Cryin’ Wolf on that Social Distortion–Hegel’s Negation of Negation by Megan Flocken

My reading finds double negation to be the mechanism by which spirit is actualized. I hope the following will illustrate how the master/slave mentality demands a simple negation; Hegelian immanent transcendence requires a double negation.

Double negation is “the return-to-oneself from alienation” (Zizek, 72). The individual is alienated from self in her divergence with the law through simple negation. For example, I understand running a redlight to be against the law; I run the redlight and acknowledge my act to be against the law…I feel guilty, afraid…I am a criminal. The logic of simple negation is the same as the master/slave: I know the master, I am the slave, I act in independence of the master as I can understand the master to be dependent on me. My freedom is contingent on, in fact rooted in my slavery. Hence, when I act independently I am alienated from my very constitutive substance (as a slave).

The negation of the negation is a freer space. This is a process of dissolution, by which the law is impotized! This is not a master/slave interdependence (a la Badiou’s “occupation”). The master/slave relation is one of simple negation: I acknowledge the law (I am a slave)…I understand the law to be validated in my servitude (I am the foundation of the lord’s subjection over me). Instead, the negation of the negation is the loss of the loss. My act is not a loss, in lack of conformity to the law, but in certainty/faith, in fullness of my embodiment of right. I may break the law, and I do so always with respect to the law. This is self-consciousness (in simple negation). But the revolutionary dissolution of the law is possible with double negation. I run the redlight, I break the law, without acknowledging the power of the law to confine me, i.e., to stop, to feel guilt in my flight. The law is meaningless to me in my absolute right. The law cannot deliver me from the risk of decision…from the abyss of my determining the right.

We find that in place of us positing the presupposition (i.e. observing Reason, which searches for and finds itself), the Spirit is what presupposes the positing (thanks, Zizek, “Sublime Object of Ideology”). In explanation: I create/inform my world while the world creates/informs me. Why and by what logic? I at first understand my action to break the law (simple negation). For example, I am bourgeoisie, yet I do not act as though I am bourgeoisie. I then understand the law to be breaking me (I am the absolute right! I am me without adhering to a universal law of class). In the negation of the negation, the very loss is lost (Zizek, 72). There is no comparative action to the objective universal…The reified substance of law (the master, the slave) empties to the subjectivized virtual substance (Zizek, 76): the spirit is the activity of individuals in their finitude. My practice determines the right. I am not the independent agent/controller of process; instead, WE witness and participate in its unfolding. The negation of the negation is the space in which we, in finite particularity, actualize; in living, we deny the authority of exterior law to encumber us. Not as rebels (i.e. with respect of law, in motive to break the law), the negation of the negation relegates the law to a figment (my action need not consult “the law” because the law has no authority over me). Thus, Spirit exists only insofar as subjects act as if it exists, and as subjects neglect to act as though their circular Reason dictates them to act…as lawbreakers.

Spirit is not a reified, magical phantom, like exchange value and commodity. Spirit is the actualization of culture, ethics, and intention. It is a historical incident that defies quantification. It is insensible but always demonstratable. It is because it IS…and it undergirds all action and is the culmination of all action. The Spirit is the “full acceptance of the abyss” (Zizek, 72), and in this way, it is both giving and receiving form. The abyss is anathema to Reason’s hegemonic dissection of the real…which produces a virtuality of the real. The real is virtualized in Reason through elimination of all actual remainder, unintendedness. Ironically, the real is made tangible, intelligible by its mapping in virtual space–conception. This  desert (of the real) finds that only the mirage…the insensible unity and locus of actualization, is capable of keeping one from death…the ultimate alienation from self. Only our unmappable incidents can defy our illusions. And so in revolt of the unmappable, the Spirit is transfigured to be reich, ideology, and process alike. Rightfully as geist, Spirit is the club and the secret passcode…as practice it conditions our consciousness and self-consciousness, and as thought it opens and transforms our practice. It is the contradiction implicit to being, both universal and particular. It embodies and exhibits the substance as subject. As it signals the future and pays homage to our past, it is our return from alienation to what is and it is our springboard to beyond…which is simply our connection to one another.

One thought on “Cryin’ Wolf on that Social Distortion–Hegel’s Negation of Negation by Megan Flocken

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