Friday, September 21, 2007

Part 6: Love Beyond Law and Conclusion

Part 6

What shakes out of Zizek’s critique of Agamben’s book on Paul The Time That Remains is that the idea of Pauline love as the founding suspension of the law. The critical passage in Paul is the “as if” passage - “buy as if you had no possessions, deal with the world as if you had no dealings with it. It’s not about staying what you are, accepting existing power relations, but rather the position of a thoroughly engaged fighter who ignores things not relavent to the struggle. It is an engaged position of struggle; on pg. 112 it’s described as “an uncanny interpellation beyond ideological interpolation.” It is a life seized by love. The gap between mere pleasure and jouissance is most obvious when a complacent life is shaken and seized by love; the perfomance of love demands sacrifice and duty on the level of the pleasure of principle. Enjoy your not enjoying. Obey the law as if you were not obeying it - obey from love. Thus what Paul attempts to suspend is not so much the law itself, but rather the constituative exceptions - the law’s obscene underside. As Zizek says, “we should suspend the obscene libidinal investment in the law, the investment on account of which the law generates / solicits its own transgressions.”

This uncanny interpellation that Paul is striving for and using to critique the older Jewish position is, however, exactly how the Jewish law already works. The Jewish law doesn’t have a superego backing it up; because it does not rely on an obscene underside, it is the excess of the law itself that address us, not the law.

This, as Zizek says, is the ultimate alternative. The opposition between law and love is internal to law itself - the gap between the specific, determinate, positive laws and the infinite superego. Love and the excessive superego appear identical from within the frame of the law. Put another way, when you’re working within the confines of the pleasure principle, a life gripped by love and one crushed by law look about the same.

Zizek goes on to talk about the famous love passage from Corinthians 13. There are two seemingly contradictory statements: the first is that even when one has all knowledge, there is love. The second is that love is only for incomplete beings.

The only way to resolve the deadlock is to fall back on Lacan’s feminine formula of sexuation. As Zizek says on page 115, “even when it is all (complete, with no exception) the field of knowledge remains, in a way, non-all, incomplete - love is not an exception to the all of knowledge, but precisely that nothing which makes incomplete even the complete series/field of knowledge. Whether I am with or without knowledge, if I have love, I am a nothing that is aware of itself; made rich through the very awareness of its lack. So, as Zizek goes on to say, “only a lack, vulnerable being is capable of love: the ultimate mystery of love, therefore, is that incompleteness is, in a way, higher than completion.”

Like the co-dependancy of incompleteness and love obeys the feminine formula, the co-dependancy of law and transgression obey the masculine logic. Transgression is the very constituative exception that sustains the law; in the end, this means that love is not just beyond the law, but actually articulates itself as, as Zizek says, “the stance of total immersion in the law. ‘Not all of the subject is within the figure of legal subjection’ equals “there is nothing in the subject which escapes its legal subjection.’” Nothing in the subject escapes the law, but the subject is not totalized by the law - in the same way that the woman is not totalized by the symbolic.

It is sin - transgression, resistance to the law - that makes the law appear to be a foreign power crushing the subject. So the problem is not that the law does not contain enough love - but rather that it contains too much love. I am unable to recognize myself in the law insofar as I cling to the immediacy of love that feels threatened by the rule of law.

So, what it comes down to, is finding a way to relate to the law that itself “unplugs” us from immediate social surroundings; one that acts as an ideological interpollation and gives desire the distance that it needs. The Christian suspension of the law remains is a love that remains tied to the Jewish law that creates a distance from the social order, while the pagan suspension of the law is only aimless transgression.

In conclusion and to sum up, Zizek's project is the search for a law without the obscene underside. The law's obscene underside works like this: think about what happens when you forbid a kid to do something. "Don't eat that cookie." Or, telling an adult "don't fornicate." The effect in both cases is the same: the person actually hears "don't. . . . FORNICATE! FORNICATE!" Forbidden fruit and all that.

Yet the answer is not to dispel all law and say "If you, as a responsible adult, wish to consent to having any form of sex in private, you may do so..." The destruction of the law is, in the end, the destruction of all enjoyment. When the law becomes "you may," life becomes deadened and pathetic.

Love is the force that suspends the "you may," and replaces it with a law that address us directly, without the the obscene underside. It unplugs us from our constructed social surroundings and builds us a new world, one with its own law and duty, the only kind of duty without the obscene underside: the duty that only says "your duty is. . . . DO YOUR DUTY!"

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