Rithika Ramamurthy responds to Daniel Kasper

Daniel Kasper’s intuitive articulation of the argument against the individualizing and enumerating strategies of liberal governance brought me back to Steinlight’s conclusion. Here, she addresses the more contemporary instantiations of biopolitical theory, all of which seem to be animated by an allegiance to Foucauldian models of biopower. Against these, Steinlight privileges Freud’s discourse as a political theory that does not employ a binary model of social organization, subjective hierarchy, or narrative hermeneutics. While Steinlight cannily demonstrates how fiction and Freudian psychoanalysis alike share a commitment to unsettling the simplifying opposition between self and society, I’m interested in Kasper’s turn to this same dissolving and mobile conception of state institutions. Taking up this political strain in Freud’s thought, psychoanalytic theorists such as Mladen Dolar also hold this position contra the confining and interpellating account of social institutions and state power, insisting on the shifting bonds of signifying structures and the subject’s inherent and elusive negativity. In “Freud and the Political,” Dolar writes that reading for the disruptive and the discontinuous will bring us closer to the paradoxical point that “the political opening is present precisely in the impossibility of social unification…a necessary fissure of the social tissue” (22). How do we continue, with psychoanalysis and novels both, to reading these institutions and modern political forms as—to return to Steinlight’s terms—“surprisingly circumstantial, tenuous, and at times reversible,” as made up of artificial and mutable social ties?

–Dolar, Mladen. “Freud and the Political.” Unbound 4:15 (2008), 15-29.

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