Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-viii

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Series Foreword

Slavoj Žižek

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pp. ix-x

A short circuit occurs when there is a faulty connection in the network—faulty, of course, from the standpoint of the network’s smooth functioning. Is not the shock of short-circuiting, therefore, one of the best metaphors for a critical reading? Is not one of the most effective critical procedures to cross wires that do not usually touch: to take a major classic (text, author, notion), and read it in a short-circuiting way, through the lens of a “minor” author, text, or conceptual apparatus (“minor” should be understood here in Deleuze’s sense: not “of lesser quality,” but marginalized, disavowed by...

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Introduction: The Use of Useless Spandrels

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pp. xi-xii

The term “spandrels” originated in architecture (where it designated the space between a curved figure and a rectangular rectilinear surround) and was then appropriated by evolutionary biology, where it stands for features of an organism arising as byproducts, rather than adaptations, that have no clear benefit for the organism’s fitness and survival; however, precisely as such, they can be “ex-apted” and acquire a new unexpected role crucial to the organism’s functioning. For Gould and Lewontin, many functions of the human brain, especially language, emerged as spandrels.1 Reflections in this...

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Part I SOS: Sexuality, Ontology, Subjectivity

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pp. 1-10

There are two main meanings of “UPS” in our everyday language: United Parcel Service and uninterruptible power supply (a power supply that includes a battery to maintain power in the event of an outage—for example, a UPS keeps a computer running for several minutes after an outage, enabling the user to save data). However, the target of this book is another UPS: the good old philosophical triad of Universal, Particular, and Singular, and in a very precise sense. Universal stands for ontology, Particular for sexuality, and Singular for subjectivity—a triad of SOS.1 Why? Is there more than an irrelevant...

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Chapter 1 The Barred One

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pp. 11-50

The Three-Body Problem, Liu Cixin’s sci-fi masterpiece,1 the first part of the trilogy Remembrance of Earth’s Past, begins in Mao’s China during the Cultural Revolution: Ye Wenjie, a young woman, has just seen her father killed for continuing to teach (and proclaim his belief in) Einstein’s theory of relativity. Disgusted by humanity, she hijacks a government program intended to make contact with aliens, and attempts to encourage extraterrestrials to invade Earth. The story then moves to the near future, where the old Wenjie is contacted by Wang Miao, a researcher developing a new nanotechnology who...

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Chapter 2 Antinomies of Pure Sexuation

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pp. 51-86

The properly philosophical outcome of chapter 1 is that everything turns around the passage from Kant to Hegel. In the predominant perception, Kant is supposed to openly admit the failure of general ontology which aims at grasping the Whole of reality: when our mind tries to do this, it inevitably gets involved in antinomies; Hegel then closes this gap, reinterpreting antinomies as contradictions whose dialectical movement enables us to grasp the Whole of reality, i.e., the return to precritical general ontology.... But what if the actual situation is quite different? True, Kant admits antinomies, but...

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Chapter 3 Toward a Unified Theory of Four Discourses and Sexual Difference

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pp. 87-110

One of the crucial differences between psychoanalysis and philosophy concerns the status of sexual difference: for philosophy, the subject is not inherently sexualized, sexualization occurs only at the contingent, empirical level; whereas psychoanalysis promulgates sexuation into a kind of formal, a priori condition of the very emergence of the subject. (It is homologous with the notion of desire: in Kant’s philosophy, the faculty of desire is “pathological,” dependent on contingent objects, so there can be no “pure faculty of desiring,” no “critique of pure desire,” while for Lacan, psychoanalysis precisely is a kind of “critique of pure desire.” In other words, desire does have a non-pathological...

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Chapter 4 Transreal, Transhuman, Transgender

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pp. 111-148

We have now reached the vantage point from which we can return to the point of departure, the triad of UPS: the “universal” Void (the impossibility of One) constitutive of the order of Being as such; the impossibility of the sexual relationship constitutive of sexual difference; the impossibility of the social relationship constitutive of capitalism. At each level, the Void of impossibility is correlative to a surplus (paradoxical elements like the Higgs particle in quantum ontology, objet a in sexuality, “rabble” in modern society). The main danger to be avoided here at any price is the transposition of this...

