Vladimir Sorokin – how Russia failed to come to terms with its past

Great op-ed about the state of Russia today by the famous Russian post-modernist writer:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/may/08/let-the-past-collapse-on-time/

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George Bataille (1897-1962): Ritual transgression and the Sacred

Bataille drew particular attention to the links between that which is conventionally seen as filthy, disgusting, excessive, and lewd (which he called heterology), and the sacred and transcendent. Writing about an encounter in a brothel, for example, Bataille pointed to the awe-inspiring qualities of lust and female sexuality.

In the 1930s he established a research and discussion group in Paris (College de Sociologie) devoted to study of the sacred in social life. They were interested in myth and the sacred, the latter especially in its transgressive forms. The sacred is not only one of the terms in the binary sacred/profane, but is itself a dual term. Alongside pure or right sacred, which preserves moral order by means of taboosk there is an impure or left sacred, which deliberately transgresses against that order through the debauchery of festival. An example in Christianity is the complementary pairing of Lent and Carnival.

The ritual transgression of festival is given meaning by myths describing how the moral order must be created anew each year from the violent chaos that preexisted it. They considered myth to be an aesthetic and political key to the understanding of ancient and modern societies. They were interested in how literature created a modern mythology that helps to form how people live.

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Jacques Lacan and Slavoi Zizek: The Imaginary, the Symbolic and the Real

According to Lacan, non-verbalized, sensory representation of one’s self is connected with the level of the individual Imaginary, whereas the transcendent relation is a condition for the formation of the Symbolical, connecting the subject with the meta-languages of society and culture. The trauma of normalized violence, destroys both the Imaginary (the Self), and the Symbolical (meta-language), depriving the hero of home and sky. Outside the Imaginary and Symbolical lies the Real, which Lacan equates with the impossible and inexpressible unconscious knowledge of oneself and the world, concluding that the Real is the Impossible (Lacan, 4 Fundamental Concepts of PsychoAnalysis 1973).

Zizek further describes the Real: “The Real is in itself a hole, a gap, an opening in the middle of the symbolical order — it is the lack around which the symbolical order is structured. […] the Real is something that cannot be negated, a positive inert datum which is insensitive to negation, cannot be caught in the dialectics of negativity […] the Real itself, in its positivity, is nothing but an embodiment of a certain void, lack, radical negativity” (Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology).

The Real in Lacan appears as equivalent of Freud’s death drive (Thanatos).

The Real… makes the return to the integral Self impossible, as well as the finding of a non-contradictory symbolical metalanguage connecting the Self with others and giving existence a stable (transcendent) meaning.

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Foucault on biopolitics and biopower

Per Foucault, Biopower is the extension of state power over the physical bodies of its subjects. It is “a new technology of power…[that] exists at a different level, on a different scale, and [that] has a different bearing area, and makes use of very different instruments” (1976).

It is a control apparatus exerted over the population, including control of demographics (birth death, etc), medicine and vaccines, public hygiene, all allowing, historically, death to be held or exposed to certain populations. In modern society this is often done in more subtle and rational forms, through mechanisms such as insurance, individual and collective savings, safety measures and so on.

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