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Being, Time, Bios

Capitalism and Ontology

A. Kiarina Kordela

Publication Year: 2013

A psychoanalytic theory of biopolitics.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xx

The present work is concerned with being in our era of secular capitalist modernity. At first sight, framing being within a concrete historical context might seem to contradict the fundamental postulate of ontology that being is transhistorical. But, as we shall see in the course of the present work, being is both transhistorical and historical, insofar as the...

Part I: Monist Meta-Phenomenological Ontology

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Being and Time

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pp. 3-8

Phenomenology is the most eminent modernist school of thought that attempted to produce a systematic ontology in which being is not opposed to its appearances. Mainly responding to two of the most influential figures of phenomenological thought, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre adopted as his starting point their shared...

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Monist Being and Atheism

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pp. 9-12

Given the historical emergence of phenomenological thought in modernism, many would tend to attribute the possibility of a monistic conception of being to circumstances ranging from the massive industrialization of capitalist production and the concomitant urbanization to the outbreak of two World Wars. Undoubtedly, this association is true regarding...

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pp. 13-22

Now we shall see why, beyond being a theory of time, a monistic ontology is always also a theory of value, and hence of the sign. As this “hence” indicates, there is an intrinsic relation between value and sign, which we must approach first....

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pp. 23-26

Post-Kantian philosophy has been dominated by the assumption that being in itself is matter in its self-plenitude. Consciousness, accordingly, has been conceived as the agent of a contagious lack that infests matter itself by merely perceiving it. This enduring illusion, nevertheless, points to the truth. It is because being is the power of its self-actualization, ...

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Historical Time

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pp. 27-42

In order to specify the historical and transhistorical aspects of the beingin- itself-for-itself or surplus we first need to specify what is historical time and what is subject to it or not. I mentioned in passing that history designates the modulations of surplus in the semantic and economic fields. But if such modulations can occur in the first place, there must...

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Meta-Phenomenological Fact

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pp. 43-48

In this chapter I am returning to a distinction I alluded to in an endnote earlier, between ideological and primary fantasy. The former is the modal empirical, and contingent, actualization of the latter. If ideological fantasy is that which makes circular thought (logos) appear as (if it were) transitive deduction, and hence allows for the illusion of epistemologically...

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Historiographical Project

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pp. 49-54

Giorgio Agamben has argued that “Marx did not elaborate a theory of time adequate to his [revolutionary] idea of history,” which “clearly cannot be reconciled with the Aristotelian and Hegelian concept of time as a continuous and infinite succession of precise instants” (1993, 99–100). An aspiration of the present work is to show that Marx’s ontology entails ...

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Historical and Transhistorical Aspects of Being

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pp. 55-62

If surplus or being-in-itself-for-itself is the one substance, then it must be something transhistorical of which every historical block is one concrete empirical manifestation. With regard to the specific historical block of capitalism, Marx tells us that its defining formal eternal law, whatever contingencies its various stages may involve, lies in procuring surplus-value....

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Aristotle’s Discourses: Οικονομια versus Χρηματιστικη

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pp. 63-72

Surplus-enjoyment (plus-de-jouir) is the fantasy required for knowledge to appear both consistent (without involving a contradictory split) and objective (without supporting a specific power position). And, as mentioned earlier, Lacan introduced this concept as the semantic equivalent of the economic surplus-value. Just as the latter’s condition of possibility...

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Whence the Need for a Meta-Phenomenological Ontology?

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pp. 73-88

This part of the present work revisited Sartre’s phenomenological ontology through the lenses of primarily Spinozian monism, Marx’s analysis of capital and the commodity form, and Lacanian psychoanalysis, in order to formulate a monistic or meta-phenomenological theory of being qua surplus, as well as of time and history. Encountering this statement out...

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Recapitulation in Other Words

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pp. 89-96

The actualization of the historical block of secular capitalist modernity entailed and presupposed a shift in the modulation of surplus (the beingin- itself-for-itself ) so that it ceased to enable equilibrium in the fields of economic and semantic exchange, and began to involve disequilibrium....

Part II: Bios: Biopolitics and Ethics

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Bios in Extant Biopolitical Theories

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pp. 99-104

The preceding ontology will help us fathom the exact nature of bios within the realm of being, which, in turn, will allow us to unravel the workings of biopolitics.
Although Aristotle used the term bios to designate the specifically human aspect of life as a social and political animal, as opposed to zoe (life in its physical or biological sense that characterizes all animals), the ...

