regressive narcissism and the culture of consumption

repressive desublimation


the last man



Immanence is the methodological principle of this site.  As a first approximation, immanence means working outward from within a specific kind of empirical field.  In this case, the empirical field is named the
New York Times on NihilismOut of the set of all New York Times articles subsets can be formed.  The New York Times on Nihilism is one such subset.  The Times on Nihilism can/should be read in the context of the authors quoted below:

Ehrenberg ("Today, many of our social tensions have been expressed in terms of implosion and depressive collapse or, in a similar way, its flip side: explosions of violence, rage, the search for new sensations")

Kirk and Gomory ("The quest of biological psychiatry, adopted and aided by DSM, is to claim a brain disease for every human trouble. On the one hand, the drug industry’s marketing efforts and its massive infusions of money to support psychiatric activities, and on the other hand psychiatry’s enthusiastic acceptance of the partnership, have completely subsumed psychiatry as a satellite branch of the multinational pharmaceutical industry.")

Stiegler ("the entropic vicious circle that leads to dissociation, desocialization, and disindividuation")

Hall et. al. ("This specific mode of identification and desire, motivated by the terror of helplessness and insignificance that afflicts each prematurely born and maladapted human being in early childhood, is, of course, infantile narcissism, and it creates and sustains precisely the types of unconscious desires and drives that consumer culture and its para-political civic life require")

Usher ("consumption is a matter of consuming signs, it is the experience itself that counts, i.e., that signifies and defines")

These theoretically-oriented texts can also be treated immanently.  The trick is not to take them positivistically, in the sense that they are taken as statements of what is, but as elements in a field of theoretically-oriented writings; just as the articles from the New York Times are taken as elements in a journalistic discursive field, rather than as positive statements of what is.

The point is not to select a particular theoretical perspective as true (e.g., Nietzsche, Freud, Klein, Lacan, Winnicott, Piaget, Vygotsky, etc.), but rather to deploy such perspectives as a productive way of encountering "phenomena."  Phenomena is in quotes because theoretical, social scientific, and historical "texts" and "data" coexist in a plane of immanence governed by consilience, attunement, and affinity.  The Brandom-Sellars observation is meta-foundational:

  . . . according to Sellars's view, the difference between theoretical objects and observable objects is methodological rather than ontological.  That is, theoretical and observable objects are not different kinds of things.  They differ only in how we come to know about them.

Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children (7-6-15)

Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent (9-10-14)

Teens spend nearly nine hours every day consuming media (W. Post 11-3-15)

Is Internet Addiction a Health Threat for Teenagers? (7-16-15)

In ‘Screenagers,’ What to Do About Too Much Screen Time  (3-15-16)

Technology Addiction: Concern, Controversy, and Finding Balance (Common Sense Media)
How Facebook Warps Our Worlds (Frank Bruni, op-ed column 5-21-16)

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food (2-20-13)

Andy Grove’s Warning to Silicon Valley (3-25-16)

Evolution’s Sweet Tooth   (6-5-12)

Today’s Exhausted Superkids

Failure to Thrive (3-12-15)

Unequal, Yet Happy (4-11-15)

Michel Houllebecq's 'Submission', reviewed by Karl Ove Knausgaard (11-2-15)

The Immigrant Advantage (5-24-14)

In Heroin Crisis, White Families Seek Gentler War on Drugs (10-30-15)

Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds (11-2-15)

U.S. Suicide Rate Surges to a 30-Year High (4-22-16)

Drug Overdoses Propel Rise in Mortality Rates of Young Whites (1-20-16)

How the Epidemic of Drug Overdose Deaths Ripples Across America (1-19-16)

Heroin Epidemic Increasingly Seeps Into Public View (3-6-16)

The battle to free Taunton from heroin’s deadly grip: as overdoses soar, a struggling city looks for answers (Boston Globe, 3-19-16)
Keeping the above in mind--the dialectical unity of two sets of texts--it is possible to make substantive statements that take the form of objectivity; statements about the way things are.  Thus, one can posit:

