Ten Comments of eight Thesis on Phantasmagoria

10 Comments of 8 Thesis on Phantasmagoria

for Marc Berdet

1.    Phantasmagoria is the highest stage of capitalism, in the sense that it is the latest stage of false consciousness. As such, phantasmagoria is as abstract as concrete; it is a social relation and the mystification of that same relation in reified forms and structures.

2.    Phantasmagoria produces society by providing an always already false synthesis of partial and conflicting social/class interests into a desire for harmonious conviviality.

3.    Phantasmagoria is not simply a degenerate utopia, it is a utopian degeneration: it is the crowing of decadence as the destiny of humanity.

4.    As such, phantasmagoria is a hysteric condition: a condition of demanding and sanctioning an immediate access to reality to the exclusion of the always mediated real.

5.    This collective imaginary identification with existing reality as the only possible desire and at the same time as the only possible reality is constantly rewarded by a symbolic register of interlaced alibis.

6.    Phantasmagoria not only collects and synthesises these alibis, it produces reality in their image, neutralising the delay of the real by means of a perpetual murmur with no semantic content. Hence its fear of the void.

7.    Phantasmagoria conceives of the void to be averted at all costs as the consciousness of the gap between the Two. For Phantasmagoria there can only be the One and the Multiple which is one and the same thing: a continuous chain of unmediated images.

8.    The dream of social harmony, the fantasy of the end of history, the desire for non-mediation is the highest form of Thanatos. Exploiting and cultivating the death drive, phantasmagoria is the concrete expression of the collective unconscious of capitalist society.

9.    As such, phantasmagoria is not only a dream; it is the dream of the dead. The dream that the dead will not live their second death and thus cease to exist. Phantasmagoria is the utopia of eternal life, for the dead.

10. As the utopia of the dead, Phantasmagoria seeks the eternal return of the same. No longer simply a narration of ‘harmony with enjoyment’, it takes the form of myth in that it demands the constant everyday ritual re-enactment of the impossibility of the real, the inconceivability of social antagonism, the unthinkable potentiality of the class war.

Christos Lynteris: St Andrews, September 2010.

4 Responses

  1. Marc Berdet says:

    Thank you a lot Christos for your great and very stimulating 10 comments of my 8 thesis !

    Your 3d comment is very interesting, enlarging the analysis to the “devenir” of humanity.

    I really like the 4d : the hysteric condition is very well seen, and I absolute agree (I was thinking of something like that).

    The 5d is an excellent reformulation that brings us close to Adorno’s (and Marcuse) analysis. And I think that with the “dead drive” and the “dream of the dead”, you are exactly in the middle of the phantasmagoria, which is an attempt to make talk the dead but, in the same time, to anesthesize their souvenir (I hope you will understand my bad formulation…).

    A last but important question : from where did you have your definition of the myth in the 10th comment ? It is quite intriguing…

    • Christos Lynteris says:

      Regarding the issue of myth, the idea derives from a long-standing criticism of
      Levi-Straussian structuralism developed by a variety of scholars. More than a definition, it is a problematisation of myth which on the one hand explores the richness of what Dell Hymes called ethnopoetics (see his book: In Vain I Tried to Tell You), while adopting an Wittgenstenian praxeological theory of myth, as a texture of aesthetic/ethical principles constantly performed and negotiated in ritual not as an exceptional event, but as an integral element of everyday practice (for Amazonian examples of this approach see the works of Joanna Overing and Elvira Belaunde).

