Sunday, 1 July 2007

socialism must not exclude human sensual pleasure from its programme!



by Infinite Thought

Despite the claim that ‘there is no such thing as too much fun’, plastered all over the dirty teflon of the recently reopened Dome, we must sadly come to terms with the fact that we live in a world in which enjoyment has been profoundly circumscribed. Don’t be misled: The imperative to ‘Enjoy!’ is omnipresent, but pleasure, joy and happiness are absolutely and entirely absent. We can have as many vibrators as we like, and drink as much booze as we physically tolerate, but anything else outside the echo chamber of money-possessions-base-pleasure is strictly verboten. Communes, you say! Collectives! Alternative models of the family! What are you, mad?! It’s a weary indictment of the state of things when virtually every book on these topics has been removed from your university library. People can’t possibly have once thought that there might be more to life than Daddy-Mummy-Me...could they?



Whatever did happen to those dreams of living differently? To the radical Kibbutzim, co-housing groups, revolutionary cells? When the ‘queer’ comes to stand in for the right for everyone to own their own fuck-pad, and the family turns every inward upon itself (‘now we’ve finally managed to save up for a mortgage, how about we schedule in a child around 2010?’), when gay lifestyle magazines fill their pages with advice on how best to marry and adopt you know the restoration is truly upon us. Alternative living these days is more likely to refer to the fact that you’ve shoved a solar panel on your roof rather than undertaken any practical critique of the nuclear family.



Thus we move, just like theories of being in Medieval theology, from the many (a generalised sexual hedonia) to the one (the ‘life partner’ who agrees to share the mortgage) but with nothing in between, apart, perhaps, for some, a glimpse at possible alternatives – but the shared student house, or squatting with an anarchist group or pottering off for a few years to an ashram in one’s early twenties are scarcely more than temporary diversions, slotted in to an already pre-ordained telos of domestic and economic stability. They lack structure – and deliberately so.



Dušan Makavejev’s WR: Mysteries of the Organism and The Switchboard Operator, whilst in strong part a metaphorical portrayal of the abusive relationship between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, simultaneously poses the question of what it might be to have a different attitude towards sex, and as a corollary to this, what it would be to live differently, to think beyond the apparently all-pervasive political separation of family and the world. What if every fuck was a kind of communism, egalitarian, joyful and for the good of all? This would precisely not be communalism, a kind of withdrawn fellowship, but a re-establishment of the link between sex and politics. This is the link that capitalism needs to obfuscate in order to hide its true dependency on the ordering and regulation of reproduction. The family in this sense is always precisely a question of the relationship between sex and politics, how it is that someone is fit and functioning enough to sell eight hours of their labour power a day. But the increasing dominance of the ideology of domesticity, shored up by endless televisual imperatives to clean, decorate or sell your home, increasingly strips all living arrangements, whether they be the single flat set up for a series of one-night stands or the nuclear household with kids and a puppy in the garden, of their real political role. Capitalism has to pretend that the world of politics has nothing to do with the home – one of the lasting achievements of feminism is to re-establish the link between household labour, reproductive labour and paid labour – from the cradle to the grave, a worker is infinitely harder to produce and maintain than merely turning up in the office might suggest.



From Sexoleftism to Deflationary Acceptance

There are perhaps two alternative ways of politicising sex, neither of which are particularly satisfactory. The first takes sex as being itself inherently liberatory. Makavejev’s films flirt with the powerful energies of a liberated sexuality, with particular reference to Reich, but tend to turn fatal when the question of what it would be to prolong such a project arises. When we look to actual attempts to put Reich’s ideas into practice, in projects such as Otto Mühl’s 1970s Viennese commune, we see one of the problems of something like an overpoliticisation of sex, an overcentralisation of its importance that eventually (inevitably?) leads to new forms of domination. Mühl’s ambitions for eventually realising a free society began with the declaration of war on one enemy in particular: monogamy. It was rather a popular choice, as by 1972 hundreds had joined and other sections were set up all over Germany.



Rather than our current many-to-one model, Mühl attempted something like a simple substitution – life-long fidelity was to be replaced by absolute promiscuity. Members were forbidden to have sex with the same partner more than once a week, yet all must have sex five times a day – romantic love was bourgeois, foreplay old-fashioned. Sex was to be performed as quickly and machinically as possible. The Weather Underground had their own militant take on this sexual critique of bourgeois morality: marathon criticism sessions, fuelled by LSD, which included forcing members of the group with no sexual attraction to each other to have sex, or making the boyfriend of one member watch his girlfriend have sex with another man. What is being invoked here is kind of sexual cognitive dissonance designed to shore up commitment to the group and ensure total subjective (and sexual) destitution. No more romantic dreams.

