philosophy as not philosophy: para-ontology, hauntology, schizoanalysis

"Articulating the past historically does not mean recognizing it ‘the way it really was’. It means appropriating a memory as it flashes up in a moment of danger. Historical materialism wishes to hold fast that image of the past which unexpectedly appears to the historical subject in a moment of danger. The danger threatens both the content of the tradition and those who inherit it. For both, it is one and the same thing: the danger of becoming a tool of the ruling classes. Every age must strive anew to wrest tradition away from the conformism that is working to overpower it. The Messiah comes not only as the redeemer; he comes as the victor over the Antichrist. The only historian capable of fanning the spark of hope in the past is the one who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he is victorious. And this enemy has never ceased to be victorious."
- Walter Benjamin, Thesis VI

"The materialist doctrine concerning the changing of circumstances and upbringing forgets that circumstances are changed by men and that it is essential to educate the educator himself. This doctrine must, therefore, divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society. The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice."
- Karl Marx, Thesis III

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Like Father Like Son

Some notes following Giorgio Agamben's lecture, "The Power and the Glory".

Economy properly becomes a concern when the activity or actuality of a praxis, which is to say, an effectivity or efficacy, cannot be reconciled with the being to which it 'belongs'. We should be precise: it is not only the fact of an actuality or action, a 'having happened', an effect, but the facticity of efficacy or the ability to be effective, the power or potential to produce a desired or intended effect. Perhaps it is too much to say 'intended'. It is the facticity of efficacy in the effect, of the potential manifest in an actual effect to produce itself as the right one, the desired one, the appropriate, if not intended effect. In other words, we can say that the propriety of an effect does not belong to being to which it is ascribed, to its 'proper' cause, the cause of which it is a property. It rather holds within itself its own propriety as an immanent power.

Economy is already a form of leading or guiding, which is to say, arche. This is also beginning, in the sense of that which comes before us and goes before us, that which must precede us, in time as well as in space, standing before us to lead the way. We only ever follow after a beginning, we do not begin of ourselves but are preceded. Economy is the form in which the arche of the oikos - the pater - relates to his action of leading, in which the leader relates to the action of leading, through the son and the family, and then the possessions and property of the family, as that which follows from him. In the pater the abstract order of leading must relate to the specific instances of following, or rather, the being which leads must relate to its action of leading as itself manifest. The father intends not to keep the son within his propriety and rule, but to lead him to his own propriety, to the self-directed appropriation that he manifests.

In this sense, the son, as the enacting of leading in following, or of being in an actuality, cannot simply be reduced to the ground of the father's arche. The son must become groundless, self-sufficient, independent of his own beginning, he must exceed the boundary of paternal order and go beyond... The leadership of the father is ultimately aimed at leading the son beyond being led, beyond the being that leads, that stands before and is 'in beginning', 'in the beginning', 'at first'.

This of course is intended to reproduce the structure again, with the son assuming the position of the father, the self-grounded effect returning to the place of a cause, the act assuming the being to which it once belonged. This is not our problem. Our problem is within the structure of economy, not in the concrete reproduction of this structure. The problem is thus: the father, as the beginning from which the son comes, which comes before the son, must lead the son to become without beginning, an-arche, groundless and improper, or again, self-grounded and appropriate to itself and not another, beginning only from itself. Yet the father, not within the chain of concrete reproductions, but the very structural function of the father as beginning, leader, archon, must itself be without beginning, not lead by another or preceded by another, and thereby following after.

In the concrete occasion we may say that either the father has become without leadership after maturing, through being his father's son, or - and this is not necessarily incompatible with the former point - by creating the illusion, in the prerogative of the son, that there is nothing before him, that he is lead by no one, by blocking the way and all sight of what lies ahead. This would be a symbolic fiction, an effective illusion, with a certain pedagogical function. Yet this is not what concerns us at the moment. When such concern does arise, however, it would do us well to revisit, in this light, Deleuze and Guattari's analysis of familialism in Anti-Oedipus, which has for too long been cast as a polemical condemnation of psychoanalytic theory, rather than the precise engagement of a structure within that theory that it really is.

What is it, then, to say that the father qua beginning, archon, is without beginning, an-arche? In the structural sense, it amounts to saying that the beginning is without beginning, or without itself, outside of itself and lacking itself, missing itself in itself. This is not the same as saying that the beginning 'comes from nowhere', ex nihilo, but rather that the beginning does not have itself, does not possess itself, is improper to itself. To return to the terms with which we began, the principle of propriety by which an effect, as manifest, has the power to produce itself as proper or desired, that is to say, in its actuality to become what it was to-be; this principle is also present in the beginning, the being or ground of an effect, or it is reflected into this being once economy structures its relation to its actuality. Yet it is present there in an inverted form by which the beginning becomes improper to itself, in actuality becoming what it was not to-be.

This raises a question as relevant from the structural perspective as it is from the concrete perspective: what was before the father, before the beginning, if this beginning cannot have itself as itself, as its own beginning? What was the beginning before it became the beginning? Who was the father before he became a father, and what has now become of him, if he has apparently vanished?

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