aron Zalkinds thesis, articulated just a couple years earlier, that A wellorganized social environment is the best anti-sex pump (Carleton 2005:
78). Here the pump comes first, its release of pent up libidinal pressures
allowing the social order to maximize productivity and prosper. If the
Anti-Sexus is antisexual it is not in the sense of direct repression but
rather of management and control. The best way to regulate sexuality is
not to brutally stifle it but to generously provide for its gratification. In
short, what the Anti-Sexus promises is pleasure without the fuss.5

No. 1

One or Many Antisexes?

Aaron Schuster

This cannot help but recall the line falsely attributed to Alexandra
Kollontai, Make love to a pretty woman when you want her just as you
would drink a glass of cold water when you are thirsty. The glass of water line became something of a catchphrase to tar sexual libertinism in
early Soviet times; Lenin complains that This glass of water theory has
made our young people mad, quite mad (Zetkin 1929: 58). Jean-Paul Sartre later refers to it in Being and Nothingness as a total misunderstanding
of sexual desire, which far from being a simple need compromises the very
being of the individual caught in its grip (1956: 388). In fact, Kollontai
never held such a mechanical conception of desire, and her own philosophy of Eros stands in marked contrast to that of Platonovs (early) puritanism. Alexandra Kollontai was the original Bolshevik feminist, a Soviet
foreign ambassador and member of Lenins inner circle who wrote extensively on matters of the family, sexuality, and the conditions of women.
(She is rumored to have been the inspiration for Ernst Lubitschs Ninotchka). Platonov and Kollontai condense two separate strands of sexual theorizing that equally belong to the revolutionary project and express its
emancipatory aspirations: on the one hand, a male-dominated ethic of
sacrifice in the service of constructing another world, and on the other,
the invention of a new love-comradeship based on pleasure, equality
and solidarity, to replace intimate relations dominated by the bourgeois
property form.6
Charlie Chaplin offers the sole negative testimonial for the AntiSexus,and it is tempting to read his critical remarks as articulating Platonovs true position. Modern Times wont come out for another ten years,
but imagine a slapstick version of the Anti-Sexus hilariously malfunctioning like the Feeding Machine mercilessly stuffing the factory workers
face. Im against the Anti-Sexus. It doesnt allow for intimacy, for the
living interaction of peoples souls (Platonov 2013: 51). Chaplins would
seem the lone voice of humanist reason in a text otherwise dedicated to
the mechanization of erotic life. But even here there is an ambivalent
twist. Chaplins description of the sexual act is not in the least idyllic, and
he is far from celebrating the beauty or poetry of lovemaking: if sex is a
means for the communion of souls, it is in its utter stupidity and ugliness.
Chaplin defends human sexuality at its most crude and inhuman, the
highest is at the same time the lowest: the way to sublime intimacy passes through the violent fornication of poor, forlorn bodies.

6
Kollontais most important texts on sexual reform are Sexual Relations and
the Class Struggle, Love and the New Morality (1972), and Make Way for Winged
Eros: A Letter to Working Youth (1977).

26

One or Many Antisexes?

Im for the actual closeness of people, for them breathing into each others mouths, for one pair of eyes gazing straight into another, for how
you truly feel your own soul during the crude act of intercourse, and for
enriching it at the expense of some other soul that just happened along.
This is why Im against the Anti-Sexus. Im for the living, suffering,
laughable, stuck-in-a-rut human being who blows his stock of meager
life-juice just to feel a moment of fraternity with another derivative being (Platonov 2013: 5152).

For Platonov there is something totally baffling and insane about


sexual pleasure, and contrary to the hedonist doxa nothing could be less
obvious than knowing how to enjoy.7

7
Now Lyuba would probably tell him to go to his fathers and stay there, because it turned out one had to know how to enjoy pleasure, whereas Nikita was unable to
torment Lyuba for the sake of his own happiness (Platonov 2008: 234; own emphasis
added).
8
I thank Anne O. Fisher for this reference.

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Let us extend these reflections on Anti-Sexus a step further. Inspired by Platonov, one could sketch a whole history of gadget-sexuality,
ranging from the nineteenth-century invention of the vibrator to contemporary teledildonics and soon-to-arrive sex robots, and the AntiSexus certainly merits a place beside such cultural icons as Wilhelm
Reichs Orgone Accumulator, Dr. Durand Durands Excessive Machine,
and, of course, Woody Allens Orgasmatron. The point, however, is not
only that technical civilization exploits and extends, or manages and represses, sexual desire, but more profoundly that sexuality is already a
kind of prosthesis, something added to (and subtracted from) the body,
and not simply an organic part of it; like Freud said, Man is a prosthetic
god. Almost fifty years after its composition, Stanisaw Lems Sexplosion, part of A Perfect Vacuum, a collection of reviews of non-existent
books, provides a kind of companion piece to Platonovs erotic-satiric
brochure.8 It too has a fictional structureLem writes under a pseudonym the review of an imaginary noveland similarly describes an alternative present where three major corporations (General Sexotics, Cybordelics and Intercourse International) have perfected the technical
means for erotic bliss. Lem makes an additional turn of the screw, however, in imagining not only the libidos total scientific administration but
the disappearance of the genital function itself. When the experimental
drug Nosex is accidentally introduced into the population, the market
for sexual gizmos suddenly crashes. Intercourse became a dull and

No. 1

From Antisex to Nosex

Aaron Schuster

thankless chore, and so the specter of extinction hung over humanity


(1979: 45). In a comic reversal of the repressive hypothesis, religious and
political authorities attempt to cajole and then to command the population into copulating. When these measures fail to revive any erotic interest, and even provoke widespread antisexual dissidence, the crisis is finally averted by technical means (in vitro fertilization). But the question
of desire persists, and instead of vanishing with Nosex it shifts outlets.
The demise of genital sexuality ends up producing an unexpected side
effect: an astonishing efflorescence of the oral drive. Depraved eating
positions, indecent banquet spreads, pornoculinary magazines, and digestive taboos all flourish in the wake of humanitys generalized impotence. What survives the death of sex? In a word, perversion. It is as if
Lem had read Freuds conclusion about the negativity of the libido:
Sometimes one seems to perceive that it is not only the pressure of
civilization but something in the nature of the function itself which denies us full satisfaction and urges us along other paths (1930: 105). The
irony is that when the function itself is negated, what one is confronted
with is precisely the other paths, the savage and tyrannical partial
drives.
The ultimate name for this specter of extinction in Freuds work,
one could say the ultimate antisexus, is Todestrieb, the death drive. How
should we understand this notorious term? Freuds theory of the death
drive may be read as an attempt to name the particular consistency of
the field of psychoanalysis, or rather its peculiar inconsistency, the gap
or rupture that is its proper object. What is remarkable is that this theoretical gesture had to be accomplished twice, once for language and consciousness, second for the theory of pleasure and the bodily drives, as if
the rupture needed to be repeated in order to avoid it settling into some
kind of stable identity. It is not enough to assert a Spaltung of consciousness, but the gap itself must be displaced from its place. The first phase
of Freuds career is marked by the discovery of the unconscious, which
remained the centerpiece of his thought and the moniker of psychoanalysis. Here the focus is on dreams, slips of the tongue, bungled actions,
symptoms, and jokes: phenomena that operate at the margins of consciousness and that warp its structure and logic. Freud famously called
the unconscious another scene, a thinking that takes place elsewhere
and by other means, but this does not mean that the unconscious should
be conceived as a separate entity or still less a second consciousness,
doubling and interfering with the first. The unconscious does not have it
own independent existence but rather persists and subsists in the disruptions, glitches, and slidings of consciousness; ultimately it is nothing
other than this inconsistency of consciousness, its internal skew and division. In a second phase, a deepening reflection on the nature of the
bodily drives leads Freud to accomplish a similar move with respect to
the pleasure principle and the hedonic regulation of psychic life. The

28

Virtual Extinction
The notion of the sick animal sometimes appears in unlikely places.
Consider the case of Norbert Wiener, whose cybernetics is the grandfather of todays cognitive science. In the (rarely read) chapter of his classic study Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the

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Vol. 4 (2016)

death drive is beyond the pleasure principle, but again this does not
mean that it is located somewhere else. The death drive is not a separate
power that fights against or opposes life, but rather what de-naturalizes
or de-vitalizes the flux of life. It takes away the self-evidence of that
powerful compass of nature, the orientation provided by feelings of pleasure and pain, and cancels the immediate drive of the organism. If the
unconscious is the distortion, the glitch, the deviation of consciousness,
the death drive is the skew of Eros, the twist that makes of life not a direct expression of vital forces but the deviation of the negative: instead
of a perseverance in being a failing not to be. In his Jokes and Their
Relation to the Unconscious, Freud recounts the old Jewish joke, itself a
play on ancient Greek wisdom: Never to be born is the best thing for
mortals. Unfortunately this happens to scarcely one person in a hundred
thousand (Freud 1905: 57). What if we were to take this joke seriously,
as expressing an impossibility that is deeply rooted in psychic reality, so
that contrary to natural evidence, the human being is not directly or immediately alive but its exuberance and vitality stem from an odd double
negation? The human being is the sick animal that does not live its life
but lives its failure not to be born. From a clinical perspective, the different psychopathologies can be understood as the concrete anthropological expressions of a fatal fracture within drive life, so many ways of failing not to be born or of screwing up the purity of the negative. Many
discussions of the death drive focus on Freuds phrase that the organism wishes to die only in its own fashion (Freud 1918: 39), that the life
drives protect the organism from accidental destruction in order to guide
it on the path of its own immanent demise. This might seem like a softening of the original provocation, as if to say Dont worry, Im not arguing for some kind of spontaneous combustion of the species, the death
drive will take some time, it also allows for Eros and life But in fact, it
should have the opposite effect: from the Freudian perspective, life is a
cause of wonder not in its infinite diversity and creativity but in the
sense that it is deeply curious that the human species has not already
vanished. If you marvel at the extraordinary forms and transformations
of life you are Bergsonian, if you wonder how its possible that the species is not extinct you are Freudian. And for Freud, if the species is not
factually extinct, it is because each of its members wants to die in its own
way, that is: to die as a neurotic, to die as a pervert, to die as a psychotic.

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Aaron Schuster

Machine, titled Cybernetics and Psychopathology (1948: 14455). Wiener proposes a model of mental illness based on the analogy of the brain
with a computerhere we are dealing with not a gadget sexuality but a
gadget unconscious. Psychopathology is the inevitable result of the
complexity of the brains neuronal networks, which create a fertile
ground for breakdowns in information and control mechanisms. As Wiener explains:
Man, with the best developed nervous system of all the animals, with
behavior that probably depends on the longest chains of effectively operating neuronic chains, is then likely to perform a complicated type of
behavior efficiently very close to the edge of an overload, when he will give
way in a serious and catastrophic way. This overload may take place in
several ways: either by an excess in the amount of traffic to be carried, by
a physical removal of channels for the carrying of traffic, or by the excessive occupation of such channels by undesirable systems of traffic, like
circulating memories which have increased to the extent of becoming
pathological worries. In all these cases, a point will comequite suddenlywhen the normal traffic will not have space enough allotted to it,
and we shall have a form of mental breakdown, very possibly amounting
to insanity (Wiener 1948: 151).9

The potential for mental illness is thus inscribed in the very nature
of brain functioning, as the price to be paid for having the best developed
nervous system. Indeed, the optimal condition of the human mind is to
operate very close to the edge of a breakdown, so that the informational circuits should constantly catch their speeding computations
right before overloading. Insanity is the inherent risk of the complexity
of our mental operations. The end of the chapter goes even further in
articulating a cybernetic antihumanism. At a time when neuroscientists
and neuroscientifically oriented philosophers increasingly speak about
the plasticity and hyper-adaptability of the brain, it is worth recalling
this dark vision at the origin of cognitive science. The brain, Wiener argues, is probably already too large to make effective use of its full capacities; prone to myriad failures and breakdowns, this oversized and
over-specialized organ appears to be on an evolutionary downward
slope, destined for a final crash.
[W]e may be facing one of those limitations of nature in which highly
specialized organs reach a level of declining efficiency and ultimately

9
Wiener continues: the superiority of the human brain to others in the length
of the neuron chains it employs is a reason why mental disorders are certainly more
conspicuous and probably most common in man (1948: 151).

30

One or Many Antisexes?

Im all right, said Komyagin. After all, Im not livinglifes just something I got caught up in. Somehow Ive got entangled in all this, but I
wish I hadnt.
Why? asked Moscow.
I cant be bothered, said Komyagin. You have to keep puffing yourself
up all the timeyou have to think, speak, go somewhere or other, do this
and that. But I cant be bothered with any of it. I keep forgetting that Im
aliveand when I remember it scares me (Platonov 2012: 66).

The passivity in Platonovs formulation is striking: I do not live, life


is something I got caught up in. There is a kind of a kind of suspension of
the immediate necessity of life, of the inner thrust of the organism to
preserve itself and to persevere in its existence. The subject and its life
although one already hesitates here with the itsdo not form an organic unity. Instead this innermost drive is felt as an external compulsion, as a foreign element in which one has become entangled. Which is
why it can appear as a terrible bother and a drudgery, a series of chores
to be carried out: thinking, speaking, traveling, working, copulating, and
so onId rather not. Life does not immediately identify with itself, but is
something separated from the subject that is compelled to live it. It (life)
weighs on the self who tries to forget the whole affair, yet cannot manage to consign its troublesome memory to oblivion. To paraphrase the
logic of the old Jewish joke: one doesnt live ones life but lives ones
failure to forget that one is alive. This peculiar attitude could be viewed
as the expression of a sick mind, a loss of vital energy, a pathological

31

Vol. 4 (2016)

The problem with this cognitivist version of the death drive is not
that it is too pessimistic (who knows? maybe it will not be the brains
hyper-specialization that brings the species down), but that it is not pessimistic enough. It still posits extinction as a future event, the doom on
the horizon. But what if, like the case of the psychotic whos living in
constant fear of having a breakdown, only to be reassured by his doctor
Dont worry, the breakdown has already happened, you are mad, the
catastrophe has already occurred? We are already dead. Death is not the
apocalyptic end-point of the drive but its starting point, or rather lack
thereof. There is a wonderful exchange in Becketts Endgame to this effect: Do you believe in the life to come? Mine was always that. In
other words, the first life is already a kind of post-life or after-life. And
this brings us back to Platonov. In a passage from his late unfinished novel Happy Moscow, one of the heroines lovers expresses to her his antivitalistic Lebensphilosophie:

No. 1

lead to the extinction of the species. The human brain may be as far
along its road to this destructive specialization as the great nose horns
of the last of the titanotheres (Wiener 1948: 154).

Aaron Schuster

lethargy or depression. Yet we may also see in Komyagins complaint the


exaggerated expression of a universal predicament. One cannot take for
granted the force of self-preservation or the binding love of Eros. For the
human being, life does not present itself as a self-evident inner power
but as a commandment and a duty. Freud writes, To tolerate life remains, after all, the first duty of all living beings (1915: 299). This should
be read literally: to live is not a natural and spontaneous energeia but a
duty, a superego imperative, even the most fundamental one. Vitalism is
the formula of the superego.
There are two statements from Lacans seminars, one from the early
days and the other near the end, which set out the main theses of what
may be called his clinical anthropology. The first is: Man is the subject
captured and tortured by language (1993: 243). And the second: What
specifies this animal species is quite probably the following: a totally
anomalous and bizarre relationship with its jouissance (1971). In a key
passage from Seminar XIII, Lacan brings these two aspects together,
while throwing down the gauntlet to philosophy: I would defy any philosophy whatsoever to account to us, at present, for the relationship between the emergence of the signifier and this relationship of being to
jouissance (1966). This is, to my mind, the major research problem of
Lacanian psychoanalysis, and constitutes its enduring interest: to examine the fraught connection between language and the body, the symbolic
constitution of human reality, with all the equivocations and paradoxes
and slippages that belong to the illogical logic of signifier, on the one
hand, and the strangeness or perversity of an animal whose enjoyment is
far from being always or unequivocally enjoyable, on the other. If the
cornerstone of Lacanian theory is the exteriority of language, the subject
caught up in a network of signifiers beyond its control, the same goes for
enjoyment and the bodily drives. Enjoyment is inherently problematic
for the human animal because it never completely falls together with the
subject that must bear it; we are related to enjoyment as something
which intimately belongs to us, to our corporeal existence and inner vitality, and yet is separated from and independent of us and thus can be
surprising, bewildering, burdensome, disgusting, overwhelming, terrifying, thrilling, conflicted, uncanny, uncontrollable (and sometimes even
pleasurable). Life, like language, is not something that we intrinsically
possess and that flows naturally from the inside, but something that we
get caught up in, a foreign element in which we are uncertainly entangled. How does this entanglement take place? That is the key question, and although there is no simple solution, at this point we can at
least give a very short, preliminary answer. It is at the juncture of the
symbolic and the somatic that Lacan locates what he considered to be
his most important concept, the objet a, which thus has a special status:
it is neither simply on the side of the physical body, with its needs and
rhythms and pressures, nor fully part of the structure of symbolically

32

One or Many Antisexes?

constituted reality, but arises as a kind of surplus at their faulty point of


intersection, it gives body to a certain impasse or gap between sensuousness and the symbolic order. This is what accounts for the privileged role
of sexuality in psychoanalysis: sexuality, or the object of the sexual drive,
acts as the precarious hinge between language and life, the disordered
symbolic order and the turbulent and not always enjoyable enjoyment
of the body. And to conclude with a hypothesis that would require further investigation: Does not communism, or communist desire, for Platonov play a similar rolecrossing the divide between physics and metaphysics, body and soul, the animal and the human?10

10
We can cite here another key passage from Happy Moscow:
Ive just worked it outwhy it is that peoples lives together are so bad. Its bad
because its impossible to unite through love. Ive tried so many times, but nothing ever
comes of itnothing but some kind of mere delight. You were with me just nownothing but some kind of mere delight. You were with me just nowand what did you feel?
Something astonishing? Something wonderful? Or nothing much?
Nothing much, agreed Semyon Sartorius.
My skin always feels cold afterward, pronounced Moscow. Love cannot be communism. Ive thought and thought and Ive seen that it just cant. One probably should
loveand I will love. But its like eating foodits just a necessity, its not the main life.
Sartorius was hurt that his love, gathered during the course of a whole life, should
perish unanswered the first time. But he understood Moscows excruciating thought:
that the very best of feelings lies in the cultivation of another human being, in sharing
the burden and happiness of a second, unknown life, and that the love which comes
with embraces brings only a childlike, blissful joy, and does nothing to solve the task of
drawing people into the mystery of a mutual existence (Platonov 2012: 53).
Moscows (the heroines) depressing conclusion about sexuality repeats Kollontais alleged glass of water theory: sex is akin to filling hunger or quenching thirst, a
need whose satisfaction is merely necessary. Beyond sex there is something else, something more: the desire for communism, the mystery of mutual existence which is the
persistent object of Platonovs writings. One should note that for psychoanalysis too
there is a beyond of sex, but for it beyond sex there is sex, in the sense that sexuality
cannot be reduced to a bodily need but concerns a properly ontological dimension, the
very being of the subject.

33

Vol. 4 (2016)

Badiou, Alain (2012). Platos Republic. Trans. Susan Spitzer. Cambridge: Polity.
Banting, Mark, Catriona Kelly and James Riordan (1988). Sexuality. In Russian Cultural Studies: An Introduction, eds. Catriona Kelly, and David Shepherd, 31151.
Clarendon: Oxford.
Borenstein, Eliot (2000). Men Without Women: Masculinity and Revolution in Russian
Fiction, 19171929. Durham: Duke University.

No. 1

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Aaron Schuster
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ISSN 2310-3817

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Russian Cultural Studies: An Introduction (Kelly and Shepherd
1998:311351), Sexual Revolution in Bolshevik
Russia (Carleton2005).

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1926.
, , , .3 -

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(1981)
(De Antisexus, Amsterdam: Pegasus, 1986), (Der Antisexus in Am
Nullpunkt: Positionen der russischen Avantgarde, Frankfurt am Mein: Suhrkamp, 2005)
(, Athens: Armos, 2009) .
, Fisher, Anne O. The Anti-Sexus.
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, (1998). . . . . .: - .
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www.magister.msk.ru/library/revolt/zalka001.htm ( : 02.11.2015).

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, .. (1919). : I. . II.
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, (2015). Sexux . :
. . . . . 17: 1422.
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Clarendon: Oxford.
Borenstein, Eliot (2000). Men Without Women: Masculinity and Revolution in Russian
Fiction, 19171929. Durham: Duke University.
Carleton, Gregory (2005). Sexual Revolution in Bolshevik Russia. Pittsburgh: University
of Pittsburgh Press.
Jameson, Fredric (1994). The Seeds of Time. Irvine, CA: University of California.
Lacan, Jacques (1966). Seminar XIII Lobjet de la psychanalyse, session of June 8, 1966
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Lacan, Jacques (1971). Seminar XIX Le savoir du psychanalyste, session of December 2,
1971 (unpublished). English translation by Cormac Gallagher available at http://

52

Vol. 4 (2016)

No. 1

www.lacaninireland.com/web/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Book-19a-TheKnowledge-of-the-Psychoanalyst-1971-1972.pdf>
Lacan, Jacques (1993). The Seminar of Jacques Lacan. Book III. The Psychoses 19551956,
ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Russell Grigg. New York: Norton.
Naiman, Eric (1988). Andrej Platonov and the Inadmissibility of Desire. Russian Literature 23: 32122.
Pierre, Jos (1992), ed. Investigating Sex: Surrealist Research 19281932. Trans. Malcolm
Imrie. London: Verso.
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History of Animals: An Essay on Negativity, Immanence and Freedom, 612. Maastricht: Jan van Eck Academie.

53

EUSP, 2016

engl

ISSN 2310-3817

Vol. 4

No. 1

p. 5469

Sexuality
in
the
Posthu
man
ionAge
Slavoj iek

Sexuality in the Posthuman Age


Abstract
The article begins with a critique of the prevalent interpretation
of Platonovs novels from the 1920s. These novels supposedly
present a critical depiction of the Stalinist utopia and its
catastrophic consequences. The article argues against such an
interpretation by demonstrating that the aforementioned novels
do not present a critique of Stalinism but rather a critique of the
gnostic-materialist utopia against which late Stalinism reacted in
the early 1930s. The article critically confronts various aspects of
this utopia of biocosmism as the forerunner of todays technognosis, focusing primarily on its tendency to surpass sexuality as
the last stronghold of the bourgeois counterrevolution. This
aspect of the critique of the gnostic-materialist utopia is also at
work in Platonovs essay The Anti-Sexus, conceived as an
advertisement for a masturbatory device. The text discusses this
device in the context of the proliferation of gadgets (what Lacan
called les lathouses), the undead organs which are not mere
supplements of the human organism but rather provide the key to
the sexuation of human beings as beings of language.
Keywords
Buddhism, enjoyment, Gnosticism, materialism, Platonov,
sexuality, Stalinism

54

What is man? He is by no means a finished or harmonious being. No, he


is still a highly awkward creature.
Man, as an animal, has not evolved by plan but spontaneously, and has
accumulated many contradictions. The question of how to educate and
regulate, of how to improve and complete the physical and spiritual con-

55

Vol. 4 (2016)

It is the profound distrust of sexual love that is the main feature of


Platonovs work throughout the 1920s. His great novels from this period
Chevengur and especially The Foundation Pitare usually interpreted as a
critical depiction of Stalinist utopia and its disastrous consequences. Such
a view of his work is deeply misleading. Why? The utopia Platonov stages
in these two works is not that of Stalinist communism but the gnostic
materialist utopia against which mature Stalinism reacted in the early
1930s. What prevails in the aforementioned utopia is rather the so-called
biocosmism that effectively acts as a forerunner for todays technological
gnosis. This idea was astonishingly widespread, with hundreds of thousands of people, including Trotsky, engaged in the movement (Lenin himself was one of the few who remained skeptical toward it). The idea was
that after winning political-economic power, the only way for the working
class to effectively win would be to remodel the human being in a genetic,
physical, biological way. Put differently, after taking power, the only domain that remained out of its control was that of sexuality as the last trait
of the bourgeois counterrevolution. Hence, the plan was to create the New
Socialist Man. This was to be done not only by way of Stalinist reeducation but also by way of direct biogenetic interventions. Here we encounter
a proper theological moment.
The New Socialist Man would supposedly no longer need sexuality.
But in what sense? Not only in the sense that reproduction would be conducted through direct biogenetic means and no longer through sexual
copulation, but in a sense that is very close to Malebranche. The idea is
that in our ordinary lives we are immediately caught in our bodies, for
example, pain is felt in its immediacy. Whereas for the New Communist
Man pain should be just a form of information. The functioning of the human being would resemble that of a machine: if it gets too warm, you have
some measuring apparatus which tells you Too hot; you dont have to
feel it, its just information. So the idea was that the New Man should no
longer be directly engaged in feelings: emotions, pain, and so on, but the
most physical emotions are treated just as a sign, pure information. You
probably know that Malebranche in his occasionalism had already defined
the Fall precisely in this way: the Fall happened when Adam, by looking at
Eves naked body, was immediately affected. In Paradise it was as if people
were in this dream of utopian communism, they made love but they were
not directly engaged in it.
As mentioned, Trotsky was one of the key advocates of biocosmism.
Here is a passage from his writings:

No. 1

Sexuality in the Posthuman Age

Slavoj iek

struction of man, is a colossal problem which can only be understood on


the basis of socialism. [] To produce a new, improved version of
manthat is the future task of communism. And for that we first have to
find out everything about man, his anatomy, his physiology and that part
of his physiology which is called his psychology. Man must look at himself and see himself as a raw material, or at best as a semi-manufactured
product, and say: At last, my dear homo sapiens, I will work on you
(Quoted in Figes 2001: 447).

These were not just idiosyncratic theoretical principles, but expressions of a real mass movement in art, architecture, psychology, pedagogy,
and organizational sciences, comprising hundreds of thousands of people.
And what is true of Platonov is also true of Zamyatins dystopian
novel We, usually read as a critique of Stalinism. In this case, too, we are
rather dealing with a critique of the pre-Stalinist utopia, with the extrapolation of the gnostic-utopian tendency of the revolutionary 1920s
against which Stalinism precisely reacted. This, of course, does not imply
any rehabilitation of Stalinism; it does, however, counter its superficial
understanding. People today rather prefer to forget that avant-garde art
was immensely unpopular, and that the Stalinist intervention into culture
in the late twenties and early thirties, which culminated in the instauration of socialist realism, was immensely popular. Stalin promised audiences to bring to an end the age of avant-garde dreams, that is, he promised a return to artistic depictions of ordinary people with their love, passions, sentiments, and so on.
Althusser was absolutely right when he insisted that Stalinism was a
form of humanism. Stalinism reintroduced humanism even at the level of
guilt and the criminal system. What did the Stalinist mock trials mean?
They introduced terms like guilt, culpability, repentance, which formally (I know what horror this was in reality) treat victims in some sense
as human beings. In contrast to this, the techno-gnostic vision was one of
total self-objectification; the counterrevolutionaries werent considered
guilty in any meaningful sense, they were mere malfunctioning machines
that should be genetically corrected. The categories of guilt and so on
simply didnt exist. For example, one of the first things the Bolsheviks did
was to abolish the death sentence. Then, of course, when they captured
some prisoners in the civil war they did what they had to do and shot them
immediately. And when Western liberals protested in 1919: Didnt you
violate your own proclamations? They got the answer that they deserved:
But this was not death penalty, this was just a sanitary measure, a purely,
completely sanitary operation. To repeat, in this sense Althusser was
right when he insisted that Stalinism was a form of humanism; the true
extreme was the gnostic utopian posthumanist 1920s.
My premise is that Platonov was in permanent dialogue with this
pre-Stalinist utopian core. With the rise of high Stalinism and its cultural

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1
See also, iek, From Animal to Stamina Training Unit In Timofeeva
(2012: 612). Eds.

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counterrevolution, the coordinates of the dialogue changed. Platonov


turned toward what cannot but appear a more conformist socialist realist
writingand here lies the problem. Some critics dismiss his late novels,
especially his novella The Soul from 1935, as a compromise with Stalinism. Despite the fact that the novella still portrays the utopian group, the
nation, the marginal desert community who lost the will to live, the coordinates have totally changed. The hero of the novel is a Stalinist educator,
schooled in Moscow, who returns to the desert to introduce the nation, his
group, to scientific and cultural progress, and to restore their will to live.
However, at the novels end the hero has to accept that he cannot teach
others, and this shift is signalled precisely by the radically changed role of
sexuality. I claim that what we effectively find in late Platonov comes very
close to the Hollywood formula: the nation disappears to enable the construction of the couple.
This brings me to The Anti-Sexus and to three orientations that
are independent of each other, sometimes even antagonistic, and, I claim,
which provide the background to this essay. First, we have the gnostic
equation of sex with the Fall.1 Platonov was deeply impressed by the
nineteenth-century sect of so-called Skoptsi, which was widespread in
Russia and Eastern Europe, and named after a practice of voluntary castration. To this gnostic approach we have to add the biotechnological
prospect of total regulation, even abolition of sex, as well as capitalist
consumerism. Modern biotechnology provides a new way to realize the
old gnostic dream of getting rid of sex. However, the gadget which does it
comes from capitalism and presents itself as the ultimate commodity.
Therein resides the subterranean tension of Platonovs essay. The new
masturbatory gadget brings together three or even four tendencies:
gnostic spiritualism, the reign of modern science, the Soviet total regulation of life, and the capitalist universe of profit-making commodities.
Multiple relations are possible between these tendencies. First, there is
the tech-gnostic vision that announces the technologically-regulated
spiritual withdrawal of posthumans; then there is the capitalist commodification of our innermost experience of orgasm; and finally, we have
the tendency towards the posthuman overcoming of sexuality. What
makes Platonovs essay The Anti-Sexus so rich despite its apparent
narrative simplicity is the lack of a general cognitive mapping: where
does the masturbatory machine belong within the space of these coordinates? It is interesting to note that a similar celebration of desexualized
vitality also belongs in Stalinism. Although the total mobilization of the
first Stalinist five-year plan tended to fight sexuality as the last domain of
bourgeois resistance, this did not prevent it from trying to recuperate

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sexual energy in order to reinvigorate the struggle for socialism. In the


early 1930s, a variety of tonics were widely advertised in the Soviet media
and sold in pharmacies, with names like Spermin-pharmakon, Spermol, and Sekar fluidExtractum testiculorum (see translators note in
Platonov, 2006: 206). The gadget imagined by Platonov neatly fits the
ongoing shift in the predominant libidinal economy, in which the relationship to the other is gradually replaced by the captivation of individuals, by what the late Lacan baptized with the neologism les lathouses
consumerist object-gadgets that captivate the libido with the promise of
delivering excessive pleasure, but actually only reproduce the lack itself.
But before exploring this further, I want to emphasize that in his early,
so-called dystopian novels, Platonov is doing something absolutely
unique. It is a devastating, if you want, not critique, but rendering open,
a display of the nihilism of the Bolshevik passion, most clearly depicted
in The Foundation Pit where the great mobilization is staged for building
the foundation of some gigantic building to be the house of communism,
yet there is nothingjust the hole is dug up.
But at the same time it is absolutely wrong to consider Platonov a
dissident in the usual sense. He remains within, pushing the logic of
early communism to its catastrophic, nihilistic consequence, but not providing any withdrawal to the position of the traditional liberal subject. It
is in this sense that I claim he is totally different from late humanists,
lets call them humanist dissidents, who stand for a proper reaction to
Stalinism. Although Stalinism was what it was (extremely brutal, etc.), at
the cultural level it rejected modernism and staged a big return to the
Russian popular humanist tradition. One cannot dismiss this as mere
manipulation. For example, the Russian classics, by the likes of Pushkin
and Dostoyevsky, were (re)printed in some ten million copies. Or consider music: it is interesting that the Russian composer selected as the
classic in the Stalinist period was neither Mussorgsky nor Rimsky-Korsakov who were, in a manipulative reading, somehow proclaimed more leftist. (Rimsky-Korsakov even lost his university position because he supported the 1905 revolutionaries.) No, it was Tchaikovsky who was proclaimed untouchable with all the consequences this entailed. When
Tchaikovskys letters were reprinted in the Stalinist period, they were
censored because, if nothing else, he was totally anti-Semitic, not to
mention another interesting detail: his homosexuality. But this, paradoxically, made him more conservative because he discovered that the
only homosexual circle in Russia in that period (late mid-nineteenth
century) were rich decadent noblemen close to the Tsar. And here Tchaikovsky was extremely harsh in his conservatism. For example, when some
revolutionaries staged a terrorist act and the Tsar stopped the execution
of the death penalty, changing the sentence to a prison term, Tchaikovsky
wrote the Tsar a furious letter saying that they should be shot without
mercy.

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In other words, Stalinism for the masses effectively meant the return
to this great popular Russian tradition against the avant-garde. And in
this sense even authors like Solzhenitsyn remained Stalinist, part of the
Stalinist legacy, in the very way they treated Stalinism. George Lukcs,
whom I admire more and more, has noted that Solzhenitsyns One Day in
the Life of Ivan Denisovich (a short novella that was the first piece of Soviet
literature depicting daily life in the gulag) fits all the criteria of Socialist
realism, focusing as it did on a positive view of howeven thereyou can
survive. Lukcs pointed out the typical Stalinist motive celebrating work:
toward the end of this one day in the life of the prisoner, the work is over
and the guard pulls him back, but he remains determined to finish even if
he is in danger of the guards punishing him. For Lukcs, this scene testifies to the fact that the typically socialist notion of material production as
the site of creative practice has survived even in such brutal conditions
when at the end of the day Ivan Denisovich looks back on his work he sees
the wall he has built and realizes that he has enjoyed building it. This is
what is so embarrassing for Western critics of communism, where do you
put someone like Platonov? You cannot say he was a nave guy, manipulated or blinded by communism. No, if there was anyone who saw the destructive horror, the abyss that was present there, it was Platonov, and he
saw it much better than those Western liberal critics of communism.
In 1935 The New Statesman published a dialogue between Stalin and
H. G. Wells, who visited Russia in 1934. After celebrating and thanking
Stalin, Wells attempted a small critique and provoked Stalin by saying,
isnt it the essence of todays freedom that people are allowed to criticize?
That you can see divergent voices and so on. Wells added that it was his
impression that Britain doesnt have enough of it, but perhaps neither
does the Soviet Union. He thought he would embarrass Stalin who immediately answered that Wells got it wrong, in the Soviet Union this is even
more developed than in Britain, adding: We just call it self-criticism
here (Wells 1935). Another example: when, in the late 1930s, Stalin lowered the age of the death penalty to twelve or thirteen, Western liberals
started ironically denouncing this decision as the ultimate example of
(false) socialist humanism. Stalin had the perfect answer: this is a sign of
the great triumph of our socialist education. Our country is so developed
that people of twelve or thirteen years of age already have the maturity of
grownup men, and with maturity comes responsibility
So, again, we have to reject the claims of some leftists who still entertain the utopian dream that if only Lenin were to survive three or four
more years, make a pact with Trotsky, they would have gotten rid of Stalin
and we would have a wonderfully thriving, democratic Soviet Unionwith
freedom, with Eisenstein, futurist, avant-garde art, popular with the people and so on and so on. Detailed histories have demonstrated that due to
his extreme arrogance, Trotsky deserved to lose. Stalin was nominating
people to posts all the time while Trotsky refused to take him seriously,

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thinking: Im the great Trotsky, founder of the Red Army, let that guy
indulge in his little intrigues, I just need one big speech in the Politburo
then I will make it and it will be over for Stalin. It is incredible the level
to which he miscalculated.
Let me return to the uniqueness of Platonov. My first point is as follows: if you really want to understand Stalinism, you have to understand
the previous dream, how Stalinism was a reaction to this preceding radical project of the 1920s. The 1920s in the Soviet Union were much more
ambiguous than is usually thought, and Platonov offers insight into this
era permeated by radical tensions. No wonder Stalin hated him. Stalins
relationship to poets, today celebrated for their greatness, was extremely
ambiguous. Stalin almost feared, but also respected them. When in 1933
Osip Mandelshtam wrote his famous Stalin Epigram, a brutal satirical
poem against Stalin, the KGB made plans for his arrest and liquidation as
a result. Stalin personally intervened, saying a couple of years of exile
would be enough. It was only later, in 1938, when it was too late for Stalinist humanist interventions and the purges had become universal, that
Mandelshtam was arrested again. It was the same with Pasternak; he, too,
was already on the KGBs liquidation list. Stalin refused, saying Pasternak
was a poet, and to leave him alone to walk on his clouds.
Again, this is the first big lesson learned from Platonov: the preStalinist utopia. The second is the question of where are we today with
regard to the process described by Platonov, this technological manipulation of our bodily experience, reality, and so on. I think the ongoing progress in biogenetics is effectively, as it were, changing human nature. Franois Balms writes that this progress in biogenetics disrupts
the conditions of human reproduction and radically disconnect[s] it
from the encounter of the two sexes, thus opening the possibility of generalized eugenics, of the fabrication of clones, monsters, or hybrids,
which shatters the limits of a species. The limits of the biological real are
effectively displaced, and the most secured constraints of what is to be
symbolized, life, death, filiation, bodily identity, the difference of the
sexes, are rendered friable. Cloning allows us, in principle, to get rid of a
partner, and thereby of the other sex, or of the alterity as such: one perpetuates oneself without alteration. There is a historical mutation in
this which is at least as radical as the death of the human species made
possible by nuclear fission (Balms 2011:16).

Indeed, the neurodiscourse in which a person is equated to his or her


brain has penetrated all aspects of our lives, from law to politics to literature to medicine to physics.2 As part of this neurorevolution, huge military
2

I rely here on Hady (2012).

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funds are invested in neuroscientific research; the most conspicuous case


is that of the (in)famous American DARPA (Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency), which comprises three strands: narrative analysis, augmented cognition (along the lines of the Iron Man project, etc., to create
soldiers with enhanced cognitive capacities), and autonomous robots
(aiming to convert a large fraction of the military into a robotic one, which
is easier to control, will decrease the economic burden of having military
personnel, and will reduce losses in terms of soldiers lives). Autonomous
robot-soldiers can also be used to ruthlessly stop protests and crack down
on citizens in cases of civil disobedience. The basic idea of DARPA is to
protect citizens of the United States from (foreign) bad guys by figuring
out how vulnerable some people are to terrorist narratives (oral stories,
speeches, propaganda, books, etc.), and then supplanting such narratives
with better ones. To put it simply, DARPA endeavors to shape minds with
stories. But how? Here is the catch: DARPA would like to revolutionize the
study of narrative influence by extending it into the neurobiological domain. The standard narrative analysis thus takes an ominous turn: the
goal is not to convince the potential terrorist through apt rhetoric or line
of argument (or even plain brainwashing), but to directly intervene in his
brain to make him change his mind. Ideological struggle is no longer conducted through argument or propaganda, but by means of neurobiology,
that is, by way of regulating neuronal processes in our brain. Again, the
catch is: who will decide what narratives are dangerous and, as such, deserve neurological correction? Incredible experiments are being done
here. For example, there could be a pill that changes your perception of
time, so that you experience one minute as one day and so on And then
come ideas of how to profit from this. Lets say I commit a rape or a similar
crime, and am sentenced to five or ten years. But lets say I am (which I am
not) a big scientist of profit to humanity so it would be sad to lose me for
this time. So the idea is that I am imprisoned for five or ten years but I take
that pill so that in reality, society will only lose me for one day while I experience it as ten years. OK, my immediate association would be why just
punishment, why not sex? (You are only doing it one minute but) So,
again, what I want to emphasize here is that we are not talking about some
dreams and so on DARPA is already doing this.
We should not reduce this posthuman stance to the modern belief in
the possibility of total domination over nature, we should not reduce it to
the supposed Cartesian arrogance (even human nature will become totally available, we will create people whose emotions will be controlled, at
the same time their abilitiesintelligence, etc.will be enhanced). French
theorist of catastrophes Jean-Pierre Dupuy detected this tendency, namely a weird reversal of traditional Cartesian anthropocentric arrogance,
which grounds human technologya reversal clearly discernible in todays robotics, genetics, nanotechnology, artificial life, and Artificial Intelligence research.