The triumph of nihilism as the socio-cultural engineering project of global corporate networks of unimaginable reach and power, generating an entropic process of disindividuation.  Mass consumption as a mode of absorption and transformation of the organism.  The fiction of freedom, the subversion of individuation, the inner logic of addiction, the commodification of distress, the infantilization of public discourse . . . in short, the dissipation of the species homo sapiens into a proliferation of effects.  DSM-5 as the operating manual of the post-human ontology.  Homo sapiens is now becoming a collection of hapless blobs of protoplasm gulping down vast quantities of salt, fat, and sugar; of psychoactive drugs both legal and otherwise; of ego-boosting and self-forming fashion statements; of life experiences (Viking River Cruises), all the while wallowing in media-provided concoctions of all kinds, from Downton Abbey and Housewives of Beverly Hills to the Jerry Springer Show and Duck Dynasty. This ever-expanding free-wheeling exercise of corporate power in the creation of the subjectivities of disindividuation becomes an "issue" unlike any other that homo sapiens has ever faced before.  This infinite differentiability of this uniquely bio-cultural historical species is what gives capitalism its "vitality."  It is what Marxists, with their obsession with the crisis of capitalism and the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, characteristically fail to grasp.*

This statement, however much the reader may agree with it (and readers of Zizek et. al. most likely will), has to be taken ironically.  That is, given the meta-foundational ethos of this site, any statement of the way things are; any statement of "fact"; any pretense to be speaking about "reality" are destabilized by the ethos of transcendental empiricism.**  And even more irony follows.  This ethos of transcendental empiricism gives a much more profound sense of what is "real" than the partisans of reality can do.  (To see this more clearly, go to the Trump page.  This is my first and most thorough application of TransEmp to a problematic, where one will get a much more "real" sense of "Trump" than that presented by the realists.)

Think of T/emp as 1. a juggling act where all kinds of materials--texts of all kinds, data,  images--are kept in motion and constantly added to; and 2. where these materials have no meaning apart from being a part of this perpetual juggling act.  You have heard it said that no text can exist apart from the act of reading; I say unto you that no act of reading can be taken apart from the perpetually expanding juggling act.  This page is meant to illustrate this praxis of T/emp.

*See Tod McGowan, Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Cost of Free Markets (Columbia University Press, 2016).  It is from this standpoint of the problematic of the infinite differentiability of contemporary homo sapiens that the question of human ontology arises in its most urgent form.

** Karen Barad tries to evade this meta-foundational issue by use of a concept of agential realism.  See also Joseph Margolis, The Unraveling of Scientism: American Philosophy at the End of the Twentieth Century (Cornell University Press, 2003), pp. 49-50.  Excerpts from Barad can be found here.  Excerpts from Margolies here.

Bulent Diken's Nihilism(Routledge, 2009), distinguishes four nihilisms in Nietzsche's writing.  The most common nihilism is associated with the death of God and the loss of meaning.  This is not the nihilism considered on this page.  Another kind of nihilism is associated with the desire to destroy.  One might see in this Melanie Klein's death drive . . . or not.  This is also not the nihilism considered on this page.  (The destructive drive of fascism is best subsumed under Nietzsche's concept of ressentiment.)  A third use of the term nihilism by Diken refers to the creative destruction of insurgent forces (Bolsheviks, UAW, for example).  This is better characterized as Bildung and the Will to Power, otherwise one ends up subsuming the praxis of the bildungs-proletarians who organized the sit-down strikes of 1936-7 with that of

From the standpoint of our twenty-first century experience, it is the fourth:

consider this statement from  Lawrence J. Hatab, A Nietzschean Defense of Democracy (1995), p. 28, which captures the essence of Nietzsche on nihilism:

  . . . the happy nihilism of the 'last man,' who makes everything comfortable, small, and trivial.

Is this not a  formula that generates the liberal media?  (Observe more carefully than you may have the profusion of drug commercials, and listen especially to the accompanying music.)  Below right: Philip Roth on the unravelling of mind.  Nihilism?  Marcuse's concept of repressive desublimation and Bernard Stiegler's concept of disindividuation.  Steve Hall, Simon Winlow and Craig Ancrum's concept of narcissism as regression to a less individuated self.  This is regressive narcissism, as distinct from the progressive narcissism of Alcorn-Kohut.  This latter is the antithesis of nihilism, and is indespensible if one is to understand the bildung-proletarians around whom formed the action networks of plebeian upstarts who created the UAW.  This is the subject of another page: Bildung: Was Mozart a Communist?  Nihilism is a question of ontology (the incredibly shrinking self), not of ideology (God is dead: the lost of meaning).
Friedrich Nietzsche on Nihilism

Friedrich Nietzsche, Will to Power, Preface, 2

What I relate is the history of the next two centuries. I describe what is coming, what can no longer come differently: the advent of nihilism. This history can be related even now; for necessity itself is at work here. This future speaks even now in a hundred signs, this destiny announces itself everywhere; for this music of the future all ears are cocked even now. For some time now, our whole European culture has been moving as toward a catastrophe, with a tortured tension that is growing from decade to decade: restlessly, violently, headlong, like a river that wants to reach the end, that no longer reflects, that is afraid to reflect.

