Law: From Superego to Love

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Introduction

Žižek's account of law is built upon the reiteration of the idea that law is split or that there is a parallax gap between the public letter and its obscene superego supplement.[1]


(This chapter focuses on the split in law, drawing out its repercussions for thinking about law more generally.)


For Žižek, law is necessary and potentially liberatory.

Appearing in mutiple arrangements - the symbolic law of language and norms, the public law of states and regimes, the transgressive "nightly" law of superego, as well as the religious law of Judaism and the Pauline law of faith - law persists as a constituent element of human practical experience.


Yet law as such is incomplete.


Law's Founding

Founding Crime

Founding Law

Split Law

How does violence persist in law, and what is its relation to split law?

Surplus

As a non-integrated, surplus,

Violence persists in the form of law as an injunction.

Violence gives law the form of an injunction.


As a nonintegrated surplus, violence gives law the form of an injunction, rendering law as that which is to be obeyed.

Law is constitutively senseless: it is obeyed not because it is good, just, or beneficial, but because it is law.

As Zizek explains, "The last foundation of the Law's authority lies in its process of enunciation."[2]

This traumatic, nonintegrated character of law is a positive condition of law.[3]

This traumatic, senseless injunction is also the psychoanalytic notion of the superego.

Superego issues unconditional commands, telling us what to do, refusing to take no for an answer, refusing even to consider our specific circumstances, needs or desires.

The superego command is thus more than a simple prohibition. It is a prohibition compliance with which produces enjoyment. When we obey the superego, when we give up our own desire and comply or follow orders, a part of us, or, more precisely the Other within us, enjoys.

Superego thus involves the excess of law, the violence that persists in law's injunction.


The superego injunction to enjoy accompanies a duty to be happy. Important for Zizek is the way that in today's more permissive societies, the superego injunction to enjoy accompanies a duty to be happy. He writes,

"The superego is thus the properly obscene reversal of the permissive 'You may!' into the prescriptive 'You must!', the point at which permitted enjoyment turns into ordained enjoyment."[4] We must have great sex lives, fulfilling jobs, interesting hobbies, fantastic vacations. If we do not, we have somehow failed. We are guilty-inadequate. By attending to the superego supplement of law, Zizek thus enables us to grasp how it is the case that what might appear at law's retreat, as law's securing of a larger realm of personal choice and privacy, comes up against a crippling impasse of unfreedom-the command to enjoy that effectively prevents us from enjoying, entwining us in guilt and uncertainty.

Lack

Violence persists as superego, that is, as the punishing, powerful, obscene, dead father killed by the primal horde.

Enjoying Law

Love With Law

The Object in Law: From Superego to Objet Petit a

Attachment to Law: From Enjoyment Through Duty to Enjoyment in Love

Conclusion: Hope in Law

Notes

  1. Žižek, Slavoj. The Parallax View. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006. p. 10.
  2. Žižek, Slavoj. "How Did Marx Invent the Symptom?" in Mapping Ideology. Ed. Slavoj Zizek. Verso: London, 1944. p. 318
  3. Žižek, Slavoj. "How Did Marx Invent the Symptom?" in Mapping Ideology. Ed. Slavoj Zizek. Verso: London, 1944. p. 319
  4. Žižek, Slavoj. The Fragile Absolute, or Why the Christian Legacy is Worth Fighting For. London; New York: Verso, 2000. Žižek, Slavoj. The Fragile Absolute, or Why the Christian Legacy is Worth Fighting For. London; New York: Verso, 2000. p. 133

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