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How are we to explain that science became such a risky activity that,
according to some top scientists, it poses today the principal threat to
the survival of humanity? Some philosophers reply to this question by
saying that Descartes dreamto become master and possessor of naturehas turned out bad, and that we should urgently return to the
mastery of mastery. They understand nothing. They dont see that the
technology profiling itself at our horizon through the convergence of
all disciplines aims precisely at non-mastery. The engineer of tomorrow
will not be a sorcerers apprentice because of his negligence or ignorance, but by choice. He will give himself complex structures or organizations and will try to learn what they are capable of by exploring their
functional properties [an ascending, bottom-up, approach. He will be
an explorer and experimenter at least as much as an executor]. The measure of his success will be more the extent to which his own creations
will surprise him than the conformity of his realization to a list of preestablished tasks (Dupuy 2004, quoted in Besnier 2010: 195).

Here Dupuy is right: this traditional Cartesian idea of modern science, an idea of total domination, is a much more obscure desire to create
a monster that will surpass us. What we want is artificial intelligence that
will start to reproduce itselfwe want to be surprised. So instead of seeing in it some danger, we should, instead of just dismissing it, see in it an
extremely interesting new constellation where we simply dont know
where were going. On the one hand humanity is, in some sense, at its end.
By this I mean, for example, the very basic fact of our being human, that
is, you distinguish between inner and outer life (my thoughts are within
me, reality is out there): without this minimal distance we are not human.
This is already being transgressed. We are all familiar with these old stories, you even hear them in the media, how even Stephen Hawking no
longer needs his proverbial little finger. Today you can already, still very
primitively but nonetheless, directly wire your brain to a machine. The
problem is that, on the one hand, you become God-like: you think about
something, it happens. Ive seen wheelchairs for disabled people, you just
think on and the machine moves, you think left, the machine moves
left. This corresponds to what the German idealists called intellectual
intuition, your ideal intuition immediately coincides with the real, it has
creative power. The problem isto be vulgarthat what goes out also
goes in. If you can influence the outer world in this way, it goes also the
other way, meaning that our inner life can also be controlled. So I think
this is one development connected with the possibilities of biogenetics
which are all pretty primitive. But nonetheless something is emerging
here, we dont know what it will mean but it opens up some very interesting questions. Freud, in his Civilization and its Discontents, already anticipated this development when he spoke about the so-called prosthetic
god, the artificial enhancement of our capacities, and saw very well how

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What science is such as we have it now, if I can put it like this, on our
handsI mean, present in our world in a manner that goes well beyond
anything that an effect of knowledge may lead us to speculate about.
In effect, it is, all the same, necessary not to forget that it is characteristic of our science not to have introduced a better and more extensive
knowledge of the world but to have brought into existence, in the world,
things that did not in any way exist at the level of our perception (Lacan
2007: 158).

So science and technology today no longer just aim at understanding


and reproducing natural processes, but at generating new forms of life
that will surprise us; the goal is no longer only to dominate existing na-

3
I cannot but mention the ironic fact that the title of the last Superman film,
The Man of Steel, is a literal English translation of Stalin.

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this causes even more anxiety and discontent. This is what those ridiculous, mostly boring, films about superheroes like Batman, Superman, and
Spiderman indicate.3
Lacan clearly saw this tendency, when in his Ethics seminar he evoked
the point of the apocalypse (Lacan 1992: 207), the impossible saturation
of the Symbolic by the Real of jouissance, the full immersion into massive
jouissance. When, in a Heideggerian way, he asks: Have we crossed the
linein the world in which we live? (1992: 231), he is alluding to the fact
that the possibility of the death of the Symbolic has become a tangible
reality (Chiesa 2007: 177). Lacan mentions the threat of atomic holocaust; today, however, we are in a position to offer other versions of this
death of the Symbolic. At that time, Lacan already saw that the problem is
not so much that we will be dwarfed by machines but that we are already
entering a new stage where these technological supplements will no longer be out there as big machines but will just be tiny pieces of technology implanted into us. So we will not even be able to experience them as
such, as an external machineIt will not be a universalized, lets call it,
dialysis (there is something traumatically humiliating about seeing a machine outside yourself, and your very life, reproduction, depending on it).
No, these implants will become invisible, doing their job at a level well
below the threshold of our perception. What makes nanotechnology so
thrilling is the prospect of constructing objects and processes in such a
small dimension that all correlation with our ordinary life-world is effectively lost, as if we are dealing with an alternate reality: there are no
shared scales between nano-reality and our ordinary reality, and yet we
can influence our reality and manipulate it through nano-processes.
The changed status of science implied from a profusion of objects entirely forged by science is focused on by the late Lacan, who emphasizes:

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ture, but to generate something newgreater and stronger than ordinary


nature, including ourselves (note the obsession with artificial intelligence, aimed at producing a brain stronger than the human). The dream
that sustains the scientific-technological endeavor is to trigger a process
with no return, a process that would reproduce itself exponentially and
continue on its own. Can one even imagine the unforeseen result of nano-technological experiments, new life forms reproducing themselves
out of control in a cancer-like way? Here is a standard description of this
fear:
Within fifty to a hundred years, a new class of organisms is likely to
emerge. These organisms will be artificial in the sense that they will
originally be designed by humans. However, they will reproduce, and will
evolve into something other than their original form; they will be
alive under any reasonable definition of the word. [...] the pace of evolutionary change will be extremely rapid. [...] The impact on humanity
and the biosphere could be enormous, larger than the industrial revolution, nuclear weapons, or environmental pollution (Farmer and Belin
1992: 815).

This fear also has its clear libidinal dimension: it is the fear of the
asexual reproduction of life, the fear of an undead life that is indestructible, constantly expanding, reproducing itself through self-division. In
short, the fear of the mythic creature that Lacan calls lamella, presenting
the libido as an inhuman organ without a body, the mythic, pre-subjective, undead life substance. Because what makes gadgets so uncanny is
the fact that, far from simply supplementing human organs, they introduce a logic that fundamentally differs from, and so unsettles, the normal libidinal economy of sexed human beings qua beings of language.
Techno-gadgets are potentially undead, they function as parasitic organs without bodies which impose their repetitive rhythms onto the beings they are supposed to serve and supplement. And, again, this is the
vision Lacan sees in our world as increasingly populated by what he calls
lathouses as undead objects. We can see why, apropos lathouses, we have
to include capitalism. We are dealing here with a whole chain of surpluses: scientific technology with its surplus-knowledge (a knowledge beyond
mere connaissance of already existing reality, a knowledge which is embodied in new objects); capitalist surplus-value (the commodification of
this surplus-knowledge in the proliferation of gadgets); and, last but not
least, surplus-enjoyment (gadgets as forms of the objet a), which accounts
for the libidinal economy the hold of lathouses has over us.
I nonetheless see in this one perspective of emancipating human
pleasure. The story goes like this. We have different gadgets. For women
there is the plastic penis, but for men there is something called a Stamina Training Unit, a discretely designed plastic vagina that looks like a

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torch and comes with different plastic covers (you can put on a plastic
vagina opening, anal opening or mouth), and in different models with
more or less hair. The user can regulate the density and frequency of the
vibrations. Based on this let me imagine a date that, I think, would fully
satisfy. Lets say I flirt with a woman and we decide to do it. We meet
somewhere, at her place, and I come with my Stamina Training Unit, she
comes with her dildo, we connect both machines, put the plastic penis
into the machine and both machines run; our superego duty to enjoy is
out there, while we can relax, have a nice conversation, see a movie, and
so on. We are free from the superego, and this freedom from obscene fantasies enables us to do more civilized things
I recently remembered one of my infantile fantasies. The fantasies of
where babies come from are crazy but its wrong to think that once you
are mature it is real sex and you dont need fantasies. No, the paradox of
human beings is that you need, in a more developed form, these fantasies
to the very end. As a child I knew that storks deliver babies, but then I had
a problem; I finally learned about sex, but still, in my naivety, couldnt
believe it. This was almost a Catholic reaction: how could something as
noble and innocent as a child come from naked sweating bodies mingling
there? And I found a solution: yes, you need sex for making babies, but
every reasonable being nonetheless knows storks bring them. So while
you are making love a stork is observing you, and if you perform well, you
get a baby as a kind of reward. And our sexuality functions like that. So if
you rememberthe machines are buzzing and we no longer have this
duty; our duty to have sex is done. And then I talk with the woman and by
chance our hands meet and maybe, just maybe, we end up in bed. We already did it for the big Other, so this would be pure surplus.
If we accept that we are approaching this posthuman era, we encounter the big philosophical problem of (im)possibility symbolizing this result. Science is telling us we are not human beings but rather automata,
manipulated biologically. But can we change our experience to something
that would be appropriate with this image? And here things get interesting. Some cognitivists claim that we can only know this about our biological mechanism objectively, but cannot really accept it, meaning that
we necessarily experience ourselves as free agents. Then you have the
transcendental, Habermasian version of this argument, claiming that
the sciences are, of course, true, but they are social practices enacted in a
certain intersubjective community. This is an irreducible aspect because
you cannot say: But we can account for how the intersubjective community came to be with a neurological explanation, because in order to give
a neurological explanation the scientific community as the transcendental a priori has to be here. Then we have the third position, which I must
say I quite appreciate. The third position is the position of radical cognitivists like Patricia and Paul Churchland, who claim that we can change
our subjective attitudes so that we incorporate the results of cognitivism

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in our daily life. But to me this doesnt work because it relies on the assumption that the old, free, independent subject is still here.
Thomas Metzinger, at the same time both a German cognitivist and
Buddhist, brings this logic to a totally different and very radical conclusion: he claims the only thing (I wouldnt use the word philosophy) which
enables us to integrateto subjectively experience this fact that there is
no self, that we are just neurological automata or thoughts without
thinkeris Buddhist enlightenment. When you reach Buddhist enlightenment, you really think without being a subject; there enunciation and
enunciated coincide. Despite some problems with such a conclusion, I
nevertheless find it interesting how in Buddhism again and again the
same deadlock repeats itself, a deadlock which points, I claim, at the persisting form of subjectivity. For instance, think of how Buddhism has confronted the problem of war. When they build a new house Tibetan Buddhists are allegedly very attentive not to kill a single worm. What I want
to say is that from the very beginning, when the Buddha was already old
and some kings converted to Buddhism, they insisted that the State required an army. And Buddhism found three ways, each more ominous
than the preceding one, to nonetheless justify killing during war.
The first is the standard way, which you also find in the West: killing
is allowed when you do it to prevent an even greater evil. The problem of
course is where this logic stops. When Japan invaded China in the early
1930s their justification was strictly thisthat the Chinese are a spoiled
people, and we invaded them to bring peace. Then there is the second version: when you acquire distance, you are out of the Circle of Life, so your
acts are no longer inscribed into karma and you can do whatever you
want. You find this line from the very beginning, that killing is evil but
only insofar as you as a person are engaged in it; if you are doing it from
the position of the one who is already liberated, it becomes acceptable.
The definition of liberation in Buddhism is something very radical; it implies that you exempt yourself from this Circle of Life where your acts
leave no traces. This is a more sophisticated version of the first argument
which goes like this: Yes, every killing leaves traces (if I kill someone, I will
be born as a lowly worm instead of a lion); but, they say, if the one whom
you killed is really evil and would in the following days have killed a hundred peoplebut hadnt yet killed themI prevent him from acquiring
bad karma from future killings. In this way I have saved him and thus am
performing the ultimate heroic act of acquiring a little bit of bad karma to
allow the other, for instance, to be reborn as another philosopher. Here
comes the Stalinist trick: because I performed this heroic act of assuming
bad karma to prevent the other from acquiring it, this is the ultimate ethical act and that is why my bad karma turns into good karma, into profit.
I claim that the greatest catastrophe of Buddhism begins with the notion of bodhisattva, meaning the one who already reached enlightenment
but out of sympathy with all the suffering in the world returns to this real-

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ity. He says: No, I will remain within this circle of ordinary phenomenal
reality of suffering until all people, or even all sentient beings, will also be
delivered of that pain. This idea causes terrible conflict among Buddhists
because Buddhism oscillates between two extreme forms of enlightenment: on one hand, you have this, lets call it a radical realist idea, that
enlightenment means a universal event where all suffering will disappear.
On the other hand, you have a much more convincing and authentic minimalist version which claims that the Buddha is not the one who lives in
the clouds and then returns to help us; to be really enlightened doesnt
mean you move somewhere else, you remain here, fully and directly as a
human being, but already enlightened. What changes is only your attitude
towards reality. Buddhism constantly oscillates between these two extremes; this is why among Buddhists you can find extreme pacifists as well
as radical advocates of killing. The most beautiful version of this I owe to
Ang Lee who told me about a Chinese Buddhist monk who says he will
refuse to become bodhisattva not only to the level of when all will be redeemed, but he says that in this we should also include all those in hell
who are suffering eternal damnation. Ang Lee, being a nationalist, added
one exception: Mao (because of the Cultural Revolution) should suffer forever. Aside from extreme pacifists we also encounter extreme militarists
like Japanese Buddhists who position themselves outside of the cycle of
karma, which enables them to do as they please.
Allow me a brief interruption. The problem here is also suffering,
hell, which is such a suspicious entity. In Thomas Aquinas you find a
beautiful problem: lets say that if we are good people we will be in heaven; we will be allowed to observe the suffering of those in hell. Aquinas
even claims that seeing the suffering in hell will strengthen our pleasure
of being in paradise. Now, of course he immediately confronts the problem: how can this be part of heaven that you find excessive pleasure in
seeing other people suffering eternal torments? The job that Aquinas
does here is typical scholastic sophistry; he distinguishes two levels of
pleasure: the direct pleasure in the pain of others, and the pleasure in
divine justice. So what is the true solution here? Some time ago I debated
(and mocked) this problem with Rowan Williams, the ex-Archbishop of
Canterbury. He agreed with my solution, that we should imagine it the
other way around. In heaven you drink nectar and partake in all sorts of
pleasures but eventually grow tired of them, then some angel, who takes
care of the administration in heaven, comes to give you a boost so that
you dont complain, reminding you of the suffering of others. Its obvious
that in heaven you immediately get depressed and bored, while hell is
quite a nice place and the devil is basically a benevolent god (as we know
from Lubitschs Heaven Can Wait). As we all know, in hell we have good
times, we have sex, we drink, and so on. But from time to time the administrator of hell comes and says: Look guys, we are having a nice time but
I just learned that for the next five minutes we will be observed by heaven.

No. 1

Sexuality in the Posthuman Age

Slavoj iek

So please, to save our life here, pretend that you suffer a little bit so that
we impress them and then we can go on with violence, etc.
The Buddhist notion of enlightenment, however, confronts us with
yet another problem. Today, it is more or less proven that a state which at
least looks like nirvana can be achieved through pills. And here some Buddhists have a great problem, because biochemistry is already producing
what are ironically called enlightenment pills. Why go through that tiring process of spiritual elevation and so on, if you can simply take a pill
and you are there? The issue is painful because the measurements of
our brain activity demonstrate that our inner experience of enlightenment is exactly the same. Along the lines of scholasticism, the desperate
attempt of some Buddhists is to distinguish deserved from undeserved
happiness. Chemical happiness doesnt count because it is undeserved.
But I think this is totally against the whole logic of Buddhism, it introduces a certain ethics which is at odds with Buddhism as such. All of this
nevertheless shows that Buddhist ethics dont work, not in the sense that
Buddhist enlightenment is not a radical authentic experience. The problem is rather that it gets caught ethically in a dilemma that can be formulated in the following, vulgar way: Why cant I go on raping women, torturing people and so on, and still retain my enlightenment? I think this
is an embarrassing question to which Buddhism cant provide a proper
answer. The solution, however, can be found in the Western Judeo-Christian, even Islamic tradition. (I say Islamic because there is a beautiful line
which is often quoted from Islam which says that God only prescribes
rituals, being totally indifferent to what you really believe.) Here we
have to opt for the total externalization of ethics, and this is the lesson of
our Judeo-Christian tradition. Inner life doesnt matter; all criminals
have an inner life, their own story to tell, but the point is that the
authentic inner life is but a mask, a fantasy that we fabricate to escape
the consequences of our acts.

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, , , , ? , , ,
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. : Besnier 2010: 195).

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.).
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Vol. 4 (2016)

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, , ,
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86

87

Vol. 4 (2016)

, (2008). . . 17. . .: ; .
, (2006). . . 7. . .: ; .
, (2003). . .: , , ,
5 ., . 2. Augsburg; .: Im-Werden-Verlag.
, (1927). . .: ,
, , 21 ., . I. .; .: .
Balms, Franois (2011). Structure, logique, alination. Toulouse: rs.
Besnier, Jean-Michel (2010). Demain les posthumains: Le futur a-t-il encore besoin de
nous? Paris: Fayard.
Chiesa, Lorenzo (2007). Subjectivity and Otherness: A Philosophical Reading of Lacan.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Dupuy, Jean-Pierre (2004). Le problme thologico-scientifique et la responsabilit de
la science. Le Dbat 129: 175192.
Farmer, J. Doyne, and Belin, Aletta dA. (1992). Artificial Life: The Coming Evolution.
In Artificial Life, ed. C. G. Langton et al., Reading, 815840. MA: Addison-Wesley.
Figes, Orlando (2001). Natashas Dance: A Cultural History of Russia. London: Allen
Lane.
Hady, Ahmed El (2012). Neurotechnology, Social Control and Revolution. http://bigthink.com/hybrid-reality/neurotechnology-social-control-and-revolution.
Platonov, Andrey (2013). The Anti-Sexus. Trans. Anne. O. Fisher. Cabinet 51: 4853.
Wells, H.G. (2014). H. G. Wells: It seems to me that I am more to the Left than you,
Mr Stalin. New Statesman [27 October 1934]. http://www.newstatesman.com/
politics/2014/04/h-g-wells-it-seems-me-i-am-more-left-you-mr-stalin.
iek, Slavoj (2012). From Animal to Stamina Training Unit. In An Essay on Negativity, Immanence, and Freedom, ed. Oxana Timofeeva, 611. Maastricht: Jan van
Eyck.

No. 1

EUSP, 2016

engl

ISSN 2310-3817

Vol. 4

No. 1

p. 8898

Running
Wild
Mladen Dolar
University of Ljubljana

Running Wild
Abstract
The paper takes its cue from Freuds short text Observations on
Wild Psychoanalysis (1910), where Freud considers the advice
that presents sex as the universal cure for anxiety and ultimately
all psychic troubles. The advice, dispensed by a non-analyst but
also circulating in general opinion, is presented as supported by
the psychoanalytic scientific discovery. The paper follows Freuds
steps arguing that sex is not an entity that can be located, but
rather resides in a dislocation; that it doesnt have predictable
effects that would follow the path of somatic causality; that
sexual satisfaction is not the cure for neurotic disorders; that one
has to take into account the specificity of the Freudian notion of
the unconscious; that sex is neither a fact nor a cause, but
nevertheless produces effects. Freuds argument is pitted against
the Anti-Sexus machine, presented by Platonov as a device that
rests on the mistaken assumptions about the sexuality Freud was
fighting against.
Keywords
Anti-Sexus, Platonov, psychoanalysis, sexuality, wild analysis

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In his 1910 paper Observations on Wild Psychoanalysis Freud discusses a rather bewildered patient who came to ask for his advice
(1981[1910]: 21927). She was in her forties, good-looking, and suffered
from anxiety attacks that were triggered by her recent divorce. She first
consulted another young doctor who explained to her that the reason for
her anxiety was her sexual frustration and if she wanted to alleviate that
and cure her anxiety she should either go back to her husband, take a lover, or else masturbate. Sex was presented as a sure cure for her troubles
since the lack thereof was clearly diagnosed as the obvious cause of her
predicament. Moreover, this advice was presented by the young doctor as
firmly supported by state-of-the-art scientific evidence, namely the recent
discoveries made by Dr. Freud. Science had recently made great progress in
this domain, a great leap forward called psychoanalysis (this is 1910), so
now the authority of science was pushing her to have sex, no matter how
and with whom, husband or lover, or failing that, at the very least by masturbation. This piece of scientific advice put the poor woman into an even
greater state of anxiety, for she was now convinced she was quite incurable. Namely, she had no wish to go back to her husband and her moral
and religious views prevented her from either having a lover or masturbating, the prospects of which filled her with additional horror. Given these
new scientific advances, her case seemed hopeless. So she eventually decided to consult Dr. Freud himself, the source of this new scientific wisdom, to convince herself that this was indeed the case and to see what, if
anything, could be done. For this visit she was supported by the company
of another elderly divorced lady, a dried out woman of unhealthy appearance, who was adamant that this couldnt be true and urged Freud to
confirm her views. She had been divorced a great many years and suffered
from no such trouble, either anxiety or the lack of sex. So Freuds scientific authority was at issue, and along with it the nature of this new scientific discovery, psychoanalysis.
Freud was rather bemused by this, for he was confronted by the fact
that some ten or fifteen years after its inception, psychoanalysis was already running wild. It was around not merely as a doxa (as were the rumors about the new discovery that inevitably made it to the zeitgeist and
the yellow press, seasoned as they were with scandal and spicy sexual
innuendo), but also as a scientific doxa, to use this oxymoron, an incontrovertible piece of quasi-scientific objective knowledge, dispensed by
young doctors to the general clientele. Science is about finding the proper causes for any strange phenomenon, so lack of sex was now reputedly
the universal cause of psychic trouble, according to the new gospel of
psychoanalysis. Although this could hardly be seen as some staggering
new insight, for this is the kind of advice that has been murmured across
millennia through folk-wisdom, and now psychoanalysis allegedly provided hard scientific evidence to substantiate it. It had been scientifically proven that having sex is good for you, otherwise you will run into

No. 1

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Mladen Dolar

psychic trouble. This is what Freud here calls wild psychoanalysis, first
by the fact that this advice was given by a doctor who was clearly not an
analyst and had no training in this new therapy; furthermore, that it was
given as a universal clue regardless of the singularity of the particular
case: like one prescribes aspirin for headache, so one prescribes sex for
anxiety.
Wildness consists, then, in some pieces of psychoanalytic knowledge running amok, being slung around by any layperson as a truism, out
of the controlled laboratory situation of a psychoanalytic session, its tte-tte, hence with incalculable results. But also, this wildness is the very
opposite of wildness, since the psychoanalytic piece of knowledge is
thereby actually deprived of its wild, untamed nature; it is pressed into
the mold of a scientific fact, verified by the authority of science, like a firm
cause providing sure effects. Its not that psychoanalysis is running wild,
but rather it is domesticated into the framework of the established and
the predictable. Wildness is what gets lost with wild psychoanalysis.
Freud had some doubts as to whether the reported advice was accurately rendered, for he had ample experience with patients distorting the
doctors suggestions to fit their own projections and fantasies. Nevertheless, he was sufficiently upset by this incident to write a paper on it and
try to get some basic assets straight. In the first instance his concern was
not so much with the advice itself but with the particular way it was delivered, for he saw in it a fatal lack of tact and discretion. It was not that
psychoanalysis should go straight to crude facts about sex, or, to call a
spade a spade, to the naked truth,1 so in his first remarks he saw this as a
question of bad rhetoric and manners. This is in line with the inaugural
definition of psychoanalysis as a talking cure (proposed by the very first
patient, Anna O.), which brings sex into intimate connection not just with
talking, but with the proper ways to talk, with what Lacan would call
lthique de bien dire, the ethics of saying well, coterminous with what was
being said (as a counterpoint to the absence of any rule on the part of the
free associations which are supposed to run wild and encouraged in their
wildnessbut then there is the rule that emerges from the very impossibility of them running wild). There is, one could say, an ethics of circumlocution (as the dictionary puts it, the use of too many words to say
something, especially in order to avoid saying something clearly2).
Speaking around, as it were, speaking obliquely, is the proper way to speak
1
One should recall the case that Nietzsche made out of the expression the
naked truth, with the supposition that truth is a woman, where philosophers with their
heavy earnestness and clumsy ineptitude would hardly be able to seduce a woman. So
Nietzsche saw it rather as a fatal lack on the side of rhetoric and persuasion than on the
side of cognitive powers; truth being on the side of sex rather than cognition.
2
Macmillan Dictionary, s.v. circumlocation, accessed 18 November, 2015,
http://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/circumlocution.

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It is purported that psychoanalysis boils down to calling a spade a spade, that
is, to reduce everything to the crude reality of the sexual as an ultimate real, to make
explicit the implicitly sexual. But the point is rather the opposite: that sexuality is intimately bound with discretion, with something that cannot be plainly displayed but
only implied, hinted at, left unsaid. Not simply the unsaid of sexual innuendo, implied
obscenity, but something genuinely, inherently, unsaid. There is a way in which coming out misses the mark and nudity is anything but natural. There is a lacking word that
cannot be spelled out, a bodily part which cannot be displayed, and which makes the
fabric of intimacy of human relations. The centrality of the phallus, to take the most
notorious and controversial term, is not about showing it as the exhibit of some ultimate real of sex, but something that introduces the very necessity of displacement,
the impossibility of ever showing it, thus counteracting phallocentrism by the phallus
itself. The explicitation of the implicit is the formula by which Brandom (1998) attempts to spell out the secret of the Hegelian enterprise, the driving force of dialectics.
But the object of dialectics, in this completely different setting, is precisely what cannot be made explicit in all the strenuous attempts of explicitation, rather it is produced
by them. Is there also a theme of dialectics and tact, the respect for the implicit?

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about sex, not because of prudishness or for fear of being offensive, but
because obliqueness is actually truer to the real nature of sex such as it is
addressed by psychoanalysis; something gets lost in the directness of alleged facts, something that cannot be quite spelled out by bluntness. To
extend this further, looking awry, to employ Shakespeares expression
used by iek to title one of his books, or rather looking sidewaysthis
would be the more appropriate way of looking if one wants to catch a
glimpse of something elusive that doesnt quite have the consistence of
crude facts. There is something anamorphotic in sexuality, anamorphosis
as the distortion inscribed in the picture, something one cannot get when
looking at it directlybut then again, can one get the clear picture even
by looking sideways, can one ever see clearly this picture within the picture? However, there may seem to be something significant with Freud
urging discretion, of all things, first focusing on the way of saying rather
than on what is conveyed.3 In a curious echo, when presenting the advertisement for this new Anti-Sexus device in his introduction (ironically?),
Platonov first of all deplores that it is so completely devoid of sense and
lacking in basic tact (2013: 48). There is a subject to ponder: sex and tact.
And the first thing to say against the presentation of this device is that it
is tactless.
But this is just a passing remark, although not unimportant. The crux
of the matter and the ground for the fatal misunderstanding is rather the
spontaneously made assumption about what sex is. Sex is commonly assumed to involve a sexual act or any activity leading to orgasm, but psychoanalysis has extended its meaning far beyond that, both higher and
lower, so that it has lost the value of factuality that can be pinned down,
circumscribed, and well defined. Direct sexual aims can be rather easily
replaced by non-sexual ones, and this replacement is not just an ersatz,

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Mladen Dolar

surrogate, stand-in for sexuality proper, but this capacity for substitution
rather stands at the core of the sexual. Thus, it loses precisely the nature
of some basic cause determining everything else, it could be more appropriately described, to push Freud a bit, as an endless series of effects without proper cause, not grounded in incontrovertible facts and unquestionable activities. If this is a new science of sexuality, then it is a science that
has to put into question the very notion of fact and cause, the two absolute cornerstones of any science. The nature of its object pushes it on this
path of questioning factuality and causality.
Freud makes another move to explain this hard-to-limit notion of
sexuality: We use the word sexuality in the same comprehensive sense as
the German language uses the word lieben [to love] (1981[1910]: 223). So
he seems to be saying that what is at stake is not sex but love. The linguistic extension of love, in all its facets, is an argument that Freud will also
use elsewhere:
Even in its caprices the usage of language remains true to some kind of
reality. Thus it gives the name of love to a great many kinds of emotional relationship which we too group together theoretically as love;
but then again it feels a doubt whether this love is real, true, actual love,
and so hints at a whole scale of possibilities within the range of the phenomena of love (Freud 1985: 141).

If linguistic usage stretches from sexual love to love for ones parents, ones neighbor, for a master, for ones country, for a cause, for art, or
for God, then this wide extension in all directionsthis linguistic capriceis actually true to the extension of sexuality, its propensity to reach
far beyond what is commonly understood by sex. There is no hard core of
sex that could be separated from these extensions as a true base for all
other phenomena, and the extensions have no lesser reality than the supposed hard core, although they can never be detached from it. Sexuality
would thus rather reside in this passage, in the very in-between, between
sexual activities as commonly narrowly understood and their seemingly
far-removed spiritual extensions. Or briefly, between sex and the soul (to
evoke Platonovs wonderful wording, to solve the global human problem
of sex and the soul. [2013: 50]), where love is seen as the handy operator
which by its semantic slide presents this passage in common usage. Also
by the indicative doubt, equally inscribed in usage, as to which of these
varieties of love is real, true, actual love, shifting the accent up and down
the Platonic ladder. Love is an operator of both detachment and attachment, detachment from sex in the localized and limited sense, attachment as excessive investment, a pathological fixation, the anchorage
in singularity that exceeds both the natural and the spiritual universality:
the bondage of the unbound, as it were. The logic of detachment-attachment introduced by love displaces the polarity of sexual-non-sexual and

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For the Company that Platonov is talking about, things are clear: Love, as
contemporary science has proven, is a psychopathic condition that is characteristic for
certain constitutions predisposed to nerve degeneracy, not for healthy, practical men
(2013: 52). They want to amply provide for sexual pleasure liberated from all the fuss of
love and its psychopathology, the non-pathological pleasure without some beyond the
pleasure principle.
5
the idea that the patient suffers from ignorance [Unwissenheit] and if one
would lift [aufhebe] this ignorance through clarification,.. he would have to be cured.
(Freud 1981[1910]: 225)
6
There is a cause only in something that doesnt work, says Lacan (1986:
22). Il ny a de cause que de ce qui cloche literally means there is a cause only where
something limps or goes wrong.

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the question of extension. But, it also introduces the danger of the praise
of love as the topic in vogue which tends to circumvent Freudian paradoxes.4
If the advice of the young doctor was true, that sex could be a universal cure, no psychoanalysis would be needed, says Freud: Oddly enough,
the three therapeutic alternatives of this so-called psychoanalyst leave no
room forpsychoanalysis! (1981[1910]: 225) First, people dont really
need this kind of advice and its preposterous to think that the woman in
her forties wouldnt know about lovers and masturbation, or that she
would need a doctors order to engage in either. It is not that people fall ill
because they ignore basic facts or scientific findings, and their trouble
cannot be remedied by providing information. Or more pointedly, the unconscious is not based on ignorance of something, and the missing unconscious repressed information they ignore cannot be delivered so that
the patient would take cognizance of it: If the knowledge of the unconscious was so important for the patientthen it would be sufficient for
the cure if the patient would listen to lectures and read books. These measures have just as much effect as the distribution of menu-cards in the
time of famine has upon hunger (Freud 1981[1910]: 225).5 Although in
this image, Freud shies away from extending this to the implication that
the simple distribution of food would be equally insufficient to remedy
this kind of faminesexuality is rather between the menu and the food,
no food without the menu of fantasy. Second, it is not that psychoanalysis
would have to step in to lift the inhibitions people usually have so that
they could finally enjoy sex, it is rather that sex is not a cause to be restored, or it is a limping cause6 that cannot be allotted an appropriate
place so that it could vouchsafe for the removal of psychic trouble. Just as
the unconscious is not some missing bit of information to be restored, a
missing signifier to be recuperated, so sexuality is rather structured
around a missing cause, a deviation from the merely physiological causality, a cause that cannot be quite recuperated, or more generally and massively it is structured around a missing link which affects being itself

No. 1

Running Wild

Mladen Dolar

hence the topic of sexuality and ontology that Alenka Zupani has so
magisterially written about (2008). If we are endowed with the unconscious and with peculiar sexual trouble, something is askew in the very
order of being. Science is called upon to set straight what is askew, to repair it, to fill in the missing bits, to maintain the ontological chain (also in
the sense of maintenance and repair, when things go astray), but then
psychoanalysis is a curious kind of science that upholds and honors all
scientific ideals, pursuing them to the end, to make them cover even the
slightest slips, only to circumscribe a spot where something cannot be
quite covered and recovered, but which is inscribed in the very order of
being. It is like a slip of being at stake in the most innocuous slip, the
Freudian slip of being itself.
Freud says even more pointedly, pushing it to the paradox: it is correct that psychoanalysis maintains that the sexual non-satisfaction is the
cause of neurotic trouble (1981[1910]: 223). So the advice of the young
doctor was correct, technically in line with what psychoanalysis is indeed
saying, so that this advice somewhat has the structure of the notorious
Jewish jokeyou are telling me what is ultimately true, so why are you
lying to me? It is a lie in the form of, if not quite truth, then at least of correctness (richtig). Although technically correct it misses the truth of it:
there is a lack of sexual satisfaction at the bottom, but a lack that cannot
be simply filled by sexual satisfaction. Or there is something in this alternative between non-satisfaction and satisfaction that misses the point,
the crucial bit, the real in the sexual that is not quite covered by the seemingly exhaustive options (nor by introducing the grading scale of partly,
or more or less). Freud also pushes the paradox at the other end, in
seeming contradiction: neurotics actually may have sexual lives. Its not
that having sex prevents them from being neurotic, its just that something in their sexuality is out of their reach, unavailable to them, there is
a repression inherent in sexuality that they dont quite manage, and since
it is inherentnot simply an external prohibition imposed by society
from the outsideit cannot quite be lifted by having sex. Neurotics are
rather the harbingers of what in sexuality is structurally unavailable.7 So
the contradictory argument would be: true, sexual non-satisfaction yields

7
This is where Freuds rather scandalous idea comes inmore scandalous
than the alleged sex crazenamely, that there is something in sexuality that resists
satisfaction: Sometimes one seems to perceive that it is not only the pressure of civilization but something in the nature of the [sexual] function itself which denies us full
satisfaction and urges us along other paths. This may be wrong; it is hard to decide
(1985: 295). If something in sexuality itself opposes satisfaction, then one my say that
sexus is actually always already antisexus. It is not society that represses sexual
drives, they are always giving a helping hand to this repression; prohibition can only
draw its strength from the alliance it forges with the drives.

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The theory of the travelling womb had its adherents as late as the
nineteenth century. Plato, in a rather psychoanalytic fashion, saw the
masculine/feminine distinction as a distinction between localization and
non-localization: masculine enjoyment is localized in a particular organ
(unruly and self-willed, yet confined), while the organ of feminine enjoyment is travelling, hence omnipresent, ubiquitous, with no proper place,
and thus dangerous by being unplaceable. Plato is the source of this commonsense advice that sexual satisfaction is the way to cure hysteriait
will fix down the unplaceable, as it were. In this way, sexuality would step
in into the place of the missing cause, it would fill in the gap of the missing link, it would re-inscribe the problem into the chain of the causality of
nature, and we would arrive at a comforting image: the absence of sex
causes the whole hysterical circus, and its presence will put things back
into their rightful natural place. The advice of the young doctor is Platonic, where the idea of Platonic love extending beyond sex, ultimately to
a realm untainted by it. It is counterbalanced by assigning sex a proper
place so that sex and the soul, to use Platonovs wonderful formulation,
support and supplement each other. The inscription of sexuality into the
order of beingfor Lacan the major problem of ontologywould thus at
8
The revolutionary leftist version of the young doctor is Wilhelm Reich, with
his firm belief that the lack of sex causes not merely individual neurosis but structural
neurosis subtending the subjection to capitalism, and that the best or the only cure is
sex. In his Sex-Pol Manifesto he presented demands for free divorce, free contraception,
free abortion, free childcare and medical care, sexual education, lifting the ban on homosexuality, etc. (Reich 2014). For him it was absolutely clear that these demands cannot be realized in a capitalist state. Eighty years later, it is obvious that this idea of
sexual causality didnt quite work.

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A womans womb or uterus, as it is called [hysteron, hence hysteria], is a


living thing within her with a desire for childbearing. Now when this
remains unfruitful for an unseasonably long period of time, it is extremely frustrated and travels everywhere up and down her body. It
blocks up her respiratory passages, and by not allowing her to breathe it
throws her into extreme emergencies, and visits all sorts of other illnesses upon her until finally the womans desire and the mans love
bring them together, and, like plucking the fruit from a tree, they sow the
seed into the ploughed field of her womb (Plato1997: 91c-d).

No. 1

neurosis, and yet having sex doesnt preclude neurosis. This is why psychoanalysis is needed.8
The advice of the young doctor didnt have to wait for Freud. If
authority was needed to support such advice, he could already have relied
on the authority of Plato. Hysteria traces its genealogy back to Plato, who
in Timaeus says the following:

Mladen Dolar

the bottom end involve the advice to have sex, that is, procreational sex
with children as the goal to cure any unruliness, and at the top end the
Platonic ladder leading in a seamless progression from beautiful bodies to
ideas, from sex to soul. Procreational sex avec spiritual elevation: this is
the official formula of a Christian paradigm, the clear delimitation and
mutual support, and it is enough to look at the Christian iconography to
see that this cannot work for a moment. From Plato to Platonov: the aim
of the Anti-Sexus device is to abolish the sexual savagery of mankind,
since an unregulated sex is an unregulated soul, so to provide full and
guaranteed sexual satisfaction would recall mans nature back to an advanced culture of peace, and to a regular, calm, planned tempo of development (Platonov 2013: 50). Hence Platonovs utter ambiguity: of course
this is an ironic ploy, with the mocking indignation at the equally mocking description, and with mocking commentaries (irony, by Quintilians
vintage definition, contrarium eo quod dicitur intellegendum est [1996:
400], where one has to understand the contrary of what is said, or what is
meant is the contrary of what is said, so one never knows whether A or
non-A is actually meant), where both the presentation and its furious critique (and the commentaries) are all struck with ambiguity, in both indignation and praise one is left with both A and non-A. The Anti-Sexus is
both the monster and the utopia, the utopian monster, and not quite one
or the other. Something would have to be done about the unruliness of
sexLenins question what is to be done? sooner or later in some of its
facets runs out into the question of what is to be done with sex? Look at
Plato, look at Christian morality, look at both conservative and revolutionary morals, something would have to be done with sex, either emancipate it or repress it, it cannot be left as it is, there is no Gelassenheit
(releasement), no letting be in matters of sex, nobody can ever say its
just fine the way it is. There is both the necessity and the impossibility to
regulate it, and furthermore, it never just is.
For Lacan all ontology was deeply sexualized, and this was its major
flaw, the flaw of not admitting the flaw. No knowledge was conceived that
wouldnt participate in the fantasy of the inscription of the sexual tie
(Lacan 1973: 76). Thus, the Aristotelian ontology makes some not so hidden sexual assumptions about hyle and morphe, matter and form, which it
considers on the model of the opposition between the feminine and the
masculine.
Let us consider the terms active and passive, e. g., which dominate everything that was thought about the relationship between form and
matter, this fundamental relation to which every Platos and then Aristotles step refers concerning the nature of things. It is visible, palpable,
that these pronouncements are supported only by the fantasy by which
they attempt to supplement [suppler] what cannot be said in any way,
namely the sexual relation (Lacan 1973: 76).

96

In view of predictable dangers that the practice of wild psychoanalysis


entails for the patients and for the psychoanalytic cause, no other option
is left to us [bleibt uns nichts anderes brig]. In the spring of 1910 we have
founded an international psychoanalytic association, whose members
subscribe to it publicly by their names, so as to be able to avert the responsibility for the actions of those who dont belong to us and who use
the name of psychoanalysis for their therapeutical endeavors (Freud
1981[1910]: 22627).