Beyond Good and Evil
,  242

 . . . the collective impression of such future Europeans will probably be that of numerous, talkative, weak-willed, and very handy workmen who require a master, a commander, as they require their daily bread; while, therefore, the democratising of Europe will tend to the production of a type prepared for slavery in the most subtle sense of the term: the strong man will necessarily in individual and exceptional cases, become stronger and richer than he has perhaps ever been before--owing to the unprejudicedness of his schooling, owing to the immense variety of practice, art, and disguise. I meant to say that the democratising of Europe is at the same time an involuntary arrangement for the rearing of tyrants--taking the word in all its meanings, even in its most spiritual sense.

from Philip Roth unbound: interview transcript (Daily Beast, October 30, 2009)

Tina Brown: You said in an interview that you don’t think novels are going to be read 25 years from now. Were you being provocative or do you believe that to be true?

Philip Roth: I was being optimistic about 25 years really. No, I think it’s going to be cultic. I think always people will be reading them, but it’ll be a small group of people—maybe more people than now read Latin poetry, but somewhere in that range. . . .  To read a novel requires a certain kind of concentration, focus, devotion to the reading. . .  I think that that kind of concentration, and focus, and attentiveness, is hard to come by. It’s hard to find huge numbers of people, or large numbers of people or significant numbers of people who have those qualities.

from Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Prologue, 5:

The time has come for man to set himself a goal.  The time has come for man to plant the seed of his highest hope.  His soil is still rich enough.  But one day this soil will be poor and domesticated, and no tall tree will be able to grow in it.  Alas, the time is coming when man will no longer shoot the arrow of his longing beyond man, and the strings of his bow will have forgotten how to whir!

Alas, the time is coming when man will no longer give birth to a star.  Alas, the time of the most despicable man is coming, he that is no longer able to despise himself.  Behold, I show you the last man.

The earth has become small, and on it hops the last man, who makes everything small.  His race is as ineradicable as the flea-beetle; the last man lives longest.

We have invented happiness, say the last men, and they blink.

from Nietzsche, The Geneology of Morals, I, 10:

 . . .  "happiness" at the level of the impotent, the oppressed, and those in whom poisonous and inimical feelings are festering, with whom it appears as essentially narcotic, drug, rest, peace, "sabbath," slackening of tension and relaxing of limbs, in short, passively.

from Nietzsche, The Geneology of Morals, I, 11:

Not fear; rather that we no longer have anything left to fear in man; that the maggot "man" is swarming in the foreground; that the "tame man," the hopelessly mediocre and insipid man, has already learned to feel himself as the goal and the zenith, as the meaning of history . . .
Still Life with Burning Candle
from Nietzsche, The Geneology of Morals, I, 12:

 For this is how things are: the diminution and leveling of European man constitutes our greatest danger, for the sight of him makes us weary.--We can see nothing today that wants to grow greater, we suspect that things will continue to go down, down, to become thinner, more good-natured, more prudent, more comfortable, more mediocre, more indifferent, more Chinese, more Christian--there is no doubt that man is getting "better" all the time.

Here precisely is what has become a fatality for Europe--together with the fear of man we have also lost our love of him, our reverence for him, even the will to him.  The sight of man now makes us weary--what is nihilism today if it is not that?--We are weary of man.

from Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Book Two, 86:

What now?  One gives the mole wings and proud conceits--before it is time to go to sleep, before he crawls back into his hole?  One sends him off into the theater and places large glasses before his blind and tired eyes?  Men whose lives are not an "action" but a business, sit before the stage . . . .  The whole process, including the theater, the audience, and the poet, will strike him as the really tragic or comical spectacle . . . .  Theater and music as the hashish-smoking and betel-chewing of the European!  Who will ever relate the whole history of narcotica?--It is almost the history of "culture," of our so-called higher culture.

from Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ, 30

These are the two physiological realities upon which, out of which the doctrine of redemption has grown.  I call it a sublime further evolution of hedonism on a thoroughly morbid basis . . .  Epicureanism, the redemption doctrine of the pagan world.  Epicurus a typical decadent: first recognized as such by me. -- The fear of pain, even of the infinitely small in pain-- cannot  end otherwise than in a religion of love . . .

European Man: George Grosz, White Slaver, 1918
Thorstein Veblen on Nihilism
Malcolm Rutherford, The Institutionalist Movement in American Economics, 1918-1947 (Cambridge University Press, 2011)  Saginaw Valley State U.

