by Arran James
This post originally appeared as a response to Steven Hickman at noirrealism.
On this pure semiopath that : this is, once again, played out in Virilio as a kind of prophetic theory-fiction around his idea of cocooning. Houellebecq’s novel is the future (the future without futurity) that emerges out of Virilio’s ideas. In this regard it is interesting that the (awful) cinema version The possibility of an island is not the story of this film but tries to mash together elements of Atomised and Lanzarote in order to present a kind of inverted image of technognostic/Singularity ecstatic thought, hope, utopia. With both men I share the fear that PoI might sketch a possible future, not a literal one but one that is already emergent, already with us, in the production of what you are calling the “semiopath” but which I have always (and incorrectly) thought of as a post-traumatic subject…increasingly I prefer to think of it as the dis-embodied subject.
In that respect, if there is a tradition of taking a psycopathy and rendering it as the metaphorical lens for the age, then I think I could suggest that these men are tracing out the contours of this disembodiment… schizophrenia begins with disembodiment, but undoubtedly the most obvious (and lethal) form of the disorder is anorexia nervosa. It is the eating disorders that are the psychiatric metaphor for our age, just as they are among the most widespread symptoms of our perversely post-scarcity, post-affluent society. One can even think of Houellebecq’s ideas on the sexual economy that followed sexual liberation (I think he speechifies on this in Whatever but it may be Platform) and how the anorexic symptomology relates directly to this deregulation of bodies, pleasures and desires.
Funnily enough, I was reading The Map and the Territory while on a clinical placement with a CBT therapist in an eating disorders unit (a job I would love, btw) and could see the return of the organic at the end of that novel as an acute correlate to so many of those women’s (I didn’t work with any men) disavowal of their own bodies. The complexified auto-affection that comes undone through intensification; the rigidity of thought; the alexythimia and hedonic dysphoria; the obsessiveness of the mundane; the possible rejection or inability to cope with adulthood, majority, reason; the use of psychostimulants. I will need to return to these theme, central to my way of thinking about and orienting my clinical practice. Ballard may have left psychiatry, and in ‘To Stay Alive’ Houellebecq may only have seen in it a tool of survival (indeed, an institutionalisation of coping mechanisms), both of these men have equal right to claim to understand the psychopathology of our age…as much as any contemporary Freud or Kreaplin might.