Adam Phillips on sanity

Definitions of sanity become elegies for a lost world, nostalgic fantasies for a wished-for strength, for an afterlife without struggle and self-division. In a supposedly secular society sanity keeps in circulation pictures of life before the Fall. Of a life, that is to say, in which one’s body, and other people — other people’s bodies — are no trouble.


The traditional contest between sanity and madness is therefore about the transparency of our intentions, about the extent to which our lives are our own — not subject to the darker forces, the obscurer inclinations — and so can be designed by ourselves for ourselves. What is at stake in sanity is whether we can be at home in the world; whether we are right to think of ourselves as self-fashioning creatures, and whether, if we are not, there is still a way of living available to us that is the right way…”

— Adam Phillips. Going Sane. Penguin Books, 2005. p. 60; 77.

Mark Fisher on hauntology in the 21st century

Haunting, then, can be construed as a failed mourning. It is about refusing to give up the ghost or — and this can sometimes amount to the same thing — the refusal of the ghost to give up on us. The spectre will not allow us to settle into/for the mediocre satisfactions one can glean in a world governed by capitalist realism.

What’s at stake in the 21st century hauntology is not the disappearance of a particular object. What has vanished is a tendency, a virtual trajectory. One name for this tendency is popular modernism.

What should haunt us is not the no longer of actually existing social democracy, but the not yet of the futures that popular modernism trained us to expect, but which never materialized. These spectres — the spectres of lost futures — reproach the formal nostalgia of the capitalist realist world.

— Mark Fisher. Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures. Zero Books, 2014. p. 22-27.

Slavoj Žižek on ideology & the misrecognition of the illusion

[W]e have established a new way to read the Marxian formula ‘they do not know it, but they are doing it’: illusion is not on the side of knowledge, it is already on the side of reality itself, of what the people are doing. What they do not know is that their social reality itself, their activity, is guided by an illusion, by a fetishistic inversion. What they overlook, what they misrecognize, is not the reality but the illusion which is structuring their reality, their real social activity. They know very well how things really are, but still they are doing it as if they did not know. The illusion is therefore double: it consists in overlooking the illusion which is structuring our real, effective relationship to reality. And this overlooked, unconscious illusion is what may be called the ideological fantasy.

The fundamental level of ideology … is not of an illusion masking the real state of things but that of an (unconscious) fantasy structuring our social reality itself … even if we do not take things seriously, even if we keep an ironical distance, we are still doing them.

— Slavoj Žižek. The Sublime Object of Ideology. Verso Books, 1989. p. 32-33.

Gilles Deleuze on the modulation of ‘dividuals’

The different internments or spaces of enclosure through which the individual passes are independent variables: each time one is supposed to start from zero, and although a common language for all these places exists, it is analogical. On the other hand, the different control mechanisms are inseparable variations, forming a system of variable geometry the language of which is numerical (which doesn’t necessarily mean binary). Enclosures are molds, distinct castings, but controls are a modulation, like a self-deforming cast that will continuously change from one moment to the other, or like a sieve whose mesh will transmute from point to point.

In the societies of control… what is important is no longer either a signature or a number, but a code: the code is a password, while on the other hand the disciplinary societies are regulated by watchwords (as much from the point of view of integration as from that of resistance). The numerical language of control is made of codes that mark access to information, or reject it. We no longer find ourselves dealing with the mass/individual pair. Individuals have become “dividuals,” and masses, samples, data, markets, or “banks.”

— GIlles Deleuze. “Postscript on the Societies of Control.” October, Vol. 59. (Winter, 1992). pp. 3-7.

Alfie Brown on distraction

Moments where we feel distracted now have another purpose, that of implying that there is, outside our distraction, a coherent reality which we can and should tap back into as and when we please or feel obliged … In other words, it is self-evident that we don’t truly desire to play Candy Crush but unfortunately have to work, but rather that we feel the need for distraction only when we are working, to re-enforce the sense (increasingly lost) that our work has coherent order and value compared to these activities.

Fragmented and distracting enjoyment can often serve to affirm the idea that ouside of these moments of nonsensical and mindless distraction is a stable working life and identity to which we can and should return.

— Alfie Brown. “2. Unproductive Enjoyment: ‘A Culture of Distraction’” from Enjoying It: Candy Crush and Capitalism. Zero Books, 2015. p. 30-31.