The anxieties and inequalities of desire seem to always rear their ugly head, however: not all members of the commune are equally desirable, some are in fact very undesirable, and one person in particular is incredibly desirable, Mühl himself, who takes on an increasingly phallic status. Hierarchy returns as the select few super-attractive people extricate themselves from the desires of the rabble – sexoleftism becomes a tyranny of copulation as Mühl is later accorded droit de seigneur over every young girl who comes of age. Mühl was eventually sentenced in the 1980s to seven years in jail for child sex offences.



The central problem of the notion of sex as inherently egalitarian emerges when it turns out that desire isn’t fair at all. Accepting the notion that desire is a tyrant forms the second attempt to link sex and politics: we could call this the tragic-psychoanalytic model, which at least has the virtue of speaking intelligently about itself. If there is no sexual relation, there is certainly no possibility of founding a community upon it, unless, precisely, it is a collective which is not one, which might describe something like the (very unsexily named) blogosphere.



The problem here is twofold: first, the relative ahistoricality of this model of sex, as if all maladapted animals with this peculiar relation to language will always wear their desire like a damaged mark of shame. The second problem involves the proximity of the tragic-psychoanalytic model’s conception of sex to the practical bourgeois performance of sex: here there really is no sexual relation! Only an economic, ossified and status-based one. Between isolationist sexual utopianism and a wry displacement of the importance of sex lies a poorly served desire for a collective sexuality that neither makes sex the be-all-and-end-all (as it were) nor a dirty little secret to be drowned in proprietary and hypocritical moralising.

39 comments:

Dominic said...

Much as I like to play the tragic accents in the tragic-psychoanalytic version for all they're worth - and, to me, they're worth a lot - the actual point (of Badiou's working of that story, anyway) is that a symbolically stable rapport would foreclose the possibility of love. To put it another way, to the extent that there is some relation, it is not sexual: doesn't the bourgeois mortgage-sharing model of the "relationship" exemplify this?

I suspect you're falling into a sort of "wisdom" position here, a bit like the positioning of "vintage porn" as representing a scopophilia miraculously devoid of sadism, all sweetness and giggles yet at the same time giving the voyeur just what he wants. But what if what the voyeur really wanted, all along, was the machinic brutality of modern hardcore, and these early efforts were simply comparatively inept attempts at producing that as yet incompletely-imagined outcome? I suspect that modern porn's teleology of the orgasm just is the teleology of scopophilic perversion, its brutality the outcome of several iterations of competitive tendering for the punter's cash. On this account, the only way to make porn nicer would be to remove the consumer; but then, who would one be making it for?

Similarly, what if the telos of sexual relationality just is the desocialized, desexed form it takes in the bourgeois couple? Is this not above all the most efficient, the most economic, the most logistically straightforward binding of sexuality, the one that most ruthlessly pacifies desire and binds it to routine? Suppose that, in other words, the success of the most stultifying forms of relationship were an expression of the true purpose of relationality: to make the intolerable real of sex tolerable, to make its problems go away...

Qlipoth said...

"from the cradle to the grave, a worker is infinitely harder to produce and maintain than merely turning up in the office might suggest."

But who bears the burden of mainetnance?

"Free time is a euphemism for the peculiar way labor as a factor of production not only transports itself at its own expense to and from the workplace but assumes primary responsibility for its own maintenance and repair. Coal and steel don't do that. Lathes and typewriters don't do that. But workers do."

http://www.zpub.com/notes/black-work.html

it said...

Remember, though, that I have never claimed that vintage porn lacks teleology, or brutality, for that matter. The 'money shot' is omnipresent, as are scenes that are far more hardcore than most contemporary bareback porn, double-anal or what have you.

It's interesting that you assume that when I defend a 'humanist pornography', it's because what I'm really after is cheeky kisses in Arcadia, rather than proper fucking in all its polymorphous catastrophism and sadism/asymmetry/nastiness. The false, but common, fantasy of vintage porn is that it is 'sweet', when it fact it is not at all - the reason why I might call it 'humanist' (whatever the other horrors of this word might be) is precisely not because it is reassuring, but because it is disturbing: 'human' in the sense of perverse, bizarre and dissonant, rather than cups-of-tea and midnight feasts (or whatever it is that might make one feel at home in the universe).