[Veblen] provided a strong criticism of hedonism, including marginal utility theory, satirizing its conception of man as a "lightning calculator  of pleasures and pains" and arguing that economics should look to more modern social-psychological theories of behavior based on instinct and habit. (35)

The Veblenian critique of business institutions and marginalist economics, placed together with the ideas of empirical science and Dewey's pragmatic reformism, worked to refocus and reenergize the progressive impulse. . . .  the part played by many of those involved in the formation of institutionalism in the economic planning developed as a part of World War I. (40-41)

 . . . one of the most often repeated claims among institutionalists was that a "scientific" economics would have to be consistent with "modern" psychology.  (45)

Rick Tillman, The Intellectual Legacy of Thorstein Veblen (Greenwood Press, 1996)

Veblen's criticisms [of neoclassical economics] took two forms; one was scientific and had to do with the requirements of a properly evolutionary science of economics; the other was political and moral and had to do with the direction in which he thought society should evolve.  First, economics in his view was still largely pre-Darwinan in that it used utilitarian theory as its criterion of choice and clung to an outmoded hedonistic psychology; it was teleological in that it unrealistically postulated certain processes such as equilibrium as normal and taxonomic insofar as it substituted classification for causal explanation.  It erred, methodologically, in using deduction to draw conclusions from unrealistic axioms. 31

Veblen's criticism of neoclassicism also focused on its neglect of the origins of consumer tastes and preferences, its use of marginalist explanations of income distribution and, implicitly, with the static role it assigned to the state.  In his view, neoclassicists simply took consumption patterns for granted without inquiry into the origins of consumer values.  They ignored the emulatory nature of much of consumption and, also, the role of advertising and salesmanship in whetting consumer appetites.  31-2

C. Wright Mills has argued that 'both Marxism and Liberalism make the same rationalist assumption that men, given the opportunity, will naturally come to political consciousness of interests, of self, or of class. 115

Thorstein Veblen and Modern Society’s Pecuniary Culture  

from Gene M. Heyman, Addiction: A Disorder of Choice (Harvard Univesity Press, 2009)

Critics of consumerism have often blamed social institutions or "society."  The analysis presented here does not deny that social forces play an important role in promoting excessive consumption levels.  What it adds is the point that there would be excessive consumption levels even if advertising did not exist.  As long as choices are made from the local perspective, and this is usually the perspective that people take, the favored good will be consumed excessively.  Advertisers and merchants encourage this tendency, and conversely, ascetic movements counter this tendency.  (p. 35)

from Gary Greenberg review of Addiction: A Disorder of Choice, in New Scientist, July 25, 2009

Heyman shows how the failure to sacrifice short-term gains (getting high) for long-term gains (sobriety-aided productivity) is endemic to a consumer culture.

from Victor Lebow, The Journal of Retailing, Spring 1955, p. 7.

Our enormously productive economy . . . demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption . . .  We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing rate.

from Edward Filene, "The New Capitalism, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 149, May 1930, p. 10.

It will be necessary for the consumer to want more things.
United States: Obesity Rates, 1990 -- 2009
             1990                       1995                       2000                       2005                 2009

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food
(New York Times, February 20, 2013)
from H. B. Brougham, "Must Prosperity Be Planned?"  Bulletin of the Taylor Society, February 1928

Among the recommendations to eliminate waste, prepared by the Hoover Committee of the Federated American Engineering Societies appears the following: "Productive capacity should be conservatively based upon a careful study of normal demand."  A little further on the Committee urges: "Production schedules should be based on a carefully formulated sales policy, determined from an intensive study of markets, thus stabilizing production."

Planners of prosperity, not for individuals but for the nation, would turn these maxims inside out.  They would change the first maxim to read: "Normal demand should be based on a careful study of productive capacity, and should be steadily increased as capacity to produce increases."

The second recommendation would read, as revised: "The aim is not to stabilize production, but to expand production, and to remove any purely monetary hindrance to that expansion by providing that markets be supported by an always adequate purchasing power."

