‘Spinoza and Other Heretics, Volume 1: The Marrano of Reason’ by Yirmiyahu Yovel

Published by Princeton University Press in 1989.

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This ambitious study presents Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) as the most outstanding and influential thinker of modernity―and examines the question of whether he was the “first secular Jew.” A number-one bestseller in Israel, Spinoza and Other Heretics is made up of two volumes―The Marrano of Reason and The Adventures of Immanence. Yirmiyahu Yovel shows how Spinoza grounded a philosophical revolution in a radically new principle―the philosophy of immanence, or the idea that this world is all there is―and how he thereby anticipated secularization, the Enlightenment, the disintegration of ghetto life, and the rise of natural science and the liberal-democratic state.

The Marrano of Reason finds the origins of the idea of immanence in the culture of Spinoza’s Marrano ancestors, Jews in Spain and Portugal who had been forcibly converted to Christianity. Yovel uses their fascinating story to show how the crypto-Jewish life they maintained in the face of the Inquisition mixed Judaism and Christianity in ways that undermined both religions and led to rational skepticism and secularism. He identifies Marrano patterns that recur in Spinoza in a secularized context: a “this-worldly” disposition, a split religious identity, an opposition between inner and outer life, a quest for salvation outside official doctrines, and a gift for dual language and equivocation. This same background explains the drama of the young Spinoza’s excommunication from the Jewish community in his native Amsterdam. Convention portrays the Amsterdam Jews as narrow-minded and fanatical, but in Yovel’s vivid account they emerge as highly civilized former Marranos with cosmopolitan leanings, struggling to renew their Jewish identity and to build a “new Jerusalem” in the Netherlands.

‘On the Pleasure Principle in Culture: Illusions Without Owners’ by Robert Pfaller

Published by Verso in 2014.

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Challenging the myth of the “post-belief society”

In this fascinating work of cultural theory and philosophy, Robert Pfaller explores the hidden cost of our contemporary approach to pleasure, belief and illusion.

Sports, design, eroticism, social intercourse and games—indeed, all those aspects of our culture commonly deemed “pleasurable”—seem to require beliefs that many regard as illusory. But in considering themselves above the self-deceptions of the crowd, those same sceptics are prone to dismissing a majority of the population as naive or misguided. In doing so, they create a false opposition between the ‘simple’ masses and their more enlightened rulers. And this dichotomy then functions as an ideological support for neoliberal government: citizens become irrational victims, to be ruled over by a protective security state. What initially appears to be a universal pleasure principle—the role of “anonymous illusions” in mass culture—in this way becomes a rationale for dismantling democracy.


Over the last decade, Robert Pfaller has thoroughly renovated the entire field of critical cultural studies. This book focuses on the notion of interpassivity, of the transferring onto others our innermost passive stances – others can cry, laugh or believe for us. This accounts for the strange beliefs which no subject assumes and which nonetheless operate as beliefs in a social field. It is only in this way that we can understand the persistence of ideology in our cynical era. This is why Pfaller’s book is indispensable, an instant classic.

– Slavoj Žižek

‘Interpassivity: The Aesthetics of Delegated Enjoyment’ by Robert Pfaller

Published by EUP in 2017.

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Why do people record TV programmes instead of watching them? Why do some recovering alcoholics let others drink in their place? Why can ritual machines pray in place of believers?

Robert Pfaller advances the theory of ‘interpassivity’ as delegated consumption and enjoyment. Applicable to both art and everyday life, the concept allows him to tackle a vast range of phenomena: culture, art, sports and religion.

Pfaller criticises dominant assumptions, offers an escape from prevailing ideologies and exposes how cultural capitalism promotes commodities with the promise of happiness.


