Friday, November 02, 2007

The Loving Hope of Working Groups and Humanist Desiring-Revolutions

Figure 1. An exile in Afuera, the Outside [still image from Code 46, dir. Michael Winterbottom]

When a contradiction is impossible to resolve except by a lie, then we know that is really a door. —Simone Weil

In the spirit, not of meta-blogging, but of decentralized blogging, I thought I would highlight here some very interesting weblog posts and comments that have been unfolding, intra-textually and intra-otherwise, between two of my favorite new graduate student blogs: wraetlic and daniadean. I want to do this, partly because these two bloggers [Daniel Remein and Sarah, respectively] have engaged recently in a dialogue across each other’s weblogs that I find fascinating and stimulating, but also because some of what they are thinking and writing about converges nicely with an essay I have been knee-deep in now for about four weeks on the “state of the field” of Anglo-Saxon studies, “Goodbye to All That: The State of My Own Personal Field of Schizoid Anglo-Saxon Studies” [which will be appearing in The Heroic Age, Issue 11, forthcoming any day now], which is also to say: Dan and Sarah are helping me to close in on the completion of what has been for me a very painful essay to write. And without knowing it (I assume), Dan and Sarah have also been hitting on a subject that has been a central preoccupation of my friend and colleague Michael Moore in his work in medieval and later forms of humanism: the importance of personal freedom—a preoccupation that has crept into my own thinking and given me some pause when trying to consider what the chief end of the humanities should be.

I want to jump off from what are the two most recent blog posts at wraetlic and daniadean [and those who are interested can explore earlier posts on their own], “individuals, marx, and the loving hope of weblogs” and “on the redefinition of terms,” respectively. In “individuals, marx, and the loving hope of weblogs,” Dan highlights comments from a recent talk he heard at the University of Pittsburgh by Lindsay Waters [of Harvard University Press], who apparently lamented the fact that, by today’s standards, scholars such as Edward Said and Paul DeMan would have never survived, but thanks to their involvement in working groups they were able to produce important work early in their career. Waters apparently praised the virtues of work done communally, especially for “the general end of fostering truly innovative work in the name of a radical hope which is needed in the face of despair in this country,” but at the same time, he noted that, “it seems there is a shift to return to considering a ‘subject’ or an ‘individual’ in the face of the despair produced by the internal colonization of the American empire.” And this reminded Dan of a talk he heard given by Gayatri Spivak last year, where she talked about the turn to reading & aesthetics in her work, and told the graduate students, in Dan’s words, as best as he can paraphrase it from his notes and memory:

Suspend yourself in the text. You do not know how to read . . . . People do work, and it is good work or it is bad work, they impose a political reading on a text without reading it and what do you have, you have a wasted life as a kind of practice of reinforcing some semblance of individuality.

Ultimately, as Dan puts it, Waters concluded his talk by affirming that “the subject” is
still a viable concern of American poetry and why the “I” can be a dramatic and contested staging in a contemporary poem in an attempt to deal with life and take on power that can’t be taken on effectively [otherwise]. He acknowledges a sort of productive tension between the individual and the community as key to producing work that can foster a radical hope.
In Dan’s mind, the private and public aspects of intellectual work might come to a sort of crisis, especially in terms of “property” and “means of production.” In some of his conversations with Sarah, he has been

prompted to ask why the workings of an individual mind in isolation is expected to produce the work of the intellectual, and if this is not symptomatic of a general sense of “private” property which holds back a kind of radical communalism of thought which might allow for a radically more productive kind of academic work. I ask this only with much anxiety, as, to be honest, while I benefit immensely from In The Middle, Babel, [etc.]—these places and people in fact make possible for me thinking and feeling as intellectual and ethical labor which I could never imagine in isolation—actually surrendering my work to an Other is frightening experience. . . . But, I cannot help but wonder seriously, very seriously, at the merits of rethinking how and why we value the work of the individual. We test individual students. Individual minds must on their own come up with the ideas that we take refuge in Affective Communities of readers and colleagues in order to accomplish. And, a Marxist critique of access to the means of academic production, and private ownership of academic material, may be one untimely way of thinking about this, however uncomfortable.

