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Discourse of the University
How Irish revisionism follows what French psychoanalyst and intellectual Jacques Lacan describes as the "Discourse of the University."
It seems to me that the discourse theory of Jacques Lacan, taking its cue from Marx’s theory of surplus value, gives very clear insights into the motivation and modus operandi of the Irish revisionist movement. We will see it going into overdrive with the release of Ken Loach’s new film. Our status quo is based on what Lacan calls the “discourse of the master”, where the master/capitalist conceals his own limitation and lack of any justification beyond his own will. He presents a front of complete authority to the worker/slave, who is forced to produce a surplus of knowledge and product, which is then appropriated by the master for his own enjoyment.
The master’s discourse depends for its justification on the “discourse of the university.” Here the academic, working on behalf of the master, produces systematic knowledge which produces authority which masks the blind will of the master, i.e. the truth behind this manufactured authority. The knowledge produced by the university addresses the subtraction of enjoyment taken from the worker and rationalizes or justifies it. Political decisions based on power are presented as simple insights into the factual state of things. The product of this academic’s knowledge is millions of people alienated and excluded from the product of their work and from the societies in which they live. Lacan, being a psychoanalyst, draws attention to the way this academic “gets off” on the subjugation of the people who are the victims of his knowledge. Lacan also points out that genuine science has a completely different discourse which sets out from a position of alienation and seeks to question the master and test his justification.
I think any observer taking a brief look at any of the O’Reilly family’s publications any week, or the publications of any revisionist academic, will not find much interrogation of the master. He will, however, see constant attempts to criminalize the people’s struggle and to justify partition and the Anglo-phone, Anglo-centric, neo-liberal status quo. A quick look a the Sunday Indo will show pages dripping with pleasure as revisionists get off on kicking the MOPE’s (Most Oppressed People Ever; Indo-speak for the nationalist people of the six counties). Funny how close that word is to POPE, no doubt Freud would have made something of the connection. Of course, their voluminous work alienates the nationalist people. No less does it alienate the unionist people of the North as their discourse is not listened to, but is brutishly corralled into a weapon in the war against the republican movement. (One thinks of the role played by Conor Cruise O’Brian in collapsing months of peace talks between the IRA and the Ulster Loyalist Central Co-ordinating Committee in 1976.) Working in the service of the master, more or less any kind of argument will do, as long as it takes on the guise of reason and rationality.
That the master in Ireland is fully confident in the performance of the university discourse in neutralising “issues,” such as the people of Rossport, can be seen in a statement by Tony O’Reilly Jnr., quoted in the Sunday Business Post on May 7. Speaking of renewed interest in searching for oil and gas around Ireland he says: “You have issues with Bolivia, Venezuela and the Ukraine. International oil companies are asking, where can we go in the world where we can find hydrocarbons and be sure that we can develop them and have a secure supply chain? Ireland has that.”