An account of Derrida’s and Johnson’s deconstruction and the concept of the frame in relation to modern medicine and the logic of normality:
In The Purveyor of Truth – a collection of writings, Derrdia critiques Lacan’s seminar on The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe. And Johnson critiques them both. Literature is described, and analysis of literature deconstructed. The description of ‘writing’ problematises the interpretation of writing, examines the potential multiplicity of significations that disseminate from writing, and concludes that to describe mandates an enframing that is paradoxically also impossible. I describe the way a signifier ‘normal’ functions in society and medicine using these ideas.
Biological normality is an enframing social construct and a discursive practice that by being both mandatory and impossible enables powers to create categories of pathological tissue or madness or amorality that can be infinitely expanded and incessantly sacrificed and consumed as the hyper-precarious patient comes into contact with the jouissance of the medical expert in the perverse sado-masochist torture chamber of unfettered capitalism.
Cells multiply through the replication of DNA, a very lot of times all the time, and occasionally the reproduction goes wrong, and mutation occurs and dis-ease results. Why would it go wrong? Research suggests it seems to go wrong at a rate proportional to the rate of multiplication, and this accounts for two thirds of cancers, random errors in the DNA replication process. Any repetitive transcription of information may be prone to random error, I guess, but to say this isn’t to explain why. Nonetheless, this evident error proneness explains some dis-ease and even underpins the ageing process and death. I won’t say normal ageing process, because ‘normal’ isn’t the same as natural and is anything unnatural anyway?
NORMALITY is an unanswerable aporia – a Kantian antinomy, but this doesn’t stop it functioning like a powerful signifier with concrete material effects. The normal-pathological opposition is a duality that does not represent two independent wholes, instead a third term is created, a remainder, an inbetween-ness. Is this the failure of the Hegelian dialectical synthesis, instead both simultaneously normal and pathological and neither? Given the negative entropy of the universe what can normality mean? If we cannot define normality, can we define health, or healthy in terms of tissue representations? Something might be said to ‘look healthy’ which might say more about the limits of seeing, than about the nature of the tissue. If we cannot define healthy tissue in terms of appearance this implies we can never be sure if the said tissue which ‘looks healthy’ is unhealthy or pathological. Therefore population screening of asymptomatic tissue will always yield anxiety provoking borderline uninterpretable appearances and at the borderline there will be a naming-fest. (as exemplified by the numerous names given to borderline tissue representations in breast cancer screening)
It can be predicted that in an age of precarity and the sado-masochistic torture chamber of capitalism that human capital will be consumed at an ever faster rate, disseminating more selfish monistic (h)self-flesh to be consumed even as it is itself being consumed by itself.
Normality is a human construct like space and time, so there is perhaps a logic of normality, that might be thought of as just as paradoxical as Derrida’s framing (as described in The Purveyor of Truth in relation to writing and literature), whereby as noted in Johnson’s chapter in the same text, normality as a framing is mandatory and impossible at the same time. I am applying these ideas of deconstruction here to a biological social field or a field of bio-politics. Is such an application also enframing?
Be Normal! is the injunction of Modern Healthcare as previously noted, the injunction mandated by e.g. the UK policy to have a national population based breast cancer screening programme. Be Normal! may be the injunction mandated by the sanctions threatened for those obese, alcoholic and Heroin addicted people who fail to attend ‘treatment’ programmes, or for the parents who do not have their children vaccinated.
Normality requires a definable identifiable objective – it could be said that we’re all normal all the time no matter what, but this is saying no more than we exist as Beings, not very helpful. The logic of normality for medicine is part of the logic of seeing, and what we experience (by seeing) of the ‘is’ of ‘what is” is different from ‘what-is’ by precisely what we see, this is Heidegger’s ontological difference.
Foucault might argue that ‘ Biological Normality’, historically is a social construct that enables Power to be exercised over those that threaten Power by enabling them to be defined against a norm e.g. as ‘indecent’ or ‘amoral’ or ‘high-risk’. Vague generalisations that can be applied by the powerful to all, at will, maintaining and reproducing the power of the already powerful. Canguilhem, one of Foucault’s teachers argued that Error is the mark of Life, but this may also be to enframe Life as ‘random error’, enframing the unframeable.
The perversion and accelerating self consumption and production of flesh by capitalism requires an ever decreasing threshold for pathological dia-gnosis, even to the point of pre-empting the diagnosis of current ‘pathological’ tissue through crystal ball future-telling genetic predictive screening creating pre-vivors. Even without genetic screening however, the threshold is being driven downwards downwards.
Illness, like child sexual abuse, demands detection/help/treatment/prevention to ease suffering and exploitation. The naming process demands an opposition between normal childhood experiences and non-illness, these in turn lead to unenframeable potential demonisation of the ‘abnormal’ : a vague and moveable/expandable human-catchment, the size of the fishing nets expands as the powers that be, always feeling threatened, demand more control over the lives of the population.