Dan is also concerned [and rightly so, I think] to question our recent collective interest [shall we call it an obsession, even?] in temporality, most especially in futurity and its so-called radical hope, and he is worried that futurity “can only result in a kind of Religious Humanist project when what is at stake is the disciplining of bodies and state power itself”—by which I believe Dan means we have a “here and now” problem to tackle, never mind the future [although, admittedly, what is wrong now can only be corrected with the idea that, say, fixing texts or lives in a material way now opens those texts and lives to better futures, i.e., to the right to a livable life, in Judith Butler’s terms, to which the possibility of having a viable future is paramount]. What Dan seems to be ultimately hoping for in his post is that somehow there could be a reconciliation between theories of futurity [à la Derrida, Caputo et alia’s future-to-come] and the radical anti-futurist critique of an Edelman or a Bersani [although, as always, I personally loathe to conflate these two thinkers, because I think Bersani could almost be called mystic in his orientation, especially in his work after Homos—think: his ideas of ontological passivity and exceeding ourselves to become more part of the whole/world, “we are neither present in the world nor absent from it,” and the fact that his work could be called loving, whereas Edelman’s, purposefully hyperbolic or not, is, um, hateful?]. Further, Dan asks, “Can futurity and the excitement in the spirit of negative critique be commensurate? Can there be a futurity without an unfounded religious hope and religious notion of time?”

The most important part of Dan’s post, for me, comes at the end:

Can I be “for” the future or not—ethically, do I need to decide? What is a subject? Can we want one? Why? Radical hope seems to both need the individual AND a radical communalism. It seems that what might emerge as a possibility from all of this, not as an answer to the dilemma, but as a way of thinking though it—is to get out of thinking about economics, and instead think about Love. . . . While we cannot simply insist something is true for the hell of it, we do need to trust our feelings. A student in a seminar I am in recently accused Dinshaw of simply repeating a bunch of pop-culture sentimentality about the past—I think this person is wrong, but I do think that the risk of sentimentality is eminent and priceless. I think that to start negotiating this problem, we need to feel for each other. . . . affect may take us beyond economy in the problem of sharing ideas and work, in the problem of negotiating the individual and collective in thinking the future on utopian terms, in a radically secularized way.

In her post, “on the redefinition of terms,” Sarah makes some eloquent points regarding not being too hasty in giving up certain terms, “like faith” or “god,” that have not necessarily been exhausted of their radical potential just because, historically, they have been primarily grounded in religion [which in Dan’s mind is always suspect for the ways in which it disciplines bodies and minds and communities of such]. But responding more directly to Dan’s ideas regarding futurity, Sarah turns the discussion toward the practice of history, and writes,

i also think that the need to work at anchoring things historically, to continually look towards death, can become almost like a certain kind of faith. so, what i argue . . . is in some ways a call for certain modes of “time without time” or “history without history.” i think that allowing for this mental-metaphorical space in which two mutually exclusive things can exist in the same place at the same time is hugely important for creative thought, but forcing it to be unquestioningly temporal or eschatological isn't a limitation that seems productive to impose there. so i think that we should be able to remember, always, that history will end, and even that our lives will end, that other lives have ended. but we should also sometimes, temporarily, be able to simultaneously believe that time has stopped, or reversed, or become irrelevant, that history is entirely paratactic, that we will never die and that others have not died. this is, for me, a terrifically profound (and i think not irresponsible) mode of hoping. i want to add as well . . . that this all sounds terribly individual, but i don't think that's a limitation i want here either. on the contrary, it seems like this sort of “suspension of disbelief” allows for the formation of certain kinds of communities of thought that are temporarily less bogged down by the trappings of everyday or even (often) critical language. this is a poetic relationship . . . .

I read these comments and I marvel at their intelligence and their desire. I believe that Dan is on to something when he points to what might be called the “crisis” that inheres in the tug and pull between individualities and communities, especially as regards intellectual labors within the humanities, although I’ve always believed Zygmunt Bauman summed it up best when he wrote that society has “always stood in ambiguous relation to individual autonomy: it was, simultaneously its enemy and its sine qua non condition” [Liquid Modernity, p. 40]. While it is certainly true that the academy typically rewards the work of supposedly heroic individuals who forge their works in the “smithies” of their individual “souls” [to crib from James Joyce], obviously all intellectual work, published and otherwise, is rooted in “disciplinary” [in both senses of the term] intellectual communities, without which, nothing at all could be thought or would be allowed to emerge [and here we should remember Foucault’s words in “The Discourse on Language”: “A discipline is not the sum total of all the truths that may be uttered concerning something; it is not even the total of all that may be accepted, by virtue of some principle of coherence and systematization, concerning some given fact or proposition. . . . Within its own limits, every discipline recognizes true and false propositions, but it repulses a whole teratology of learning”].

