The Ludic And Cold Seduction
For we are living off seduction but will die in fascination.
The play of models with their ever-changing combinations, is characteristic of a ludic universe, where everything operates as possible simulation, where everything, in the absence of a God to acknowledge his creations, can act as counter-evidence. Subversive values have only to wait their turn, and violence and critique are themselves presented as models. We are living in a supple, curved universe, that no longer has any vanishing points. Formerly the reality principle was defined in terms of the coherence of objects and their use, functions and their institution, things and their objective determination - today the pleasure principle is defined in terms of the conjunction of desires and models (of a demand and its anticipation by simulated responses).
The "ludic" is formed of the "play" of the model with the demand. But given that the demand is prompted by the model, and the model's precession is absolute, challenges are impossible. Most of our exchanges are regulated by game strategies; but the latter, defined as a capacity to foresee all of one's opponent's moves and check them in advance, renders all stakes impossible. Game theory describes the ludic character of a world where, paradoxically, nothing is at stake.
The "Werbung," the solicitation of advertisements and polls, all the models of the media and politics, no longer claim credence, only credibility. They are no longer objects of libidinal investment; for they are made selectively available within a range of choices - with leisure itself now appearing, relative to work, as just another channel on the screen of time (and will there soon be a third or fourth channel?). American television, one might add, with its 83 channels is the living incarnation of the ludic: one can no longer do anything but play - change channels, mix programs and create one's own montage (the predominance of TV games is merely an echo, at the level of content, of this ludic employment of the medium). And like every combinatorial, it is a source of fascination. But one can no longer speak of a sphere of enchantment or seduction; instead, an era of fascination is beginning.
Obviously, the ludic cannot be equated with having fun. With its propensity for making connections, the ludic is more akin to detective work. More generally, it connotes networks and their mode of functioning, the forms of their permeation and manipulation. The ludic encompasses all the different ways one can "play" with networks, not in order to establish alternatives, but to discover their state of optimal functioning.
We have already witnessed the debasement of play to the level of function - in play therapy, play school, play-as-catharsis and play-as-creativity. Throughout the fields of education and child psychology, play has become a "vital function" ;or necessary phase of development. Or else it has been grafted onto the pleasure principle to become a revolutionary alternative, a dialectical overcoming of the reality principle in Marcuse, an ideology of play and the festival for others. But even as transgression, spontaneity, or aesthetic disinterestedness, play remains only a sublimated form of the old, directive pedagogy that gives it a meaning, assigns it an end, and thereby purges it of its power of seduction. Play as dreaming, sport, work, rest or as a transitional object - or as the physical hygiene necessary for psychological equilibrium or for a system's regulation or evolution. The very opposite of that passion for illusion which once characterized it.
We are still speaking, however, offunctional attempts to subject play to the law of value. What is more serious is the cybernetic absorption of play into the general category of the ludic.
The general evolution of games is revealing: from competitive games - team sports, old-fashioned card games, or even table football - to the generation of pinball machines (which already had screens but were not yet "televised," a mixture of electronics and hand movements), now rendered obsolete by electronic tennis and other computerized games, their screens streaked with high-speed molecules. And the atomistic manipulation required by the latter is not to be distinguished from the practices of information control in the "labour process" or the future employment of computers in the domestic sphere, which were also preceded by television and other audiovisual aids. The ludic is everywhere, even in the "choice" of a brand of laundry detergent in the supermarket. Without too much effort one sees similarities with the world of psychotropic drugs: for the latter too is ludic, being nothing but the manipulation of a sensorial keyboard or neuronic instrument panel. Electronic games are a soft drug - one plays them with the same somnam-bular absence and tactile euphoria.
Even the genetic code appears as a command keyboard for the living, on which are played the infinitesimal combinations and variations that determine their "destiny" - a "tele"-onomic destiny that unfolds on the molecular screen of the code. Much can be said about the objectivity of the genetic code that serves as a "biological" prototype for the entire universe, this combinatory, aleatory and ludic universe that now surrounds us. After all, what is "biology"? What is this truth it possesses? Or is it that it possesses only truth... destiny transformed into an operational instrument panel. Behind the screen of biological remote control, there is no longer any play - no stakes, illusions, or representations. It is simply a matter of modulating the code, playing with it as one plays with the tonalities and timbres of a stereophonic system.
The latter is a good example of the ludic. When manipulat ing the stereo's controls, one's concerns are no longer musical but technological: the optimal modulation of the system's range. With the magic of the console and instrument panel, the manipulation of the medium predominates.