So wild psychoanalysis is not a matter to be taken lightly. There has


to be a guarantee and a control, certified expert knowledge to counter
unqualified amateur knowledge. This entails the drama of a set of paradoxes: there has to be the Other to vouchsafe the absence of the Other, to
warrant that the Other doesnt exist, the demand for the inscription of
what cannot be inscribed. Psychoanalysis is thus threatened not so much
by its opponents and the resistance it provoked as by its own success. Psychoanalysis running wild has to be countered by protected wilderness,
like natural preserves (or game preserves), the shielded enclosures, with
all the ensuing rather spectacular failures of psychoanalytic associations
that we witnessed throughout the century to follow. They have either run
into endless splits and quibbles or else presented the face of codification
and neutralization that destroyed its wildness. Psychoanalysis kept run-

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Vol. 4 (2016)

Ultimately ontology is always premised on the hidden assumption


about the relation, ultimately the sexual relation, sexual relation as the
paradigm of relation as such. So the thesis that there is no sexual relation by which Lacan tried to counteract this through the simplest of slogans, implies paradoxically a desexualisation of the universe, so that the
alleged pansexualism of psychoanalysis amounts to its opposite: to debunking the pervasive ways of thinking that inscribed sexuality into the
order of being as its secret (or even overt) clue, as the key to conceiving
the basic relation. The impossibility of such an inscription stands at the
core of psychoanalysis.
But let us go back to the wild analysis for two further points. First,
Freud seems to have been really annoyed by this offhand advice by an
anonymous young doctor, with his own authority being the scientific
guarantee. Not only was he interpellated to the point of going to the trouble of writing a paper triggered by this very minor incident, but at the end
of the paper he presents a rather major response to the dangers involved
in this advice, namely the response consisting of nothing less than establishing a psychoanalytic associationan organization or partyto safeguard the assets of psychoanalysis against their vulgarization. Freud feels
quite uneasy about setting up an organization that would monopolize the
use of this new therapy (requiring exclusive rights for its practice by
people adequately trained), but nevertheless,

No. 1

Running Wild

Mladen Dolar

ning wild, or rather couldnt be quite domesticated by either doxa or the


expert initiation.
But in another remark Freud says that wild psychoanalysis can do
more damage to the psychoanalytic cause than to patients. It may well be
that the amateurish intervention has positive consequences. In this particular case, the wild psychoanalyst may have done more for his patient
than some other respected authority telling her that she suffered from
vasomotoric neurosis. He focused her attention on the right causes of
her ailment or into their vicinity, and despite the resistance of the patient
this intervention will not remain without beneficial consequences
(1981[1910]: 227). It is unpredictable in what way wild analysis can actually work, it may at least have the positive consequence that it shatters
the assumptions of the patient, producing a shock, pointing in the direction of sex, so even by being wrong it can work (Ex falso quodlibet sequitur?). Sex is not the cause, as the advice implied, but nevertheless it has
effects, incalculable as they may be. It is not quite an existent entity that
one could localize or totalize or substantialize, but it infallibly produces
effects. The Anti-Sexus device, proposed by Platonov with all the unplaceable irony, is an offspring of fantasy, the fantasy of how to objectify it and
keep in check its effects, the fantasy of how to put an end to its disorderly
nature.

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Lacan, Jacques (1973). Encore. Paris: Seuil.
Lacan, Jacques (1986). The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. London: Penguin.
Nancy, Jean-Luc (2001). Lil y a du rapport sexuel. Paris: Galile.
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Reich, Wilhelm (2014). Sex-Pol. Essays 19291934. London: Verso.
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ISSN 2310-3817

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1 . 100112


(1910),

.
, ,
.
, ,
,
, , , ;
,
;

;
;
, , ,
.
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100

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1910 . ( 2008: 133


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2
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(Brandom 1998).
, :

103

Vol. 4 (2016)

, , lthique de bien
dire, , (,
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, (
19351940)). , , -
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, , ( 2003: 3).3
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( 2003: 8). , , , .

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Vol. 4 (2016)


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( 2003: 5)). , , , . ,
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,
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( 2008: 139). -, : ,
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No. 1

, , , , :
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.
,
( 2008: 139).5

,
, , , , ,
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-, ,
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, ,6 , .
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,
(.: Zupani 2008). ,
. , , , ( , - );
, , , , ,
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5
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( 2008: 138).
6
, , , - ,
(2004: 28). Il ny a de cause que de ce qui cloche
, .

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7

, , ,
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2008: 235). ,
, sexus -- anti-sexus.
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107

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,
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( 2008: 137). , , , ;
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.8

No. 1


. ,
. , :
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,
, , ( 2007: 91c-d).

XIX .
/
: ( ,
), ,
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,
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, .
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.. (Reich 2014).
,
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108

, , ,
, , ,

109

Vol. 4 (2016)

, , , , ,
, , .
, , , . : , ,
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( 2003: 5). : , . (, ,
contrarium eo quod dicitur intellegendum est (Quintilian 1996: 400),
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, , ?. ,
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(Gelassenheit),
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, . , , ( 2011:
97). , hyle morphe, , :

No. 1

, , ,
. , , ( 2011: 97).


, , . , , ,
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110

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, .
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, (2004). . 11. .
.: ; .
, (2011). . 20. . .: ; .
, - (2011). ? .: .
(2007). . .: , , 23 ., .3, .1. .:
- .
, (2003). . Augsburg; .: Im-Werden-Verlag.
, (1935-40). . .: .
http://dic.academic.ru/dic.nsf/ushakov/900890.
, (2008). ,
. .: , , , 10 ., . 10. .: .
, (2008). ,
. .:, , , 10 ., . 10. .:
.
, (2008). ,
. .:, , , 10 ., . 10. .: .
Brandom, Robert (1998). Making it Explicit: Reasoning, Representing, and Discursive
Commitment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
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University Press.
Reich, Wilhelm (2014). Sex-Pol. Essays 19291934. London: Verso.
Zupani, Alenka (2008).Why Psychoanalysis: Three Interventions. Uppsala: NSU Press.

112

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engl

ISSN 2310-3817

Vol. 4

No. 1 p. 114127

How
Much
Could
Sexuality
Keti Chukhrov
Russian State University for Humanities, Moscow

How Much Could


Sexuality Cost

Abstract
Sexuality is not possible without phantasm, phantasm
is not possible without the imaginaries maintained by private
property. Private property resides in surplus economy.
Surplus economy is libidinal. The question would then be:
how much could sexuality cost? Or does sexuality vanish if the
economy stops to be libidinal?

Keywords
consciousness, libidinal, sexuality

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How Much Could Sexuality Cost

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Vol. 4 (2016)

When we question what sexuality is we also have to ask whether it is


a universal category or whether it is biasedby economic, social, and
class constellations of certain historical periods or social formations.
Another question would be whether sexuality and sex are identical notions and whether one can substitute another.
These questions arise as long as sexuality is not reducible to any statistics of sexual intercourse, but is rather conditioned by various modes of
surplus: in desire, in economic production, in language. That sexuality is
libidinally biased and hence inscribed into a broader context of libidinal
economy is obvious, so the question follows: in the case of production
functioning without surplus value, can it be regarded as non-libidinal
(e.g., the distributive economy of socialism), and if so, would this conjecture make it possible to dispense with sexuality?
The argument against such an assumption is that the Soviet socialist
economy was to a considerable extent also capitalist, only on behalf of a
state, so that it always contained the libidinal dimension which was merely suppressed. Another argument is that sexuality, desire, pleasure, the
unconscious, are universal components in the construction of a subject in
general. If they thereby happen to be suppressed they manifest themselves obliquely in some other, not necessarily sexual, experience or its
physical implementation.
I would consider both arguments as doubtful. Distributive economy
whether functioning well or badlywas grounded on use value. This is
why the commodity in Soviet social space didnt fit into the phantasmatic
image of a desire. Apart from being phantasmatically imagined, desire has
to be materially embodied: it needs to be produced, it needs to become
and manifest itself as a product, and consequently as a commodity in to
which the phantasms and desires can be inscribed. This implies that the
economy and production should fit into the material realization of such a
phantasm. Sexuality for Foucault was a clinical category, for Freud a psychic one, for Lacan it was linguistic. But in all these cases one point is
overlooked. Sexuality being the kernel of desire cannot but construct itself
via implementing its imaginaries materiallywhich makes it inevitably
concomitant to the economy and to the types of production at hand.
For Lacan or Deleuze, social infrastructure is permeated by sexuality,
the unconscious is dispersed within it. Nevertheless, missing in their research is the possibility of the evacuation of all libidinal parameters as the
result of the sublation of libidinal economy. In other words, if the type of
economic production is not supplying the possibility to generate imaginaries of sexuality and the material sources to implement them, the question would be whether sexuality is being acted out at all? (Neither Lacan
nor Deleuze endeavored to research such a society).

No. 1

Keti Chukhrov

From this standpoint, the second argument regarding the all-encompassing universality of sexuality might be discarded, then making the presupposition that the latency of sexuality in Soviet society (the absence of
any libidinally biased images in media, social space, art, the censorship for
issues of sexuality as against the narratives of love) was not just the outcome of bureaucratic restrictions, but stemmed from the specific social
and economic modes of production.1

II
Andrey Platonovs short pamphlet The Anti-Sexus is written as an
advertisement for a device providing coital service, produced in France
and mainly distributed in capitalist countries. This machine of sexual satisfactions ultimate biopolitical function varies, from regulating sexual
life in marriage to the evacuation of sexuality from relationships in favor
of friendship and enthusiastic labor and production, up to the overall extinction of prostitution, or even so far as to make marriage obsolete to
increase workers productivity in factories. In other words, it is meant to
dispense with the libidinal striving of humanity, as well as with the troubles of the unconscious altogether by supplying a universal device of
quick sexual satisfaction. Although the text is written on behalf of a Western company, it implicitly refers to the biopolitics of sexuality in early
Soviet society with a plan to drastically reframe the ethical, ideological,
psychic, and physiological map not only of a concrete Soviet society, but
of human existence in general.
However, what the Anti-Sexus device aims to remove from life and
communication is not so much sex, but rather sexuality: libidinality, desire, the drive. It is not removing the function of sexual intercoursethe
nominal implementation of the sexual act is preserved in the application
of this device. What is obliterated is precisely the yearning, the libidinal,
the surplus element, and the elusive something. Genital satisfaction as
against sexuality does not necessarily reside in desireit is implemented
as an immediate bio-physiological need. Applying the Anti-Sexus device
for such stimulation enables people to get rid of the troublesome realm of
desire. Tearing libidinal drives away from the realm of physiological necessities helps to shift focus on to social activity by directly satisfying
genital needs.
This mischievous and ambivalent pamphlet could be read in two registersas grotesque irony and as a straightforward message, implicitly
presupposing that the society from which sexuality is evicted already ex1
Interestingly, the Soviet artist Boris Mikhailov (2007), who has been working
with issues of gender and body since the early 1960s, said he could only photograph
anaked Soviet body endowed with any sexuality at the end of the 1980s.

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How Much Could Sexuality Cost

ists and in which there are certain reasons to regard sexuality, libidinal
desire and the unconscious as the obsolete sides of social life.
Another question arising from this text is whether this Anti-Sexus
machine is a masturbation device or not. It nominally functions as a tool
of self-satisfaction. However, what hampers this device from being a masturbation tool is its compulsory and open representation in public space.
It deals with publicly observed sexual satisfaction as a necessity, then lo
sing its libidinal aureole and becoming a mere social function.

(Marx) constructed his research so that already in the point of departure


he had to deal with the systems, functioning and realized via consciousness. These were for him the social and economic systems. Hence it became possible to consider consciousness as the function, as the attribute
of the social system, deducing its contents and form from the intersections and differentiations in the system and not from the simple reflection of the object in the subjects perception (Mamardashvili, 1972, own
translation).

2
Some texts by Valentin Voloshinov referring to the issues of psychoanalysis
have been ascribed to Mikhail Bakhtin and have been published under his name
(Bakhtin 2000).

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If we look at the works of Lev Vygotsky, Valentin Voloshinov,2 the


short manifestos by Andrey Platonov and at the later research of Evald
Ilyenkov, we can see they are all vocabularies of social emancipation
grounded on the notion of consciousness rather than the unconscious,
consequently marking a watershed between psychoanalysis and Marxist
thought. These authors treatment of the notion of consciousness implies
a dispute between the impact of the unconscious and the psychic altogether. In his well-known and very much disputed work Freudianism, Voloshinov (1976) juxtaposes Psychoanalysis and Marxism, according to
him consciousness is only a social and never an individual consciousness.
In Ilyenkovs Dialectics of Abstract and Concrete, consciousness can
only take the form of social consciousness (1991: 27594). It is the screen
of generality where the general is what speaks with the voice of all and
any. Consciousness in this case stops to be the capacity of individual introspection, to be the function of transcendental reflection.
In his Analysis of Consciousness in Works by Marx, Mamardashvili
writes that Marxs approach to economic phenomena does not infer psychic operations:

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Keti Chukhrov

But if all social data is reflected by consciousness then contact with


external reality is not conditioned by the unconscious. The general criticism of psychoanalysis instigated by Vygotsky and Voloshinov posited
that the unconscious has its role, but cannot be substantialized. To claim
that the psyche and sexuality are independent realms impenetrable by
consciousness was an exaggeration on the part of Voloshinov in Freudianism. But the motivation for such a stance was not so much in disputing the
existence of the unconscious and its psychoanalytical treatment, but
rather an ethical demand asserting that in general the unconscious and
psychoanalysis cannot exert a social function. The unconscious was understood as a realm unable to attain the dimension of the general, and to
truly imply social (common) interest. The unconscious elements were inferred just as something non-conscious, or not-yet-conscious, hence they
didnt have to be regarded as an autonomous sphere of the psyche, since
treating them within a framework of the psyche and by means of the psychoanalytical method would distance them from objective reality. If this
is so, body and physiology should not necessarily be considered within
the prism of psychics, but rather remain in the context of the materialistic
realm of biology. Biology and physiology are transcribed more easily and
directly into the social (and hence economically biased terms) than into
the psychic ones, subject to psychoanalytical treatment. Thus, for all the
above mentioned authors the psychoanalytical treatment of the unconscious, sexuality and psyche was considered to be the forced libidinization
of all forms of life, its subjection to the pleasure principle.
In his short text But a Human has One Soul, Platonov writes:
The primary function in the life of a man was not thought, not consciousness, but the sexual drivethe striving to reproduce life, the first
clash with death, with the wish of immortality and eternity.
We live at the time when sex is devoured by thought. The dark and beautiful passion is evicted from life due to consciousness. Philosophy of the
proletariat discovered consciousness and it supports the struggle of consciousness with the ancient, but still living beast. In this struggle resides
the sense of the revolution nurturing the spirit of humanity.
Bourgeoisie gave birth to the proletariat, sex(3)-generated consciousness. Sexuality is the soul of the bourgeoisie, consciousness is the soul of
the proletariat. The bourgeoisie and sex completed their task in lifethey
should be abolished (Platonov 1988: 53133, own translation).

Interestingly, when Vygotsky and Luria wrote in 1925 a rather complimentary foreword to Freuds Beyond Pleasure Principle (1990

sexuality.

It is more appropriate to translate (sex) as biological sex, rather than

118

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[1925]: 2937), their main argument in Freuds defense was that in his
description of the realm beyond pleasure, Freud managed to return to
pure biology and evade psychics. Psychics for the Soviet Marxists was
some kind of euphemism for spiritualism. What they approved of in this
work by Freud is how psychics is exceeded by broader biological procedures and is thus considered to be part of a bigger realm of biological
phenomena. Vygotsky claims that Freuds todestrieb (death drive) overcomes the libidinal principle of drive, unraveling in it a materialistic,
biological angle (1990: 2937).
The reason biological forces are preferable to psychic ones in the
works of both Vygotsky and Voloshinov is due to the conservative tendencies of biology. The fact that biological phenomena are able to be directly affected by the outward, non-individual forces of the material and
social environment enables social life to be inscribed into the general dimension of history. In other words, the only forces able to transform our
biological dimension are social ones, and they are more applicable to the
body and its physiology than to psychics and its libidinal genealogy. So
Freud can only be approved of if his treatment of psychics can be translated into the combination of two tendencies: the conservative-biological, and the progressive-sociologicalthe two tendencies that could construct a dialectics of societal development.
Voloshinovs argument in Freudianism is similarit unfolds in favor
of biology due to its fusibility with social infrastructure. He interprets
psychoanalysis as an artificial transposition of biological issues into a
psychic context. According to Voloshinov, in psychoanalysis the contents
of classical subjective psychology was molded into the newly and artificially montaged terrain of psychics, sexuality, and the unconscious (1976:
6775).
One of the principal rebukes by Voloshinov is that the unconscious is
in fact conscious. He insists that the work of the unconscious is not as
contingent or mechanical as Freud would claim it to be. On the contrary,
it inherits many parameters of subjective psychology which identify psychics with consciousness, therefore Voloshinov disputes the necessity to
derive separate realms for the functioning of desires and phantasmatic
imaginaries (1976: 6775). According to him, it would be more appropriate to allege that something unconscious acquires certain specific forms
only on entering consciousness, that is, with the aim of temporary inner
self-observation and introspection. In other words, we can interpret the
unconscious as a force that acquires certain form and content only after
going through conscious procedures, so that the unconscious can only be
considered as one of the functions of consciousness and not the other way
roundas in psychoanalysiswhen consciousness is just the imaginariness of reality serving as just a material to unravel the unconscious. In his
seminars on the I, Lacan explicitly states that the system of consciousness didnt fit into Freuds theory (2009: 15562). The I that is inscribed

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Keti Chukhrov

in being, in reality (social context) does not coincide with the I of the
subject of the unconscious. The I of the social context is imaginary, illusionary, until it does not become the I of the unconscious. The unconscious is definitely intersubjective and dispersed, but nevertheless its
analytical sphere is confined to the analysis of a subject.
It should also be remarked that the unconscious it is constructed by
desire, and as Lacan many times explicitly claims in the seminars on the
I, desire has nothing to do with consciousness. Lacan actually emphasizes the fact that Freud treated consciousness either as a filter of reality,
that is, as the instrument of its perception, or as the self-reflective Cartesian machine that failed to be efficient. In Psychoanalysis, the I is not
cognized in a frame of consciousness. This is the conjecture that brings a
specific consequence: namely, that it is the unconscious that is able to
deal with intersubjectivity and objective realia, whereas consciousness is
only for individual introspection that just remains imaginary. However,
despite the broadened scope the unconscious acquires in psychoanalysis,
in comparison with consciousness, the focus of analysis remains the Subject that is biased by desire. In other words, for Lacan it is exactly the
consciousness that is limited and individual, whereas the unconscious is
intersubjective and permeated with the clamor of reality, being in its own
turn the repository of desire and the symbolic. In psychoanalysis, emancipation is either understood via the hegemony of the unconscious or dismissed altogether as the form of vitalism. In Soviet psychology and philosophy it was the other way round. Consciousness had nothing to do with
introspection, it was the assemblage of the objectively-biased social phenomena. Objective reality is viable by the token of a human consciousness
being part of its material dialectics. And last but not least, consciousness
is the form of the voluntary demand for the general, for the objective. The
subject is not studying itself but is constructing the objective.
In Freuds work on sexuality, both its social and physiological parameters are superceded by psychics and are thus deprived of physical, somatic and hence materialist impact, which would enable them to be more
directly dependent on social and economic factors. The reduction of sexuality to a biological dimension would enable it to be redirected to the
sphere of the genital and its innervations, which is actually antisexual
and applies to sex just as to material necessitywithout the troublesomeness of individual psychics and its traumatic bond with familial and personal biographies.
According to Voloshinov, Freud is not interested in any material
functions of the somatic, but rather by its subjective impact on psychics;
that is, he is trying to determine this impact from within psychics itself.
What is important for him is the reflection of the somatic in the soul, or
psyche, no matter what these somatic phenomena might be beyond the
psyche. Voloshinov dismisses Freuds theory of erogenous zones, since
Freud does not provide any physiology of these zones or the functional

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Voloshinov is insisting here that the body and organism should not
be inscribed complementarily into the realm of psychics and sexuality,
so as to make the objective body endowed with the innermost and psychically complex of drives and imaginary associations, thus generating
some sort of introspective imaginary of a body. Voloshinov is calling for
the following: psychics should complement the objective body and be
inscribed into the objective social surrounding. This premise is very important in understanding not only Andrey Platonovs anthropology, but
more generally for interpreting the ethics of numerous cultural, artistic,
and political phenomena of Soviet socialism with its mistrust of desire
and pleasure.
Again, the debate against desire and enjoyment among representatives of Soviet psychology and philosophyVoloshinov, Vygotsky, Leontiev, Ilyenkovresided in the conjecture that along with subjective selfintrospection as the realm of desires, imaginaries, and emotions there is
an objective dimension of human activity, conditioned by outward experience, and in it desire is not a prevailing component at all. The objective
experience has to rely on completely different material components of
behavior, which have very little to do with desires, emotions and imaginaries (phantasms). Desire in its own turn is engendered by libidinal
economy, hence the privileged role of the unconscious that brings forth
the dimension of the libidinal as a feature of capitalist production. But to

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Freud makes no provision for a physiological theory of the erogenous


zones, he takes no stock whatever of the chemistry or their physiological
relationship with other parts of the body. It is only their psychical equivalents that he subjects to analysis and investigation, that is, he focuses
attention on the role played by subjective presentations and desires, associated with the erogenous zones, in the psychical life of a human individual and from that individuals inner, introspective point of view. []
The internal secretion of the sex glands, its influence on the operation
and form of other organs, its relationship with the constitution of the
body,all these processes, detectable in the external material world, are
left completely undefined by Freud. How the role of an erogenous zone
in the material composition of the body connects with the role it plays in
the subjective psyche, taken in isolation, is a question for which Freud
provides us no answer. As a result, we are presented with a kind of duplication of erogenous zones: What happens with erogenous zones in the
psyche becomes something completely separate and independent of
what happens with the psychically, chemically, and biologically in the
material organism (Voloshinov 1976: 71).

No. 1

work exercised by them; he is preoccupied only with the subjective psychic equivalents of these zones and their place in the psychoanalyticallydetermined libido. In Freudianism, Voloshinov writes:

Keti Chukhrov

repeat again: what is not envisioned in psychoanalysis is what happens if,


by the token of the evacuation of libidinal economy, the function and the
toil of desire expires.
So it is only in the light of subjective self-consciousness that the map
of our psychic life seems to be the struggle and trouble of libidinally biased desires and imaginaries. Self-consciousness and self-introspection
cannot be the source for objective motives of life and social or class struggle. Such an argument leads us as far as to assert the extreme dimension
of the general, of the idea as the radicalness of the non-self. In this case it
is not the impact of sexuality that influences the social or linguistic realm
(as is the case with Lacan)when the social infrastructure is permeated
with the pleasure principle and libidinalitybut the opposite: the general, the social consciousness, the idea, occupy the bodyphysiologically
preserving functions of sex as a reflex, but unable to exercise sexuality.
Then, communist society would be the society that would not need any
Anti-Sexus device whatsoever. It would dispense with sexuality in favor of
the dialectics between direct physical needs and social goals.

IV
When we place into doubt all kinds of liberalisms and their libertarian and permissive rhetoric; when we, consequently, claim that liberalism
is no less embedded in ideology than any authoritarian society of historical socialism, we imply that by the same token (since liberalism is also an
ideology) societies of historical communism might have been no less liberal despite their authoritarian infrastructure.4 If we follow such an argument, then liberalism would function as ideology, whereas idea and ideology, in their own turn, would be considered as something cracked and
differentiated. We should not then be so intimidated by the symbolic dimension of the idea (and ideology), since it is also evolving in the regime
of difference and deviation. But what I would endeavor to assume in reference to Platonov and Soviet cultural ethics would be the converse logic,
which I shall now lay out.
It is not that sexuality can be extended into the zone of the social or
the zone of the sublime, nonetheless preserving its libidinal character so
that the ideal stays permeated by the other paths of libidinality, the argument discussed by Aaron Schuster in his explication of the libidinal
4
This logic is often applied in Slavoj ieks arguments mentioned in his numerous presentations. In his conversations he often mentions that the embodiments of
disciplinary regimesthe Soviet army, or jail, for example, were organized as deviations, as corrupt forms of rule, whereas the permissiveness of liberal society might exert ideology. This leads to the assertion that ideology is biased by deviation and liberal
permissivenessby ideological rigidity.

122

Ive just worked it outwhy it is that peoples lives together are so bad.
Its bad because its impossible to unite through love. Ive tried so many
times, but nothing ever comes of itnothing but some kind of mere delight. You were with me just nowand what did you feel? Something
astonishing? Something wonderful? Or nothing much?
Nothing much, agreed Semyon Sartorius.

5
In his comment to Platonovs The Anti-Sexus, Aaron Schuster emphasizes
this featurenamely, the incongruence between genital sexuality and the libidinal
drives as theorized in Freuds interpretation of the libido (2013).

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(2013: 4147).5 On the contrary, the sublime, the delibidinized, invades


material and immanent bodies and things, exerting the dimension of generality and idealness, which the body as a material object can not often
endure. It is not that sexuality and the libidinal become dematerialized in
ideology, but the idea gets materialized in a body. Death is therefore never tragic to Platonov, because the death of body is not experienced as the
end. It is interesting that while in Western modernism there are so many
metaphors of living corpses, of the dead who are bodily alive, in Soviet
prose even when the body is on the verge of survival, the life and struggle
still go on. This is because life resides in the idea of communism, rather
than in the finite body. But such an idea is embodied in concrete human
bodies. Hence, what is really tragic is the lack of communism by its nonimplementability in the finite life of finite people.
The claim against ideology and any hegemony of an idea is that it is
actually the same as power and authority. But in the case of Platonov as
well as many other cases from the Soviet socialist context, the idea cannot
be identified with power, since power itself might happen to be a deviation from an idea. If we take Platonovs stories: Chevengur (1978), The
Foundation Pit (2009), Djan (2008), or his novel Happy Moscow (2012) we
see that sex is not banished or limited by any imperative in them. Sex as
the material function of body is always present. Its difference from sexuality is just that it functions as a simple necessity, accessible despite an
extremely poor life, where the imaginaries and phantasms of desire are
substituted by the toil of building communismwithout any surplus
economy and its elements, that is, without the libidinality that would
construct itself as sexuality.
There is an eloquent episode in Platonovs The River Potudan
(2008: 22547). Nikita, Ljubas husband, has sexual intercourse with her
for the first time after hesitating to do so for a long time. Platonov describes this moment as a poor and inevitable pleasure, from which Nikita
didnt acquire more joy than he hitherto experienced with Ljuba without
it. (2008: 245). In another of Platonovs novels, Happy Moscow, the chief
protagonist Moscow Chestnova says:

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Keti Chukhrov

My skin always feels cold afterward, pronounced Moscow. Love cannot be communism. Ive thought and thought and Ive seen that it just
cant. One probably should loveand I will love. But its like eating
foodits just a necessity, its not the main life.
Sartorius was hurt that his love, gathered during the course of a whole
life, should perish unanswered the first time. But he understood Moscows excruciating thought: that the very best of feelings lies in the cultivation of another human being, in sharing the burden and happiness of
a second, unknown life, and that the love which comes with embraces
brings only a childlike, blissful joy, and does nothing to solve the task of
drawing people into the mystery of a mutual existence (Platonov 2012:
53).

This passage is reminiscent of Voloshinovs claims that self-consciousness can only be the reflection of class consciousness, since realizing oneself is only possible via the glance of another representative of
ones class; any personal, linguistic or intimate reactions can only stem
from objective roots (Voloshinov 1976: 1729).

V
Returning to the issue of property in the context of sexuality we
could emphasize that sexuality is much more dependent on the impact of
property machines than it is constructed by traumatic or perverse undercurrentsthis is the aspect that is somehow ignored in psychoanalysis.
Following our assumption made above, sexuality can not be constituted
without capitalist production and without surplus economy: it is but the
consequence of the libidinality of desire and to its fusion with phantasmatic imaginaries. Sexuality and desire should have a backup, which has
to be materially designed and embodied as the program of desire. The
extremity of shortage economy which was the normal condition for socialism does not produce enough surplus in economy, in imaginaries, in
commodity production and in production itself. The fact that a thing, an
object, is produced via its use value evicts the phantasmatic parameters of
things and bodies reducing the commodities to their crude utilitarian
function, general necessity, removing from them the surplus of attractiveness. In such conditions the very form of commodity distribution has
to de facto eliminate the possibility of libidinal desire and sexuality, since
they are but a satellite of surplus economy. The question then would be
whether the non-libidinal and non-capitalist economy would need a psychoanalytical lexicon at all.
If we look at the zones of poor life in the framework of a capitalist
economy we can observe a condition, obscenely manifested in postsocialist economies of primitive accumulation. In them, the surplus element of

124

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an economy is either too innovative to automatically permeate social production, or not materially implementable whatsoever. If in the spheres of
a non-profit socialist economy sexuality is constructed without a libidinal
surplus, in the impoverished zones of the already capitalist, but still primitive, surplus economy the phantasm of libidinally biased enjoyment is
already there, yet it can not be easily achieved because it is still too expensive. This is because sex in conditions where it has not yet become
the proper language of sexuality (sexuality understood as discourse in
the Foucauldian sense) is often used as currency to pay for the future material embodiment of attractive phantasmatic images. In the conditions of
an impoverished but already capitalist economy, sexuality as the realm of
libidinal pleasure is still remote. But what would be achievable or accessible is the task of striving towards such pleasurethe quest to either
acquire the attractiveness of the libidinally desired body, or to become
such a bodythat is impossible without the culture of consumption and
commodification.
Interestingly, it is exactly in the conditions of a poor economy that
the commodity items are at stake (as in Pasolinis movies Mamma Roma
[1962], or Accattone [1961]). Sex for impoverished women (mostly in the
mode of prostitution) is not yet embodying any desire or sexual pleasure
at all. Desire is invested in the quest to acquire more property. The same
could be said about the early post-Soviet social economic situation. Here
the phantasmatic imaginary is prosperity and feminine attractiveness,
exactly identified with the hunt for commodities. Such a mode of material
life is already biased by a libidinal economy, but its sexualization has
not yet taken place. The traumatic object of desire in it is not sexual pleasure and enjoyment, but an acquisition of the novel items of imaginary
private property which can unleash a striving for the libidinal, but out of
which a fully constructed sexuality has not yet emerged. This is why after
the demise of authoritarian socialism one confronts so many examples of
sexual abuse and victimization instead of feminist agencies and sexual
freedom, because sexuality on such a transitory stage functions as a currency exchange rather than lust or the phantasm of liberation. To repeat
once more, desire in such cases is conditioned by the quest for property
accumulation and not sexual desire. Those who have only recently come
out of the social context of use value are not yet able to properly exercise
their libidinality.
As a comparison I would like to briefly refer to the plot of Nymphomaniac (2013) a recent film by Lars von Trier. Desire functions here as
pure surplus, it has an absolutely phantasmatic character and is detached
from physical necessity. This is the reason why it can not saturate physical need even in the smallest degree. Yet it is this phantasmatically projected attractiveness of sexuality that gears desire, whilst simultaneously
not being able to saturate it. Such phantasm, such desire, is of course
completely detached from social context. However, it is precisely in

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Keti Chukhrov

a society biased by consumption and commodity fetishism that we will


not witness any articulate existential demand for a commodity or reference to it in everyday life. This is because in the conditions of a developed
libidinal economy, when there is no social experience of scarcity, a commodity stops being an existential necessity. A commodity is then not a
basic need, but rather a variation of phantasmatic desire. Consequently,
the more there is freedom of consumption the more the surplus form of
an economy is concealed; what comes to the foreground are mainly phantasmatic imaginaries, not directly referring to the commodity-oriented
character of life and production. The protagonist of Von Triers Nymphomaniac would not even question what stylistic, economic, monetary or
physiological parameters construct the image of her sexuality and the
phantasmatic stages of her libidinal strivingnamely, she would not
question what the surplus value is that makes all those parameters attractive? The issue here is not the prosperity of a concrete individual, namely
of the protagonist, but a simple formula: if one has to think about survival, sexuality functions as a simple de-libidinized necessity rather than
any imaginary about sexual pleasure.

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. . .: .
, (2000). . . .: ,
, . .
. . .: .
, , , (1990).
. .: , ,
. .: .
, (1991). . .:
, , . .:
.
, (2009). . 2.
(19541955). .: .
, (1968). .
6: 1425.
, (1990). . .: , ,
: , , . :
i.
, (2002). . Augsburg; .: Im-Werden-Verlag.

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, (2003). . Augsburg; .: Im-Werden-Verlag.


, (2003). . Augsburg; .: Im-Werden-Verlag.
Mikhailov, Boris (2007). Suzi et Cetera. Cologne: Walther Koenig.
Schuster, Aaron (2013). Sex and Antisex.Cabinet 51: 4147.

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ISSN 2310-3817

Vol. 4

No. 1 p. 144161

We
Have
Never
Had
Sex
Oxana Timofeeva
European University at St. Petersburg

We Have Never Had Sex


Abstract
The paper proposes an original approach to the analysis of the
sexual economy of war and, together with Donna Haraways claim
We have never been human, reconsiders Lacans formula There
is no sexual relation proceeding from the idea of sex as a
humanizing practice. This idea is opposed to popular metaphors
of animality and the naturality of human sexual life. Thus,
according to Georges Bataille sex, or rather eroticism, is what
transforms not human beings into animals, but animals into
human beings: just like labor in Engels, it presents a central
principle of anthropogenesis. For Bataille, this transformation is
an event that marked the passage between pre-history and
history and the appearance of historical humanity. The paper
places this argument into a paradoxical twist by suggesting a
hypothesis that such a transformative event has not yet
happened, and that, instead of sex, in todays capitalist society
people rather practice, to quote iek, masturbation with a living
partner, where the integrity of a person is replaced by partial
objects. This argument finds support in Platonovs satire on
masturbation and his critique of the Anti-Sexus, the latter being
both masturbatory and antisexual (i.e., something that prevents
sexual relationships). The paper shows that there is a remarkable
gap in Platonovs writings between two understandings of sexas

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the soul of the bourgeoisie which is to be overcome by the


consciousness of the proletariat, and as what is to be postponed
until a communist society will be built. It analyses the
constitutive character of this gap, or ambiguity, for Platonovs
radical revolutionary asceticism.
Keywords
Andrey Platonov, Georges Bataille, masturbation, sex, war

1
On sexual reaction in the Soviet Union as a failure of revolution, see Reich
(1986: 157281).
2
See the authors correspondence with Nikolay Oleynikov (2013: 69100).

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Make love, not war, said the slogan associated both with the sexual
liberation of the United States and Europe in the 1960s and the pacifist
movement opposed to the Vietnam War. Those guys look like they cant
make either of both, Ronald Reagan joked about the protesters who made
this claim in California in 1967 (DSouza 1999: 71). Those guys wanted
to make love instead of war, peacefully and deliberately, to use free love,
which meant polymorphous sexuality (Marcuse 1966: xv), communal
forms of experimental promiscuity, and various bodily pleasures as a revolutionary tool against bourgeois society built of repressive nuclear families and outdated morals. They thought honesty and equality were possible in love, and that comradeship and solidarity started in bed.
However, after all that the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s
in the United States and Europe was not really followed by a political one
(this strangely echoes the fact that vice versa, in the end the Russian revolution of 1917 did not bring sexual liberation1). Free love made it all the
way around, clockwise, left to right: its underlying idea of changing the
world was replaced, step-by-step, by an imperative of changing ones own
attitude towards this world; sexual experimentation became an ordinary
part of refined bourgeois culture. Its liberating energy was dissipated by
mutual agreements, contracts, and calculations, seeking to equate the
amount of orgasms and bodily pleasure consumed by independent partners who respected each others rights and personal space and avoided
any reactionary feelings (including love as addiction, jealousy as possessiveness, etc.) which could threaten their individual autonomy and internal peace.2
Since then it appears that so much love has been made, so many bodies shaking in peaceful orgasms, but so many wars have been waged, too,

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and are still waging, so that it became clear that making love, however
free, does not really present an alternative to waging war. On the contrary,
it seems there is something deeply in common between war and lovemaking: not onlyas mass culture and popular psychology indicatethat
there are some elements of fight in any love game, but also both love and
war are considered to belong to the very definition of the human species:
people often claim that non-human animals copulate but never really
make love, just as they fight but never really wage wars.
Such a way of talking about non-human animals is, indeed, absolutely hackneyed. Before the classical anthropocentric paradigm started to get
seriously criticized, it was repeatedly said that animals, for example, look
but dont really see, or they have a voice but not really a language, or some
natural needs but not really desires, some impulses but not really drives,
and so on. In brief, they do or have something, but this something is not
yet endowed with the same sense as it is for us, humans, that they do or
have some mere something (like need, sex, and fight), whereas we do or
have some special, or even proper one (like desire, love, and war).
This metaphysical strategy of drawing a line of difference between
human and non-human animals is now widely opposed either by evidence
that non-human animals in fact do love, speak, think, desire, and so on
(which is another way of positing that they, too, are human) (see Rowlands 2002), or by disclosing the evil, repressive, violent nature of reason,
language, love, and other officially human thingsnot to mention war.
And yet, I will refer to this old compromised strategy and the discussion
on the human/non-human divide as it regards love and war once again in
order to retrieve from it another possibility, which was heretofore totally
disregarded, namely the one of true loveor true sexwhich we have
never had before.
Although this might look very rough and draw serious objections, I
rely here on language in making an equation, just for convenience, between love and sex. I simply use making love as another way of talking
about having sex, and as objectionable as it might be, I find extremely
significant the fact that while at some higher level of abstraction love and
sex might seem two completely different things, if not opposites, this
rough equation nevertheless exists and persists in our everyday language.
Doesnt it actually bring us to some unconscious truth, or even unconscious desire, which the everyday language reveals: making love and having sex should be one and the same?
This has nothing to do with the commonplaces and double standards
of morality, which suggest a popular delusion of having the free choice
between mere sex (animal, as they say), and proper sex for love. I consciously mistake sex for love so as not to mistake something different
for sex or lovenamely, masturbation or porn. I argue that in a capitalist
society that leads constant wars for expanding markets, the difference between sex and porn, between sex and masturbation, is more relevant and

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crucial than the one between sex and love. The main question of this essay could therefore be the following: Where does the sexual being of the
human animal stay with regard to capitalism, and why there is war?
In order to approach this question one has to first leave behind the
widespread nave belief that sex brings us back to our animal roots, making us wild like beasts, and so on. Yes, there is a certain bestial element to
sex, but it is of a high complexity and quite far from the alleged immediate
natural animality which still dwells somewhere in a mythical paradise.
Such a nave belief in naturalness (and therefore a kind of beauty and innocence) of all bodily functions including sexual ones was of those false
flags which brought the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s to a
dead end, but which is still repeatedly raised by various new age utopias
and spiritual movements searching for an authentic origin of humankind
and universe. There is no natural sexuality that one would freely enjoy in
multiple ways in peace and happiness. The human animal is one who
makes wars and tries to find ways of making love in wartime. Other options do not exist: if there is peace, it is not in the mess of our beds, but
only, and scarcely, in the solitude of our graves; in the cemetery where we,
supposedly, rest.
Far from providing the natural foundation of human lives, sexuality
is the very terrain upon which humans detach themselves from nature:
the idea of sexual perversion or of a deadly sexual passion is totally foreign to the animal universe, says Slavoj iek in Less Than Nothing
(2012b: 440). In the passage he criticizes Hegel, who describes how,
through culture, the natural substance of sexuality is cultivated, sublated, but misses such a great moment as an excess of negativity, through
which human sexuality is not only transformed or civilized, but, much
more radically, changed in its very substance, so that, instead of natural
sexuality, we are dealing with this totally metaphysical, unnatural passion which we are trying to domesticate. This excess of negativity, unnoticed by Hegel, opens the very dimension of unruliness identified by
Kant as the violent freedom on account of which man, in contrast to animals, needs a master (iek 2012b: 44041). In place of Hegels cultural
negation of nature, iek thus considers human sexuality as an unruly
excess of unnatural negativity which itself needs to be domesticated.
A very important account on this excessive negativity is to be found
not so much in Lacan, whose work is undoubtedly an immediate reference
for iek, but in Georges Bataille. Even if his philosophy of transgression
would be qualified by Lacan as a case of psychosis comparable to that of
Schreber (1971: 101), or he is suspected by iek of irresponsible nihilism (Ryder 2010: 94108), it is precisely the excess of negativity that, for
Bataille, opposes specifically human sexualitywhich he insists on naming eroticismto mere animal sexual behavior. Essentially, eroticism is
the sexual activity of man, as opposed to that of animals, he says in
TheHistory of Eroticism (Bataille 1991: 27). Bataillean animals simply stay

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in the immediacy and immanence of nature, in its, so to say, positive continuity (see Bataille 1992: 17), where they endlessly enjoy unlimited sexual freedom. In Batailles dualist (anti)philosophy animals clearly stay as
utopian figures of natural immanence, which some proponents of sexual
liberation and numerous peaceful new agers do also believe in. But the
significant difference is that for Bataille, humans do not have any direct
access to the continuity of natureand this is already an argument, which
makes sense regardless of whether such continuity exists or not. The sexual life of humans is not natural but is erotic, that is, highly mediated by
prohibitions, prescriptions, and rituals. The border of prohibition, beyond
which there is nature, is precisely the line of negation: Man is the animal
that negates nature (Bataille 1991: 61).
Such negation of nature in Bataille is not an overcoming or dialectical Aufhebung, as it was in Hegel, but rather a violent exclusion: The
forms of animality were excluded from a bright world which signified humanity (1991: 6162). A total transformation of nature is a spectacle:
nature is neither eliminated, nor really transformed, but excluded; such
things as death, spontaneous sexual intercourse, menstrual blood, consanguineous mating, or defecation do not become more sublime and cultivated, but stay beyond the border of prohibitionthat is how the domain of sacred violence appears (and thus, after all, animals become
gods). One might compare it to repression in a psychoanalytic sense; the
appearance of the sacred out of excluded nature at the level of social organization is parallel to the appearance of the unconscious out of excluded animal sexuality and instincts on the level of individual psychological
life. The latter moment refers to what Freud in Civilization and Its Discontents described as organic repression that happened with mans adoption
of an upright posture (2002).
From this negation of natural animality that is the first step of Bataillean humanity, there is no way back. There is nothing less animal or
natural than our highly mediated rituals, deeply rooted in religious tradition, of orgy, love, prostitution (starting from the sacred, or temple prostitution), or marriage. The same logic can be applied to sexual liberation:
the communal promiscuity and experimentation with pleasure of civilized western people within contemporary capitalist society have nothing
to do with the return to the animal origin which they seek, but rather indicate yet another refined level of detachment from it. Sex does not make
us animals. According to Bataille, it once made us human, and since then
our life is wounded by this violent rupture with animality, whose irreducible material trace is forever our own body tortured by erotic desire which
tends towards obscenity and perversion. It is precisely this element of
excessive, unnatural negativity that conditions our desire and makes its
objects so attractive for us.
Obscenity deserves special attention in this regard. It is, as Bataille
characterizes it, not exactly an object, but rather a relation between an

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II
I will now refer to another remarkable perspective, in comparison to
which Batailles radical negative anthropology still remains a part of the
so-called bourgeois culture. Quite a unique, exceptional view on human
sexuality is produced out of the historical and bodily experience of knowing something different than capitalism, however catastrophic or ephem3

For more on Batailles notion of eroticism see my book: Timofeeva (2015).

