Restless Nationalism
Ljubomir Danailov Frckoski
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Professor Frckoski was in touch with us recently about promoting his book at one of our conference exhibits. We were excited to learn that—not only was his book about the psychology of nationalism —but he was a prominent political figure himself, having run for President of Macedonia—and holding significant political positions in the government.
Is this a first? An important politician citing Lacan, Zizek—and Koenigsberg?
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Restless Nationalism
Restless Nationalism Publisher: Kultura
Publication Date: July 2016
Restless Nationalism is available readers of LSS Newsletter at no charge! To download the ebook, click here.
Enemy Images in War Propaganda
Professor Ljubomir Danailov Frckoski is a Macedonian politician and former presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia for the 2009 Macedonian presidential election. He is a Professor of Public International Law and International Relations at the Faculty of Law, Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje, Republic of Macedonia.

Professor Frckoski was a member of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia from 1990 until 1997, Minister of the Interior from 1992–1996, and Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1996 - 1997. He was one of the experts involved in the preparation of the new Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia of November 17, 1991, as well as the Constitutional Amendments of 2001. He was also one of the "Founding Fathers" of the Macedonian Foreign Intelligence Service in 1995.

“Enjoying the Nation”
(edited version of part of Chapter 7)

We turn the issue of a nation’s “libidinal economy”: the ideology of “enjoying the nation.” Following Lacan and Zizek, we look at how surplus (excess) energy in enjoyment (jouissance) stands behind national identity.

We begin with the thesis that any national policy is based on and manipulates the economy of enjoyment. Zizek: “Every nation exists as it continuously materializes a specific satisfaction in a set of social practices; nationalism is privileged social practice of such enjoyment, its eruption in the social field.”

Libidinal support of national identity allows us to follow it not so much through positive legal norms, but through its dark underside; through the collective “dirty little secrets” of ethnic groups.

Ethnic rituals are available only with the infringement of law (what Hegel calls “the right of the night;” the dark side). Positive laws of a country apply to all: domestic residents, foreigners, and immigrants. But obscene infringements of law are available only to members of the dominant majority that controls the system.

The strength of national connection among individuals is enhanced when people conceive themselves as victims of a conspiracy. Nations buffer the shocks that social and economic imbalances create—through the mythology of conspiracy.

Ethnic unity and the fantasy of stable, homogeneous social body are always “disrupted” by enemies—synonymous with a situation of imbalance, contradiction, tearing and devastating tensions that prevent unity and the stability of the social body.

National myths—that address external and internal threats—organize a community. In this sense, nationalism always needs “others,” hence is essentially relational. Networks of prejudice and the demonization of others are often generated by what Zizek calls the theft of our “pleasure-in-the-nation.”

Because a nation is not a biological formation, but a contingent, discursive construction—as its base it has a non-discursive anchor: the anchor of enjoyment. Nations are organized around the myth of an original national trauma: “loss of unity;” the primordial whole. The nation seems to be in a state of constant decay—failure to reach the renewed harmony.

Our second thesis set forth by Hayden White is that every history or historical narrative is prose built on facts, but never consists only of facts, but is a story built upon them. Historians don’t “reveal history.” They take events and make stories out of them. Facts embody the model or logic of the development they desire. They decide what is important to remember and what they wish to forget.

At the moment he selects the material—what narrative should be developed—the historian becomes a politician creating an ideological milieu. This decision is subject to motives and rules that have libidinal matrices. The decision intends to explain why we are in a particular situation, and how we need to act. Therefore, interventions involve the conflict of interpretations--and so become antagonistic.

Lacan places the emergence of what cannot be symbolized, but is felt exactly in such interruptions - THE REAL - the traumatic beginning, the fundamental antagonism of that beginning of each nation and identity. It retroactively repudiates the former relations and gives legitimacy to the new dominant relations of power. When something new appears, this new retrospectively constructs its historical “necessity”. There are never “bare facts”; always these narratives “have already been set by us.” Tradition is tradition only if it is established by us.

A fundamental paradox of the rediscovery of tradition—returning to roots and policies to create a national identity—is that they are tautological; self-referential. They reveal themselves as already-present-in-tradition!

