|Index de l'article|
|For a World Without a Moral Order|
|2009 editor's note:|
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Through the cultural constructions to which it has given birth (love as it was practised by the ancient Greeks, courtly love, kinship systems, bourgeois contracts, etc.), emotional and sexual life has constantly been the stakes, a matrix of passions, a zone of contact with another cultural sphere: the sacred. In trances, in ecstasy, in feelings of communion with nature, the desire to go beyond the limits of the individual expresses itself through states of paroxysm. This desire to become one with the species which has been channelled towards the cosmos or a divinity has until now worn the prestigious rags of the sacred. Religions, and monotheistic ones in particular, have circumscribed the sacred, assigning it a leading role while at the same time distancing it from human life. In contrast to primitive societies, where the sacred is inseparable from daily life, in stateist societies it has become more and more specialised. Capitalist civilisation has not eliminated the sacred; it has kept a lid on it, and its various residues and ersatz manifestations continue to encumber social life. In a world in which obsolete religious ideas and commodity banalization coexist, a communist critique is double-pronged: it gets rid of the sacred, that is, it flushes out the old taboos from the places where they have taken refuge, and at the same time it begins to go beyond the sacredness which capitalism has only degraded.
The sacred aspects of the zones where the old obsessions such as the pubis have taken refuge must therefore be removed. To counter adoration of the penis, its conquering imperialism, the feminist ideology has come up with nothing better than fetishizing women's genitalia, and, backed by piles of pathos and literature, making it the headquarters of what makes them different; the obscure fold where their being is located! Rape thus becomes the crime of crimes, an ontological attack. As if violently inflicting a penis' penetration were more disgusting than forcing a woman into wage slavery through economic pressure! But it is true that in the first instance it is easy to locate the guilty party -an individual- whereas in the second it is a question of a social relationship. It is easier to exorcise fear by making rape a blasphemy, an invasion in the holy of holies -as if being manipulated by ads, Innumerable physical aggressions at work, or having the apparatus of social control start a file on you did not constitute forms of intimate violence which are just as profound as an imposed intercourse!
Ultimately, what makes a Somalian rip out his wife's clitoris and what animates the feminists flows from the same concept of human individuality as the object of property relations. Convinced that his wife is one of his belongings, the Somalian believes that it is his duty to protect her from feminine desire, which is seen as parasitically dangerous to the economy of the group. But in so doing, he profoundly reduces and impoverishes his own pleasure and his own desire. In the clitoris of his wife it is the human desire of both sexes which is symbolically targeted. The mutilated woman has been amputated from humanity. The feminist who shouts that her body belongs to her wants to keep her desire for herself. But when she desires, she becomes part of a community in which appropriation dissolves.
The demand "My body belongs to me" supposedly gives concrete content to the "Rights of Man" of 1789. Has it not been often enough repeated that these rights only concern an abstract person and have only ultimately benefited the bourgeois individual! Bourgeois, male, white, adult, it is said nowadays. Neo-reformism claims to correct this by giving real content to this hitherto abstract "man." The real "rights" of the real "man," in short. But the "real man" is simply the woman, the Jew, the Corsican, the gay, the person from Vietnam, etc. "My body belongs to me" follows directly in the footsteps of the bourgeois revolution which these feminists are attempting to complete and perfect for ever and ever by requesting democracy to cease being "formal." What is being criticised here are effects which are said to be their cause!
The demand to control one's body is a restatement of the bourgeois demand for property rights. To escape the secular oppression of women who were previously treated as objects to be possessed by their husbands (and who still are today in other ways), feminism has come up with nothing better than expanding property rights. By becoming an owner in turn, women will be protected: to each her own! This pitiful demand reflects the obsession with "security" which the media and all the political parties are doing their utmost to make contemporary people adopt. This demand arises in relation to a horizon which is blocked off: to master something (in this case one's body), private appropriation is the only means which can be envisioned. Our bodies, though, belong to those who love us, not because of a legally guaranteed "right," but because, as flesh and feelings, we live and evolve only through them. And to the extent that we are able to love the human species, our body belongs to it.
At the same time that it strips away what is sacred, a communist critique denounces the capitalist utopia of a world in which people are no longer able to love to death, a world where, since everything has been levelled, everything is equal and everything can be exchanged -playing sports, making love and working would take place in the same quantified, industrial time frame chopped into pieces like a sausage. Sexologists will be around to cure any libidinal letdowns, psychotherapists to avoid mental suffering, and the police, with the help of chemistry, to prevent any excesses. In such a world there would no longer be a field of human activity which would create a different temporal rhythm by making questioning everything the stakes.
The a-historical illusion, which is the basis of mystical practices, is a dangerous one. The only important thing about these practices is what, by definition, they don't really possess: what can be communicated. We cannot escape from history, but the history of individuals or of the species is also not a purely linear unfolding which capitalism produces (and convinces people that it produces). History includes high points which go beyond and are part of the present, orgasms where people lose themselves in other people, in society, and in the species. "Christianity has substantialized the sacred. But the nature of the sacred (...) is perhaps the hardest thing to pin down which takes place between people. The sacred is simply a privileged moment of communal union, an instant of convulsive communication which is usually snuffed out." (G. Bataille, Le Sacré).
Today this instant of "communal unity" is to be found at concerts; in the panic which grips a crowd, and, in its most degraded form, in the great patriotic outbursts and other manifestations of national unity whose manipulation allows every dirty trick. When the phrase union sacrée (sacred reunion) was coined in 1914 to emphasize the united front of all French people against the German enemy, it clearly gave this national togetherness a religious dimension. 1939-45 was another Holly Alliance against fascism. Still, as opposed to what is taking place in backward capitalist countries like Iran, it can be presumed that in modern war only a minority would participate; the rest would watch. But nothing is for certain. The manipulation of the sacred still has sunny days ahead, perhaps, because until now it is the sacred which has represented the only high point where people's irrepressible need to be together has manifested itself.
If they have provided a more or less imaginary nook sheltered from class struggle, mystical practices have also cemented revolts. This has been demonstrated for example in Taoist trances in resistance to the central powers in ancient China, in voodoo during slave revolts, and in millenarian prophecies. If contemporary mystical quests play a counter-revolutionary role because they are just a way for bourgeois individuals to withdraw into themselves, the fact remains that commodity banalization of every aspect of life tends to empty existence's passionate content. Today's world asks us to love just a jumble of individual inadequacies. Compared to traditional societies it has lost an essential dimension of human life: the high points when people are united with nature. We are condemned to watch harvest festivals on TV, but we are not interested in a ridiculous longing for the past, a return to the joys whose repetitive, illusory and limited nature history has made plain. At a time when capitalism tends to impose its reign without sharing, searching for "communal unity" and "convulsive communication" elsewhere than in revolution becomes purely reactionary. Since capitalism has banalized everything, this gives us an opportunity to free ourselves from sexuality as a specialised sphere. The world we desire is one in which the possibility of going beyond oneself exists in every human activity, a world which proposes that we love the species and individuals whose insufficiencies will be ones of the species and no longer those of existence. The stakes today -what is worth risking one's life for and what could impart another rhythm to time- is the content of life in its entirety.