Hysterics are the true hackers — Işık Barış Fidaner

McKenzie Wark defines “hacker class” as the class of people who produce new information or knowledge:

By hacker class I mean everyone who produces new information out of old information, and not just people who code for a living. (Capital is Dead)

This definition immediately brings to mind Žižek’s point about hysteria:

for Lacan, only hysteria produces new knowledge (in contrast to University discourse, which simply reproduces it) (Incontinence of the Void)

So hysterics are the true hackers. How about the University discourse that reproduces knowledge to use it for power? This description immediately echoes Wark’s “vectoralist class”:

I call the emerging ruling class the vectoralist class, because their class power derives from ownership and control of the vector of information. The vector of information includes the capacity to transmit, store, and process information. (Capital is Dead)

Thus what Wark portrays as a political confrontation between the creative hacker class and the vectoralist ruling class that exploits them, is the inherent duality in capitalism between the hysteric’s discourse and the university discourse:

when we talk about “capitalist discourse,” we should bear in mind that this discourse (social link) is split from within, that it functions only if it constantly oscillates between two discourses, discourse of University and discourse of Hysteria. (…) Therein lies the parallax of capitalism, which can also be expressed in terms of the opposition between desire and drive: hysterical desire and perverse drive. The overlapping element of the two is $ (subject), the product of the University discourse and the agent of the Hysteric’s discourse, and, simultaneously, S2 (knowledge), the product of the Hysteric’s discourse and the agent of the University discourse. (Incontinence of the Void)

In my terms, [1] this duality is the one between will and system. “Will” is the modern notion that compensates for the inexistence of God, whereas “system” is the modern notion that compensates for the inexistence of Nature [2]. The conceptual relation between these two terms is mediated by two other terms, authority and body (S1 and a). A will grounds authority (by supporting or questioning its uses) whereas a system acts as a basis for authorization. A will is embodied in a body, whereas a system grounds the existence of such bodies. In hysteric’s (or hacker’s) discourse, a free subjective will questions (or hacks) the authority (that determines the legitimate forms of use) ($→S1) to produce novelty in the system of knowledge (S2, the basis of authorization). In university (vectoralist) discourse, a system of knowledge affects the existence of a body (S2→a) to produce the will ($) that is embodied in it. In commodity fetishism, the authority and the body (S1 and a) of a commodity overlaps and get confused to give it its magical aura. When the authority is separated from the body, it becomes S(Ⱥ) and the symptom of capitalism (its antagonism: class struggle) becomes perceivable [3].

So what Wark depicts as “something that follows capitalism and which is worse than capitalism” is for Žižek the very essence of capitalist modernity: “Does not this intertwining of two discourses provide the underlying discursive structure of the double aspect of modernity: the hysterical logic of incessant expanded subjective productivity and the university logic of domination through knowledge?” (ibid)

After his diagnosis about capitalist modernity, Žižek asks a question: “if capitalism is characterized by the parallax of Hysteria and University discourses, is resistance to capitalism then characterized by the opposite axis of Master and Analyst?” (ibid) In my terms, this opposite axis combines the functions of authorization and embodiment, while avoiding their fetishist confusion. In Master’s discourse, authority is directed to the system (S1→S2) in order to produce embodiment (a); in other words, existence is derived from usefulness. In Analyst’s discourse, body is directed to the will (a→$) in order to produce authorization (S1); in other words, usefulness is derived from existence. The other two terms are also crucial, because will grounds usefulness and system grounds existence.


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] See “What Makes a Symbolic Order?”

[2] See “Two inexistences and a separation: God-Nature to will-system”

[3] See “Authorization and Embodiment in Fetish and Symptom”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s