Which is not to say that something is not “sick” at the heart of scholarly production within the humanities, as it stands and is assessed now, for these intellectual communities are often competitive and pit scholars against each other in various battles of wits and somebody’s “father” always awaits toppling. And then there is simply the issue of the kind of geographic, institutional, etc. isolation that, for some, becomes the ground of scholarly labors. But we have to also try to understand the important difference between competition and dissensus: the first is always negative [in my mind], and the second essential for (re)productive discourse and work, for opening the path toward Foucault’s teratologies of learning. This will, of necessity, pose a burden to certain individuals who must be willing to give birth to monstrous thought, but I also think this is where certain “working groups” [including BABEL, of course] can play a radical part as regards the often vexed relationship between creative individuals and communities that are founded on some sort of principle or belief structure. I think there can be a successful envisioning [and putting into practice] of what Joshua Glenn, writing for n+1, has called an “anti-utopian heterotopia where we’d have a project in common besides selling our commodified labor,” and where where misfit thinkers and dreamers could not just collaborate, but actually live and strive together in joyful and passionate disharmony/dissensus [“The Argonaut Folly”].

The idea would never be to collectively agree on anything, but to actually passionately disagree on all sorts of things, while also being committed to “being-together,” where, pace, Bill Readings, “thinking is a shared process without identity or unity. Thought beside itself perhaps” (The University in Ruins, p. 192). This “being-together”—affectively, joyously, passionately—would be the only possible route, in my mind, toward the kind of schizoid desiring-revolution that Deleuze and Guttari argued for so passionately in their collaborative work, where desire itself, when it lights out for the territories elsewhere other than the more Oedpalized regions of Family, Institution, Nation, etc., unleashes, in the words of one of their translators, “schizzes-flows—forces that escape coding, scramble the codes, and flee in all directions: orphans (no daddy-mommy-me), atheists (no beliefs), and nomads (no habits, no territories)” [Mark Seem, “Introduction,” Anti-Oedipus, p. xxi]. Further, Seem writes [of Deleuze and Guattari’s schizoanalysis]:

Once we forget about our egos a non-neurotic form of politics becomes possible, where singularity and collectivity are no longer at odds with each other, and where collective expressions of desire are possible. Such a politics does not seek to regiment individuals according to a totalitarian systems of norms, but to de-normalize and de-individualize through a multiplicity of new, collective arrangements against power. Its goal is the transformation of human relationships in a struggle against power. And it urges militant groups, as well as lone individuals, to analyze and fight against the effects of power that subjugate them. [“Introduction,” Anti-Oedipus, p. xxi]

Desire, which at its most basic level, is a kind of connection-machine, is deeply striated by the future: to say that it is about the present [the now], or about some kind of current satisfaction, altogether misses the point of desire’s affective propulsion: it is a process of becoming-something-else [even Edelman’s sinthomosexual has to want something; even the act of throwing someone off a cliff makes a demand on a future]. But if Sarah is right, and history can be seen as tending toward ends and deaths while simultaneously being grasped [artistically, I imagine] as having “stopped, or reversed, or become irrelevant,” as “entirely paratactic,” such that “we will never die and that others have not [yet] died,” then perhaps futurity could function, in this scenario, as both negative critique [everything is dead already, all is oblivion] and utopia [nothing has happened yet, all is potential]. What is the productive fiction that could be created between these two poles [one, perhaps, objective-historical, the other subjective-artistic]?

To Dan’s point that “affect may take us beyond economy in the problem of sharing ideas and work, in the problem of negotiating the individual and collective in thinking the future on utopian terms, in a radically secularized way,” I would only say here that this also accords well with Deleuze and Guttari’s idea of libidinal economies, which, in Foucault’s words, “[p]refer what is positive and multiple, difference over uniformity, flows over unities, mobile arrangements over systems,” and which require “de-individualization” [“Preface,” Anti-Oedipus, p. xiii-xiv]. There will always be the problem, though, of individual freedom, which, I must say, I worry about a lot, mainly in the terms set forth by the political theorist George Kateb in his essay “The Idea of Individual Infinitude,” where he writes that, “One’s understanding is indispensable to the completeness of the world; one’s words are necessary. One’s life is transitory, but one’s mind deserves immortality. It has touched reality and become real” [The Hedgehog Review 7.2 (Summer 2005): 49], and also by Edith Wyschogrod who, in her essay, “Memory, History, Revelation,” writes that, “the dead other cannot be incorporated into my interpretive framework, or into any system of signs—but rather as an excess that opens the dimension of the more, of an unincorporable infinite” [Memory and History in Christianity and Judaism, ed. Michael A. Signer (Notre Dame, 2001), p. 32]. So, while I am mindful of Foucault’s cautions, “the individual is the product of power” and “do not be enamored of power,” I can’t help but also feel that Deleuze and Guattari’s desiring-revolution is one in which, albeit it deconstructs the molar subject in favor of molecular flows, nevertheless permits, in the words of Ivan Illich, “the evolution of a life-style and of a political system which give priority to the protection, the maximum use, and the enjoyment of the one resource that is almost equally distributed among all people: personal energy under personal control” [Tools for Conviviality, pp. 12-13].

