northanger (northanger) wrote,

the origins of the story

in chapter four k-punk mentions the French student protests of 2006, which i remember also reading on Long Sunday and other blogs at the time. looking at LS archives first found Blessing and Partage: No Pasarán; On Celan and Derrida & then finding k-punk's post on Le Guin's Lathe of Heaven [googling aporia; CR, p19: "I want to stress two other aporias in capitalist realism"], which mentions Jameson's discussion of Le Guin's Utopian contradictions &c. echoing sdv_duras' point that the origins of The Children of Men is based on a Utopian story (which, i still don't know) that P.D. James turned dystopian ("a reflection of the reactionary author").

so i set this up to ask k-punk what he knows about the origins of The Children of Men. because if it isn't explicit, seemed to me based on Jameson/Le Guin, it's at least implicit in Capitalist Realism. because Chapter Seven is '...if you can watch the overlap of one reality with another': capitalism as dreamwork and memory disorder. which quotes "motley painting of everything that ever was", which appears on page 6, CR: "Capital, Deleuze and Guattari says, is a 'motley painting of everything that ever was'; a strange hybrid of the ultra-modern and the archaic." editing out the point of suture ~ the suture between Utopian & Dystopian? the Real versus Reality?

sdv_duras @northanger - its a shame that Fisher probably doesn't know the origins of the story...

sdv_duras @northanger actually Children of Men is a direct rip off of some Western Utopian SF, the dystopia is a reflection of the reactionary author

sdv_duras @northanger - yes but once it wasn't james... which in authorial circles seems to matter.... glad it doens'y for you

