Quote of the Day: Slavoj Zizek on Radical Negativity

“So what name should we give to this radical negativity that forms the silent background of the drives? Should we simply distinguish between drives stuck on partial objects, drives whose repetitive circular movement generates satisfaction, and the “pure” death drive, the impossible “total” will to (self-) destruction, the ecstatic self-annihilation in which the subject rejoins the fullness of the maternal Thing? What makes this distinction problematic is that it retranslates the death drive into the terms of desire and its lost object: it is in desire that the positive object is a metonymic stand-in for the void of the impossible Thing; it is in desire that the aspiration to fullness is transferred to partial objects— this is what Lacan called the metonymy of desire. Here it is crucial not to confuse desire and drive: the drive is not an infinite longing for the Thing which becomes fixated on a partial object— the “drive” is this fixation itself in which resides the “death” dimension of every drive. The drive is not a universal thrust towards the incestuous Thing, which finds itself halted or held back, it is this brake itself, a brake on instinct. Its basic movement is not that of transcending all particular objects towards the void of the Thing, but that of our libido getting “stuck” on a particular object, condemned to circle around it forever. The concept of the “pure death drive” is thus ultimately a pseudo-concept: an attempt to think the beyond of drives within the horizon of the drives. Rather than defining the void of negativity around which the drives circulate as the “pure” death drive, it would be more appropriate to posit a negativity/ impossibility that precedes the very distinction between drive and desire, and to conceive of the drive and desire as the two modes of coping with this ontological impasse.”

– Slavoj Zizek, Absolute Recoil