Jean-François Lyotard raises the issue of Freudian “primary repression” (Urverdrängung) and its relation to both affect and representation:

The hypothesis of an unconscious without “representational formations” (which Freud proposes when he seeks to understand unconscious affect and Urverdrängung) necessitates a break from the philosophy of consciousness, even if the term “unconscious” still refers to it. It can only be deployed in what Freud calls metapsychology, that is, a topics, a dynamics, and an economy that deal respectively with the instances, the forces and conflicts of force (attraction and repulsion), and the results (effects) assessed quantitatively. (Heidegger and “the jews” 11)

Lyotard goes on to observe that the prime theorist of this “metapsychology,” what he calls “the other metaphysics, the one that does not hinge upon a subject as the focus of all evident vision” (12), is Deleuze: “This metaphysics definitely needs a general mechanics. Deleuze has, in a sense, done nothing other than investigate and unfold its possibilities” (12).

Deleuze’s “mechanics” is an attempt to diagram presubjective affect, an affect that is unconscious not because it was once available to consciousness and then subsequently repressed (secondary repression) but because it has never been admitted to consciousness, indeed because it is its exclusion from consciousness that enables the constitution of the ego.

Lyotard continues:

Freud calls it “unconscious affect.” Freud was the very first to say to himself: pure nonsense, an affect that does not affect consciousness. How can one say it affects? What is a feeling that is not felt by anyone? What is this “anyone”? [. . .] For the silence surrounding the “unconscious affect” does not affect the pragmatic realm (the transfer of a meaning to the listener); it affects the physics of the speaker. It is not that the latter cannot make himself understood; he himself does not hear anything. We are confronted with a silence that does not make itself heard as silence. (12)

It is only “later” that this affect is registered in consciousness, by means of representation, when it appears as the symptom, “as feeling, fear, anxiety, feeling of a threatening excess whose motive is obviously not in the present context” (13): an emotion whose excessiveness indicates obliquely to the subject the affect that had to be repressed so that the subject itself (himself, her self, “any one”) could be born.

Surely the task of posthegemony theory is to understand these processes (the mechanics of presubjective affect, their repression as a by-product of representation, and their return as symptom) at the level of the socius.


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