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object and the mind of a person (1991: 54). Thus, nudity for humans is
not the same as it is for animals. Animals walk around naked, but this
causes no inconvenience to the animals themselves, nor to the humans
who observe them. A naked beast does not really look obscene; we hardly
remember that it is naked, as if it were protected from our bawdy undressing gaze by nature itself. In turn, in the world of human beings, nudity, as
Bataille says, slips towards obscenity (1991: 151), but it does so precisely because it reveals forbidden human animality that hides itself in
dresses. Moreover, as he says, obscenity itself is nothing but natural animality, the horror of which establishes our humanity (1991: 149).
This extensive reference to Bataille is used here as a way to once
again reconsider a perspective of interpreting sex as that which transforms animals into humans (and not the other way around). It is precisely
this negative, mediated, ritualistic sexuality that brings us to the so-called
human universe. Sexual intercourse, so to say, initiates us as human beings. In Bataille this transformation is a historical drama about the beginning of humankind. Such a perspective finds a brilliant cinematic illustration in Nagisa Oshimas Max, Mon Amour (1986). The main female character of this movie is in love with a monkey, whose name is Max. Her husband gets jealous, but is also curious. He wants to see how it happens between the woman and the monkey. While she is away, he brings to Max a
prostitute. The animal, however, does not show any interest in the prostitute. So the woman tries to seduce him by offering him an applebut he
rejects the fruit, too.
All the symbolic difference between human and animal, on which
western Christian culture is based, is here in this apple: if the animal
takes it, it will have sex with the prostitute, acquire knowledge of good
and evil and finally be expelled, naked and obscene, from his innocent
animal Paradise. Its offspring will work hard, give birth in pain, lead wars,
start revolutions, and constantly prohibit themselves from making love:
the intensity of their orgasms will depend upon violation of this very prohibition. Eroticism contributes to anthropogenesisthis is one of Batailles main points.3 An erect and obscene human body wants to explode
for the whole Christian universe, twisted around the initial sin.

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eral this difference might be. It refers to the avant-garde urge of changing
the entire universe together with the very nature of humanity and animality, changing the very nature of nature (which blew up the brains of
some Russians right after October Revolution of 1917). The idea was not
to liberate human sexuality or to liberate humans via sexualityas was
suggested by Wilhelm Reich and other Freudo-Marxists who sought the
cause of the political revolutions decay in the Soviet Union in the failure
of sexual emancipation (Reich 1986: 157281)but to liberate them from
sexuality.
What is to be done with sex? This was one of the most urgent questions of nascent Soviet culture. Different solutions to this question were
outlined, proposed, and deliberately applied by people, or violently imposed by the state, on everyday practices in the post-revolutionary years
prior to the so-called Stalinist reconstruction that brought back traditional family values and sexual restrictions. A lot of research is dedicated to
tendencies, movements, and solutions which took place during this short
period (e.g., Naiman 1997). I cannot give the whole panorama of the paradoxes of the failure of sexual revolution in Russia (note, however, that it
collapsed for different reasons than the western sexual revolution of the
19601970s, which was happening within the framework of the capitalist
economic structure where it was absorbed by processes of production and
consumption of bodily pleasure), but will focus exclusively on the case of
Andrey Platonovs position on sexuality, and only in one of its particular
moments.
In his short critical essay Dostoevsky, Platonov writes:
The bourgeoisie produced the proletariat. Sex gave birth to consciousness. Sex is the soul of bourgeoisie. Consciousness is the soul of the proletariat. Bourgeoisie and sex did the work of their lifethey have to be
destroyed (Platonov 2004: 4546).

Each short sentence in this quotation deserves an extended commentary. If the idea that the bourgeoisie produced the proletariat sounds
familiar to anyone who has heard of the Communist Manifesto at least
once, then sex giving birth to consciousness makes a sudden shift in the
Marxist vision of how things developed. Here, as in some other aspects,
Platonov seems to be quite close to Bataille4 with his statements about
eroticism being what makes an animal humanhe recognizes the exceptional transformative potential of sex. However, consciousness in Platonov does not necessarily equal the human. Consciousness is the soul of
the proletariat, he says. The bourgeoisie, too, has a soul, which is sex. Both

4
The first comparison between Platonov and Bataille was proposed by Thomas
Seifrid, who discusses their gnostico-materialist tendencies (1998).

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5
See Bozovic (2000: 17); see also some preliminary notes on Platonovs soul
(Timofeeva 2012: 136).

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sex and consciousness are souls. The demarcation line, the place where
the passage happens, the point of no return, is not between humans and
other animals, but between two souls: that of the proletariat and of the
bourgeoisie. There is a moment of transformation or even metamorphoses,
of one soul into another, of sex into consciousness. The bourgeoisie is
then, so to say, the body of sex; it is as productive and historically necessary, as is sex, but its work is done, and hence its time is over: another
body is already born where consciousness dwells. No sex for a communist.
Let me make a short digression here to share some considerations on
how in this context we should understand the word soul. Andrey Platonov is in fact a kind of spontaneous Aristotelian. Namely, he reads the
soul as animal life. As emphasized by Eugene Thacker, it is not so much
zoe or bios (as Agamben suggest), as psyche, which defines first and foremost the meaning of Aristotelian anima: psyche, that is the principle-oflife; that is, basically, what animates the animal (2010: 13). Platonovs
soul is not a spiritual substance, as in Christian tradition, but a corporeal
one. Animals not only move, but transform into one another and this
transformation in Aristotle take the shape of metempsychosis (in which
ancient Greeks believed).5 It is interesting how, in his History of Animals,
Aristotle describes this processes in the case of the butterflyfrom caterpillars through to chrysalis to the winged creature that we call the psyche
or butterfly (Aristotle 1970: 175). The Aristotelian soul is a butterfly.
In Platonov the soul is animal, too. It is synonymous with life. In his
novel Soul, he describes a nomadic and very poor nation wandering about
the desert in Central Asia. The nation is called Dzhan, which means soul,
or dear life (Platonov 2008: 25). He is talking about feeding the soul
with animal meat, which provides the body with its own good soul: the
human soul eating the animal body while the human body is eating the
animal soul (Platonov 2008: 92). Not only does the soul move from one
body to another, but the life itself transformsmetempsychosis goes together with metamorphosses. Soul is in Platonov the very substance of
life (and is basically, in the situation of power and absolute lack of any
material resources, the very substance out of which people are supposed
to build communism).
In the chapter of my book on animals, dedicated to Platonov, I compare his poor life with Agambens bare life (Timofeeva 2011; 2012:
13957), but the same thing can be also called naked soul. And yes,
there is such a character in Platonovit is celebrated in his very short
(two page) 1921 satirical essay called The Human Soul is an Obscene
Animal. At the beginning of this essay Platonov writes about a communist, who has a beast in his heart, and whose soul is free from underwear

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and boots of decency (2004: 16870). The beast of the soul is naked and
exposed in its desire for communism. Moreover, it is obscene. Its not the
human body that is obscene in its animality, as in Bataille, but the human
soul, a miraculous beast.
On the other hand, in Platonovs Chevengur (1978: 80) the human
soul is depicted as a eunuch, a passionless observer, a little spectator,
a midnight watcher, or overseer who lives within the person, although
one who never occupies his own body (Podoroga 1991: 385). The eunuch
of the soul is a figure of castration (Magun 2010: 88), or, as Valery Podoroga puts it, of abstention and purity, based on a single fundamental prohibition, that is, the prohibition of masturbation, understood broadly
enough to include any forms and artifacts of sexual pleasures (1991:
406). Between the obscenity of the beast and the coolness of the eunuch,
the idea that sex is the soul of the bourgeoisie and consciousness the soul
of the proletariat is even more puzzling.
As emphasized by some scholars, in his approach to sexuality Platonov moves from the radical revolutionary asceticism of the 1920s, which
presents some spiritual drive of Christian Gnosticism queerly mixed with
communist utopianism, or some sectarianism seeing victory over sex as
victory over death (Hanzen-Lwe 2009: 178), to the rehabilitation of family and sexual life in his later period (Naiman 1998; Livers 2000). His early
radical tendencies are, of course, also in focus of the feminist critique,
which demonstrate that the writer associates woman with the bourgeoisie and ascribes her all the vulgarity of sex corrupting the revolutionary
cause and drawing humanity back to the past. Platonov, especially in the
early (pre-Stalinist, the most utopian) period of his literary work, is reproached for being a misogynist (Bullock 2005). There is a lot of confusion
here, also because the word sex in Platonov is used in both senses of
sexuality and gender, and in both cases sex means something (to be) overcome. I would like to suggest, however, that this necessity to overcome
does not imply any contempt of sex, asexuality (indifference to sex, absence of sexual desire) or antisexuality. On the contrary, dark passion
matters more than anything else.
As has already been said, in his vision sex makes one conscious. It is
not humanization in a strict sense, because those who were living, say,
before consciousness, were humans too (moreover, in a number of Platonovs writings, animals and plants are also humanthey all have a kind
of silent human soul within their animal or vegetable bodies). It is just
that not every human being is consciousfor instance, the bourgeoisie is
not, therefore it needs sex in order to become conscious. Does this sound
really antisexual?No. Sex is not just a reactionary phenomenon, but is
first and foremost a necessary emancipatory force. Without sex, such a
transformation of one soul into another would have not been possible.
Furthermore, in a broader sense the conscious proletariat, born from
the sex of the bourgeoisie, is not free of desire. It just desires not sex itself,

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he knew the direct, unbearable feelings of wild animals and birds. They
cannot weep and so find comfort for themselves, and forgiveness for
their enemy, in tears and in exhaustion of heart. They can only act, wanting to wear out their suffering in combat, inside the dead body of their
enemy or in their own destruction (Platonov 2008: 89).

Animals are even voluptuous: just like the bourgeois, the smallest
animals hurry to love each otherand this is how life persists and tries to
maintain itself in anticipation of a better future, as if sex was needed for
the bourgeois and other animals in order to keep the body alive, that is,
6
On the desire for communism in Platonov see: Flatley (2008: 15890); Jameson (1994: 97).
7
Chepurny touched a burdock it too wanted communism [] Just like the
proletariat, this grass endures the life of heat and the death of deep snow (Platonov
1978: 198); see also Flatley (2008: 186).
8
In his essay on the negativity revolution in Platonov, Artemy Magun argues
that Platonovs abstention relates not so much to sexuality in general as to orgasm as
its culminating point. To postpone means to resist an achievement, an end to a certain
process, to resist eschatology and movement of time towards the end. Magun further
explains Platonovs rejection of sex as caused by his fear of castration, symbolized by
the figure of the woman (2010).

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but rather something elsenamely, it wants communism.6 One can read


it as that very unnatural desire, negativity, which, according to iek
transforms the very substance of sex. An intensity of this political desire
is bigger than that of a sexual one. In fact, every living creature in Platonov wants communism, even a burdock,7 but, so to say, they do not
know that they want it, or cannot say so. In the proletariat this desire is
conscious, which is why proletarians are able to go so far as to deliberately use the energy withdrawn from sexual abstention for the building of
a common communist future, for better or for worse (therein Platonov is
extremely ambiguous: he knows what the burdock want, but no one knows
what, if anything, Platonov himself wants, and what he wants to say). As
with all other animals, Platonovs proletarians indeed feel sexual desire,
but they constantly postpone its satisfaction until the moment when
their political project is finally realized and a new society is built: this
postponement is a permanent motive of his prose.8
I have already suggested elsewhere that Platonovs Bolsheviks and
communists are revolutionary animals (Timofeeva 2012: 14547). Animals
meant those sensual beings whose desire does not know any (dialectical,
intellectual, linguistic, etc.) interruption or rupture until its satisfaction
or death (if they do not get what they want). Platonovs animals do not
give up. Their desires are unbearable and desperate. That is how, for example, he describes them in Soul:

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endowed with the soul. They might not know exactly what their real desire is, but we communists know. The conscious proletariat interprets unconscious animal desire politically, as the desire for communism. It will
let its own sexuality free only after this primary political desire is satisfied
and the happy future will arrive. One has to wait for another five or ten
years for a communism to arrive, when mechanisms will enter into labor
and let people free for a mutual passion, says one the characters of Platonovs Sea of Youth (1990: 316). Such an animal cannot just make love
before communism is builtthis is yet another, not so explicit, side of
Platonovs asceticism, which is revealed through animality and complicates the initial idea of the already achieved victory of the consciousness
of the proletariat over the sex of the bourgeoisie.
There must be something which binds these two Platonovsthe one
of sex as fait accompli and the one of its postponement towards a proper
communist future (this sex, which is yet to happen, is actually never seriously discussed in Platonov; not only is it itself postponed, but also the
very idea of it is put off). What happens in this intermediate period, so to
speak, between the two sexes? Its easy to suggest that masturbation
would be a solutionand this is precisely what some scholars do, even
interpreting Platonovs essay The Anti-Sexuswhich seems to be the
bitterest parody on masturbationas a veiled apology of it. In The AntiSexus, Platonov pitilessly ridicules the capitalist ideology of effectiveness and shows its dependence on taking control over, and calculating
sexual enjoyment. It is the explicit content of an alleged advertising brochure promoting a masturbatory device for the Soviet market already successfully distributed in western capitalist countries.
In his important analysis of the avant-gardes take on sex, Mikhail
Zolotonosov claims that Platonovs The Anti-Sexus is a parody not on
capitalist society, but, on the contrary, on the Soviet one, which either
imposes on people a moral of asceticism and sexual abstention, or appeals
to the idea of rationalizing peoples emotional life and the scientific organization of labor. However, according to Zolotonosov it is not only a parody: in fact, Platonov creates his fantasy of a total onanization of some
overseas capitalist society in order to actually oppose it to the restrictions
of communists obsessed with their phobia of sex and masturbation and
the ideas of the discipline of communist bodies. For Zolotonosov it is not
only a negative parody on the realities of Soviet life, there is also a serious hedonist meaning in The Anti-Sexus, which thus suggests masturbation as a positive alternative to the ascetic principles aggressively imposed by communist propaganda, and anticipates a positive attitude toward it in contemporary medicine (1999: 472). But isnt this healthy, sterile masturbation, now widely advertised, precisely what Platonov is
laughing at?
As opposed to this reverse interpretation (when, roughly speaking,
instead of capitalism we should read communism, and instead of

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9
On the asceticism of Platonovs socialist man see the remarkable essay by
Georg Lukcs (1937).
10
Im against the Anti-Sexus. It doesnt allow for intimacy, for the living interaction of peoples souls (Platonov 2013). Chaplins would seem the lone voice of humanist reason in a text otherwise dedicated to the mechanization of intimate life. But
even here there is an ambivalent twist, as Aaron Schuster comments on this (2013: 46).

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masturbation is bad we should read masturbation is good in a kind of


Orwellian manner), I am defending a nave, literary reading of Platonov,
which makes him more than a writer who was producing parodiesnow
belonging to the history of literatureof the society he lived in. What he
explicitly said, directly and clearly, proves that he was an untimely thinker, an intellectual whose ideas are extremely relevant now as ever.
As emphasized by Igor Chubarov, according to Platonov sexuality in
bourgeois civilization is essentially masturbatory (2011: 244). The Anti-Sexus, this very short text from 1926, gives an in-depth analysis of and
diagnoses contemporary capitalism rather than socialism of the 1920s.
The very title of this essayThe Anti-Sexuscannot vouch for masturbation as a hedonistic solution for the repressed sexuality of the Soviets
simply because the device it advertises is antisexual (andnot to forget
Platonov himself is not: the communist asceticism9 he propagates is not
antisexual). Masturbation is not ascetic. It is, as it were, hedonist, but:
masturbation is not sex, it is antisex. The apparatus described by Platonov
is designed to prevent sex. With the Anti-Sexus, capitalist production imposes masturbation (healthy, safe, pleasurable, harmless, individually designed, cheap, etc.) instead of sex (which inevitably causes problems since
other people are involved). There is a kind of synchrony between this machine and a chastity belt or any other archaic antisexual devicethey
serve the same purpose. You touch yourself in order not to touch others
and not to be touched by them. Paraphrasing Charlie Chaplins I am
against the Anti-Sexus,10I am against masturbation (let this make me
Platonovs character, too).
This runs against the current, indeed. Nowadays masturbation is
praised not only in medicine. Thus, according to Wilson, in todays capitalist society the function of sex has changed, not from the reproductive
to the pleasurable, as we frequently hear, but rather from the dyadic to the
onanistic: for a large and increasing number of persons masturbation
has become the dominant form of sexual activity, if it can be so understood (1989: 13637). After the publication of the Kinsey reports
(1998[1948]; [1953]), and then Masters and Johnsons research (1966),
masturbation, previously stigmatized in Christian tradition, was now considered harmless and common, even a cure. The use of masturbation is
universally provenit is not only physically healthy and gives the body
necessary relaxation, providing mental comfort and therefore better
social security and sanity, but is also totally politically correct and liberat-

No. 1

We Have Never Had Sex

Oxana Timofeeva

ing. When we masturbate, we do not need to interact with living people,


which is good not only for us but also for these peopleour fantasy does
not harm anyone, physically or psychologically. No addiction, no misunderstandings, no shame, no disgrace, no broken hearts. It gives a strictly
individual pleasure, and does not violate the rights and borders of the
other, whose sexual desire and the content of whose sexual fantasies do
not meet our own. Masturbation is not only mainstream,11 but paradigmatic; it brutally replies, using the mute sign language to the Lacanian
formula there is no such thing as a sexual relationship (Lacan 1998: 12).
In his essay on Platonov, iek describes a gadget called the Stamina Training Unit, available in todays market and actually quite close to
what was imagined by Platonov. The product is available in different colors, tightness, and forms that imitate all three main openings for sexual
penetration (mouth, vagina, anus). What one buys here is simply the partial object (erogenous zone) alone, deprived of the embarrassing additional burden of the entire person (iek 2012a: 10). Accompanying this
observation, which precisely gets to the root of the problem, Platonovs
deep intuition brings us to the conclusion that capitalism itself is antisexual, together with the countable, healthy masturbatory pleasures it
provides. Masturbation is the essence of the disciplinary society where
time is money, says Wilson (1989: 136). What if this society is ruled by
what Aaron Schuster calls an invisible handjob of the market (2013:
42)? Isnt it then that all sexual toys overflowing the contemporary market are at the same time antisexual toys? Above them all, capitalism is a
universal antisexual device which prevents real sex by making us masturbate with a living partner or without (iek 2008).12
The role that objects, as mentioned by iek, play in the capitalist
economy of pleasure should not be underestimated. The art of partial
sexual objects is called porn. It serves the purpose of masturbation.13 We
mistake porn for sex, as well as mistaking masturbation for love. Capitalism is a society of loners who keep masturbating to porn while dreaming
about love. We throw our sperm into the junkyard of partial objects, organs without bodies, and bodies without souls, while dreaming about sex.
Capitalism makes us concentrate on the screen of visual representation,
where these objects are exposed for our pleasure.
War is the perfect machine for producing partial objects for the purpose of the great capitalist handjob. The visual, material evidence of war
11
See Attwood, ed. (2009), especially Chapter 5, Mainstreaming of Masturbation: Autoeroticism and Consumer Capitalism (Tuck 2009: 7793).
12
The term masturbation can refer not only to situations where a given person is alone, but where two (or more) individuals are engaged in one or another form of
sexual activity (Wilson 1989: 136).
13
For Marxist and feminist account on porn, masturbation and capitalism see:
Wilson (1989: 13099), and Soble (1986).

156

14
See the dialog-performance with Nikolay Oleynikov Making Love in Wartime: Sex, Beasts, Violence. (Timofeeva & Oleynikov 2014).
15
We have never been human paraphrases Donna Haraway: this is the title of
the first chapter of her When the Species Meet (2008), who, in turn, paraphrases Bruno
Latours We Have Never Been Modern (1991).

157

Vol. 4 (2016)

is dismembered bodies and disembodied members, spread legs and hands,


breasts, open mouths without faces. War porn gives the molds to other
forms of porn involved into capitalist production and the consumption of
pleasures. This is the one function of war in capitalist libidinal economy.
The other function too serves the general purpose of preventing sex: war
separates potential partners; soldiers do not come back to their fiances;
they will lose their hands before they will be able to hug their beloved
ones.14 Thats why the slogan make love, not war misses the markthere
is no free choice between war and love making. We would love to, but just
cannot make love until there is warwe can only masturbate.
Of course war as such is not correlated with capitalism: there were
wars long before. Capitalist economy, however, in spite of the technological conditions for peace, keeps balanced with some new type of imperialist war involving multiple players roaming about the worldfrom Vietnam to Afghanistan, from Iraq to Palestine, from Ukraine to Syria. As was
already emphasized by Rosa Luxemburg in 1913, wars, caused by expansion and violent struggle for new markets, actually provide a positive circulation of capital (Luxemburg 1951). But these wars of new type also
contribute to the imaginary of a new typethey are highly represented in
the media, brought into our lives as series of images which we consume
with a stream of information. In this sense, war under capitalism is a production line which provides partial objects for our masturbation, or makes
us partial objects for the masturbation of others. The war machine is thus
yet another antisexus, which makes us masturbate to porn not even with
living, but with dead (or undead) partners and prevents us having sex or
making love with each other. Why so? The following argument is suggested as a kind of animal cross-reading of Platonov and Bataille, in times
of war, under capitalism.
On the one hand, there is a strong rational kernel in Batailles idea
that sex makes us human out of animals, but his claim that this is a historical event which occurred in the old days and made us forever irreversibly human remains suspended. What if we have never yet been human?15
What if the transformative event of sex had not yet occurred? On the
other hand, not everything is simple with Platonovs idea of sex producing
consciousness. Again, one must not hurry to agree with his claim that this
is what already happenedas if we were already living in communism,
where not sex, but conscious creative activity reigned. Radical revolutionary asceticism refuses antisexus or masturbation in order to keep alive a
communist fantasy.

No. 1

We Have Never Had Sex

Oxana Timofeeva

What if Platonovs third position, a kind of intermediate point between past bourgeois (overcome) and future communist (postponed) sex,
far from praising masturbation, which turns to be a sensual accomplice of
the capitalist mechanism of making profits from waging wars, can rather
be described as an anticipation, fantasizing about overcoming sex while
still postponing it for a better future, where it will finally give birth to
consciousness? What if we just add what if to the claim that sex already
produced consciousness and is therefore to be abolished? It will then become not even a regulative idea, but an anticipation which gives content
to our, still unconscious (as far as we are still bourgeois, still animal, etc.),
political desire, which we can only experience as sexual because we do not
know other options. We are still waiting for sex, we still want it, and thus
we anticipate communism.
So, capitalism and war mobilize porn in order to make us masturbate
with living, dead, or undead partners, and to prevent us from having sex
(in Platonovs sense, as a mutual passion that we postpone) because sex,
the desire of which anticipates communism, is a danger. Once we have it,
it can, as Platonov suggests, give birth to consciousness, to some new humanity which has never existed before, just like a simple kiss in a fairy tale
can make a swan, or a frog, a princess, and a gift of a prostitute can make
a monkey a man. But first it will awaken the obscene beast of our soul,
which, when naked, suddenly wants communism. An unregulated sex is
an unregulated soul, (Platonov 2013: 50) say the Anti-Sexuss advocates.
The aim of their machine is to get rid of bestial obscenity, which comes
into the world with a human animal soul. Capitalist governments send
soldiers to war and make consumers masturbate in order to exclude any
possibility of metamorphoses, to prevent the magic love we have never
made before. One of the main components of our sexual desire, due to
which it cannot be fully satisfied, is this essentially political fantasy of a
non-capitalist love, which is there to awaken us from the oblivion of masturbation and war, towards a conscious human life. This is the only sex
Iwant.

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Rowlands, Mark (2012). Animals Like Us. London: Verso.
Ryder, Andrew (2010). Inner Experience is Not Psychosis: Batailles Ethics and Lacanian Subjectivity. Parrhesia 9: 94108.

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Soble, Alan (1986). Pornography: Marxism, Feminism and the Future of Sexuality. New
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ISSN 2310-3817

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No. 1 p. 182220

The
Love
of
the
Future:
Open
nesslity
/Tota
The Love of the Future:
Openness/Totality
Discussion

[At the Poryadok Slov bookshop, 2 April, 2015]


Artemy Magun, Oxana Timofeeva, Yoel Regev, Galina Rymbu,
Yelena Kostyleva, and others

Introduction
Multiple-love: Polyamory and its Discourse
Yelena Kostyleva
Emerging in 1990s America among the educated white middle class,
polyamory is not so much a trend or a movement, not so much a practice
or theory, as a new ethic of human relationships that has long found no
place within the framework of the nuclear family and cannot be described
within its terminology. That which is commonly referred to as the crisis of
the traditional family is, in essence, the emergence of new forms of the
same, but until the appearance of the term polyamory these forms had
no language to describe themselves except in negative terms with regard
to traditional social mores.
In its doctrine, polyamory has brought together the most recent popular achievements of European humanitarian thought, including gender
theory, feminism, and queer theory. In principle, it represents a kind of
collection and complex of explanations of why it is that entering into intimate relations with multiple people can be just as acceptable from the

182

Full freedom of marriage can therefore only be generally established


when the abolition of capitalist production and of the property relations
created by it has removed all the accompanying economic considerations which still exert such a powerful influence on the choice of a marriage partner. For then there is no other motive left except mutual inclination (Engels 1993: 50).

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point of view of the wider society as doing so with a single partner, and of
how this can be done in an ethical manner without adversely affecting,
oppressing, or causing suffering to anyone (utopian components are, of
course, just as present in polyamory as the sadomasochistic).
Non-repressive polyamorous relations, ethical non-monogamy, conscious and responsible non-monogamy, consensual non-monogamy, or
simple polyamory are distinguished by several principles that are absent
in other forms of polygamy. These are the voluntary aspect (of consent, in
distinction to polygyny), honesty (the awareness of all participants as to
the structure of the relationships in which they find themselves; by which
polyamory can be distinguished from adultery), responsibility (marking it
out from swinging or any other forms of purely sexual relationship), trust,
and the overcoming of jealousy (through which two points polyamory approximates a Christian or altruistic values system). To these, the principle
of non-hierarchy is often added, though there exist variations of polyamorous relationships whose participants recognise hierarchies as a structuring principle that are complex in comparison with those of dyadic
unions. In the formation of a new system of ethics for love relationships
that is taking place before our very eyes, a great role is played by criticism
of the elements of patriarchy found within them, as well as by the analysis
of power relations.
Polyamorous unions, numbering in the United States at around half
a million, are classified according to their degree of openness, periodically merging to indistinguishability from group marriages or open (but at
base traditional) Swedish families, and so on.
In line with the massive changes in love practices and the reinterpretation of the very concept of love that are taking place, radical questions
raise themselves. If the very event of intimacy no longer involves either
biographical consequences (pregnancy or disease) or even social condemnation (rather the opposite), then what exactly are sexual relationships
today? For polyamorists, they definitely exist, but what is their status? To
put it another waywhat is it now, outside the framework of traditional
bourgeois (prohibitive) morality, that is signified by the phrase my sexual partner? Who is this person? What links them with me? And is not the
subject of polyamory the relationship itself, rather than the people who
comprise it, or the ideology by which it is accompanied?
Engels, in The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, anticipated just such a turn of events:

No. 1

The Love of the Future: Openness/Totality

Discussion

The first attempts to organise the new family are already taking
place under capitalism, however. These attempts are aimed towards a
change in the forms of distribution of libido and the libidinous economy.
In the polyamorous nucleus, elements of the bourgeois family have been
preservedthe general opinion being that polyamorists are not revolutionaries, but people in slippers, though there is some revolutionary potential in them. Falling into the gap between the unforbidden and the
unpermitted and remaining invisible to regulatory structures, they, unlike
the LGBT community, have no desire to be recognized by the official
authorities or the church. Polyamory has another mechanism for legitimation. It affirms itself with the help of extensive scientific and media
discoursebeginning, arguably, with the most popular book on polyamory, The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy (2009), and the classic works by Deborah Anapol, The New Love Without Limits (1997), and
Elisabeth Sheff, The Polyamorists Next Door (2014). More in-depth investigations can be found in the polyamory library at the Kinsey Institute,1
where various aspects of the phenomenon are examined in the framework
of psychology, sociology, philosophy, and gender, queer, cultural and interdisciplinary studies. The interdisciplinary approach is also adopted by
the international conference on the future of monogamy and nonmonogamy, which has taken place four years in a row at the University of California in Berkeley.2 And, of course, polyamory seeks its basis in artistic traditionsand fortunately, the history of free relations has been recorded in
art for as long as they have existed.
The very flexibility of structure in the polyamorous family
compels it to be constantly conceptualizing and reconceptualizing itself.
Life in the polyamorous nucleus of society is a constant doubting of the
universality of universal laws on how to live and the constant estab
lishment of them for yourself: each timeanew, and each timefrom
scratch.

Bibliography
Anapol, Deborah M. (1997). Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits: Secrets of Sustainable Intimate Relationships. San Rafael, CA: Intinet Resource Center.
Easton, Dossie, and Janet W. Hardy (2009). The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures, 2nd ed. Berkley, CA: Celestial Arts.
Engels, Friedrich (1993). The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State. https://
www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/origin_family.pdf.

http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/library/Pdf/Polyamory%20Bibliography.pdf.
International Conference on the Future of Monogamy and Nonmonogamy.
http://www.thesaar.com.
1
2

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Sheff, Elisabeth (2014). The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction Library. Polyamory
Bibliography. Last modified December 2008. www.kinseyinstitute.org/library/Pdf/
Polyamory%20Bibliography.pdf.

Yelena Kostyleva: In this discussion we are definitely not going to get


into any general FAQ about polyamory. Suffice to say that this new trend
is widely discussed in the English-speaking world and that is mainly
where it takes place. Polyamory has had a vast ideology bolted on to it.
Discussion revolves primarily around such aspects of polyamory as its
openness, inclusivity, honesty, and various other ethical principles. The
movement is of interest insofar as it has tried to work out, within itself
and by itself, a certain new ethics of relations, by force of the ethics of
traditional relationships not describing the present subject as ethical relationships in principle. It is supposed that if people live together in a
couple and then marry, then everything which occurs beyond the bounds
of this marriage is instantly a betrayal and various other bad words. Many
do not wish to define themselves by means of various bad and offensive
words, but would like to describe the matter in ethical categories, desirous
of being an ethical subject. It seems to me that something is happening
with this most amoral subject that originated with Nietzsche following
the death of God. This amoral subject, I believe, no longer wants to be
referred to as amoral, and does not wish to define itself according to traditional morality at all.
I would like to go further in sharing some thoughts on how it is that
I now picture this polyamory to myself. And it is precisely as an attempt

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Konstantin Shavlovsky: Good evening! The initiative to organize our


meeting today first came about in connection with an exhibition that took
place in Saint Petersburg under the title And What About Love? and the
address given by Yelena Kostyleva at that exhibition on the theme of polyamory. After this exhibition and speech, heated discussions broke out on
social networks, and the suggestion was soon made to take this out of the
virtual environment and make it public and open, and to hold it here, in
Poryadok Slovfor the selection of this venue I thank our participants.
I shall now introduce the main participants of the discussion. We hope
that all our audience will join in, as the topic under discussion is one close
to the heart of everyone presentof which I have no doubt. And so, the
discussion title is The Love of the Future: Openness/Totality. Its participants are: the philosophers Artemy Magun, Yoel Regev, and Oxana
Timofeeva, and the poets Galina Rymbu and Yelena Kostyleva.

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Discussion

Discussion

to return to the language of paradise in the situation of the confounding


[of languages] at Babel. Crudely speaking, there once were two people,
and they understood one another fairly well, and we suppose they had
some kind of paradise language in which they spoke. Subsequently, they
were cast out, and then came the Flood. And then, after the Flood, the
descendants of Noah decided to build this Tower of Babel, to set up a kind
of human phallusthis tower, which was pointed towards God.
As a couple, its hard to come to an agreement, even by yourself its
hard, but its far harder to agree when there is a certain number of people.
And yet even so, when we postulate this attempt to speak in the tongue of
paradise in a small group, what is it that we get then? We come up against
the difficulty of translation from all languages in to all the others; we get
a certain sort of life in the absence of power, in the absence of the tower,
in the absence of God.
I will stop there for the moment. Perhaps somebody else would like
to continue.
Artemy Magun: It seems to me that Oxana Timofeeva came out at a
certain point on the social networks as an antagonist against this concept,
though on first impression she seemed rather the contrary. There was
nothing of paradise in what she said, but on the other hand there was the
concept of polyamory as one of new collective relations. Oxana Timofeeva, as though from the heights of her understanding of love, came out
categorically against this concept. I would like to hear her arguments.
Oxana Timofeeva: I cannot say that I am categorically against it, as
such. I acknowledge, however, that my first reaction to the idea of polyamory as a potential positive programme really was one of resistance. Unexpectedly, even for myself, I then ended up on the extremely unpopular
side of a defence of traditional institutions connected with traditional
ritual practicessuch as monogamous marriage, courtly love, romantic
love, and so on. That is, taking into account that these institutions may
fulfil certain repressive roles in societyparticularly in contemporary
Russian societyI found myself playing devils advocate.
I have taken an interest in matters of love and sexuality for many
years, though more theoretically than practically. And so, purely theoretically, I often pose the question: What will love be like under communism? This is a very important question, one that concerns the very
foundations of our way of life. Suppose we are now living in a society
where the fundamental antagonisms characteristic of capitalist society
have been resolvedthose connected with money, exploitation, alienation of labor, social injustice, and so forth. Will this mean that some kind
of easy life in paradise has begun for us, lacking in any contradictions at
all? I think not: if the economic contradictions imposed by capital are
removed, what we then will have uncovered are the deeper, more funda-

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Artemy Magun: This to me seemed a hysterical theory of love. I can


imagine what an obsessive theory of love will look like: Why does everybody love me?! Theres love everywhere! Might it not be time to move
onto friendship?
Oxana Timofeeva: And why hysterical?
Artemy Magun: Well, where to begin? In it can be heard the following
cry: Theres no genuine love anywhere. Where is it? Lets go and find it!

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mental antagonisms of human existence, and we will have to understand


what to do with such things as death, disease, and jealousy.
Let us suppose the existence of free love in our free society. And you
have fallen in love with a certain comrade, but he doesnt love you and is
in love with another comrade. Should he love you in return, and you, in
return for this, love the other comrade that he is already in love with? No
longer can you take refuge in the routine of unavoidable wage labor from
the pain caused by the suddenly revealed emptiness of unrequited love.
On the contrary, unalienated free creativity awaits you, which, possibly,
may only serve to exacerbate your suffering. I have long been doubtful of
the idea of liberated love and sexuality. Wilhelm Reich, in describing the
Russian Revolution, lamented that no sexual emancipation followed the
political revolution in the Soviet Union. And today we can point to the
fact that, in Europe and America, no political revolution was forthcoming
after the sexual revolution of the 1960s (thus demonstrating that the one
does not necessarily suppose the other).
The varied models of liberated sexuality with which liberal-democratic society gratifies us represent the conquests of this sexual revolution. However, in my opinion, the radical emancipation of the subject is
linked with the necessity of passing through the negativity of love, jealousy, and the rituals and affects connected with them. You need to learn
to love at least one person before you can set about organizing relationships with many others. Furthermore, in some sense, in the society in
which we live, we might not yet, perhaps, have achieved genuine sexual
relations, and we are all in some sense still innocent. We have not yet been
subjects of that transformative event which, like the kiss of the prince,
turns the frog into the princess. The impossible horizon of communism is
linked for me with such a transformative event, with a hypothetical first
kiss which we have always been waiting for, and in our confused expectation of which we simply masturbate, in solitude or beside others who are
as lonely as ourselves. Our relationships in the capitalist world are such
that even our partners are perceived in the context of certain part-objects,
organs, and economic functions. The very word partner is itself taken
from the world of capitalism.

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The Love of the Future: Openness/Totality

Discussion

Yelena Kostyleva: I would like to add literally three words. I want to


simultaneously agree and disagree. First of all, we believe in, so to say,
psychoanalytical communism, where all this has already been gone
through, where in the process of analysis you have already gone through
all this monogamous love and learnt thereby to love another. Of course,
polyamorists most often emerge from the good life, in the sense that
there exist certain phases in the building of a polyamorous identity.
Among these, the monogamous phase is an absolutely vital step on the
path to polyamory, as the polyamorists say. But, in actual fact, and this is
why I dont have an affinity for your theory as a whole, it seems to me that
you are suggesting that polyamory is connected with a certain simplification and flattening of feelings when you say Its so difficult with one, and
here you have to deal with several both technically complicated and
with a supposed internal simplification and some kind of superficiality.
Id like to say something in relation to this.
It seems to me that polyamory does not bring an automatic simplification of feelings or relations. Again, if we continue with this line of simplification, we come to the animal. The question is, is polyamory the highest form of the family or the oppositeits most primitive form? I devoted
considerable discussion to this in my address.
Artemy Magun: There was another interesting point in the initial
speech, Yelena. As a counter example, the case might be brought up of
the commune that was built up by the Viennese actionists around Otto
Muehl in the 1960s. Its one often raised by those who oppose polyamory. The commune was large, and at first it was a success. They had organized a clear-cut and stable institution, but it all ended up in a peculiar
primitive horde along Freudian lines, where Otto Muehl was the sole desirable man and had the rights to all women. As the women didnt want
to have relations with the other men, they had to form a queue to have
them with Otto Muehl himself, who, when he got older, began to take
advantage of this and ultimately ended up in jail for paedophilia, sexual
abuse, and so on.
This is a sad story, and it is cited by contemporary politically correct
Europeans in this context: that, under the slogan of emancipationof
which Oxana was just speakingwe actually get the tyranny of the strong,
but of the strong in a social sense, i.e., of men. And so polyamory is bad
from the point of view of feminism. It is actually a pretty cunning means
of oppressing women, and Otto Muehl ended up with a virtual harem by
means of all this chatter about polyamory. And you can indeed look at it
like this. I dont myself, but theres another devils advocate for you.
Yelena Kostyleva: Non-hierachicalism is a basic principle of poly
amory

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Artemy Magun: And it was for them too. But when you have formal
non-hierarchicalism, you informally get hierarchicalism.
Yelena Kostyleva: Maybe this is more of a practical issue?
Artemy Magun: No no, it seems to me that its absolutely a matter of
principle.

