Postmodern Alienation Model Rediscovers & Deciphers Lacan’s Capitalist Discourse — Işık Barış Fidaner

In 2012, I devised a model to represent the capitalist process. It was articulated in my mother tongue, Turkish. I presented it in the 1st New Media Congress in 2013 that took place in İstanbul, organized by Alternative Informatics Association. It’s called “Postmodern Alienation Model”. You can read its English translation from the link.

Several years later, I noticed the model’s structural resemblances to Lacan’s model of four discourses, and expressed the mapping between these two terminologies in one of my pieces published in the Žižekian Analysis blog: “What Makes a Symbolic Order?” In fact, when you translate the terms, postmodern alienation model is revealed to be a rediscovery of what Lacan called the capitalist discourse.

The capitalist discourse is different from Lacan’s previous four discourses in that it does not form a social bond, so it’s not a proper discourse. The capitalist discourse is an infinite process that comes after the four discourses and disintegrates their social bonds. Christian Dubuis Santini explains the four discourses plus the capitalist discourse in the 8th lecture of “Lacan, Us and the Real”.

The coincidence in this rediscovery is partly unsurprising because I have been inspired and heavily influenced since 2007 by Slavoj Žižek who is a card-carrying Lacanian although he rarely mentions Lacan’s capitalist discourse. But the coincidence is also quite surprising because the postmodern alienation model provides words instead of Lacan’s mathemes, and these words open the model to articulations that make more sense.

Using my model, one can speak directly about “authorization” and “embodiment” instead of the indirect talk about a signification and its remainder. Lacan’s formula “A signifier represents the subject for another signifier” becomes “An authority represents a will for a system” which is much less cryptic. So my rediscovery achieves the decipherment and clarification of what Lacan called the capitalist discourse.

Postmodern alienation model is called “postmodern” because it’s a process that comes after the social bonds of the four discourses and disintegrates them. It’s called “alienation” because it models the inescapable form of alienation that captures the subjects of capitalism. It’s called a “model” because it’s a bundle of relations that is open to new articulations.

The paper begins with these words: “We don’t need other worlds. We need mirrors.” (Solaris by Stanislav Lem) The following quote from the paper explains why we need mirrors and not other worlds:

How we see capitalism today, resembles the monism of Parmenides. Parmenides began from any difference and brought it to the One by logical means. As for us, wherever we escape, we are every time seized by our actions and handed in back to capitalism. Any direction of escape, be it however diverse, colorful or different, given enough time, is negated by the natural course that is called capitalism. That’s why we can reach nowhere by escaping to the outside of capitalism, we must reach directly at capitalism itself, capitalism in its most abstract sense.

The slogan “Another world is possible” did not manage to reach anywhere outside capitalism. What we need is not another world, but a good mirror. Postmodern alienation model is a mirror that reflects the “abstract machine” (Deleuze & Guattari) of capitalism, which was initially formulated by Lacan in his four mathemes.

Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler (Placeless Things) blog, Admin/Editor/Curator of Žižekian Analysis, and one of the admins of “Žižek and the Slovenian School” group on Facebook. Twitter: @BarisFidaner


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