GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

January 30, 2010

A Minimal Rule for Political Discourse

Filed under: GA — adam @ 9:28 pm

Exclude from your discourse all imperatives, implicit and explicit, to third parties. No “x must realize,” or “y needs finally to understand,” or “we have to demand that z…” Nobody really has to do anything, and stating that they do simply establishes a fantasy scenario in which others come to occupy the same scene as you and recognize the same center. Note that imperative directed towards the second party, i.e., the reader or interlocutor, are perfectly acceptable under this rule—as long as the imperative is fulfilled in actions that can be taken by that interlocutor alone, like “exclude from your discourse…” Think about how ridiculous so many of those implicit imperatives would be if stated in the first person singular—if, say, “we must hold the Democrats accountable for their unconscionable over-spending” were to be imagined as someone standing (where? In front of “the Democrats”? who have been lined up to hear this proclamation how?) and saying “I hold you accountable”—but what is a performative, like an imperative or judgment, that can’t be stated in the first person before the intended recipient? An imperative to the reader, on the other hand, can remain within the bounds of the imperative: try speaking in this way. It can, of course, be rejected. The other alternative is to write or speak in indicatives, implicit as well as explicit, and lay down some chain of events that might articulate the thing being said or written with someone else doing something else. I think this constraint would be very helpful—it seems to me that we hardly ever hear, from either politicians or journalists, “if…then…” chains which can sustain the insertion of indefinite “if… then” chains between each “if” and “then.” If the Democrats pass the health care bill they will alienate those who would have their health care and/or insurance arrangements put at risk (in the following ways…) along with those whose taxes would be raised and those who could not afford to sustain their businesses under such mandates; the Republicans would then have a constituency for running on overturning the health care bill which would in turn alienate those who would find the accusation that they have thereby taken away coverage from x number of people persuasive, meaning that the Republicans would weigh these respective constituencies, which might, in turn, “present” differently to different Republicans, who would therefore negotiate amongst themselves. No one “must” do anything in this kind of discourse—everyone is simply confronted with choice after choice, with each choice generated a new series, which we can anticipate and formulate as mimetic, speaking beings. Even with larger questions, phrases like, “we must defend the basic principles of the American constitution” or “Western civilization” collapse in the same way under closer inspection. In a sense, what I am arguing is that the legal notion of “standing” is far more important than “logic”—I can speak to an injury done me, I can answer an accusation made against me, and while I can’t “defend Western civilization” (like my example of “holding Democrats accountable,” try to picture “defending Western civilization”), but I can certainly shore up a concept or exemplify a way of thinking that might give some others an imperative to repeat to themselves when they have the chance to speak to an injury done to themselves or another, or to answer an accusation, including one addressed to one of their corporate identities.

January 23, 2010

The Grammar of the Political Economy of Media

Filed under: GA — adam @ 4:08 pm

We all know Marshall McLuhan’s catchphrases: “the medium is the message,” “global village,” “the content of one medium is another medium,” etc. I don’t know of any theory of media that has superseded McLuhan’s, a vulgarized version of which has become a kind of cultural commonsense; and yet it’s hard to take McLuhan completely seriously. I suspect that the problem lies in the prophetic rhetoric—a similar problem interferes with my taking someone like Emerson (undoubtedly an influence on McLuhan) completely seriously either—which almost never ages well. You read McLuhan and expect the world around you to change almost instantaneously; then you realize that the text you are reading is half a century old and maybe things haven’t changed all that much after all. Or, maybe they’ve changed so much that you don’t notice the change since the reference point against which you might measure it has vanished (I find it hard to imagine not doing all my writing on the computer and gathering all my news over the internet even though I know actually did work and live otherwise, and not all that long ago). One thing I am certain of, though: to the extent that the global village McLuhan saw coming into being exists it is constituted by hatred of the U.S. and Israel. In other words, desire and resentment lie deeper than any media, and so does the difficult historical work of channeling and shaping them through institutions; in yet other words, the problem with McLuhan is that if he has any anthropology it is a kind of mystical, Gnostic one: to say that media are the extensions of our organs and senses is to imagine a single “Man,” in relation to whom all the individual men and women and the relations between them are mere epiphenomena.