Thus private sales policy would be reduced to the welcome task of ascertaining the selective preferences of a patronage that is at all times able to buy the full output.  Production would not be stabilized, but mobilized with a view constantly to raising the standard of living.
Sami Timimi, The Myth of Autism: Medicalising Men's and Boys' Social and Emotional Competence (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)

The Luxury Economy and Intellectual Property: Critical Reflections (Ninivaggi)

Pierre Hassner in a recent book on the subject, “La Revanche des passions” (“Revenge of the Passions”

Purify and Destroy: the Political Uses of Massacre and Genocide

from Steve Hall, Simon Winlow and Craig Ancrum, Criminal Identities and Consumer Culture: crime, exclusion and the new culture of narcissism (Willan Publishing, 2008)

from Robin Usher, Ian Bryant and Rennie Johnston, Adult Education and the Postmodern Challenge (Routledge, 1997)

Alain Ehrenberg, The Weariness of the Self: Diagnosing the History of Depression in the Contemporary Age ( (McGill-Queens University Press, 2010)

Bernard Stiegler, The re-enchantment of the world : the value of spirit against industrial populism (Bloomsbury Academic, 2014)

Marshall W. Alcorn, Jr., Narcissism and the Literary Libido: Rhetoric, Text, and Subjectivity (New York University Press, 1994):

The Emperor's New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth

Manufacturing Depression: The Secret History of a Modern Disease

Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America

Psychiatry Under the Influence: Institutional Corruption, Social Injury, and Prescriptions for Reform

Psychiatry and the Business of Madness: An Ethical and Epistemological Accounting

S.A. Smith, Revolution and the People in Russia and China: A Comparative History (Cambridge Univesity Press, 2008)

Becoming conscious entailed not only sloughing of the corrupt habits of the 'dark masses'--drinking, fighting, gambling and so forth--but also the religious 'superstition' and political conservatism that befogged their minds.  In their struggle to forge a 'personality', conscious workers typically embraced the platonic ideal of self-mastery through reason, convinced that reason could liberate the people from the shackles of religion and monarchism.  Science magazine and brochures for the mass reader, dealing with topics such as astronomy, evolutionary theory and geography and new technologies, such as radio and powered aviation, were immensely popular.  78

We have seen that for 'conscious' workers in Russia and, to a lesser extent, in China reading was an activity that was central to self-fashioning, constitutive of what it meant to be a cultured and autonomous individual.  By contrast, the relation of the newly literate and semi-literate readers of the lower urban classes to new forms of commercially produced mass literature, produced with an eye to entertainment rather than education, was far less earnest. . . . 100

In Russia the appearance of commercialized forms of culture aimed at the urban masses alarmed both the tsarist government and many of the intelligentsia. . . .  The apperance of a literature designed to entertain rather than edify affronted the sensibilities of the intelligentsia, since it posed a threat to its aspiration to raise the cultural level of the masses and its ability to determine the value of ideas and images in circulation.  In 1908, the children's writer and literary critic Kornei Chukovskii, despite making a successful career as a commercial journalist,  described the prospect of a 'culture market' as 'horrifying', since 'only those [products] that are most adapted to the tastes and whims of the consumer' would survive.  The Copeck Newspaper (Gazeta Kopeika), founded in 1908, epitomized what many intellectuals most loathed and feared.  The most popular newspaper among St Petersburg workers, it had a circulation of 250,000 daily by 1910, and as its title indicates, cost one kopeck. . . .  Squeezed within its four or five pages were advertisements, domestic and foreign news, photographes, crime reports, accounts of low life and high life in the capital, and stories of success and hard luck.  Crucially, it published serialized fiction, much of it sensational in character, which allowed its readers vicariously to experience worlds of adventure, luxury, sexuality, crime and depravity.  100-101

Indeed, without denying the real potential for tension between individual autonomy and class-based collectivism, we may conclude that genuine forms of collectivism and cooperative action are possible only where class solidarity is grounded in autonomous individuals capable of demanding the recognition due to them as thinking, feeling persons.  Without that, new forms of group coercion based on weak individuality are likely to be the result . . .  110

from Steve Hall, Simon Winlow and Craig Ancrum, Criminal Identities and Consumer Culture: crime, exclusion and the new culture of narcissism (Willan Publishing, 2008)

This specific mode of identification and desire, motivated by the terror of helplessness and insignificance that afflicts each prematurely born and maladapted human being in early childhood, is, of course, infantile narcissism, and it creates and sustains precisely the types of unconscious desires and drives that consumer culture and its para-political civic life require.  Most cultures that preceded consumerism were equipped with functional Symbolic Orders replete with the moral prohibitions and reality-testing mechanisms that can engender a maturation process.  As the individual enters such an order the unconscious can be brought under control, and consequently the incessant and insatiable demands of the infantile narcissist tend to be pushed back into the background throughout the later stages of the life course, to be displaced by passions for art, science, politics and love.  The infantile narcissist does not die, and lapses must be tolerated, but its mode of desire is eventually outweighed and diminished by more important and mature concerns.  Thus we must suspect that consumerism somehow interferes with the maturation process, preventing the individual's interest from being drawn towards objects and signs--especially those which are ethically, politically or scientifically charged and thus attractive only to the mature individual--that lie outside the consumer sphere. . . .  Once fully unleashed, as it was in the 1960s, consumer culture simply betrayed, brushed aside and demolished the weak forces of the liberal-left, whose rather apologetic appeals to social justice and meritocracy and half-hearted support for the democratic socialist political movement that was attempting to properly replace the old order could not compete with consumer culture's immensely seductive imagery and economic dynamism . . .   (173)