When Hegel uses the word “oblivion” (docta ignorantia), he does it in a way to enable the absolute knowledge to absorb the essence of historical truth, to get rid of the layers of historical memory, which is not “essential.” This retroactive memory/forgetting is always ideological--and building upon the libidinal economy of the nation. It is not expressed based on neutral, scrupulous, scientific analysis. But without exception through the nation’s fantasies.

Fantasies about the trauma of the breakup of the former imaginary unity (that never actually existed) in the divisions and fighting that followed and the constant desire to rebuild it and to dream one’s own dreams.

Fantasy is a network of meanings through which a social content, object, or person is shown to us as the destination of our desire, or as an obstacle to satisfying it. It explains why our fundamental desire (achieving primordial unity, final harmony) cannot be reached, and so offers us alternatives—compensations through the pleasure principle.

This is what Lacan implies when he says that fantasy is the ultimate leverage for reality: that reality is stabilized when framed in a fantasy (which controls the chaos of the REAL). Most radically, fantasy constitutes reality, not vice versa. We receive the reality only through the filter of fantasy.

A feature of nationalist, patriotic mobilization is creation of the idea of an external threat to the nation. Hegel calls this operation “the illusion of deliberating outside:” the unity or identity of the nation is the result of deliberations that it is threatened from the outside, from someone or something that threatens to swallow it. Hegel says that these threats create identity.

Such illusion, raised to the level of fantasy - serves for legitimization of politics as action in realizing the dream/fantasy about protection from attacks and attaining unity.

Whenever the nation attains what appears to satisfy the desire of rebuilding primordial unity (creating an independent state), it is immediately concluded “this is not it,” and the desire is renewed in its constant failure to be satisfied.

Slavoj Zizek says that human desire is mediated by fantasy—never organized around the notion of genuine interest—even against his real interests. This is because enjoyment is completely irrational.

Desire is only directed to a pathological goal (primordial unity, which never was), an object that never existed, but whose traces remain as our construction. Desire and enjoyment (in the form of fantasy) rely on the illusion of direct contact with our “national thing”—constituting the fanaticism of politics, based on national myths.

Pleasure-in-the-nation, only available to us, can never be achieved (reaching the primordial unity that seems to have been lost; stolen from us). This question for pleasure-in-the-nation is transformed into a drive. It is compulsive repetition of trying to achieve enjoyment (which we know will fail). But the failed attempt turns into a ritual that creates its own unique from of satisfaction!

However, according to Lacan, it becomes dangerous when these drives are converted into drives of death! When a nation is dominated by an ideology that reaches for the impossible satisfaction.

Towards the desire for de-subjectivization in merging with the “fate”, which is interpreted as extinction by becoming one with the whole and achieving harmony. Such so-called passage à l’acte (Lacan) by which it is desired to reach the full, ultimate satisfaction is fatal for the nation as such.

It is expressed in the form of radical political actions of self- harm, civil wars and genocides, wars of exhaustion, disputes that lead to divisions and so on; especially in smaller nations it is a dangerous road.

To sacrifice life and autonomy for reaching ultimate pleasure in what is considered secret and de-subjectivization of the nation, leads to its disappearance and is the second side of the coin of estheticism, glorification of the nation in dictatorships.

Funny complication of analysis of nationalism based on the economy of the collective libido is the introduction to the discourse of the “other,” the competitive otherness in the process of self- determination. That is done in a way and through the category of “stolen pleasure” and “dangers to our way of life” and so on.

According to libidinal support of nationalism, it can be considered that nationalism creates its fantasy of trying to possess something that we have never had (primordial harmonious unity of the nation), and which in the discourse of the other is “stolen from us.”

So actually, we cannot enjoy it. That theft is a burden for the other near us (multicultural societies) or for the other which is across borders (the Balkan region, Europe, etc.). What we have previously mentioned quoting Hegel here is established; i.e., the feeling of danger, now as stolen pleasure, the too close presence of an intruder, a stranger, the “other” establish identity and nationalism.

Another point is interesting and fascinating for us the Macedonians, in the theory of libidinal support of identity and nationalism - it is the explanation about the deep attraction that some models of ethnic identity and nationalism have in terms of dominance, collective guilt, anxiety and addiction, attraction of the authoritarian model of existence and social organization.

