The Agony of Eros by Byung-Chul Han

The Agony of Eros is really a good essay. Theory heavy, yes, but also leavened with plain quotable text that will maintain any curious reader. I obviously need to brush up on the positive vs. negative (ie. negation) distinction -to say nothing of Badiou, Deleuze, Plato and Hegel.

Byung-Chul Han (a very trendy Korean-German philosopher) identifies threats to romantic love in the current day; turns out we’re too (self)ishly involved and can’t open ourselves to discovering “the Other.”

But what is real love? Actually it’s “transgression,” “failure,” “distance” (preventing objectification), “fidelity,” “shot through with powerlessness,” “pure exteriority,” even “disaster.” You getting a feel? Sound familiar? Or not?

Anyway, what cuts against love? “Comparison,” “flattening,” “depression” (the real opposite of “eros”), “commodification,” “positivity” (as opposed to actual negation of yourself in favour of “the Other”), “hyperactivity,” “the present,” “pornography” etc. In short, contemporary life and culture.

Near the end of the book Han connects politics, art and love via “eventfulness.” “Political action is mutual desire.” Indeed, “Eros represents a source of energy for political revolt and engagement.”

Reading that, I couldn’t help but think of the enduring meme-photo of a young man and woman embracing and kissing on the asphalt with riot cops in the foreground and background. You know the one? People clearly love its portrayal of mutual desire, danger, fidelity and sacrifice. It’s an image true to Han’s idealization of love.

Just a second though, the photo wasn’t even taken at a political event, just a post-hockey game riot. And the image (while I don’t want to be so repressed as to call it “pornographic”) features an “upshort” view of the woman in question -the photo’s focal point and what explains it’s popularity on the internet. Back to square one?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s