Date: Tue, 30 Apr 2002
Subject: What is "pure zero drive"? {Zombie avant-garde}

Jon Minton wrote:

Jeffrey, I do appreciate your theory; and I can even
see some evidence of what you're saying . . . What is
"pure zero drive," as you use the phrase here?" I
don't get it. And is replication + variation, which is
what the poem explores, at least in part, always this
"pure zero drive?" . . . in terms of theory-death
(which is otherwise interesting and useful)

In some of Freud's later works, the impossible notion
of the death drive occupied a special place. Far from
immortality or the endless satisfaction of pleasures
(or rather, at their deepest level), Freud came to
believe that the organism desired most of all to die,
"in its own way." The death drive is a primordial
force, indeed the only "primordial force," deeper than
life, life's "final purpose."

Repetition compulsions, which we have already
encountered, are the simplest expressions of this
absurd drive. For Freud, according to Jean Laplanche,
"the most varied manifestations of repetition . . .
are attributed to the essence of drives" (Laplanche
1985, 107). The psychic economy is driven by a desire
to preclude change through repetition, that is to
say, through a principle of constancy. But this
principle of constancy is itself the expression of a
deeper principle: a zero principle. For Freud there is
an absolute "primacy of zero in relation to constancy"
(108). The constancy that the organism seeks must
finally be identified as death.

Furthermore, this zero principle is ineluctably
connected to aggression. Sadean aggression toward the
other is in fact a displacement of a more fundamental
autoaggression. According to Laplanche,

'a part of the primal destructiveness is deflected
toward the external world, giving rise to the
manifestation we identify as aggressiveness. Thus . .
. what is affirmed here is the primacy of
self-aggression over heteroaggression, that
self-aggression being, in turn, only the consequence
of the absolute primacy within the individual of the
tendency toward zero, conceived as the most radical
form of the pleasure principle.'