Keeping Up With Hauntology (Part 4)

More from Padraig, following on from the previous post:

Just a quick note re hauntology

From hauntology to the eerie: we might conjecture that Mark’s theorising of the eerie is itself “haunted” by his earlier theorising of the hauntological. What starkly noticeable is that his last text, The Weird and the Eerie makes no mention whatsoever of hauntology/the hauntological, only many references throughout to “haunting”, and the “haunted”. Why this omission, this anomaly?

But then, the similarities between the hauntological and the eerie are too great to overlook. Recall Mark’s initial definition of hauntology via Derrida: “Derrida defines hauntology as the study of that which repeats without ever being present. To elaborate, we might say that the revenant repeats without being present in the first place – where ‘place’ is equivalent in meaning to ‘time’. Nothing occupies the point of origin, and that which haunts insists without ever existing.”

Derrida’s hauntology occupies the space between Being and Nothingness (both the “no longer” and the “not yet”), and Lacan’s ‘hauntology’ is located “between the two deaths”, of symbolic death or real death. The eerie is also located between Being and Nothingness, is also “between the two deaths”, of something where there should be nothing (failure of absence/nothingness) or of nothing where there should be something (failure of presence/being).

Mark developed his ideas about Hauntology in parallel with those about the Weird (including weird fiction and weird realism), which is why he later distinguishes between the eerie and the weird, the latter entailing an ontological collapse, a collision of worlds, a “wrongness” of place, of that which does not belong, of the surreal montage, and a possible descent into psychosis/schizophrenia and/or the construction of a new world, a new reality.

Mark again: “Hauntology isn’t a political strategy. It’s about responding to what’s there –or about what *absently insists* in what is there. It’s best conceived of as a symptomatology, cultural rather than political (where culture is very much read, naturally, as a political-economic effect).”

Their relation to accelerationism is that they’re cultural lines of flight, are an aesthetics of desubjectivisation and disidentification via an encounter with the radical Outside, and indirectly entail a radical libidinal re-engineering separate from postmodern neoliberal late capitalism, a post-capitalist realism.

Acid communism is also about the “not yet” hauntology of the counterculture, but “acid” is here double, referring to acidic/caustic/cold/mordant/critical reason as much as to psychedelic reason.

The question of why The Weird and the Eerie is hauntological in all but name is a very good point. I hadn’t thought about that before. But I otherwise agree wholeheartedly.

There is a lot in that book that is far from explicit, in a way that seems very much unlike Mark. The whole book feels like an anomaly, in many respects, but a fascinating one.

I was said something similar on this blog and I think it was taken by someone as a criticism, when actually I find The Weird and the Eerie all the more compelling for how implicit it is in articulating the previous phase of Mark’s thinking.

Nevertheless, by way of a defense of the books, I was told that Mark was editing it whilst in the depths of his final depression, and so he was a lot less willing to make amends to it than he perhaps would have been. The feeling was apparently that there was more to be said but he didn’t want to hear it. However, I also don’t see that as a negative. I think the implicitness forces the engaged reader to make more of an effort to join the dots — as you’ve done brilliantly, Padraig. And I think that also helps the book feel more future-oriented, thanks to its omissions of Mark’s own past work. It is hauntological in all but name so as to better foreground what was to come in Acid Communism — that’s my feeling, anyway.

But perhaps that’s also because Mark anticipated the backlash to come from his Acid Communism. With hauntology having been reduced to “a neurotic and melancholic obsession with past forms” by cynics, his return to the potentials of the 70s was bound to open him up to ridicule. But what exists of Acid Communism makes it feel like a much more generative and positive project.

I suppose it is an attempt to re-emphasise that disparity, discussed in the last post, between Deleuze and Badiou — between historical difference and political repetition. If I might phrase your final point in another way: Having been weighed down by the innate melancholy of ghosts and spectres, is there a better way of thinking about the gothic nature of this problem of the new? Is there another way of talking about the weird and eerie — that is, the transhistorical — aspects of leftist thought and history that does not collapse onto grief and melancholy but still retains that’s hallucinatory — “seeing things that, materially speaking, both are and aren’t there” — valence of the political imagination? Acid Communism feels like a good stab at that.

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