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Chapter 1 Where to Start

Chapter 2 Language and Giving

Chapter 3 Reciprocity

Chapter 4 Definitions and Exchange

Chapter 5 The Concept of Man

Chapter 6 'Marksist' Categories

Chapter 7 The Collective Source

Chapter 8 Castration Envy

Chapter 9 Is = $

Chapter 10 Value 157

Chapter 11 Shifting into Exchange

Chapter 12 Giving Value to Exchange

Chapter 13 Market and Gender

Chapter 14 Deserving to Exist

Chapter 15 Pointing and Patriarchy

Chapter 16 The Point of the Ego

Chapter 17 What Does Democracy Re-Present?

Chapter 18 The Unmasculated Agents of Change

Chapter 19 Dreaming and Reality

Chapter 20 Giving and Love

Chapter 21 From the Garden to the Grail

Chapter 22 Cosmological Speculations

Chapter 23 After Words Practicing the Theory

Index of Figures

Selected Bibliography

Return to Home Page

Chapter 17

What Does Democracy Re-Present?

Language is a response to communicative needs, which proliferate and diversify according to their satisfactions and according to on-going experience. These communicative needs overlap or co-participate with needs having to do with things--needs to consume things, but also to use them instrumentally, or to locate one's own or others' needs among them, perceive them accurately, foresee the consequences of their processes, etc.

Satisfying each other's needs having to do with things creates bonds among humans as those special parts of the external material world who are part of the same species as ourselves--who receive from and give to each other. The bonds created by language are similar to the bonds that would be created by sharing those things, if we could do so. Some of our sharing is impeded by the fact that there are things we cannot give to each other, such as mountains or our sensation of red, or granting the wish that the nuclear age had never happened. Much sharing is impeded by scarcity, in that there is not enough of something for everyone. Much is impeded by private property and our practice of not-giving. It is perhaps the differences in the reasons for not giving and receiving that makes the actual sharing of language so abstract and 'psychological,' transforming the mind into something different from the body.

We share abstractly, and this sharing produces only egos and minds, not peaceful and abundant material communities. We do not share goods concretely with the many. Perhaps we even practice giftgiving only with our immediate families and friends. What we do share, instead, is the not-giving of exchange, which makes us separate and adversarial, and connects us to each other only through the laws of the state, if at all. Exchange makes us into things that do not give to each other, except linguistically, so we are not part of the same species of nurturers. Instead, we organize ourselves into 'concepts,' which are organized into more general 'concepts.'

The OBN of 'Ones'

We create word-like representatives in government to take our places, organizing the larger group for us, deciding, commanding, legislating what giftgiving remains, the giving of obedience, of public services, of taxes. The representatives allocate (give) our tax money.

The lexicon, what Saussure called langue, is a purely differential system of words seen as values in which each element is related negatively to all the others as what it is not, and positively to the things it re-presents. For example, the word 'dog' is what it is because it is not 'cat' or 'beautiful' or 'justice' or 'running.' Those are negative relations it has with other words. 'Dog' also has a positive relation to dogs, which it re-presents.

We identified a very similar relation in private property, where each owner is related negatively to all the others, by mutual exclusion, and positively to the property s/he owns. Money, like the verb 'to be,' mediates between these mutually exclusive elements, creating a second substitution, a quantitatively divisible value concept sample,1 to which property can be momentarily related, and the property of one owner can become the property of another--without resorting to giving. Giving to needs implies inequalities--while exchange implies and requires equalities, covering up needs and giftgiving.

