The Opportunistic Media Ecology Has Supplanted The Law — Işık Barış Fidaner


Just seven years after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of the Species, Ernst Haeckel defined Ecology as the science of the struggle for existence [1]. Before becoming an empirical science several decades after this initial definition, Ecology was already an ideology to “naturally” explain the diverse flourishing of being.

In Hegelian terms, the ecological struggle for existence is about the master-slave dialectic; in Lacanian terms, it’s about S1 and S2: S1 is the Master as Signifier and S2 is the knowledge of his servant. In feudal times, the Master S1 explicitly subordinated his servant S2. With capitalism, S1 was written down in constitutional law and the Master tactically postured as the well-informed servant S2 of the law S1 while discreetly subordinating the population to his rule through his official politics. In Lacan’s words, the University discourse replaced the Master’s discourse.

This official form of capitalism had its many downsides but at least there was some partial stability. This historical form of capitalist politics arguably died in 2016 when a Reality TV Star was elected as the US president who ran the country for four years via his Tweets. Now we are under another political form where informality rules.

The age of growth was followed by the age of entropy [2]. Lacan’s capitalist discourse already articulated the destructive drive of neoliberalism. But now we have reached the time of “authoritarian populism”. It is very tempting to call this new situation The Return of the Master’s Discourse, like the Star Wars title “The Empire Strikes Back” which followed “A New Hope”. But such a nomination would:

1) Commit the paranoid projection of an inexistent “authoritarian” power to these actually impotent populist figures.

2) Overlook how the Symbolic Order has already disappeared and is supplanted by a Symbolic Disorder and an Asymbolic Order that supplements it.

I give a name to this new political situation: It is the opportunistic media ecology. As the superstructure, we witness and take part in a symbolic disorder on our computer and phone screens. As its substructure, an asymbolic order (meta non-language [3]) of invisible server networks supplement this disorder; this global operating system had already been christened the Cloud.

The symbolic disorder consists of two structural locations:

P1) This is the place where contingency gets converted into necessity. This location subsists due to the repeated contingent encounters with the object-cause of desire (a). The structural function of this locus is to substantiate the necessary Master-Signifiers (S1) by the aura that that special object affords.

P2) This is the place where impossibility is negotiated with possibility. This location subsists due to the repeated subjective interruptions of impossibility ($). The structural function of this locus is to negotiate the limits of possibility by articulating knowledge (S2).

To take the example of Twitter, Timeline is primarily for P1 and Direct Messaging is primarily for P2, but the reverse also happens.

Obviously P1 and P2 interact: The Master-Signifiers that posture objectivity in P1 are interrupted and subjected to subjective questioning in P2; and the supposedly objective knowledge obtained in P2 gets tested against the contingent objects encountered in P1. Due to these interactions, the usual subjective-objective distinction makes less and less sense in this new form of symbolic disorder.

In the previous form of capitalist politics, P1 and P2 were strictly separated as the public locus of official politics and the informal locus of private affairs respectively. In the present opportunistic media ecology, in contrast, any locus of interaction can be turned into P1 or P2 due to purely opportunistic reasons. The establishment of any permanent law in the proper sense is thus rendered impossible. The only remaining permanence is the asymbolic order of the underlying server network.


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] Gregory J. Cooper (2003) The Science of the Struggle for Existence: On the Foundations of Ecology.

[2] George Monbiot (2004) “Living with the Age of Entropy”; see also “A Comic Fatalism of Entropy”

[3] See “There is a meta non-language”

Image source.


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