A real monster operates on desire and malfunction — Işık Barış Fidaner

A monster is an unauthorized body [1]. Its authorization requires a demonstration. This can be either de-monstration or demon-stration.

Symbolic authorization [2] requires de-monstration: The monstrous aspect (monstration) should be neutralized (de-) by the fetishistic effect of a phallus that one wears or wields. This phallus could be a weapon, insignia, garb, rank, even money, or simply a Master-Signifier or a Name-of-the-Father. Some simple examples of the de-monstration of symbolic authorization are officers, lawyers, soldiers, prince, princess.

Real authorization (self-authorization) requires demon-stration: One’s monstrous aspect (demon) becomes the very source of one’s authorization and determines the material “grit” that stratifies (stration). This demon-stration of real authorization is nicely expressed in certain words in different languages: In Turkish, strong, able, hardworking people are praised by calling them “monsters” (canavar), in Kurdish they are called “lions” (şêr), in English they are called “ox, workhorse, beast, animal”, in French they are called “donkey” (âne) or “work executioner” (bourreau de travail), in Swedish they are called “horse” (häst) or “monkey” (apa), some black Americans call them “ballers”. Italians also call them “monsters” (mostro), Germans call them “bears” (bär) or, oddly enough, “machines” (maschine), Cypriot Turks also call them “machines” (makine) and “dynamos” (dinamo), French Canadians also call them “machines” (machine), Australians call them “livewire, go-getter, dynamo”, Russians’ word for “comrade” (товарищ) includes the Russian word for “commodity” (товар) which originated from the Turkish word for “livestock” (davar) [3]. It is telling that some of these words originated from sports commentators: Monsters take initiative to authorize themselves and engage in a strife or a struggle [4].

Recall Gramsci’s loosely translated famous quotation:

The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.

What Gramsci describes as the dying old world is the failure of symbolic authorizations due to the falling of the fetishes that support them. This historical process of ongoing failures brings out unauthorized bodies that we call “monsters”. The word “monster” also nicely fits with the new world’s struggle to be born, in the sense of demon-stration exemplified above in different languages. The self-authorizing monsters represent the symptoms that manifest during the real authorization of the “new world”. The word “symptom” can be found in the literal translation of Gramsci’s quotation:

The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.

We use the word “symptom” only when the natural (“normal”) flow of things has been disturbed. This disturbance starts a questioning which leads to a separation of authorization from embodiment [5]. This inquiry follows a double pathway: Authorization is grounded by will, embodiment is grounded by system. Will is disrupted by desire, system is disrupted by malfunction. The final terms of the symptomatic questioning, desire-malfunction, defines the Freudian parapraxis. A real beast, a real monster, a real lion, or even a real machine, a real dynamo is the one who can perceive and operate the relation of desire and malfunction [6].

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


[1] See “The disruption of fetishes produces gods and monsters”

[2] See “Symbolic Authorization of Fetishes and Real Authorization of Symptoms”

[3] Thanks to my various social media contacts for this information.

[4] See “Symbolic Engagement and Real Engagement”

[5] See “Separation of Authorization from Embodiment”

[6] See “Desire and Malfunction”

Also see this nice scene from the Žižek! (2005) documentary:

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