So your claim that modern porn's teleology of the orgasm just is the teleology of scopophilic perversion was true all along! There precisely is a link between cinema and perversion along explicitly visual lines - the only thing that vintage porn does that contemporary porn doesn't, as far as I can tell, is de-segregate female and male pleasure. This is a really specific and quite technical question to do with POV, genre and category, but the question that turns up here is (as for sexual fantasies more generally): what role does the viewer take on (voluntarily or otherwise) - is he/she the fucker/fuckee? The relation between the two (or more?) The scenario itself? The language (or silence) spoken in the scene? The partial object? The partial nothingness? The frisson of guilt that (some!) people experience when masturbating/watching porn?

I agree that sex is the unnameable of love for Badiou - that which cannot be subjectivated, or something like that. But surely the idea of bourgeois couple as telos of sexual relationality is weirdly ahistorical (hence my linking it to the potential depressive ahistoricality of clunky psychoanalytic models) - when Badiou says that women are either Meinhof or hausfrau, he means under a certain historical cosh, not, like, ever, surely!

As for wisdom, pah, as if...the point is desire is a bitch, but it's a historical bitch to some extent, and just intolerable for the rest. But it has to be historically intolerable, else we're all, ahem, fucked!

it said...

Qlipoth - my original point was the 'trad' feminist one about the amount of unacknowledged and unpaid labour that goes into producing a relatively 'free' man fit for work - an obviously rather outdated position now, but one whose strength in terms of laying bare the link between the 'personal' and the political/economic cannot be reiterated often enough.

Whilst I have much sympathy for the anarchist anti-work position, I'm not sure a 'ludic revolution' is quite on the cards (heh), not least because the 'game' of desire is an eminently adult affair, no matter how perverse kiddies can be.

If you're suggesting we blame people for their own oppression, this is bad moralism - as if by 'reversing the polarities' we can turn work in to play - 'you gotta lighten up, man!' and that sort of thing. WR: Mysteries of the Organism is great for loads of reasons - one of which is pointing out the impossibility of this kind of straightforward subjective switcheroo...the egg yolk breaks for a reason!

Patrizia di Malizia said...

The second problem involves the proximity of the tragic-psychoanalytic model’s conception of sex to the practical bourgeois performance of sex

IT, Daniel, where does this ''tragic psychoanalytic model'' come from? The statement that there is ''no sexual relation'' doesn't have to end in tragedy. For me it just leads to the realization that sex in and of itself can't be total fulfillment, or the solution to emotional problems. I also don't remember where Lacan proposed ''courtly love'' as the proper/sexless model of relation??? It sounds like one of those erroneous Zizek-burgeois-reversals!

I'm surprised noone noticed the central issue of WR, which I shall term ''incarnation'' because it sounds all potent and heavy. Is it possible to attain fulfillment in the flesh = is Communism possible in this life, on earth, in this body. This is the question that the Yugoslav self-management experiment faced, one that caused much heated debate between Christians and Marxists.

And related to this, the age-old debate between Lacanians and Deleuzians: can we tap into the Affect directly, or do we need to go through the Oedipus narrative.

I think Milena gets decapitated because she believes in uninterrupted flow, though Lenin warns her that a revolution based on permanent orgasm might be doomed to failure.

Dejan aka Patrizia di Malizia
Chief Prosecutor of the International Parodic Tribunal for Cultural Crimes against humanity

Qlipoth said...

Oh, I certainly wasn't suggesting we "blame people for their own oppression"! I was just using a welcome opportunity to plug Bob Black's great reasoned rant.

"as if by 'reversing the polarities' we can turn work into play - 'you gotta lighten up, man!' and that sort of thing."

No, rest assured, neither I nor Bob Black would defend such a ludicrous position.

By the way, I know Otto Mühl fondly imagined that he was "realising Reich's ideas"; but Reich himself was a lifelong serial monogamist, and he would have been disdainful (to say the least) of Mühl's little sexual Disneyland. Reich goes to great pains, at several points in his later work, to make it plain that he detests both pornography and "permissive Fickerei".