      As for it being actually a mechanism of conservation or eternal-return, it
      is a highly contested theory, but I am inclined to agree with Deleuze and
      Guattari’s interpretation found in the controversial ‘Savages, Barbarians and Civilised’ chapter of the Anti-Oedipus. In this I might actually sound like an apologist for Structural-Functionalism of the Radcliffe-Brown variety,
      suggesting that the aim of ritual re-enactment is to preserve some
      equilibrium (which would actually presume that a myth-ritual cluster has an
      aim). Instead, I suggest that the net effect of it (as an exaptation rather
      than an adaptation in Gould’s sense of the term) is a constant
      reterritorialisation of desiring-production to the ground of the social
      reproduction of the principle of kinship as a source of regulated

      So if phantasmagoria takes the form of myth, one must precisely focus on the
      work of that form and not on what it’s content might be. This is, as Zizek
      argued in the Sublime Object of Ideology, the actual novelty of Freud and
      Marx: that rather than seeking the secret content behind the form (libido, labour
      power), they problematised the form as such (the dream, commodities). The
      form of phantasmagoria is mythic for it functions in a way that renders affinity,
      i.e. the actual relation with the Other in Lacanian terms unthinkable. There can be only kinship relations, relations of harmony, relations of social reproduction, relations of enjoyment, in other words relations of an ego type. No space for affinity or symbolic predation, chez Viveiros de Castro, or for a creative conviviality chez Overing here.

      It is in this that phantasmagoria is in fact hysterical in proper psychoanalytic terms: it is engulfed and enclosed in a perpetual re-investment of ego relations, of the desire of the self in and of itself. I would go as far (in fear of being lynched by fellow anthropologists) to say that all mythic societies, all kinship focused societies are in fact societies structured around a deferred or realised hysterical ontology.

  2. Malu Afary says:

    Hi, I found this post really interesting.
    Especially concerning the notion of the perpetual and formalistic structure of structuring the ontology of the self. Self it self is modernity’s myth. Myth and modernity may seam at a first glance as contradictory, on the basis that the first refers to the eternal and the solid in some sort thus the second to the new born and the fluid of the same sort. Modernity’s discourse engaging time and space to a perpetuus and formed/formative a priori engages at the same time qualities to objects. An object can stand as an entity only through the subjects unity. This unity is at the same time the only presupposition of the objects revelation as it is the inner limit that constantly has to be shaped from its outside transcendental “proofs”. Even if this outside exists only as an inner method or exactly because it is that inner method. The synthesis of the object always subjected to the subjects judge-mental abilities draws out an energetic unification that takes place constantly, perpetually and is possible only because of the perpetuus self consciousness of the unity of the subject. The unification energetically produced constantly, produces the very terms on which the multiple of the experience unifies itself under this terms and at the same time reflects those terms of unity on the multiple. The end of the myth of modernity is not the harmonious accordance implicit on a moment or on the moment of eternity, it is indeed the eternal manifestation of the energetic unification of the multiple seen or being able to be seen as already one under the a priori subjective synthesis of the object.
    This construction of the unity of the subject/object, constructed as necessary, if combined with an inner aim/goal of the historical perpetuus leads to a necessary assimilation of the conflict. This assimilation is based on the simultaneous and the perpetuus. The simultaneous goal of history is assimilated in every each level of the historical continuum as it assimilates perpetually the production of the conflict into the one that expresses simultaneously the perpetuus continuum of the unification.
    Limits that discriminate are constantly assimilated or unified. Qualities and entities produced from that very discrimination are the multiple always already unified, manifesting its transcendental accordance to “the world” or to say to the order of things.
    A limit that separates, firstly separates of the notion of the continuum and its simultaneous unification. Is this kind of limit something that can be thought of, shown at, spoken out? Would it be better to keep in silence about the things you can’t say? Is of any importance the construction of the space that this separation would, could shape? The very notion of the separation is used/produced as a way to see/speak potentialities?
    M. A

  3. maxim says:

    While the 8 theses are quite interesting, I really do not see the point of the 10 comments. Of course myths hide their regulation of conflicts, and of course their re-enactment serves this process of regulation too for those reenacting, as well as for those profitting from this reenactment as regulating and balancing act.

    But do we need so much MA-student jargon of the ’90s to say that?

    The use of “phantasmagoria” today against Angloamerican crisis-ridden middle and lower classes as a weapon of domination is kind of out. Its celebration as thanatos and image-consumerism becomes less and less relevant.

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