Consider a game of computer chess. Where is the intensity of the game of chess, or the pleasure proper to computers? The one involves play, the other the ludic. The same applies to a soccer match that has been televised. Don't think that they are the same match: one is hot, the other cool - (?ne is a game, with its emotional charge, its bravado and choreography, the other is tactile, modulated (play backs, close-ups, sweeps, slow motion shots, different angles of vision, etc.). The televised match is, above all else, a televised event, like the Holocaust or the war in Vietnam, and is barely distinguishable from the latter. Thus the introduction of colour television in the United States, which had been slow and difficult, only took off when one of the major networks decided to introduce colour to televised journalism. It was the period of the war in Vietnam, and studies have shown that the "play" of colours, and the technical sophistication borne by this innovation, rendered the images of war more bearable to the viewing public. The "more"
truth, the greater the ludic distantiation from the event.
The Holocaust, the television special.
The Jews are no longer forced to pass through the gas chambers and crematorium ovens, but through the sound track and picture strip, the cathodic screen and microprocessor. The amnesia, the oblivion, thereby finally attains an aesthetic dimension - consummated in retrospective and retrogressive fashion, raised here to mass dimensions. Television as the event's true "final solution."
The dimension of history that once remained in the shadows as guilt, no longer exists, since now "the whole world knows," the whole world has been shaken - a sure sign that "it" will never happen again. In effect, what is exorcized at the cost of only a few tears will not happen again, because it is now recurring, and in the very form of its alleged denunciation, the very medium of its alleged exorcism - television. The same forget-fulness, the same liquidation, extermination, and even annihilation of memory and history - the same recessive irradiation, the same echoless absorption, the same black hole as Auschwitz. And one would have us believe that television is going to release us from the burden of Auschwitz by raising collective consciousness, when television perpetuates it in other ways, no longer under the auspices of a place of annihilation, but of a medium of dissuasion.
The Holocaust is, first of all (and exclusively) a televised event (one must not forget McLuhan's basic rule). That is, it is an attempt to reheat a tragic but cold historical event, the first great event of the cold systems, the-eooling systems, the systems of dissuasion and extermination which would then be deployed in other forms (including the Cold War, etc.) - and an event that concerns cold masses (the Jews no longer implicated, but in the end forced to manage their own death, the masses no longer rebellious - dissuaded by death, dissuaded unto death). A cold event warmed up by a cold medium for masses, themselves cold, who are going to experience only a posthumous emotion, a tactile and dissuasive shudder that will enable them to let the catastrophe slip into oblivion with a sort of aesthetic good conscience.
In order to reheat all this, the political and pedagogical orchestration that followed the (televised) event in an attempt to give it meaning was not excessive. The panic before the program's possible consequences on the minds of children; all those social workers mobilized to filter it, as if this artificial resurrection carried a danger of contagion! In fact, the danger was quite the opposite: that resulting from the social inertia of cold systems - cold producing cold. Thus the whole world had to be mobilized in order to reconstitute the social (warmth) of communication out of the cold monster of extermination. The program served to capture the artificial warmth of a dead event in order to reheat the dead body of the social. Hence the supplementary contributions of the other media attempting to extend the program's effects by its feed-back: the concurrent polls seconding the program's enormous, collective impact - when, needless to say, these polls only verified the televisual success of the medium itself.
One should speak of television's cold light, and why it is inoffensive to the imagination (including the imagination of children). It is innocuous because it no longer conveys an imaginary, for the simple reason that it is no longer an image. Here it contrasts with the cinema which (though increasingly contaminated by television) is still endowed with an intense imaginary - because it is an image. This is not simply to speak of film as a mere screen or visual form, but as a myth, something that still resembles a double, a mirror, a fantasy, a dream, etc. None of this in the TV image. It doesn't suggest anything, it mesmerizes. .. It is only a screen or, better, it is a miniaturized terminal that immediately appears in your head (you are the screen and the television is watching you), transistorizes all; your neurons and passes for a magnetic tape - a tape, not an image.
All this belongs to the ludic realm where one encounters a cold seduction - the "narcissistic" spell of electronic and information systems, the cold attraction of the terminals and mediums that we have become, surrounded as we are by consoles, isolated and seduced by their manipulation.