I think Reich is very often misunderstood, maybe because hardly anyone actually reads him. He didn't want to politicise sex(whatever that might actually mean); he simply realised that repressed sexual energy was one of the things that made positive social change so very, very difficult to achieve. (It's hard to move when you're wearing a full set of character-armour.) Which is why he worked so hard to alleviate the entirely unnecessary miseries caused by repression and ignorance and chronic fear, the sheer extent of which may be hard to imagine nowadays. Somewhere, he lists some of the extraordinarily weird questions asked by boys and girls (and by grown men and women) at the massive Sexpol meetings in Vienna in the 1920s. These people were enormously relieved when he reassured them (for example) that masturbation would not make them go blind, that kissing would not make them pregnant, and that pubic hair was perfectly normal in a 20-year-old. And when people are freed from such superfluous worries about themselves, then they can invest that freed-up energy elsewhere, in love, work and social effort. In that sense, sex is certainly political, but there is certainly no need to "politicise sex".

Anyway... Reich never came close to advocating anything remotely like a Mühlian commune, and I think he would have seen very clearly how that was bound to end. "Ein verwachsener Baum wird schwerlich wieder grade."

Qlipoth said...

"I think Milena gets decapitated because she believes in uninterrupted flow, though Lenin warns her that a revolution based on permanent orgasm might be doomed to failure."

Well, of course "a revolution based on permanent orgasm" is doomed to failure, just like a revolution based on permanent sneezing. None of which has anything whatsoever to do with anything Reich ever actually wrote or said. There is no such thing as a permanent orgasm, just as there is no such thing as a permanent intake of breath. That's not parody, Dejan, but sheer ballsaching silliness.

Patrizia di Malizia said...

There is no such thing as a permanent orgasm, just as there is no such thing as a permanent intake of breath

Warszawa, we've been here before, and you didn't understand the first time round. It's a metaphor. Get it? ME-TA-PHOR. Since Reich's orgasm is much like Deleuze's Affect, it implies an un-interrupted FLOW as opposed to the psychoanalytic model of Desire based on castration/interruption.

Furthermore what exactly is new in Reich with respect to the blocked/repressed energy? That's the old, Freudian, hydraulic model of personality.

Qlipoth said...

Deajan, I know what a metaphor is, and I even know what an adumbration is, not to mention a datum, so don't lecture me please. And your 'metaphor' is no metaphor at all. (Maybe it's a yoyo? It certainly keeps coming back.)

"Since Reich's orgasm is much like Deleuze's Affect, it implies an un-interrupted FLOW as opposed to the psychoanalytic model of Desire based on castration/interruption."

*Groooan* It's nothing like "Deleuze's Affect". And it "implies" absolutely nothing of the sort.

- We have, as you say, "been here before", Dejan, when you were busy mangling Reich on your own site. And I think IT would probably prefer to be spared a repeat of that marathon.

Patrizia di Malizia said...

I'm sure IT agrees with me; she has a good eye. She posted that great photo of you and your 1968 sex revolution comrades leaping in the air like dogs on heat!

Qlipoth said...

Hoho. Dejan, you missed the chance of a lifetime when they were casting Beavis and Butthead.

"Furthermore what exactly is new in Reich with respect to the blocked/repressed energy? That's the old, Freudian, hydraulic model of personality."

For Freud, the libido was a mysterious invisible elf, trapped (for some inexplicable reason) in a machine. Freud was content to leave it that way, because the nature of the libido was a touchy subject, with consequences better avoided. For Reich, the libido was biological energy, something as real as electricity or blood-pressure or magnetism; and something with an actual function in a living body.

Reich is ill-served in English on the web, but this is a decent, fairly short summary:

"Freud had also hypothesized the existence of a biological sexual energy in the body. He called it “libido,” and described it as “something which is capable of increase, decrease, displacement and discharge, and which extends itself over the memory traces of an idea like an electric charge over the surface of the body.”

But as the years passed, Freud and his followers diluted much of this concept, reducing the libido to little more than a psychological energy or idea. By 1925, Freud had concluded that “the libido theory may therefore for the present be pursued only by the path of speculation.”

Reich’s clinical work convinced him otherwise. He devoted himself to matters of technique in an attempt to overcome the limitations of psychoanalysis in treating neuroses. And in doing so he observed that sexual energy is more than just an idea, and that sexual gratification, in fact, alleviated neurotic symptoms. He discovered that the function of the orgasm is to maintain an energy equilibrium by discharging excess biological energy that builds up naturally in the body. If that discharge function is disturbed—as it proved to be in all of his patients—this energy continues to build up without adequate release, stagnating and fueling neurotic disorders. Reich also discovered that in psychic disturbances, this biological energy is bound up not only in symptoms, but more importantly, in the individual’s characterological and muscular rigidities—what he called “armor.”