Once we allow for that, though, it seems to me that McLuhan is a perfectly good starting point for an originary theory of media. Instead of saying that the media are extensions of the senses and organs, why not modify that to read extensions of the originary gesture? We could then give some precision to McLuhan’s vague notion of the content of one medium being another medium—that sounds right, especially when we throw in a few intuitive examples (the content of writing is speech; the content of movies is the novel, etc.), but I think that notion would break down if we tried to burden it with the tasks a serious theory of media would have to take on. What do we mean, after all, by “content”? McLuhan doesn’t say, leaving us with a commonplace of literary criticism. But what if “content” is simply those objects, or more broadly, “fields” (what I call fields of semblances) that have been produced in tandem with a particular medium but that draw upon mimetic tensions that can no longer be deferred within that medium? We would then be able to set aside the teleology and utopianism of McLuhan’s account: writing may not have been invented to defer rivalries that speech no longer could, but once it had been invented in some form, for whatever purposes, it could be put to work serving the new hierarchical orders that needed not only bureaucracies but forms of legitimacy that the permanence of writing and the exclusiveness of its knowledge could provide. And, of course, there need not be only one set or kind of rivalry involved—the more the new medium spread, the more uses that would be found for it.

Part of McLuhan’s point, though, is that we don’t simply use media—they transform us. In originary terms, though, this means they create new arenas of desire and resentment. What McLuhan calls “cool” and “hot” media need, I think, to be reconsidered in these terms. The hot media are those that provide a lot of data and hence produce passivity in the audience—like a Rembrandt painting, for example; the cool media provide little data and hence require extensive audience participation—like a Klee drawing. And McLuhan doesn’t apply the terms simplistically—he realizes that “heat” and “coolness” depend upon the total media environment—so, radio is much “hotter” when introduced into the largely oral world of post-colonial societies than in the literate West. But it is nevertheless very strange to hear TV described as a cool medium, since it has for as long as I know (and this must have been the case when McLuhan was writing) been caricatured as the most passive medium around, producing nothing but couch potatoes. Perhaps McLuhan could have dismissed this as a literary prejudice, but looking back at TV from the 50s to the 90s—with its extraordinarily limited genres, conventions and formulas—from the standpoint of today’s world of interactive and interfolding media, isn’t that “prejudice” amply confirmed? Didn’t TV shows succeed by saturating their viewers with “data”—the data of its narrative conventions and stereotypes, but also that embodied in the invariably maintained stage/spectator point of view?

It seems to me, rather, that “cool” and “hot” name different types of desire, desires that are conducted by media entering societies at give historical junctures. “Hot” desires are those for exclusive control over precisely delineated objects, “cool” desires are for sharing and communion with others. For McLuhan, the hot media are the ones that lead to specialization (print leads to the heightening of vision, and a very specific kind of vision, closely linked to interiority), while the cool media are more eclectic. But books can play into pedagogical relations in various ways, can be tied to various forms of orality and collectivity more or less closely, and so on. I suppose War and Peace would be as hot as you can get within the hot medium of print, but only for those who can perceive all the levels of data the book organizes—for a semi-literate reader today, it might not be very different from reading Finnegan’s Wake—the intense interiority and desire to leave the village and family and enter the market as an individual has given way to a vast array of possible linkages and desires within an advanced market. Nor does McLuhan seem very interested in the market—along with work, and money (which he does see as an important medium), he seems to take for granted that the market will disappear in the instantaneity produced by the new media.

But I can’t see that media studies, however privileged a field in today’s academy, has advanced much beyond McLuhan’s propheticism—it has been taken over by victimary forces on one side (and annexed to “cultural studies”) and by the arid discourses (highly specialized and hence crippled forms of literacy, we might say in McLuhan’s terms) in the social sciences on the other side. It has probably become an excuse for not advancing an anthropology, because, after all, what would be the content of an anthropology if “man” is nothing more than his extensions or various forms of “outering”? So, one is left with descriptions, either impressionistic or positivistic (through the use of polls, surveys, etc.) of the various “effects” of various media on something like “ideology,” “social roles” or “power relations.”