Despite this capture of the narcissistic ego by its sources of reflection and recognition in the environment, and the durability of the wish to sustain the attractive option of primary narcissistic identification, in a healthy culture with a rich and mature Symbolic Order all is not lost.  The Symbolic is the site of language, the sludge of slipping signifiers that refer to each other and to the signified in the connotative order's receptacle.  At the end of the mirror stage, although the primary fantasy does not disappear, accession to the Symbolic Order should at least provide the individual with the linguistic and conceptual means of reflecting critically on the fantasy itself, its source, its functions, its politics and its consequences for the self's autobiographical future.  During the entry into the Symbolic Order at the end of the dominance of the mirror phase and the beginning of the Oedipal phase, the child, who has become accustomed to the pleasure of the primary narcissistic identification with his mother's body and her recognition of his identity and physical needs, must accept that the father's right to the mother's body takes precedence.  This is the first experience of the deep prohibition of primary desire, much more profound than the minor behavioural prohibitions that the parents and significant others have already introduced.  This is not the prohibition of affective bodily contact but the withdrawal of what the child imagines to be exclusive rights to pleasure and identification through pleasure and the traumatic realization that the primary object also recognises and gives pleasure to others.  This paternal intervention, expressed verbally, is the first indication that the Law is constituted by prohibitions and taboos that disallow narcissistic identification as the primary sense of being, but in doing so it opens up the reflective, symbolic gap in the narcissistic connection between the Imaginary and the Real.  In simple terms, this is a command to 'put away those childish things', to start growing up and engaging with symbolism that allows reflection of the self as a social being; to grow up and consider others.  It demands entry into the structure of laws and language that constitute the Symbolic Order as a social code.  Better the infant enter a conservative Symbolic Order--in the hope that he or she might one day turn its linguistic-conceptual tools back on it in a dialectical challenge--than none at all.  The alternative is the narcissist's joyride driven by the fetishistic command to circle permanently around objects associated with others who seem to offer vague recognition of the self and represent a concrete form of competence in the immediate environment.  (185-6)

Carl Husemoller Nightingale, On the edge : a history of poor black children and their American dreams  (Basic Books, 1993)

Mercer L. Sullivan, "Getting paid": youth crime and work in the inner city (Cornell University Press, 1989)

from Judith P. Butler, Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth
     Century France (Columbia University Press, 1987)

Desire is then, is the expression of a longing for the return to the origin that, if recoverable, would necessitate the dissolution of the subject itself.  Hence, desire is destined for an imaginary life in which it remains haunted and governed by a libidinal memory it cannot possibly recollect.  (pp. 186-7)

This primary repression also constitutes desire as a lack, a response to an originary separation . . . .  Elaborating upon Freud's distinction between the object and the aim of the drive, Lacan understands the tacit project of desire to be the recovery of the past through a future which, of necessity, prohibits it; desire is the pathos of the cultural being, the posteodipal subject: "Desire . . . is a lack engendered from the previous time that serves to reply to the lack raised by the following time."  The prohibition that constitutes desire is precisely what precludes its final satisfaction; hence, desire is constantly running up against a limit which, paradoxically, is what sustains it as desire. Desire is the restless activity of human beings, that which maintains its disquiet in relation to a necessary limit.  (pp. 191-2)
Over-determination and reductionism

desire for the object: other affinities

primate studies: Allan Mazur, Biosociology of Dominance and Deference (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005)

Frank Ninavaggi, Envy Theory

from Robin Usher, Ian Bryant and Rennie Johnston, Adult Education and the Postmodern Challenge (Routledge, 1997), pp. 107-108

In the postmodern, the educational is recast as the cultivation of desire through experience, both conditional and responsive to contemporary socio-economic and cultural fragmentation.  Learning does not simplistically derive from experience; rather, experience and learning are mutually positioned in an interactive dynamic.  Learning becomes the experience gained through consumption and novelty, which then produces new experience.  Consequently, the boundaries defining 'acceptible' learning break down--in lifestyle practices learning can be found anywhere in a multiplicity of sites of learning.  The predominant concern is with an ever-changing identity through the consumption of experience and of a learning stance toward life as a means of expressing identity.  Pedagogically, experiential learning, sitting comfortably within the postmodern, gains an increasingly privileged place as the means by which desire is cultivated and identity formed.