Artemy Magun: Very well. But how do you analyze the power factor?
Yelena Kostyleva: In general, I came to the conclusion that love is also
power.

No. 1

Yelena Kostyleva: Then its a matter of human nature. Lets give some
thought to the theme of what exactly love is, or, for example, what the
unfortunate love is that Oxana was just speaking of as such a lofty, platonic form of love. Polyamorists would have it that, without having analyzed power relations or the factor of power in relationships, its impossible to talk about any kind of love at all.

Yelena Kostyleva: Around love, no


Artemy Magun: Excellent. You end up with the situation that a commune has to have a hierarchical structure
Yoel Regev: In general, its similar to the principle of democratic centralism.
Artemy Magun: Structurally, yes. But its another question entirely
how exactly it is structured. Would anyone like to speak who hasnt done
so far?
Yoel Regev: I, perhaps, could continue with the theme of love and sex
under communism, and even, perhaps, attempt to continue with some
outlines of a positive program for the sex of the futuresex of which we
know virtually nothing, or are only just beginning to find out.
As I see it, the concept of polyamory contains two doubtful points.
On the one hand, there is not so much a simplification of feelings (insofar
as I realize that it is not at all inevitable that feelings will be simplified),
as a kind of absence of conflict. It appears that all conflicts are the result
of some kind of prejudice, from which it is possible to rid oneself. The
second point which I find doubtful is that of the moralizing prescriptive

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Artemy Magun: Rightly so, and here I agree with you. And consequently, you cannot build an anarchic commune around love.

Discussion

aspect. It is supposed that it is enough to give a simple moral injunction


to the subject: Rid yourself of jealousy, rid yourself of prejudices!and
if the subject is possessed of the willpower to perform what is demanded
of him, then all is in order. It seems to me that analysis needs to be made
not so much of the relations of power, but of the economic structure.
Iwould like to suggest that which appears to me to be the Bolshevist approach to the problem of contemporary sexuality. That of Lenin, in particular, standing out against two extremes. On the one hand, polyamory
seems an obviously anarchist projectand nobody seems to be trying to
hide this. The anarchist project supposes that the apparatus of the state
and power relations can simply be seized and abolished if there is sufficient willpower to do so. On the other hand, opportunists of all types, revisionists, and Mensheviks propose that we stay within the existing state
apparatus and, by infiltrating it, produce certain micro-changes, which, in
the long run, by the path of reform, might lead to changes in the general
condition of the state.
It seems to me that, in relation to contemporary sexuality, these two
polar extremes are clearly represented, by polyamory on the one hand as
the anarchist project for the abolition of marriage and the institution of
monogamyand on the other by such practices as adulteryspousal infidelity, which resemble nothing other than typical Menshevism.
Artemy Magun: The struggle has been transferred onto the level of
civil society.
Yoel Regev: Yes. And what in fact does Lenin have to say about these
two concepts? Lenin says that both of them are founded on a failure to
understand that it is not a matter of the apparatus of the state. Yes, they
do relate in some way primarily to the apparatus of the state as the apparatus of coercion. But in actual fact, the apparatus of coercion is based
on a certain economic reality. Having changed this economic reality, it
then becomes possible to manipulate the state in some way. And it appears exactly the same to me here, in the realm of sexuality, where it is
necessary, first of all, to alter a certain economic (the libidino-economic,
as Yelena Kostyleva put it) situation. Or, I would say, rather, the ontological-economic situation. A certain economics of the distribution of reality,
which makes itself known via both the libido and in direct socio-economic terms. It seems to me that this economy is best expressed in a scene
from the film The Geographer Drank His Globe Away. This film clarifies the
problem of contemporary sexuality best of all. At its center there is a hero
who doesnt have sex. Whats more, in Aristotelian terms, this is not an
absence, but a voidness. His not having sex is not due to any general omission on his part to pursue it because he is engaged in other activities instead; he doesnt have sex precisely in those situations in which, generally speaking, he should do so, but in which he simply does not. At the

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Artemy Magun: This is Pasolinis Teorema.

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beginning, he doesnt have sex with his wife, and then he doesnt have sex
with his student. And the main scene, in which we see the key revelation
of the truth of the contemporary economics of sexuality, is one in which
he does have sex, but doesnt climax. And this is emphasized. When he
explains why he hasnt experienced orgasmin answer to the woman
who says she feels sorry for him (for not reaching orgasm)he expresses
the truth about contemporary sex. The truth about this economy, and one
that needs to be transformed. He answers her something like this: I want
to be a saint. What does it mean, to be a saint? [He continues]: I want
no other person to become the hostage of my happiness; that no other
person become the hostage of my meaningfulness. It appears to me that
this is the truth of sexual economicsand it is also that point which must
be changed.
Some transformation of sexual relations is only possible under conditions whereby the entire structure of subjectivity is changed, when the
subject is constantly on the lookout for something that will give him some
ontological groundedness, in which the subject is faced with some unsolvable challenge which he, nevertheless, must constantly fulfilto take
on some meaningfulness and become something, even though he is actually unable to do anything, because he is lacking in any substantiality or
definition.
It is impossible simply to reject something in order to lend sexuality
an ontological value, because the sole path leading from this rejection is
to make sex meaningless. It seems to me that this is not the right path.
Insofar as sexuality is actually in some sense a decisive weapon and decisive instrument in the transformation of reality.
I would like to describe, from my point of view, what this transformation of sexuality might look like. For this, naturally, it is necessary that the
entire structure of subjectivity be changed, and the entire structure of
reality in general, at the center of which there stands the figure of the immanent impossible. I will not lay out all the phases of this transition now.
I will say only this, that within the framework of this transition, as I see it,
the perception must be made possible of both the substantial and the objectively existing continuum of what takes place with the subject. The
continuum of those points through which the subject passes, of those
events, those challenges, which he encounters on his life journey, in spite
of the fact that they are linked with one another solely by this trajectory
of his route. In order that what I have in mind be better understood, I say
that this is actually quite closenot for nothing did we speak here of
sainthoodto the traditional religious, Kabbalistic for example, model of
man, who lives in order to raise the spark of holiness from the envelope of
impurity.

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Discussion

Yoel Regev: Yes, its Pasolinis Teorema. On the other hand, its many
of Rohmers films too. The slogan of this kind of understanding of sexuality, I would say, is the phrase uttered by the hero of the film Ma nuit chez
Maud, when he says Each girl I met posed a new moral challenge. I think
the word moral here is superfluous. And clearly it doesnt necessarily
have to be a girl, either.
Yelena Kostyleva: Why is it superfluous, then?
Yoel Regev: Because, as it seems to me, this is a contraction. Its actually a new ontological challenge. A challenge of the transformation of reality, not of man. I mean, in full seriousness, in the future communist society we will be capable of relating to sex in a similar way as in David
Zindells novel about the order of mathematician-pilots, who travel
through subspace by means of combining with the computer systems of a
ship; as they solve mathematical theorems, they move through space.
Resolution itself is movement. And there is always the possibility of getting lost in endless dead-end branches of proof, in which they would remain forever in their space and never leave.
It seems to me that future sexualityand I mean this quite literally
will simultaneously be a means of transforming reality, allowing us to
move through reality. To move, moving reality itself, unlocking situations,
transferring us into situations in which the formerly impossible is made
possible. Properly speaking, this is the main postulate of the materialist
dialectic. That which we can comprehend, that which we can do, are defined by the conditions of the situation in which we find ourselves. It
seems to me that communist sexuality is the sexuality of unlocking situations, changing the conditions in which we find ourselves, and making
possible the understanding, knowledge and action which were impossible
in previous situations. Precisely because of this, each new partner is a new
challenge, a new means of unlocking the situation, a new means of translocation. In Hemingways novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, the gypsy woman,
describing the sexual act between the main characters, says: The earth
moved. This is transformation. She says that such a thing happens only
three times in one lifetime. But this three times is in the present-day capitalist order, while under communism I believe it should happen every
time. Real communist sex is sex in which the earth moves every time. Each
sexual act will lead to transformation and unlocking.
Artemy Magun: You, Yoel, are a highly mystical philosopher.
Yoel Regev: Yes, but here it should be underlined that this is, unconditionally, linked with the abolition of any kind of will or determinism. It
is an approach without the figure of God, without the figure of the sublime. And it is also, properly speaking, a fundamental ontological revolu-

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tion, which must be achievedto enable the notion of such a kind of reality without the need of any figure of some kind of directing entity, never
mind what you call it: God, will, or law.
Audience member: Yoel, surely sex can work like that now, even if only
in part?

Artemy Magun: This has an interesting resonance with what Oxana


was saying.

No. 1

Yoel Regev: Of course, insofar as some elements of the future communist society are already present in capitalism. It can work in this way,
but its functioning is blocked in the contemporary conditions of existence
by the fact that we can only with great effort picture such a sexuality as
real. When I say this, what kind of thoughts appear to people? Maybe its
all just a case of there being some kind of metaphor there; none of it is
real. Precisely this not real must also, I believe, be changed as a result
of the new economics.

Konstantin Shavlovsky: A brief question. Forgive me for interrupting,


I just couldnt remain silent. How in general does what you are speaking
of contradict the theory of polyamory? I am no specialist on it, but its
been a year now since lots of people have been talking about it. They talk,
in particular, about each person being the center of their own polyamorous relationships. This is no kind of closed-off collective, moving away
from society, like a commune sailing on a ship. This is just like what you
are talking abouta path that each person follows for themselves, just
that each person ploughs through their own reality in correspondence
with their own trajectory. This is also polyamory in my understanding.
Galina Rymbu: Perhaps here we are faced with the problem of the
center?
Konstantin Shavlovsky: Each individual is a center for themselves.
Just as each individual is a subject. And thats all. There is no kind of collective subject. Perhaps there is, but this is already quite another difficult
story.
Artemy Magun: Happy is he, whose center is in himself, but do we
often meet such people?
Yoel Regev: In some sense, this goes against the principle of the multiplication of love. Or rather, it doesnt contradict it, but takes away from

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Yoel Regev: Yes, absolutely.

Discussion

it its fundamental quality. The main criterion here is: However many
challenges, so many partners. There is no need to increase the number of
partners to the extreme, but neither is there any need to reduce it. On the
whole, I think that future communist sex will preserve in itselfjust like
Bolshevismleftist and rightist inclinations, and a general line which
only actually exists in the form of manoeuvring between these inclinations. Doubtless, that which polyamory is aiming for will be present in
communist sex, in a somewhat transformed manner. I just want to say
that it might only realize this aim under the conditions of a change in
economics. Only under such conditions will we truly be able to perceive
the sexual act as the resolution of a certain task, as a changing of the self.
Artemy Magun: You can perceive anything you please. But how does
this become the resolution of a task?
Yoel Regev: Reality itself must be transformed in such a way that its
change is perceived as meaningful. That is, we probably are solving this
task now too in some sense, but we are separated from this resolution
because the current reality subjects this resolution to the alienating concept of what is real and what is not real.
When now we ask somebody what he is doing and he says: I was
clarifying, we do not take such an answer seriously in ordinary conditions. We ask: Well, what exactly was it that you did? What did you make?
What were the results of your clarification? And that change of which I
was speaking must be in the world which leads to the person clarifying
taking the place of the person creating, as the central figure of this reality.
Clarification is actually made ontologically existent and substantial.
It seems to me that there is present in polyamory, just as in the second inclination, a preservation of monogamy. These distinct challenges
are not conflict-free. There actually exists a hierarchy between them.
Each of them claims to subject the entirety of reality to itself. There exists
a constant struggle between the different tasks, each of which claims to be
the main thing, to be more important than anything else. This is a real
conflict. It may be the case that it doesnt contradict certain forms of
polyamory, but, in principle, insofar as I understand polyamory, it supposes that there cannot be any conflict.
Konstantin Shavlovsky: No. It would be foolish, of course, to think it
possible that jealousy could be removed and abolished so simply. This
cannot happen.
Yelena Kostyleva: Yoel criticizes polyamory for its utopianism: as
though we say now, were ridding ourselves of jealousyand now its
gone! But at the same time, you propose another utopia in its place. Although I would say your utopia is, of course, more interesting, because

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Galina Rymbu: It will be rather hard for me to say something decisively different after such passages, insofar as I see that the discussion is
built around a certain tension between polyamorous and monogamous
types of relationship. It seems to me that both these types of relationship
are so suited to the logic of the present-day capitalist network society that
to follow them in either a personal (practical) vein or a utopian direction
seems strange, if not over-luxurious. Both these forms of relation in pure
form represent a certain luxury within the dramatic conflict of love and
politics that is becoming ever more visible today and leading to serious
changes in the structures of desire itself, in the understanding of love.
This is evident meanwhile in both the relationships of the most vulnerable groupsthe poor and the precariat (to some partial extent) and the
proletariat (which formally continues to uphold monogamy), as well as
among the middle class and even among the elite, who may permit themselves such a luxury in the form of polyamory or various other forms of
open relationships. Monogamy is already a luxury the former cannot permit themselves, as it is getting harder and harder to maintain the monogamous family and children in conditions of total poverty and social
vulnerability. Open relationships are a luxury for the second group, although it seems they are able to indulge themselves. Indeed, if we are
talking about marriages (including both the polyamorous and monogamous kinds), then it is barely possible to adhere to any discourse of innocence and feelings, as relationships are not just about feelings, but also
about shared domestic life, survival, and struggle: time and money.
As such, the struggle for monogamy and the struggle for polyamory
are not only an emotional struggle, but the fight against capital. And the
latter is totally capable of accommodating polyamory, because it can be
perfectly integrated into its logic: that of surplus and deficit. We understand that, in the modern world, both autonomous local units and multiple units or networks are profitable. And both will find their place in the

No. 1

really everything we know about polyamory is known merely from the


basic rules of behaviour discussed within it. There is philosophy there,
but, generally speaking, philosophy can be in whatever you like. And so it
is there tooin connection with this, and in connection with that.
I was particularly caught on this point. The thing is, you spoke of
existence, of ontology. I recently came across a quote from Lacan, in which
he talks of how the dimension of existence arises in the flow of the discourse of the master. Linked with this is the fact that the very verb be is
an imperative; I say that something is, and it will be. Or I say that communism will be, and it comes into existence. This is the discourse of the
master, as it were, defining and postulating existence (according to Lacan).
I turn again to the question of power, and, therefore, to that of love too. As
Artyom says, the world itself is moving. Why, then, should I feel that it is
me who moves it?

Discussion

society of consumption (the consuming of feelings). Monogamous


unions are associated with autonomy, isolation, and the desire to protect
oneself against the superabundance of sex with which we are assailed on
a daily basis by media structures, virtually by force. On the other hand,
such a union also structures deficiency: the limitation of choice and freedom (with adultery becoming not less, but more dramatic) together with
a shortfall of new meanings for such types of relationship, for their internal legitimation.
The various, more open types of union are moving towards the multiplication of pleasure, and to the creation for the sake of this of new connections and worlds. Partly because they havent the strength to overcome
the internal deficiency of meanings in monogamy, and partly due to their
having been hypnotized, in some manner, by images of surplus. But this
movement is not dialectic, in my view, as it has no relief to it, but merely
an obvious tension in readiness to tear down the old world of Desire.
This Desire is the platonic spring of love, the illusory infinite, straining,
one way or another, between the two ends of the finite: the Two that cannot be dismissed so easilyin this sense, even if you are a group of five and
you have, at first glance, legitimate plurality, you will always be two. Not in
the banal sense of two, by which all individuals ultimately end up sorted
into couples, with some being left over, or that generally only two will
survive, but in the sense in which Badiou writes of this Two of love.
The tension of the spring of Desire is conditioned on the one side
by openness and the desire for interfusion (behind which looms the shadow of the real), and on the other by a certain encoded impossibility, to
which no One (the idealistic fused union) is granted private access. This is
a cunning spring. It can stretch between two even in conditions of the
total emptiness of sex, in the absence of sex and in the absence of a subject of love relations (and this has always been in some sense absent!).
However, it seems that this tension cannot structure contemporary sentimentality any longer, and must snap or burst. But in some qualitatively
different way, distinct from that disruptiveness which is inherent to it.
And then love, in any of the understandings of it that are possible today,
will cease to exist. That said, it is far from certain that we will get that
society which Yoel speaks of: where every new partner (be it a man, woman, queer, animal, plant, or object) is a new challenge. It is possible that
there will be nobody who could or would in general have to deal with this
challenge.
I myself tend to think that, ultimately, everything which concerns
feelings for another is some kind of mis-challenge (in the sense of the
Russian expression rendered into English as tough luck! [but translating literally as what a non-task/challenge (i.e., misfortune)! translator]). Any task supposes finality, and in any teleology there is a return to
the start, in the same correlative circle (or fractal too) and partially projective logic. What is obtained is that everyone here who has been my

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lover and challenge returns to me (as in Cohens song)this is the Apocalypse! And, nevertheless, I see in this network logic something more complex, more conspiratorial, and more conflict-ridden and tense, but how
revolutionary is it? After all, when we imply that an other, that love, is a
challenge that can be resolved, then are we not dissembling?
I believe that nothing can be solved in the (new) love, and you cannot
solve anything here at all, as love does not exist to be solved. The logic of
determination is the logic of force. I would suggest that love beconsidered
generally beyond this coercive logic of determination. Not that I am opposed to leftist militancy, to struggle, politics, or decisions. But it seems
that if in this sphere (of sex and love) something in particular is permitted, then it will inevitably be opposed with force: in some kind of sense
like that in which Sorel opposes force as the order of violence (the proletarian strike, smashing this force-based order). If for some reason we need
love for another, then this is in order to constantly subvert and cast doubt
upon the entire hegemonic dialectic of resolution by force and its operational aspect.
It is very difficult to reject love as force, as everyone knows that love
is what gives us this force, the inspiration to take and enslave Troy (and
here, of course, is where the root of evil is found). To tell yourself today
that love is a matter of the affirmation of powerlessness, is possible, and
is the selection of the revolutionary path, which can also be a tactic of opposition. This Sorelian combative pessimism, which I suggest be transferred to the love experience, opens up many possibilities. Is there a place
in it for romance? For me, the extreme model of romanticism is the atomic bomb female idealist. You wouldnt like to give her flowers (do you remember pacifists with flowers? but this bomb wants it anywayflowers
and kisses). Romantic love and the atomic bomb are linked in a strange
way. And I wouldnt want to have anything to do with this.
As for courtly love as a whole, I think that we all feel to some extent
that it is impossible to find ourselves in such love, this subject is lost. Its
establishment coincided with the pumped up worldly God, and against
him (it is characteristic, incidentally, that the troubadours soon died out,
being gobbled up by Luther from the future). What we have today is the
ephemerality of courtly love. Here one might recall Meillassouxs Spectral Dilemma: the strained ephemerality of the modern day world arises
due to the fact that we are already unable to live as though there is a God,
but we cannot live as though he doesnt exist, and so Meillassoux suggests
that we live as though God doesnt exist yet. This is very similar to love in
the utopian (Bloch) and in part in my own understanding: the subject of
love, and indeed anything else besides, is he who is not yet. But now I
dont want to love this phantom, I dont want to reconcile with it, I want
to love your body, but, hey, let this not be the body of Christ. To have the
powerless sex of today while not ruling out the possibility that something
else might appear.

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The Love of the Future: Openness/Totality

Discussion

Konstantin Shavlovsky: A strange critique of polyamorous pleasure, as


pleasure through powerlessness.
Galina Rymbu: Its not pleasure. Its me, powerless before you.
Artemy Magun: This might also be the obsessive type of love we have
already mentioned.
Yoel Regev: Very briefly on two points. First of all, about the subject
and the challenge. I absolutely did not have in mind that there exists
some subject who solves tasks or challenges. On the contrary, the subject
is only defined from this continuum of challenges which he deals with.
That is, I am also that whose content is changed each time by the new
tasks with which I am faced. Secondly, of course, it is quite unclear what
kind of challenge this is. In general, the main challenge is to understand
what kind of challenge it was at all. And the resolution of this problem is
the understanding of what it was. But as soon as we have solved it, it disappears and its place is taken by another.
Artemy Magun: Has everyone spoken?
Oxana Timofeeva: I still have a comment to make. I would like to warn
against the notion that we are discussing some kind of actually existing
choice between two types of relationship. In actual fact, I suggest that we
are not faced with such a choice, insofar as both are equally impossible.
Recapitulating that which has been said, in the context of the specific
given capitalist relations, intimacy itself with another person or persons
is problematic. Which is truly significant, as it informs the way in which
we approach this problem, and the approaches we take towards working
out its solution. The solution proposed by Lena is linked with the constant
transformation of the subject, which must be realised immediately
through certain experimental practices in the organising of love relations.
Yoel says that it is first of all necessary to transform society, to provide the
corresponding socioeconomic conditions, and moreover create such an
ontology in which a new subject might appear, in order that new feelings
may be experienced.
In principle, I agree with this latter general line of ontology and socioeconomics. If it were radicalized a little, one might end up with having
first of all to build communism and only then to make love. Rather like
how some of Andrei Platonovs heroes behaveliterally holding themselves back from any intimacy, until they have built a happy society. On
the other hand, what makes me uneasy in Yoels position is that this is
some kind of futurism. My own vision of the future, my vision of communism, is linked with the dialectical retrospective, from the moment of remembering or forgetting, looking back. I dont believe in a future subject,

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Galina Rymbu: I would like to add one small retort. It seems to me


that when we speak of some kind of monogamy, of some kind of love between two people, we sometimes forget that this love between two doesnt
exist. In any relationship between two people there is always a virtual

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but in that which exists now with all its jealousy, suffering and powerlessness, with its alienation, with its unconscious ancestral memory and negativity, the potential of which has not yet been discovered. It is precisely
on the side of this ancestral memory that I place the horizon of the communist society. In speaking, say, of romantic or courtly love, I have in
mind that other side of these relations which never developed itself, feeling too cramped on that marketplace. The one in love, the one green with
envy, kills the beloved in the fit of passion, but the very same jealous man
writes In Search of Lost Time creates works of art, or flies into spacehis
desire finding the most varied paths of release.
In her time, Alexandra Kollontai made reference to the example of
mediaeval courtly love as a kind of rehearsal for the communist love of the
future. Her idea was that we have not yet built the socialist society, we
havent got the capability of truly arranging sincere love relationships
with our comrades, though courtly love has been given to us as the possibility of preparing ourselves for love-comradeship by means of play,
ritual, and the performative arrangement of the outlines of potential relationships linked with winged Cupid. That is, we are already in possession
of models for something suitable, and on their basis we might build something new.
In polyamory as a positive programme, which seems more realistic
because it doesnt demand the transformation of society, never mind that
of domestic life, but merely a reformation, properly speaking, of the traditional institution of marriage, I am troubled by that aspect referred to by
Lena as inclusivity and openness. Everybody understands that inclusivity
and openness are good, and that exclusivity and closedness are bad, because contemporary liberal democracy teaches us that it is compulsory
that everything be open, just like the German parliament: you can see the
dome of the Reichstag, and can even, perhaps, look through binoculars
and see Angela Merkel opening her mouth. The subject of an open society
is put on show. And so the unrealised potential, in particular, of romantic
love is, in its own way, set against this imperative of total openness and
rationality, though its opposition is seen as evil and associated with danger, deception, and lies. And the human being intuitively explores this
side of morality in order to find there the element of opposition to this
society in which all is put on show, a society, on the one hand, of liberal
democracy, and on the other, of capitalist injustice, where everyone is
alone. Yes, here all is open, but give me back the right to secrecy, to my
own internal evil, following the hysterical roads of which I might, perhaps, meet that special other or those others, to meet my love.

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The Love of the Future: Openness/Totality

Discussion

third, fourth, or fifth; they are many. And so, if at any moment it turns out
that you are left alone with your partner, it means you go out of your
mind. A pure couple is simultaneously a situation that is perverse, mindless, and cannot in general exist at all. On the other hand, this gives new
understanding as to why some couples do not find years or decades together boring, even without childrenperhaps they have something to
talk about with their many. This is all an old-fashioned lie: there cannot
be a relationship between two, because there is no such two. Its simpler
to remain single.
Artemy Magun: But then it must all be approached in a different way.
That is, if we accept that the dyad is impossible, then what is all this ritualized rhetoric on committing to one another for?
I wanted to answer Oxana too. In what you say, there is both a conscious and an unconscious layer. You say that you are against polyamory
because there is such a thing as jealousy and so on, but jealousy itself is
concealed polyamory. Freuds famous analysis of the case of Dora demonstrates it: it seems that Dora loves an older man, but if we dig deeper, it is
revealed that she loves his wife. She cannot express this feeling, she simply cannot accept it. And so she projects her love in a more standard manner onto the man, while feelings for the woman pour out contrariwiseas
jealousy. Feelings of this kind actually demonstrate the impossibility of
the dyad. But the dyad nevertheless is there!
The issue here is not that we are all, when it comes down to it, polyamorists, but one of institutions, that is, the issue of how to formalize
this. Thats one point. And the other, following on from this, is of a practical nature. What is it, actually, that is being proposed? There is, say, a
specific institutionthe nuclear family, which is not simply monogamous. Theres a certain structure of society which is composed of households, involving a mum, a dad, and two or three children. That isthe elements from which our society is built. But this is a relatively new phenomenon, which was consolidated at the earliest in the twentieth century.
Whats more, the very character of the nuclear family has continued to
change since that time.
Whether we talk of polyamory or the search for a new moral partnerwe either leave this structure or replace it. If we replace it, then I
would be interested to hear from the aficionados of communismhow?
As is well known, the communists initially considered the institution of
wives in common. The answer of Marx and Engels in the Manifesto was
thus: on the sharing of wives in communism we know nothing, but we
know that the sharing of wives has already begun among the bourgeoisie,
as adultery flourishes among them. What do we need polyamory for as
well, when theres already adultery? Engels says that if it already exists,
then it is simply necessary to deduce the facts in accordance with theory.
That is, in principle, they supposed at that time something akin to pro-

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Artemy Magun: I have a more simple view. You are all here very intelligent, highly cultured authors. And yet I would like to know what it is that
you plan to do right now. Today, tomorrow, next week, in a years time
when your party comes to power or doesnt do so, if, perhaps, it is fundamentally opposed to that.
In my view, a transformation is needed of the current institution of
family/love. This is an incorrect institution. It actually ignores, as you
have said, certain things that unconsciously exist as part of it. And, apart
from that, it is strongly bound up with the emotions of two people. But
who said that two people is the optimal group? At face value, three would
seem more fitting as the ideal grouptres faciunt collegium, and in such a
group the arbitration of conflicts is possible. Families, which are more or
less happy, are saved by the fact of children, as the children grow and form
a kind of love triangle. This must not be forgotten: for children are also
objects and subjects of love.
A triadwhat is that? An uneven structure which is often referred to
as a love triangle. This means that there is a dyad and a third somebody
turns up. And then everything goes far from swimminglyas the third
party here is not something completely external. It enters into certain
highly complex relations between these people, and these relations are
not always blissful. This leads either to the breakup of the family, or to its
extension. This triangulation of love is actually taking place constantly
and, as it seems to me, may give rise to genuine social connections, although in its present form it is more a negative, destructive force.
Ive even written something about this in the book Unity and Solitude.
Two persons cannot be found in solitude if they are together, because they
are always bound to one another. They look at each other: hence Sartres
famous notion of the objectifying glanceif another looks at you, you are

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Oxana Timofeeva: No, I wasnt talking about that at all

No. 1

miscuity, but were later disappointed. Engels himself lived in concubinage with a working class woman whom he never married.
In actual fact, that which you are all now saying about sex is quite
characteristic. Sex is, of course, very important. But it remains the filling
of some institution which is, primarily, the family, and secondarily, extramarital connections outside the family. Two institutions or two sides of
the same institution. And then all subsequent feelings arise for this same
reason. Love is nevertheless usually examined as connected in some way
with the idea of cohabitation. In principle, there are strong arguments
that, perhaps, all this is correct, and the nuclear family is naturalchildren have to be raised and so on. On the other hand, what is wrong with
adultery? This is even interesting. People are lacking a bit of spice in their
life, and here they skulk away from the well-lit space of public life and
concoct secrets

Discussion

no longer free. And what, if in this situation there is a third person, looking on when one is looking at the other? In theory, this might have an
emancipatory significance.
Dmitry Vilensky: But Artyom, there isnt always another person. Do
you recall Brechts dritte Sache, or his common cause?
Artemy Magun: Oh yes. But now we are talking of social relations.
Dmitry Vilensky: He introduced precisely that, as the third thing.
Artemy Magun: That is a separate conversation, and very interestinginsofar as joint activity can dismantle that moment of the brief fastening of two personalities. Perhaps. But if we look at the relations themselves, then, as I have already said, collective loneliness, that is the moment of a persons return to his own open (free) existence, is possible then
and there, when a third person appears in these relations. I repeat, this
usually works via children, but it is not fixed that it can only be through
children. And it is clear that such a system is unsustainable.
One other point. The thing is that it is no mere matter of chance that
the nuclear family forms the foundation of capitalist society. This is after
all a very atomised society. But it is not the case that these atoms suffer
totally from their negativity, they dont feel as though society is completely broken down (into atoms). The atoms are still united in molecules.
Like, for example, the water molecule H2O: dadmumchild. As a result,
society itself is not quite found in fragmentation, but in more of a liquid
state, and as such is very convenient for those wishing to pour it this way
and that. Very convenient, for the state.
What is it that we have here? We have these intensive emotional connections on the level of the dyad (or the triad-tetrad, plus children). We
also have, of course, civil society. But what exactly is civil society? Its the
non-profit organization, and in a wider sense the profit making organization too, that is, business organizations as organizations with rather weak
emotive connections. Of course, there are interesting contradictions
there, when emotional links appear anyway (and they do so appear), when
romances start or strong friendships are forged, and you can hear businessmen saying the likes of: This friendship threatens our association,
because we are all involved in the same business; or, conversely, that
capitalist relations are breaking such friendships, and have to be kept
strictly apart from friendship and love. Indeed, there is a struggle against
emotions in organizations, and if such connections arise, they do not go
on to form a powerful collective fist. Why? Because emotions are evacuated in the private sphere, and the private sphere rests on the dyads.
In this sense, of course, the arrangement of a society composed of
large communes would be much more interesting politically, in the sense

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of freedom and democracy, and the sense of the distribution of power in


societya more or less even distribution. Far from this is the present day
watery expanse, with the Noahs Ark of the nation-state floating in its
midst Such that there is something to consider here in the sense of the
reforming of society. As for sex, so beloved a topic of yours, then this, I
repeat, is another question. First of all, organize an institution. And then
decide how sex will happen there. Although, of course, it cannot be abandoned to run wild, either. Because, if you leave sex unattended in a commune, you get Otto Muehl.

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Artemy Magun: Yes, thats how it appears to me. At least there is a


great risk of this. Naturally, I have no well thought-out plan. It cannot be
stated firmly that only monogamous families may live in this commune,
that they will meet just in the kitchen and while carrying out various tasks
together, bringing up children, will only have sex in couples. In principle,
this is a possible model. It isnt at all compulsory that a sexual revolution
be organized in order to build a commune. But in reality, this usually isnt
what you get, of course. We all understand that network-based emotional
ties, if they form and we do not interfere with their formation, can lead to
polyamorous structures.
It seems to me that, just as in the case of ordering a society, we need
here to come up with some kind of symbolic system, which would make
these types of relationship interesting and rational. Its the same with
democracyit seems to us that democracy is either that fiction which we
have today, or that it is simply a mass of people who decide something
together. And when we say More democracy! we picture to ourselves
this mass of people deciding something together. And its the same with
sexuality tooeither its the traditional nuclear family, or some mass of
people freely, like atoms, forming large molecules. But such concepts are
quite inadequate as an understanding of democracy. In its original classical form, democracy is, first and foremost, the drawing of lots. That is, a
system in which there takes place the symbolic mediation of power in the
shape of the ballot. And then, as Aristotle teaches us, a rotation occurs:
you cannot be found constantly in either a subordinate or commanding
position. These must alternate in some way. Its a game. And it is precisely this democratic system that has been forgotten and left aside by the
politics of the late modern era.
There is, in Lacanian terms (forgive me), a rgime de l'imaginaire.
A regime of the imaginary is the same as Otto Muehls commune. And
above it there is a regime of the symbolic, where the neutralized symbol
permits the retention of diversity and pluralism of relations, the pluralism of connections, and so on. If the utopia of the family and sex can exist,

No. 1

Dmitry Vilensky: That is, in natural conditions, everything goes


straight towards the structure of the harem?

Discussion

it needs to have just such a complex constitution. Just like the Marquis de
Sade in his anti-utopias. It was cruel and hierarchical there, but who is
preventing the organization of a more emancipatory aleatory system of
communal life?
Dmitry Vilensky: And in Zamyatins We?
Artemy Magun: I also thought of him. Zamyatin has symbolic mediation. And thus, in general, it is necessary to reread him, and see where the
utopia is and where the anti-utopia.
And so, in these communes, I think, sexuality must be subject to a
certain aleatory symbolism. But, I repeat, in this we are not only dealing
with sexuality, but also with shared habitation. Why in general have love
and sexuality become our main emotions, and why is it that we are always
talking about them? Specifically, because the institution of cohabitation,
and social connections in general, have ceased to be mediated symbolically. It is unclear why people need them. Nothing is restraining you in
either a marriage or in a free relationship. There is no tradition, no moral
norms. And it is precisely due to this that the conversation is always about
emotions and about sex as their material guarantor. Olga Meyerson wrote
not long ago on Facebook about the latest legalisation of gay marriage in
the USA, that the problem is not one of marriage as such, but that there is
less and less opportunity for people to live together, hold each others
hand, or even just converse for an extended period with a person of the
opposite sex without this taking on a sexual connotation.
What, then, is the problem of contemporary love (in my previously
mentioned obsessive version)? It lies in the fact that they assail you
with love wherever you are, and that you are constantly supposed to be
loving somebody. But why? Because otherwise the institutions of everyday sociability cease to function. These institutions are so weak that they
are propped up nothing but affect, on the constant reproduction of affect.
And in real life, as we know again from Lacan, true love is not an affect.
True love is a gift, a certain act which might subsequently give rise to affect and so on, but affect is simply a means of feeling it. And this act, I
repeat, must be reinforced symbolically and institutionally. Our life is
passing through a crisis of symbolic institutions. This is yet another Lacanian thought that I share. And so some new institutions need to be devised. Its another matterin my opinionthat these cannot be of the
pure type as in traditional institutions. They will have to be invented
anew, because the theme of the family and love is a nodal, core point of
contemporary society, precisely due to the fact that, today, all the affect in
this society is concentrated right there. Including macropolitics, insofar
as nationalism, as Reich demonstrated in his day, signifies exactly this
imaginary projection of the affects formed in the nuclear family onto wider society. And this is not at all the way it has to be. It is vital that the af-

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fects of large collectives be kept apart from the relationships of the individual.
And a final thought. Historically, as Yelena Kostyleva rightly states,
the cult of love as the sole and forbidden passion is linked, of course, with
Christianity and with that which we have now got in place of Christianity
as a symbol of faith, the love for another person. This is, of course, remarkableFeuerbach formulated it back in the nineteenth century and
gave it his seal of approval. Although this somebody we love is not God,
but another human being. But in the process of this transformation some
distortions were produced. The point is, Christian love, , or caritas in
Latin, is not the erotic at all. We surmise that the female mystics of the
Middle Ages actually experienced orgasm when they thought of God, or
else we might remember the troubadours, who borrowed mystical discourse in making songs of love. But again, this is not the issue alone.
is, funny as it may be, group love to a T. Christianity was more
polyamorous than the contemporary discourse on love, which adds the
sentimentalism of the nineteenth century to Christianity. From the outset, there was this openness and plurality in Christianity, though it was
conceptualized primarily not as erotica (although it can be regarded in
this way), but as caritascare and giving. You give yourself to people, and
on account of this gift you form certain relations with them. becomes your bond with God, but also that tying you to other people. And it
is asymmetrical, because God gives himself to many, while each loves God
separately.
What do we have today? This structure of caritasthat of caring
still exists. Where? Thats right, in the state of general welfare, the welfare
state. Here is where caritas lives, but it is quite unemotional. Its a neutralized, emasculated form of caritas. And, as we have seen, Christian love
itself is crammed solely into the dyad or triad. What is this exactly? This
bifurcation is, firstly, a mockery of the concept of love, and secondly, it is,
of course, a cunning move of the state and capitalist elite geared towards
the liquidation of resistance in society. And it is all propagandized in mass
culture.
I would like to end with a nod to cinema. It seems to me that the
/ or caritas/amore collision is seen very insightfully by Lars von
Trierbeing one of his main themes. Several films, Breaking the Waves
and Dogville first and foremost, are based precisely on this collision. Women, instead of quietly making love with men (or other women, OK), suddenly start engaging in charity! They feel that they are the Lord God and
go out and, crudely speaking, have sex with a large number of people, not
loving them in an erotic sense, but loving them as people, giving themselves to them. They take on the role of Christ, . But what is this? Its
Triers critique of the domination of the welfare state. He seems to be
saying to the representatives of this state: What you are doing is helping
other people. But you dont do it seriously and do it without any feeling

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The Love of the Future: Openness/Totality

Discussion

whatsoever. And, as I have said, by doing this, you evacuate Eros into the
dyad. But Triers women are greater than the dyad, they dont want dyads,
they want to love everyone, and they feel, they become infected by this
society of distribution and universal welfare and wish to accept it all in
full seriousness. As a result, their own sexual activity loses all sentimental
and personally enriching meaning.
Almost all of Lars von Triers filmography (we will mention Dancer in
the Dark and Nymphomaniac too) is a travesty of the welfare state, an attempt filled with its meaning but in such a paradoxical and tragic form
that it breaks down. And there you have the communist revolution, by the
way, in caricature. In this context, he is a very important director and
leading analyst of contemporary life, although, of course, to put it bluntly,
he is no political ally of ours: in observing an existing contradiction, he
makes from it a series of pessimistic and even, rather, reactionary conclusionsparticularly in his latest films, in striving to overturn sexuality as
such, as something disappointing hope. This is not our path
Nikolai Kofyrin: Continuing with film, it was not long ago that the
world-famous film Fifty Shades of Grey came out. In connection with this,
I would like to hear the opinion of the philosophers on the topics of BDSM
and LGBT. Id like you to analyze these two fashionable new phenomena,
which understand love not exclusively as sexual attraction, but as a way of
relating to the world, in which sexuality and carnal love are only a certain
transformation of this greater love. As a derivative, and not the reverse.
You are, as it were, looking at the world from the perspective of carnal
love. But I am talking of how carnal love is only a particular case of universal love, of love as a way of relating to the world. From this point of view,
Id like you to give an answer on your understanding of BDSM and LGBT,
as well as on homosexual familiesnuclear families, but, forgive me, homosexual ones.
Yelena Kostyleva: Well, whats the difference, if its nuclear anyway?
As for Fifty Shades of Grey, I havent seen it, but I read a little of the book
in English. Its very badly written. The thing is, its a womans novel, a
novel for ladies. With one single alterationinstead of scenes of tender
lovemaking, it has scenes of BDSM love in it. And the fact that it has
prompted such a gigantic resonance, in the billions, tells us that the concept of romantic love with tender scenes has given way to a concept of,
say, romantic love but with spice, with a spark. There is nothing interesting here. Its purely a social phenomenon. Unfortunately, I am forced
to say, its cinema for women. I wouldnt attempt to find anything ontological in it. This is an answer to both your questions.
Oxana Timofeeva: It seems to me that what is truly curious in the
contemporary phenomenon of sadomasochistic love is its deeply Chris-

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tian nature, linked with the sufferings of Christ, with the Inquisition, and
with the technology of torture. Productive relations and the means of
production have reached the point today where it is possible to bring
Christian dreams to life, thanks to a variety of sexual practices and technologies. In BDSM, sin and redemption coincide in the same act.
Yelena Kostyleva: As suffering the Passion. BDSM as suffering the
Passion.
Oxana Timofeeva: On the one hand, as Slavoj iek puts it, there exists in the contemporary world the capitalist imperative of pleasure (enjoy!), while on the other there is the Christian imperative, linked with
suffering. Christianity and capitalism meet in the BDSM commune.

said.

