beattie

Essay in new volume

I have an essay in a volume just out from Cascade (US, UK – available early 2015). My essay uses Lacan’s four discourses to discuss new approaches to liberation theology.

Here’s the introduction:

Lacan’s four discourses schematize the possible social functions of language. It is the closest he comes to charting the nature of ideology. His description of the imposition and cultivation of master signifiers, as well as the forms of resistance, operates by quarter turns. Moving through the master, university, hysteric, and analyst’s discourses, these turns show how the subject’s alienation from the master signifier generate forms of resistance which are nonetheless indebted to the master signifiers they oppose. This dependent resistance is the focus of this essay. Using Lacan to analyze the relationship between different discourses shows how the imposition of a symbolic regime in the master’s discourse can be simultaneously opposed and maintained by the hysteric’s. This insight is crucial in the consideration of ideology. It is recognising this dependence that leads to a genuine revolution, one which not only changes elements of a particular social or political situation, but changes the understanding of the situation itself.

And my favourite paragraph:

For example, Zizek’s cutting critiques of the master signifiers of our age – capital, liberalism, inclusion, and so on – has produced a great deal of knowledge. Yet, for all the exposing of the contingency of these master signifiers, his work never makes the turn beyond this interrogation. Pointing this out, just as with liberation theology, is not necessarily a criticism. Indeed liberation theology posits different levels of the task of liberation. While configuration may vary between different liberation theologians, Leonardo and Clodovis Boff’s model of popular, pastoral, and professional is typical. There are those engaged in direct action and community organisation, those who lead communities and offer counsel, and those who provide necessary theoretical reflection on those actions and leadership. Given this division, there is nothing to require that Zizek move beyond his interrogations. Nonetheless, until such a quarter turn occurs, we never move from the analysis of an inadequate situation to the production of something new. Moreover, we should not confuse the work of theory with the struggle of praxis. Politically oriented strands of current materialist philosophy are quick to denounce the corrupting influence of religion. While those denunciations bear elements of truth, liberation theology reminds us that if the choice is between philosophical precision and political action, the latter is usually to be preferred.

The volume has essays by a variety of people, including Zizek, Adrian Johnston and Tina Beattie. The essay was the last thing I wrote on Lacan before shifting my focus to Hegel, so it’s kind of bittersweet to see it published.