Lifestyle practices centre on the achievement of autonomy through individuality and self-expression, particularly in taste and sense of style.  Within a general stylization of life, the mark of autonomy is a stylistic self-consciousness inscribed in the body, in clothes, in ways of speaking, in leisure pursuits, in holidays and the like. 

Lifestyle practices are firmly located within the play of difference that is characteristic of consumer culture.  Unlike the mass consumption of modernity, consumption in the postmodern is based on choice as difference and difference as choice.  In the postmodern, a lifestyle revolves around difference, the acquisition of the distinctive and the different within a signifying culture (Featherstone 1991) that summons up dreams, desires and fantasies in developing a life-project of self and where there is a continual construction (and reconstruction) of identity and a trying-on of relationships.

Empowerment through autonomy and self-actualization (self-expression) becomes important but assumes a range of very different meanings, from the crumbling of hierarchy in new post-Fordist management to social and cultural empowerment in new social movements, e.g., the women's movement, and movements for ethnic and sexual awareness.  One effect of this is that intellectuals, and indeed educators, are forced to assume the role of commentators and interpreters rather than legislators and 'enlightened' pedagogues.  Educational practitioners rather than being the source/producers of knowledge/taste become facilitators helping to interpret everybody's knowledge and helping to open up possiblities for further experience.  They become part of the 'culture' industry, vendors in the educational hypermarket.  In a reversal of modernist education, the consumer (the learner) rather than the producer (educator) is articulated as having greater significance and power.

On the other hand, consumerism knows no boundaries nor does it respect existing markers.  Image, style and design take over from modernist metanarratives in conferring meaning.  The 'culture' industry, advertising and the media, both 'educate' the consumer and, through the bombardment of images with which people must experientially identify and intepret, also make consumption necessary and compulsive.

It is the promotion of lifestyle practices, the obligation to shape a life through choices in a world of self-referenced objects and images, that influences the self in postmodernity.  Autonomy becomes a matter of expressing identity through the consumption of signifying choices.  The project of self, rather than being unidirectional and governed by instrumenal rationality, becomes one of the possession of desired goods and the pursuit of a lifestyle governed by the incitement of desire.  Pleasure, once the enemy, is now considered indespensible.  Rather than life being seen as a search for coherent and lasting meaning, it is construed as the pleasure of experiencing--from the immersion in images, from the flow of images in consumption and leisure and their combination in postmodern pursuits such as shopping.  Here, experiences are valued as experiences--for example, one does not shop for the sake of satisfying 'real' needs (since needs are defined by the demands of lifestyle practices, there are no 'real' or 'underlying' needs), let alone for the utility of the goods purchased.  As we have noted, consumption is a matter of consuming signs, it is the experience itelf that counts, i.e., that signifies and defines.

Alain Ehrenberg, The Weariness of the Self: Diagnosing the History of Depression in the Contemporary Age ( (McGill-Queens University Press, 2010)

We are changing, of course, but that does not necessarily mean we are progressing.  Combined with all the forces that today exhort us to look into our own private lives, the “civilization of change” has stimulated a massive interest in psychic disorders.  It can be heard from all quarters, and it takes form in the many marketplaces that offer inner balance and tranquility.  Today, many of our socials tensions have been expressed in terms of implosion and depressive collapse or, in a similar way, its flip side: explosions of violence, rage, the search for new sensations.  pp. 185-6

As addictive explosion reflects depressive implosion, so the drug-taker’s search for sensation reflects the depressed person’s lack of feeling.  Depression, that crossroads of pathology, serves as a canvas upon which to sketch out the changes in modern subjectivity, the displacement of the hard task of being healthy.  In a context in which choice is the norm and inner insecurity the price, these pathologies make up the dark side of contemporary private life.  Such is the equation of the sovereign individual: psychic freedom and individual initiative = identity insecurities and the incapacity to act.  p. 232

Bernard Stiegler, The re-enchantment of the world : the value of spirit against industrial populism (Bloomsbury Academic, 2014)

p. 3.  Humanity is faced with innumerable challenges. And if these challenges are not taken up, we fear that they will lead to the transformation of human beings into inhuman beings (and not only “posthuman”), of whose coming Alfred Jarry had a presentiment. Faced with these challenges, we know that there is no other possible solution but the formation and enculturation of a new human consciousness. Just recently, Laurence Toubiana, director of the Institute for Sustainable Development, declared:

"the necessary change is so profound that one deems it unimaginable."  Declaring “the age of less"--less resources, less room for maneuver, less confidence, less hope [d’espoir] (if not less despair [désespoi])—Robert Lyon wrote for his part that the global human community “will not get out of this” unless it is able

to situate itself on the side of being rather than of having. 