Reich’s orgasm theory set him apart from his colleagues, because it indicated that the libido was a real physical energy that possibly might be measured quantitatively. Reich’s clinical work also led him to develop new therapeutic techniques to eliminate the patient’s character and muscular armor and allow for the flow and discharge of this bio-energy to achieve what he called “orgastic potency,” the capacity for total discharge of sexual excitation in the genital embrace."


http://www.wilhelmreichmuseum.org/biography.html

Patrizia di Malizia said...

For Reich, the libido was biological energy, something as real as electricity or blood-pressure or magnetism; and something with an actual function in a living body.

Yes Deleuze also hyposthesized (correct spelling?) the existence of biological, physical, measurable energy that he termed the Affect. It is a continuation of Reich's thought, which Makavejev presciently put in the film. And Freud by the way also felt there were correlates in the brain for his psychic constructs, so I don't know what you're adumbrating on about. Surely Reich was leaning on Freud's pressure model.

Qlipoth said...

"Deleuze also hyposthesized... It is a continuation of Reich's thought, ...Makavejev presciently put...And Freud by the way..."

It took you precisely six minutes to speed-read my post, not follow the link, respond not at all, combine four double-quick namechecks with some free association, and then post the results.

Dejan, I'm going out for a pint before you start telling me about Lacan.

Patrizia di Malizia said...

But as the years passed, Freud and his followers diluted much of this concept, reducing the libido to little more than a psychological energy or idea.

This isn't really true of Freud, only of his followers!

catmint said...

"but Reich himself was a lifelong serial monogamist, and he would have been disdainful (to say the least) of Mühl's little sexual Disneyland"

Qlipoth, your point of view might seem more credible if you hadn't already been far too disdainful of frog sex disneyland

catmint said...

...I thought your article was brilliant, by the way

the Sexpol magazine cover seems ugly to me though, maybe deliberately so, it doesn't make me want to join Sexpol

catmint said...

If anything Sexpol magazine shows a bourgeoisie stripped of roman togas - a very pure version of homo economicus - humanity without accumulated wealth or powers of coercion

Qlipoth said...

"Qlipoth, your point of view might seem more credible if you hadn't already been far too disdainful of frog sex disneyland "

Aha! Well, catmint, if it really was just three toads being toads in springtime, good for them and I hope they had fun. But I don't see how this makes my 'point of view' any less 'credible'. Maybe you could elaborate.

There's one really striking thing about all these responses to Makaveyev's film: the only part of it anyone even mentions is the fictional, 'parodic' Carry On Tito strand, featuring plenty of risqué jokes, some nice 'crumpet' in various states of undress, and a large cast of lovably wacky characters for everyone to laugh at (naive idealistic girl / pompous ideologue / robotic soldier /Stalin / etc.). Last time I saw it, I kept expecting Kenneth Williams to appear, shouting: "Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me." Togas, indeed.

The other half is documentary.

Qlipoth said...

This is excellent, on Reich, Marx, work, sex and the body:

TOWARD A DIALECTIC OF SENSUALITY AND WORK

Arthur Efron

http://people.sunyit.edu/~harrell/billyjack/marx_crt_efron.htm#rt*

1. Reich and Work.

Wilhelm Reich began by defending Freud's concept of libido as a quantifiable bodily energy; he went on to change that concept fundamentally so that it implies, in his writings, a dual biological aim: sexual expression and work expression. There is an "oscillation of biological energy", he thought, between those two aims, and no need for a forced (repressed) transformation of raw sexual energy into constructive activity. One way he put it, in The Function of the Orgasm, just at the place in the book in which this oscillation is diagrammed, is this. "Work and sexuality are not antithetical they foster one another by building up self-confidence." (Translated by Vincent T. Carfagno, New York, 1973, p. 184). I don't know if I can quite accept Reich's wording, but the point is the connection itself, not the precise terms. The better-known feature of Reich's theory is that sexual gratification through orgasm is necessary for adult health and for the performance of work in a manner that further fosters human loving an the creation of a true community. It is an idea that emerged when Reich saw that his patients could not go on doing rotten, alienating work once they had begun to be orgastically potent. The less recognized aspect-- ignored in the almost irresistible temptation to simplify Reich's thought--is that the relations of work and sex were envisioned as reciprocal. Doing "mechanical, forced, dull, work . . . deadens the sexual desires and is opposed to them." ...'


http://people.sunyit.edu/~harrell/billyjack/marx_crt_efron.htm#rt*

(The whole thing is well worth reading.)

catmint said...

