Thursday, October 04, 2007

Love and Law, Part 2: The Law/Desire Connection

Part 1

Summary of Part 1: The Law creates/sustains Desire/sin.

There are three specific, related problems in this situation (of Law sustaining Desire/sin). The first problem is that the relationship of Law and desire means our desire only ever appears as a death drive, as a movement beyond the pleasure principle. As Lacan says, it is only because of the Law that “sin . . . takes on an excessive, hyperbolic character.” Law only ever allows enjoyment to take place as a transgression.

Lacan also traces the oppressiveness of the Law back to the logic of the murder of the great man. This mythic origin has the “all-powerful, half animal creature of the great horde” being killed by his sons. The sons kill the father in the attempt to achieve their desire; they find, however, that the guilt of this murder imposes profound guilt. Lacan says that “every act of jouissance gives rise to something that is inscribed in the book of debts of the Law.” The Law is an economy of debts and payments that can never be superceded; one is forever caught in a cycle of guilt and pleasure.

In The Ticklish Subject, Žižek offers a second problem for this intertwined relationship of Law and desire. He lays out St. Paul’s ideas of life and death as “existential positions,” that is, not as biological states but as ways of carrying out life. Žižek here equates the Law with the positive order of being; the mechanical, extant, non-excessive life. This is living one’s life in a type of living death. Life, on the other hand, exists under divine grace - a sort of universalism. Death is equated with Law, Life is equated with love. The existential position of Life is that which is excessive, capable of moving beyond the Law and the positive order of being.

The very introduction of the Law, then, creates the Life/Death dichotomy. In other words, the subject is torn between life and death, between mechanical, conscious subjection to the Law and an unconscious desire for transgression. The unconscious becomes the only affirmation of life; it might be the case that Bataille’s exuberant, repulsive festivities are the only expression of freedom in such a world.

No comments: