Biddle, Ian

Love Thy neighbour? The Political Economy of Musical Neighbours?
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  1. What a wonderfully engaging article. Thank you.
    As someone who has somewhat recently taken an interest in a number of the topics you are addressing, I have a couple of questions that I would like to raise; raised emphatically NOT in the spirit of critique or in the hope of a prolonged and public debate, but simply for my own clarification of a couple of issues which I find difficult and which you clearly have a strong grasp of.
    My question starts with your question of what it is that the Other wants in Par. 9; your depiction of the situation does not strike me as a depiction of an hysterical situation, but rather as the performance (through the act of depicting) of an hysteric. That is, isn’t it the case that your depiction of the neighbours as Other already covers over the fact that the Other invites you to a community that you do not know how to join? Doesn’t your description install a value-form through which you try to fill this lack in the Other [i.e. your own absence], but cannot because it would require you to be Other than your Self. Thus, you construct the fantasy of your neighbour as Other to you that masks the fact that you are Other to yourself; a construction that is the condition for the production of meaning in your article, but also guarantees that the analysis can only act in the realm of the sign-form. My question, then is whether noise is really the face of the Other, or whether it is rather a fantasy that sustains the illusion of your subjectivity as an acting agent in a social field (rather than a social field of agential intensities)? That is, does the noise of the neighbour oppose the melody of your own thoughts in order to hide the fact that there is no distinction between the two?
    These questions lead to a broader question regarding the conclusions of this contribution: namely, once you have arrived at the circulation of paragraph 43, why continue to insist on a structural model? It seems at this point that the analysis arrives at the precipice of moving beyond what Kroker figures through a post-Nietzschean notion of completed nihilism; or, if not beyond completed nihilism, the analysis at least arrives at Baudrillard’s total simulation, where circulation does not describe a lack in the subject but rather a finite field of objects that no longer make reference to a structure (i.e the real, or Oedipus). In any case, the notion of ambiguity that you mobilize so compellingly seems to my ears to connect with the same term mobilized by Butler in The Psychic Life of Power and taken up again (convincingly) in Antigone’s Claim. Again, I raise these questions and relations not as a line of critique, but because each of these thinkers arrives in their thought at a place similar to where I hear you arriving in Par. 43, at which point they each feel compelled to mobilize a radical critique of the subject (specifically mounted as a critique of the value-form itself) that is no longer consonant with the writing of either Freud or Lacan (nor Zizek for that matter, whose writing on Levinas and the neighbour in Parallax View has some interesting resonances with this article). You clearly have good reasons for choosing a different path, but I wonder if you would be willing to use this forum as an opportunity to elaborate them.

  2. David. First of all, many thanks for your kind and thoughtful response to my article. I think you have identified precisely the point in my piece where the unconscious of the article, speaks, so to speak.
    If I may, I’d like to address the more substantial part of your comment. I realise that what your question raises is something both about the terms on which I am prepared (and, perhaps, able) to elaborate the argument, and also, I think, something about the impossibility of thinking as a critical Lacanian without some notion of subjectivity remaining intact, however fragmented, however fraught and distended. If that subject – whatever it may be, however it is constituted – is some thing (and I realise that even in Lacan that is something of an act of faith), then the elaboration you so tantalisingly hold out for me is barred to me (just as, for Lacan, the barred subject is always barred to itself). In the end this is precisely about epistemology, about what it is possible to think and to know. A Deleuzean (if I can be so crude as to pigeon-hole you) and a Lacanian are always going to disagree precisely about this issue since it gets to the heart of where Lacan and Deleuze part company. Of course, it is possible to draw the parting of ways too crudely, and I guess in the end where their work differs is in the consequence of the critique of subjectivity, not in their difference vis-a-vis the subject. I think where I have trouble with Deleuze, Baudrillard and Bulter on this issue (if I have understood their work correctly) is at the point at which they lose sight of the political.
    Now, whether the argument is ‘structural’ or not (although to refer to the Real as structure is quite problematic, of course) is neither here nor there for me and I could certainly imagine a radically different way of presenting the collapse I outline in paragraph 43. I am not wed to or necessarily need the Lacanian technology to make that point. But, and this is crucial and takes us to the first part of your comment: it is precisely in the hysteric relation, in the politics of community and its productive impossibility, that I want to hold this relation. What I am unable to agree with in your characterisation of the community’s call to which I am unable to respond is the deathly foreclosure of the political productivity of thinking in/as community even when that fantasy shows itself to be fragile, delicate. Where I think my article fails is precisely in not being able to lead the reader to that point. I think the piece speaks only very surreptitiously of the political consequences of the fragility of community as a fantasy. My point would have been, I think, that, as fragile, that fantasy requires something like a political programme that would set out to procure, nurture and maintain it. Community, in other words, is a kind of political work, not a state of being or a simple hailing. It is precisely as hysteric, then (perhaps, only as hysteric) that that work can be done, it seems to me: one hails rather than being hailed. Who am I for you? That is the key question!
    I hope this goes some way to helping you make sense of what I was trying to achieve here, even if, as I think you can see, I am not always completely clear about how to make the consequences of what I say ‘come out’, as it were.
    Many thanks again for this thoughtful and testing response.

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