Q -

"a permanent intake of breath"

really, I think Vitalism's basically reactionary. I don't know why you want to insist on its obviousness and usefulness (if that's what you're doing) and at the same time despise (quirky, impractical) Deleuzian ideas about circular breathing* and permanent orgasms.

*for instance the olm who lives in caves in Slovenia and breathes through gills.

pornography:

catmint said...

Reproducible pornography is a discourse thats affectivity derives from the apprehension of a disturbing social reality outside its diegetic plane.

This pornography can only suggest, because it cannot realise:

1. the existance elsewhere of a general social pathology (along the lines of Foucault's scientia sexualis)

2. the existance of a real world of libertinism likewise outside pornography

(there is no libertinism, only a discourse about libertinism)

The affectivity of pornography is built around a double bind: pornography both incites and censures a libertinism it doesn't really relate to. Libertinism is here determined twice: as substance of indictment and as protocol of experiment.

For this reason the current form of reproducible pornography is probably vulnerable to gratuitous parody, as all commodities are vulnerable to gratuities.

catmint said...

Evidence for the Reported Benefits of Castrating Cattle

Throughout history, farm animals have been castrated to eliminate indiscriminate breeding and reduce aggressive behavior. The procedure reduces management problems associated with aggressive and sexual behaviors, and decreases the incidence of dark-cutting meat. Intact male cattle (bulls) tend to produce lower quality grade, less consistent, less marbled, and less tender meat. In addition, carcasses from bulls command lower prices at market when compared with carcasses from steers.

Although castration is considered to be a model of pain in animals, it is also generally accepted that the procedure results in improved overall welfare for the animal and that its economic benefits outweigh its short-term welfare costs.

Qlipoth said...

"really, I think Vitalism's basically reactionary."

Who mentioned 'Vitalism', catmint? Only you. "Like, Vitalism kinda sucks, if you ask me." Um, whatever. Because you don't say why your dislike of something nobody has even mentioned should interest me or anyone else. -- Are we on MySpace? "Really, I think the Spice Girls reunion is a kewl idea." Um, whatever.

"I don't know why you want to insist on its obviousness and usefulness (if that's what you're doing) and at the same time despise (quirky, impractical) Deleuzian ideas about circular breathing* and permanent orgasms."

Why on earth should an interest in Reich entail a belief in "(quirky, impractical) Deleuzian ideas" about anything at all, least of all about "circular breathing and permanent[sic] orgasms"?

Never mind olms, catmint; your argument is a zpoing:

http://umusicimages.ca/wackyanimals/microsite/info4.jpg

catmint said...

"Freud had also hypothesized the existence of a biological sexual energy in the body. He called it “libido,” and described it as “something which is capable of increase, decrease, displacement and discharge, and which extends itself over the memory traces of an idea like an electric charge over the surface of the body.”

But as the years passed, Freud and his followers diluted much of this concept, reducing the libido to little more than a psychological energy or idea. By 1925, Freud had concluded that “the libido theory may therefore for the present be pursued only by the path of speculation.”

Reich’s clinical work convinced him otherwise. He devoted himself to matters of technique in an attempt to overcome the limitations of psychoanalysis in treating neuroses. And in doing so he observed that sexual energy is more than just an idea, and that sexual gratification, in fact, alleviated neurotic symptoms. He discovered that the function of the orgasm is to maintain an energy equilibrium by discharging excess biological energy that builds up naturally in the body."

Q, isn't this vitalism?

Qlipoth said...

"Q, isn't this vitalism? "

What do you mean by 'vitalism', catmint? And what if it were? Would the application of the label suffice to invalidate the argument? I don't think so. ("Isn't this the Spice Girls? They're so 90s.")

Reich in fact always described himself as a functionalist:

"Self‑perception is an essential part of the natural life‑process. It is not nerves here, muscles there and vegetative sensations in a third place; rather, the processes taking place in the tissues form an indivisible functional unity with their perception.