In other words, humanity will survive only if it manages to overcome the age of consumption.

p, 49.  On the contrary, the founders of cities invent a process of individuation in which the relation of One and the Multiple is transformed in order to reconstitute an as-sociated milieu, but through a trans-formation of the relation to language that comes to discretize literal writing: the polis is an association in that sense in which it trans-forms the associated linguistic milieu, and so places it, as a principle of association, at the heart of city life, which thus constitutes a new process of individuation.

Over the course of this ancient period, through which the human enterprise passed from protohistory to history, and which spanned several millenniums, the process of psychic and collective individuation thus knew two great ancient epochs, between which a break was produced, in direct relation to the trans-formation of the process of grammatization. In imperial societies, individuals were subjected to autocratic royal power that controlled collective individuation in its totality, the king or the pharaoh incarnating the dynamic principle, which is also called dynastic (or basilic); in the polis, psychic individuation of the omoïoï, that is, the citizens insofar as they are equal in and before the associated milieu that is language, and which the Greeks henceforth call the logos, becomes the dynamic principle of collective individuation, and overturns the dynastic or basilic principle—the associated milieu having been grammatized and having thus become hypomnesic.

the entropic vicious circle that leads to dissociation, desocialization, and disindividuation . . . ( p. 67)

The risk of disindividuation (p. 81)

Individuation is always at once psychic and collective. (p. 82)

The risk of . . . an entropic process of disindividuation.  (p. 82)

The prevailing event today is the loss of individuation qua pauperization (cognitive impoverishment) and the growth of information to the detriment of knowledge. (p. 83)

The ecological crisis of spirit translates itself in the first place as a crisis of education (p. 90)


  "desublimation"  BILDUNG  p. 7  "individuation"  p. vii-ix
"the manufacture of the consumer” p. 2
"organization and production of desire"
"We know that in the coming decades, the Earth and her inhabitants, human beings, will have to demonstrate like never before—individually and collectively—the worldly intelligence and sense of responsibility that, in principle, define them as human beings rather than cruel, vulgar, and gluttonous slugs."

mental regression . . .   4; brutish  4  AMAZON

entropy searches: read p. 11 to p. 12

p. 6 "a new spirit of capitalism" TS/civic republicanism

p. 7: ""  (FOOD) MORE!!!  TS/LDB

p. 7/14. At Ars Industrialis, we believe that spirit, which always presupposes techniques or technologies of spirit, or “spiritual instruments,” is a modality of what we call psychic and collective individuation following the philosopher Gilbert Simondon. Individuation is the process through which individuals constitute themselves, never ceasing to transform themselves and, along with them, the societies that they compose—as such, psychic and collective individuation is the manner in which a society forms a body and unites itself, while at the same time inheriting an experience of the past, what is often called recognition, but also, and more broadly, knowledge.

p.7 and here public opinion must come to the aid of industrial capitalism against financier capitalism, which is the true underwiter of industrial populism

p. 36.  The re-enchantment of the world means to bring about a return to a context of as-sociated milieus, and to reconstitute individuation as dialogic association and competition. Like all human milieus that are constitutive of individuation (and in that, carriers of a “preindividual charge of reality”), language, which is a more or less happy process of adoption and trans- formation of ways of life, is one such associated milieu.

p. 55-6.  Intelligence is above all social, which is why it presupposes the development of as-sociated milieus, while the typical industrial exploitation of the service economy and cultural capitalism, which must lead toward an industry of knowledge and the socialization of technologies of spirit, tends to reproduce the outdated model of dissociated milieus that initially will have been at the root of industrialization as the industrial division of labor and affectation of social roles based upon the opposition between producers and consumers.

If entrepreneurial discourse tells us that we must raise social intelligence, the entrepreneurial reality is for the time being what organizes desublimation, social degradation, and every form of intelligence—in that intelligence, of which the usage of the word still current in the eighteenth century preserves the memory, is as-sociation as inter-legere, being-among.