Posted by: HAT | June 1, 2009

A Discursive Antinomy

A representation of a possible destination, ergo ipso facto not a representation of a utopian destination

A representation of a possible destination, ergo ipso facto not a representation of a utopian destination

Habermas’ theory of communicative action makes language the source of social salvation, reconciliation. The telos of language is intersubjective consensus, we attain rational self-understandings through discourse, and radical democracy presumably depends on more and more free and equal reliance on language, on more universal, inclusive, equal, actually operative public discourse.

Lacan’s theory of the formation of the psychoanalytic subject makes the entry into language necessarily alienating. Language users are by that fact alienated creatures, constituted by an experience of loss, and further, by irrational desire that remains utterly beyond the reach of language or, more generally, symbolic representation.

A rational discursive utopia along Habermasian lines would not it seems address the source of alienation and unfulfillment presented in the Lacanian picture. [On the other hand, psychoanalysis depends entirely on language, too, for whatever insights it obtains for the analyst and creates for the analysand. But does that make sense?]

The configuration of an actual utopia (and by extension, of pro-utopian social-political activity) — if we can even use this “actual utopia” terminology intelligibly — would depend upon, would need to correspond to, the actual configuration of the subject(s) of this projected utopia. Which just means that the model of the subject matters crucially for models of utopia.

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