Artemy Magun: From the point of view of Christianity, as Oxana has

No. 1

Nikolai Kofyrin: In other words, love is suffering?

Oxana Timofeeva: Both suffering and pleasurethe combination and


union of suffering and pleasure.
Artemy Magun: Well, that idea is clear enough. Give us another question.
Nikolai Kofyrin: What about LGBT?
Artemy Magun: I can say something about LGBT, if its so important.
And actually, this topic is rather significant, and draws a lot of attention
today because, although homosexual marriages are taking place, there is
a qualitative difference between homosexuality and heterosexuality. Homosexuality breaks the logic of the dual pairing of erotica and so it is not
by chance that the traditional coupling behaviour of homosexuality has
been characterized as promiscuity. The idea of a homosexual married
couple is something rather new and doubtful.
Nikolai Kofyrin: And is platonic love homosexual?
Artemy Magun: Well, sort of, yes, though is it important? In any case,
behind the modern-day fashion for homosexuality there stands simply
love for people, for everyone, including those who are the same as yourself.
The homosexual is one who has understood that, under the envelope of
any individual attraction, in which you, as it were, recognize your self or

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Nikolai Kofyrin: BDSM is also suffering.

Discussion

your alter ego, you simply love people. People as they are. On this, see for
example Pasolinis Teorema. But in homosexuality, this protest against
love in a couple and personal love is resexualized and leads back to the
nuclear understanding of relationships.
Dmitry Vilensky: Is homosexuality not love for the self?
Artemy Magun: No, it is not the self (your mirror image) that you love
in homosexual relationships. That would be a narcissistic interrelationship. But homosexuality is when you love someone who, yes, is the same
as yourself, but as another person.
Oxana Timofeeva: This is questionable.
Dmitry Vilensky: On the contrary, Artyom, its more the other way
round (according to Freud). In homosexuality, narcissism is more expressed.
Artemy Magun: Very well. This is a disputed issue. It is clear that in
the twentieth century, narcissism is found in all relations. There is nothing without narcissism. But the fact that these two logicsthe heterosexual and the homosexualhave met, signifies that there is a different
type of love for another. I like ieks idea, from his recent book Event, on
how the secret of heterosexualityis homosexuality. Under the mask of
another gender, of something beautiful and exotic, under this cover, you
still love something the same as yourself, regardless. The essence is that,
under all this tinsel of gender and narcissism, there are concealed relations of the loving of people (philanthropy, as they called it in the twentieth century).
Oxana Timofeeva: Id like to suggest a compromise. I am in partial
agreement that it is necessary to build an institution. I dont defend institutions that are five hundred years old for the sake of it, noI am also in
favor of new forms. I simply consider that when you speak of building an
institution, you are supposing a state too, but not a state as the repressive
machinery of absolute evil. We will allow that the state has an interesting
dialectic, containing within it ambivalence and a constitutive impetus.
And this same constitutive, progressive impetus may exist in sexual relations too, even as part of the monogamous familyof the official form
of love.
Artemy Magun: First of all, we in this understanding would likely
have had to seize power, because without it nobody will allow us to restructure institutions. This is a joke, of course. In reality, its clear that
nobody will give us power. But it is through such things as they seem to be

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left to be outsourced to human spontaneity, that influence might be exerted on society, through these something may be done and nobody is
actually preventing you, Oxana, from making some kind of experiment
with love. And perhaps through this you may change something. Or Yoel,
who also suggested this. You might even begin tomorrow.
Yelena Kostyleva: But you prefer without experimentation, so surely
Artemy Magun: Oh no, Im all for experiments, and all in favor, like
Chernyshevsky, of building a commune. I have a completely practical notion of it. Nobody has forbidden it yet.

Artemy Magun: Both one, and the other, most likely.

No. 1

Oleg: But, well, what are you creating for, thats the question, no? To
reject love or obtain a new one?

Artemy Magun: In general, these themes are central: on the one hand,
we have the pushing out of all affects, farming them out into the private
sphere, and on the other, look whats going on in politicsfor there you
see a perfectly conscious play on the simultaneous suppression and sublimation of supressed emotions, all just as Reich said. That is, sexuality is
actually lifted up onto a shield, if there is anybody who hasnt noticed
the last few years in our country. In this, they have left that real sexualitynot the suppressed kindleft it to be farmed out: Do what you like
there. Mess around, its not our affair. Just dont bring it out in the public
sphere, because we have repression in action there. This is the point of
ambivalence, and it has to be taken advantage of.
Olga (Tsaplya) Yegorova: Im sorry, I was late, and it seems Ive missed
something. Has love already been finished off? Are you starting out from
the premise that love no longer exists?
Artemy Magun: Oxana, on the contrary, started out from the premise
that love hasnt yet begun.
Olga (Tsaplya) Yegorova: Ah, I see, not yet begun. Thank you very
much.

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Konstantin Shavlovsky: It seems to me that change in love and change


in society must go hand in hand. You cant say that now were going to
change society first, and only then love, or first love and then society. Its
a dialectal movement, as it were, do you not agree?

Discussion

Audience member: Might we examine how the brothels for the proletariat of the late nineteenth century became the communes of the early
twentieth in Russia?
Artemy Magun: I know nothing about brothels and leave that on your
conscience, but it is true that, the 1920s were a heyday of such experiments. And not in the sense that they were initiated from above, but
rather that people spontaneously decided that, now we have communism,
lets restructure our relations. That is, there were precedents, in the thousands, scattered all across the country. Theres a book by Richard Stites,
who documented the presence of these communes in some detail. Some
of them would collapse of their own accord, but then came Stalin and shut
them down, like much else besides. And so we do have precedents for a
commune.
Yelena Kostyleva: I will clarify something about polyamory. We are
simply discussing it as though it were in itself a revolutionary practice.
But there are different forms of it, and they are many. At its roots it is absolutely bourgeoisthis is the form for people from the middle classes
with higher education and decent level of income. But there is also that
twist which would be of most interest to those of us assembled herethe
utopian version, the revolutionary. Such as the queer movement in polyamory, for example. What might it lead to? Might it smash capitalism? I
just wanted to make a correction that you cannot talk of the entirety of
polyamory in the same way as we might talk of Kollontai. Kollontai was a
hundred years ago, she was a revolutionary, yet these people, on the
whole, can be non-revolutionaries too.
Oxana Timofeeva: I have formed the impression that, within contemporary capitalist relations, polyamory is a normal bourgeois practice.
Yelena Kostyleva: In principle, yes.
Maria Kochkina: As I understand it, two perspectives have been presented here which can be brought together. It seems to me that two things
are understood under the emancipation of sexuality, which can be intermingled. On the one hand, we speak of the emancipation of sexuality,
while, on the other, of emancipation through sexuality. And everyone, it
appears, wants the emancipation of sexuality, and everyone agrees that
emancipation through sexuality has not yet been achieved. The sexual
revolution was criticised because, even if we practice various, at first
glance, subversive practices, this all takes place within oedipal terms, and
so we keep coming back to the same thing.
From this I make the conclusion, and it has been said before, that the
base must be changedprimarily that of productive and social relations

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for us even to have the possibility of sexual emancipation. There may be


doubts as to whether, once the commune Artemy Vladimirovich has spoken of is built, emancipation will take place there, insofar as the people in
this commune will be people of their time, of their generation. It is possible, however, that children will be raised in such communes whose practices might go beyond the bounds of the oedipal structure, breaking out
into the universal through brotherhood, sisterhood and so on, and that for
them this emancipation of sexuality will be a possibility.
Artemy Magun: In other words, we cannot remake our sexuality?

Maria Kochkina: If we are speaking of the emancipation of sexualityof sexual revolutionthen everyone who could do so has already criticized it. Foucault speaks of the dispositive of sexuality, and Deleuze of
the oedipal terms through which you cannot break. We are all built into
this structure, and cannot emerge from it.
Artemy Magun: Deleuze here, in my opinion, has a different stance
than Foucault. He believes, rather, in some kind of emancipatory transformation of sexuality.
Maria Kochkina: In general, it seems to me that believing in sexualitys capacity by itself to do something revolutionarymeans remaining in
the bourgeois world with its forms of sexuality.
Alexander Pogrebnyak: Deleuze spoke of the desexualization of the
erotic.
Oxana Timofeeva: But there can also be emancipation from sexuality.
Maria Kochkina: Yes, I think that, once that generation arises which
can free itself from the framework we find ourselves in, there will either
take place the sexualization of everything, or the desexualization of everything. It may be the case that this is one and the same thingits unclear.
Alexander Pogrebnyak: Many pretty words have been spoken here:
communism, utopia, and so on. In agreeing with all this, feeling a sense of
solidarity, I would like to make some critical points. Everybody reckons
that Plato penned his Utopia as an ideal state, but in it, in actual fact,

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Artemy Magun: Well alright, because you believe Freud and Lacan,
that sexuality is established in early childhood and at that point the affective structure becomes more or less fixed.

No. 1

Maria Kochkina: We will always, of course, return to the same thing.

Discussion

a great anti-utopia is organized, when he describes the transition from


aristocracy to democracy. In essence, with Plato, aristocracy is authentic
democracy, in the sense that the aristocrats come to be selected by lots.
But when this selection by lots begins to stir feelings of injustice among
certain peopleyes, in Plato it was the women: Why was my husband not
selected?it is then that all manner of cunning entanglements begin
and, ultimately, we know where this leads. It leads to tyranny. To tyranny,
including that of the nuclear family. In this sense, it seems to me that to
speak today of how in the ideal, in a political project, we must aim for the
resurrection of democracy with its aleatory mechanisms, choosing of lots
and so on (Baudrillard writes much on this in his Seduction). This is all
very nice, but begs a big question.
The matter is that in the model of radical democracy with its mechanisms for random selection, there will always appear an affect among
those who simply never win the toss. The casting of lots is the kind of joke
that before which, as long as we merely discuss it in the abstract, all seem
to be equal. But when we are actually in this game, when we wait and
wait while life goes on; and nobody has suggested that we first solve the
problem of eternal life, before thinking how a model democracy can be
built within it. In this sense, it seems to me that the familynamely, the
nuclear and bourgeois familyfor many real people, and for many long
ages, might have been the only possibility afforded to withstand the injustice of this distributary mechanism which, as we know, if it has even
been realizedand on this point neoliberal ideology always places its emphasisthen it has been realised in the market. The market, properly
speaking, is also this third which is constantly problematizing us and
keeping us from reaching any final destination. Hayek says that a value
must not be fixed, but must always remain in motionnot resting on
anything. It is precisely because of this that Hayek says we must guarantee peoples property. Artyom, its good that you referred to Trierbut I
thought that if we watched Breaking the Waves back to front, we would see
not the fantasmatic project of the literalization of caritas but the contrarya realistic picture of how contemporary society has been constituted.
And precisely this: we have a woman whom everyone hasmoreover,
they have her in the bad waya gang of sailors from a ship, while they
anathematize her at home for this, and so on. And the sole way in which
she is able to find refuge from this openness is to say Let him be an invalid, let him be bedridden, but he is still my beloved husband.
As such, reading this film back to front, we see that, in some sense,
the nuclear family is in fact dialectically ambivalent. On the one hand, it
is called bourgeois and so on, but on the other, why do people create it?
Because it is the only thing that is guaranteed to them. Its almost like in
Freud, who writes in his Civilization and Its Discontents that the madman
is he who invests all of himself into one thing. Your libido has to be actively shared out between several banks, including that reliable bank

212

Yelena Kostyleva: I will answer very briefly. Thats great, if your husband is an invalid. Some women find themselves in simply unthinkable
situations: where to run from everyone? And you suggest that she live in
a nuclear family with the violence of another. May be this is better in
some way, but I wouldnt
Alexander Pogrebnyak: No, I didnt suggest that
Yelena Kostyleva: Its just that your concept is somewhat monogamous and somewhat idealistic.
Alexander Pogrebnyak: I myself am in perfect agreement with you,
but was just trying to produce a possible counterargument from that side
which we are all criticizing.
Oxana Timofeeva: In answer to the question on jealousy: if you imagine a society free from social and class antagonisms, but preserving, say,
the antagonism of love, then in this pure situation a concentration of
some affective energy is possible, the movement of which cannot be directed off into some absorbing channel (for example, in dull wage-earning
or the even duller consumption in which many now find their comfort).
Alexander Pogrebnyak: That which Freud referred to as the narcissism
of minor differences, I understand. That is, material problems are all
solved and so part of our energy splashes out Thats all, I understand.
Thank you.

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where the family is built, and when they pull a fast one on you at various
other places, here at least is one place remaining for you. And how to get
by, once you have a family, once you have set yourself up somehow in this
life, you have work, that is, you have some kind of dyad When I sit in
the dyad, I feel cramped, and I begin to dream of triads. But at the
point when people have only got hold of their dyadlike getting a flat
in the Soviet erayou cannot start telling them that they have gone bourgeois and so on
I repeat once more, as soon as speech goes beyond philosophizing
and moves onto some kind of project building, it seems to me that that
the dialectic point here consists of the fact that movement goes in both
ways, and it cannot be said that one is unambiguously revolutionary and
radical, and the other is necessary conservative and counterrevolutionary.
This is a question for Artyom. And here is another brief question that I
have drawn out to great length!I have lots of questions, actually. Oxana,
I didnt understand very well, but one idea was very curious: In communism, in a communist society, jealousy will not be less than in contemporary bourgeois society, but more?

No. 1

The Love of the Future: Openness/Totality

Discussion

Artemy Magun: I would also like to add something about jealousy. I


agree with Oxana. Jealousy is, as it were, the foundation of love, its scheme,
as it were. And whats wrong with it? Maybe more jealousy is needed?
Alexander Pogrebnyak: This is property. Its coerced form. But there is
another jealousy.
Oxana Timofeeva: I am not talking of jealousy as property. Besides
jealousy as property, there is another kind
Alexander Pogrebnyak: I meant to say that property relations give rise
to jealousy as one of the forms of its resolution. People begin to compensate this force of jealousy, in essence divine, with property. Or will jealousy under communism be such that this doesnt happen? When I see
that I love her, and she doesnt love me, then, well, I dont know, I go and
build an enterprise, take on workers Marx criticised Proudhon in this
way: if you dont abolish this, this and thatand we can add jealousy to
this listit will all come back again, capitalism in its entirety.
Oxana Timofeeva: Jealousy, death, disease, unrequited lovebecause
of these, the whole wheel of injustice is ever ready to turn back and start
it all once more.
Yoel Regev: I will add something about the nuclear family. It seems to
me that a fundamental and basic contradiction of capitalism reveals itself
here, about which Marx and Engels wrote long ago in the Manifesto, that,
on the one hand, it is as though all is sacred, all connections and everything are substantially changed, but on the other, they are never changed
to finality. An illusion is created that they may nevertheless be found
somewhere and that they are necessary. Man is presented with the constant need to find this substantiality, to find these changed relations in a
world in which they cannot be. And so the only means by which they can
be found is the competitive society, where you can compare yourself
against others. But this comparison is so structuredproperly speaking,
the very principle of comparison supposesthat this substantiality cannot be final. As soon as man defines himself in relations with another, this
relationship is subject to the risk of revision and later onan endless system of references.
In the sense, it seems to me that the nuclear familyand not just the
nuclear family, but any relations at allfulfils the function of such an illusory single anchor of salvation from the destructive connections of the
market. But in actuality, this anchor of salvation is a necessary feature
built into this very system. The very system supposes destruction, but
never to completion. Nuclearity serves precisely this function, as do any
other relations inside the capitalist model.

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Audience member: Do you think love is possible without relations of


power?
Yelena Kostyleva: It seems not.
Audience member (continued): But why?

Olga (Tsaplya) Yegorova: What you say seems terribly beautiful to me,
but utterly contradicts my own experience. First of all, you say that poly-

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Galina Rymbu: It seems that the powerlessness of which I speak is


actually binary. Or else there are two fundamentally different powerlessnesses. The first is social, economic, political and historical, structured by
the coercive logic of surplus and deficit. It cannot find the means to escape the entrenched situation (of capitalism). It is the banal powerlessness in love, in which we all find ourselveswhether bourgeois or not,
whether we sit in the center of Petersburg or on the outskirts of some
provincial town. It is even, rather, desperation. It is not revolutionary nor
is it counterrevolutionary. It is dependence, living a wretched existence in
desperation, giving rise to such a huge force as the love affect, which
people are incapable of withstanding. I am both against the understanding of monogamy and polygamy as counterrevolutionary and the demarcation between these two camps, as this only downplays a deeper problem. Both this and that form of the dictatorship of desire are powerless,
i.e., hopeless. As are, alas, any collective regulatory projects of love.
The second powerlessness is one qualitatively different, insofar as it
generally rejects the logic of force and resolution in love. Prohibition and
permission exist in a regulatory structure: there, where force reigns, you
cannot get by without prohibition, compromise, transgression etc. (in this
sense, BDSM, incidentally, is a great liberating parody on such desperateregulatory love). It is important here to clarify this qualitatively powerless universal nature of love (not to create from scratch some kind of new
phantom, but precisely to clarify, for the revolutionary embryo is already
present in this complex of feelings and relations): without finitude (or infinity), without projectivity, without militancy or militarism, as even many
leftist philosophers permit themselves to understand love as a war.

No. 1

Yelena Kostyleva: The question and commentary have coincided.


Powerlessness prompted no popular enthusiasmnobody wanted to discuss powerlessness. Each of us, in one way or another, tries to say as few
personal things as possible, but this isnt always successful. Powerlessness, love without relations of power, as it seems to me, might signify only
their blocking and nothing more. Galya, might you put it more exactly? Is
powerlessness provoked by prohibition or are you thinking of some other
kind of powerlessness?

Discussion

amory arises from surplus. It seems to me the reverse is truefrom deficiency. I havent got enough because I need more, right? Secondly, it
seems to me that love gives a kind of strength. It always has done with me.
Perhaps its different for you. And so I am somewhat dumbfounded to take
all this in. It seems to me that this is why people do not share and cannot
understand your idea. Where is this weakness? Why do we want to surrender? In fact, we dont surrenderwe give and take. Its such a cunning
thing, love. Its a very powerful exchange.
Yoel Regev: Theres some kind of equivocation here. The indistinguishability of two kinds of powerlessness. One is found with the person
who is powerless in this situation, and the other powerlessness is created
when the spring snaps and we go beyond the boundaries of this tension.
But this is a kind of blackmail on behalf of the spring, which convinces us
that we are now in a state of powerlessness and if I snap, there will be
nothing left at all. It seems necessary to me that a means be found of distinguishing one powerlessness from the other. And to perceive and contemplate the second powerlessness in rather a different manner. Not as
without something, but as
Yelena Kostyleva: As a kind of transcendence, for example. There are
transcendent states in love. They are absolutely powerlessness, absolutely
non-projective and dont have to lead to anything, and there is nothing
wrong with this at all They have no temporality to them.
Olga (Tsaplya) Yegorova: Actually, apart from loving each other, its
also possible to love something. Something outside you. Then these agonies and powerlessness are structured a little and all these finitudes and
infinities are somehow harmonized.
Yoel Regev: I fully agree, and think that what is needed is precisely a
commune of researchers. But the problem lies in the fact that, in the current conditions, on the one hand there is a collective and that which
unites itaffective sexual tiesand, on the other, there is whatever it is
that they do. And these are two different things. It seems to me that the
condition for the success of this commune will involve the elimination of
this ambivalence. That such a commune might really exist, the relationships binding them need to be born from their activity. That is, to eliminate this ambivalence.
Olga (Tsaplya) Yegorova: Too little, too little
Yelena Kostyleva: A typical critique from the left.
Dmitry Vilensky: I repeat that Brechts theme of the third matter, the
common cause, is vital. It seems that we are entangled in a rather abstract

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The Love of the Future: Openness/Totality

Yelena Kostyleva: Firstly, thank you (Dmitry and Olga) for your well
consolidated contribution, because this matter of the third cause is definitely worth thinking about. I recall, however, how polyamorists celebrate
14 February. Its comical, just imagine. There are five people. One says:
Iwouldnt mind going to the pictures; another answers him: You what,
thats so bourgeois its insupportable!; the third says: Sorry, Im reading
a bookIm not even here; the fourth goes: Im sitting at home with the
child todayIm going nowhere. And the fifth, for example, is a legless
hard-of-hearing queer, who didnt even understand the question.
What is the difference here between a traditional leftist commune
and a possible polyamorous structure? The fact that, in polyamory, all
subjects are consciously differentthey might not even have any common activity. There are things that you shouldnt do together: you cant
write poetry with four hands.
Artemy Magun: First of all, you can write poetry with four hands.
Secondly, there is love outside of a shared activity, but we are speaking
now of the institutional restructuring of society. Of course, all these institutions must have something material on which they are based, and not
just, forgive me, on affect. On affect you cant build anything at all. You can
only build on a symbol. But a symbol must rely on some kind of interaction
with the external world. And so I agree with Dima, that it is necessary to
create libidinal corporations, which will deal with various vital issues. At
the same time, in distinction from present-day corporations, they will be
forged together on libidinal, but not amorphous, connections.

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Yoel Regev: I consider a child to be in some sense a move in the right


direction, because a child is an eternal monument to the sexual act as a
result of which he was produced. But I think that this movement must be
continued and widened, until love is transformed into an eternal monument of itself.

No. 1

dispute, conditionally speaking, between productive and anti-productive


lines. But after all, we are producing new institutions, new relations, new
works, new world conditions. Properly speaking, both tendencies are
present in leftist emancipatory discourse. Now, I would say, the anti-
tendency prevails rather, and is dominant. Although, it seems, the accelerationists have another agendabut this isnt productive either.
Artyom correctly noted that the third matter always turns out to be
children for normal peopleso you may see yourself beyond the boundaries of your finitude. And among people more given to worry about such
themes, this can be art, revolution, philosophy, and so on. As Olga rightly
said, from this dyad there may grow a far greater number of combinations,
but they are always set in motion by some general energy of some undertaking.

Discussion

Olga (Tsaplya) Yegorova: I think its even possible to have no common


activity. But it is important to have common values, however.
Yelena Kostyleva: There are shared values here. You probably just
missed them at the beginning. Polyamory is regarded as a new ethical
system, a new ethic of relationships. There are such things in it as openness and honesty, and all gender theory and the entirety of feminism are
brought into it, because this is a non-repressive system that must be built
in such a way as to be inclusive, not excluding anybody. That is, people
there faff around on the theme ofas Galya sayshow to love.
Artemy Magun: But we, by the way, didnt understand it like that
Oxana Timofeeva: If we suppose that everything is organised on the
principle of comradely polyamorous communes, what is to be done with
the inertia of the subject who doesnt wish to join the commune, but
wants to be with a specific given comrade, and exclude the others?
Alexander Pogrebnyak: Oxana, Fourier has described this in detail.
From onanism to the most polyamorous practices on the scale of the entire Phalansteryplease! Every evening is riddled with hundreds of intrigues, somebody will be in a couple tomorrow, somebody else in a foursome, another wont be with anyone at alland will go clearing up litter
to his hearts content.
The question is something else: in what way is Fourier an idealist? It
seems to me that in his concept material plays into the hands of structure.
And if the material doesnt play along? This is a question for Yoel too, by
the way. Ontology can be idealistic, and it can be materialistic. The latter
occurs when the material given has some deficiency and this deficiency, in
a certain sense, problematizes any shortage. And then, instead of solutions we have the multiplication of problems that suggests no solutions.
Why did Marx love him sohe said Fourier was better than Proudhon, or
any other fucker besideswhile rejecting almost 90 percent of Fouriers
agenda to leave only the organization of the economy? Because Fouriers
entire concept relies on the fact that materialpassive Aristotelian materialfits our form totally. But this is idealism indeed!
Nikolai Kofyrin: Paraphrasing the author: does it not seem to you that
nature is nevertheless stronger than culture, and that people live by instinct rather than by reason?
Yoel Regev: Such kind of argumentation very easily careens off into
a thesis that is rightist by its nature. I would answer like this. It seems to
me that not just the materialist, but also the materialist dialectic position
is linked with the affirmation of two theses. The first thesis originates

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The Love of the Future: Openness/Totality

Yoel Regev: On the other hand, psychoanalysis. All psychoanalytical


knowledge is founded upon the proposition that this sphere of investments can be manipulated, that certain translocation can be effected in
this sphere, certain redistributions.
Anatoly: If we look at man as an imaginary being, that is, a determined imaginary, in the Lacanian sense, then it must be supposed that
such delicate materials as love are cultivated there and find there their
energy. To the question on how capitalism expresses its reactionary essence: most likely, it occupies and colonizes this imaginary with incursions of the symbolic. How to live with this, with all this love, in communesand what use are they anyway? People are not even inclined to go
out at allthis is already a contemporary statistic. They get everything
while sitting at their computers and dont need a thing.
Artemy Magun: The great poet of the society you have described, Viktor Pelevin, says in this vein that the most important thing in a woman
there are two important things really, but Ill forego mention of the second. The first of them is a hypnotableau [a reference to the futuristic technology in Pelevins Snuff noveltranslator]. This is a metaphor. It boils

219

Vol. 4 (2016)

Alexander Pogrebnyak: I fully agree here with the thesis of powerlessness. You are right that the point of radical chance is very important. And,
properly speaking, sexuality is indeed an absolutely fetishistic thing too.
In this sense, if we look at sexuality without the bullshit which its so hung
up on and which it will never cast offand it will never concede its fetish,
never sacrifice itwe also fall into idealism. The determining principle of
sexuality is precisely this fetish that gives it its power, but which, precisely because of this, rends us powerless. Because, as soon as you let this
fetish slip away, all your power goes up in smoke.

No. 1

from the disobedience of material to us. It confirms that everything we


can think of, everything that we do, our thought and our practice, are defined by nonplastic and external circumstances. Properly speaking, material is also that which defines thought. But the second thesis is no less
important: despite the above shown fact, we have access to knowledge as
to how this determinative external can be subjected to manipulation. We
have knowledge about this. Otherwise it really would all be just idealism.
We have the technical wherewithal, we have the method. The importance of sexuality lies in the fact that it is also that sphere to which we
have accessin the most privileged formjust as we have to this externality which determines our thought and actions. This is that very sphere
in which we have access to the methodology that would allow us to exert
and influence on and transform the external. That which Pepperstein refers to as frobnication. Such frobnication has a sexual character.

Discussion

down to woman being a walking television. But man, too. In actual fact,
nothing changeswe all live in a world of daydreams. And it is from this
that we began. And our task here with our colleagues is to set up some
kind of barrier blocks in it for the user.
Oleg: There is one simple obvious thingthe collective doesnt have
sex. The individual has sex. And, in creating a commune, you dont guarantee the emergence of a new sexuality at allit may just reproduce the
previous kind. By way of contrast, when some new Marquis de Sade comes
along with a new understanding of love, then a new sexuality will appear.
Yelena Kostyleva: In this sense, I would like to get something straight:
we arent setting up any kind of commune yet at all.
Artemy Magun: As a summary of the discussionY. Kostyleva has reconsidered.
Yelena Kostyleva: People always confuse the commune, community,
and polyamory. In polyamory, there is another subject, comrades. The
subject of polyamory is the relationships themselves. And so this kind of
sexuality is something new. In any case, historically, there has not yet
been seen anything that has described itself in any similar fashion.
Artemy Magun: Thank you! And here, on these words of Yelena, we
draw our discussion to a close.

220

, 2016

ISSN 2310-3817

. 4

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http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/library/Pdf/Polyamory%20Bibliography.pdf.
International Conference on the Future of Monogamy and Nonmonogamy.
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262

Book reviews /

From the Editor


We would say that Hegel is coming back to current philosophical
debates, if ever could we observe him disappear. But in fact, Hegel has
always been at the forefront of the most sophisticated theoretical debates
in continental theory, political philosophy, and history of ideas. The
reviews gathered here do not merely testify this interest, but demonstrate
just how broad and diverse the thinking with or against Hegel may be
ranging from historically contextualizing his work (as in the volume
edited by Robert Stern) to incorporating dialectics while experimenting
with new materialist ontologies (as in Andrian Johnston or Slavoj iek);
from finding the unstable point in Hegels system (Frank Ruda) to
acknowledging poetic and emotional elements of his texts (Katrin Pahl)
to rethinking Hegels understanding of the revolutionary event (Rebecca
Comay, Artemy Magun). This wealth of voices, with readers of Hegel
readers, interpreters of interpretations sharing their reading experiences
at the interface of Hegel, Hegel scholarship, and current theoretical/
political debates, creates a polyphony necessary for grasping what Hegels
legacy might mean for todays thinking and acting.
Ivan Boldyrev

264

265

Vol. 4 (2016)

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No. 1

eng

Frank Ruda, Hegels Rabble: An Investigation


into Hegels Philosophy of Right
London: Continuum, 2011, 218pp., ISBN 978-1441156938

Reviewed by Sren Rosendal


Aarhus University

The best and most precise philosophical commentaries are rarely the
ones that take a view-from-nowhere approach and try to give a general
and neutral account of the text, but are more often the ones that have a
highly specific angle, even an agenda, engaging with the text beyond its
limited historical context. Frank Rudas book Hegels Rabble is exemplary
of this latter type, letting Hegels philosophy refract through the notion of
the rabble and following the repercussions this has for his Philosophy of
Right and beyond. Rudas approach is so fruitful because it insists on reanimating rather than simply and solely reinterpreting the text. Pbel, or
The rabble can be provisionally defined as Hegel does in 244 of the
Philosophy of Right: destitute poverty coupled with a negative attitude
that unbinds this class from the sphere of right so that it disintegrates
from society and falls into a state of inactivity.
Whilst reading Rudas long woven strands of beautiful argumentation and association through the twelve closely linked chapters of the
book, one is led in interpretative detail through backdoors and avenues of
the Hegelian system, drawing unexpected connections that suddenly lead
to radically non-Hegelian territory. This approach is justified because the
rabble marks the point within the system that threatens to explode, or at
least irritate, the system in its present form, so in order to account for the
rabble within Hegel one needs to move beyond Hegel. This is the governing
methodological thought throughout.
In Frank Rudas reading, the rabble is not simply a minor issue in a
specific part of a specific section of Hegels political philosophy, but represents a fundamental irritation of philosophy by politics (4). This
means that the phenomenon of the rabble forces philosophy to rethink
its own fundamental logic. It presents a negative experience in the
Hegelian sense of the word, the collapse of a fundamental criterion of
truth or distinction. Classical political philosophical concepts such as
equality, justice, and freedom need to be readdressed in the light, or

266

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Vol. 4 (2016)

shadow, of the rabble. But also concepts such as necessity and contingency and especially the central Hegelian opposition between determinacy and indeterminacy are at stake.
Ruda takes his point of departure from Hegels admission that civil
society produces poverty by necessity due to its own internal dynamics.
His project could be summed up as describing the disintegrative process
whereby this by-product of civil society falls into utter socio-political indeterminacy and the consequences and potential that this process unleashes. The strength of the book lies in a strongly argued insistence that
the rabble presents a reorientation fundamental to post-Hegelian thinking. Ruda starts off by focusing on the structural irresolvability (31) of
poverty within civil society that is diagnosed but left unsolved by Hegel.
The emergence of the rabble is a kind of pure negation, defined as ano
thing that surfaces within civil society (32), but by the sheer fact of being
nothing (not belonging to an estate, not represented politically, not
participating in social institutions, etc.) it is also the possibility of transformation. The point is not to solve the problem of the rabble, to find a
way to neutralize it by reorganizing society, but rather that the rabble is
in itself a point of political (and philosophical) transformation. To bring
out the consequence of the deadlock presented by both the phenomenon
and concept of the rabble, Ruda, both implicitly and explicitly, fuses the
loose ends of Hegel with Alain Badious theoretical edifice (the influence
of Jacques Rancire and Slavoj iek also echoes throughout; the latter
also wrote the preface for the book).
For the rabble to appear, more is needed than simply poverty. It also
needs to have a set of attitudes whereby it gradually unbinds itself from
society: it refuses to work for its own subsistence, it is part of no estate, no
cooperation, it sees no rationality in the organized whole of the state,
feels indignation, resentment, and so on. But surprisingly the rabble need
not even be poor, because not only is there a process of unbinding originating from the very bottom, there is also an unbinding at the upper strata of civil society. The latter is the luxury rabble epitomized in the gambler who circumvents the mediations opened by civil society and exploits
its inherent pathologies for fast wealth (or fast loss) extracted from the
contingent game of civil society. Civil society is, so to speak, disintegrating at both ends. Both are the asocial products of the social order,
neither integrated within the sphere of right nor duty. One of the most
exciting parts of the book is exactly this reading of Hegels analyses of the
juxtaposition of the poor rabble as a necessary possibility (everyone is latently poor, since poverty is necessarily produced, and thus everyone is
latently rabble) and the rich rabble as contingent possibility (gambling
with contingencies of the market to produce contingent wealth). The possibilities that structure civil society are also the possibilities of its inherent pathologies; these two sides cannot be separated, but determine each
other.

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Throughout the book Ruda gradually focuses more and more on the
process that unbinds the rabble from all connections to ethical communality, society, and the state. But in this unbinding it also claims what
Ruda characterizes as a right without right, that is, the insistence on a right
but without participation in the institutions of right. The privation or unbinding that gives rise to the rabble opens a fundamental and universal
level of politics: in a sense the absolute rabble is the zero-level of politics,
because all members of society are latently rabble. The rabble is not just a
particular (excluded) class within society, but the absolute indeterminacy
upon which all socio-political determinacy is (always already) conferred.
But its presence is therefore only retroactively experienced as the consequence of the dissolution inherent to civil society. It also cannot be directly accounted for in that it operates below official political representation. Here we are in the territory of Badious void (2005: 3169 ): that
which is withdrawn from all presentation (the count-as-one) and therefore is only present as absent, yet with a foundational function, since all
presentations are presentations of this void. This is a kind of insubstantial
universality, because anyone is latently rabble (the only thingin modern
societythat all participate in is the potential for becoming rabble). Also
in characterizing the rabble as losing its habit of being active and falling
into an inert will resembles Agambens notion of impotentiality (1999:
17784), it has fully withdrawn itself from actualization while still being
there, being nothing.
The process of in-determination and unbinding, the absolute negation of all determinations (163) that is the rabble is characterized in several ways by Ruda, who adeptly shifts between metaphors and concepts of
the Hegelian corpus while interconnecting it in original ways with the
contemporary thinkers already mentioned in a way that sheds new light
on both sides. The central theme running through the book is the indetermination of the rabble. And it is exactly this indetermination that raises
some fascinating questions that I would like to address.
I think it is safe to say that Hegel was very critical of pure indeterminacy, and Ruda is explicit in his declaration that this goes beyond and even
against Hegel, but in what sense is the rabble this absolute or pure indeterminacy? For Hegel, pure indeterminacy can only exist as a destructive process of negations: not-this, not-this, not-this etc., as in the Terror
following the French Revolutionthe guillotine is a machine for the eradication of determinacy (of anyone daring to specify what abstract universal freedom actually is). Is the pure indeterminacy of the rabble in Rudas
book akin to this negative process? At one point he writes: The appearing
of the rabble is its disappearing (132), which seems to go against the
non-dialectical character of the absolute rabble. And is the rabble not determined, for example, by it making a demand of a right without right?
Maybe the nothing that the rabble is should only be understood as a
nothing from the point of view of the socio-political order, a nothing

268

Bibliography
Agamben, Giorgio (1999). Potentialies. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Badiou, Alan (2005). Being and Event. London: Continuum.
Hegel, G. W. F. (2008). Outlines of the Philosophy of Right. Ed. Stephen Houlgate, trans.
T.M. Knox. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hegel, G. W. F. (2010). Philosophy of Mind. Ed. Michael Inwood, trans. W. Wallace and
A.V. Miller. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

1
In the English translation, Spirit (Geist) is somewhat misleadingly translated as Mind.

269

Vol. 4 (2016)

that presents the underlying truth of the order that it itself cannot represent (to itself)?
Another question pertains to the status of the right without right, especially with regard to equality. If this is a right, formulated outside the
sphere of right, that demands equality and justice based on the fact that
everyone is universally latently rabble, then is this not the equality of (the
possibility of) universal destitution? The rabble is the Hegelian name for
the emergence of an indeterminacy which decomposes the state (164),
thus the rabble is the name for universal decomposition, the dissolution
at the ground of the apparent integration of society. But is the most fundamental level always the most dissolved level (this question could also
be addressed to Badiou)? And what positive political force can be gained
from the declaration that we are all equal as latently destitute? Can the
pure and impossible demand for universal equality and justice as the
point of political transformation be based solely on indeterminacy and
dissolution? This then leads to the shift in the last pages of the book
where nothing in a sense becomes everything. The determination of
man is to have no prior determination, which is how Ruda reads Marxs
notion of Gattungswesen; man can become anything and everything in
universal production. But what is not addressed is how this re-determination of the absolutely indeterminate man is itself possible.
Despite its apparently narrow focus, Hegels Rabble covers all of
Hegels Philosophy of Right and crucial aspects of the Philosophy of Spirit1
in an extremely rich yet very precise way that effortlessly surpasses the
boundary between commentary and original philosophical contribution.
Frank Rudas important and groundbreaking piece of careful, daring argumentation comes highly recommended not just for anyone interested in
Hegel but more universally, for anyone interested in contemporary politics and philosophy.

No. 1

Book reviews /

Frank Ruda, Hegels Rabble: An Investigation


into Hegels Philosophy of Right
London: Continuum, 2011, 218pp., ISBN 978-1441156938


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Agamben, Giorgio (1999). Potentialies. Stanford: Stanford University Press.


Badiou, Alan (2005). Being and Event. London: Continuum.
Hegel, G. W. F. (2008). Outlines of the Philosophy of Right. Ed. Stephen Houlgate, trans.
T.M. Knox. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hegel, G. W. F. (2010). Philosophy of Mind. Ed. Michael Inwood, trans. W. Wallace and
A.V. Miller. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

274

ii

eng

David S. Stern (ed.), Essays on Hegels


Philosophy of Subjective Spirit
Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2013, 266pp.,
ISBN 978-1438444451

Reviewed by Kirill Alexandrov


Humboldt University, Berlin; Higher School of Economics, Moscow
Among the new tendencies in Hegelian studies today, an important
(and highly welcome) one is the rediscovery of Hegels Berlin philosophy
of subjective spirit, a previously neglected part of his encyclopedic project
(alongside the philosophy of nature, which is also starting to get more
credit), which is to this day eclipsed by the masterwork that is the Jena
Phenomenology of Spirit from 1807. The present volume of essays, edited
by David S. Stern, is a testament to this new interest, comprising thirteen
papers by established and upcoming scholars. Consisting of three divisionsAnthropology, a doctrine of the human soul, sensation, individuality, and habit; Phenomenology, a theory of consciousness, self-consciousness, and reason; and Psychology, an account of spirits theoretical (from representation to thought) and practical (from practical feeling
and drive to happiness) faculties culminating in subjective freedom.
Hegels philosophy of subjective spirit not only encompasses a wealth of
anthropological, epistemological, and other material, as well as pointing
back to the philosophy of nature and forward to the philosophy of objective spirit, but also introduces a different logic of Geists development
compared to the Jena Phenomenology and a plethora of new, or differently
conceptualized, topics and conceptsso many, in fact, that only a limited
number of them come under consideration in the volume under review.
And while the prominence of the Phenomenology is hardly going anywhere, and deservedly so, the philosophy of subjective spirit is not only
worthy of engagement in and of itself, but also bound to shed additional
light on the development of Hegels phenomenological thought.
Two of the essays, by Marina F. Bykova and Robert R. Williams, focus
precisely on an issue inherited from the Phenomenologynamely, the concept of recognition. While recognition has become a stock concept in and
beyond Hegelian scholarship, there is, as Bykova observes, a noticeable
deficiency when it comes to considering it on the material of Hegels
Philosophy of Spirit (139). Polemicizing with those who, like Habermas,

276

1
As an aside, the Fichtean terminology of the non-I belongs to Hegel himself in the philosophy of subjective spirit, which generally happens to have more allusions to the Wissenschaftslehre than one perhaps might expect.