So now I see this post is very long, and I my thoughts are scattered. But what I am trying to say here, especially to Dan, is that, yes, I think it is possible what he imagines: that we could have an affective intellectual community that would both protect the individual’s right [and yes, it is a right] to what might be called a “free” and “singular” creativity, while it would also construct a site of, in Readings’ words, “dependency rather than emancipation,” because we are, “bluntly speaking, addicted to others,” and there is “no freeing ourselves from the sense of the social bond, precisely because we do not come to the end of it; we can never totally know, finally and exhaustively judge, the others to which we are bound.” But most importantly, this would be a “community of dissensus that presupposes nothing in common” and “would not be dedicated to either the project of full self-understanding (autonomy) or to a communicational consensus as to the nature of its unity. Rather, it would seek to make its heteronomy, its differences, more complex” (The University in Ruins, p. 190). But there would have to be a site, too, a locus, where this community of dissensus would gather (for Readings, it’s the post-historical University)—a location they would have in common, a home—or, following Levinas in Totality and Infinity, a being-at-home-with-themselves which could be carried outside, such that the “location” becomes a type of wandering [“we must be rooted in the absence of place,” to cadge from Simone Weil].


For me, the contemporary [and by backward extension, the historical] University-proper ceases to be such a site, at least in its form of brick and stone buildings and manicured green spaces and conventional classrooms rooted to particular geographies. I think we will need to imagine many working groups into being as new “floating sites” for a post-historical “floating University” that would privilege affective community over any one line of thought or disciplinary dogma and where everything would be in continual, joyous, desiring “shift,” where the line between art and everything else would be difficult to draw, and where friendship and amity would be our politics. And if this means risking the charge of sentimentalism, I can only say, have you got something better I should want to live for instead of love?

9 comments:

J J Cohen said...

Any moment a young man in his PJs or a small girl in her nightgown will interrupt me, but I want to thank you for this beautiful post, and for making me a philosopher on a morning when the identity assigned to me was sleepy walker of dogs and maker of breakfasts.

There is so much here: it is consummate Eileen Joy, but dan, sara, Foucault, Bauman, D&G, Readings are all interwoven in your meditations, making this a true communal moment, as networked as it is book-linked. A question, going back to your recent invocation of that recent King Arthur film, a Pelagian masterpiece where Clive Owen gets a rousing speech about freedom (cf. the similar bombast in Mel Gibson's patriotic Braveheart). What exactly does freedom mean, especially personal freedom, and what is its relation to love? (I love, by the way, the closing lines of your essay, and thank you for the love that obviously entered the post's crafting). Freedom means something more than absence of constraint, and the ability to live to as a heroic individual ... I'm wondering, really, about the medieval resonance of the word. The closing of the Franklin's Tale has the narrator asking which of the three men was most free, and by that he means most generous (elsewhere in the tale "free" does take on the resonance of acting in a way that is outside of constraint, a surplus that places you outside of the established social order, e.g., conventional marriage). So, is freedom a kind of generosity? Is that what makes it so potentially transformative to the moment in which it is performed? Is freedom a gift to world that may not want to be transformed: that is, is true generosity (as opposed to charity) the thing that disrupts the disciplining of bodies and subjectivities -- the constraint -- in the present that Dan rightly brings us back towards? Is generosity catalytic because it can't be accommodated back into its originary moment, since it disrupts the social relation into which it enters?

OK, once more: thank you for your generosity in laboring over a blog post so profound.

Sarah Rees Jones said...

I hope you don't mind that I am linking my new blog to this one. Several of the issues you discuss here: the relationship of the past to the future but also collaborative approaches to research and teaching are going to useful to what I hope we will be doing there.

Eileen Joy said...

