Something I'd like us to talk about in class today is whether Butler, who really does seem committed to finding (to crib capt. haddock) 'escape mechanisms' from this process of subordination and subjectivation, ever gives a convincing account of how those escape mechanisms would work. Haddock pointed to one escape mechanism on p.28, this notion of alterity, i.e. the idea that if to persist in your 'same social being' is only to persist in the subordination that constituted you, then courting alterity might be the one decision that you can 'own' - the risk of this, as haddock points out, is that '[a ] pursuit of alterity [can be] a dangerous process in that it can involve a certain "over-turn" (to colonize vocab from GH's post re undead+toufic) of attachments, desires, and loves that at one point constituted the subject's ability to "socially exist" in a stable and productive (and exploited and subordinated) manner.' Alterity also seems to involve some unspecified degree of death: 'What would it mean for a subject to desire something other than its continued "social existence"? If such an existence cannot be undone without falling into some kind of death can existence nevertheless be risked, death courted or pursued, in order to expose and open to transformation the hold of social power on the conditions of life's persistence?' (28)
Now I'll pose the question here that I posed in the message thread with Haddock: is Butler less chary of death than Zizek/Lacan? I think that our class last Monday was perhaps overhasty in latching onto the notion of 'going through the fantasy' as a sustainable and ultimately subversive act. For Zizek/Lacan, going through the social fantasy leaves one only with (a) the death drive and, sort of entailed in that, (b) the Real, a 'traumatic abyss of meaningless idiocy' that I don't think Zizek is encouraging us to suspend ourselves in for extended periods. What our overhastiness consisted in, I think, was associating 'sociofantastic spackling over of the Real' with 'Bad Power' and 'the Real' with some kind of 'Real'izable, utopian social possibility (for instance, the passage about how democracy's stochastic and chaotic electoral process serves as a systematized eruption of the Real is what led me to draw those associations), when in fact sociofantastic construction just seems to be an inherent, universal human coping mechanism, and any ideology (not just Bad Power ideologies but even the good ones) still is an evasion of the Real.
Is death operating in the same way for Butler? She really does seem to think that death is something that can be selectively 'courted and pursued' to dissolve only specific social bonds/identities, without thereby dissolving all of them and leaving us in the abyss of the Real. Which is to say, Butler really is more committed to death as maybe more subversive and Realizable than it seems Zizek was. But to reiterate the opening ? of this post, are we convinced by this? Do we think Butler is understating the social risks of death, and that in all likelihood it //will// require a traumatic collision with the Lacanian Real? Do we even know how to go about implementing this 'courting of death' that she suggests? Is the process 'subjectivation' and 'subordination' not just in fact the benignly universal and requisite social fantasy by which we evade the Real? Should all 'subjectivations' be dissolved or only the 'Bad Power' ones? Is all Power Bad? Etc.