Wednesday, May 16, 2012

ZIZEK: The Actuality of Ayn Rand: Journal of Ayn Rand Studies; vol 3;no. 2 (Spring 2002)

X-ray and curioushairedgal have had a running disagreement about a statement of Rand's: So if the Roark character figuring in the text corpus The Fountainhead,  Roark was to her "as man should be", one can infer that she meant what she said.  I am forced to side with x-ray in this incredibly and astonishing closure of this discourse. I am not agreeing with x-ray because she quotes Rand as "meaning what she says," but because of Zizek's intricate Lacanian analysis of the distinction between desire and drive.

If x-ray had stopped at the end of the quote, she would have secured her point. This statement about Roark comes from Nietzsche's Overman, his ubermensch. To stay in context Rand is still reading Nietzsche, (going on about 20 years now) making entries in her Journal during the planning and writing of Fountainhead.

Now to move on to Zizek!

The entire article is here.


The_ Actuality of Ayn Rand- The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies

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Ayn Rand'. Slavoj Zizek. Ayn Rand's fascination for male figures displaying absolute, unswayable determination of their Will, seems to offer the best ...

The properly subversive dimension of her ideological procedure is not to be underestimated. Rand fits into the line of "overconformist" authors who undermine the ruling ideological edifice by their very excessive identification with it. Her over-orthodoxy was directed at capitalism itself, as the title of one of her books (Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal; Rand 1967) tells us; according to her, the truly heretical thing today is to embrace the basic premise of capitalism without its communitarian, collectivist, welfare, etc. sugar-coating. So what Pascal and Racine were to Jansenism, what Kleist was to German nationalist militarism, what Brecht was to Communism, Rand is to American capitalism. (The Actuality of Ayn Rand;Slavoj Zizek;JARS 3,no.2;215-227.)

....We have thus Roark as the being of pure drive in no need of symbolic recognition (and as such uncannily close to the Lacanian saint - only an invisible line of separation distinguishes them), and the three ways to  compromise one's drive: Wynand, Keating, Toohey. The underlying opposition  here is that of desire and drive, as exemplified in the tense relationship between Roark and Dominique, his sexual partner. Roark displays the perfect indifference towards the Other characteristic of drive, while Dominique remains caught in the dialectic of desire, which is the desire of the Other: she is gnawed by the Other's gaze, i.e., by the fact that others, the common people totally insensitive to Roark's achievement, are allowed to stare at it and thus spoil its sublime quality.  (218)

Here in Zizek's article he takes on Rand's characterization of Dominique at the level of desire in the dialectic.

The only way for her to break out of this deadlock of the Other's desire is to destroy the sublime object in order to save it from becoming the object of the ignorant gaze of others:

You want a thing and it's precious to you. Do you know who is standing ready to tear it out of your hands? You can't know, it may be so involved and so far away, but someone is ready, and you're afraid of them all.....I never open again any great book I've read and loved. It hurts me to think of the other eyes that have read it and of what they were."(F 143-44 )

And is this not what Sasha is saying about Barthes: The Lover's Discourse:

Owning Roland Barthes

Two of my friends are currently reading Roland Barthes. One keeps hurling invectives at the page. The other, whom I see almost every day, likes to send out snippets on Twitter, professing her endless love for Barthes’ words, swearing against life itself that this book is hers, it knows her, no other writer could come close to what she tries, in vain, to say about love. This friend asks me, “You remember what he said about absence?” And I itch to rid of the conversation, of her questions, of her testimonials about how fated she and this book are. She offers, “It’s so hard to talk about, no? It’s so personal.” And I itch to rid of the conversation. I think her unworthy, I think her views unworthy, I think her identification with my words unworthy. I think anyone undeserving of this book. I think of everyone who comes to A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments as an intruder to my love affair with it, its captivation of me, my willing enslavement to it. I have known this for four and a half years, perhaps felt it for longer:A Lover’s Discourse is mine.
Doesn't this resonate with Kristen Stewart's refusal to discuss her relationship with Robert Pattinson? "They covet him," she says.  "Why would I discuss something that means the world to me with a perfect stranger?" 
These "other eyes" are the Evil Gaze at its purest, which grounds the paradox of property: if, within a social field, I am to possess an object, this possession must be socially acknowledged, which means that the big Other who vouchsafes this possession of mine must in a way possess it in advance in order to let me have it. ....this gaze of the Other that oversees me in my desiring capacity is in its very essence "castrative," threatening.

....So, for Dominique, the greatest sacrilege is to throw pearls before swine: to create a precious object and then to expose it to the Other's Evil Gaze, i.e., to let it be shared with the crowd. And she treats herself in precisely the same way: she tries to resolve the deadlock of her position as a desired object by way of willingly embracing, even searching for, the utmost humiliation _ she marries the person she most despises and tries to ruin the career of Roark, the true object of her love and admiration. .....she will become his true partner only when her desire for him will no longer be bothered by the Other's gaze _ in short, when she will accomplish the shift from desire to drive.

