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Neoconservatism in an Age of Secularism

According to psychoanalysis, in the natural state of existence (genealogically/archeologically speaking), before there was Law and transgression, there existed an infinite amount of possibilities; no obstacles but freedom itself. The catch was that such an abyss of freedom was brutally dizzying and some constraints needed to be made to “free oneself” of freedom. In short, humanity was a helpless animal “deprived of immediate instinctual support” or innate instincts and the “too-muchness” of nature was overwhelming.

In order to counteract the dizziness of freedom a withdrawal took place in which symbolic norms and regulations were imposed and enacted for the purpose of setting a firm limit to absolute freedom. Thus, freedom was redrawn to constitute a freedom to violate the Law, which was much better than the previous state of things. So the story goes. The resultant situation, in retrospection, is a condition of arbitrarily imposed laws that were set up under the guise of “natural authority” in order to set limits for us all. In other words, the responsibility that should have been ours to “decide upon the undecidable” is already taken care of for us by an “external master.” This circumstance suites us fine, however, because it conceals from ourselves the burden of defining our own limitations. Ironically, we now experience this limitation – a firm limit imposed to liberate us from dizzying freedom – as suffocation.

It seems absurd then, from this point of view, to call for a recovery of traditional values, as if they were somehow supported by an ahistorical, vertical dimension. This is precisely what neoconservatives attempt to do in pushing forward (or is it pulling from behind?) old ideology. Žižek elaborates further on the following topic:

For Lacan, the Kantian overcoming of the “dialectic” of Law and desire—as well as the concomitant “obliteration of the space for inherent transgression”—is a point of no return in the history of ethics: there is no way of undoing this revolution, and returning to the good old times of prohibitions whose transgression sustained us. This is why today’s desperate neoconservative attempts to reassert “old values” are ultimately a failed perverse strategy of imposing prohibitions which can no longer be taken seriously….That is to say: with Kant, the reliance on any preestablished Prohibition against which we can assert our freedom is no longer viable, our freedom is asserted as autonomous, every limitation/constraint is completely self-posited (The Parallax View, pp. 93-4)