So, let’s turn inward, first, and apply McLuhan’s terms to originary grammar, and move outwards penetrating his analysis of the media with originary thinking. The content of the ostensive is some dangerous mimetic convergence; the content of the imperative is the inappropriate ostensive; the content of the declarative what we might call a suspended imperative—the imperative which is not fulfilled, which is prolonged into the interrogative, which is not enforced but nevertheless not retracted, which is held in reserve pending the presentation of a reality in which the resentment of the center can disperse the desires concentrating in that imperative. In each case, “material” would be a better word than “content,” since nothing is simply contained here—something is not only reshaped, but reshaped so as to reverse or divert its original aim; nor is the form contained in the content—that is, the ostensive did not “inevitably” give rise to the imperative, nor the imperative to the declarative; rather, in each case we see a improvisation, an invention, or even simply an error that serendipitously gives rise to the new form.

A more promising approach to thinking about the media, then, might be to correlate different articulations of media with different articulations of grammar—so, not print and radio, and TV and the internet, but print, say, as it restructures its environment in the move to the computer keyboard, in a space bounded by the migration of visual media to the computer, a still vibrant radio, and so on. The author Ronald Sukenick did a lot of thinking and experimenting with the implications of writing in a multi-media environment, for example in terms of breaking with the Gutenbergian convention of straight lines of homogeneous print going straight down the page. The question for writing, then, would be how to import ostensive elements into a primarily declarative medium, and to do so in order to strengthen rather than vitiate its fundamentally declarative character. Rather than a new unified sensibility, we would have the spontaneous organization of competition and reciprocal appropriation between and within the media, which originary thinkers could speak about in terms of interpenetrating ostensive, imperative, interrogative and declarative fields.

Of course, what we would most wish to bring such analyses to bear upon would be the electronic media—how primitive the TV now appears in this new world of constantly circulating video and print, how ineffectual its traditional organization through the large “networks” now appear! I suppose most of us will continual to watch TV, and there is still a huge gap between the shows produced by professionals and what amateurs would be capable of (there are some very good shows today, probably better than there have ever been), but it’s hard to see how long the current system of production and distribution can continue, now that you can watch pretty much any show you want whenever you want and for free. It seems hardly worthwhile to waste the energy on analyzing TV shows in terms of their cultural “meaning” or “impact”—“Seinfeld” was probably the last “important” show, or at least the last important scripted one.

In the political economy of signs, then, we would perhaps look for which entrepreneurs can conquer territory within the division of labor by introducing an ostensive or imperative dimension to a primarily declarative medium; or a declarative overlay to a primarily ostensive or imperative medium. The conservative media seems to me particularly advanced in this regard, with its dense network of TV (FOX), talk radio, blogs, websites like Pajamas Media, Hot Air, and Breitbart’s sites, which all interact and intersect with each, deploy all the media and all the resources of all the media, are populated by a core of personalities and thinkers who move from one site to another while continually bringing on board new voices. It is tight enough to be coherent and open enough to allow for lively debates and to prevent the creation of a “bubble” that would filter out unwelcome or unanticipated news from the world. It is an enormously effective way of producing events, and the content of events is nothing other desires given enough scope to make a shared object visible, resentments organized so as to make that object divisible and available, and at least the possibility of love for an inexhaustible source of presence embodied in a sign.

The media today interact with each other at an unprecedented rate and under the control of individual users to an extent unimaginable even ten years ago: I can watch a cable news show, down load a clip, set it to music, change the words of the song so as to make the modified song a parody of the figure discussed in the news clip, place that remixed video on YouTube and have hundreds of commentators discussing it and thousands of users circulating it—all within a couple of hours. (Well, I can’t do it—but plenty of people can.) And the whole sequence may very well end up a topic of discussion on that very news show the next day. The content of one media event, then, is another media event, and the most eventful events are the ones that do the most translating of the terms of one media into another. Circulating last year was a video which somehow had Congress members singing their speeches (the voice was maintained and the words kept the same—they were somehow “made” to sing), giving the debate the appearance of an opera; right now “The Day Obamacare Died” “Sung by Barack Obama” is making the rounds—just about any of us could think of a dozen examples. What is privileged in such productions is a particular characteristic of sign use—the ability to stretch one form so as to accommodate an unfamiliar content, or to modify a set of rules so as to lead to a very different set of results, to let one domain of culture comment upon another. I think these are the aspects of sign use most closely tied to human freedom, or, perhaps, those aspects that guarantee freedom’s ineradicability. This is not to deny that more traditionally “real” events (a terrorist attack, a financial crash) can break through these intricate intermedial “ecosystems” and redirect the attention of those systems beyond the power of media entrepreneurs to interrupt. But we may have gotten to the point where those who have not acquired fluency in “intermedia” will be increasingly ill-equipped to address those crises when they break through and must, in turn, be assimilated to the ecosystem.

January 13, 2010

Oupopo: A Preliminary Political Combinatorial

Filed under: GA — adam @ 7:54 am

The Oulipo group has already spawned a variety of spin-offs: oubapo (comics); oupeinpo (painting); oucuipo (cooking); oumupo (music); outrapo (drama), and at least several more. All one needs to found a new ou-x-po is the realization that the activity in question (the “x”) is governed by rules, some explicit, more tacit, and that the explicit rules can be formed more deliberately and the tacit ones made explicit. A infinitely wide field of activity then opens up, as the self-reflexive gaze we turn upon our own activity is made productive—the first rule would be that any rule that comes into sight—either becomes visible, or takes on a noticeably new character or produces discernably new effects—is deliberately reinforced or countered (with another rule, a sub-rule, or a meta-rule). Even looking back over this paragraph, for example, I could note that the rule I am following is to point to small changes that lead to large changes—that could, then, become a rule for writing the rest of this post: each sentence, or each paragraph, needs to name a small change along with the larger changes it might lead to. One could make the rule more precise—each paragraph needs to increase the disproportion between the “small” change and the “large” change, etc.

In order to transform any activity into a procedural, rule governed one, it must be broken down into discrete and, ultimately, irreducible “moves.” In order to begin testing out the uses of “potentialism” for political thinking, I will here try to indicate certain basic political “elements,” certain rules of “combination” and “conversion,” and thereby institute an ou-po(litics)-po. The founding or meta rules must be the following: the rules must be universalizable enough to hold for any social setting: from totalitarian to free order, from normal political situations to emergencies, from international politics to the local school board; second, any rules must, to follow the imperative Eric Gans, in my view rightly, asserted in his most recent Chronicle (385) regarding the “globalization of the human conversation”: “For the first time in history, every non-intimate assemblage must consider itself as virtually including every human being.” And this latter would be an imperative, naturally, that I must follow in writing this post.

Hannah Arendt, in fact, gave us a minimal definition of the public sphere which can allow us to compress the two meta rules into one: the public sphere is where what is done and said is seen and heard by everyone. Of course, this can also sound a lot like the sphere of celebrity, and it’s no coincidence that those respective spheres have come to approximate each other, so let’s mark the difference by completing Arendt’s definition: the public sphere is generative and infinite, while celebrity is monopolistic: public displays of defiance on the part of Iranians to their regime doesn’t detract from our ability to engage publically here—quite to the contrary, in fact; while there is only so much attention to be paid to celebrities and some must get more of it than others. So, politics is maximum visibility that solicits further exposure—the need politics meets is to have resentment displayed openly and in such a way that various ways of ensuring the reconciliation of one resentment with others can be tried out and, when deemed successful, instituted. The resentments themselves are changed in the process of giving them form—in particular, the claim of each resentment to speak from the center must accentuated, and in this way the actual terms of the center are brought into view. Politics, then, becomes a discovery procedure, aimed at making present the resentment of the center.

Since politics is inevitably a partisan activity (always an “us vs. them” configuration), an honest politics that avows its partisanship (its resentments) while at the same time proposing rules that would not a priori privilege any resentment over those of others who are willing to play by the rules, would aim at, not so much reconciling as “customizing” or “commensurating” resentments within its own camp while surfacing and rendering incongruous resentments among its opponents, with the ultimate goal of bringing members of the other camp into your own. If you are pro-abortion rights, you try to drive a wedge between different factions among the pro-life camp, if you oppose the health care bill you seek to drive a wedge (and, clearly, the most disabling wedge) between the various factions supporting it. And one similarly fends off the reciprocal attempts on the part of one’s opponents, not by suppressing factionalism but by establishing protocols that allow factionalism to be played out openly and with finality.

If each camp, then, is both unity and a set of factions, both to the other camp, and to itself, we can deduce the following political “syntax”: If we leave aside the content of the particular camps, i.e., remain within the grammar of politics and put aside its semantics, we could say that any move you make as a political agent either offers or refuses some terms of agreement put forth by another faction within your camp or a targeted faction in the other camp. So, you can represent yourself as a faction within your camp offering/refusing terms of agreement to the other faction(s), with those terms of agreement in turn involving the establishment of a unified camp offering/refusing of terms of agreement with (targeted faction[s] within) the other camp(s). Then we would simply have a series of combinatorial possibilities: for example, your faction refuses terms of agreement put forward by another faction which would offer terms of agreement to the other camp taken as a unified whole, etc.

Let’s further say that every group (faction or camp) is constituted by a set of rules, partially tacit and partially explicit. Offering new terms of agreement would change, however slightly, the explicit rules, add a new, shared layer of explicit rules, and set in place a mode of interaction that will change the tacit rules in ways that can’t be controlled or predicted. Oupopo procedures, as a kind of political pataphysics, would start with the most unlikely combinations: say, offer a shared rule with a faction in the other camp that has refused an agreement with a faction in its camp proposing an agreement with your camp that would include your faction—in other words, propose an agreement with the very faction that stakes its factionalism on excluding you. So, the task before, say, the most extreme pro-life faction (say, one that rules out abortion even in cases of rape and incest) would be to propose some shared rule to, say, the most extreme pro-abortion rights faction (one that insists upon federal funding, opposes parental notification, etc.). It might simply be a shared rule for placing their respective propaganda side by side in a particular manner—perhaps both could agree to do so in a way that heightens the differences, each gambling that being placed next to the extremism of the other will strengthen their own position.

Starting with the most unlikely agreements not only intensifies one’s sense of the full range of possible interactions and communications, but also provides a more independent sense of the terms which one would agree to with those much closer. Of more interest to me, though, is the effectivity of these combinatorial possibilities as a formal device that leads to the articulation of a whole range of concrete possibilities—if the extreme pro-life and pro-abortion rights factions were to arrive at such an agreement, what would be the ramifications regarding agreements that would then become impossible or possible, more or less likely, with all the other factions and camps? What terms would the more moderate pro-abortion rights faction offer or refuse once the more extreme camp has become entangled in this way? We could, at the very least, say that possibilities that wouldn’t have existed otherwise would now become visible.

The formulation of such rules would, further, take on a “what if…” quality, because in order to offer terms to another faction or camp you would already have to be acting in such a way as to display possible accord with those terms—so, the extreme pro-lifers, preparatory to offering the aforementioned terms to the extreme pro-abortion righters, would already begin to instantiate those terms. And this is where the formulation of oupopo procedures comes into it: in your literature and propaganda, in your demonstrations, in your negotiations, act as though the offered terms were already in place, so that offering the terms would merely be asking the other to join in and try to reshape what you are already doing. And the further refinement of the rules would involve bringing into play various permutations—offer terms for an agreement with the extreme faction in the other camp that would at the same time be a refusal of terms with the more moderate faction in your camp and at the same time an attempt to factionalize that moderate camp by offering terms to a previously neglected possible faction within it, etc. And, of course, there are always factions within factions and, in the end, each of us is faction of one (in many different camps).