Shifting now to Atlas Shrugged: 

What the hystericized prime mover must accept is thus the fundamental existential indifference: she must no longer be willing to remain the hostage of the second-handers' blackmail. ("We will let you work and realize your creative potential, on condition that you accept our terms"). She must be ready to give up the very kernel of her being, that which means everything to her, and to accept the "end of the world," the (temporary) suspension of the very flow of energy that keeps the world running. In order to gain everything, she must be ready to go through the zero-point of losing everything. (And here we have Nietzsche! Emphasis mine.) And, far from signaling the "end of subjectivity," this act of assuming existential indifference is, perhaps, the veryb gesture of absolute negativity that gives birth to the subject. What Lacan calls "subjective destitution" is thus, paradoxically, another name for the subject itself, i.e., for the void beyond the theater of hysterical subjectivizations. 
     This subject beyond subjectivization is free in the most radical sense of the word.. This is why Rand's "prime movers" are not characterized primarily by their positive properties (superb intelligence, etc.); their innermost feature is their lack of the false guilt feeling, their freedom from the superego vicious cycle - when you are caught in this cycle, you are guilty whatever you do. (Z;222)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Ayn Rand, Michel Foucault and Atlas Shrugged:The Power/Knowledge Relation

The 45th anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged (Signet 1996) was announced with a new edition and an introduction (1992) by Leonard Peikoff who has wisely let Rand speak for herself in the intro, taking excerpts from her unpublished Journal.

Atlas Shrugged, according to Peikoff's recollections, did not become the title until Frank O'Conner suggested it in 1956. Up until then she had titled it The Strike.

After finishing The Fountainhead and having Nietzsche's quotes scrubbed out of it, Rand probably put her obsessive reading - from age 16 to her late 30's, early 40's - of him aside, as Baudrillard did after he failed his exams on Nietzsche, and Nietzsche went underground in Rand as in Baudrillard. 

The earliest of Rand's notes are dated January 1, 1945, about a year after the publication of The Fountainhead.  Naturally enough, the subject on her mind was how to differentiate the present novel from its predecessor. (p.1)

Theme. What happens to the world when the Prime Movers go on strike....

The theme requires: to show who are the prime movers and why, how they function....

First question to decide is on whom the emphasis must be placed - on the prime movers, the parasites or the world. The answer is: The world. The story must be primarily a picture of the whole. ...

In this sense, The Strike is to be much more a "social" novel that The Fountainhead. The Fountainhead's ...primary concern ... was the characters, the people as such - their natures. Their relations to each other   - which is society, men in relation to men - were secondary, an unavoidable, direct consequence of Roark set against Toohey. ...

Now, it is this relation that must be the theme.  therefore, the personal becomes secondary. That is, the personal is necessary only to the extent needed to make the relationships clear;...But the theme was Roark - not Roark's relation to the world. Now it will be the relation. ...

I start with the fantastic premise of the prime movers going on strike.  This is to be the actual heart and center of the novel.  A distinction carefully to be observed here: I do not set out to glorify the prime mover. ...I set out to show how desperately the world needs prime movers....what happens to the world without them. ...

This must be the world's story - in relation to the prime movers. ...

I don't show directly what the prime movers do - that's shown only by implication. I show what happens when they don't do it. (Intro pages 1,2,3)

Astonishingly Rand is here applying Platt's famous Strong Inference to her fiction in 1946, almost 20 years before Platt published his famous paper in 1964, the basis of which Crick and Watson posited the  DNA spiral

[PDF] Strong inference

JR Platt - science, 1964 -
Scientists these days tend to keep up a polite fiction that all science is equal. Except for the
work of the misguided opponent whose arguments we happen to be refuting at the time, we
speak as though every scientist's field and methods of study are as good as every other ...

Rand has intuitively identified Foucault's power/knowledge relation so laboriously and elegantly recorded for us in The Order of Things, The Archaeology of Knowledge, Discipline and Punish, Madness and Civilization, The History of Sexuality, and all his genealogies published and archived now, his great method taken from Nietzsche. Rand does it in one fell swoop in Atlas Shrugged.

Foucault has relentlessly delineated the relation of power and knowledge. Power does not exist by itself. It cannot be given, taken, conferred, lost, held. Power is ALWAYS in relation to knowledge; the two cannot be separated.

Rand has written a fiction whereby she is removing knowledge from the world. She is saying that the knowledge of the prime movers is what powers the world!

Remove the prime movers and knowledge is removed from the world,

but so is power! The world sinks into chaos, starvation, and death.

A resonance here: Is this what brought on The Hunger Games?

She is saying that  -  understand this in relation to the Foucauldian Grid  of power/knowledge (Eric Packer's start-stop in quarter inches in NYC traffic) - knowledge and power are relational in the world. She is saying this in her Journal in 1946, when Foucault is  17 years old, long before he studied Nietzsche and applied Nietzsche's genealogy to human behavior.  

And she is saying this fictionally in Atlas Shrugged published in 1957.

Rand has heralded Foucault's lifetime study of the relational necessity of power/knowledge in Atlas Shrugged. Power and Knowledge are FUSED, inseparable, joined, married to each other!
Ayn Rand