The Psychorevolt Liberration Manifesto: Žižek With A Human Face Or Scrubbing Intersectional Politics With The Psychoanalytic Detergent — Işık Barış Fidaner

“There is a drive for life, the loving face of the drive.” (The Psychorevolt Manifesto)
Image: Joseph Paelinck’s Eros angelically smiling on a Tide laundry detergent bottle.

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Psychoanalysis & Revolution (2021) by Ian Parker & David Pavón-Cuéllar was recently published by 1968 Press. An apt name for this work is the Psychorevolt Manifesto.

The authors of the Psychorevolt Manifesto (1) take Žižek’s political message, (2) erase Žižek’s name, (3) erase its radical edge, and (4) remarket it as a novel tool to re-enable the “activist relationship” as the latest fashionable substitute for the impossible sexual relationship. Let’s examine these points one by one:

1) Taking Žižek’s message (reappropriation): It is a historical fact that all of the book’s themes were explored in depth in Žižek’s oeuvre for many decades. The political character of the unconscious, the historical repetition of the past failed revolutions, the persistent drives of capital accumulation as well as class struggle, the transferential logic of beliefs and authority, Hegelian sublation with respect to psychoanalysis, etc. The Psychorevolt Manifesto is just a sugarcoated and more digestible re-framing that plays within the conceptual pathways that were already mapped out by Slavoj Žižek. What the manifesto proposes is practically Žižek with a human face. Here is the exact ridiculous expression of this sentiment: “there is a drive for life, the loving face of the drive.” (p. 88)

2) Erasing Žižek’s name (bastardization): Despite their obviously Lacanian framework (the book’s four main chapters follow Lacan’s “four fundamental concepts”) the authors suspiciously avoid naming Lacan until the final pages. This deferral tactic also lets them get away without mentioning Žižek until the end where they merely “also appreciate” just his first book, leaving the readers with the inaccurate impression that the conceptual bridges that they cross throughout the book were initiated by themselves. The authors seem quite unwilling to acknowledge the extent of their conceptual debt to Žižek because it might bring bad publicity and disturb the angelic smile of their “life drive”.

3) Erasing its radical edge (vulgarization): Let’s convey this point by paraphrasing a Žižekian Sherlock Holmes joke:
— Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention about Psychoanalysis & Revolution?
— To the curious incident of the impossibility of the sexual relationship.
— The authors never mentioned the impossibility of the sexual relationship.
— That was the curious incident.
This is obviously the key avoidance (or shall we say abstinence?) that renders the Psychorevolt Manifesto digestible for the masses who are thereby permitted to imagine themselves as dissatisfied and not frustrated [1]. If we wish to believe the authors, we might be allowed to admit a little bit of impossibility (peu du réel) but (1) it must either originate from the “sad, sick, wretched misery” of capitalist repression (or racism, sexism, ableism, patriarchy, etc. the usual suspects, the standard evils of the world) or (2) it must pertain to psychoanalysis itself, so that human sexuality will be vindicated from the inherent failure. This final point is so central for the authors that they put the anal in psychoanalysis by having the future utopian society defecate psychoanalysis after it will have outlived its usefulness. The Psychorevolt Movement is supposed to remove the revolting and tenacious stain of the Lacanian real (of that which doesn’t work) by scrubbing intersectional politics with the bubbly foam of the psychoanalytic soap and detergent. This resembles a postmodern Norman Bates cleaning the intersectional bathroom, which would indeed put the Psycho in Psychorevolt. The manifesto merely alludes once or twice to the superego injunction to “Enjoy!” since the authors’ true aim is to “empower” the superego, which is why they insist on calling themselves “critical”.

4) Remarketing it as a novel tool to enable the “activist relationship” (commodification): While the authors believe they are relativizing psychoanalysis, actually their manifesto merely feigns to relativize the impossibility of the sexual relationship, in other words, it feigns to relativize the lack in the Other, so that the phallic mother can be restored to her former glory. By concealing the impossibility of the “material cause”, psychoanalysis is reduced to a contingent “efficient cause” with magical superpowers. This is why the authors feel obliged to define the psychoanalytic symptom in terms of contradiction, not impossibility; they thereby restore the image of “a righteous fight of the good against the evil” which relies on the deliberate concealment of the good’s inherent dependence on the evil, as in Kant avec Sade (Lacan). Thus the manifesto chooses to project an image of psychoanalysis that is less than honest.

The Psychorevolt Manifesto is the newest and coolest update on the postmodern incarnation of the beautiful soul, articulating a more refined and better superego moralism for the contemporary political activist [2] by giving him/her a critical psychology critical of psychology that is supposed to adapt him/her to anti-adaptation. In the final pages, the authors openly announce their official aim to make psychoanalysis subservient to the liberration movements (les non-dupes errent):

As we have already made clear, in order to serve the liberation movements, psychoanalysis must…

To serve the liberation movements, psychoanalysis should not…

(p. 149)

(Turkish)

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

Notes:

[1] See “Occidental Demembrance”

[2] See “Second Suture and the Žižekian Cause”

15 comments

  1. This is an interesting and worthwhile critique of the manifesto. It did seem to me that the manifesto tried to de-personalise itself and its message, erasing not only Žižek and Lacan but the authors themselves too, thereby appropriating an abstracted, collective voice of the “miserable” working folk. It is definitely a stylistic and tactical choice, an attempt to attract as many reader’s as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

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