January 5, 2010

Rendering is the Stay of Frenzy: Ou-GA-po

Filed under: GA — adam @ 2:50 pm

I’ve mentioned a couple of times in the past few posts the literary group Oulipo (the Workshop for Potential Literature), which devises rules and procedures for composing literary texts. I have situated my growing interest in Oulipo in terms of the way I have been thinking about rules and habits, rules and imperatives, rules and models, and so on. Most of the rules devised by Oulipo are arbitrary—like the lipogram, they are meant to take away some of our habitual uses of language and thereby force to think in unwonted directions. I consider that extremely useful and interesting, but in proposing a Ou-GA-po (Workshop of potential GA—noting that Oulipo has already spawned several spinoffs in other disciplines) it seems to me that knowing what language is should enable us to create more purposeful rules, rules that facilitate a desired line of inquiry or enact a particular element of the originary scene.

I’ll be working on some possible potential GA “workshops” in upcoming posts, but for now I’ll start with something more universally applicable to modes of inquiry, or theoretical vocabulary. The rule I have constructed is to gather together the key terms of a theory and replace them all with synonyms (a sub-rule here might involve how the synonyms are chosen, but I haven’t done that, even if patterns of choice might be detectable—one way of choosing a rule, incidentally, would be to identify a pattern or habit and make it explicit by formalizing it as a rule to be followed deliberately; or, formalizing resistance to that habit as a rule). Then there are a couple of possibilities: one might rewrite a passage in the original vocabulary using the new terms (and then, depending upon the results, other possible procedures might be invented and applied); or, one might conduct an analysis using the new terms. I’ll be doing the latter.

The interest in this procedure, for me at least, lies in the act of thinking along with language. As we all know, first of all tacitly as language users, words aren’t simply the labels of “meanings”—rather, they exist in a field with other words with which they can be replaced and combined more or less reliably under various conditions. Furthermore, the construction of a theoretical vocabulary itself creates a new field, in which words are drawn to each other with a new gravity: once you use the word “subject,” for example, the word “object” can’t be far behind, even though these are far from being the only ways of referring to people and things. So, my synonymizing procedure is to bring into adjacency with theoretical fields new aggregations of very different neighboring fields. The potentialities of language, in particular what I take to be its fundamentally iterative character, can then be drawn upon to complement our expansion and revision of the theoretical field at stake. In other words, questions about new possibilities for the theory, possibilities we would not have uncovered otherwise, might be generated.

So, here are my synonyms:


First, it seems to me a good rule to say one thing (and just one thing) about the likely effects of each replacement. So: want, it seems to me, is generally associated with more physical requirements than desire (it seems closer to “need,” in other words), but it nevertheless lies closer to the notion of “lack” so central to more theoretical uses of “desire” (for want of a…); wrath certainly seems closer to violence than resentment, more the feeling of the “strong” rather than “weak” man (Gans translates what is translated as the “wrath of Achilles” as “resentment” in his reading of the Illiad), and it also is more readily attributable to the center (God has wrath, He doesn’t resent); stay (as in “stay of execution”) seems to me to be both enacted and effected, whereas deferral is something you bring about, even in yourself (I will note by the way that a further interesting and unpredictable feature of synonymizing is that synonyms often work very differently in sentences and as parts of speech—“stay” is both verb and noun, “wrath” has no verb form, etc.); mark we associate with something we inscribe on objects, whereas signs direct our attention to objects; things seem freer from our mapping of them, whereas objects are defined by the more specialized attention paid them, but things are also more simply whatever we talk about, in the sense of “topic”; crises precede resolutions, for good or for bad, while messes can get cleaned up as much as desired or needed while remaining a bit messy (and a situation can’t be “crisisy”); I was delighted to find, in my very minimal research for this post, that the word “like” derives etymologically from the notion of “form,” in a way that we can still feel pretty forcefully, while providing us with the sense of being attracted to something, delighted in something, that could only add to our understanding of mimesis in all its forms; violence contains some sense of “violation,” but frenzy might be closer to the pre-signifying beings we were entering the originary scene, where it seems to me an anachronistic anthropomorphism to suggest that the pre-human pecking order was “violated”; setting is very close to scene, but it is suggestive of the acting of putting things in place whereas a scene seems all made up already (of course we lose the possible plays on “making a scene”); render is perhaps the most distant of the synonyms here, but it brings in a very promising field of associations concerning giving the other his due (“render unto…).

