In his paper “On Death-Work” J-B Pontalis ponders the puzzling double faced nature of the death drive:

  • Is it aggressive and destructive behaviour… above all self-destructive, or is it a state of apathy?
  • Is it unrestrained violence or the temptation of nirvana (each generation finding or rediscovering its own)?
  • Is it an overabundance, an excess of excitation inducing a devastating acting out, or a scarcity of excitation inducing the feeling of non-existence, a void of thoughts and of affects?
  • Is it for Narcissus, a fascinated self-sufficiency or an omnipotent and raging hold over the object?
  • Is it zero or infinity?

(Pontalis 1981 p. 190)

This issue of Sitegeist amply demonstrates both these faces. To start with, the editorial collective began by regretting the choice of the death drive as a theme for the issue. What we expected and hoped would be a stimulating choice was followed by silence and drought! There was discussion of abandoning the issue. However, when the submissions did arrive, they proved to be indeed inspired and fluent and all touch on the two facets of the death drive.

Rebecca Reynolds paper “Water in Water” takes a swooping course through a range of philosophical considerations to offer a radically new way of conceiving the death drive. Her central concern is to show, by reference to Bataille, how death and life drives are integrated in the manner of tides, where there is constant movement without it ever being possible to say where one ends and the next begins. She relates this figure, in a way which makes of theory something akin to poetry, to the work of accelerationist Land, to Hegel, and many others, as well as centrally to Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle.