The Separation of Authorization (Symbolic Suture) from Embodiment (Real Suture) — Işık Barış Fidaner

In Sex and The Failed Absolute, Slavoj Žižek distinguishes between two sutures:

the “inside” (the space of the signifier) has to be sutured by an additional element [(S1)] which holds within the signifying order the place of what is excluded from it … and external reality itself has to be sutured by an element which holds in it the place of the symbolic process (objet a).

Let’s call these two sutures the symbolic suture (of S1) and the real suture (of objet a). Žižek describes real suture as follows:

essence itself is only essence insofar as it appears, it has to appear as essence in contradistinction to “ordinary” appearances, i.e., within the sphere of appearances, essence itself has to appear as an appearance that stands for the beyond of appearances.

I call this operation (of real suture) embodiment. What is embodied in the appearance of any real body is ultimately the essence of objet petit a, so when we talk about a “body” of something, we necessarily imply that it embodies the objet petit a; therefore, any “body” worthy of the name is a locus of real suture.

As for symbolic suture, Žižek describes it as follows:

essence appears because it is incomplete/thwarted in itself, i.e., what appears is not the overwhelming inner wealth of the essence; appearance is rather the return of what is repressed in/from the essence itself.

I call this operation (of symbolic suture) authorization. Following Laclau’s theory, any valid Master-Signifier is the result of an essential struggle for hegemony, where the particular parties endeavour to authorize themselves to speak, to symbolize, and to impose their own “universal” S1. Thus any “authority” worthy of the name is a locus of symbolic suture.

Now, these two sutures may take place together or they can be separated. When the two sutures take place together, objet a supplements the S1 and it’s called alienation, in which the subject is alienated with respect to the symbolic order. When they take place separately, S1 is stripped of the objet a and it’s called separation, in which the symbolic order is alienated of its own accord. In Žižek’s words:

in Master-Signifier, objet a is coalesced with the signifying function, it is the mysterious je ne sais quoi which confers on the Master-Signifier its aura, while S1 changes into S(Ⱥ) when objet a is subtracted from the signifying space, i.e., when S1 and objet a are separated — through this separation, S1 appears in all its impotence and misery, as a mere filler of the lack.

In our terms, either authorization and embodiment takes place in a single combined “authority-body” entity (like a king) or they take place separately, producing an authority and a body separately (as in a Hegelian monarch). Žižek describes this separation of authorization and embodiment as follows:

The power that the King has to fascinate comes from covering over the difference between S1 and a. Hegel separates them and shows us, on the one hand, S1 in its tautological folly as an empty name, without content, and, on the other hand, the monarch’s physical form as pure waste, the name’s appendix. (The Most Sublime Hysteric)

The fundamental presupposition of the process of authorization is a “will” that is to be represented by the authority that’s produced by the symbolic suture. In Lacan’s terms, “S1 represents $ for S2“. The word “will” designates the contingency and fragility at the heart of an established hegemony, so any “will” worthy of the name refers to $, the barred subject.

The fundamental presupposition of the process of embodiment is a “system” that supports the body that’s produced by the real suture. The word “system” designates a symbolic knowledge that underlies and supports the occurrence of an embodiment, so any “system” worthy of the name refers to S2, the chain of ordinary signifiers [1].


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


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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