Hence, the title of my post is a “translation” of “representation is the deferral of violence.” A bit of violence is done to “rendering,” which I think is rarely used as a gerund, much less with the copula—indeed, it remains a bit of verbness in this formulation. A similar operation could, of course, be performed on “represent” as well, but “representing is the deferral of violence” doesn’t quite work, does it? “Render” is a transitive verb and so is “represent,” but the option of “representation” clouds the intransitive sounding “representing” (even though the word is actually used that way now), while there is no noun form for “render”. I think there is more to it, though: “rendering” and “stay” could both be verbs, so the real parallel would have to be “representing is deferring violence,” but the rendering and the stay can be simultaneous (if we compress “render” as “give” with “render” as “depict”) while there must be some time delay, however infinitesimal,, between representation and deferral. Meanwhile, “to represent is to defer violence” tilts towards the description of an action rather than a definition and is hence a better re-translation of my translation, but the two infinitives sounds more stilted and static than the “original.” In brief, it seems to me that this sense of simultaneity in action gives us the most to think about.

Now, I will see what happens when I put this new vocabulary to work in addressing an issue, the treatment of which in my previous post I am dissatisfied with. In considering the conversion of desire into love through the “blessing” of that desire by resentment, I neglected a crucial transformation—that of the object of desire, whose beckoning imperative is taken over by the desirer who in turn issues imperatives to the object (remain what you were in that moment I was first consumed by desire for you) itself becomes subject—in grammatical terms, commences to issue imperatives of its own. In other words, what converts desire into love is that the object breaks out of the vicious circle of desire by giving promise of continual mystery and by making the desirer such an object him or her self. The lover, in short, is encircled by questions, and is himself or herself transformed into a question—the question is the grammatical marker of the resentment that blesses the conversion of desire into love.

So, the thing issues imperatives to the—subject? If object is gone, why keep subject? I will indulge myself with a substitution I would like to make anyway, and draw upon the rich resources of available pronouns and simply say that the thing issues imperatives to anybody, and that somebody in turn issues imperatives to that thing. So, here we can mark a transformation that “subject” doesn’t note, from anybody to somebody—anybody is called, but only somebody hearkens; and this raises the question: who loves? Perhaps this one. This one is anybody who by becoming somebody has been converted into a question for himself.

Now, as the relation between a body and the thing undergoes these transformations, what is happening to the relation between anybody and the model who has directed anybody’s attention to the thing in the first place? The fatal attraction to the thing is a way of evading the likening match with the model—rather than contend with the model, somebody tries to extort fealty from the thing itself. This shift in attention makes it possible for a new set of imperatives to issue forth from the thing, imperatives that call upon somebody to remake themselves, so as to partially liberate somebody from the model at the risk of destroying the object. But this new status of the thing sends new imperative out to new competitors, with the difference now that somebody can save the thing and become this one by taking the thing as guide or, to substitute a synonym for model that can apply to the competitors in the likening match as well as to the thing, this one can take the thing as measure. This one loves, or worships, the measure.

This one worships the measure by adopting its wrath toward the participants in the likening mess, toward those commanded by want. This one renders the measure to the crowd by rendering the measure among the crowd while being that one amid the crowd—that one who arouses wrath while dispersing it by breaking up habitual, commanding approaches to the thing. Anybody can now try to take the thing by presenting a body in the middle of its measure, that is, by applying its measure in a way everybody can render to themselves. In order to become a this one worthy of the thing everybody worships, the somebody must wrathfully submit the likening matches to that thing’s measure by setting the increasingly frenzied motions toward the thing within a grammar of itemized and interchangeable gestures.

And, indeed, the grammatical element of language—the distribution of a finite number of phonemes and morphemes along with the rules governing their infinite possible combinations—is the work of this wrathful one, of resentment dispersing desire by norming it and construing infinite desire as error.

Powered by WordPress