Speaking about money as the 'general equivalent,' Marx commented, "It is far from being self-evident that this character of being generally and directly exchangeable is, so to say, a polar one, and is as inseparable from its polar opposite, the character of not being directly exchangeable, as the positive pole of a magnet is from the negative. People who give free rein to fancy may therefore imagine that all commodities can simultaneously acquire this characteristic of being directly exchangeable--just as, if they like, they may imagine that all Roman Catholics can simultaneously become Pope."2 He says that "a commodity can only function as a general equivalent because, and in so far as, all other commodities set it apart from themselves as equivalent."3 (See Figure 34.) Marx is actually talking here about money as what I would call the incarnated concept sample. What he sees as 'magnetic polarity' is the polarity between the one and the many, the concept sample and its related items, and/or the word which has taken the place of the sample as the equivalent for that concept, and the related ('relative') items. In his description of money as the general equivalent, Marx identified an important moment of concept formation and the incarnation of the masculated concept--though of course, at the time, he did not see that was what it was. His analysis of the relation between money and commodities is notoriously difficult because that relation involves so much more than meets the eye.

In masculation, the family is set up like the concept, where the patriarchal father is sample or 'general equivalent.' He takes the place of the other members of the family in decision making, instituting command and obedience through his over-taking will, and representing them in the society of men, the OBN. We have seen that property is related to its owner in the many-to-one concept (or family name complex) way. A similar thing happens with our government.

Figure 34. Money is the general equivalent. All other commodities set it apart from themselves as an equivalent.

Curiously Marx personalizes commodities, saying that they choose one of their number to be the equivalent, and this is just the democratic process personified. The US Declaration of Independence said "all men are created equal," at the time notoriously leaving out women and slaves (free giftgivers) from the democratic process. The fathers of our country were an OBN, made up of white male property owners. They divided themselves into groups according to location, each of which chose one of their number to be their general equivalent, to take their place as their representative in the governing bodies made up of the 'ones' who were representatives of other groups.

Democracy is embedded in a context made up of other extrinsications of the concept.
Figure 35.


Figure 36. Re-presentative government. (Compare with Figure 37.)

The OBN 'members' typically were themselves, by choice or by force, already in a 'one' relation regarding their families, and in a self-similar 'one' relation regarding their properties. The 'representatives' made decisions which affected those who had no power of choice, as well as those who did. The context made up of 'representatives' formed a new meta group, an OBN of the OBN, which had its own internal dynamics. A general equivalent was also chosen from among the group of the choosers, to be the general equivalent and representative of all, the president.

When the inhabitants of a nation are allowed to choose their representatives, the process appears to more directly reflect the concept process than, for example, monarchy does. The representatives then appear to be not just the samples, but the 'words' which take the place of all the members of the community or group. Like the words in the langue, they are in a mutually exclusive relation with each other, but they have a positive, though polar relation with those they represent. (Figure 36) From this position, they reconstitute themselves as a community, giving to each other and receiving in various ways, making deals, coalitions, etc. This community acquires a life of its own with power over the lives of the many.


Figure 37.

National boundaries then become like the boundaries of the concept. Those outside are 'things' that are not related to those 'samples' or to those 'words.' They are not represented, though they are affected by the decisions the representatives make, especially the decisions made in the nation that achieves the one status among nations.

If we stand back and ask ourselves, "If this is true, what does this configuration mean?" the strategies we have for interpretation pass through the concept process itself, and we are led to repeat the problem. However, if we access and give value to the model of the giftgiving mother, we may be able to avoid projecting our conceptual and linguistic patterns into our governments.

We could devise a way of organizing society free from projections and their subconscious resonances. We would not need to mutually exclude others in order to have national or individual identities, and we would not need to create relations of below and above, 'things' and 'words,' 'manys' and 'ones' in order to make individual or collective decisions. Rather, co-munication, forming the co-munity by satisfying needs at all levels, would be understood as the basis of meaning as well as the guiding principle for the organization of society.

Those in the 'word' position, the representatives, are themselves sometimes organized like the concepts of gender. US Democrats, for example, usually pay more attention to needs, while Republicans look at profit and national egotism. Both parties function on the male model--the right as more macho, the left as more paternalistically nurturing.

