Gramsci Redux (was Re: debates was guilty / innocent was debates)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sat Oct 14 09:59:21 PDT 2000

Ken wrote:

>On Sat, 14 Oct 2000 11:32:50 -0400 kelley <kwalker2 at> wrote:
> > that's not what gramsci means by rule by consensus.
>This doesn't surprise me. Didn't Gramsci write in a secret code? -
>so that only
>the elect might understand his work? I'm reminded of the book of revelations
>from the xian scriptures... written by John of Patmos (speling?).

Despite the fact that his thoughts on hegemony & consent were developed under fascist prison censorship (with a consequence that he sometimes ended up sounding like Croce -- whom he criticized -- than himself, which has made it easier for our post-Marxist scholars to appropriate his work for social democratic, Third-Way, or even neo-Confederate [!] purposes), what Gramsci meant is clearer than more recondite passages from Marx's _Capital_ & _Grundrisse_ (though apparently not to you, Justin, & Eugene Genovese). Your fellow Canadian professor Carl Cuneo at McMaster University has put up a neat (if possibly too neat) summary of Gramsci's thoughts on hegemony and consent: "Hegemony in Gramsci's Original Prison Notebooks: Carl Cuneo's Notes on the Concept of Hegemony in Gramsci" at < 2>. Study hard!

To quote you again:

>Some degree of subjugation is necessary for subjectivity. It isn't that
>subjugation is desirable, but a certain degree of it makes desire possible.
>Without a doubt power and domination is fundamental to social relations, it
>also makes the psyche tick. The more we try to take flight from this the more
>it will come back with a vengeance.

Here, you assert that "a certain degree" of subjugation is eternal if not desirable, for it is subjugation that "makes desire possible" and "makes the psyche tick." No subjugation, no subjectivity, no desire, etc. You did not make this claim because you would have been tortured in prison (or suffered similar penalties) had you not done so. You "spontaneously" consented to the hegemony of the ruling class's deputies who have exercised moral and intellectual leadership: "life sucks -- well, life is like that." Or "the poor will always be with us." Or Slavoj Zizek's _The Fragile Absolute_:

***** ...One is tempted to search for an answer in the key Lacanian distinction between the object of desire and surplusenjoyment as its cause, Henry Krips evokes the lovely example of the chaperone in seduction: the chaperone is an ugly elderly lady who is officially the obstacle to the direct goal-object (the woman the suitor is courting); but precisely as such, she is the key intermediary moment that effectively makes the beloved woman desirable - without her, the whole economy of seduction would collapse. Or, take another example from a different level: the lock of curly blonde hair, that fatal detail of Madeleine in Hitchcock's Vertigo. When, in the love scene in the barn towards the end of the Film, Scottie passionately embraces Judy refashioned into the dead Madeleine, during their famous 360-degree kiss, he stops kissing her and withdraws just long enough to steal a look at her newly blonde hair, as if to reassure himself that the particular feature which transforms her into the object of desire is still there.... Crucial here is the opposition between the vortex that threatens to engulf Scottie (the 'vertigo' of the film's title, the deadly Thing) and the blonde curl that imitates the vertigo of the Thing, but in a miniaturized, gentrified form.

This curl is the objet petit a which condenses the impossible-deadly Thing, serving as its stand-in and thus enabling us to entertain a livable relationship with it, without being swallowed up by it. As Jewish children put it when they play gently aggressive games: 'Please, bite me, but not too hard . . .' This is the difference between 'normal' sexual repression and fetishism: in 'normal' sexuality, we think that the detail-feature that serves as the cause of desire is just a secondary obstacle that prevents our direct access to the Thing - that is, we overlook its key role; while in fetishism we simply make the cause of desire directly into our object of desire: a fetishist in Vertigo would not care about Madeleine, but simply focus his desire directly on the lock of hair; a fetishist suitor would engage directly with the chaperone and forget about the lady herself, the official goal of his endeavours.

So there is always a gap between the object of desire itself and its cause, the mediating feature or element that makes this object desirable. What happens in melancholy is that we get the object of desire deprived of its cause. For the melancholic, the object is there, but what is missing is the specific intermediary feature that makes it desirable. For that reason, there is always at least a trace of melancholy in every true love: in love, the object is not deprived of its cause; it is, rather, that the very distance between object and cause collapses. This, precisely, is what distinguishes love from desire: in desire, as we have just seen, cause is distinct from object; while in love, the two inexplicably coincide - I magically love the beloved one for itself, finding in it the very point from which I find it worthy of love.... *****

Surely, the function of the chaperone ("an ugly elderly lady"!!!), the obsession of Scottie for the dead Madeleine in Hitchcock's _Vertigo_, Jewish children's "gently aggressive games," etc. are historically bounded & hence transient phenomena, not eternal ones that serve as paradigms of human relationships for all times. Why assert that without sexism there can be no human relation?


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