The micropolitics of CYE: 3

It was this crooked creep, Carl Schmitt, the dip-Schmitt, who famously defined “the political” in terms of the division between friend and enemy.  Perhaps it’s tasteless of me to speak in the same breath of Larry David’s comedy and the political theology of a repulsive anti-semite: but I hope it’s tasteless in an LD sort of way (like when Larry offended someone who heard him whistling a tune by Richard Wagner).  In any case, even if there are better models of the political by better philosophers and better men (for example, the “compositionalist” model of Bruno Latour), it seems theoretically appropriate at least to set Schmitt’s model next to David’s serial, since in the latter there is such an ostentatious thematization of antipathy.  Well, whatever: it’s what I’m doing…

Of course, anyone familiar with Schmitt’s famous pre-Nazi (but not pre-douchebag) treatise from the early 30s, The Concept of the Political, might protest my application of it to CYE.  Because it appears that in CYE what is thematized is the antipathy between what Schmitt would call “adversaries” rather than “enemies.”  For Schmitt, the two concepts must be made distinct. And grounding this distinction is a more primitive one: the distinction between private and public spheres.  Adversaries duke it out in the private sphere, while enemies belong to the sphere of the public.  In their conflict, adversaries represent only themselves, while enemies represent whole peoples, nations, collectivities or totalities.  When, in another HBO show, the pretty great but somewhat troubling Game of Thrones, Ned Stark swings his broadsword at Jamie Lannister, he does not merely want to kill the incestuous prick alone: he is taking a swing at the whole of the Lannister House.  One could put this in the Kantian terms bandied about in previous posts, and say that behind the empirical “I” of the adversary stands only a transcendental “Her” or “Him,” but behind the empirical “I” of the enemy always stands a transcendental “Them.”

So it can be argued, and reasonably enough, that most of the actants in CYE are inimical adversaries, not hostile enemies.  Perhaps then “Palestinian Chicken” is one of the only episodes, if not the only one, where the conflicting actants are identifiably “enemies” in the dip-Schmittian sense, gathered as they are respectively beneath the Israeli and Palestinian flags.  So what do we make of Larry, standing in the middle, apparently unable to decide?  Does he represent the waffling quasi-neutrality of America? Is he a decadent liberal democratic subject whose only wish is never to have to step out of the private sphere, who wishes, impossibly, to reject the political altogether and by extension repress in himself the truth that the political remorselessly reveals, i.e. the essential dangerousness, the murderousness and killability of man?

That’s one way to read the scene.  I would like to propose another.  Maybe Larry doesn’t stand between two totalities.  Maybe the respective supporters of Goldblatt’s Deli and El Abbas Chicken are meant to represent one schizoid totality, a house divided against itself, and it is to this totality that Larry stands opposed.  This would mean that Larry himself is the microcosmic representative of a transcendental totality, one that is so spectral and silent that its enemies (the yammering protesters) are not even aware of its existence, let alone its proximity.

Granted, this proposal has its dangers.  In 1948, in the absence of the necessity of towing the Nazi party line, Schmitt wrote in his diary, “Verily, the assimilated Jew is the true enemy.”  At one time it might have been natural to think of enemies as representatives of geographically separated totalities: the French and the English, the German and the French, European Christendom and the Middle-Eastern Saracens.  But as Schmitt’s disgusting sentiment attests, not to mention other such things as the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and the rather ubiquitous sentiment among conservatives of every Western nation that “Verily, the assimilated Muslim is the true enemy,” the geographical separation of hostile totalities is a thing of the past.  Now the dip-Schmittian recognizes the complete lack of elbow room, the destruction of distance, the absolute immanence of every enemy to every other.  So to propose that Larry qua narrative actant represents a totality that has no public nomination risks stoking the paranoia and thirst for witchhunts of the reactionary reader.  But even if, as Larry himself says, “Larry David is anonymous,” the anonymity does not conceal anything.  Everything that Larry’s anonymous collective is about is right there on the surface, like the gleam on his chrome crown…


4 responses to “The micropolitics of CYE: 3

  • STAGG candy

    Whew, there is so much here to grab. I am behind in my episodes of CYE….but it doesn’t suprpise me you can find such brilliant ways to write using a pop culture item. Well done…as always!!!

    Meanwhile…I just caught up on your Cave posts and left a response down a few posts in the comments.

    Much love
    Candy xxxooo

  • jauntown

    Thanks Candy. This season has had some great episodes, although, as far as I can tell, no overarching narrative, which is kind of a first… There does seem to be a lot of baseball references though. I saw the pictures you took at the Cubs game, by the way: pretty pretty pretty pretty sweet!

  • mikedelic

    i love when larry gets the chamber ensemble to play the theme from the meistersinger on the guy’s lawn at the end. also when he tells the cop that he is not actually considered part of the bald community because he shaves his head and is not naturally bald.

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