northanger @sdv_duras Time to Be in Earnest: A Fragment of Autobiography, PD James ~

~~~~~sent sdv_duras this post, response:

sdv_duras @northanger thanks that's very interesting...

sdv_duras @northanger the utopian moment in the original story was twofold the falling birthrate resolved the pressure on the environment and ...

sdv_duras @northanger and children could only be conceived if both parents wanted it... it required in simpler words love

sdv_duras @northanger - curious about the refs to Lathe of Heaven, surely it is precisely because she rejects utopias that is the problem for us ?

sdv_duras @northanger which is to say that the left requires a utopian moment of its own, rather than merely discussing the current capitalist one..

Time to Be in Earnest: A Fragment of Autobiography
P. D. James {199}

At nearly every festival I get asked about my novel 'The Children of Men', either during question time or at the line-up for signing. This novel, which is totally different from all my other work, didn't begin with a setting, but with a review I read in the 'Sunday Times'. The book reviewed dealt with the dramatic and so far unexplained fall in the fertility rate of Western man. Apparently young men today are only half as fertile as were their fathers. The reviewer pointed out that, of the millions of life forms which have inhabited our planet, nearly all have in time died out or were destroyed, as were the dinosaurs. Man's span on earth is as the blinking of an eye. ¶ I began to imagine what the world would be like, and more specifically what England would be like, a quarter of a century after a catastrophic year in which the human race was struck by a universal infertility. For twenty-five years no one would have heard a baby cry or heard a child laugh. This idea for a dystopian novel was not in itself original; a number of novels explore a world in which mankind knows itself to be dying. #The Children of Men# ends on a note of hope, but was traumatic to write, and I was glad at the end to return to the less depressing ambience of classical detective fiction. The novel was not intended to be a Christian fable but that, in fact, was what I wrote. It is also different in technique since the whole story is seen through the eyes of a single character and the structure is linear, the plot moving strongly to its dramatic conclusion. ¶ This is the only one of my novels which has not earned its advance, a depressing and somewhat demeaning thought. But it has produced more correspondence and more controversy, particularly in theological circles, than any other novel I have written.

Capitalist Realism, Mark Fisher
Reflexive impotence, immobilization and liberal communism {26–27}

Jameson observed that 'the breakdown of temporality suddenly releases [the] present of time from all the activities and intentionalities that might focus it and mak it a space of praxis'. But nostalgia for the context in which the old types of praxis operated is plainly useless. That is why French students don't in the end constitute an alternative to British reflexive impotence. That the neoliberal Economist would deride French opposition to capitalism is hardly surprising, yet its mockery of French 'immobilization' had a point. 'Certainly the students who kicked off the latest protests seemed to think they were re-enacting the events of May 1968 their parents sprang on Charles de Gaulle', it wrote in its lead article on March 30, 2006.

They have borrowed its slogans (“Beneath the cobblestones, the beach!”) and hijacked its symbols (the Sorbonne university). In this sense, the revolt appears to be the natural sequel to [2005]'s suburban riots, which prompted the government to impose a state of emergency. Then it was the jobless, ethnic underclass that rebelled against a system that excluded them. Yet the striking feature of the latest protest movement is that this time the rebellious forces are on the side of conservatism. Unlike the rioting youths in the banlieues, the objective of the students and public-sector trade unions is to prevent change, and to keep France the way it is.

Against immobilization, against nomadology
2006 youth protests in France
2007 civil unrest in Villiers-le-Bel
May 1968 in France

Aporia (Ancient Greek: ἀπορία: impasse; lack of resources; puzzlement; doubt; confusion) denotes, in philosophy, a philosophical puzzle or state of puzzlement, and, in rhetoric, a rhetorically useful expression of doubt.
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Plato's early dialogues are often called his 'aporetic' (Greek: ἀπορητικός) dialogues because they typically end in aporia. In such a dialogue, Socrates questions his interlocutor about the nature or definition of a concept, for example virtue or courage. Socrates then, through elenctic testing, shows his interlocutor that his answer is unsatisfactory. After a number of such failed attempts, the interlocutor admits he is in aporia about the examined concept, concluding that he does not know what it is. In Plato's Meno (84a-c), Socrates describes the purgative effect of reducing someone to aporia: it shows someone who merely thought he knew something that he does not in fact know it and instills in him a desire to investigate it.

Blessing and Partage: No Pasarán; On Celan and Derrida, April 08, 2006

"No, I will limit myself here to the aporia (to the barred passage, no pasarán: this is what aporia means)."
- - -
One wonders what Derrida might have thought and said these past few weeks, about the re-casting of a certain enigmatic slogan in the streets of France. One he always heard, after, as coming through Celan; one so clearly dear to his own heart. Who could forget those passages? But also, who would dare to write on them?

Capitalist Realism, Mark Fisher

…'if you can watch the overlap of one reality with another': capitalism as dreamwork and memory disorder

The moment that most fascinated me in Ursula Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven was its descriptions of times of transition from one reality to another.
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{56} …editing out the point of suture. This strategy - of accepting the incommensurable and the senseless without question - has always been the exemplary technique of sanity as such, but it has a special role to play in late capitalism, that 'motley painting of everything that ever was', whose dreaming up and junking of social fictions is nearly as rapid as its production and disposal of commodities. To be able to function in late capitalism without being a psychological wreck, it is necessary to accept the insane as standard.