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Part II The Belated Actuality of Marx’s Critique of Political Economy

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pp. 149-150

In his conversations with Truffaut, Hitchcock recalls the quintessential scene that he wanted to insert into North by Northwest—the scene was never shot, undoubtedly because it reveals all too directly the basic matrix of his work, so that its actual filming would have produced the effect of an almost indecent obviousness:

I wanted to have a long dialogue between Cary Grant and one of the factory workers [at a Ford automobile plant] as they walk along the assembly line. Behind them a car is being assembled, piece by piece. Finally, the car they’ve seen being put together from a simple nut and bolt is complete, with gas...

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Chapter 5 The Varieties of Surplus

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pp. 151-174

Lacan begins the eleventh week of his seminar Les non-dupes errent (1973–1974) with a straight question directed back at himself: “what was it that Lacan, who is here present, invented?” He answers the question “like that, to get things going: objet a.”1 So it is not “desire is the desire of the Other,” “the unconscious is structured like a language,” “there is no sexual relationship,” or any other from the list of usual suspects: Lacan immediately emphasizes that his choice is not just one among the possible ones, but the choice....

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Chapter 6 In der Tat: The Actuality of Fantasy

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pp. 175-196

The question of the continuing relevance of Marx’s critique of political economy in our era of global capitalism has to be answered in a properly dialectical way: as Badiou repeatedly emphasizes, not only is Marx’s critique of political economy, his outline of the capitalist dynamics, still absolutely relevant, one should even take a step further and claim that it is only today, with global capitalism, that—to put it in Hegelese—reality arrives at its notion. However, a properly dialectical reversal intervenes here: at this very moment of full actuality the limitation has to appear, the moment of triumph is...

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Chapter 7 Capitalist Discourses

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pp. 197-224

In Television, Lacan talks about the “exit from the capitalist discourse,” but the context in which he does it is crucial: he posits the psychoanalyst “in relation to what was in the past called: being a saint,”1 and, after some descriptions of the excremental subjective position of a saint, he concludes: “The more one is a saint, the more one laughs; that’s my principle, to wit, the way out of capitalist discourse—which will not constitute progress, if it happens only for some.”2 What characterizes a saint is thus not his high moral stance (Lacan explicitly mentions his rejection of distributive justice) but his distance from every symbolic identity, his withdrawal from the domain of exchange, of...

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Chapter 8 The Politics of Alienation and Separation

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pp. 225-254

The topic of alienation plays a central role in so-called “warm” humanist Marxism. To put it briefly, humanist Marxism remains stuck within the confines of the abstract opposition of mechanism and organism, i.e., its vision of overcoming alienation remains that of the early, Romantic Hegel. As such, it does not provide a sufficient reply to “cold” Stalinist orthodoxy—it is not a solution, but part of the problem. It is here that Lacan’s intervention is crucial: it enables us to break out of the alternative between “warm” humanist Marxism, which sees the main task of the revolutionary process in the overcoming of alienation and the establishment of a transparent society of free...

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Chapter 9 Appendix: Death, Life, and Jealousy in Communism

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pp. 255-286

The Moranbong Band, which made its debut in 2012, is an immensely popular all-female music group in North Korea whose members were selected by Kim Jong-un himself. Immaculately clad in dazzling dresses with short skirts, they perform in the styles of pop, soft rock, and fusion, with an overall mood of pleasing symphonic harmony (what we in the West would immediately identify as the pre-rock kitschy pop music from the late 1950s). Their repertoire combines Western popular culture (music from Disney cartoons like Snow White, the theme from Rocky, Sinatra’s “My Way”), older Western operetta...

Notes

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pp. 287-306

Index

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pp. 307-309