We begin with the question: where is our enjoyment situated? Where is and what constitutes our specific collective fulfillment that we are Macedonians? What kind of a pleasure is that never achieved, but constantly desirable, on the edge of pain and defeat - which exists as compulsive repeated attempt to reach?

How is it turned into jouissance, just ours, which only we can understand? Who are those seeking to “steal” our pleasure? How are we motivated against them? How do we envision the history of our very community?

Those words would later feed the “beast in us.” The beast of our super ego which takes away our self-confidence. Feed the beast and get rid of fear. We must get rid of the stereotypical image of ourselves, to open our episteme, and face our pleasures- in-the-nation, in ideology, which manipulates such pleasure in the now dominant myth of the Macedonians that is instrumentalized by the right.

First, such nations consider that all others owe them and that now is the time for all those others to give them something, while refusing to give anything to them, because for too long these nations have been the victims and object of third-party conflicts. This engenders a political culture in which there is inability to make, adjust and recognize one’s own interest in compromise.

Second, these victimized nations tend to be very rigid to minority groups in their immediate environment. We are talking about a compromise in the design of the democratic system and group rights for minorities that victimized nations consider weakness, which are not allowed by the history and suffering that they have gone through as nations.

They do not want to recognize or learn from their own history and suffering - they do not learn about solidarity, respect and compromise, but manifest cruelty (if allowed, of course).

Third, the international community is perceived as a great manipulator, a prostitute, a place of constant conspiracy, place of moral doubt and of dangerous ordeals for the national macho spirit (tendency towards conspiracy).

In fact, the decline of values in transition- which is part of the decline in the efficiency of symbolic norms in neoliberal capitalism in general, in societies that have rather illiberal tradition and political culture - is further strongly manifested as   a sense of insecurity, rising anxiety, fear, feeling guilty, needing someone else to bear responsibility in all that   mess!

All this, combined with the above elements of the constitution of pleasure-in-the-nation of victimized peoples, is manifested towards a violent dead-drive (the drive to flee from hardship by means of irrational plunge into the satisfaction that cannot be reached, into de-subjectivization through merging with the primordial whole of the nation, if necessary by its disappearance). It is enslavement under authoritarianism, violence and disorientation, in which Macedonian nationalism is a classic example and paradigm per se.

The collapse of the “Big Other,” as Lacan calls it, results in new forms of submission and domination. Enthusiasm towards order and law (law with zero tolerance for violations) - creates the illusion that it controls everything; establishing an order that is that is missing - allowing avoidance of responsibility for political decisions that determine the future. It is an open call to the leader to adopt the decisions that seem needed, while we offer submissiveness and obedience in exchange for the illusion of security.


Reality is a subjective process mediated by desire and placed in the framework of fantasy! Fantasy is the framework by means of which the subject begins to desire and perceive reality. Reality by itself does not exist!

Fantasy serves politics in a way that each political group organizes its positions and views as an ideology— and only thus approaches social reality, including politics. Only through fantasies, political subjects and individual subjects experience what is called jouissance and thus perceive reality.

Definition of the idea of enjoying the nation (Zizek) or jouissance (Lacan) is intense pleasure- and-pain that transforms ordinary pleasure into fascination with unbearable intensity.

Thus, enjoyment in Lacanian terms, is something more than a given, measurable, rational criteria relating to pleasure. Pleasure of this kind always verges on the irrational and cannot be approached directly. One cannot explain this pleasure by means of language and symbols of speech.

It goes through the symbolic order toward the primordial genesis of the REAL. And because of this fact, pleasure is recognized through the holes or gaps in the symbolic—the excesses, not through positivity. Our relationship with such pleasure is never innocent and straightforward. It always goes through pathological forms of guilt, inhibitions, suspensions, subordination or perverse activity.

Zizek says that enjoyment in the nation is not realized by respecting its laws and regulations, but within the dark sub-reality of their ritual violation—by means of excesses, which only the people can commit, the obscene side of what means to be a Macedonian, unlike the foreigners that are not allowed to do it.

Only positive norms are in force for them. An individual completely belongs to the community or the nation, only when he is ready to break its rules, participating in those unwritten, obscene rules.

When we say that there is a special order for members of the party in power, rules that do not apply to the rest of us, we point out that sub-reality, which is excessively enjoyed by members of the Macedonian DPMNE party in tacit manner.