- - -
PKD would also not have surrendered the role of dreaming so quickly to a vision of pacific cosmic harmony. Le Guin's conservatism is ontological as well as political, and that is no accident. Orr's 'achievement', by the end of the novel, is to restore, of the 'ordinary mess' (cf the 'ordinary misery' of the Freudian neurotic) of life, as centred upon domestic coupledom. And there is an aporia at the heart of this concept of 'letting things be', as Jameson observes. 'The contradiction,' he writes, 'inhabits any ethics of becoming what you are already. The problem is that Haber himself, along with his do-gooding personality and complete with his own inner will-to-power is already part of the fabric of being. The will to power is not something outside being, that we could omit in order to exist in some more preaceful state. It is Being itself.'

The Lathe Of Heaven-(Original 1980 PBS)-Part 1/12

Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions
Fredric Jameson
How to Fulfill a Wish {72-84}

{77} So George's "effective dreams" are always realized on the order of the legendary treachery of oracles ("when Croesus crosses the river Halys, a {78} mighty empire will fall!" -- namely, his own). There is a laterality of attention: what his unconscious centers as the explicit object of its concentration turns out to be a mere detail of a picture ordered in a quite different way. His minder thinks of this as of "the overliteralness of primary-process thinking" (61), which it may also be, in that case reflecting the way in which the literal signifiers can be shifted around, remaining serenely equal to themselves all the while that their fundamental meanings and consequences vary widely. From another perspective, to be sure, we here witness the unexpected aftereffects of that alternation between Fancy and Imagination discussed in an earlier chapter: what was to have embodied the work of Imagination is suddenly displaced and trivialized by the catastrophic centrality of an element of mere Fancy, a hitherto insignificant detail of the context Imagination turned out to presuppose. Here is an example: the world is no longer to be overpopulated. But this welcome development must now be rationalized in retrospect by the deaths of six billion people in the Plague Years (a hitherto non-existent event which rapidly finds its place in our chronological memory of the recent past, like Proust's furniture racing to reach their correct stations in bedroom space before he is completely awake). Is the episode not itself a kind of anti-Utopian fable (the inevitable suffering entailed by all Utopian experiments)?

But that depends on how we read the Utopianism of George's dream director, the sleep specialist William Haber. He certainly has big plans, but one feels that this fable comes down rather hard on him, all things considered, and that his undoubted "will to power" — Nietzsche after all showed that it was active in the smallest as well as in the greatest things — is sometimes denounced mainly as a foil to Le Guin's Taoist agenda:

"The quality of the will to power is, precisely, growth. Achievement is its cancellation. To be, the will to power must increase with each fulfillment, making the fulfillment only a step to a further one. The vaster the power gained, the vaster the appetite for more. As there was no visible limit to the power Haber wielded through Orr's dreams, so there was no end to his determination to improve the world." (128)

Haber's "comeuppance" at the end is the rather predictable moral lesson that serves him right; while Orr's personality is the opposite of his in every way:

"The infinite possibility, the unlimited and unqualified wholeness of being of the uncommitted, the non-acting, the uncarved: the being who, being nothing but himself is everything." (95)

So Heather sees George's seeming passivity as a remarkable and unusual kind of strength; and even unknowns and passersby seem to draw comfort from it:

"So great a joy filled Orr that, among the forty-two persons who had been jamming into the car as he thought these things, the seven or eight pressed closest to him felt a slight but definite flow of benevolence or relief. The woman who had failed to get his strap handle away from him felt a blessed surcease of the sharp pain in her corn..." (42)

One may well subscribe to Le Guin's Taoism as it is expressed in such passages without feeling altogether comfortable about the way she uses Haber to score the point. The pop-psychological diagnosis for example: "The doctor was not… really sure that anyone else existed, and wanted to prove they did by helping them" (32). For the point to be made (and is, over and over again) that Haber wants to improve things and to help people; "to a better world!" (73) is not, for him, an idle toast, whatever unconscious Nietzschean motives stir beneath the surface. His ethos is meant to be contrasted with Heather's:

"A person who believes, as she did, that things fit: that there is a whole of which one is a part, and that in being a part one is whole: such a person has no desire whatever, at any time, to play God." (106)

Hers is an ethos of being rather than of praxis:

"Things don't have purposes, as if the universe were a machine, where every part has a useful function. What's the function of a galaxy?… What matters is that we are a part. Like a thread in a cloth or a grass-blade in a field. It is and we are. What we do is like wind blowing on the grass." (82)

But, as with Orr, Le Guin has gone to a good deal of trouble to motivate Haber's character: he is someone who likes to do good and to change things: "I frequently daydream heroics. I am the hero. I'm saving a girl, or a fellow astronaut, or a besieged city, or a whole damn planet. Messiah dreams, do-gooder dreams, Haber saves the world!" (36) The contradiction at the heart of the lesson is the one that inhabits any ethic of becoming what you are already. The problem is that Haber himself, along with his do-gooding personality and complete with his own inner will-to-power, is also already part of the fabric of being. The will to power is not something outside of being, that we could omit in order to exist in some more peaceful state. It is Being itself; as witness the way in which Heidegger is able to transform Nietzsche's version of the impulse (as we traditionally understand it, and as Le Guin understands it) into Aristotelian energeia, that is, into the very force of life and activity itself. When it is a question of the totality of being, indeed, how can one presume to pick and choose, to accept Orr's impulses and repudiate Haber's?

