In the first part of this text, I describe a symbolic order in Žižek’s terms. In the second part, I propose my own terms to designate the same phenomenon.

I.

Žižek denotes a symbolic order mathematically by two terms: S_{1} and S_{2}. The letter “S” denotes that these two terms refer to signifiers, which means that they function like how spoken words construct meaning in human language, i.e. they have a symbolic function. The subscripts 1 and 2 denote that they constitute an *order* in which S_{1} (Master-Signifier) has a priority over S_{2} (knowledge).

One can always question the contingent fact: Why does S_{1} have priority? Why not any other signifier? As a self-referential being, the symbolic order can only respond to this question by simply repeating S_{1}.

Thus S_{1} emerges as a response to its own questioning. The locus of this fundamental symbolic questioning is the zero point of a symbolic order. One could have called it S_{0} if it were a signifier, which it’s not. Instead it’s called $, the barred subject in Lacanian terms.

Contrary to S_{1} which is quantifiable as one signifier among others, $ does not denote a single subject. $ may be taken up by singularities (I, ego, he/she/it) or pluralities (we, they). It is a place of symbolic questioning that is situated in relation to a symbolic order. So when we say “the” subject, “the” refers to such a situated place of subjectivity, not the quantitative singularity of the subject that is being mentioned.

$ is the locus of the inherent symbolic contingency of a symbolic order. S_{1} stabilizes the present order by covering and concealing that symbolic contingency. This is why, in grammar, the subject of a sentence comes first: the first word must cover over the locus of subjectivity.

S_{2} denotes the rest of the signifiers all of which are dependent on the Master-Signifier S_{1}. In Žižekian-Lacanian jargon, S_{2} is called knowledge.

In Žižek’s theory, knowledge always confirms the priority of S_{1} [1]. In other words, all knowledge primarily attests to the immanent necessity of the symbolic order in which it is situated.

In expressing symbolic necessity, knowledge relies on the objects of the world. Among objects of reality, Lacan and Žižek specifically refer to a kind of object that underpins a symbolic order by causing the desire that supports its symbolic necessity: objet petit a [2].

From S_{1} and S_{2}, we have thus mathematically derived two other terms, $ and a, which stand for the contingency and the necessity of a symbolic order, respectively. According to Lacan, S_{1} represents $ for S_{2}: the Master-Signifier covers over its own contingent status so that the dependent knowledge can attest to the symbolic necessity of the present order.

II.

Now I’ll introduce four universal signifiers that designate the phenomena denoted by the four mathemes elaborated above.

In a symbolic order, the Master-Signifier S_{1} denotes the function of “authority”. A particular authority posing as “universal” hegemonizes a symbolic field by concealing the contingency of its own dominant status.

The underlying contingency implied by the subject $ denotes the function of “will”. A particular will may support or question the dominant authority of a symbolic order. In any case, the authority will seek to represent the will by repressing its freedom to question the authority.

The knowledge S_{2} dependent on the authority denotes the function of “system”. A particular system is always based on a knowledge dependent on a particular authority. To paraphrase Lacan, the authority seeks to represent the will for the system.

The immanent necessity of the symbolic order caused by objet petit a denotes the function of “body”. Particular bodies in a world (e.g. the body of a Hegelian monarch) embody the necessity of a symbolic order [3].

(Turkish)

Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD from Boğaziçi University, İstanbul. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler, Editor of Žižekian Analysis, Curator of Görce Writings. Twitter: @BarisFidaner

Notes:

1. Except knowledge in the place of truth (in analyst’s discourse), in which case a new S_{1} is produced.

2. In fact, to support the symbolic order as a fantasy object is just one of the functions (the perverse function) of objet petit a, which may also designate the void in the place of fantasy in analyst’s discourse.

3. These four terms originate from the “Postmodern Alienation Model”.

[…] 1. For the initial appearance of the terms “authority, body, will, system”, see “Postmodern Alienation Model”. For their connection to the Lacanian terms, see “What Makes a Symbolic Order?” […]

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[…] [1] See “What Makes a Symbolic Order?” […]

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[…] [2] For body, system, will, authority, see “What Makes a Symbolic Order?” […]

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[…] [2] Bkz “What Makes a Symbolic Order?” […]

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[…] [1] See “What Makes a Symbolic Order?” […]

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[…] For authority, body, system, will, see “What Makes a Symbolic Order?” and “Postmodern Alienation […]

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[…] See “What Makes a Symbolic Order?” Žižek calls S1 and S2 masculine and $ and a feminine (Less Than Nothing, p. 794). If we follow […]

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