The Singularity of Being presents a Lacanian vision of what makes each of us an inimitable and irreplaceable creature. It argues that, unlike the “subject” (who comes into existence as a result of symbolic prohibition) or the “person” (who is aligned with the narcissistic conceits of the imaginary), the singular self emerges in response to a galvanizing directive arising from the real. This directive carries the force of an obligation that cannot be resisted and that summons the individual to a “character” beyond his or her social investments. Consequently, singularity expresses something about the individual’s non-negotiable distinctiveness, eccentricity, or idiosyncrasy at the same time it prevents both symbolic and imaginary closure. It opens to layers of rebelliousness, indicating that there are components of human life exceeding the realm of normative sociality.
Written with an unusual blend of rigor and clarity, The Singularity of Being combines incisive readings of Lacan with the best insights of recent Lacanian theory to reach beyond the dogmas of the field. Moving from what, thanks in part to Slavoj Žižek, has come to be known as the “ethics of the act” to a nuanced interpretation of Lacan’s “ethics of sublimation,” the book offers a sweeping overview of Lacan’s thought while making an original contribution to contemporary theory and ethics. Aimed at specialists and nonspecialists alike, the book manages to educate at the same time as it intervenes in current debates about subjectivity, agency, resistance, creativity, the self–other relationship, and effective political and ethical action. By focusing on the Lacanian real, Ruti honors the uniqueness of subjective experience without losing sight of the social and intersubjective components of human life.
... The Singularity of Being never surrenders its distinctly humanist commitment to real lives. In doing so, Ruti reminds us that the opacity of the other, just like the potential opacity of philosophical and psychoanalytic ideas, cannot--and should not--entirely be conjured away.
—Los Angeles Review of Books
In a work of truly impressive post-Lacanian scholarship, Mari Ruti has made The Singularity of Being into a unique reading event. Verve and passion mark every page and instantiate in action the contents on the page. One learns, almost experientially, about key Lacanian concepts such as Das Ding, the sublime-in-sublimation, and jouissance. Most importantly, in her brilliant chapter on Love, we learn that we are always in an ethical position relative to the complexities of our desire. There are many books on Lacan. Few offer as rich an experience as The Singularity of Being.
Training and Supervising Analyst, The San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis
In this passionate, innovative book, Mari Ruti brings Lacanian psychoanalysis into the twenty-first century. She argues brilliantly for the creativity and fragility of singular beings who are in constant transformation while also changing the social orders in which they are embedded from the inside. Erudite and enjoyable, this book is a must read for all those interested in the future of psychoanalysis as well as in cultural and critical theory.
—Verena Andermatt Conley
In this intense meditation on the possibilities for an ethical life as a creative subject, Mari Ruti extends her previous explorations into the paradoxes of post-Lacanian theory and philosophy. What does it mean to live one’s life as a singular human being limited by a finite set of events and cultural imperatives that everywhere create victimhood and injustice? Is the wound of singularity founded on an unassimilable corporeal real trauma enough to serve as foundation for an ethical principle based on desire? Ruti restlessly probes the responses of numerous thinkers- notably Badiou, Santner, and Zizek- to these questions and shows us their limitations as moral philosophers. At the same, she highlights the relevance of their at times uncompromising or extreme positions. Ruti’s stubborn resistance to settled notions about trauma, subjectivity, and multiculturalist realities, her discomfort with apocalyptic or utopian solutions, and her personal honesty in struggling with moral imperatives make this work an impressive contribution to moral philosophy and to post-Freudian psychoanalytic critical thought.
In her breathtaking new work, Mari Ruti completely transforms our
understanding of ambivalence, revealing the role that art plays in the
expression of singularity and the role that commodities play in its
The University of Vermont