I have committed my morning [and liekly, into the afternoon] to finishing my "Heroic Age" essay, but I wanted to say briefly here that "The Franklin's Tale" is my absolute favorite story of Chaucer's [with "The Clerk's Tale"--its antithesis, in a fashion, but not really, running a close second], partly because of the way in which is "breaks" with all sorts of normative conventions [while also lapsing into some of them: the husband, for instance, telling his wife that truth/troth matters more than anything else--even their own wedding vows!--then telling her not to tell anyone where she's going when he sends her off to the friend who loves her and wants to sleep with her]. I also take "fre," of course to mean "generosity" [duh, the glossary tells us that] but with a contemporary sense of freedom still attached somehow, as JJC so beautifully outlines. Generosity--radical generosity--as JJC says, and I agree with him, really *is* a gesture that disrupts the normative order of things and goes against all constraints and is completely selfless, which requires a giving up of something very precious: your own self-interest. But in an answer to Chaucer's question, "who is most free?" I always think the answer is no one, at least in his tale, because to one extent or another, each character is trapped in a role they are partly compelled to play out and the supposed acts of generosity [the husband letting the wife keep her "promise," the clerk forgiving the debt, the knight sending the wife back without sleeping with her--i.e., also forgiving a "debt"--could have easily been avoided by better motives/actions that could have voided the later predicamnts [and both love *and* marriage in this story are constructed as sites of impossibility, almost, as regards the *giving* of affection & love].

More later, and thank you, JJC, for such kind comments and provocative questions, to which I will return.

sarah bagley said...

the last part of this post is especially beautiful, eileen, and addresses a lot of my discomforts about the working group. i've been thinking about this sort of affective collaboration a lot lately, mostly because the idea makes me (like dan) so uncomfortable. i, like many other grad students i know, never liked "group work" as a child. really, i don't like it much now. but this is less an issue of collaborative dynamics than of trust - too often collaboration is a forced endeavor with people/ideas i don't intellectually trust or particularly respect. this is why adding love to this equation is such a terribly interesting idea - because it goes beyond the "simply" emotive into many other territories - etymologically both into trust (belief) and desire (libido). on a very pragmatic level, this seems to be the sort of thing that can help to break people of fear-based ideas that other people will necessarily "pollute" or "degrade" one's work. when one gives gifts to lovers, one knows that the gifts themselves are part of the affective relationship, and despite releasing a certain amount of control, those gifts remain in the affective web between the two (or more) people.

Karl Steel said...

On the Franklin's Tale, Eileen, you may want to look at Britton J. Harwood, "Chaucer and the Gift (If There Is Any)" Studies in Philology (2006) 26-46, which reads the FranT with Derrida's discussion of the gift, that giving that must occur without any 'self-keeping,' that ruptures the symmetries of exchange, circulation, and reciprocity: but here I wonder if the emphasis on rupturing symmetry, and also the emphasis on unproductive expenditure (is this the same as undirected expenditure?) also occludes the affective contact made by gifting. Given this post, with collaboration in part understood as a gift of our selves we make to community and that community makes to us, ideally in love, we certainly don't want to lose affect. (nor, and this is an aside, do we want to lose the materiality of the clerk's labor. If my notes on the Harwood are correct, his discussion doesn't adequately account--and I use this verb self-consciously--for the clerk's labor, the figure in the trio in the FranT's final question, who might stand for the member of the group in Bagley's group work who does all the 'real' labor: is giving up (or "abandoning": it also has the bivalence I want here) love or giving up labor "most fre"?)

==

So much depends on the metaphor. What happens to freedom when we refuse Zizek's metaphor of the Act as suicide? For example.

I've been trying not to bog myself down in the tyrannical impasse of futurity (so much depends on a mixed metaphor). A few weeks back, I had suggested as an aside "the not present" as an alternative to "the future." What happens if not being present is our preferred metaphor? Something unpayably indebted to D&G no doubt. We can desire and hope for and even work for something whose time, whose being is simply not here, at this moment, in this space; that something might be before us (in both senses), it might be parallel to us, but whatever it is, wanting it (or trying to imagine it, or simply making a space for it by knowing that now is not all), need not lock us into servitude to some telos, nor does it bind us into nostalgia.

Adam Roberts said...

Excellent, excellent post. I'm joyed to read the Deleuzeguattari, stuff in particular.

Eileen Joy said...

Sarah Rees Jones: I forgot to ask yesterday, could you give us the url of your new blog? I would love to add that to my own links.