The possiblity of modulations within an undifferentiated universe and of the "play" of unstable sets of elements, is never without fascination. It is even highly possible that ludic and libinal flirt with each other somewhere in the direction of random systems, by virtue of a desire that no longer leads to infractions in the legal sense, but entails diffraction in all senses within a universe that no longer knows the legal sphere. This desire also belongs to the ludic realm with its topology of shifting systems, and is an added source of pleasure (or anguish) for each of the particles moving within the networks. We are all accorded this light, psychedelic giddiness which results from multiple or successive connections and disconnections. We are all invited to become miniaturized "game systems," i.e., microsystems with the potential to regulate their own random functioning. •
This is the modern meaning of play, the "ludic" sense, connoting the suppleness and polyvalence of combinations. Understood in this sense, "play," its very possibility, is at the basis of the metastability of systems. It has nothing to do with play as a dual or agonistic relation; it is the cold seduction that governs the spheres of information and communication. And it is in this cold seduction that the social and its representations are now wearing themselves thin.
We are all quite familiar with this immense process of simulation. Non-directive interviews, call-in shows, all-out participation - the extortion of speech: "It concerns you, you are the majority, you are what's happening." And the probing of opinions, hearts, minds, and the unconscious to show how much "it" speaks. The news has been invaded by this phantom content, this homeophathic transplant, this waking dream of communication. A circular construction where one presents the audience with what it wants, an integrated circuit of perpetual solicitation. The immense energies spent in maintaining this simulacrum at arm's length, to avoid the brutal dis-simulation that would occur should the reality of a radical loss of meaning become too evident.
Seduction/simulacrum: communication as the functioning of the social within a closed circuit, where signs duplicate an undiscoverable reality. The social contract has become a "simulation pact" sealed by the media and the news. And nobody, one might add, is completely taken in: the news is experienced as an ambience, a service, or hologram of the social. The masses respond to the simulation of meaning with a kind of reverse simulation; they respond to dissuasion with disaffection, and to illusions with an enigmatic belief. It all moves around, and can give the impression of an operative seduction. But such seduction has no more meaning than anything else, seduction here connotes only a kind of ludic adhesion to simulated pieces of information, a kind of tactile attraction maintained by the models.
"Rogers here -1 am receiving you five on five." "Do you hear me? Yes, I hear you." "We receive you, come in." "Yes, we are speaking." This is the litany of the radio bands, particularly the alternative or pirate stations. One plays at speaking and listening; one plays at communication using the most sophisticated technology for the latter's mise en scène. The phatic function of language, used to establish contact and sustain speech's formal dimension: this function first isolated and described by Malinowski with reference to the Melanesians, then by Jakobson in his grid of language's functions, becomes hypertrophied in the tele-dimension of the communications networks. Contact for contact's sake becomes the empty form with which language seduces itself when it no longer has anything to say.
The latter concerns our own culture. What Malinowski described was something quite different: a symbolic altercation or duel of words. By these ritual phrases and palavers without content, the natives were still throwing a challenge and offering a gift, as in a pure ceremonial. Language has no need for "contact": it is we who need communication to have a specific "contact" function, precisely because it is eluding us. That is why Jakobson was able to isolate it in his analysis of language, while both the concept and the terms to express it are absent from other cultures. Jakobson's grid and his axiomatics of communication are contemporaneous with a change in language's fortune - it is beginning to no longer communicate anything. It has thus become urgent to analytically restore the functional possibility of communication, and in particular the "phatic" function that, in logical terms, is a simple truism: if it speaks, then it speaks. But in effect it no longer speaks, and the discovery of the "phatic" function is symptomatic of the need to inject contact, establish connections, and speak tirelessly simply in order to render language possible. A desperate situation where even simple contact appears wondrous.
If the phatic has become hypertrophied in all our communications systems (i.e., within the media and information processing systems), it is because tele-distance ensures that speech literally no longer has any meaning. One says that one is speaking, but by speaking one is only verifying the network and the fact that one is linked up with it. There is not even an "other" at the other end, for in a simple reciprocation of signals of recognition there is no longer an identifiable transmitter or receiver, but simply two terminals. The one terminal's signal to the other is merely an indication that something is going through and that, therefore, nothing is happening. Perfect dissuasion.
Two terminals do not two interlocutors make. In "tele" space (the following also holds true for television), there are no longer any determinate terms or positions. Only terminals in a position of ex-termination. It is here, morever, that Jakobson's entire grid falls apart, for its validity is restricted to the classic configuration of discourse and communication. The grid loses its meaning when applied to networks where pure "digitality" reigns. In discourse there is still a polarity of terms, distinctive oppositions that regulate the advent of meaning. A structure, syntax and space of difference, still regulate dialogue, as implied by the sign (signifier/signified) and the message (transmitter/receiver), etc. But the 0/1 of binary or digital systems is no longer a distinctive opposition or established difference. It is a "bit," the smallest unit of electronic impulse - no longer a unit of meaning, but an identificatory pulse. It is no longer language, but its radical dissuasion. This is what the matrix of information and communication is like, and how the networks function. The need for "contact" is most cruelly felt, for not only is there no duel relation as with the Melanesian's linguistic potlach, but there is no longer even the inter-individual logic of exchange found in classical language (that of Jakobson). Discursive duality and polarity have been succeeded by the digitality of data processing. The total ascendancy of the media and networks. The cold elevation of the electronic media, and of the mass itself as medium.