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Bios: Surplus qua Labor-Power

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pp. 105-106

At stake, therefore, is the modern bios that emerges at the moment at which surplus takes on that specific modulation that involves disequilibrium in all systems of value that constitute the plane of immanence.
The generalized “fixed” idea that, with capitalism, economy is no longer dependent on slavery but on “free” laborers introduced an unforeseen...

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Double Representation of Bios: Darstellung and Vertretung

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pp. 107-116

Bios or “the capacity of labour (Arbeitsvermögen)” or “labour-power (Arbeitskraft)” is unique in that, unlike all other commodities, it is an in-itself-for-itself or, in Marx’s words, it is “a commodity whose use-value possesses the peculiar property of being a source of value, whose actual consumption is therefore itself an objectification (Vergegenständlichung) ...

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Modal Aspects of the Unconscious: Conscious Darstellung and Repressed Vertretung

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pp. 117-124

Vertretung, the peculiar representation of labor-power, amounts to the paradoxical secular manifestation of the presecular mode of representation, which makes its appearance only after “free” laborers emerge and offer their labor-power against a certain cost. In the presecular mode of representation, as Foucault reminds us, “language” is “a thing in nature” ...

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Discourse, or the Symptom of the Repressed, and Language

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pp. 125-130

Therefore, Vertretung, the function that transforms Darstellung or the network of the signifier into speech, relates to what Lacan calls “discourse,” as opposed to “language.” As Lacan puts it, drawing on Saussure:
Firstly, there is a synchronic whole, which is language as a simultaneous system of structured groups of opposition, then there is what occurs diachronically, over time, and which is discourse. One cannot but give discourse a certain direction ...

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Attributive Aspect of the Unconscious: The Temporality of Potentiality and Ethics

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pp. 131-138

Another notorious Lacanian thesis about the unconscious, in its metaphysical aspect, is that “the status of the unconscious is ethical, and not ontic” (1981, 34). Lacan’s statement is double: not only the unconscious, but also the ethical does not pertain to the ontic (empirical) level. This means that the ethical dimension cannot emerge out of either ontic mode ...

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From Eternity (Attribute) to Immortality (Mode)

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pp. 139-144

What remains conspicuously unaddressed so far are two intertwined questions: (a) How is it possible that the temporal attribute of surplus— eternity—manifests itself empirically in these two modes—diachrony and synchrony; and (b), while it is evident that diachrony is distinct from eternity, how is it distinct from synchrony? ...

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Battlefield of Biopolitics: Gazes of Immortality and Lethal Certainty

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pp. 145-152

We are in the position to condense our investigation regarding biopolitics to the following: the proper object of biopolitics is bios or the body in its triple quality: (first), as potentiality sub specie aeternitatis, which manifests itself on the ontic level in (second) the mode of a mortal physical body and (third) in the mode of an immortal value. ...

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Enjoyment (Jouissance) and Utilitarianism

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pp. 153-162

Prior to examining further the biopolitical administration of the gaze and certainty, we have to return once more to the intellectual Love of God or enjoyment (jouissance), the greatest Joy of the mind, accessible to it only in its capacity of perceiving the body sub specie aeternitatis. For there remain two questions: What exactly is the nature of this enjoyment, and what becomes of this enjoyment when the subject gives up...

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Enjoyment and Uncertainty

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pp. 163-170

There is more to be said about enjoyment. For, in order to articulate in its entirety the homology between economic and semantic value within secular capitalism, we must map our central economic categories—surplus- value and labor-power, exchange-value and use-value—onto their equivalent set of concepts on the level of the signifier and the subject, as the “subject of the signifier” (Lacan 1981, 67). The latter is the cluster...

Part III: Biocinema and Bioracism

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Biocinema: A Drop in Total Recall

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pp. 173-180

It would perhaps be impossible to produce an exhaustive list of concrete biopolitical mechanisms that permeate our culture and life. In the following I will try to present just one example that is by no means either comprehensive or even necessarily the most representative, but at least indicative of possible concrete ways in which the biopolitical cultivation ...

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Postmodern Bioracism: Exporting Mortality

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pp. 181-186

Whether we call the object of biopolitics “gaze” or “labor-power” or “surplus-enjoyment,” we always refer to a single biopolitical mechanism: the administration of the subject’s relation to mortality and immortality. Several Lacanian theorists have begun to stress the centrality of enjoyment as a factor in the sustenance of capitalism, but the biopolitical...


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pp. 187-202

Works Cited

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pp. 203-208


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pp. 209-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9781438445915
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438445892

Page Count: 236
Publication Year: 2013