Slavoj Zizek: The Question of Potentiality and Virtuality

Dr. Rinaldi's Horror Cabinet


Throughout the corpus of his writings Zizek will return to one central or core theme: the Hegelian notion of “Substance as Subject”. I decided to gather a few entries as a way of getting a handle upon this thematic. Yet, this notion seems to be bound up with the difference between potentiality and virtuality, along with his concept of retroactive causation.

from Less Than Nothing

For we Hegelians, the crucial question here is this: where does Hegel stand with regard to this distinction between potentiality and virtuality? On a first approach, there is massive evidence that Hegel is the philosopher of potentiality: is not the whole point of the dialectical process as the development from In-itself to For-itself that, in the process of becoming, things merely “become what they already are” (or were from all eternity)? Is not the dialectical process the temporal deployment of an eternal set of potentialities…

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Ireland’s vote for queer marriage.

Ireland voted for the right for queers to marry. How is that is that victory?”
How is it ever a victory when a few more are let in through another crack in the door to become part of the very opressive system that has kept them out? Never, ever in the history of the world, has an opressive system been changed from within, a system which is self-corrective, that is, will adjust to outside pressure only to the extent needed to preserve it’s essential structure–an autopoietic system.
When will we get it–that it’s not a problem of a system with a few bugs that we can fis–but a massive, self-generating, self-reproducing system that lives off of opprssion and exploitation? We cannot celebrate these insipid liberal-appeasing pseudo-victories–unless we are doing so, because we are happy for the few who benefit (I accept that much), while at the same time, working to resist, to organize, to experiment, to create new forms of relationships to eradicate and replace the whole utterly corrupt, anachronistic zombi capitalist system? Anything short of that, is appeasment to the enemy.

What’s JAIL SUPPORT & Why is it important?


Jail Support is both tracking – finding out where people who were arrested were taken, calling to check in on their commissioner’s hearing and arraignment (when they get charged/see if they need bail) – and being outside the jail/booking to provide comfort to friends and community members who have been arrested when they get released. It is a way of showing solidarity & support to people who have been arrested and a way of taking care of friends and community. Jail support is important to decrease the effects of the dehumanization and isolation of jail and reminds people that they are not alone in this struggle. It’s important that we help each other navigate the overwhelming process of arrest, jail, legal counsel access, and follow up court hearings. And it’s important to come out of those cells to friends, nourishment, and support.
Things to bring with you: water, food, snacks, smokes, cameras (to document injuries), caffeine (tea or coffee for people doing night shifts), change/dollars for transportation home, warm things if weather is cold – blankets, scarves, extra hoodies/sweaters, and LOTS of water if the weather is hot.

Shifts : going with 1 -2 or more other people and planning to stay for a few hours at a time allows us to make sure there is always a crew of people there when anyone is released but also allows people who have been doing jail support for a long time to take breaks. Go in shifts & set these up as soon as arrests start or before if possible. 3- 5 hours per shift/crew or whatever you can do lets other people go get rest, eat some food, take care of their pets, kids, etc. Jail support should be a bonding and motivating experience – not burn us out!

Jail support can be done by ANYONE! … and should be done by EVERYONE if you are physically/mentally able. You don’t need a legal degree or legal experience to support people coming out of jail. Jail support is definitely political & personal but it’s not the same as the protest/action that brought you there. The way jail support crew behaves and how they interact with law enforcement outside the jails/booking/precincts can affect how long they hold our crew. Don’t talk about any actions/events/behaviors leading up to or associated to peoples arrests.
We don’t want to do the state’s job for them – anything you say, regardless of context, can be used against you/friends/others.

When your friends/crew/family get released – YAY!! : It is always best if partners, family and/or friends can be present when people are getting released. They will know them best, know what foods they like, know the best ways to comfort them, hopefully have an extra set of house keys, etc. If you don’t know someone personally try to take cues from them on what kind of support they would like. Coming out of jail can be overwhelming so respect their boundaries when offering support.
Not everyone wants a hug, so ask first.
Make sure to take care of their basic needs first. Do they need water? Food? A phone to call a loved one? If they were injured, with their consent, have someone take pictures of their injuries & document what happened to them. Once these basic human needs are met help them write down important information for follow up legal/court support:
(1) legal name, (2) charges, (3) court return date, (4) contact info- either phone or email (5) date, time, and location of arrest. Make sure the legal team/Up Against the Law gets all this info for continued follow up court support.

If you are arrested and are not a citizen do not share that information with anyone except your attorney. Strongly urge anyone who has been arrested NOT to talk about the details of what they were or were not doing leading up to the arrest.

What would a Free University look like?


Years ago I lived in a communal house. Expenses were divided proportional to income. For those willing to to do this, a house or loft space with 6 to 8 people (more would be better), would free people with those academic skills our late zombie capitalism continues to marganialize (the better to control and confine what is taught to ‘productive’ job training)– to teach and mentor, especially in the arts (the most inclusive definition of what that means) as alternatives to preditory graduate programs designed as institutional income generators.

We need to seriously think about, plan and experiment with education outside the academy– for all the humanities, creating non-hiarchal, student participatory teaching models and measures of competence as alternatives to grades and degrees,  not modeled on existing institutions, but freely drawing on their rescources, becomeing predatory parasites of the predatorys at the top of the educational food chain.