This is, indeed, one of the essential guiding lines in our therapeutic work. Pleasure and anxiety represent a certain state of functioning of the total organism. We have to distinguish clearly between functional thinking and mechanistic thinking which cuts things apart and will never grasp living functioning. Let us put down four principles of a functional concept of nature:

1. Every living organism is a functional unit; it is not merely a mechanical sum total of organs. The basic biological function governs every individual organ as it governs the total organism.

2. Every living organism is a part of surrounding nature and functionally identical with it.

3. Every perception is based on the consonance of a function within the organism with a function in the outer world; that is, it is based on vegetative harmony.

4. Every form of self‑perception is the immediate expression of objective processes in the organism (psychophysical identity)."

catmint said...

Qlipoth, are you accepting all of Reich's claims (e.g. Orgone energy) and arguing they're part of a materialist conception of reality? Or are you arguing that the materialism conception isn't correct? Or do you only accept some of Reich's claims?

Also, are you involved with Reich's estate - the Orgone foundation, or whatever, or do you only know Reich from books?

Qlipoth said...

"Also, are you involved with Reich's estate - the Orgone foundation, or whatever...? "

Oh please, catmint. Why are you even asking this question? (The answer is no, I'm not involved in anyone's estate.) So now why not ask Dejan if he's "involved with Lacan's estate"? Why not ask IT if she was paid by Dusan Maveyev to promote his film...?

I only accept some of Reich's claims. I think he gave a fuller and more detailed and accurate and convincing account of what sex actually is that any other writer I know. And he rooted the libido in biology and thus in matter. He is neither a mystic nor a mechanist, neither a reductionist nor an obfuscator. His later work is very interesting indeed, but I'm not really qualified to make a first-hand judgment on it. Reich was really working on the edge of science by that time; but so is almost every serious scientist, at almost any time. And although 'orgonotics' is often dismissed out of hand as a 'pseudoscience' (by people who've never read Reich, and by the likes of Francis Wheen) it is probably more accurate to call it a protoscience. Few people have continued Reich's scientific work, not least because it's hard to find funding when the original researcher had his books burned by the FDA before landing in jail, and is still largely anathema. In recent years, the only two independent peer-reviewed experiments to test Reich's orgone accumulator were carried out at German universities in the 80s and 90s. Both confirmed that there were measurable effects they could not otherwise explain - and both recommended further research.

Tachyons, Dark Energy, Dark Matter, gravitational field energy... a whole host of phenomena have only been noted and investigated since Reich's death, and in all of these there are very strange and striking parallels to what WR called 'orgone energy'. It dioesn't necessary require that label, which tends to induce an outbreak of tittering in the average hearer. -But a blog comments box is no place to discuss this in any depth, and in any case I'm not a physicist.

Reason I posted here was: I've seen the Makaveyev film twice and found it interesting but annoying. It is essentially a farce - Carry On Coming - and the protagonists are set up to be knocked down. Milena, like Otto Mühl, only has [is only allowed to have] a garbled understanding of what Reich meant when he talked about "sexual liberation". So it's a bit exasperating when the comical fictional failures and mishaps of a few goofy puppets are taken to demonstrate the vanity of Reich's endeavours.

For me, by far the most interesting parts of the film are the documentary sequences: the interviews with WR's son and his co-worker (later biographer) Myron Sharaf, etc. And those extraordinary snippets showing a whole bunch of people undergoing the "orgasm reflex" (which is not an orgasm). What's going on there?
What, exactly?

catmint said...

I didn't have a chance to see WR - I'm not sure what Makaveyev's intention was, politically - he's surely pro-Reich to make the film at all? I'm favourable to the idea of leading into a documentary with a sex-farce. This is maybe what Lacan's estate could get if they did hire Dejan.

Patrizia di Malizia said...

It is essentially a farce - Carry On Coming - and the protagonists are set up to be knocked down. Milena, like Otto Mühl, only has [is only allowed to have] a garbled understanding of what Reich meant when he talked about "sexual liberation".

Warszawa you have to substantiate this claim, instead of presenting it as a blanket statement. I find it a stupefying film which is far more than just farce precisely because of the juxtapositions with documentary material. The film parallels Reich in the way it subverts all expectations.

I know that Reich's is a functionalist theory, and this is why I don't really believe in it.

owen hatherley said...

