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"When Badiou furthermore claimed that democracy is our fetish, this statement is to be taken literally, in the precise Freudian sense, not just in the vague sense that we elevate democracy into our untouchable Absolute: 'democracy' is the last thing we see before confronting the 'lack' that is constitutive of the social field, the fact that 'there is no class relationship' (if I may paraphrase Lacan's formula 'there is no sexual relationship'), the trauma of social antagonism." (Žižek, S.: The Courage of Hopelessness. Penguin Books 2018, p. 30)

It seems to me that there are two possible understandings:

  1. "The lack" itself is constitutive not only of "the social field" but also of "the fact that 'there is no class relationship'" and of "the trauma of social antagonism".

  2. Preposition "of" refers merely to "the social field" as its object, so democracy is the last thing we see before confronting "the lack...", "the fact that..." and "the trauma...".

In other words, do "the fact that 'there is no class relationship'" and "the trauma of social antagonism" relate to the verb 'confronting' or to the preposition 'of'? Is there any way to tell other than from the context?

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  • Hi, welcome to ELL! Please specify the source of this passage and include that information in your question.
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 20:45
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    It is an ungrammatical sentence. "the fact that 'there is no class relationship' (parenthetical) the trauma of social antagonism" lacks a verb. It is gibberish. Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 20:52

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'Democracy' is the last thing we see before confronting the 'lack' that is constitutive of the social field, the fact that 'there is no class relationship' (if I may paraphrase Lacan's formula 'there is no sexual relationship'), the trauma of social antagonism.

The phrases "the fact that 'there is no class relationship' (if I may paraphrase Lacan's formula 'there is no sexual relationship')" and "the trauma of social antagonism" are both in apposition to "the 'lack' that is constitutive of the social field".

Apposition is when a phrase is tacked on to another to give more information about it or to explain it further or to identify it in a different way.

So the three phrases "the fact that 'there is no class relationship'", "the trauma of social antagonism" and "the 'lack' that is constitutive of the social field" are all basically identifying or referring to the same thing.

There is a technical ambiguity: grammatically, it would be possible for the appositive phrases to refer back only to "social field" (instead of to the lack that is constitutive of the social field), but I think this is ruled out by the fact that it wouldn't make any sense, so I'm confident in my interpretation.

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