Meshing the Real and the Transcendental or Katerina Kolozova


Katerina Kolozova’s The Real and the “I” is a brilliant text which complicates Francois Laruelle’s non-philosophy with post-structuralist feminist theory, psychoanalysis, and various continental philosophies. Like Brassier’s Nihil Unbound, Kolozova’s project is a heretical reading of Laruelle’s philsopy which, while maintaining the basic tenets of his system (unilateral duality, vision in one, the Real, transcendence and immanence as distinct) pollutes the non-ness of his arguments. Unlike Brassier however, Kolozova is ultimately concerned with the experiential, with the aspects of non-philosophy which touch on existence as experienced by subjects (or strangers in Laruelle’s parlance). Jumping from Judith Butler, to Rosi Bradotti, to Drucilla Cornell, to Derrida, to Lacan (with thinkers such as Badiou, Derrida and Deleuze sprinkled throughout) Kolozova formulates a breathtakingly lucid and powerfully political, theoretical and social system or, at least, the possibilitly of such. My goal here is to introduce and problematize (albeit slightly) Kolozova’s text which deserves serious interpretation and continued engagement.

After critiquing the rampant textuality and playfulness of postructuralism as “hysterical denial” (p. 6) Kolozova goes on to point out how the much hated One (or Real) is cautiously encircled but ultimately denied across a broad spectrum of feminist texts. Kolozova claims that not only do theorists such as Butler and Bradotti unconsciously invoke the Real, but that they unknowingly perpetuate dualism by opposing deconstruction to traditional metaphysics (p. 7). Berrating Butler for her overly cautious rhetoric (which seems in line with Zizek’s humorous comments in Astra Taylor’s documentary film) Kolozova points out that Butler’s disavowal of Real returns in her placing the Real (of power and deconstruction on the whole) in the body itself (21-22). [I have, in the past, critiqued Butler along similar lines here]. In many ways, Kolozova appears as a Speculative Realist version of Joan Copjec.

Kolozova, via an engagement with Laruelle, goes on to show that Butler’s various oppositions are exploded via Laruelle’s vision-in-one which, is always already a unilateral two (42-48). Echoing Brassier’s critique of correlationism, Kolozova points out that all crisis, whether dyadic or not, is domesticated by deconstruction, purported as non-discursive and hence impossible (p. 52). Kolozova then goes on to articulate the dominating political problematic of our era that, in a deep echo of Zizek, is the name and existence of democracy (p. 65) and, in the most interesting passages, discusses how, the non-philosophical subject (as the stranger, the human in human) interracts with the Real via transcendental materialism (the being of language and experience).

While Speculative Realism has been more than slightly ambigious as to its relation to psychoanalysis and its derrivative transcendental materialism (save Brassier’s two swipes at Zizek in the footnotes of Nihil Unbound), Kolozova is clear in that the two doctrines are not opposed but that Laruelle’s system works with the Real whereas transcendental materialism (or what Laruelle denotes as non-analysis or non-psychoanalysis) thinks the human once it has been caught in the worldliness of the world. Whereas Brassier discusses the Real as only impossible, Kolozova acknowledges the varying modalities of the Real (a la Zizek and Zupancic) and how the Real is captured in our singular fragments of being.

One troubling ambiguity is exactly the role of the unconscious, a term that is limply deployed in Brassier’s texts and absent from the works of other Speculative Realists. While Kolozova discusses Butler’s dismissal of a romanticized unconscious as a wellspring of radical intervention (p. 23), she does not herself comment on its use or being. Reading between the lines of Kolozova’s Laruellian formulation, I would argue that the unconscious would be the moment where the human in human is first experienced as an exteriority (and therefore becomes being or transcendental in Laruelle’s formulation) and the Real speaks to this transcendental material (the symbolic) but in a language the subject doesn’t understand (p. 102). The unconscious may also speak to the lived-ness of the stranger, that life is a fiction which escapes language and both allows for and restricts our freewill (p. 44).

Kolozova argues that, despite Laruelle’s objections, some interface is needed in which transcendence operates on the Real – that the transcendental material of a specified subject (stranger) carries a particular formulation of the Real which, in the end, means that our various subjective anxieties are both Real and Transcendental (101-103). The political implications of this formulation seem to fall somewhere between Badiou (whose concept of evental sites Kolozova utilizes) and Zupancic/Zizek in trying to act according to or be an instance of the Real (p. 65). This formulation is what allows Kolozova to make claims about the aforementioned Real of democracy, which appear similar to Brassier’s comments about capital in his works prior to Nihil Unbound as well as Zizek’s discussion of capitalism in Contingency, Hegemony and Universality.

If, as Kolozova suggests, the body is the nearest bearer of the Real of our being, how do we articulate a politics which is different from the tired attempts of identity politics? If we carry the real with us, and our experiences can touch upon the real, what is to separate a politics of the embodied Real versus an identity politics? The difference that Kolozova ends on is that since identity is always a failure to grasp the Real and sense the World, as experiential, is what forces and faxes the Real of such materialism, we can only remind ourselves that such a world is not-All, that the World can never grasp identity as such let alone any singular human in their automatic solitude. The strength here is that Kolozova seems bolder than Badiou in dismissing the pre-Evental non-subject and more optimistic than Transcendental Materialism in that not only can the subject think the gap that it is but that the gap does the thinking, that the Real itself desires to be transcendental to, in a sense, be political.

Kolozova gives as a subject that is both always already in tune with the possibility of the evental and the dishiscence of the drive.

One Response to “Meshing the Real and the Transcendental or Katerina Kolozova”

  1. good stuff! very interesting. will try and read my copy in the near future

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