Outsourced! Mediatisation and rivalry


To raise oneself above the fray, to situate oneself at distance, to let someone else act in our stead – these are ways that enable us to take up an analytical, reflective position. When the mind is released from the immediacy of the biological drive, we can enter into a mediate relation to our world, and it is this indirect, contemplative relation that lays the ground for reflection and insight.

The psychoanalyst and philosopher Slavoj Žižek has used the term “outsourcing” to explain this effect: when we allow others to act and react in our place, we let them be active for us. This kind of interpassivity – some agent is active so that we can be passive – allows the observer to take up a mediate relation to his or her world by letting the interpassive relationship articulate the immediacy of the drive. Indeed, in the psychoanalysis of Jacques Lacan we observe a necessary movement of mediatisation as we become beings of desire: it is through the intervention of language that we can rise above the immediacy of the drive and begin to articulate what it is that we want. Language, in this view, is a vehicle to mediatise desire.

In the philosophy of Wolfgang Schirmacher the active agent of interpassivity takes the shape of a mediated figure, the Homo generator. This is an inaugurator of human reality in the media, and as such it is a stand-in for the observer and consumer. It is in this sense that the mediate figure serves as a clone of our inner desires: in the media we can see generations of new life, and we can begin to determine our biological and spirital future. The interpassive encounter in Schirmacher is decidedly more artful, more social, than Žižek's psychoanalytic approach. The key distinction lies in the medium where our desires are transposed: is it restricted to a psychic and linguistic realm, or does mediatisation take place in a social, and potentially empirical domain?

It was as an amalgamation of these two senses of mediatisation that Rene Girard's theory of mimetic rivalry emerged as a profound and comprehensive explanation of violence half a century ago. The figure of a mediator – or model – of desire enabled Girard to study how it is that what we believe is most intimately ours, our desire, continues to be shaped by our mediators, which, in turn, become our rivals in our quest to satisfy our desires. To Girard it was characteristic of desire itself that it was shaped by mimesis, governed by attempts to upend our rivals, and culminating in mass-mediated spectacles that stage the elimination of the mediator and model.

Our forthcoming issue of Inscriptions (vol. 3, no. 1) seeks to investigate questions of desire, mediatisation, and rivalry in ways that encompass both psychic and social approaches, and that engage several senses of terms such as medium, model, and rivalry. Key questions include:

  • In what sense is our desire mediated in traditional and contemporary media, and to what effect?
  • What is the relation between media consumption and reflection, and how can philosophy intervene in the debate over social media?
  • How does the process of mediatisation generate social effects such as scapegoating, and in what sense should we take a normative stand on such effects?

Submission instructions
Academic essays should be 3,000 to 4,500 words. We also seek scholarship in the form of interviews, reviews, short interventions, opinion pieces, etc., and in these cases we also seek shorter texts. Inscriptions adheres to the Chicago Manual of Style (footnotes and bibliography). For other instructions, please see our website. We encourage potential authors to submit proposals for review prior to their writing/submitting entire full-length manuscripts. Include title, proposal (150 words), short biography, and institutional affiliation in your preliminary submission. All academic essays undergo double-blind peer review.

Submit proposals, essays and literary fiction on or before September 15 through our online platform at https://inscriptions.tankebanen.no/