debates was guilty / innocent was debates

kenneth.mackendrick at kenneth.mackendrick at
Sun Oct 15 10:08:25 PDT 2000

On Mon, 16 Oct 2000 03:23:27 +1100 Rob Schaap <rws at> wrote:

> >The object of desire does not exist, it is imagined - fantasized.

> Insofar as I guess we do not desire that which is at our disposal, and that
> our desire is therefore for the availability of something that is
> definitively not currently available, and that our desire is therefore for
> a way of things that is not the current way of things, I could agree with
> you, Ken. But I don't think you do mean that. So what do you mean?

That's close enough. In psychobabble, there are a good many layers to this: first, the desiring subject of the unconscious is not the same as the desiring ego (ie. what my 'uncs' desires is not the same as what 'I' want). I might want a cheeseburger, but my uncs desires something else, like to be mystically unified with the cheeseburger or some other such weirdness. In psychobabble, the subject is not the ego, it is the subject of the uncs, which does not exist as an object for the ego - it's more like the negating aspect of Hegel's dialectic - pure self-relating negativity. Now before this gets dismissed as mumbo-jumbo... it is important to note that what we say is not what we are, and that there is more than one 'speaker' that speaks. In a way, all language use is a Freudian slip, we can never say exactly what we mean because what drives language isn't necessarily in control of everything. Still, what you've written above is pretty close. Desire wants something. But there is another engine at work - the desire of desire. What does the pure form of desire want? Psychobabbalists argue that desire wants to reproduce itself as desire. This is its pure form: sheer reproduction. The desire of desire, then, always sabotages straightforward desire by setting up an object that is impossible to obtain. So what we get, whatever it happens to be, is a lesser object, a substitution (and Freud has a lot to say about substitutions). There is also the difference between desire and drive. Drive simply demands to be satisfied (hunger) but desire can't be satisfied because it always overshoots or undershoots its mark. It's kind of like an archer aiming at a target that doesn't exist, looking for the bullseye where there is none. The point being, that no state of affairs could ever "satisfy" desire, because it isn't in the nature of desire to be satisfied. Imagine wanting something, getting it, and then never desiring (ANYTHING) again. This is what psychobabbalists call the death drive... the end of the satis-factory line. Another way of putting it would be to say that desire sets up traps so that it can't fulfill itself. I like to use the example of a birthday cake. For those of us who like to devour cake, isn't it irrational to pospose eating the cake until after the meal? We set up elaborate rituals to delay gratification, lighting candles, hiding it, making a wish and so on. And then, even after we eat it, we look forward to the next birthday cake... we derive our enjoyment not only from eating the cake (which is the satisfaction of a drive) but also from the suspense of waiting for the cake. Yoshie objected to the chaperone metaphor that Krips uses in his book Fetish, but is is quite appropriate. How many times have we pursued a certain love interest through another person? Many times we don't just out right ask the person out because we want to "desire" them a bit more... And it is of interest that the chaperone, of course, is usually "less" the desired object even though they become more important for the potential establishment of the relation. Remains of the Day is an excellent example of this. The Butler desires desiring... so that the relationship becomes impossible (hence, the Butler is nothing less than a compuslive obsessive, who will do anything to avoid confronting his desire...).

I find all of this stuff fascinating, but it doesn't surprise me that many aren't interested in it or think it some sort of hocus=pocus. I think there is tremendous explanatory power in thinking through these kind of concepts, although I'm worried about dogmatism. I also consider it highly speculative, and rather risky on a political level. As Kell love to point out, sometimes psychobabble goes through an elaborate maze of concepts and illustrative examples only to point out something rather obvious. I guess this is part of the challenge, to avoid being either a knave or an idiot - but also to find ways of explaining things that actually prompt greater awareness of their dynamics. As far as I can tell, it provides another explanation for those of us unsatisfied with the existing explanations. I don't think psychobabble can be expected to do much more than this.

> Still marking ...

Ditto that.


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