TELE: there are no longer anything but terminals. AUTO: each person is his or her own terminal. ('Tele" and "auto" can themselves be seen as working pieces or commuting particles that are connected to words, like a video is connected to a group of people, or television to those watching it). The group with a video camera is itself its own terminal. It records, adjusts and manages itself electronically. It turns itself on, seduces itself. The group is seduced and even eroticized by the instantane ous report it has of itself. Soon self-management will be universal, the province of every person, group and terminal. Self-seduction will become the norm of all the charged particles in the networks or systems.
The body itself, operated by remote control from the genetic code, is itself no more than its own terminal; it has no other concern than the optimal self-management of its memory banks.
Pure magnetization - that of the response by the question, the real by the model, the 0 by the 1, the network by its very existence, the speakers by their mere connection, the pure tac-tility of the signal, the sheer virtue of "contact," the total affinity of one terminal for another: this is the image of seduction, scattered and diffused throughout all our current systems. A self-seduction/self-management that simply reflects the networks" circularity, and the shortcircuiting of each of their atoms or particles. (Some might speak here of narcissism, and why not? If only because one should not transpose terms like narcissism and seduction to a register that does not concern them, that of simulation).
Thus according to Jean Querzola in "Le silicium fleur de peau" (Traverses, no. 14/15): psychobiological technology - all the computer prosthesis and self-adjusting electronic networks we possess - provides us with a kind of strange bioelectronic mirror, in which each person, like some digital narcissus, is going to slide along the trajectory of a death drive and sink in his or her own image. Narcissus = narcosis (McLuhan had already made the connection):
Electronic narcosis: it is the ultimate risk of digital simulation... We would slip from Oedipus to Narcissus... At the end of the self-management of our bodies and pleasures there would be a slow narcissistic narcosis. In a word, with silicon, what happens to the reality principle? I am not saying that the world's digitalization will soon put an end to Oedipus. I am noting that the development of biology and information technology is accompanied by the dissolution of the personality structure we call Oedipal. The dissolution of these structures uncovers another region, where the father is absent: it has to do with the maternal, the oceanic feeling and the death drive. It is not a neurosis that threatens, but something of the order of a psychosis. A pathological narcissism... We believe that we understand the forms of the social bond built on Oedipus. But when the latter no longer functions, what will power do? After authority, seduction?
The finest example of this "bionic mirror" and "narcissistic necrosis" is cloning, the extreme form of self-seduction: from the Same to the Same without going through the Other.
In the United States a child might be born in the same way as a geranium, by taking cuttings. The first child-clone - genealogy by vegetative multiplication. The first child born from the single cell of an individual, his "father," the sole parent, of which he will be the exact copy, the perfect twin, the double (D. Ror-vik, "A son image: la copie d'un homme"). Infinite human propagation by cuttings, with each cell of an individuated organism capable of becoming the matrix for an identical individual.
My genetic inheritance was fixed once and for all when a certain spermatozoid met a certain ovary. This inheritance bears the formula for all the biochemical processes that have created me and ensure my functioning. A copy of this formula is inscribed in each of the tens of billions of cells that constitute me. Each of them knows my makeup; before being a cell of my liver or blood, it is a cell of me. It is therefore theoretically possible to construct an individual identical to myself from any one of them. (Pr. A. Jacquard)
Projection and internment in the mirror of the genetic code. There is no better prosthesis than D.N.A., no finer narcissistic extension than that new image bestowed on modern beings in place of their specular image: their molecular formula. Here is where one will find one's "truth" - in the indefinite repeti tion of one's "real," biological being. This narcissism, whose source is no longer a mirror but a formula, is a monstrous parody of the myth of Narcissus. A cold narcissism, a cold self-seduction, without even that minimal distance necessary for the experience of oneself as an illusion. The materialization of the real, biological double in the clone cuts short the possibility of playing with one's own image and, thereby, playing with one's own death.
