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Being or Sex, and Differences

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This essay focuses on three differences, on the basis of which it eventually revises current conceptions of biopolitics. First, there is the difference between sex and sexual difference. Sex pertains to virtual time and is another term for the death drive or Being (or substance, in the Spinozian sense), as the power of its self-actualization, because of which Sex or Being is self-referential; by contrast, sexual difference introduces (actual) time and mortality. The second difference concerns sexual difference itself, as the two modes of having a rapport with the failed Oneness of Being, due to the latter’s self-referentiality. The third is the theoretical difference between Lacan and Deleuze, which – as I argue by focusing on central concepts such as automatism, machine, affect, signifier, virtual and actual time, death drive, narcissism, and lack – is structured like sexual difference, that is, as the abyss of incommensurability between the sexes that persists and is required, in spite of all similarities, for the affirmation of a third unassimilable and unknown Other – Being qua self-referentiality. As between the sexes, the most intimately shared point by the two thinkers is the recognition of the indispensability of this radical Otherness, which in their case is condensed in their common assault on empirical (actual) linear time. Finally, I argue that biopolitics has nothing to do either with the repression of sexuality – one’s rapport with the One’s self-referentiality cannot be repressed, for repression applies only to signifiers – or with its discursive production (as in Foucault’s inversely symmetrical criticism of the “repression hypothesis”). Rather, biopolitics in capitalist modernity is an effect of the commodification of labor-power, that is, of the potential of labor to actualize itself. This unprecedented “commerce of the potential as potential” (Virno) amounts to the commerce – i.e., the attempt to inscribe within (economic) representation – of that which persists only as long as it cannot be established in the enunciable: Being or Sex.
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Keywords: Deleuze; Lacan; Lévi-Strauss; Marx; Spinoza; biopolitics

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of German and Russian Studies,Macalester College, 1600 Grand AvenueSt. Paul,MN 55105, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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