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Vol. 4 (2016)

Honneth, Hsle, and Peperzak, deny or downplay the importance of intersubjectivity in and for the system, Bykova argues that the Self-consciousness subsection of Phenomenology not only constitutes a positive account of intersubjectivity formulated in terms of the struggle for recognition, but also treats intersubjective recognition as a vital and irreducible condition of self[hood] (141). Bykova convincingly traces the logic of
self-consciousness from the I as a creature of desire aware of [its] difference from the object, the non-I1 to the way its unity with the world has
to be mediated in and by other consciousness, marking the Is openness
and realization that its desire can only be truly satisfied not by an object,
but by the other self-consciousness (14344). This recognition, however,
is not instantaneous, but a torturous process which Bykova analyzes in
detail and much of which overlaps with the familiar account of recognition
in the Jena Hegel. Bykovas aim here, however, is not merely to reconstruct
the logic of recognition in the Berlin phenomenology, but to drive home
the crucial point that intersubjectivity is necessitated by the very concept
of self-consciousness (148), so that subjectivity and individuality are always intersubjectivity and communality and individuals are conscious
of themselves only as universal individuals (15051). Bykova concludes
by distinguishing this theoretical principle of intersubjectivity from its
practical realization in objective spirit.
Taking up the topic of recognition, Williams directs his argument
against what he terms Robert Pippins historicist, constructivist, and
left-Hegelian account of recognition in Hegel (155). Agreeing on this
with Bykova, Williams underscores the normative aspect of recognition for
Hegel, to which Pippin is unable to do justice. Based on Hegels texts and
lectures on the philosophy of spirit from the 1820s, Williams seeks to clarify how self-relation and relation to the other are reciprocally mediated.
Despite the conceptual overlap with Bykova, Williams analysis covers different ground thanks to its focus on mediated self-actualization, its Aristotelian roots as well as its difference from Aristotle, and on how this concept helps us resist interpretations that collapse either the relation to
other in Hegel into self-relation or the latter into the former. Crucially, Williams seeks to complement the master-slave analysis of recognition inherited from the Jena Phenomenology with an account of the affirmative possibilities of recognition that Williams finds in Hegels 1825 lectures, contrasting the reciprocal recognition constitutive of ethical life with the
unequal coercive recognition constitutive of master and slave (163). It is
this positive recognition that Williams locates in Hegels deduction of the
universal consciousness (168), which progressively incorporates the perspective of the other (172). Another point of note here is the a contrario

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way in which Williams defines the normativity of recognitionthat is, in


opposition to misrecognition, or the negations and distortions of recognition undermining ethical life (157), which is, I believe, a helpful perspective on normativity in Hegel in general (Williams illustrates this point further by an analysis of Hegels reading of Sophocles Antigone). In order perhaps to push the importance of intersubjective recognition to the fore,
Williams and Bykova consider the universal consciousness as essentially
synonymous with spirit as such (168) and claim that the entire deduction
of the concept of spirit is laid down as the process of achieving the unity
of self-consciousness (142). I would take issue with these formulations
given that, even if Bykova and Williams mean solely subjective spirit here,
the latter culminates in the psychology, not the phenomenology, so that
the deduction of spirit does not end once the unity of self-consciousness
has been achieved, but goes forward to what Hegel terms the free spirit.
Williams emphasis on how the development of spirit can go wrong
ties in well thematically with Hegels anthropology and its account of
madness. Three essays in this volume deal with madness, which has,
alongside habit, traditionally been one of the most popular anthropological topics in Hegel scholarship. Glenn Alexander Magees essay focuses on
madness and the paranormal (such as Hegels treatment of mesmerism
or animal magnetism). What allows Magee to group these together is
Hegels conception of feeling as the subjective way of knowing [that] dispenses wholly, or at least in part, with the mediations and conditions indispensable to an objective knowledge (56, quoting 406Z. of the Encyclopedia). As animal magnetism shows, Geist is for Hegel not bound by space
and time (66) and can dispense with any mediation, a fact called magic
by Hegel (56, quoting 405Z.). Magee goes on to consider the specifics of
Hegels explanation of mesmerism, in which the magnetizers control over
the magnetized can be explained by the fact that in paranormal states the
feeling part of the soul temporarily usurps the higher-level, mental
functions (60). Magee rightly sees this kind of usurpation as the general
pattern of mental illness in the anthropology, which is also where madness comes into play. I would add that, for Hegel, this pattern is not only
that of illness, but also of the unconscious as such, which he considers
indispensable to the functioning of the human mind, and in that sense not
abnormal. Here, the dividing line between the normative and the paranormal (or irrational [67], as Magee also calls it) becomes blurred and would
perhaps necessitate a different conceptual distinction. In fact, one of the
striking things about Hegels anthropology is that it considers the irrational stratum of the human psyche as already spiritual. Finally, on a more
historical note, Magees essay identifies an important source for Hegels
conceptualization of the paranormal, G. H. Schuberts Die Symbolik des
Traumes (1814), which introduces two systems, the ganglionic and the cerebral, that play opposite roles in the consciousness and underlie various forms of paranormal phenomena (6264).

278

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Nicholas Mowads essay, also dealing with madness, connects Hegels


account of it with the dynamics of sleeping and waking in the anthropology (87). In other words, Mowad ties madness, which Hegel examines in
Feeling Soul, back to sleep and awakening, discussed in Natural Soul.
Insanity is, on this account, the immediate identification of singular and
universal which is, however, distinct from mere sleep because, if it were
identical to sleep, an awakening would be required, which does not take
place. Rather, madness is already rooted in the awakening because in the
awakening the soul is first posited as this individual soul. In contrast to
sleep, madness presents an attempt by the singular to stand on its own
but therein also lies its perversion (96). From the logical perspective that
Mowad here adopts, in order to overcome madness, the division, or judgment (Urteil), between universal and singular must be mediated by a third
term so it can be turned into a syllogism. This mediating term is habit.
Mowad does not analyze the mechanism of habit as such in detail, but
points out its function in the overcoming of madness, which consists in
cultivating in the madman feelings that the actual world, its relationships, and its obligations, have value and are not just an impediment to his
(perhaps unrealizable) obsession (98). Mowads paper is short and does
not cover the intersection of (self-)feeling, habit, and madness in Hegel in
as much detail as I wish it would, but I generally think it is one of the most
fascinating and well-argued essays in the volume, and should be a required reading for anyone trying to make sense of Hegels anthropology.
Mario Wennings paper also focuses on madness. It is also one of several papers in the present volume that argue for or assume a naturalist
approach to Hegels philosophy of spiritwhich, given the general prominence of naturalism in philosophy of mind these days, should not come
as a surprise. Wennings position is that free thinking [in Hegel] cannot
be understood without a natural dimension, so that Hegel is, in truth,
not an idealist who disenchants nature and denigrates it to a mere preparatory stage in the development of spirit (107). After discussing the
tension between the natural state of the soul which is at the same time
unnatural for Hegel, and pointing out Hegels discover[y of] the unconscious mind, Wenning turns to madness as not the other of reason, but
a special form or dimension of reason itself (10911). In a move that remains somewhat unclear to me, Wenning identifies the unconscious dimension in the human mind to which madness appeals with the minds
emerge[nce] out of nature (111). I think Wennings claim is too strong,
and rests on a confusion between human nature and nature as such. Spirit as the human soul is for Hegel not Natur, but the Naturgeist, that is, the
immediacy of spirit, not nature qua nature (112). It is unclear, too, why,
in order to enter into a conscious relationship to [nature], spirit must
identify with nature (113). At the same time, Wenning correctly notes that
Hegel conceives of madness as not categorically distinct from sanity,
which constitutes a break with traditional eighteenth-century theories

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of madness (114). The account of madness that follows (referencing Kant


and Foucault) is also helpful.
Italo Testas essay also discusses Hegels naturalism. Testa explains
why the traditional problem of the soul-body relationship is categorically
invalid for Hegel, the soul being, in Hegels anthropology, embodied activity
of sensation so that soul and body refer to the same object, namely, the
living individual (23). He also distinguishes between epistemological realism and metaphysical realism, arguing that Hegel endorses the former
but not the latter (21). At the same time, Testa calls for a broad conception
of nature to account for what he regards as Hegels naturalism (24). Testa
does not, however, engage with a wealth of textual material that makes any
naturalist reading of Hegel problematicsuch as Hegels frequent insistence that spirit can begin only from spirit, or the fact that, for Hegel, even
the first cry of a newborn human child is an act of spirit, etc., which seems
to run contrary to Testas and others assumption that Natural Soul has to
do with the non-human, animal part of the soul. Even the quotes that Testa
brings in support of his argument, such as nature being a presupposition
of spirit, do not seem to me to be self-evidently naturalist. Spirit can both
have nature for its presupposition and not, as spirit, begin from nature; this
is perfectly compatible with Hegels idealism. In fact, Natural Soul does
not, I believe, theorize the emergence of spirit from natureit has to do,
rather, with the spiritual significance of what is immediately given to and in
the human soul. This givenness may itself emerge from nature; however,
Hegel refuses to theorize this emergence, even when he discusses the souls
natural qualities, focusing instead on their spiritual meaning. For him,
just as for German Idealism as a whole, spirit is a fact, and this facticity of
spirit is non-emergent, resisting any naturalism (while also, in Hegel, avoiding dualism via the materiality of the body).
Furthermore, the soul as such (as universal ideality of life) may be
common to both human and animal. However, the human soul has an entirely different logic, and it is in postulating this distinct logic of spirit, including the way it idealizes nature, that Hegels idealist strategy lies.
Pointing out, correctly, Hegels emphasis on embodiment or the Naturgeist
as immediacy of spirit does not seem to me to undermine it. Testas move
consists in anchoring spirit in nature, even if broadly conceived. (Hence
also his emphasis on habit as natural, whereas Hegel himself introduces
second nature as the individuals transformation of the naturally given.) I am, however, a bit suspicious of the broad conception of nature for
which Testa calls, since its exact meaning remains unclarified. Finally, even
if we were to grant that there are passages in which Hegel is a naturalist in
a non-idealist sense, it would have been more fruitful, I believe, to confront
these passages with those where he is not instead of just ignoring them
altogether, as essays in this volume tend to do. It could be interesting, I
believe, to consider the interplay of these two aspects or even to problematize the distinction between naturalism and non-naturalism itself.

280

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Skipping over Angelica Nuzzos paper, which is a general introduction


to Hegel own introduction to the Philosophy of Spirit and his lectures on the
same subject, as well as a summing up of Hegels criticism of rational psychology and empirical psychology, I will move on to Simon Lumsdens
essay, focusing on the way habit challenges the dualism of nature and
spirit (121). This dualism, however, is framed by Lumsden in terms taken
not immanently from Hegel, but from Kant. It is Kants receptivity-spontaneity distinction and its twin concept, the mind-world division, that
have, says Lumsden (12223), informed much of post-Kantian debate, including more recently the work of Brandom, Habermas, Korsgaard, McDowell, and Pinkard. If, however, we look at habit in Hegel from this perspective,
we can see that it eschews those categories and challenges the dualism of
the space of reasons and the space of causes (122). Lumsden argues, further, that Hegels account of habit is a precursor to the non-dualistic tradition that allows for a rationality that is inscribed in cultural [or ethical]
life itself, rather being authorized and legitimated by a single autonomous
agent or by reflective acts of cognition by autonomous subjects (123
24). Habit transforms nature via self-positing, asserts a self-identity based
on will, and establishes itself as the corporeal immediacy presupposed by
spiritual activity as such. Lumsden concludes by saying that habit is the
way in which human beings can be at home with nature (134); again, however, given that the natural in habit means its immediate character
habit is the underlying immediacy of all activities of spiritand especially
given the transformative character of habit for Hegel, I am unconvinced
that habit in Hegel has to do with being at home with nature as such.
Lumsdens analysis itself, however, is clear and illuminating.
Two final essays on Hegels anthropology are those by Jeffrey Reid and
Jason J. Howard, both focusing on Feeling Soul. Reid scrutinizes the difference between the 1827 and 1830 editions of the Encyclopedia and why
the latter edition replaced the 1827 Dreaming Soul subsection of the anthropology with Feeling Soul. Reid first traces the concept of the dreaming soul back to Hegels psychological manuscript from 1794, after which he
offers a consideration of what he takes to be the source of Hegels notion of
the dreaming/feeling soul, the Tbingen professor J. F. Flatts lecture notes
on empirical psychology. Having established that, Reid detects the cause of
the change from the dreaming to the feeling soul, perhaps surprisingly,
in the Hegel-Schleiermacher conflict and Hegels opposition to what he
viewed as the latters religion of feeling. If feeling takes priority over reason, this results for Hegel in madness, and Reid argues that, first, Hegel sees
religious fervor as a form of mental pathology, and second, that his conception of said fervor is an implicit jab at Schleiermacher. In conclusion, Reid
locates Hegels motivation for intensifying the anti-Schleiermacher angle
in the 1830 edition of the Encyclopedia specifically in his 1829 correspondence, where Hegel expresses his irritation with what he felt was an attack
on the 1827 edition by Schleiermacher and his Gefhlsschule (49).

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Howards essay, in turn, is devoted to the relationship between form


and content in Hegels picture of the emotions in the anthropology. Howard convincingly demonstrates that, on the one hand, Hegel has a theory
of emotions [that] is considerably innovative to the extent it anticipates
many of the most pertinent distinctions in contemporary work on emotion (71), in particular when Hegel differentiates emotions into different
types and assigns to them a vital function in the transition to consciousness, in self-assessment, and in moral character and self-worth. Howard
also observes that emotions are neither irrational nor biologically primitive but rather integrative for Hegel (80), which is, I believe, essential
for understanding the rational (spiritual or ideal) character of the anthropological in Hegel. On the other hand, despite his dialectical approach, Hegel still wants to maintain a pronounced separationbetween
the form of emotions and their content (81)a position that, as Howard
indicates, has been refuted by recent work on emotion, which has shown
that physiology plays little if any role individuating emotion types (81
82). Whether Howard is right or wrong in his view of Hegel on emotions
depends on him being correct in claiming that Hegel strongly implies
that [the] differentiation [of inner feelings into emotions] happens before
the reflexive will organizes and indexes the feeling, which in fact cannot
occur without some level of conscious integration (82). In any case, Howard identifies the core of the problem very perceptively and opens up an
interesting avenue for examining this issue further.
Two essays in the volume concern Hegels Psychology. Richard Dien
Winfields article undertakes to illuminate one of the most obscure and
least studied sections of Hegels Philosophy of Subjective Spirit, Practical
Spirit. Winfield sees the logic of practical intelligence contained in that
section as elaborating the concepts of subjective will and free will, providing the conceptual prerequisites for normative conduct, and usher[ing]
in the Philosophy of Objective Spirit and the concept of right (201). To underscore the importance of the psychologys account of will, Winfield refers to the introduction to the Philosophy of Right, which recapitulates the
concluding section of the philosophy of [subjective] mind (202), solidifying the latters foundational role for the former. What it means for will to
be practical intelligence, and how it is explicable in the context of Hegels
psychology, is the subject matter of Winfields nuanced examination of
the psychology as providing the volitional prerequisites of rational agency by considering the forms of willing that lack full rationality (207).
The necessity of the pre-rational volition is shown by Winfield to be
grounded precisely in the way Hegel derives the rational will from it, to
which end Winfield discusses the three stage of practical intelligence,
Practical Feeling, Impulses and Choices, and Happiness, before comparing this logic with the perspective offered by the Philosophy of Right.
Referencing Herders and Hamanns linguistic criticism of Kant in the
Metacritics, Jere ONeill Surber offers an account of how Hegels phi-

282

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losophy of language in the Psychology both fills a conspicuous void in


Kants transcendental approach and delimits and counters the metacritical skepticism (182). In his overview of Herders Metakritik, Surber
concedes that the flaw of Kants approach to cognition and thought consisted in his wholesale dismissal of the role played by language; however, metacriticism itself went too far, turning into a thoroughgoing skepticism regarding the possibility of speculative thought (18485). Hegels
theory of language and signification, therefore, aims to navigate between
these two extremes by assigning a mediating systematic location to language (186). On the one hand, Hegel makes language a constitutive presupposition and an irreducible element of the logic of theoretical intelligence in the psychology leading up to thoughta logic that goes from
intuition to representation to thought, which Surber analyzes in detail
(18894). At the same time, however, this logic makes it clear that language and signification belong at the level of representation, not thought
per se, and if we properly understand how names function as pure linguistic determinations, we can see, according to Hegel, that language neither
intrudes into thought nor subverts it as the skeptics claim. The more limited role that Hegel assigns to language, Surber concludes, helps him repel the metacritical attack and avoid [metacritical] paradoxes, even
though it also raises further issues regarding the importance of naming for
Hegels philosophy in general and his Logic in particular (19596).
It is, of course, a bit of a shame that Phenomenology and Psychology only get two essays each, and for this reason, as well as due to the narrow
scope of some of the essays and the emphasis on a limited number of topics,
I do not think Essays on Hegels Philosophy of Subjective Spirit can serve as a
good introduction to, or overview of, the philosophy of subjective spirit for
someone not already familiar with it. It is, rather, a typical academic volume
addressed predominantly to Hegelian scholars or readers who already have
a background in Hegels philosophy of subjective spirit and can place these
essays in a broader context. As such, it certainly serves its purpose and contains some very good papers. As someone who is not following current debates in analytic philosophy of mind, I cannot comment on how helpful this
volume can be to analytic philosophers who are not scholars of Hegel. The
last essay in the volume, by Philip T. Grier, may be the most useful in this
regard, dealing as it does with two paradigms of the mind-nature relationship, the narrow and the comprehensivethe latter espoused by Hegel
in his tripartite division of the philosophy of subjective spirit into soul, consciousness, and intelligence, and presenting these paradigms as two traditions in analytic philosophy of consciousness. There are, however, no Continental essays in this volume, which reflects the sensibilities of academic
Anglophone philosophy departments at large. Overall, Essays on Hegels
Philosophy of Subjective Spirit is a useful and welcome book. It may feel a bit
too one-sided and basic at times, but that merely goes to show that serious
philosophical engagement with this side of Hegel is only just beginning.

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ii

David S. Stern (ed.), Essays on Hegels


Philosophy of Subjective Spirit
Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2013, 266pp.,
ISBN978-1438444451


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No. 1

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iii
eng
Katrin Pahl, Tropes of Transport:
Hegel and Emotion
Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2012, 356pp.,
ISBN978-0810127845

Reviewed by Ivan Boldyrev


Witten/Herdecke University; Higher School of Economics, Moscow;
Humboldt University, Berlin

Brushing Hegel Against the Grain


Tropes of Transport is a book that provides a new and inspiring perspective on Hegels Phenomenology of Spirit in view of its emotionality and
philosophical imagery. It is in fact a series of essays commenting freely on
various parts of Hegels text without sticking to the order of Hegels presentation. But this book, I would argue, is more than just a study of Hegels
discourse in its emotional dimension. Pahl treats the Phenomenology as a
literary figuration, as a poemthus making the text speak as a text, not
merely as a neutral form to convey a systematic speculative message. But
the authors real ambition is to show that the very idea of this message,
Hegels philosophical legacy, cannot be adequately understood without referring to this external textuality. Philosophy is, after all, a kind of writing.
Phenomenology of Spirit intertwines the temporality of the three
major literary genres: the syncopating measures of poetic rhythm, the
virtual present of poetical enactment, and the folded sequence of narrative (6; cf. 182ff.)it is at the same time a poem, a drama, and a novel. It
has to be staged, and also presentat least as an intentionthe developmental narrative, merging the qualities of dramatic presentation and bildungsroman. But for Pahl, the key to its genre is that it resists linear reading and is read, rather, back and forth, reread always anew, with another
accent. The text as a whole is interpreted as an emotional judgment
(117) and the movement between the layers of meaning and various modulations of poetic utterance is described as emotional syntax (221)this
is what makes it most closely related to poetry. The text is directed at itself, performs itself for its own sake, something that clearly reminds of
Jakobsons poetic function of language (1960).
In explaining how Hegels text is written, Pahl refers to the free indirect discourse that blurs the distinction between the voice of the nar-

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1
This idea is, however, abandoned when Pahl unambiguously identifies the
judging consciousness in the chapter on Morality with the phenomenologist (201ff.).
The problem here is not that most commentators would contest this interpretation, but
rather that the very identification of the sort is at odds with the convergence as of the
author and the hero as an allegedly general feature of the text.

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rator and the voice of the character (11) and presents a mix of sincere
identification and ironic distance (196). In a poem, it is also often difficult to say who speaks and/or on whose behalf. But someone should
speak! What, then, are the relations between the hero, the author, and the
reader of the Phenomenology?
As both hero and villain, embodying as it does the transient spiritual form (11), the protagonist is neither strictly singular nor strictly plural, taking various shapes that figure and reflect one another, whilst still
retaining their own identities. This is due to Hegels power of oblivion
something Adorno (1991) discussed in relation to the final scene of Faust
(Goethes literary Phenomenology)that erases the memory of the protagonist. Every time the protagonist is created anew it is only the phenomenologist who accumulates the experience (209). The stable instances of author and reader are also blurred by the Hegelian we that invites
us, the readers, who are an essential part of Hegels project (128, 148), and
the author to participate in the common (emotional) movement. This is a
movement of mutual identification in which the protagonist/s strive to
merge with the phenomenologist/s and vice versasomething Pahl also
analyzes on the level of particular stylistic overtones (39ff.),1 the Phenomenology of Spirit inwardly trembles between the double genitive of its
title (154); spirit should describe itself, and traditional literary oppositions break down. What remains is ambivalence: we never know for sure
who is suffering on this phenomenological path of despair, and we remain
unable to decide (79).
Of course, Pahl is not the first to treat Hegels speculative prose as
prose in its own right. For example, in Hegels Recollection (1985), Donald Phillip Verene tried to deal with some of the texts metaphors (such
as topsy-turvy world) and link them to Hegels philosophical endeavor; John H. Smith in The Spirit and Its Letter (1988) showed that rhetoric
was essential for Hegels model of dialectics; Judith Butler in The Subjects of Desire (1987) elaborated on the composition of the Phenomenology. But Pahls close reading focuses on the language of emotions, that
in a Hegelian manner constitute both the method and the substance of
her study.
This is why the tropes studied by Pahl are those of transport. Hegels
protagonists and readers are travelling. Indeed, the very movement of
thought or reflection, Pahl argues, needs to be transported, and this is
what emotionsas transports and not as passions or statesare for (215,
228). In Pahls account they become agents of disturbance and mediation,

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initiating the internal ruptures within the purported immediacy and


authenticity of feelings, introducing dynamics, theatricality and reflective irony into the seemingly closed and tautological space of the psyche.2
Transport as a vibrant transformation of the self is thus both the key to
the theory of emotion and the metaphor of Hegelian dialectics in the Phenomenology. Emotions are conceived as a real energy of the dialectical, as
a vehicle for self-transformation (13), something that blurs boundaries
and overthrows stable orderings. They are similar to the Kabbalistic notion of the TzimtzumGod retreating back from Himself, allowing a void,
a gap within the being, to appear creating the realm of finitude.3
Emotions, as Pahl suggests, are considered by Hegel as transports,
that is, as something moving the subjects beyond themselves and thus
externalizing the interior instead of perpetuating the inner play of sensitivity. Pahl attacks common interpretations of emotions as something
eigen, authentic, and makes the case for the political inferiority of this
doctrine (23). Dialectics, on the contrary, is an art for the self to create and
maintain a distance from oneself. Hegels analysis on The Law of the Heart
and the Insanity of Self-Conceit (1980: 20207) suggests that when consciousness feels the authenticity of its own emotion, it ends up hating
mankind, stagnating in a political impasse, a sort of psychic paralysis
(27),4 being neither willing nor able to change anything in the imperfect
external world. Instead, on Pahls interpretation, Hegel creates the regime
of emotional exposure (this is her rendering of Hegelian Entuerung)
and, in a compensatory manner, the literary figuration. This interpretation of emotions should make emotionality a way to escape the irrational
violence often associated with the intensity and impetuousness of feeling, and to gain plasticity that, along with sympathy, must form the core
of the new emotional ethics (10).
In view of this, pathos as an emotional form is considered (quite
Hegelian, indeed) as an opposition between natural and fabricated
emotion with the latter providing a real way to the self-transformation of
spirit by making it plastic and flexible, by creating a flickering of perspectives and subjects out of it so that there is never a complete destruction
of the subject in the Phenomenology (51). This pathos is theatrical in
that it provides an externalization, suspending the strong dichotomy between inner and outer by staging the ek-stasy of passion (58). The very
2
In this, Pahl draws on the theory of emotions in the work of Rei Terada (2001)
and Hlne Cixous (1992).
3
Emotion is something estranged and postponed, in the non-identity of experience allowing genuine experience only as displaced and belonging to someone else.
Transports constitute the slow, sticky, hesitant and vibrating temporality of the Phenomenology.
4
Hegel also refers to paralysis in Phenomenology when describing the inability
of formal knowledge to grasp the unrest of the dialectical (1980: 34).

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5
One of the most important words in Hegels phenomenological vocabulary
characterizing, ironically, the stagnation and rigidity of the non-dialectical.

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idea of borrowing the model of true spirit from Greek tragedy, Pahl contends, problematizes and relativizes the immanent, or naturalizing, idea
of pathos and brings the theatrical or ironic element into play. The spatial
interpretation of Aufhebung suggests that any motion or gesture in the
life of the spirit involves a reflective turn and the never fully dissolvable
rest as a spectator (or, rather, the never-to-be-fully-defined multiplicity
of spectators) of the phenomenological scene.
On the one hand, pathos seems to be a model for the whole series of
phenomenological forms since each figure of consciousness is a dramatic character who realizes its (epistemological) pathos (65). Similarly,
to the particular struggle within the ethical life of the Greeks, each figure ends with a total loss. Pahl suggests that in the Phenomenology, there
is no accumulation of meaning, no benefit from the previous forms,
each pathos is doomed to a fundamental loneliness (hence Pahls rejection of linearity and the case for suspension and emotional trembling
back and forth between the immanent and the reflective). On the other
hand, this identification is destructive and does not allow the text to be
completed, nothing in the death of any figure would indicate the possibility of the next one and thus of the story to be continued. The very act of
identification with their Gestalt, so prominent in Hegels account of pathos, makes his figures so vulnerable and exposed to the further movement of self-devouring dialectic.
The phenomenological text in general, the majestic We, as Pahl argues, treats its own figures that died away with a remarkable indifference5since only the rupture, the conflict, the contradiction, are interesting to the phenomenologist, and not the work of mourning. Figures are
left to rest in their partiality, and the narrative goes forward: The unhappy consciousness remains unhappy (171), and [o]nly when the text
is about to end is it able to gesture toward the skeletons at its closet. At its
limit, the Phenomenology acknowledges its finitude, conjures up a friend,
and dissolves in tears (85).
Pahl undermines the generally optimistic account of Hegels project
by reminding us that the Schdelsttte des Geistesthe Golgotha of absolute spiritappearing at the end of the Phenomenology as the site of apotheosis experienced by the absolute knowledge is something of a heap of
bones. This is to some extent true, but Resurrection and Redemption are
usually also connoted with the Calvary: all the forms we forget are at once
recollected. For Pahl, this remembering is at the same time dismembering
(207), but her arguments for this reading of absolute knowledge are not as
clear and convincing as they could have been.
Hegels text ends, as is well known, with Schillers poem proclaiming the infinity that foams forth (Hegel 1977: 493). Pahl treats this

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foaming as an ejaculation that is finally directed onto itself instead of


being lost in the chalice of phenomenological inquiry (85ff.). In fact,
what Pahl describes in this provocative readingreminding us inadvertently of Werner Hamachers never-to-be-forgotten invitation Hegel
melken, or to milk Hegel (1978: 328), and alluding to an ineluctable
end of the romantic relationship of the dialectic as a mutual penetration and a mutual embrace of reader and text (129)6is similar to socalled retrograde ejaculation, with the spiritual insemination dressed as
a recollection of past forms which, in its repetitive diction, looks like an
abortion of the project of self-knowledge (85). The break Pahl finds in
absolute knowledge (in the strange syntax of the last sentence7) is connected to the last act of release, when there is nothing else for Hegel to
pour into the chalice of the Phenomenology, as a conscious gesture of
exposing his work to alteration and dispersal (96). Pahl puts this emotional release into the context of the finitude of the whole text, its historical situatedness and its limitations despite the proclaimed infinity of
the absolute knowledge.8 The end station of the Phenomenology coincides with the first, precarious one, and its final truth, in the syncopating
rhythm of the interaction with Schillers poetry, becomes the evanescent
truth operating within the figure of the Sense-Certainty (Hegel 1980:
6370)something that can be changed by merely writing it down and
interpreting it. This is the way Pahl sees Hegels text as being exposed to
her own sovereign reading, thus making the standard justification of this
6
Indeed, Hegels skepticism is read as the foreplay to the lovemaking of concepts (131), while elsewhere, in the discussion of fear, Pahl describes the fear of consciousness to surrender to the play of forces in the object as voyeurism and masturbation needed to avoid the erotic danger of the speculative orgy. On the lasting importance of fellation and insemination in Hegel cf. the comments by Derrida (1974: 35ff.
left column) followed by Lacoue-Labarthe (il faut imaginer le spculatif comme un
onanisme fcond [1975: 66]).
7
[B]eide zusammen, die begriffne Geschichte, bilden die Erinnerung und die
Schdelsttte des absoluten Geistes, die Wirklichkeit, Wahrheit und Gewiheit seines
Throns, ohne den er das leblose Einsame wre (Hegel 1980: 434). This sentence
strangely refers to the masculine (ohne den, that is, without the throne), although it
should obviously be ohne die. However, unlike Pahl, I do not see a big problem here. The
German Thronas is clear from and other contextsis considered as something much
more general than a dead symbol (89) and can be seen as the whole way the spirit
should travel before reaching Absolute Knowledge.
8
This analysis is not uncontroversial in some of its details. For example, I cannot share the opinion that the operative notion of truth for the protagonist throughout the Phenomenology, the one we, allegedly, dispense with at the end of the book, is
the notion of truth as categorical and unchangeable (97ff.). However, I can only endorse Pahls general perspective that asks why the book that should have staged the
victory of the Concept over the Image (or Vorstellung) ends with the apotheosis of
poetry.

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reading superfluous, since the reading and the text itself must ground
each other in dialectical movement. And that is why, at some point, I
cannot judge this account in a simple linear and unilateral way (for example, one could demand other, more substantial reasons for undermining the ultimate mightiness of the absolute knowledgesomething
only tangentially discussed in the text).
The inherent multiplicity and heterogeneity of emotionality breaking linear and stable accounts is something that determines Pahls discussion of Hegels method as well, or, as she puts it, his rhythmthe
rhythm of the concept. Reading Hegels account of the speculative sentence Pahl considers it a juggle (this is how schweben is translated), a
constant hovering back and forth that creates instability and makes the
text itself emotional. Hegels text trembles, moving between different
epochs and cultural forms, oscillating between linear time and flashes of
fear (see 180). Following the rhythm of the concept involves mimicry and
sympathy. It is moving, in that it creates transports between the selves
(115). Pahls text mimics this movement, for Pahl also moves between
Hegels chapters and trembles between the detached and emotional
prose.
It is in this pulsation of meanings that she discusses the form necessary for the philosophical writing and the penetration of the poetic
into Hegels text as something that requires this unusualjuggling
reading and thinking (102). In this context, Hegels theory of the speculative sentence emerges as the key of his method. Pahls analogy is,
roughly, between the poetic (or speculative), on the one hand, and the
prose (or the argumentative structures of understanding) on the other.
This creates a reality that invites us all to dance, as Pahl puts it. But this
dance is unstable and always haunted by death (118) since the speculative should mediate the finite forms and remains dependent on them.
Hegels self-consciousnesses, encountering each other and being at
once exposed to the irreducibility of one another, are not bound by recognition, but rather, as Pahl suggests, mutually acknowledge one another,
thus losing control over themselves and engaging in the precarious beingexposed to each other. Acknowledgement can only be mutual, so
no need for recognition is to be sought by Hegelian subjects (134). But
this mutuality is not something that can create stable structures, in its
movement of externalization and self-estrangement it is, rather, transient and fragile, and this claim is indeed decisive in Pahls account. It is
in this vein that she reads Hlderlins Andenken in which no real recognition or reunion of lovers will ever take place. This is seen as parallel to the fate of glimmering subjects populating the Phenomenology
subjects who are about to dissolve into the multitude in a movement of
mutual acknowledging (148). The Anerkennen is never perfect, for the
very act of mutual acknowledging changes the subjects and keeps the
process open-ended.

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Transport is a bodily matter. This is well illustrated in the trembling


of fear that is considered another emotional aspect of dialectics, but also
as its physical counterpart.9 Indeed, Hegels reference to the trembling
body of the slave in the chapter on Self-Consciousness illustrates how
bodily experience enters the phenomenological discourse, but also underlies Pahls project of externalizing emotions. Hegels own text is conceived as a trembling movement of the transports, with the moments of
absolute fear as momentary transitions (15), not graspable in the dialectical movement, and with Hegels figures invoking each others tremble in
remembrance and anticipation.
The moment of synthesis in Hegels dialectic does not consist in the next
higher form of consciousness, but precisely in this turning point, this
blank, this flash of an instant that cannot be grasped because it is the
concept itself that trembles and turns at this instant (177).

This trembling is seen in Hegels repetitive figuration of backward


movement when the development is thrown back into the previous stages. For the narrative of the Phenomenology, the only possibility to escape
this eternal return is the leap into the next chapter (179). Phenomenology
is not a continuous text, each figure is self-sufficient in its inevitable
collapse,10 the text is torn apart (204ff., cf. 167). Sometimes, however, it
seems that Pahl does treat the Phenomenology as a continuous narrative:
by invoking the ever new scars and the growing fear that changes the
shape consciousness takes (199), or by referring to the protagonist and
the phenomenologist (both singular now) as old acquaintances who learn
more and more about each other (201).
What is missing in the general perspective of this remarkable book is
not the voices of Hegel or Hegel scholarship (Pahl is extremely generous
and immensely knowledgeable in both respects), but the particular modulations of these voices. I cannot say that the author ignores these modulations; they are mentioned, but, I surmise, are not taken seriously enough.
And it is here that Pahls readingemotional and, hence, vulnerable in
itselfseems most controversial to me.
Pahl sees very well that Hegel wants to stabilize his discourse
(173ff.), to invoke (for example, in the chapter on Reason) speculative
closure of recognition (not acknowledging!), to renounce unending, cy-

9
Pahl is right in emphasizing the phenomenon of tremblingindeed, it figures prominently in Hegels theory of sound in the Philosophy of Nature and Aesthetics
(Hegel 1970; 1975) as the preparation of the speculative negativity. See Derridas The
Pit and the Pyramid (1982).
10
Pahl claims that the emotional movement of despair never ends (185)the
subject never fully coincides with herself and thus will never find peace.

300

Bibliography
Adorno, Theodor W. (1991). On the Final Scene of Faust. In Notes to Literature, Vol. 1,
11121. New York: Columbia University Press.
Butler,Judith (1987). Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France.
New York:Columbia University Press.
Cixous, Hlne (1992). Dluge. Paris: Des Femmes.
Derrida, Jacques (1974). Glas. Paris: Galile.
Derrida, Jacques (1982). The Pit and The Pyramid: An Introduction to Hegels Semio
logy. In The Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass, 69109. Chicago: University
of Chicago Press.
Jakobson, Roman (1960). Closing statements: Linguistics and Poetics. In Style in Language, ed. T.A. Sebeok, 35077. New York and London: MIT Press and Wiley.
Hamacher, Werner (1978). Pleromazu Genese und Struktur einer dialektischen Hermeneutik bei Hegel. In G.W.F. Hegel: Der Geist des ChristentumsSchriften 1796
1800, 7333. Frankfurt: Ullstein.

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cling processes and to assert the absolute power of this speculative


knowledge. But he does not succeed, and this is what Pahls interpretation is aboutthis is what Hegels text shows beyond its explicit selfunderstanding. However, the conclusions Pahl draws from this sound all
too optimistic for me. The collapse of the text, its complete failure turns
out to be merely a virtual possibility, which it is not. I do not mean that
the ambiguities and tensions of the speculative discussed by Pahllike
that of a hero dying and not dying at the same time, or an emotion as
entanglement of the highest sincerity and ironyare something impossible or unacceptable, to be abandoned in favor of a serenity promised by
speculative synthesis or of something indisputable and unsublatable.
But I think that Pahl makes too much of the lightheartedness (224) and
orgiastic pleasure (207ff.) given by the power of transport. Perhaps I am
among those who do not get the levity of taking tears excessively seriously (263), but for me, who tries to take Pahls own analysis seriously
enough, the breaks and tears of Hegels text are too real and irreversible
to leave us with the ambivalence of emotion. Rather, they allude to the
last dance, the swan song, of the speculative philosophy. Underlying the
lightheartedness, Hegels irony, the ability to relativize the given, is not
an easy gestureit is, rather, radically contingent, almost inexecutable.
And it is this impossibility one has to face in order to grasp the textuality of the Phenomenology. But to accomplish this, one has to go beyond
the account of emotionalitysomething The Tropes of Transport so brilliantly presentsto consider Hegels own historical situation, to do justice to the vicissitudes of his contexts, and thus to further unpack his
constant struggle for infinity in absolute disruption. Pahls work is (unambiguously) an important step in this direction.

No. 1

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Book reviews /
Hegel, G. W. F. (1970). Hegels Philosophy of Nature: Part II of the Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences [1830]. Trans. A. V. Miller. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hegel, G. W. F. (1975). Aesthetics. Lectures on Fine Art. Trans. T.M. Knox, 2 vols. Oxford:
Clarendon Press.
Hegel, G. W. F. (1977). Phenomenology of Spirit. Trans. A. V. Miller. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hegel, G. W. F. (1980). Phnomenologie des Geistes. Gesammelte Werke, Bd. 9. Hamburg:
Meiner.
Lacoue-Labarthe, Phillipe (1975). Limprsentable. Potique 21: 5395.
Smith, John. H. (1988). The Spirit and Its Letter. Traces of Rhetoric in Hegels Philosophy
of Bildung. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Terada, Rei (2001). Feeling in Theory: Emotion after the Death of the Subject. Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press.
Verene, Donald Phillip (1985). Hegels Recollection: A Study of Images in the Phenomenology of Spirit. Albany: SUNY Press.