The double is an imaginary figure that, like the soul or one's shadow, or one's image in a mirror, haunts the subject with a faint death that has to be constantly warded off. If it materializes, death is imminent. This fantastic proposition is now literally realized in cloning. The clone is the very image of death, but without the symbolic illusion that once gave it its charm.
Something of the subject's intimacy with himself rests on the immateriality of his double, on the fact that it is and remains a phantasy. One can and must dream throughout one's life of the perfect duplication or multiplication of one's being, but it remains a dream, and is destroyed when one tries to make it real. The same holds for the primal scene or that of seduction: they too only work when recalled and phantasized, never when real. It was up to our period to try and materialize this phantasy - like so many others - and by way of total confusion, change the play with one's double from a subtle exchange with death and the other into an eternity of the same.
The dream of eternal twins as a substitute for sexual reproduction. A cellular dream of schizogenesis - the surest form of parenthood, since it finally allows one to bypass the other, and go from the same to the same (one will still require a woman's uterus, and a hollowed out ovum, but these aids are short-lived and anonymous - any female prosthesis will do). A monocellular Utopia that, by way of genetics, will enable complex beings to attain the destiny of protozoa.
Is there a death drive that pushes sexed beings towards a form of reproduction anterior to their acquisition of sexual identities - (moreover, doesn't this fissiparous form, this proliferation by contiguity conjure up death in the deepest recesses of our imaginary - as something that denies sexuality and seeks to annihilate it, the latter being the bearer of life and therefore a critical and mortal form of reproduction?) - and that simultaneously pushes them to deny all alterity so that they need no longer strive for anything but the perpetuation of an identity, the transparency of a genetic code all the more dedicated to procreation?
Let us leave the death drive. Perhaps we are dealing with a fantasy of self-engendering? But no, for the subject might dream of eliminating the parental figures and even substituting himself for them, but he cannot eliminate the symbolic structure of procreation: when one becomes one's own child, one is still the child of someone. Cloning by contrast, abolishes not just the Mother, but the Father, the crossing of their genes, the immixture of their differences, and above all the duel act that engendering supposes. The person cloned does not engender himself: he comes to bud from a segment. One might speculate on the wealth of these plant-like branchings that dissolve Oedipal sexuality in favour of an "non-human" sex - but the fact remains that both the Father and Mother have disappeared, and in favour of a matrix/code [the word "matrice" means both "matrix" and "womb"! No more mother, just a matrix. And henceforth it is the matrix of the genetic code that will "give birth" without end in an operative manner purged of all contingent sexuality.
Nor can one speak any longer of a subject, since the iden-titarian reduplication puts an end to its division. The mirror stage is abolished, or rather parodied in monstrous fashion, marking the end of the age-old dream of the subject's narcissistic projection. For the latter still supposes a mirror, the mirror in which the subject alienates himself in order to find himself, or stares at himself only to see his own death. But here there is no mirror: an industrial object within a series does not "mirror" the identical object that succeeds it. The one is never a mirage, an ideal or danger for the other. At most such objects can be added up, for they have not been engendered sexually and are not aware of death.
A segment does not require the mediation of the imaginary for its reproduction - no more than an earthworm. Each segment of a worm is reproduced directly as the complete worm - each cell of an American industrialist can give rise to a new industrialist. Just as each fragment of a hologram can become a matrix of the complete hologram; all the information being contained in each of the scattered fragments.
The same logic marks the end of the concept of totality. If all the information can be found in each of the parts, the whole loses its meaning. It also marks the end of the body, of this singular being we call the body, this singular configuration that cannot be segmented into additional cells, as witnessed by the fact of sexuality. Paradoxically, cloning will fabricate sexed beings in perpetuity, since they will resemble their models, even as the sex organs lose their function. But then sex is not a function, for it exceeds all the body's parts and functions. Indeed, it exceeds all the data that can be obtained about the body, which the genetic code claims to collect. This is why the latter can only clear the way to a type of autonomous reproduction, independent of sex and death.
The bio-physio-anatomical sciences had already begun the analytical decomposition of the body with its dissection into organs and functions. Micro-molecular genetics is its logical consequence at a much higher level of abstraction and simulation: the nuclear level of the command cell, the directive level of the genetic code around which this entire phantasmagoria is organized.
In the mechanistic vision we can still speak of "traditional" simulation, each organ being only a partial and differentiated prosthesis. In the bio-cybernetic vision, the smallest undifferentiated element, the cell becomes an embryonic prosthesis of the entire body. The formula inscribed in each cell becomes the true modern prosthesis of all bodies. For if a prosthesis is generally an artifact that replaces a failing organ, or an instrumental prolongation of the body, then the DNA molecule that contains all the data relative to a living being, is the prosthesis par excellence, since it will allow that being to prolong itself indefinitely. In truth, it will become nothing more than the indefinite series of its cybernetic avatars.
