Who is Jacques Derrida? For some, he is the originator of a relativist philosophy responsible for the contemporary crisis of truth. For the far right, he is one of the architects of Cultural Marxism. To his academic critics, he reduced French philosophy to “little more than an object of ridicule.” For his fans, he is an intellectual rock star who ranged across literature, politics, and linguistics. In An Event, Perhaps, Peter Salmon presents this misunderstood and misappropriated figure as a deeply humane and urgent thinker for our times.
Born in Algiers, the young Jackie was always an outsider. Despite his best efforts, he found it difficult to establish himself among the Paris intellectual milieu of the 1960s. However, in 1967, he changed the whole course of philosophy: outlining the central concepts of deconstruction. Immediately, his reputation as a complex and confounding thinker was established. Feted by some, abhorred by others, Derrida had an exhaustive breadth of interests but, as Salmon shows, was moved by a profound desire to understand how we engage with each other. It is a theme explored through Derrida’s intimate relationships with writers sucheven as Althusser, Genet, Lacan, Foucault, Cixous, and Kristeva.
Accessible, provocative and beautifully written, An Event, Perhaps will introduce a new readership to the life and work of a philosopher whose influence over the way we think will continue long into the twenty-first century.
This classic edition of The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud includes complete texts of six works that have profoundly influenced our understanding of human behavior, presented here in the translation by Dr. A. A. Brill, who for almost forty years was the standard-bearer of Freudian theories in America.
• Psychopathology of Everyday Life is perhaps the most accessible of Freud’s books. An intriguing introduction to psychoanalysis, it shows how subconscious motives underlie even the most ordinary mistakes we make in talking, writing, and remembering.
• The Interpretation of Dreams records Freud’s revolutionary inquiry into the meaning of dreams and the power of the unconscious.
• Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex is the seminal work in which Freud traces the development of sexual instinct in humans from infancy to maturity.
• Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious expands on the theories Freud set forth in The Interpretation of Dreams. It demonstrates how all forms of humor attest to the fundamental orderliness of the human mind.
• Totem and Taboo extends Freud’s analysis of the individual psyche to society and culture.
• The History of Psychoanalytic Movement makes clear the ultimate incompatibility of Freud’s ideas with those of his onetime followers Adler and Jung.
Becoming Freud is the story of the young Freud—Freud up until the age of fifty—that incorporates all of Freud’s many misgivings about the art of biography. Freud invented a psychological treatment that involved the telling and revising of life stories, but he was himself skeptical of the writing of such stories. In this biography, Adam Phillips, whom the New Yorker calls “Britain’s foremost psychoanalytical writer,” emphasizes the largely and inevitably undocumented story of Freud’s earliest years as the oldest—and favored—son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and suggests that the psychoanalysis Freud invented was, among many other things, a psychology of the immigrant—increasingly, of course, everybody’s status in the modern world.
Psychoanalysis was also Freud’s way of coming to terms with the fate of the Jews in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. So as well as incorporating the writings of Freud and his contemporaries, Becoming Freud also uses the work of historians of the Jews in Europe in this significant period in their lives, a period of unprecedented political freedom and mounting persecution. Phillips concludes by speculating what psychoanalysis might have become if Freud had died in 1906, before the emergence of a psychoanalytic movement over which he had to preside.
Part of the global push towards the privatization of the “general intellect” is the recent trend in the organization of cyberspace towards so-called “cloud computing.” Little more than a decade ago, a computer was a big box on one’s desk, and downloading was done with floppy disks and USB sticks. Today, we no longer need such cumbersome individual computers, since cloud computing is Internet-based, i.e., software and information are provided to computers or smartphones on demand, in the guise of web-based tools or applications that users can access and use through browsers as if they were programs installed on their own computer. In this way, we can access information from wherever we are in the world, on any computer, with smartphones literally putting this access into our pocket.
We already participate in cloud computing when we run searches and get millions of results in a fraction of a second — the search process is performed by thousands of connected computers sharing resources in the cloud. Similarly, Google Books makes millions of digitized works available any time, anywhere around the world. Not to mention the new level of socialization opened up by smartphones: today a smartphone will typically include a more powerful processor than that of the standard big box PC of only a couple of years ago. Plus it is connected to the Internet, so that I can not only access multiple programs and immense amounts of data, but also instantly exchange voice messages or video clips, and coordinate collective decisions, etc.
This wonderful new world, however, represents only one side of the story, which as a whole reads like the well-known doctor joke: “first the good news, then the bad news.” Users today access programs and software maintained far away in climate-controlled rooms housing thousands of computers. To quote from a propaganda-text on cloud computing: “Details are abstracted from consumers, who no longer have need for expertise in, or control over, the technology infrastructure ‘in the cloud’ that supports them.”