302

iii

Katrin Pahl, Tropes of Transport: Hegel and


Emotion
Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2012, 356pp.,
ISBN 978-0810127845


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No. 1

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; .
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No. 2
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Book reviews /

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310

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.9 ,
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No. 2
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,
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,(1934). . .;.:
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, (1958). , .3. .: .
, (2000). . .:.
, (1975). . .: :
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Butler,Judith (1987). Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France.
New York:Columbia University Press.
Cixous, Hlne (1992). Dluge. Paris: Des Femmes.
Derrida, Jaques (1974). Glas. Paris: Galile.
Hamacher, Werner (1978). Pleromazu Genese und Struktur einer dialektischen Hermeneutik bei Hegel. In G. W. F. Hegel: Der Geist des Christentums Schriften
17961800, 7333. Frankfurt: Ullstein.
Hegel, G.W.F. (1980). Phnomenologie des Geistes. Gesammelte Werke, Bd. 9. Hamburg:
Meiner.
Lacoue-Labarthe Phillipe (1975). Limprsentable. Potique 21: 5395.
Smith, John. H. (1988). The Spirit and Its Letter. Traces of Rhetoric in Hegels Philosophy
of Bildung. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Terada, Rei (2001). Feeling in Theory: Emotion after the Death of the Subject. Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press.
Verene, Donald Phillip (1985). Hegels Recollection: A Study of Images in the Phenomeno
logy of Spirit. Albany: SUNY Press.

No. 2
1

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313

iv
eng
Slavoj iek, Less Than Nothing: Hegel and
the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism
London: Verso, 2012, 1056pp., ISBN 978-1844678976

Reviewed by Agon Hamza


Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts

As is well known, Slavoj ieks philosophical system is informed by


three orientations: Hegelian philosophy, Lacanian psychoanalysis and a
Marxist critique of ideology. While they are not symmetrically present in
his work, iek proposes not only a diametrically different reading of
these traditions, but also a conceptual and systematic re-organization
and replacement of them into a new philosophical terrain. In a superficial
analysis of his works from The Sublime Object of Ideology published in
1989 until his most recent Absolute Recoil, one cannot fail to see a shift in
his references: Lacan has absolute privilege over Hegel and Marx, whereas
from The Parallax View (2006) onwards, Hegel occupies that position. In
the preface to The Sublime Object of Ideology, iek argues that
the only way to save Hegel is through Lacan, and this Lacanian reading
of Hegel and the Hegelian heritage opens up a new approach to ideology,
allowing us to grasp contemporary ideological phenomena without
falling prey to any kind of post-modernist traps (such as the illusion
that we live in a post-ideological condition) (iek 1989: 7).

For iek, Hegel and Lacan are inseparable. Let us precede with one
more quotation, from For They Know Not What They Do, a sequel to The
Sublime Subject of Ideology:
As with The Sublime Object of Ideology, the theoretical space of the present book is moulded by three centers of gravity: Hegelian dialectics,
Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, and contemporary criticism of ideology. These three circles form a Borromean knot: each of them connects
the other two; the place that they all encircle, the symptom in their
midst The three theoretical circles are not, however, of the same
weight: it is their middle term, the theory of Jacques Lacan, which isas
Marx would saythe general illumination which bathes all the other
colors and modifies their particularity (iek 2002: 2).

314

The predominant Hegelian strategy that is emerging as a reaction to this


scarecrow image of Hegel the Absolute Idealist offers a deflated image of
Hegel freed of ontological metaphysical commitments, reduced to a general theory of discourse, of possibilities of argumentation. This approach
is best exemplified by so-called Pittsburgh Hegelians (Brandom, McDowell), and is ultimately advocated also by Robert Pippin, for whom the point
of Hegels thesis on Spirit as the truth of Nature (iek 2012: 237).

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4 (2015)
(2016)

Let us put this in schematic terms: ieks Lacan is the exact opposite of the Lacan present in Anglo-Saxon academia, a post-structuralist
close to Derrida or even Deleuze. For iek, Lacan is separate from the
whole post-War French philosophical tradition and as such, he is much
closer to Hegel than to anyone elsealbeit the fact that Lacan didnt
know it. However, in his recent work this seems to change. For some time
now and in his major project of re-reading Hegel, iek seems to have
placed Hegel in the determining role (McGowan 2013: 3153): both for a
reading of Marxs critique of political economy and Lacans psychoanalytic theory. iek is going back more and more to Freuds notion of drive
to read Hegel. Despite his indebtedness to Lacan, his main master is
Hegel. That is why Hegel is the ground upon which iek creates his political project. Even further back, in his third major book, Tarrying with
the Negative, he develops the Hegelian reversal of Marx. Accordingly, iek
goes against the traditional Marxist Marx critique of Hegel. Let us proceed from this point. Slavoj iek is often accused of being a charlatan, an
inconsistent thinker whose writings are only a bulk of insubstantial content. Isnt this the line that all of his critics constantly repeat? They begin
by pointing out that he has no system of philosophy, and end up arguing
that he constantly fails in doing what he promises he will do. A shocking
surprise to all these critics is Hegels Phenomenology of Spirit: if there was
a book that is truly inconsistent, that covers a very wide range of topics,
from consciousness, to scepticism, to art, to religion, without an underlying premise, than it is that book (cf. Pinkard 2000: 25665). Furthermore,
Hegel faced the same critiques as iek. Shall we then say that iek, just
like Hegel, is an unsystematic thinker full of contradictions, and close this
review right at this point? A little difficulty arises here, precisely at the
term contradiction. The elementary response to these accusations is
that contradiction is inscribed in the very dialectical process of thinking.
Dialectical thinking and/or processes are based, grounded, on contradiction. A system of thought (but not only of it, it goes the same way for political systems, etc.) is based on a consistent Whole. The Whole as such is
structured on its symptoms, excesses, and so on. In this sense, isnt this
precisely ieks Hegel? The philosophical studies on Hegel, particularly
in the Anglo-Saxon world, have been predominantly focused in providing
a non- or anti-metaphysical Hegel. Let us quote a paragraph from Less
Than Nothing, in which iek fights against that reading of Hegel:

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He continues:
Such a deflated image of Hegel is not enough; the post-Hegelian break
must be approached in more direct terms. True, there is a break, but in it
Hegel is the vanishing mediator between its before and its after;
between traditional metaphysics and post-metaphysical nineteenthand twentieth-century thought. That is to say, something happens in
Hegel, a breakthrough into a unique dimension of thought, which is
obliterated, rendered invisible in its true dimension, by post-metaphysical though! (iek 2012: 239).

The question we need to ask is thus a simple one: why does iek
need Hegel?1 And, which Hegel do we get in ieks work? At an elementary level, ieks Hegel is the anti-deflated Hegel, as most consistently
developed by Pippin, whose aim is to defend bourgeois philosophy.2 As a
result, we get both an ontologically and politically deflated Hegel, who
theorized the bourgeois state and its effects.
When he famously calls for the return from Marx to Hegel, what
iek really means is the reversal of the standard twentieth-century
Marxist approach of dismissing Hegel (most notably represented by Althusser). His project can be thus boiled down to the following thesis: contemporary Marxism should not be grounded on Marxs reading of Hegel,
but rather on the premises of how Hegel would read Marx, through Lacanian lenses.
How does Hegels philosophy function? Philosophy intervenes when
and where the figure of consciousness has grown old. In Hegels words:
This lesson of the concept is necessarily also apparent from history,
namely that it is only when actuality has reached maturity that the ideal
appears opposite the real and reconstructs this real world, which it has
grasped in its substance, in the shape of an intellectual realm. When
philosophy paints its grey in grey, a shape of life has grown old, and it
cannot be rejuvenated, but only recognized, by the grey in grey of philosophy; the owl of Minerva begins its flight only with the onset of dusk
(Hegel 1991: 23).

Again, if we follow iek we can argue against Marxs Thesis 11, according to which, throughout the history of philosophy, philosophers
have only interpreted the world; occupying the position of the beautiful
soul, refusing to engage in it and thus transforming it. Isnt the exact opposite true? Apart from Hegel, every other philosopher had a master plan
See Hamza (2015).
See his review of ieks Less Than Nothing (Pippin 201213). Also, see Adrian Johnston (2012: 371418) and ieks response (2014).
1
2

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of an ideal form of social organisation: from Plato onwards, each philosopher wrote or had his Republic. The only one who doesnt have such a
project, and whose critique Marx is predominantly directed at, is Hegel!
Hegel is the philosopher who does not particularly look to the future: recall his comments on the United States and Russia, where (from an eighteenth-century perspective) he says that although it is too early to tell,
the future lies with them.
The most anti-Hegelian position would be to see his conceptualization of the State as a closed, rational one. If anything, his State is open to
all contingencies, unexpected events, reversals, and so forth. It is precisely this openness that grants iek the possibility of rethinking communism in Hegelian terms.

317

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Hamza, Agon (2015). Going to Ones Ground: ieks Dialectical Materialism. In


Slavoj iek and Dialectical Materialism, eds. Agon Hamza and Frank Ruda, 163
75. New York: Palgrave.
Hegel, G. W. F. (1991). Elements of the Philosophy of Right. Ed. Allen B. Wood, trans.
H.B.Nisbet. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Johnston, Adrian (2012). Where to Start?: Robert Pippin, Slavoj iek, and the True
Beginning(s) of Hegels System. Crisis and Critique 1.3: 371418.
McGowan, Todd (2013). Hegel as a Marxist: ieks revision of German Idealism. In
iek Now: Current Perspectives in iek Studies, eds. Jamil Khader and Molly Anne
Rothenberg, 3154. Cambridge: Polity.
Pippin, Robert (201213). Back to Hegel? Meditations 26.12:729. http://www.mediationsjournal.org/articles/back-to-hegel.
iek, Slavoj (1989). The Sublime Object of Ideology. London: Verso.
iek, Slavoj (2002). For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment as a Political Factor.
London: Verso.
iek, Slavoj (2012). Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism.
London: Verso.
iek, Slavoj (2014). Absolute Recoil: Towards a New Foundation of Dialectical Materialism. London: Verso.

No. 1

Bibliography

iv

Slavoj iek, Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the


Shadow of Dialectical Materialism
London: Verso, 2012, 1056pp., ISBN 978-1844678976

, : ,
.
, , . , , 1989 ., Absolute Recoil
:
, ,
(2006) . ,
, , ,
, , []
(,
, )
( 1999: 15).

.

, :
:
,
,
: , . : . []

318

Book reviews /

319

Vol. 4 (2016)

, ,
, , . , ,
- .
.
(McGowan 2013: 3153) ,
. ,
. , .
: , , , .
, , , . ? ,
, ,
, . ? , ,
,
- ,
(.: Pinkard 2000: 256265). , . , , , ,
? :
, /
. (
, ..)
.
, . . ? , , -
. , :

No. 1

, , : , ,
, (iek 2002: 2).

Book reviews /

,
, , (deflated) ,
,
, .
(,
), (iek 2012: 237).

:
- , : .
, , XIX XX . - , ,
, ! (iek 2012: 239)

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XX .
, (
). , ,
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?
, .
:
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, .
, 1
. (Pippin 2012: 13). .
: (Johnston 2012: 371418) (iek 2014).

320

Book reviews /

, (2009). . .: ;
.
, (1999). . .: .
Hamza, Agon (2015). Going to Ones Ground: ieks Dialectical Materialism. In
Slavoj iek and Dialectical Materialism, eds. Agon Hamza and Frank Ruda, 163
175. New York: Palgrave.
Johnston, Adrian (2012). Where to Start?: Robert Pippin, Slavoj iek, and the True
Beginning(s) of Hegels System. Crisis and Critique 1.3: 371418.
McGowan, Todd (2013). Hegel as a Marxist: ieks revision of German Idealism. In
iek Now: Current Perspectives in iek Studies, ed. Jamil Khader and Molly Anne
Rothenberg, 3154. Cambridge: Polity.
Pippin, Robert (201213). Back to Hegel? Meditations 26.12:729. http://www.mediationsjournal.org/articles/back-to-hegel.
iek, Slavoj (2002). For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment as a Political Factor.
London: Verso.
iek, Slavoj (2012). Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism.
London: Verso.
iek, Slavoj (2014). Absolute Recoil: Towards a New Foundation of Dialectical Materialism. London: Verso.

321

Vol. 4 (2016)

, , 11-
, , , .
? ,
:
.
, ,
, ! ,
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XVIII .), , ).
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.
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No. 1

, ,
;
( 2009: 44).

eng

Rebecca Comay, Mourning Sickness:


Hegel and The French Revolution
Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011, xiv + 202pp.,
ISBN 978-0804761260

Artemy Magun, Negative Revolution: Modern


Political Subject and its Fate After the Cold War
New York: Bloomsbury, 2013, 288pp., ISBN 978-1441168085

Reviewed by Galina Ivanova


European University at St. Petersburg

Mourning Headache: Revolution from Hegel


to Kant and Back
The French Revolution and German idealism constitute a couple,
giving us a perfect example of the difficult and dramatic relationship between politics and philosophy. This is a highly relevant topic, and so it is
reasonable that the case of Kant and Hegel, whose work is now a subject
of massive reconsidering and reevaluation, attracts serious attention. We
will address two recent books on this topic that present original and outstanding research on this problematic.
Rebecca Comays book, Mourning Sickness: Hegel and the French Revolution, undertakes an interesting effort to rethink the relationship between Hegelian philosophy and its historico-philosophical context. Comays analysis starts with the concepts of trauma, mourning, and melancholy. The author expands upon these concepts, taken from Freud (1957),
by applying them to German culture more broadly and German philosophy in particular.
In Comays view, the common mournful and melancholic tone of
classical German thought was determined by reference to a traumatic
event that had not, in fact, taken place in Germany. It was mourning the
loss of something that was never there. Revolutionthe embodiment of
Enlightenment ideas in reality, transforming the political life of society in
its entiretyhad occurred nearby in France, and the Germans, active

322

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Vol. 4 (2016)

readers of magazines and newspapers, had merely observed it at a safe


distance, as people look, in Herders words, at a shipwreck from a secure
shore (1971:336).
Comay calls this type of situation, when revolution appears not as a
real lived experience but as a sublime spectacle of catastrophe, a Kantian
theater, noting the duality or even duplicity of Kants position. On the
one hand, sympathy with Enlightenment and republican ideals (which
Kant, introducing the distinction between spirit and letter, proposes to
support as regulative ideas within monarchical government), and on the
other, rejection of revolution as such, inasmuch as it goes against the
lawnot only against a particular juridical or moral law, but against the
principle of law in general, against universal formal law (16667). The
execution of the sovereign, who was the guarantor of law, exposes the
pure arbitrariness that underlies its very form (3637).
German culture knows revolution only in translation, Comay underscores, following Marx, who, in the Communist Manifesto for example,
ridicules German philosophers and the literati for their unconvincing
attempts to bring the new French ideas into harmony with their ancient philosophical conscience, implemented in the same way in which
a foreign language is appropriated, namely, by translation (Marx and Engels 1848: 30). According to Marx, the most important element is lost in
translation, namely the class struggle; political revolution is emasculated
by being transformed into a revolution of the spirit, of ideas, of moralsa
conceptual, theoretical revolution.
In her discussion of the temporality of translating the French Revolution into the language of German culture and philosophy, Comay frequently notes its paradoxical nature: the past had not yet occurred here,
but the future is already precludedhaving failed to appear, never having
materialized, it was nevertheless left behind. The strange temporality in
which the future is left in the past but the past has not taken place (the
revolution has not yet come to pass, and now will never do so), in Comays
view, finds adequate expression in Hegelian philosophy that places before
itself the task of signifying the presentand in particular the actually existing stateas an anachronism (144).
By strongly accenting the strange temporality of Hegelian philosophy, Comay gives to its classical Marxist reading an innovative twist,
which undoubtedly draws profound inspiration from her reading of Walter Benjamin. Hegels actuality, in Comays interpretation, expresses
precisely the pressure of the virtual: it opens history to the no longer of
a blocked possibility and the persistence of an unachieved not yet
(14445). In this temporal convolution, the author discerns something
resembling the messianic structure of hope in the past (145). The present as anachronism both blocks and at the same time marks a whole series
of missed opportunities. If we extend this thought further, then any moment in the present could be a revolution.

No. 1

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It is interesting to read Comays book together with Negative Revolution: Modern Political Subject and Its Fate after the Cold War, written by
Artemy Magun. Maguns book analyses the very concept of revolution,
placing a greater emphasis on the philosophical idea of negativity, understood not only as a driving force of dialectics, but also of politics. Magun
likewise examines Hegels relationship with the French Revolution, although his research grasps a much broader field. He examines both concepts historicallythe one of revolution and the one of negativity, and
links them together, comparing the French Revolution (178999) with the
Russian anti-Communist Revolution (198599), by which he means Perestroika and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Of course, the idea that the events of 198090 in Russia must be considered revolution is rather counterintuitive, since, against the background of such a great event as the Russian October Socialist Revolution
of 1917 it rather appears as counterrevolution or restoration. However, as
Magun claims, structurally it is revolution, the character of which is manifestly negative. The proof of the structural homology between Perestroika and the French Revolution serves a good purposeto shift an ideologeme of the impossibility of further revolutionary social transformations and propose another perspective. Perestroika is, in Maguns view, an
open, unfinished project, the failure of which is a mark of its truly revolutionary character.
It is not only perestroika that fails: rather than being radical, and the
massive transformations bringing everyone a better future, at some point
all revolutions fail, meet their deadlock and finally end up with social and
political restoration. But what is really important in revolution is not a
success, but a negativity, which must be radicalized. That is how the Hegelian negation of negation, in Maguns book, meets Kantian hypochondria.
Magun emphasizes the fact that, although in the Kantian era hypochondria was a highly popular cultural topic, which was used synonymously
with melancholia: not just as a specific psychophysiological problem, but
as a social malaise, its very thematization, made by Kant, is linked to the
emancipatory tendencies of Enlightenment (159).
Hypochondria is not only melancholia, but is melancholias reflexivity, which endows it with a certain revolutionary potential. This is an important detail that Magun brings, so to speak, beyond the mourning and
melancholia principle. Magun suggests a reading that, even more so then
Hegel, puts Kant on the side of revolutionary negativity. He does this paradoxically by means of hypochondria: not overcoming melancholia, not
sublating it or leaving it behind, but reflexing it, as revolution itself reflects the past and thus produces this break in the present, which is needed for a radical transformative event. The revolutionary subject emerges
with this reflexive movement.

324

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Bibliography

Vol. 4 (2016)

No. 1

Freud, Sigmund (1957). Mourning and Melancholia. In The Standard Edition of the
Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. XIV (191416), trans. and ed.
James Strachey, 24358. London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho
Analysis.
Herder, Johann Gottfried (1971). Briefe zur Befrderung der Humanitt [Letters for the
Advancement of Humanity], Bd. 2. Berlin: AufbauVerlag.
Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich (1848). Manifesto of the Communist Party. Trans.
Samuel Moore in cooperation with Engels. Marxists Internet Archive. https://www.
marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Manifesto.pdf.

325

Rebecca Comay, Mourning Sickness:


Hegel and The French Revolution
Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011, xiv + 202pp.,
ISBN 978-0804761260

Artemy Magun, Negative Revolution: Modern


Political Subject and its Fate After the Cold War
New York: Bloomsbury, 2013, 288pp., ISBN 978-1441168085

:

,
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, , , .
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Book reviews /

Book reviews /

(Comay 2011:
144145).
(Comay 2011: 145).
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Vol. 4 (2016)

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vi
eng
Adrian Johnston, Prolegomena to Any Future
Materialism. Vol. I. The Outcome
of Contemporary French Philosophy
Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2013, 257pp.,
ISBN 978-0810129122

Adrian Johnston, Adventures in


Transcendental Materialism. Dialogues with
Contemporary Thinkers
Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014, 376pp.,
ISBN 978-0748673285

Reviewed by Gabriel Tupinamb


Circle of Studies of Idea and Ideology, Rio de Janeiro

The Nature whence Spirit came:


on Adrian Johnstons Hegelianism
To understand the stakes of Adrian Johnstons philosophical project
transcendental materialism, we must, first of all, be able to grasp the
singular inflection of his Hegelianism. This is best accomplished by dividing Johnstons deployment of transcendental materialism in two subsequent phases.

Two phases of transcendental materialism


At first, the expression named a particularly clear and systematic approach to Slavoj ieks complex engagement with philosophy, political
thought and psychoanalysis. Johnstons second book, ieks Ontology
(2008), subtitled a transcendental materialist theory of subjectivity,
provided what remains arguably the most comprehensive and coherent
account of the philosophical stakes of iekian thinking today. Limiting
its speculative scope to ieks own conceptual trajectory, Johnston uses
the transcendental materialist perspective as a reading key which allows

330

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Transcendental materialism thus constitutes an added axiom to


the theoretical space of dialectical materialismthe axiom of the constitutive and irreversible alienation of subjectivity, which states that there is
no going back to being-in-itselfas well as the set of investigations into
the consequences of this additive gesture. It is here, in fact, that Johnstons project exceeds the merely exegetical or reconstructive function.
In order to position transcendental materialism as a distinct research
program, it is important to consider the difference between the general
theoretical space founded by ieks work and the philosophers particular conceptual trajectory within it. The iekian theoretical space as presented in the opening pages of For They Know Not What They Do, is composed of the borromean link of Lacanian psychoanalysis, Hegelian philosophy and Marxist political thinking. The borromean property qualifies
the interaction between any two linked components by the negative
mediation of the third: Hegel with Lacan, but not without Marx, Lacan
with Marx, but not without Hegel, and so on (iek, 2002: 2). On the other
hand, the trajectory of ieks particular work, as previously mentioned,
(mostly) concerns two specific movements within this broader space: the
first, a reading of Hegels theory of negativity from the standpoint of the
Lacanian theory of the death drive; the second, a reconceptualization of
Marxist political thinking from the standpoint of this renewed Hegelianism (iek 1989: 7).

331

Vol. 4 (2016)

Transcendental materialism would be depicted as an arrow moving from


a point of departure under the heading being-in-itself and crossing
over into the area under the heading thought. But instead of looping
back into being-in-itself (as in dialectical materialism), this trajectory
departing from the ground of the immanent material Real and entering
into the space of the transcendent more-than-material Ideal doesnt return to the domain in which its point of departure is situated. There is no
going back (Johnston 2008: 275).

No. 1

him to retrace the Slovene philosophers foundational step, moving from


psychoanalysis back to German idealism, from the Freudo-Lacanian theory of the subject to its ontological underpinnings. It is this preliminary
movefrom Lacan to Hegelwhich iek himself characterizes as a condition of his second and defining step, which takes him from this renewed
Hegelianism to Marx and dialectical materialism. Following this thread
from Lacan, back to Hegel, then to MarxJohnston concludes his exposition of ieks philosophical project with a twist: transcendental materialism turns out to be not only the name of an operator allowing us to
retrace ieks steps, but also the name of what comes to appear, a result
of ieks trajectory, as the necessary supplement of dialectical materialism itself, the name of what a Lacanian-Hegelian reading of Marx requires
us to add to the dialectical materialist framework.

Book reviews /

We have suggested that transcendental materialism first appears as


the result of this trajectory, as capitulated in Johnstons creative exegesis
of ieks philosophy. The product of ieks work would be the affirmation that an additional principle must be added to dialectical materialism,
the principle of no return: what the subject loses in order to become a
subject is only constituted as a consistent being through this very loss.
This principle could also be conceived as a correction of the Marxist philosophical anthropology found in the Economical and Philosophical Manuscripts: labor is not a process of exteriorization and constitution of human
essence which is then transformed into an irreducible estrangement of
man from itself through the intervention of private property. Humans are
generic in the much more frightening sense that we are always already
estranged from our substance, incapable of controlling what we create to
the point of producing forms which gain autonomy over us. What the logic of expropriation of labor through private property effectively accomplishes, alienating us from this more fundamental estrangement in the
world, is the establishment of a social link based on the ideological fantasy that what has been essentially lost to us previously had such a reality
that it could in fact be recuperatedeither through further accumulation
or through the abolition of the property form. In short, the logic of labor
as exteriorization (Entusserung) is retroactively posited by the logic of
estrangement (Entfremdung), which is the one actually at stake in the relation between man and nature.
But if this new principle already appears at work in ieks theory of
the subject, Johnstons conceptual effort has been to refer it back to the
general theoretical space mentioned abovea move which requires the
confrontation with a step not taken by iek himself: after the move
from Lacan to Hegel, and then to Marx, there is still the question of a
renewed Marxist approach to Lacan and psychoanalysis. And while the
Lacanian return to German Idealismas examined in ieks Ontology
presents itself as an investigation of ontology from the perspective of a
previous commitment to the irreducible dimension of subjectivity, a return to Lacan from the standpoint of iekian-Marxism constitutes an
inquiry into the analytic theory of the drives from the perspective of a
previous commitment to the above-mentioned logic of estrangement,
encapsulated in the principle of no return. Most of the polemics around
Johnstons project concerns the formulation of this underlying commitment: in a polemic with iek himself, Johnston proposes that only a
serious engagement with the natural sciences can truly situate a materialist take on the constitutive alienation proper of subjectivity. The estrangement which characterizes mans relation to nature is conditioned
by a theory of nature which thinks the estrangement of nature from
itself.

332

Book reviews /

How must a world be constituted for a moral entity? I would like to give
wings once more to our backward physics, that advances laboriously by
experiments. [...] Thus, if philosophy supplies the ideas, and experience
the data, we may at last come to have in essentials the physics that I look
forward to for later times. It does not appear that our present-day physics can satisfy a creative spirit such as ours is or ought to be (Hegel 2002:
11011).

It is crucial to note that philosophy is therefore not only conditioned


by a theory of subjectivitywhich, for Hegel, was political in its origin:
the task of producing a general ontology compossible with such a moral
entity is equally conditioned by non-philosophical practices, namely,
physics. Furthermore, Hegels remarks on science in this passage elucidate important aspects of his position towards the mathematized scienc-

333

Vol. 4 (2016)

This leads us, finally, to Hegel. As we have seen, both iek and Johnston depart from the same question: What ontology does freedom imply? (iek 2009: 82), a question which directly resonates with Hegels
own affirmation, already in 1796, that the question is this: how must a
world be constituted for a moral entity? (2002: 110).
But there are two ways to approach this question, either privileging
the synchronous or the diachronic aspect of the problem. To approach
Hegel (and subsequently Marx) from the standpoint of Lacans theory of
the subject is to frame this problem above all through a theory of already
deployed symbolic structures and then to enquire into the material basis
of the world of language and the consequences of such materiality in the
constitution of subjectivity. To approach this same theory of the subject
from the standpoint of a (Freudian-inspired) Hegelian-Marxism is to
privilege the historical aspect, framing the issue diachronically and questioning how it is that such a structure could have emerged to begin with.
Whereas iek takes Hegels famous not merely as substance but also
equally as subject as a banner for an ontology that includes the restless
force of the negative, Johnston reads it as a permission to enquire into the
emergence of this very split between substance and subject out of substance itselfand in such a way that, remaining faithful to ieks own
project, such a split remains in a certain sense included in that out of
which it emerged.
Following Johnstons patient reconstruction of this inquiry into
Hegels own philosophical works, let us briefly highlight some important
passages which help substantiate this polemical project. Already in the
1796 fragment mentioned above, titled The Earliest System-Program of
German Idealism, Hegel relates the question of an ontology of freedom to
the natural sciences:

No. 1

Hegels philosophy of weak nature

Book reviews /

esusually construed as a categorical (and crude) rejection of formalism


and scientific knowledge. Rather than oppose science and philosophy,
equating the former with some lifeless form of knowledge, Hegel states
that present-day sciencethat is, Newtonian mechanics and its specific
mathematical apparatusis incapable of providing us with the data
that could condition our ontology in the same way the French Revolution
has supplied us with a new idea of freedom. This is not the position of
someone who is against science in any sense, rather its a quite enthusiastic expectation of a science still to come.
And, in fact, if we consider Hegels later treatment of observing reason in the Phenomenology of Spirit, roughly ten years later, we once again
find this same immanent critique of the scientific world-view. In a critique
of the finitist presuppositions of observing reason, which amounts to
saying that science has hypostasized the Newtonian treatment of mechanics as the general form and treatment of every natural phenomena,
Hegel states that even if Reason digs into the very entrails of things and
opens every vein in them so that it may gush forth to meet itself, it will
not attain this joy; it must have completed itself inwardly before it can
experience the consummation of itself (1977: 146). This need to complete itself inwardly concerns the imperative that any systematic science, as thorough and complete, must include a scientific account of the
subject of science, of the observing consciousness responsible for the
content of its observations (Johnston 2012: 121). The apparent hubris of
such a critique is toned down when we consider that scientists themselves
are today facing this exact question.
Science has advanced to the point where we can precisely arrange individual atoms on a metal surface or identify peoples continents of ancestry by analyzing the DNA contained in their hair. And yet ironically we
lack a scientific understanding of how sentences in a book refer to atoms, DNA, or anything at all. This is a serious problem. Basically, it
means that our best sciencethat collection of theories that presumably
come closest to explaining everythingdoes not include this one most
fundamental defining characteristic of being you and me. In effect, our
current Theory of Everything implies that we dont exist, except as collections of atoms. So whats missing? Ironically and enigmatically,
something missing is missing (Deacon 2012: 1).

At stake in Hegels treatment of experiment science is therefore not


a general assessment of sciences inherently lifeless knowledge of the
world, but rather an enthusiastic confrontation with the limitations of
sciences current development and the eager awaiting for a science capable of thinking life itself. Rather than provide an ontology that would no
longer need to be informed by science altogether, he proceeds to anticipate some of the critical conditions that any such ontology will have to

334

This impotence of the Notion in Nature generally subjects not only the
development of individuals to external contingenciesthe developed
animal (And especially man) can exhibit monstrositiesbut even the
genera are completely subject to the changes of the external, universal
life of Nature (Hegel 1970: 416).

Such a definition of Nature remains thoroughly materialist insofar as


it does not presuppose in Nature a more-than-natural quality that would
silently serve as the relevant causal factor in explaining the more-thannatural effects of what emerges therefrom. The Hegelian theory of weak
nature is Johnstons answer to the problem of how to think the emergence of an irreducible and partially autonomous order, such as the think-

335

Vol. 4 (2016)

answer to: for example, the status of negativity in freedom, as modern


politics has rendered thinkable, or the limitation of the machine metaphor when attempting to think the logic of organic forms.
Furthermore, and we will conclude on this point, Hegel does not only
criticize the limits of the natural sciences of his time, still (and rightly so)
infatuated with the perplexing reach of Galileos and Newtons achievements, exposing the idealist commitment at stake in the generalization of
the formal treatment of mechanic movement to the understanding of inherently circular phenomena such as living organisms. He also extends
this criticism to the idea of nature which was born as the counterpart of
this subjective stance. In other words, to criticize the idealism of natural
science is also to criticize a certain ideal of nature, for it is not only the
subject of science which must be included into science, a movement which
renders the current scientific view incomplete, but also science which
must be included into its object, (in)completing nature itself.
At the end of the second volume of the Encyclopedia, in a long commentary added to the paragraph 370 (Genus and Species), Hegel (in a
manner not unlike Chesterton in his Introduction to the Book of Job) suggests that the inadequacy of the classification of species is not so much a
sign of a deficit in the classificatory system as it is a quality of life itself,
which appears in the most inadequate forms (1970: 416). The reason for
this, Hegel adds, lies in the impotence [Ohnmacht] of Nature to remain
true to the Notion and to adhere to thought-determinations in their purity (1970: 423).
It is this impotence or weakness that Johnston will single out as a
fundamental element in the materialist understanding what sort of Nature could give birth to the more-than-natural. The crucial point here is
that Hegel is not defining Nature as structurally negative, in the sense in
which Being, in the Science of Logic, appears as already split into non-Beingrather, this impotence is a historical negativity, an incapacity to prevent what lacks form from gaining form and a form from deforming or
transforming itself.

No. 1

Book reviews /

Book reviews /

ing subject out of the subjectless world, without having to posit the intervention of a proportionally abnormal force as its causeof accounting for
the more-than-material as a historical effect without silently presupposing it in the no-more-than-material cause.
The modern recuperation of ontology has mostly taken up the challenging task of giving a step back from physics without falling into classical metaphysics. For example, Alain Badious decision to equate mathematics and ontology takes precisely such a form: mathematics, conceived
as the theory of the structuring of structures in general, names a region of
thinking which grasps a general form of indetermination that is nonetheless compossible with the determinate and specific forms of being-there
at stake in the mathematized sciences. ieks speculative interpretation
of quantum mechanics, albeit shifting the accent away from the formal
presentation of physics and towards the concept of physis it seems to imply, also seeks to move back from physics into an incomplete or conflicting quasi-metaphysical field of nothingness. From the standpoint of
Johnstons project, this step back has distinguishable idealist overtones
seeing that it endows the infrastructure of being as such with the very
quality which ultimately characterizes thinking, so that the very process
of thinking matter as being indeterminate or void ends up endowing it
with the one property that will render the appearance of the thinking subject a priori commensurable with its prehistory. Against this stepping
back from physics into a general ontology, Johnston proposes a step in the
other direction, from physics to biology, a move that has the added benefit of being an immanently scientific passage, which concerns physicists
and biologists alike, insofar as it thematizes the historical problem of
the emergence of a heterogeneous formal space out of the homogeneity
of what previously existed.

Bibliography
Deacon, Terrence (2012). Incomplete Nature New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Johnston, Adrian (2005). Time Driven: Metapsychology and the Splitting of the Drive.
Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
Johnston, Adrian (2008). ieks Ontology: A transcendental materialist theory of subjectivity Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
Johnston, Adrian (2012). The Voiding of Weak Nature. Graduate Faculty Philosophy
Journal 33.1: 10357.
Johnston, Adrian (2014). Adventures in Transcendental Materialism. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Hegel, G.W.F. (1970). Hegels Philosophy of Nature. Part II, Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences [1830]. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hegel, G.W.F. (1977). Phenomenology of Spirit. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

336

Book reviews /

Vol. 4 (2016)

No. 1

Hegel, G.W.F. (2002). The Earliest System-Program of German Idealism. In Miscellaneous Writings of G.W.F. Hegel, ed. Jon Stewart, 11015. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
iek, Slavoj (1989). The Sublime Object of Ideology. London: Verso.
iek, Slavoj (2002). For They Know Not What They Do. London: Verso.
iek, Slavoj (2009). The Monstrosity of Christ. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

337

vi

Adrian Johnston, Prolegomena to Any Future


Materialism. Vol. 1. The Outcome
of Contemporary French Philosophy
Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2013, 257pp.,
ISBN 978-0810129122

Adrian Johnston, Adventures in


Transcendental Materialism. Dialogues with
Contemporary Thinkers
Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014, 376pp.,
ISBN 978-0748673285


, --

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(iek 2002),

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Vol. 4 (2016)

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Book reviews /

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2008: 204).
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Book reviews /

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, (1970). , 2 ., . 1. .: .
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Deacon, Terrence (2012). Incomplete Nature New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Johnston, Adrian (2005). Time Driven: Metapsychology and the Splitting of the Drive.
Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
Johnston, Adrian (2008). ieks Ontology: A transcendental materialist theory of subjectivity Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
Johnston, Adrian (2012). The Voiding of Weak Nature. Graduate Faculty Philosophy
Journal 33.1: 103157.
Johnston, Adrian (2014). Adventures in Transcendental Materialism. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
iek, Slavoj (1989). The Sublime Object of Ideology. London: Verso.
iek, Slavoj (2002). For They Know Not What They Do. London: Verso.
iek, Slavoj (2009). The Monstrosity of Christ. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

345

Vol. 4 (2016)

. .

Biographical Information

Mladen Dolar
Mladen Dolar is Professor and Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana. His principal areas of research are psychoanalysis, modern French philosophy, German idealism
and philosophy of music. He has lectured extensively at universities in
USA and across Europe, he is the author of over hundred papers in scholarly journals and collective volumes. Apart from a dozen books in Slovene
his book publications include most notably A Voice and Nothing More
(MIT 2006, translated into six languages) and Operas Second Death (with
Slavoj iek, Routledge 2001, also translated into a number of languages).
Two new English books are forthcoming with Duke UP and Verso. He is
one of the founding members of what has become known as the Ljubljana Lacanian School.
Keti Chukhrov
Keti Chukhrov is a ScD in philosophy, an associate professor at the
Department of Art History at the Russian State University for the Humanities, visiting professor at the European Univerisity at Saint Petersburg.
Chukhrov has authored numerous texts on art theory, culture, politics,
and philosophy. Her postdoctoral dissertation dealt with the anthropology and ontology of performativity. Her full-length books include: To Be
To Perform. Theatre in Philosophic Critique of Art (Spb: European Un-ty,
2011), and Pound & (Logos, 1999). Her present research interests and
publications deal with two themes: the impact of socialist economy on
the ethical and aesthetic epistemes of historical socialism, and art as edifice and institute of contemporaneity.
Aaron Schuster
Aaron Schuster is the Head of the Theory Program at the Sandberg
Institute, Amsterdam, and a visiting professor at the University of Chicago. His The Trouble With Pleasure: Deleuze and Psychoanalysis is published
by MIT Press (2016).
Oxana Timofeeva
Oxana Timofeeva is a senior lecturer on contemporary philosophy at
the European University in St. Petersburg, a senior research fellow at the
Institute of Philosophy of Russian Academy of Science (Moscow), a member of the artistic collective Chto Delat? (What is to be done?), a deputy editor of the journal Stasis, and the author of books History of Animals:
An Essay on Negativity, Immanence, and Freedom (Maastricht, 2012), and
Introduction to the Erotic Philosophy of Georges Bataille (Moscow, 2009).

346

Biogrephical Information

Vol. 4 (2016)

No. 1

Slavoj iek
Slavoj iek is a Slovenian philosopher, cultural critic, and Marxist
intellectual. He is Senior Researcher at the Department of Philosophy,
University of Ljubljana, co-director at the International Centre for Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London. Founder and president
of the Society for Theoretical Psychoanalysis, Ljubljana. Editor of the
book series Shortcuts (with MIT Press), Wo es war (with Verso) and SIC
(with Duke UP). He is the author of many books that have been translated
into all the main world languages (Spanish, French, German, Portuguese,
Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Russian). The list of books includes:
The Sublime Object of Ideology (1989), Tarrying with the Negative (1993),
The Plague of Fantasies (1997), The Puppet and the Dwarf (2004), The Parallax View (2006), Less than Nothing (2012), Absolute Recoil (2014), amongst
others.

347

, . , , .
,
. ,
A Voice and Nothing More (MIT 2006,
) Operas Second Death ( ,
Routledge 2001, ). Duke
University Press Verso. ,
.
,
.
, , .
Shortcuts ( MIT Press), Wo es war ( Verso)
SIC ( Duke University Press). , (,
, , , , , , , ). : Tarrying
with the Negative (1993), (1999),
(2004), . (2008), (2009), "Less than Nothin"g (2012),
(2012), "Absolute Recoil" (2014),
(2014) .
,
-, , ?, ,
History of Animals: an Essay on Negativity, Immanence, and Freedom
(, 2012) .
(., 2009).

348

, , .
, , . . : Pound & (., 1999) :
(., 2011).
:
.

Vol. 4 (2016)

No. 1

()
. The Trouble With Pleasure: Deleuze and Psychoana
lysis MIT Press (2016).

349

is a peer-reviewed academic journal in social and political


theory, published biannually and edited by a group of influential intellectuals from Eastern, Central, and Northern Europe. The Journal is published
by the European University at Saint Petersburg. Stasis is a bilingual journal
that publishes articles in English and in Russian. Stasis accepts articles for
publication both in English and in Russian languages. In the case of acceptance, the articles originally written in English are translated into Russian.
The title, Stasis, means at once a particular position, an interrupting
suspension, and an uprising. The journal thus represents an excentric and
estranged standpoint which considers things and events while always
holding in view the possibility of revolutionizing them. Far from defending
stagnation, Stasis thus suggests a sudden interruption of the hectic inertial
motion, in a move of reflection and contestation.

Call for papers


Everyone is welcome to submit an article to Stasis. Articles can be
submitted in English (preferably), or Russian. Articles in English will have
a priority in being considered for publication.
All articles are considered by the members of the board. Preselected
articles go through the blind peer review. In cases when the reviewers
suggest revisions, they can recommend to revise and publish or to revise
and resubmit the article.
Submissions are done electronically, to the address: stasis@eu.spb.
ru. The subject of the message should read Article submission. If the
submission is made for a thematic issue, in response to a call for papers,
this also should be indicated in the subject field. Manuscripts should be
no longer than 10,000 words. See the detailed instructions for authors on
the website.

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Vol. 3 (2015)

352