Contents:

Introduction: Interpassivity Today
1.The Work of Art that Observes Itself
2.The Parasites of Parricide. Living Through the Other when Killing the Father: Interpassivity in Brothers Karamazov
3.Little Gestures of Disappearance. Interpassivity and the Theory of Ritual
4.Interpassivity and Misdemeanours. The Art of Thinking In Examples and the Zizekian Toolbox
5.Against Participation
6.Matters of Generosity: On Art and Love
7.What Reveals the Taste of the City. On Urbanity

Bibliography


Robert Pfaller is Professor of Philosophy and Cultural Theory at the University of Art and Industrial Design of Linz, Austria. His publications are mainly in German but his most recent book is in English The Pleasure Principle in Culture: Illusions without Owners (Verso, 2014). His German books include Wofuer es sich zu leben lohnt. Elemente materialistischer Philosophie (Fischer, 2011), Das schmutzige Heilige und die reine Vernunft. Symptome der Gegenwartskultur (Fischer, 2008), Die Ästhetik der Interpassivität (Hamburg: philo fine arts, 2008) and Die Illusionen der anderen. Über das Lustprinzip in der Kultur (Suhrkamp, 2002).



New concepts are rare in social thinking, and interpassivity is arguably the only true concept that emerged in the last two decades. The idea that others can not only act for us but that they can also be passive for us, that we can enjoy, believe, laugh and cry through others, provides the key to understand the paradoxes of our cynical-hedonist era. So let’s not beat around the bush: Interpassivity is simply one of the great founding texts of social thought, on a par with works of classics like Max Weber.

— Slavoj Žižek

‘Remembering, Repeating and Working-Through’ by Sigmund Freud


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Written and published in 1914, ‘Remembering, Repeating and Working-Through’ established Freud’s position on analytic technique, in which the cathartic method had yielded ground to the associative method. It thus deserves notice as one of the few technical writings to complement the great metapsychological edifice of 1915.

‘Time Driven: Metapsychology and the Splitting of the Drive’ by Adrian Johnston

Published by Northwestern University Press in 2005.

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Elaborating the fundamental concept of Trieb, or drive, Freud outlines two basic types of conflict that at once disturb and organize mental life: the conflict between drives and reality; and the conflict between the drives themselves (as in amorous Eros against the aggressive death drive). In Time Driven, Adrian Johnston identifies a third distinct type of conflict overlooked by Freud: the conflict embedded within each and every drive. By bringing this critical type of conflict to light and explaining its sobering consequences for an understanding of the psyche, Johnston’s book makes an essential theoretical contribution to Continental philosophy. His work offers a philosophical interpretation and reassessment of psychoanalysis that places it in relationship to the larger stream of ideas forming our world and, at the same time, clarifies its original contribution to our understanding of the human situation.

Johnston draws on Jacques Lacan’s oeuvre in conjunction with certain philosophical resources-elements from transcendental philosophy, structuralism, and phenomenology-to rectify the inconsistencies within the Freudian metapsychological model of drive. In doing so, he helps to answer a question haunting Freud at the end of his career: Why is humanity plagued by a perpetual margin of discontent, despite technological and cultural progress?

In Time Driven, Johnston is able to make sense of Freud’s metapsychology both as a whole and in its historical development of Lacan’s reinterpretation of Freud, and of the place of both Freud and Lacan in modern philosophy.

‘Of Drives and Culture’, by Mladen Dolar

The event was held at American University of Beirut on October 13, 2016

Paper
(Problemi International)


Drives and culture seem to stand at opposite ends. The common assumption has it that drives are indomitable instinctual forces and that culture is called upon to mold them, restrict them and channel them, and since this conflict can never be happily resolved, we seem to be doomed to a perpetual discontent in civilization. This is the point that seems to be implied in the very title of Freud’s Civilization and its discontents (1930). The aim of the present paper is to dismantle this common understanding, for in psychoanalysis everything depends on doing away with its presuppositions. The paper will follow Freud’s argument and scrutinize six distinguishing traits of culture that he spells out, and then try to show that each of them is closely entangled with the nature of the drives such as pinpointed by Freud. The paradoxical outcome would be that drives and culture share the same basic structures, and that if there is conflict it would have to be conceived in very different terms. Freud himself proposed a conflict between two kinds of drives, libido and death drive, rather than a conflict between drives and culture, but his solutions entails many problems. The paper will in conclusion consider the placement of psychoanalysis in the rift between sciences of nature and humanities/social sciences, hence the very divide between nature and culture and the paradoxical ways in which psychoanalysis envisages that divide.