We are speaking of a prosthesis even more artificial than any mechanical prosthesis. For the genetic code is not "natural." Whenever a part is abstracted from the whole and rendered autonomous, it alters the whole by substituting itself for it (pro-thesis - this is its etymological meaning). In this sense one can say that the genetic code, which claims to condense an entire living being because it contains all the latter's "data" (genetic simulation is incredibly violent) is an artifact, an artificial matrix, a simulation matrix, from which will proceed, no longer by reproduction, but by pure and simple repetition, identical beings assigned to the same commands.
Cloning is, therefore, the ultimate state of the body's simulation, where the individual, reduced to an abstract genetic formula, is destined to serial multiplication. Walter Benjamin said that in the age of mechanical reproduction the work of art loses its "aura," the unique quality of its here and now, its aesthetic form: it is no longer destined for seduction but reproduction, and in its new destiny, takes on a political form. The original is lost, and only nostalgia can restore its "authenticity." The extreme form of this process is to be found in our contemporary mass media, where there never was an original, things being conceived from the start in terms of their unlimited reproducibility.
This is exactly what happens to human beings with cloning. This is what happens to the body when conceived only as informational stock, or as data to be processed. Nothing then prevents its serial reproduction in the same terms Benjamin used when speaking of industrial objects or images. The genetic model has precedence over all possible bodies.
Behind this reversal lies the incursion of a technology that Benjamin had already described as a total medium - an enormous prosthesis for the generation of identical and indistinguishable objects and images - but without yet conceiving of the current deepening of this technology, which makes possible the generation of identical beings, without any possible return to an original being. The prosthesis of the industrial age were still external, exotechnical - while those that we are coming to know have branched out and been interiorized: esotechnical.
We live in an age of soft technologies, of genetic and mental software. The prosthesis of the industrial age, its machines, still paid heed to the body in order to modify its image - and were themselves metabolized in an imaginary, this metabolism becoming part of the body's image. But when simulation reaches the point of no return, when the prosthesis infiltrate the body's anonymous, micro-molecular core, when they force themselves on the body as its matrix, and burn out all the succeeding symbolic circuits such that all future bodies will be only its immutable repetition - then the body and its history have come to an end, the individual being no more than the cancerous metastasis of his basic formula.
Is not the cloning of individuals from an individual X similar to the proliferation of a single cell one identifies with cancer? There is a close relation between the concept of the genetic code and the pathology of cancer. The code designates the minimal formula to which one can reduce an individual such that he can (and can only) be repeated, while with cancer the same type of cell proliferates without concern for the organic laws of the whole. Thus with cloning one witnesses the repetition of the Same, the proliferation of a single matrix. Formerly sexual reproduction prevented this, but today one can finally isolate the genetic matrix of identity, and eliminate all the differential vicissitudes that gave individuals their aleatory charm. Or their seductiveness.
The metastasis that began with industrial objects ends in cellular organization. Cancer is the disease that dominates contemporary pathology, because it is the very form of the code's virulence-, the aggravated redundancy of the same cells, or the same signals.
Cloning is very much in keeping with the irreversible tendency to "extend and deepen the system's internal transparency by increasing its possibilities of self-regulation and modifying its informational economy" (Querzola).
All drives will be expelled. Everything interior (networks, functions, organs, conscious or unconscious circuits) will be exteriorized in the form of prosthesis that will constitute an ideal corpus orbiting around the body, but with the latter as its own satellite. Every nucleus will be enucleated and projected into spatial orbit.
The clone is the materialization of the genetic formula in human form. But it will not stop there. All the body's secrets -sex, anguish, even the subtle pleasures derived from mere existence - everything that you do not, and do not want to know about yourself, will be turned into bio-feed-back, and returned to you in the form of "built-in" digital information. It is the bi-onic mirror stage (Querzola).
A digital Narcissus instead of a triangular Oedipus. The hypostasis of the artificial double, the clone will be your guardian angel, the visible form of your unconscious and the flesh of your flesh, not metaphorically but literally. Your "fellow creature" will henceforth be the clone with its hallucinatory resemblance, such that you will never be alone, and will never have any secrets. "Love your neighbour as yourself" - the difficulties of living the Gospel will be resolved. Your neighbour is yourself. Love is therefore total. Total self-seduction.