Karl: thanks for the reference to/reminder of the Harwood essay on "The Franklin's Tale," which I've been meaning to read for a while now; from your description, it sounds like something I would agree with, although I don't take much pity on the clerk, regardless of his "lowly" social status or the fact that he doesn't get paid. In my mind, everyone in the tale makes selfish mistakes, even the wife [in agreeing to the game]. The clerk basically agrees to help the squire [who is also a sibling, right? or is that in the Italian version?] trick the wife, the squire asks her to play a game she can't win, and the husband is kind of guilty for taking the wife for granted and also asking her to keep a pledge while also lying about it. Etc. etc.

Sarah B.: I'm glad if I can help in any way to lessen your anxieties about collectives. Obviously, historically these have been responsible for some seriously fascistic and dogmatic types of oppression [Simone Weil could never bring herself to join a group, even those of which she was enamored: the Marxists, the Catholics, or the Free French movement]. I am wary all the time of the ways in which groups can "kill" the individual--if this topic really interests you, the most eloquent defender of what might be called the Whitmanesque individual against the group is George Kateb [see, especially, his book "The Inner Ocean: Individualism and Democratic Culture"].

Adam: thanks for the affirmation!

Cheers, Eileen

dan remein said...

Eileen:

These thoughts are most welcome. thank you for spending so much thought in relation to my conversations with Sarah. I have been taking my time to sift through these thoughts and the commentsdr4. Hopefully I will continue to do so.

I am perhaps most excited at your reading of my thoughts as a desire to reconcile the Edelman line with the Caputo line. And, I am thrilled at your continued vigilance with respect to Bersani as 'lumped' in with the no future group. Right--for one, Bersani takes a turn to--of all things--a radical dispersed-subject Ontology which certainly does verge on the mystical (the last chapter of Forms of Being in particular, I think), while Edelman follows a seriously Lacanian line of thought. Additionally, Bersani, I do not think, has a 'no hope'-mentality even as he challenges us to imagine a world without human subjects in a rather utopian way (he loves that last image in _Contempt_), the gist here includes his final alternative thought of beings as part of the world--horizontally integrated with the surroundings. This kind of statement is closer to the Ethics of a late Derrida (with respect to the name, his cat, for instance) than it may appear from the disparity of their Critical approaches and of course Bersani's twist of ontology).

See, for me, Bersani--in particular _Forms of Being_--, offers a very different hope for this project than Edelman. And yet, what I hear in Edelman is the vigilance--the same vigilance--of resistance to closure, or belief in the ability for negative critique as an essential ethical function of the critic (the problem is the Edelman would disavow this "Ethical" line as future-minded, as interested in building civilization as we know it as too "healing"--this vigilance is also found in our beloved Derrida.

So, those are the hints I am following in terms of actually rigorously thinking these problems by readings of extent critical texts.



I also want to suggest, in response to this, and to Sarah's comments, a formulation for inquiry that responds to my and Sarah's anxiety about communal work and the right of individual freedom within them, as well as Sarah's reservations about affect in terms of where that term falls in the construction of a n intellectual community (see her comments on Wraetlic . To echo Derrida's use of "the scene of writing" (a la "Freud and the Scene of Writing"), I am thinking of "Affect as the scene of intellection" and "Affect as the scene of intellectual community/communal production."

And it is under that thought that I want to respond to JJC, Eileen, Karl et. al. on the important problem of how giving beyond economy might entail an act of self-denial. I would propose to distance the kind of community we are talking about here (I think)from the kind of community interpreted by Zizek as that of a materialist reading of Pauline Christianity, in which all difference is "suspended" by the "Cause"--in which you are still jew or gentile, but it is *as if* you are not or that this does not matter. It does matter. And to "give beyond economy" must be thought both outside/over-and-against the American Evangelical formula of "redemptive suffering" or in fact actively seeking "service" (lots of Evangelical Youth organization teach/enforce "service," as a practical act of love by volunteering a summer to work at proselytizing summer camps etc. And, plenty of American individuals remain in brutal relationships because they believe they are, in compromising their freedom, necessarily committing acts of love).

And this is perhaps a final thought about why this kind of giving is more difficult to think than we wish it to be: I am thinking of Derrida's The Gift of Death and the problem of giving to one happening so often and so easily at the expense of all others. Everyone here seems to want, as Sarah says, a "Web" of affective lines.

Thanks everyone for engaging in this so heartily. This is a wonderful post and discussion.

Jen Boyle said...

Post of the Week Award (a mon avi)