The same argument could be used for Orr himself, who, whatever his relationship to being, is also forced into action — very specifically against Haber and {80} against the latter's millenarian schemes which he must somehow arrest and neutralize. For action and changing things are themselves a necessary part of being and implicate the dreamer fully as much as his director. Indeed, the most interesting confusion lies in the matter of Utopian agency itself: is Orr the Utopian, whose dreams change everything, without his wanting them to; or is not the true Utopian Haber, who simply wants them to? In that case, Haber would stand as the representative of Fancy, in contrast to Orr's embodiment of the power of Imagination itself. And what is the nature of the strange Utopian power — the exceptionality of the iahklu’ — that falls to orr for a moment to bear? We are apparently not to judge this power as evil or catastropic (although its results seem almost exclusively to deserve that description): and not the least beauty of the novel lies in the mystery of this strange rhythm at the heart of being itself, shrouded in some of that same mist that surrounds the aliens, whose own improbable unreality is their very representation.

It does not seem particularly promising to argue against the premises and the meaning of a novel; and in fact I do so only in order to bring out its representational problems and contradictions, which emerge starkly if we take The Lathe of Heaven to be an anti-Utopian work. If on the contrary we reduce the stakes somewhat, and make of Haber not a Utopian revolutionary, who wishes to change everything and to transform the very totality of being, and read him rather as a New Dealer and a liberal or social democrat, eager for reform rather than revolution, and intent on changing now this, now that, as he encounters the various ills of society one by one on his path; then from an anti-Utopian work the novel swings around into a rather different tradition of inspiration, and iahklu’ becomes the very code word for revolution itself as the dream of a total process. But this interpretive choice should not be allowed to weaken the fundamental ambiguity here: Le Guin is a Utopian writer with mixed feelings, and offers the constitutive undecidability of a representation which affirms and foregrounds Utopia in the very same act by which it calls it fundamentally into question. This is scarcely surprising insofar as the Taoism which is used as a critical and negative instrument against the Haberian Utopia is itself Utopian in its serenity.

The author has characterized The Lathe of Heaven as her tribute to Philip K. Dick; it is certainly the closest she comes to a pastiche of the great flows of schizophrenic metamorphosis that are for many the most unique moments in his work (Lem also undertook several pastiches of these sequences, most notably in The Futurological Congress [1970]). But her possibility of doing this is intimately related to the very nature of her philosophical premise here, namely that reality is a seamless web in which no thread can be tugged without a simultaneous alteration of the whole. It is in fact our old friend the synchronic totality, and the passage from one of these totalities to another is the navigation of a delirious and uncharted zone whose being shudders with incomprehensible waves and pulses:

Capitalist Realism, Mark Fisher
Capitalism and the Real {18-19}

For Lacan, the Real is what any 'reality' must suppress; indeed, reality constitutes itself through just this repression. The Real is an unrepresentable X, a traumatic void that can only be glimpsed in the fractures and inconsistencies in the field of apparent reality. So one strategy against capitalist realism could involve invoking the Real(s) underlying the reality that capitalism presents to us.

Environmental catastrophe is one such Real. At one level, to be sure, it might look as if Green issues are very far from being 'unrepresentable voids' for capitalist culture… But Green issues are already a contested zone, already a site where politicization is being fought for. In what follows, I want to stress two other aporias in capitalist realism, which are not yet politicized to anything like the same degree. The first is mental health… the other phenomenon I want to highlight is bureaucracy.

Traversing the Fantasy: Critical Responses to Slavoj Žižek
Edited by Geoff Boucher, Jason Glynos, Matthew Sharpe
Chapter 8: What's Left in Žižek? The Antinomies of Žižek's Sociopolitical Reason
Matthew Sharpe, 147-168


1. On the Question: What Categories Ought We To Use In Order to Theorise Contemporary Capitalism?

Thesis: The Reality is Capitalism, and the Real is Class Struggle

Žižek's first position on this question is given perhaps its clearest articulation in The Ticklish Subject. "The depoliticised economy is the disavowed 'fundamental fantasy' of post-modern politics," Žižek states (Žižek, 1999b: 355). This position draws on what is arguably his most enriching contribution to political philosophy: namely, the Lacanian distinction he introduces into the analysis of political discourse or rhetoric, between ideological meaning and political jouissance — roughly, the "enjoyment" in what is not usually sanctioned by political-symbolic authorities. Žižek claims that ideologies, as well as interpellating subjects into a set of symbolic understanding and mandates, necessarily turn around their structuration of regimes of illicit jouissance. This postulate is what he thinks resolves (e.g.) the seeming conundrum that capitalism continues to function so smoothly, despite widespread cynicism about whether "the system" actually delivers on its promises. Žižek's answer is that capitalist ideology primarily captures subjects at a more or less unconscious level, by interpellating them with an imperative to enjoy! [an inability to do anything else except pursue pleasure] that has become foundational for consumerist subjectivity.

What if they had a protest and everyone came?
Beyond the spectacle of politics

Tags: 1968, aporia, capitalist realism, dystopia, jameson, jouissance, k-punk, lacan, lathe of heaven, le guin, the children of men, utopia, zizek

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