The masses themselves form a clone-like apparatus that functions without the mediation of the other. In the last analysis, the masses are simply the sum of all the systems' terminals -a network travelled by digital impulses (this is what forms a mass). Oblivious to external injunctions, they constitute themselves into integrated circuits given over to manipulation (self-manipulation) and "seduction" (self-seduction).
In truth, nobody any longer knows how a representational apparatus works, or even if it still exists. Still, it is becoming increasingly urgent to rationalize possible occurrences in the universe of simulation. What happens between an absent, hypothetical pole of power and the neutral, elusive pole formed by the masses? The answer: seduction. Things work by seduction.
But such seduction suggests the workings of a social world that we no longer comprehend, and a political world whose structures have faded. In place of the latter, seduction gives rise to an immense blank area traversed by tepid currents of speech, or a malleable network lubricated by magnetic impulses. The world is no longer driven by power, but fascination, no longer by production, but seduction. This seduction is, however, no more than an empty declaration formed of simulated concepts. The discourses held by both the "strategists" of mass desire (the politicians, advertisers, organizers, engineers of the soul, and of the mind, etc.) and the "analysts" of their strategies, these discourses that describe the functioning of the social or the political, or what remains of them, in terms of seduction, they are as vacuous as the political space itself. They simply refract the emptiness of that about which they speak. "The media seduce the masses," "the masses seduce themselves" - the use of the word seduction here is incredibly shallow and hackneyed. Corrupted of its literal meaning, which implies charm and mortal enchantment, the term comes to signify the social and technical lubrication required for smooth relations - a smooth semi-urgy, a soft technology. The term then has an "ecological" connotation, and marks the passage from hard to soft energies.
Soft energy, soft seduction. The social made scarce.
With this diffuse, tensile form of seduction, one is no longer speaking of the aristocratic seduction of duel relations. One is speaking of a seduction reviewed and revised by the ideology of desire. A psychologized seduction that results from its vulgarization with the rise in the West of the imaginary figure of desire.
This figure does not belong to the masters, but was historically produced by the oppressed under the sign of their liberation, and has been deepened by the failure of successive revolutions. As a form, desire marks the passage from their status as objects to that of subjects, but this passage is itself only a more refined, interiorized perpetuation of their servitude. The first glimmerings of mass subjectivity at the dawn of modern and revolutionary times - the first glimmerings of the fact that the masses were subjects and could manage their own servi-
tude under the sign of their own desires! Large-scale seduction now begins. For if an object can simply be dominated, the subject of desire, by contrast, has to be seduced.
This soft strategy will spread, socially and historically. The masses will be psychologized in order to be seduced; they will be rigged up with desires in order to be distracted. Yesterday they had a (mystified!) consciousness and were alienated - today they have an unconscious and (repressed and corrupted) desires and are seduced. Yesterday they were diverted from the (revolutionary) truth of history - today they are diverted from the truth of their own desires. The poor, seduced and manipulated masses! Where once they had to endure domination under the threat of violence, now they must accept it by dint of seduction.
Speaking more generally, the theoretical hallucination of desire, with its diffuse libidinal psychology, serves as a backdrop to that simulacrum of seduction which one now finds everywhere. Having replaced the world of surveillance, it characterizes the vulnerability of both individuals and masses to soft injunctions. Distilled in homeophatic doses throughout all personal and social relations, the seductive shadow of this discourse hovers today over the desert of social relations, and of power itself.
In this sense, we truly live in an era of seduction. But we can no longer speak of that form of absorption or potential engulf-ment, that fateful distraction from which no one or no "reality" can ever be completely safe (perhaps there is no longer enough reality to deflect, nor truth to subvert). Nor even of the corruption of innocence or virtue (there is no longer sufficient morality - or perversion - for that). All that remains is to seduce in order to seduce? "Seduce me." "Let me seduce you." It is the seduction that remains when all the stakes have been withdrawn. We are no longer speaking about a violence committed against meaning or about its silent extermination, but about what is left to language when it no longer has anything to say. No longer a vertiginous loss, but the minimalist form of mutu al gratification two linguistic beings can give each other in an enervated social relation. "Seduce me." "Let me seduce you."
In this sense, seduction is everywhere, surreptitiously or openly, blending in with the ambiance, the constant solicitations, with exchange pure and simple. It is the seduction of student and teacher (I am seducing you and you are seducing me, there being nothing else to do), of the politician and his public, of power (ah, the seduction of power and the power of seduction!), of the analyst and the analysand, etc.