The Sexist Point of Democracy

Modern democracy more accurately corresponds to the problem of masculation than tyranny or monarchy because it has developed in an epoch of exchange where the money-word is the king, the general equivalent, instead of the king himself. This fact allows us to act out and perhaps understand the problem as systemic, rather than attributing our difficulties to the individual character of the 'one,' to the king or father, to the heredity of the royal house or the superiority of a nation or race. As much as we do fetishize gold or other money, it is clear that it is not a person. And according to the American Dream, anyone can 'make money.' We have displaced the problem of the privileged sample position into an area where it more closely resembles masculation, though the fit is not complete. Regardless of class or race, the story goes, anyone who has enough luck, energy, and know-how can acquire a lot of the general equivalent, much as anyone regardless of class or race can be genetically 'given' a phallus, the organ by which he is directed into masculation. He can 'have' instead of 'lack.'

In fact, 'lacking' is the other side of the coin, and anyone can also be like a 'lacking' woman. The supremacy of money detaches the privileged sample position from heredity, and perhaps allows more space for us to consider socialization and opportunity as the causes of privilege, along with money-making and capitalistic behaviors.4

Ancient Greek 'democracy' was directly the Reign of the Phallus, as Eva Keuls shows in her book of that title.5 Women and slaves were both 'have-nots' in that period, 'inferiors' providing the satisfaction of needs. Gender coincided with nationality and class as a categorization by which a relatively large peer group was allowed access to privileged one positions. Keuls describes the 'herms,' which were anthropomorphic statues of penises with penises standing at the doors of Greek houses. These seem to me to be attempts to concretize a self-similar relation.

This is also perhaps a clue to a pun, the sense of which has always nudged at my curiosity, but eluded me. That is the similarity of monetary capital and the capital of a column. Jean-Joseph Goux talks a lot about capitalism and caput, the head, in Symbolic Economies.6 Perhaps columns are images of phalluses derived or transposed from herms, and standing together to hold up the temple, the image of the phallic state. The capital is then the head, not of the person, but of the phallus.

Athena, the warrior goddess who gave her name to the city, nurtured male citizens and protected them in battle, is housed (or trapped) inside the temple. Born from Zeus' head, she performed the masculating functions of privileging the Athenians, caring for and protecting them, herself taking on the manly behavior of the warrior. Athenians were masculated as males, but bonded as


Social self-similarities Figure 38

things of the same kind, bearing her name. Battles in which the Greeks slaughtered the Amazons are regularly depicted in Athenian art. Athena is the woman who helps men conquer women, as well as other nations and classes. She is the symbol of the way her men collectively receive their power over others, and she is honored by the symbol of their collective columnar erections. Her name given to their nation state fits well with the social cohesion that took place, not through women's nurturing, but through male bonding in battles or oratory and sports competitions, with the goal of becoming privileged 'ones.' The Athenians could also bond in the privileged enjoyment of their freedoms--pleasures not available to women or slaves.

Masculation is an artificial construct, and it needs images of itself which will confirm it. (It is the physical appearance--having the penis--that puts the boy into the non-nurturing category in the first place.) Perhaps masculation needs phallic images as evidence of self-similar structures at different scales, in order to make the universe more familiar and friendly to the boy dis-identified from his mother. Whatever the motivation, Patriarchy (or Puerarchy) creates its own images everywhere re-presenting the phallus every time entrance into a privileged category is at issue.

However, the key (one more herm-like phallic symbol) seems to me to lie in the similarity between herms and columns and men. The column is a gigantic penis; the herm is a man-sized statue of a penis with a penis7. Could we say then that an erect man seems to be the image of a penis, self-similar to his own erect phallus, his head its 'head?' The need for a self-similar phallic image would thus be at least partially satisfied by a man's own body. His phallus would be the image of himself and, vice versa, he would be its image.

We have become blind to these images, or we have learned not to talk about them. To me, they seem to be symptoms of a mass psychosis that is being caused by masculation. Once we 'take the scales from our eyes,' we recognize the images for what they are.