This is not a utopian idea–this is what MUST be done if education in other than science and business is to survive outside the jaws of our corporate masters into the rest of this century. Whatever the personal sacrifices requiered (which more and more, means giving up nothing but the illusion of tenure and financial security), this is the cost of creative and intellectual freedom. It’s time and past tiime to renew the idea of the “free university,” not one modeled on existing institutions, but as decribed here–aa living cooperative communities.  It’s time and past tiime to renew the idea of the “free university,” not one modeled on existing institutions, but as decribed here–aa living cooperative communities.

Form, Content, and Transformation

Larval Subjects .

Mug_and_Torus_morphThe difficulty is that it is the form or structure, not the content, that must be transformed to produce genuine psychodynamic or political transformation.  One might believe that they’ve produced a radical transformation by switching from donuts to coffee, but both are still toruses.  The structure remains the same.  This was the criticism of Soviet style socialism.  At the level of content it had changed the nature of distribution, but structurally, in its reliance on the Fordist factory model, it still had the same structure or form of alienation.  Similarly, one does not undermine patriarchy simply by putting a woman in charge.  Patriarchy is not defined by its content– a particular gender occupying the position of power –but by its structure:  an autarch at the top structuring social relations.  It’s that structure that has to be addressed, not the organ of a person that occupies a particular point in a…

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Vanessa Place — Gone With the Wind

Vanessa Place Gone With the Wind.

In reading her her defense, it’s important to keep in mind that what a work is, and its intended goals, are always divergent: the work is always more than its intentions, or its interpretations. In this case, her stated purposes, however elegantly argued, can never be more than another one of an infinite number of possible interpretations, in this case, these stated goals are stripped of aesthetic insulation (not parody), and meant to participate in the ‘real world.’ There seems to be a not entirely explicit argument that the harm this work might cause is more than counter balanced by the unacknowledged (if not invisible) mastery it exposes… that is, exposes if you substitute her argument for the thing itself.
Many years ago (1971) there was a performance artist, Chris Burden who had a friend shoot him with a 22 rifle, I believe in the hand. His explanation was that shooting someone was ‘as American as apple pie.’
My reaction at the time was to ask how this would have been different had the friend been directed to shoot him in the heart, or had he himself gone out on the street, declaring this to be a performance, the central goal of which, was to erase the distinction between the aesthetic intention and its real world consequences. It seems clear to me, that in erasing the lines between the aesthetic and the real, subsuming the later in the former, we have annihilated human meaning on both levels, pretending to a god-like stance, as something akin to a pure act of nature, like an earthquake or lightning strike. In the face of this, those powerful lawyerly arguments sound to me as nothing more than defense of exactly this, on the grounds that, because the social conditions being appropriated are themselves presented to us as meta-human realities, it is justified to imitate them, even to creating the same kind of harm. Or maybe there is no implied justification, but rather, an assertion of art as pure nihilism.
I read her explanation. I am not convinced.

The Making of Ari Figue’s Cat

I got a notice from Tumblr, congratulating me on Barking Dog Annex being 4 years old. I’d forgotten it, after writing one entry. I’d given up on a novel I’d been working on for the last 8 years–working title, Found Things. It was finding a folder with my last effort to save it, that got me started reworking it from a whole different angle–thinking of it almost as poetry. I finished it in a few weeks… with a new name, putting it away as Ari Figue’s Cat as I set out to join Occupy Philadelphia on Dilworth Plaza.

This is what I found on Tumblr: 2011

Found Things
I spent the morning going over the growing collection of papers, files, notebooks, journal entries—all related this Poem to the End of My Days—thinking how I might organize them for search & retrieval. I found an empty box for hanging folders, but no folders not in use. The things are damnably expensive. Kind of thing I hate to spend money on. What about this novel-in-progress… this 8 year project, which, inspecting my garden earlier, it came to me that I would never finish, that it no longer represented anything I wanted to do? I have boxes of drafts… dozens of Pendleflex forders going to waste. I don’t throw this stuff out… one never knows when something will pop into mind—like a burst bubble…an aneurism of memory, & some passage or chapter written years ago will seem exactly what I need.


I can stack the file folders of draft chapters in a box, store them in the closet, free the hanging folders & use them to organize the collection of papers & notes multiplying like kudzu. & what do I find in the first folder I open, but something I’d started working on a year ago, April…”Found Things Versed” (“Found Things” being the working title of this novel). I’d had in mind rewriting the whole thing as poetry. There were trial efforts at paragraphs of prose poems interspersed with open & broken line verse, journal entries… the prototype for Poem to the End of my Days… & I’d totally forgotten it. Or rather, put it out of reach of conscious thought, but not at all out of mind. This kind of thing happens so often that it no longer surprises me—but never ceases to wonder & amaze me… at how the mind works. It took me … 9 months… yeah, think of that. Nine months. Before I took this idea up in a more suitable form. No wonder those first 100 pages came so quickly… like pulling them out of storage.

Found Things possess a strangeness that will not easily surrender to the death of ownership. Let go. Let go of owning & more & more of the world will give itself to being found… & what you find, in not being owned, will be more truly yours than any Thing you will ever call ‘mine.’
May 9, from Jacob Russell’s Barking Dog