There are two tell-tale words here: abstraction and control. In order to manage a cloud, there needs to be a monitoring system which controls its functioning, a system which is by definition hidden from the end-user. The paradox is thus that, as the new gadget (smartphone or tiny portable) I hold in my hand becomes increasingly personalized, easy to use, “transparent” in its functioning, the more the entire set-up has to rely on the work being done elsewhere, on the vast circuit of machines which coordinate the user’s experience. In other words, for the user experience to become more personalized or non-alienated, it has to be regulated and controlled by an alienated network.
This, of course, holds for any complex technology: a TV viewer typically will have no idea how his remote control works, for example. However, the additional twist here is that it is not just the core technology, but also the choice and accessibility of content which are now controlled. That is to say, the formation of “clouds” is accompanied by a process of vertical integration: a single company or corporation will increasingly have a stake at all levels of the cyberworld, from individual machines (PCs, iPhones, etc.) and the “cloud” hardware for program and data storage, to software in all its forms (audio, video, etc.).
Everything thus becomes accessible, but only as mediated through a company which owns it all — software and hardware, content and computers. To take one obvious example, Apple doesn’t only sell iPhones and iPads, it also owns iTunes. It also recently made a deal with Rupert Murdoch allowing the news on the Apple cloud to be supplied by Murdoch’s media empire. To put it simply, Steve Jobs is no better than Bill Gates: whether it be Apple or Microsoft, global access is increasingly grounded in the virtually monopolistic privatization of the cloud which provides this access. The more an individual user is given access to universal public space, the more that space is privatized.
Apologists present cloud computing as the next logical step in the “natural evolution” of the Internet, and while in an abstract-technological way this is true, there is nothing “natural” in the progressive privatization of global cyberspace. There is nothing “natural” in the fact that two or three companies in a quasi-monopolistic position can not only set prices at will but also filter the software they provide to give its “universality” a particular twist depending on commercial and ideological interests.
True, cloud computing offers individual users an unprecedented wealth of choice — but is this freedom of choice not sustained by the initial choice of a provider, in respect to which we have less and less freedom? Partisans of openness like to criticize China for its attempt to control internet access — but are we not all becoming involved in something comparable, insofar as our “cloud” functions in a way not dissimilar to the Chinese state?
Stories From the City of God collects legendary filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini’s short fiction and nonfiction from 1950 to 1966. In these pieces, we see the machinations of the creative mind in consideration of the character of Rome after World War II.
Presenting a portrait of the city that is at once poignant and intimate, as honest as if it were the author’s journal, we find here artistic witness to the customs, dialect, squalor, and beauty of the ancient imperial capital that has succumbed to modern warfare, marginalization, and mass culture.
The sketches portray the impoverished masses that he calls “the sub-proletariat”, those who live under Third World conditions and for whom simple pleasures, such as a blue sweater in a storefront window, are completely out of reach. In the chronicles, Pasolini faithfully renders life in Rome in the infinite stretches of public housing on the periphery of the city.
Pasolini’s art develops throughout the works collected here, from his early lyricism to tragicomic outlines for screenplays, and finally to the maturation of his Neo-realism in eight chronicles on the shantytowns of Rome. The pieces in this collection were all published in Italian journals and newspapapers, and then later edited by Walter Siti in the original Italian edition. Marina Harss of The New Yorker has translated the work for its first publication in English by Other Press.
“There is perhaps no other passage in the history of philosophy which has met with such a delirium of interpretations and so much scrutiny as the couple of pages where Hegel deals with the dialectic of lord and bondsman. The passage presents a scene which is both spectacular and overladen with metaphysical hidden meanings and consequences. It has often served mistakenly so, I think-as a touchstone of the Hegelian enterprise as a whole, a clue to his project. Can the Lacanian reading, with this abundance of conflicting views where everything seems to have been said, all the approaches already tried, significantly add to the delirium?”
Creation and the giving of orders are closely entwined in Western culture, where God commands the world into existence and later issues the injunctions known as the Ten Commandments. The arche, or origin, is always also a command, and a beginning is always the first principle that governs and decrees. This is as true for theology, where God not only creates the world but governs and continues to govern through continuous creation, as it is for the philosophical and political tradition according to which beginning and creation, command and will, together form a strategic apparatus without which our society would fall apart.
The five essays collected here aim to deactivate this apparatus through a patient archaeological inquiry into the concepts of work, creation, and command. Giorgio Agamben explores every nuance of the arche in search of an an-archic exit strategy. By the book’s final chapter, anarchy appears as the secret center of power, brought to light so as to make possible a philosophical thought that might overthrow both the principle and its command.