They riddle our history. An ancient image is the ureaus, the cobra headdress worn by Egyptian pharaohs and gods. The phallic snake's head atop the human head was the symbol of one-many power.

Most death-dealing instruments, as we mentioned, are index-phallic symbols. Each 'member' of the armed forces has his 'gun.' Marks of conquest, from obelisks to flag poles, punctuate our patriarchal landscapes. More pedestrian modern examples: 'skin heads' allude to the organ of male violence. 'Joe Camel' notoriously looks like a phallus and self-similarly advertises cigarettes, like a herm. His phallic face becomes a herm--with the self-similar cigarette branching off as a little phallus.

If we see property as what privileged ones 'have,' cap-ital would be property masculating itself into phallic self-similarity, growing infinitely through repeatedly deserving a greater money name, and working or producing to become adequate to the name, creating a flow of (hidden) gifts towards a centralizing infinitely aggrandizeable 'one.' An economic self-similar image of masculation with phallic motivations (in fact blood rushes to the gland as hidden gifts rush to capital investments), cap-ital transforms itself from a word, controlling the workers' behavior through salary, into the 'money-sample' value-equivalent of products in exchange. An accumulation that allows one to tell others what to do, capital creates a sample phallic capitalist in its image. But he also creates it in his image. We now have numerous large capitals, which hold up the state. Their heads are the pillars and capital-ists of their communities.

The erection appears as privileged one and has a relation to a sexual object which is also for the moment singled out as a one-many sample--for instance, a woman as sample of all women. Athena served as the sample (hypostatized) woman by which citizens acquired their phallic standing-in-common. The fascio also was a bundle of sheaves bound together by one of their kind. A similar function animated the Nazi 'Heil Hitler' phallic salute. There must be ways to organize the state that do not require a leadership of phalluses. (In fact, the erection-in-common alludes to gang rape.)

It is not a matching between word and thing (or erection and singled-out woman) that creates 'meaning,' but the response to human needs regarding both words and things and the consequent positive proliferation of co-municative needs. Similarly, it is not the matching or correspondence between money and products that creates economic value, but the response to both communicative and material needs, in spite of the generalized situation of not-giving.

The correspondences between words and things, money and products, man and boy, man and woman continuously draw our focus onto one-many structures and their relationships of abstract equality and modeling and away from needs. This is another reason we do not recognize value as a gift that is being attributed and appreciated in common in all the different areas. Each self-similar area of patriarchy is considered separate and independent from the others because its concept sample is in evidence and different from the others.

Moreover, the 'samples' often appear to be the source of their own value. The relation between the president and the electorate, or senators and congress persons and the electorate, is seen as entirely different from the relation between money and commodities, for example. (See Figure 38.) While it is true that the scales are very different, I believe we have also learned not to look, and to discount the similarities when we see them.

Our view of patriarchy is thus splintered, divided and conquered, and we find ourselves addressing one part of it at a time, rather than making a general criticism and offering a global alternative. The partial criticisms can only have partial results, however important they may be, because other aspects of the patriarchal system 'take up the slack.' Other 'heads' of the hydra are ready to attack, when one has been decapitated.

By tracing the patterns that create these 'heads,' we may collectively address the whole mechanism. Capital, after all, is only one of the hydra's heads.

1 Exchange value is qualitatively simple and single, so that it can be divided quantitatively. Money is the material 'word-sample' which satisfies the communicative need arising from the kind of altered co-munication which is the exchange of private property. It is a communicative need for a re-presentative of giving while not-giving.

2Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1, London, J. M. Dent, 1962, p. 41.

3Ibid, p. 42.

4Computerized banking and credit card proliferation are actually dematerializing money, transforming it back from a material word to an element of language.

5Eva Keuls, The Reign of the Phallus: Sexual Politics in Ancient Athens, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1985.

6Jean-Joseph Goux, op. cit., pp.44-47.

7Eva Keuls, op.cit., p.44, ff.

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