Professor Mladen Dolar is a philosopher, cultural theorist, film critic and expert in psychoanalysis. Dolar was the co-founder, together with Slavoj Žižek and Rastko Močnik, of the Ljubljana school of psychoanalysis, whose main goal is to achieve a synthesis between Lacanian psychoanalysis and the philosophy of German idealism. Dolar has taught at the University of Ljubljana since 1982 and has served as an Advising Researcher in theory at the Jan Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht. His main fields of expertise are the philosophy of G. W. F. Hegel (on which he has written several books, including a two-volume interpretation of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit) and French structuralism. He is also a music theoretician and film critic. His numerous publications include most notably the book A Voice and Nothing More (MIT Press 2006).


A public lecture by Professor Mladen Dolar
The Center for Arts and Humanities
October 13, 2016 at 4:00 pm, CAH seminar room
Bldg. 37, American University of Beirut (AUB)

‘The Symbolic, the Sublime, and Slavoj Žižek’s Theory of Film’ by Matthew Flisfeder

Published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.

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This book argues that Žižek’s writing on film radically reorients the scope of contemporary film studies. Returning to questions about ideology and subjectivity, Flisfeder argues that Slavoj Žižek’s theory of film aims to re-politicize film studies and film theory, bringing cinema into the fold of twenty-first century politics.

‘State in Time’ by IRWIN

Published by Minor Compositions in 2014.

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The NSK State in Time emerged in 1992, evolving in the context of the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the transformation Neue Slowenische Kunst. Existing both as an artwork and a social formation, a state that encompasses all time but holding no territory, the NSK State in Time has for two decades pushed the boundaries of artistic and political practice. This volume collects together, for the first time, analyses of the NSK State in Time including its relationship with the changing context of Eastern Europe, the connection between aesthetics and the state, the rise of NSK folk art, and documents the First NSK Citizen’s Congress in 2010.

Includes essays by Inke Arns, Huang Chien-Hung, Eda Cufer, Marina Grzinic, Irwin, Tomaz Mastnak, Viktor Misiano, Alexei Monroe, Ian Parker, Avi Pitchon, Stevphen Shukaitis, Slavoj Žižek, and Jonah Westerman.

IRWIN is a collective of artists including Dusan Mandic, Miran Mohar, Andrej Savski, Roman Uranjek and Borut Vogelnik. IRWIN was founded in 1983 in Slovenia and is one of the core groups within the artists’ collective Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) founded in 1984. In 1992 IRWIN co-founded NSK State in Time. The members of the group live and work in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

‘Adventures in Realism’ edited by Matthew Beaumont

Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd in 2007.

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Adventures in Realism offers an accessible introduction to realism as it has evolved since the 19th century. Though focused on literature and literary theory, the significance of technology and the visual arts is also addressed.

  • Comprises 16 essays written by a distinguished group of contributors, including Slavoj Žižek and Frederic Jameson
  • Provides the historical, cultural, intellectual, and literary contexts necessary to understand developments in realism
  • Addresses the artistic mediums and technologies such as painting and film that have helped shape the way we perceive reality
  • Explores literary and pictorial sub-genres, such as naturalism and socialist realism
  • Includes a brief bibliography and suggestions for further reading at the end of each section

‘Lacan and the Concept of the Real’ by Tom Eyers

Published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.

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This is the first book in English to explore in detail the genesis and consequences of Lacan’s concept of the ‘Real’, providing readers with an invaluable key to one of the most influential ideas of modern times.


Tom Eyers is Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in the Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis, USA.


‘The Lacanian concept of the Real is itself a case of the real – a frustrating deadlock, combining a series of opposite determinations: lack, without lack; impossible, unavoidable; outside the symbolic, the effect of a symbolic deadlock… Tom Eyers does the impossible: he provides a systematic outline of the concept of the Real in all its dimensions, from its genesis and transformations to its clinical and philosophical implications. His book is thus simply inescapable for anyone who wants to find a way in the labyrinth of Lacanian theory and of modern thought itself. It is simply something one will have to have at his side all the time while reading hundreds of other books.’

– Slavoj Žižek

‘Although references to Lacan’s notion of the Real are widespread in today’s theoretical humanities, a rigorous, systematic presentation of this key concept has been missing. Eyers’s superb study remedies this lack. With precision and insight, Eyers brings to light the interconnected facets of the Lacanian Real. Moreover, he creatively advances a number of contemporary discussions and debates, masterfully revealing the philosophical power and richness Lacan offers his readers.’

– Adrian Johnston, University of New Mexico, USA