In this masterclass on Žižek’s philosophy we will be covering the “Troika of the Real”.
What is referred to as the Troika of the Real, is the type of intellectual triad formed by the Slovenian psychoanalytic group, which includes Slavoj Žižek, Alenka Zupančič, and Mladen Dolar. Each of these thinkers brings something unique to the troika. Of course, all of them have a fundamental analytic orientation that they share in common. That includes Hegelian metaphysics and a post-analytic idealism.
The Hegelian metaphysics is the idea that the one, or unity, has to be understood from the point of view of cut or division or antagonism. In other words, Hegelian metaphysics doesn’t negate the one as such, but attempts to understand the one as a becoming or process; a fall from and return to, and nothing but that.
That particular metaphysics is a very interesting and unique metaphysics to think psychoanalysis, because psychoanalysis brings us into the libidinal territory of subjectivity, of desire. Notions of the one are extremely problematic in these territories.
That is why all these thinkers share an orientation of a post-analytic idealism. That is to say that all thinkers try to read German Idealism, the thinkers from Kant to Hegel, through the lens of the Freudian unconscious, that is through the lens of the libidinal economy, through the lens of sexual tensions, antagonisms, and desires.
Moving on from that introduction, all thinkers attempt to work with theoretic material which you could say is the material after Lacan. Lacan as a return to Freud leaves us with certain problems, leaves us with certain dimensions of the Real, or reality, which should direct our analytic attention.
Two of the main problematics include the relation between desire and drive; and symptom and sinthome. The relation between desire and drive is really a relation of temporal phenomenology. When we are in a mode of desire it is always that we are hoping for a better state to come in the future. Where as in the mode of the drive we enjoy more the process of our becoming but still don’t withdraw from the appearances, we remain engaged in the appearances, enjoying the lack in the other.
In this sense the move from desire to drive can be correlated with the move from symptom to sinthome. The ideal unity of the desire is a projection of the fact that the subject struggles with a symptom, and this struggle with a symptom prevents it from enjoying its existence, prevents it from enjoying its drive. That is why the axiom “enjoy your symptom” is very close to a perspectival shift on what one is struggling with existentially. To turn one’s symptom into a sinthome is to turn what one views as an obstacle into a means of repetitive enjoyment.
Once we are in this territory of the drive and the sinthome, we approach knots, paradox, contradiction of jouissance. In other words, problems are always thought in the libidinal territory, within the space of libido, the space of our relation to the other, in its most intense dimensions or determinations, and problems are always thought that in this space, there are always struggles of identity, paradoxes of identity, contradictions of identity, that emerge. The more reflective we are of these knots, paradoxes and contradictions, potentially the more honest we can become in our drive, and the more real we can become as subjects, even if it means processing a lot of negativity, specifically in regards to the one as a becoming.
In this territory one of the things that is brought up is that our current culture needs to have a new reflective awareness about the importance of prohibition, that not everything is allowed or possible, there are impossibilities, there are things which should have boundaries. Of course that is up to self-determination, and the better we are of being reflective on our unconscious, the better we can get at understanding prohibition and the structure of our authentic desire. Also the importance of understanding tension and antagonism. When we are withdrawing from tension and antagonism we are going reduce our capacity to grow and it may even be a profound source of mental illness when we do not have the right flow or relationship to tension and antagonism.
On this horizon, after Lacan, there is a sense that the material we are working with is that of self-differentiation as a cut (which reflects the methods of psychoanalysis and the idea of the one as a process). We are the one in becoming. The enjoyment of our symptom, the transformation of our identities into repetitive sinthomes, elementary atoms of enjoyment, is the dimension where we can explore our own otherness, and bring the new into being, explore modes of identity that have never existed before. One achieves such a feat by deconstructing or questioning radically any master figures, figures not of authority as such, but rather close or predetermine self-differentiation. Master figures that would be trying to mask their own symptom by owning or controlling others, manipulating others with their own “shadows” (darkness, unconscious imagery). The closer we are to aligning with our own internal vision and voice, the better we will become at self-differentiating, the better we will become at embracing and transcending our negativities.
Ultimately this leads to the indeconstructible drive. In other words, it is not that we get rid of language, or withdraw from the appearances, but have to give ourself to language in a way that is authentically aligned with the processual becoming of unconscious. That is the Lacanian horizon, or the horizon occupied by the “Troika of the Real”.
To summarise, what the Real is, and what Žižek, Zupančič and Dolar coalesce around as an analytic object. The Real is always related to problems of jouissance. Whatever it is that you are going through in your sexual life, or whatever it is in your libidinal territory that you tarry with, this is where your identity is in the Real.
These problems are often perceived by identities as impossible or as a non-relation: “Of all the things in my reality which I can have a relationship to, this antagonism, or this sexual problem, is something that is present for me, but I do not have a relationship with it, it is the active antagonism of the non-relationship”.
This Real as an impossibility or non-relationship is often located as the pure opposite of the ego-ideal. Whatever it is that your ego is idealising, and of course, if this ego-ideal is absent, the ego will become frustrated, aggressive (potentially), neurotic or hysterical. This brings us back to Freud’s original description of neurotic patients. The Real is the pure opposite of this ego-ideal. Whatever your ego-ideal is, and its absence, this is where your identity is struggling with the Real.
That should give you a sense of where these thinkers call our attention, and ask us to reflect deeply on ourself and our own negativity, as part of the becoming of the one.
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