Only they may spread ethnic and religious hatred and go unpunished; only they may find pleasure in the violence against “faggots” and go unpunished; only they may receive in advance admission tests for employment in the state administration, or tomorrow the answers for the external testing in state schools—because they are part of the order/system of “intense pleasure-in-the-nation”; that very Dance Macabre of hate, violence and obscenity, which are additions to public law, which is enjoyed by and which identifies and unites the members of the DPMNE party –as Macedonians!

This “pleasure-in-the-nation” is transformed and materialized by the ruling political party of rightist populism into a set of social practices and is then transposed through the national myths and fantasies that are provided by these practices.

A special question is: Why is such domination willingly accepted by a segment of the population? Why and how is the denial of freedom and repression are transformed into a special kind of pleasure?

In Franz Kafka’s short story, “The Problem of Our Laws,” he says that laws are not known to anyone, but instinctively people respect them as if they know the laws; and anyone can be charged although the law is not known to him. Individuals captured in this ideology transfer their responsibility into a blind, neurotic respect and enforcement of laws that—they assume—are as they should be.

Obsessive enforcement of laws (harsh penal policy, zero tolerance for offenders, etc.) is converted into special, perverse pleasure (once the libidinal satisfaction of freedom and creation has been suspended).

An obsessive connection to dictums of law allows subjects to get rid of the knowledge that they cannot or dare not reach freedom. But beware, the repetition of this practice—the blind following of the law and release from individual responsibility, turns into a special, compensatory satisfaction.

Zizek says that the ideology of this right-wing speech revolves around a set of attitudes that organize excessive pleasure-in-the-nation, creating a program through which individuals have access to this pleasure.

If ideology metaphorically contains “the cause” or ideal of the tribe, nation, class—then criticism involves entering another ideology. The criticism of one ideology is possible only from another ideological position.

Never does critique consist of objective knowledge rendering the ideology “false”—because ideology is not a matter of science, but of social action and excess pleasure-in-the-nation.

Struggle in the political field is conducted for ideological hegemony upon the entirety of society (to become the Master Signifier, or as Laclau says, to fill the empty signifier, to become universal). In recent decades, right-wing ideologies have been more successful in this struggle. These ideologies are particularly robust and harsh in their “victory” of in transitional countries.

The criticism required is one that will deconstruct the right-wing ideology by bringing to the foreground the special construction of rightist pleasure-in-the-nation. This critique help explains how objects presented in the ideology of authoritarian populism are do not reflect “real social relations,” but are constructions of pleasure-in-the-nation; fantasies inserted as social relations.

In doing so, our position would be that ideology is not only “a false consciousness” about reality or lack of truth, but it also contains an excess of reality, excess of truth, or imaginary constructions through which reality is perceived.

Such excess of truth should be confronted and replaced, and then filled, in a political struggle, with the new Signifier, the Master Signifier; i.e., one that will signify the emancipatory politics of liberation.

We are not replacing ideology with the “truth” because such one does not exist outside of ideology in context of politics, but with a new and different ideology of emancipation. By this ideological move (authentic act, event, according to A. Badiou) of emancipatory politics, the existing symbolic order is pierced by changing expectations of actors and an opportunity to change the identity matrix is opened. That means in this case: the ideological matrix of emancipated Macedonian and the Macedonian people as a modern European nation.

To build it as an ideological utopia, it requires the presence of the Master of the order and of the emancipation, in the form of responsible political elites and the public sector, dedicated to the emancipation and freedom. It must provide the nation a passage through the phantasm in the liberal praetorian way.

It seems it is neither as simple nor easy. The problem of formulating a “leftist, radical, or emancipatory utopia” has a dimension, which we can call a general handicap of liberalism and its value-based formation, while part of the problem also lies in the actual national demotivation of the leftist political option.

Emmanuel Levinas said that the problem of liberalism is its difficulty in transposing its universalist principles and rationalism into national discourse; into something that lives daily, in one’s history. In this sense, populism and fascism are always winning.

Zygmunt Bauman states that in the last fifty years the left has lost most of its political battles because of its failure in culture. Georges Bataille raised this issue as early as in the 30s and 40s of the last century: How can one establish an anti-fascist policy that does not fall under the motivational deficit of liberalism? How would such a policy look?