What follows is the sort of speculative, uncertain post I more typically place at I Cite. Yet, because I haven't posted anything for awhile, I decided to go ahead and introduce these questions, with their uncertainties and hesitations, here.
Under what circumstances, if any, is the call or demand of the other experienced as superego? Might consideration of these circumstances help account for the intransigence of hatreds of those deemed racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual others under contemporary conditions of global communicative capitalism?
We might begin by recalling the way that the absolute command of the Kantian moral law overlaps with the Freudian superego. Whether one can or cannot is relevant--the command is unrelenting. Likewise, the command is unfulfillable to the extent that we never know whether we followed the moral law. We are guilty no matter what, as with the superego. So, we come under the force of an unknowable, unfulfillable command.
What, then, about the call of the other, the other who may be before me or the other against whose presence I have already shielded myself? If the other is other, a foreign body confronting me and in the face of whose confrontation I remain uncertain and confused, might I not confuse her demand with that of the superego? I must respond to her, but how? And how can I ever know? Even if I hear her, I may misinterpret her words, I may and will necessarily fail. So, I am commanded to respond, but can never know precisely how to respond. And, I will feel guilty.
Is it possible that sexual and racial hatreds are responses to the call of the other, ways to try to avoid confronting a certain demand? Is it possible that they are experienced as superegoistical and if so how might this experience be avoided?
Zizek argues, rightly in my view, that the superego injunction characteristic of contemporary global capitalism is an injunction to enjoy. If this is the case, then it might seem that the other is not experienced superegotistically. The other might be the one hindering our enjoyment, an object standing in our way. Those who urge tolerance might be similarly repressive, again interfering with our enjoyment.
But, such a possibility may well be too quick insofar as what we hate in the other is often the other's enjoyment or the other's theft of our enjoyment. So, gays are hated for enjoying differently and, oddly, for stealing the sexual enjoyment of others (their strangely conceived threat to straight marriage). And, racial minorities are hated because they steal our enjoyment--jobs, security, way of life--or make us instruments of their enjoyment--we provide benefits, etc. So, here the other could be experienced as enjoining us to enjoy, enjoining us to an unachievable authenticity, say, of sex or family, of the actuality of democracy, of religious faith. This view would correspond to Zizek's remark that the present is a time of the superegoization of the imaginary ideal. We compete with the other and experience this competition as an unavoidable competition.
The very experience of having an identity produced by the command to enjoy depends on consumption--we purchase the signifiers that accompany our identity, that make it recognizable to others. When others appropriate 'our' signifiers, we may find ourselves at a loss: how to signify one's 'preppy' status if Ralph Lauren is readily available at outlets and discount stores? How to signify 'hippie' if the privileged and elite have taken over this particular style? And, what about the anxiety produced over the possibility of procuring such signifiers at all?
But, with this shift to enjoyment, haven't we come too far from the ethical problems of the Kantian law and its overlap with superego? Or, might we, conveniently, be able to find here the proverbial coin with its two sides or some really quite remarkable coincidence of opposites? Might the injunction to enjoy as fully and authentically as the other include within its terms an injunction to acknowlege this other fully and authentically? And, might this ethical demand, as impossible as the demand to full enjoyment, coincide with even as it contradicts the injunction to enjoy?
If the answer to these questions are yes, the other is experienced superegotistically, then how might this problem be addressed? One way might be full acknowledgement of the absoluteness demand: yes, there is no exception or outside to the call of the other; we are fully under it. It is not reducible to race, sex, sexuality, or ethnicity; it is fully present with nothing outside it and as present it nonethless non-all. Is this acknowledgement helped or hindered through specific legal regulations? I think it is helped, but that this help may take a long time to be felt. It may also be the case that law in this domain provides breathing space, a kind of relief from the injunctions to enjoy so intertwined with consumption.