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  • Revolt, She Said
  • Simone Roberts (bio)
Julia Kristeva , Revolt, She Said, trans. Brian O'Keeffe, Foreign Agents Series (Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext[e], 2002), 139 pp.

Kristeva continues to rethink politics and culture in the light of the sacred in a series of interviews on the spiritual, psychoanalytic, and political dimensions of revolt. The argument, set forth as pastiche: if you survived Stalinism, not much can scare you. To think is to question, to question is to revolt. Revolt differs from revolution in that revolution is always coopted back into ideology ("we are realists, we want the impossible"). Revolt is not about freedom in the modern sense: the modern cult of freedom means the freedom to adapt to circumstances (as they are handed down). Freedom so defined is submission to the all-encompassing power of calculation and management. Revolt is not rejection and destruction; it is starting over, in search of happiness. Jouissance is the antithesis of happiness as the satisfaction of consumer needs. In May of 1968, the call was for the sacred, not for luxury living, and can still be heard over the technocratic, automated noises of the new world order. Happiness means being rid of poverty but also access to an "art of living" that cultivates eroticism and taste, fulfills both flesh and spirit. Revolt is the spirit to live otherwise, but it requires the superego, the symbolic, and the law to guide it. Revolt is an artful use of the drives: the swerve, the turn, the flip of the script, the step off the map. Without superego, we have no capacity to represent ourselves to ourselves or to others, no sense of an inner life. These are "new maladies of the soul," and those afflicted with them act out, lead us into "regression, barbarism, tyranny" and the terrors of a market calculus and a political calculus in which the human is neither capital nor dividend but just an annoying epiphenomenon. Those who do not act out don't act at all. A creative insurgence against these overdeterminations, revolt exploits the gaps through which the demand, "we are realists, we want the impossible," might erupt. Revolt is the best shot we have at life, she says. "We're at the dawn of otherness," she adds. Then she redefines otherness: "We're at the dawn . . . of civilization."

Simone Roberts

Simone Roberts, a poet, writes on poststructuralist theory and French feminist philosophy.



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