Peter Weiss - Marat/Sade, power, sovereignty & desire
Peter Weiss (1916-1982) Marat/Sade (1963)Die Verfolgung und Ermordung Jean Paul Maratsdargestellt durch die Schauspielgruppe des Hospizeszu Charenton unter Anleitung des Herrn de SadeThe Persecution and Assassination of Jean-PaulMarat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum ofCharenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade
‘Sade: Before deciding what is wrong and what is right first we must find out what we are I do not know myself No sooner have I discovered something than I begin to doubt it and I have to destroy it again What we do is just a shadow of what we want to do.’•Is it possible ever to be free from a feeling of subjugationand violence?•What role might violence have in the creation andmaintenance of psychic identity?•What is our psychic attachment to structures of power?
Theorisation of power?1933-39, Kojève, Hegel, Sorbonne.Self =power = negation = struggle with other.Dialectic.Master/Slave, sovereign/bondsman.In the Hegelian picture, the self is formed in a struggle withthe other, a struggle which it internalises but which is alsoceaselessly replayed.The self is a perpetual drama of domination and submission.Hegel calls this the ‘unhappy consciousness.’
‘All human desire is, finally, ‘a function of the desirefor “recognition”. And the risk of life by which thehuman reality “comes to light” is a risk for the sakeof such a Desire. Therefore to speak of the “origin”of Self-Consciousness is necessarily to speak of afight to the death for “recognition”.’Kojève,Alexander, Introduction to the Reading ofHegel, lectures on the phenomenology of spirit, trans.by James H. Nichols, Jr., (New York: CornellUniversity Press, 1980), p.7
‘In order that the human reality come into being as “recognized”reality, both adversaries must remain alive after the fight. Now, this ispossible only on the condition that they behave differently in thisfight. By irreducible, or better, by unforeseeable or “undeducible”acts of liberty, they must constitute themselves as unequals in and bythis very fight. Without being predestined to it in any way, the onemust fear the other, must give in to the other, must refuse to risk hislife for the satisfaction of his desire for “recognition”. He must giveup his desire and satisfy the desire of the other: he must “recognize”the other without being “recognized” by him. Now, “to recognize”him thus is “to recognize” him as his Master and to recognize himselfand to be recognized as his Master’s Slave.’Kojève, Alexander, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, lectures onthe phenomenology of spirit, p.8
Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality (1887) - part 1, §14‘There is a guarded, malicious little rumour-mongering andwhispering from every nook and cranny. I think people are tellinglies; a sugary mildness clings to every sound. Lies are turningweakness into an accomplishment, no doubt about it – it’s just asyou said.’ -- Go on!‘and impotence which doesn’t retaliate is being turned into“goodness”; timid baseness is being turned into “humility”;submission to people one hates is being turned into “obedience”(actually towards someone who, they say, orders this submission -they call him God). The inoffensiveness of the weakling, the verycowardice with which he is richly endowed, his standing-by-the-door, his inevitable position of having to wait, are all given goodnames such as “patience”, which is also called the virtue; […]’
Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality (1887) - part 1, §14[…] not-being-able-to-take-revenge is called not-wanting-to-take-revenge, it might even be forgiveness (“for they know not whatthey do - but we know what they are doing!”). They are alsotalking about “loving your enemy” - and sweating while they doit.’- Go on!- ‘They are miserable, without a doubt, all these rumour-mongersand clandestine forgers, even if they do crouch close together forwarmth - but they tell me that their misery means they are God’schosen and select, after all, people beat the dogs they love best;perhaps this misery is just a preparation, a test, a training, it mightbe even more than that - something which will one day bebalanced up and paid back with enormous interest in gold, no! inhappiness.’
What do the actors in Marat/Sade do?They exist outside of the regimen of desire/work.What is the mood of Revolutionary Paris inMarat/Sade? Reason.What is the mood of Charenton in Marat/Sade?Inertia, hysteria, lust, violence, anxiety - all responsesto the articulation of desire/work.Violence, instrumental action, work, boredom, leisureand desire – psychic regimen of modernity.
‘Sovereignty is the power to rise, indifferent to death, above the lawswhich ensure the maintenance of life.’‘the quest for sovereignty by the man alienated by civilisation is afundamental cause of historical agitation […] Sovereignty […] is theobject which eludes us all, which nobody has seized and whichnobody can seize for this reason: we cannot possess it, like an object,but we are doomed to seek it.’‘the creation of a sovereign […] depends on the negation of someinterdict […] This means that sovereignty, in that humanity tendstowards it, requires us to situate ourselves ‘above the essence’ whichconstitutes it. It also means that major communication can only takeplace on one condition – that we resort to Evil, that is to say toviolation of the law.’Georges Bataille, Literature and Evil, trans, by Alastair Hamilton,(London: Marion Boyars, 1985), pp.182, 193, 202
Evil ‘is essentially relative to unproductive consumption, that isto say, to destruction […] Submission and obedience, on theother hand, are on the side of Good. Liberty is always open torevolt, while Good is closed as a rule.’Bataille, Literature & Evil, p.197‘These despotic pleasure-seekers engage in a continualsubversive-anarchistic discourse about [the destruction ofpower] (a discourse against law, property, religion, procreation,and marriage, and in favour of crime, incest, adultery, theft, andthe like). The text takes responsibility for this contradiction allthe more easily because it continuously indexes its ownexcesses on those of its characters; hence, right at the heart ofthe verisimilitude that it assumes, the radical nonrealismthrough which it unfurls.’Marcel Hénaff, Sade, p.184
Abjection - Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror.Operation of the psyche by which the subject creates andmaintains identity by repelling or rejecting anything thatthreatens its boundaries. Mary Douglas famous statement that"dirt is matter out of place.”Abjection can be understood as a psychic operation thatmaintains the division between the clean/proper and theunclean/abject.Filth and defilement become inconceivable without a processand boundary that separates them from what is clean.Weiss’s play concerns abjection in several ways: because itrepresents what is filthy, debased and sordid; because it reversesthe hierarchy of values, making desirable what is filthy; andbecause it begins to undermine the boundary between abjectionand desire.