Giorgio Agamben is a contemporary Italian philosopher and political theorist whose works have been translated into numerous languages. His most recent title with Stanford University Press is What Is Real? (2018).
Reexamining the case of one of the most famous intellectuals to embrace fascism, this book argues that Martin Heidegger’s politics and philosophy of language emerge from a deep affinity for the ethno-nationalist and anti-Semitic politics of the Nazi movement. Himself a product of a conservative milieu, Heidegger did not have to significantly compromise his thinking to adapt it to National Socialism but only to intensify certain themes within it. Tracing the continuity of these themes in his lectures on Greek philosophy, his magnum opus, Being and Time, and the notorious Black Notebooks that have only begun to see the light of day, Heidegger’s Fascist Affinities argues that if Heidegger was able to align himself so thoroughly with Nazism, it was partly because his philosophy was predicated upon fundamental forms of silencing and exclusion. With the arrival of the Nazi revolution, Heidegger displayed—both in public and in private—a complex, protracted form of silence drawn from his philosophy of language. Avoiding the easy satisfaction of banishing Heidegger from the philosophical realm so indebted to his work, Adam Knowles asks whether what drove Heidegger to Nazism in the first place might continue to haunt the discipline. In the context of today’s burgeoning ethno-nationalist regimes, can contemporary philosophy ensure itself of its immunity?
Adam Knowles is Assistant Teaching Professor of Philosophy at Drexel University.
Freud and the Sexual is the translation of Laplanche’s Sexual: La sexualité élargie au sens freudien, his work from 2000 to 2006. Clear and direct, often witty, this volume is a pleasure to read and represents the culmination of his work.
When a philosopher deals with another philosopher or philosophy, his or her stance is never one of dialogue, but always one of division, of drawing the line that separates truth from falsity – from Plato whose focus is the line that divides truth from mere opinion, up to Lenin who is obsessed with the line that separates materialism from idealism. The course will be an exercise in this art of delimitation: its aim is to specify the contours of the dialectical-materialist notion of negativity by way of drawing a line that separates it from other forms of the thought of negativity, from Julia Kristeva’s abjection to Robert Pippin’s self-consciousness, from Catherine Malabou’s plasticity to the god of negative theology, from object-oriented-ontology to the topic of post-humanity.
These are low-quality recordings from the event which I’ve found online. You can find more info about the event on Princeton University’s website, since I’m only making four recordings from a longer event available here.
April 1st 2015 Slavoj Žižek A critique of object-oriented-ontology and New Materialism
Jacques Lacan, ANXIETY (Seminar, Book X), Polity Press 2014 Slavoj Žižek, ABSOLUTE RECOIL, Verso Books 2014, Chapters 1.1 and 1.3 Levi Bryant, DEMOCRACY OF OBJECTS (available online)
Mladen Dolar is Professor and Senior Researcher at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana. His principal areas of research are psychoanalysis, modern French philosophy, German idealism and art theory. He is also Professor at the European Graduate School in Switzerland. He has lectured extensively at universities in the United States and across Europe and he is the author of over hundred and fifty papers in scholarly journals and collective volumes. Apart from twelve books in Slovene, his book publications include most notably A Voice and Nothing More (MIT 2006, translated into six languages) and Opera’s Second Death (with Slavoj Žižek, Routledge 2001, also translated into several languages). His new book The Riskiest Moment is forthcoming with Duke University Press.
Alenka Zupančič is a Slovene philosopher and psychoanalytic social theorist. She works as Senior Researcher at the Institute of Philosophy, Scientific Research Center of the Slovene Academy of Sciences. She is also Professor at the European Graduate School in Switzerland, and at the Graduate School ZRC SAZU (Ljubljana). She is the author of numerous articles and books on psychoanalysis and philosophy, including What is Sex? (MIT Press 2017), The Odd One In: On Comedy (MIT Press 2008), The Shortest Shadow: Nietzsche’s Philosophy of the Two (MIT Press 2003) and Ethics of the Real: Kant and Lacan (Verso 2000). Her books have been translated into many languages.
Slavoj Žižek is a Hegelian philosopher and psychoanalytic social theorist. He is Senior Researcher at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana; Professor at the School of Law, Birkbeck, University of London; Distinguished Scholar at the Kyung Hee University, Seoul; and Visiting Professor at the German Department, New York University. His field of work comprises psychoanalytic theory, dialectical-materialist interpretations of German Idealism and Marxist critique of ideology. His more than thirty books in English have been widely translated. His latest publications include Like a Thief in Broad Daylight (Penguin/Allen 2018), Reading Marx (with Agon Hamza and Frank Ruda, Polity 2018), Incontinence of the Void (MIT Press 2017), and Lenin 2017 (Verso 2017).