Klaus Theweleit and the Fantasies of Fascist Males, #5


Below is another entry in my series on Klaus Theweleit’s two-volume Male Fantasies, with the date I originally wrote it in my philosophical journal.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Theweleit, p. 257 (in favor of flows and the “mechanical,” à la Deleuze and Guattari):

The negativization of the “mechanical” in the bourgeois vernacular [in the preceding paragraph he has just written that “an artificial division, or actual opposition, of humans and machines holds sway within the realms of [capitalist] production.  The responsibility for that surely doesn’t lie in the machines, but with those who finance them, who have planned and built them in a way that allows the principles of antiproduction [that is, of death] to be introduced into production.”] and in bourgeois thinking in general, corresponds, therefore, to the negativization of the machine in the capitalist production process [where it is made to serve not flow, but the stoppage and fragmentation of flow, as emblematically occurs in the assembly line].  thus a new relation becomes evident:  the hostility between worker and machine, set up by the capitalist, is identical to the hostility the bourgeois ego reserves for the productive force of its own unconscious.  This hostility is dictated by the social compulsion to become an “ego” of  that type, in order to remain bourgeois.  The bourgeoisie’s fear of having to become “workers,” should they cease to meet the social demand of their class, can thus be seen to spring from the bourgeois ego’s fear of coming in contact with its unconscious, of being condemned “to the machines.”

Thus, in contrast to  such up-tight [insistence on] being “in control,” the unleashing of the flow ([which is experienced negativizingly as] “flood” [and] so feared yet obsessed about in fascism of whatever stripe) that we can find in alcohol, drugs, sex, etc., [helps account for] the lure of addiction.  More importantly, [it helps account for] the promise that lies at the heart of addiction itself, when it finally self-escalates into breakdown, and the collapse of all ego/hardness/ constraint in total surrender of openness to the (divine?) flow.  “Where danger is, there lies also what saves.”

Theweleit continues (p. 258):

The formulation of the later Freud, “Where id was, there ego shall be,” can thus be seen as a program for  eliminating the machinic and the flowing from the productions of the  human unconscious:  shutting down and draining . . . like the draining of the Zuider Zee [which Freud himself uses as a comparison here].  The person capable of being described by the ego/id/superego topography would in this case be conceived as a dry grave, the final resting place of streams and desiring-machines.  This ties in with an assumption . . . that the concrete form of the struggle against the flowing-machinic productive forces of the unconscious has been (and still is) a battle against women, against female sexuality [which is made to equal “flow” and “flood”:  menstruation, paradigmatically].

He then does a quick tour of world literature to show how often (how recurrently, mechanically, I might add–in Theweleit’s own spirit, I judge) flood  and flow and spurting and jetting and the like are sung praises to.  P. 260:

It is the desire for a life free from lack [i.e., for a free-flowing fullness of spewing life itself]–or writing extravagantly in the knowledge of abundance (as Bataille would say)–that writers from different societies and regions arrive at such similar ideas when trying to describe states, or expectations, of happiness.  They are rooted in a feeling they must all have felt of the actual experience of nonlack in the streaming of pleasure through their own bodies.

In a note at the bottom of the page to this passage, he mentions that he gives a few more citations of praise for flow and flood in the appendix.  So I turned to that, and found him using precisely the appeal to the longing for free flow and  flood to explain the attraction of Nazism/fascism even for the workers!  Then, however, he adds this crucial qualifying explanation (p. 432):

Fine, except for one thing:  all of that affirmation is theatrical; it never gets beyond representation [still the sovereignty of the image!], the illusion of production. . . . Fascist masses may portray their desire for deliverance from the social double bind, for lives that are not inevitably entrapping, but not their desire for full stomachs.  The success of fascism demonstrates that masses who become fascist suffer more from their internal states of being than from hunger or unemployment.  Fascism teaches us that under certain circumstances, human beings imprisoned within themselves, within body armor and social constraints, would rather break out than fill their stomachs; and that their politics may consist in organizing that escape, rather than an economic order that promises future full  stomachs for  life.  [But, I’d add, that never even intends to fulfill that promise, any more than fascism  (or addiction) ever finally delivers on its promise to free life to flow freely].  The utopia of fascism is an edenic freedom from responsibility.

I’d add that only when responsibility is itself deadened into bourgeois, passionless “doing one’s duty” will freedom appear as freedom from responsibility,as it does in all fascist and/or capitalist societies–despite and against the rhetoric of those societies.  So the flow keeps getting blocked again.  In contrast, full freedom of free flow coincides with accepting of responsibility.

What he says here bears comparison with both Lacoue-Labarthe on the fiction of the political and the aestheticization of politics in fascism, and Badiou on the obfuscating “fascist subject.”

All of it also points to this, I’d suggest:  The “truth” of fascism (of Auschwitz) is fully freely flowing life.  That is, the response to fascism, the response it calls for and forth from us, is to tear down the walls (to undistort what Reagan so distorted at Berlin) that block fully free flow:  dismantle capitalism and bourgeois society entirely, since fascism now stands in the light as inseparably interconnected with capitalism itself (at least as conjoined with “patriarchy”–though his remarks here seem to me to undercut that very distinction, just as they, by the way, resurrect another, namely, the distinction between real or true, and apparent or false).

The way to “remember Jerusalem” (the truth that goes by that name) is not to  found a new Israeli state but is, rather (and as Rosenzweig for one suggests), to remain in, and embrace, dispersion (to stay in the Diaspora).

Theweleit on pages 263-264 gives an interesting study of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde story.  In Theweleit’s reading Hyde is/represents the free flow of life/desire, which Jekyll dams up.  Jekyll is the man bound and constrained by social repression of free flowing life:  Jekyll  is the ego.  And, of course, Hyde, the id, must in the end die!  Yet the death that Hyde himself represents would be, in truth, life–in relation to the “animated undeadness” ([Erik] Santner’s term) of Jekyll.

This reading seems to me to fit with my own reading of addiction as the binding of the otherwise disruptive (or at least uncontrolled) power that lies in the potential addict,  a power disruptive of the state.  That is–my idea is–that the state-system engenders addiction as a way of disabling those otherwise dangerous (to the state) elements that threaten it; and the addict in recovery, by finally getting free of the bonds of  addiction, actually comes free and open to genuine dismissal and inactivation of the power of the state.  (Hence,  for example, my liking for the image of [heroin addict Mark] Renton free to walk among us, at the end of [Scottish novelist Irvine Welch’s novel] Trainspotting [of which Renton is the fictional narrator].)

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