The Jesuits were already famous for having used seduction in a religious guise, for having returned the throngs to the bosom of the Catholic church by the worldly and aesthetic seduction of the baroque, and having recaptured the consciences of the powerful by the expedient of fancy goods and fancy women. In effect, the Jesuits provide the first modern example of the elaboration of a strategy of mass desire and a society of mass seduction. And they were relatively successful. It is entirely possible that, once the austere charms of political economy and producer capitalism - capitalism's puritan cycle - have been swept away, a catholic and Jesuitical era will begin, with a soft technology of seduction and a soft, rosy semiurgy.
It is no longer a matter of seduction as passion, but of a demand for seduction. Of an invocation of desire and its realization in place of the faltering relations of power and knowledge that inhere in love and transference. What happens to the master-slave dialectic when the master has been seduced by the slave, and the slave by the master? Seduction becomes no more than an effusion of differences or a discursive libidinal striptease. With a vague collusion between supply and demand, seduction becomes nothing more than an exchange value, serving the circulation of exchanges and the lubrication of social relations.
What remains of the enchantment of that labyrinthine structure within which one could lose oneself? What is left of seduction's imposture? "There is another type of violence, which has neither its name nor outward appearance, but which is no less dangerous. I am speaking of seduction" (Rollin). Traditionally, the seducer was an impostor who employed subterfuge and villainy to achieve his ends - or at least who believed he was employing them. For the other, by allowing herself to be seduced, by succumbing to the imposture, often voided it, stripped the seducer of his control. In effect, he falls into his own trap for having failed to consider seduction's reversible power.
The following always holds: the one who seeks to please the other has already succumbed to the other's charms. On this basis, an entire religion or culture can be organized around relations of seduction (as opposed to relations of production). Thus the Greek gods - seducers/impostors - used their power to seduce men, but were seduced in turn, and indeed were often reduced to seducing men, this being their main task. Thus they provided the image of a world order ruled not by laws, as in the Christian universe or political economy, but by a mutual seduction that ensured the symbolic equilibrium between gods and men.
What remains of this violence trapped by its own artifice? That universe where gods and men sought to please each other - even by the violent seduction of sacrifice - has ended. As has the secret understanding of signs and analogies that provided magic with its power of enchantment. And with it, the assumption that the entire world is susceptible to seduction and reversible in signs - not just the gods, but inanimate beings, things, and the dead themselves who have always had to be seduced, bewitched and cast out with the aid of numerous signs and rituals, lest they do any harm. Today one has to work through one's own mourning, an individual and eerie task of reorientation and redeployment. We now live in a universe of forces and relations of force, a universe that has materialized as in a void, an object of mastery and not seduction. A universe of production, investments, counter-investments and the liberation of energies, a universe of the Law and objective laws, a universe of the master-slave dialectic.
Sexuality itself arose within this universe as one of its objective functions, and now tends to overdetermine all the others, substituting itself as an alternative finality for those that are disappearing or already defunct. Everything is sexualized and thereby acquires something of a terrain for adventure and play. Everywhere the id speaks. Every discourse appear as an eternal commentary on sex and desire. In this sense, one might say that they have all become discourses of seduction, discourses that register an explicit demand for seduction, but a soft seduction, whose weakened condition has become synonymous with so much else in this society - the ambience, the manipulation, the persuasion, the gratification, the strategies of desire, the mystique of personal relations, the libidinal economy and its smoothed over relations of transference which relays the competitive economy and its relations of force. This seduction, which permeates the entire expanse of language, has no more substance or sense than the power that pervades all the interstices of the social network. This is why they are able to combine their discourses so easily. The degenerated metalanguage of seduction combined with the degenerated metalanguage of politics is everywhere operative (or if one will, is absolutely non-operative). It is enough that there be a consensus concerning the model of seduction's simulation, the diffuse stream of speech and desire - just as the murky metalanguage of participation suffices to safeguard an appearance of sociality.
The discourse of simulation is not an imposture. It has only to have seduction act as a simulacrum of affect, desire, or libidinal investment, in a world where the need for these is cruelly felt. However, just as the "relations of force" were never able to explain the vicissitudes of power in the panoptic age - except in Marxian idealism - similarly seduction, or the relations of seduction, cannot account for contemporary political events. If everything is driven by seduction, it would not be by this soft seduction, as revised by the ideology of desire, but by a defiant seduction, a dual, antagonistic seduction with the stakes maximized, including those that are secret. It would not be by a game strategy, but by a mythical seduction, not a psychological and operative seduction, not a cold, minimalist seduction.
Continue reading here: Seduction As Destiny
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