Jacques Lacan is responsible for saying, “there is no sexual relation.” This should not make lovers too upset, for in fact, Love is what we have to make up for the Relation that is missing. Eros would be the potential of supreme Good, for harmony uniting men and women, women and women, men and men. But why did Sigmund Freud have to ruin everything by saying, It is always possible to bond together in love, as long as someone is left out to hate? Lacan and Freud are pessimists, right? For Love is all-inclusive–at least it can’t depend on exclusion and hatred for its condition! Or else, with a yawn and a wink, we resign ourselves to taking advantage of whatever trust remains in human nature.

When Slavoj Zizek says, “There is no social relation,” we react as cynics and Kantian fetishists: I know very well there is no social Harmony prepared in heaven, but that is why we must work it here on earth. But Zizek unveils a new attitude. Social identity is constituted, not on the basis of ideal communication or understanding, but on the condition of persecutory and reactive formations that we all claim the others embody. And they do. But which one of us wants to embrace Jerry Falwell and Jesse Helms? The feeling is mutual. Besides, You want to strangle them, you have to get up close.

Antagonism is radical in human nature because we are the self-conscious ones, and the self we are conscious of is mortal, is death itself. To wipe out consciousness (and whatever stands for it) is the purpose of repression, redoubling death with its own negation, a “second death”–erasure of the signifier in the place of consciousness. Behind the signifier is the Thing, the absolute core of the Other “between perception and consciousness.” Behind consciousness is its own unconsciousness. (Who else is unconscious if not consciousness?) To go unconscious is to jouir, that’s the Thing, to get off, to get out, to forget. Whoever holds the place of consciousness must be eliminated–that is the social-moral law; whoever plays with jouissance at the limit of awareness had better watch his ass, because the sorry truth is that anyone who seems to be having fun playing with the Thing becomes the target of invidium and must be excluded from the circle of self-identity. Repression is the founding act of becoming human. It is the Thing itself, jouissance. Oblivion, erasure, this is the function of the law–of censorship. The Freudo-Lacanian Law (of which Zizek, constructing a true Hegelian synthetic rhizome for our time, exfoliates the political dimensions) cannot be stated. but if it could, the Thing might say of itself:I do not exist. Or rather, I would not exist. if the Signifier didn’t make me. The truth is that the supreme Good is an illusion, “a fantasy filling out a void.” But the belief in it is real and effective as such. The best definition of love is Wallace Stevens’: “an illusion so desired/ That the green leaves came.” Love is the pure real, the Thing is a sublime illusion, and if you believe in it, it becomes what you make of it: human freedom, the unconditioned absolute for good and evil. And if you don’t believe? We are all circling around a central void, a kind of vacuum core that acts as a strange attractor for consciousness and desire. The Thing is surrounded by a horizon of consciousness, an immanent non-Euclidean rim, which yields its multiform topology to the “late Lacan.” We are implicated as subjects and objects in this intensive space of mutual immersion wherein desire is the only real thing. Zizek explores and maps this milieu of libidinal politics, drawing us a series of diagrams of “ideological fantasy.” At the control chamber of bureaucracy, the official Other ruled by knowledge and perversion, its petty heart and massive “mind” (sublime memory), is occupied by a subject-essence, objet a, petite abyss wrapped in fantasy–the image. This substantial core is that “being of semblance,” the human agent, whose only real consistency is jouissance. At the heart of the subject is the “sublime object” sustained–beyond all need–by desire and belief. Our symptom has no image or content except what foolhardiness and creativity provide. For anything new to come into being, it must break the law, but in all innocence. If it aims to violate, it limits itself to transgressing its limits. But whenever the sublime Thing comes for real into the world, it appears necessarily in error and goes against the rules, for with it, the rules change.

There is no beyond aggression. To embody the antagonist oneself is to initiate the movement of creation. So perhaps this is our con-substantial Zizekian illumination: the only Good Thing is the Law (the S1 canceling itself in favor of the void–freedom); but the truly sublime Thing arrives, as Lacan said, “outside the limits of the Law, where alone it can live.” Not the love that binds in unity by exclusion of the limiting exception, but an inconsistent elementary “love without limit,” an ethical, impure desire.

PETER CANNING: The basic question is, what drew you to Lacan? I know that it was Althusser to some degree, but how did Hegel and Lacan come together for you in your personal history?

SLAVOJ ZIZEK: Perhaps the ultimate reason was the specific mapping of intellectual life in Slovenia. In this republic, there were two predominant philosophical approaches: Frankfurt School Marxism and Heideggerianism. Both were unacceptable to us Lacanians, not only generally, but because in Slovenia the Communist Party was intelligent enough to adopt Frankfurt School Marxism as its official ideology. Heideggerianism was from the beginning linked to a right-wing populism, and in other parts of Yugoslavia–of what was once Yugoslavia–to the darkest Stalinist forces. For us Althusser was crucial, is still crucial. But if there is a lesson to be learned from the recent political upheavals in Eastern Europe it’s–I’m more and more pro state. Let’s praise the state highly, to put it simply. I radically disagree with the leftist position that identifies the state apparatus as the source of all evil. If there is something that we are almost physically experiencing in Eastern Europe, it is how all freedoms and I don’t mean freedoms on this abstract ideological level, but very practical, everyday freedoms–imply a functioning state apparatus. This is not a paradoxical new thesis. Etienne Balibar even wrote a nice article, Es gibt keinen Staat in Europa (There is no state in Europe), in which he sees this search for a new nationalism and a kind of inner collapse of state power as strictly correlative phenomena. So this is why Althusser was absolutely crucial for us from the very beginning, this and his whole theory of theoretical state apparatuses, even though in terms of his official ideology he might be on the other side.

Slavoj Žižek

Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst, and a senior researcher at the Institute for Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London. He has also been a visiting professor at more than 10 universities around the world. Žižek is the author of many books; his latest are Against the Double Blackmail and Disparities.

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