The Authority-Body Complex — Işık Barış Fidaner

The evolution of the authority-body complex follows four steps: Feminine confusion, masculine distinction, masculine confusion, feminine distinction. What happens overall is “One divides into two” but it’s a bit more complex than that [1].

In feminine confusion, things are perceived as one and the same thing. Authority and body are confused into one thing. The embodiment immediately authorizes the self. The Oedipal model of feminine confusion is the union of the mother and her child. This is equivalent to the imaginary alienation in which the infant confuses itself with its mirror image (I use the neutral pronoun because the infant is not yet gendered). This is an initial form of fetish that displays a semblance of fullness and wholeness. This pre-Oedipal fetishistic perception underlies the concept of Nature.

In masculine distinction, things are perceived as distinct and discrete. Authority and body are separated as two things. The Oedipal model of masculine distinction is the father separating the child from his/her mother. In this symbolic separation, the child receives the signifier of his/her name as the symbolic designator of his/her self (and often his/her gender). This intervention empties out the previous semblance of confused fullness by separating the Master-Signifier S1 from the rest of the signifying chain S2, which is the knowledge that serves the S1. But this symbolic transcendence does not come entirely from the outside, it must rely immanently on the mother’s desire and will to turn towards the Name-of-the-Father. The ambivalence of the mother’s desire is oriented by the lost object of the pre-Oedipal fetish, which now appears to be an organic and natural heaven lost after the artificial and alienating intervention of the father. This implicit reliance on subjective desire gives the child a gender and renders the symbolic separation incomplete and not-All, while explicitly and “objectively” the Master-Signifier S1 continues to display the imposture of a complete All. This creates a discrepancy in speech and language, which is repressed in neurosis, disavowed in perversion. In psychosis, S1 is foreclosed entirely. Thus far, the story is familiar from Oedipal development. The symbolic distinction of S1 is so general that it can even express the digitalization of analog content. The rest of the story is more specific and more interesting.

In masculine confusion, things are perceived as independent individual wholes that are ultimately of the same type. In probability theory this is called “iid” (independent and identically distributed). This is symbolic alienation. Authority and body are deemed equivalent entities and they are pitted against each other as rivals. When these two elements compete, the abstraction of authority always wins against the concretion of the body, but this is a Pyrrhic victory because the authority is disembodied and hollowed out as a result of its confrontation with the body. This empty authority is the new phallic form of the fetish, which is the eventual result of the Oedipal intervention of the father. This phallic fetishistic perception underlies the concept of God. The disembodied authority of God thereby represses the body, which then returns in a ghostly form, in the form of the unauthorized bodies of monsters, like the (in)famous spectre of Marxist communism which was embodied by the workers. The repressed corporeality returns in the form of symptoms that haunt the symbolic authorities.

In feminine distinction, things are perceived as dependent, partial, dividual entities. Now it is admitted that the authority is dependent on the body. But this admittance does not reunite and merge these two elements, instead it reconciles them by completing their separation. In this real separation, one recognizes the existence of the symptom by splitting the Master-Signifier S1 into two parts: The lack in the Other S(Ⱥ) and the objet petit a, which respectively designate the meaningful message of truth and the sense-making semblances that support it (see the schema in [2]). These two sides rely on each other: The message cannot be true and meaningful without the semblances, and the semblances cannot make sense without a true message. But what ultimately holds these two elements together is an implicit reference to the reality of the Phallus, which is the third element. In digital packets, S(Ⱥ) and objet a are respectively “header” and “payload” of encapsulation. When an encapsulated packet is unraveled, the reference to reality becomes explicit and the ground of decoding shifts from “decryption” to “decipherment”, the decoding thereby becomes less hermeneutic and more exploratory [3].

S(Ⱥ) and objet a respectively point towards Imaginary and Real sides of the Phallus: The passion of love fuels the truth of S(Ⱥ), while the passion of ignorance fuels the semblance of objet a (“header” is authorized by a knowledge of symbolic truth, while “payload” embodies an indifferent interest in digital semblances: 0/1). When the encapsulation is unraveled and the fetishistic magical correlation between truth and semblance is broken, it is also revealed that the passion of hatred fuels the reality of the Phallus, which is at the heart of the symptom. The obsessive effort of (de)coding is ultimately fueled by a hatred of meaningless nonsense, because meaningless nonsense reveals the ubiquity of ignorance. This hatred of ignorance refers to the mismatch between the Imaginary and the Real which is usually called the problem, the contradiction or the antagonism. Such an obsessive compulsion can be soothed by being turned into an ignorance of hatred by hystericization [4]. “System” refers to the way the antagonism of the symptom is encapsulated. The authority-body complex is an encapsulation system that works.

Finally, let us give a (post)modern example of encapsulation: S(Ⱥ) designates the evocation of love by a victim’s true complaint message, and objet a designates the many semblances that support the truth of that initial trauma, produced by the activists that actively ignore the contradicting views. It “naturally” appears that the subsequent semblances were grounded by an earlier truth, but actually the initial truth is retroactively substantiated by the semblances that follow it. These are the two aspects that together make up the Master-Signifier, which is always a phallic signifier, because it obfuscates the contradictory division of Imaginary/Real by claiming to realize the imagination.

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 also “Beyond the Abstract Fetish of the Phallus”, “Imaginary Alienation (Posturing Wholeness) and Symbolic Alienation (Posturing Allness)”, “Symbolic Separation and Real Separation”, “The Traversal of the Phallus”

[2] See “Beyond the Sexual ‘Relationship’”

[3] See “Decryption and Decipherment”

[4] See “Making the combinatorial unworld of the unconscious permeable”


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