Late in the day here, I know, but just wanted to make one point:

Reich never came close to advocating anything remotely like a Mühlian commune, and I think he would have seen very clearly how that was bound to end. "Ein verwachsener Baum wird schwerlich wieder grade."

Well, I'm by no means an expert on Reich (have only read a couple of the early works) but in Dialectical Materialism and Psychoanalysis he states the following:
‘The Oedipus complex is a socially conditioned fact which changes its form with the structure of society. The Oedipus complex must disappear in a socialist society, because its social basis, the patriarchal family, will itself disappear, having lost its raison d’etre. Communal upbringings, which form part of the socialist programme, will be so unfavourable to the forming of social attitudes as they exist within the family today- the relationship of children to one another and to the persons who bring them up will be so much more many-sided, complex and dynamic- that the Oedipus complex with its specific content of desiring the mother and wishing to destroy the father will lose its meaning.’

Now, while this may not envisage on of Muehl's fiefdoms, it certainly does posit some kind of model of collective living, much as theorists elsewhere were trying to establish. And this is surely part of the point of the original piece. Such arrangements are now considered utopian/impossible/implausible, and the interesting question (as opposed to dead-end arguments about whether Reich was a vitalist or commensurable with bloody Lacan) is - why is this so? And should a socialist politics try and reclaim such experiments for its programme?

Patrizia di Malizia said...

why is this so? And should a socialist politics try and reclaim such experiments for its programme?

well I'm not sure in the first instance that such experiments are entirely absent from capitalism, for here in Holland, due to the high density of population as well as a strong tradition in caritas as well as socialism, communal living is an inevitability. Isn't the real question: howcome people do end up living together and yet remain strangers?

I am afrad bloody Reich is of limited use here, and we will have to consult bloody Lacan as well!

Qlipoth said...

Owen, the paper you quote is from 1929, when Reich (then 32) was still an active - very active - member of the CP. By about 1935, his interests had started to shift from the political to the biological, not least because he Nazis were by then unshiftably in power and he had been forced to emigrate. He had also been dismayed to see what had become of the Revolution after he visited the USSR around the time that book came out.

- Sorry, I have to cut this short for the moment. But one point about socialism and collective living: while running his free Sexpol clinics in the crowded slums of Vienna, Reich had noticed what might be described as an excess of community: people just couldn't get away from each other. If they had any "utopian" yearnings, top of the list was some space to themselves - and one thing that was making them sick (and frustrated) was a dire lack of it. (Here it seems not irrelevant to mention that the world's population has more than tripled since 1929; and it's just been announced that 50% of the world's 6.6 billion people now live in cities.)

Qlipoth said...

Jacques Lacan,
quel écrivain!
Tous ses Écrits
sont ratatouilles.

owen hatherley said...

Dejan: living in a block of flats or having flatmates is not equivalent to the collective raising of children, which rightly or wrongly is what the early Reich was advocating...

The question of space - very interesting points on the excess of collectivism. But the Soviet collective living experiments that Reich was very much familiar with (and to which he was still sympathetic until the reactionary turns of 1932-4, as you can see from The Sexual Revolution) were interesting in that they didn't posit cramped cityblocks at all, but spaciousness: gardens, open areas, collective facilities, high ceilings, lots of glass and light in buildings, etc. There's a very big difference between a Viennese Mietskaserne and what was being proposed in the USSR from 1927-30. There was, though, for better or worse, a certain amount of limiting of private space (though at the same time - the very advanced suggestion that men and women, even if married, should have separate rooms). It's a deeply flawed idea, but one that I think generally gets patronised.

People still seem unwilling to think about the idea of totally doing away with the Oedipal triangle, which is curious.

Patrizia di Malizia said...

People still seem unwilling to think about the idea of totally doing away with the Oedipal triangle, which is curious.

don't get me wrong, it's not that I WANT TO keep with it, and I try to not view Lacan as a Messiah, believing everything he says blindly, it's just that I notice the Oedipal thing is damn sturdy, and whoever provides an argument otherwise isn't very convincing (from ''collective gay saunas'' to Reich's communes, all those projects somehow crashed). If you say that's because people didn't yet fully adopt Marxism, the answer to my question is merely postponed.

Qlipoth said...

OT (but on the topic of kino fist): Have you seen Guy Maddin's extraordinary seven-minute silent film, The Heart of the World?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAbtEQxFow4

- commissioned in the year 2000 for the 25th Anniversary of the Toronto International Film Festival.

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