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Joe Nally discusses the concept of “placement” in contemporary society, examining how love, romance, and identity have evolved in response to changing socio-cultural contexts and how these shifts affect our search for belonging and meaning within larger constructs like nationalism and subcultures.

The French philosopher Alain Badiou writes in his 2012 book In Praise of Love that love in the postmodern age of eclecticism and consumerism comes at the cost that it is “risk-free,” and “love” is treated as an edible product, and a must-have commodity under our capitalist order. This is dangerous on many levels, because once American men and women see “love” as an act of hedonism, nothing is sincere or intellectual anymore. For Badiou, “there is no such thing as the one-night stand,” because both individuals are mislead under consumption, and rather commit sex in the name of devotion, competition, and loyalty.

Authenticity is the culture of the nation, while inauthenticity is the subcultures that diverts away from the people.

With this in mind, what is our current age really about, if it avoids love altogether?

I believe in the psychoanalytic. And I believe in the concept of “placement” as a priority over most desires. Placement can be described as a virtuous term in Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. Where in each life stage, the individual can experience a positive or negative crisis related to that life stage, and like making twisting choices in a gamebook, these influences satiate the need to find a social belonging, or “placement,” within the world. Romance in 2023 is about this placement effect, on how two people discover themselves, like in the pursuit of wisdom and truth. Because romance has actually less to do with sex, intimacy, and dating, and rather, all these three things are about placement, which fuels the meaning of romance. This is why the man looking for a one-night stand is in a futile position, as rather, he is asking himself if he could represent the image of a “pick-up artistry mastermind,” or become a heroic warrior achieving his buxom princess in the night.

Unlike Abraham Maslow’s theory of hierarchy of needs, Erickson argues that placement is more important than the current state an individual is in. Maslow would assume a human needs “belonging and love” before they can achieve “esteem,” and so on. Erikson visions life as a continuous stream, where there is no state of Kabbalah nirvana to be reached. With psychosocial devolvement in mind, people are yearning to be placed in a life that makes sense, and not infinity kicked out as an outsider.

How then do we make sense of nationalism, culture, and the subculture that provides this meaning of “placement”?

Nationalism, in essence, believes that the nation should be congruent with the state. There are many variants of “nationalism” that contradict one another — “civc,” “ethnic,” or “liberal.” All parties advocate that a nation is a state that forms a peculiar area of control and interest. The Marxist academic David Harvey provides an intelligent view of the nation in his 1969 book Explanation in Geography. Rather than thinking in terms of “who belongs” and who does not, Harvey explains the nation in terms of “critical geography,” where geography becomes the thesis of Marxist and social justice thought, and that the struggle of nationalism could be explained as a phenomenon of different geographical locations. On the tipping point, this does sound like something an evolutionary psychologist would write, in particular, something Richard Lynn would explain in his work on The Global Bell Curve. By understanding geography, and what makes a “nation,” we could understand placement.

… racial nationalism is not advocated by the culture at hand, but by a subjective subculture, which any participant can join as a consumer trend or hobby.

Deriving from the nation comes its culture, as the “culture” in question is the most tricky part to address. There is a difference between the hegemonic culture of the nation, representing the values and the biological interests of its people, versus the downpour of the “subculture” that is influenced by minor events within the country. For example, if America in the 1950s was made up of admixture European people with Christian values, by the 1960s, many of the admixture people separated from the in-group, and created niche identities based around consumerism and hobbyisms. Dick Hebdige explains in his work Subculture that subculture is a result of the capitalist order. As noted, “Each subculture moves through a cycle of resistance and delusion and we have seen how this cycle is situated within the larger cultural and commercial matrices.” (p. 130). Subculture is a reflection and variant diversity of the hegemonic culture of the nation. “Goth” and “skinhead” become expressions of admixture European people, while “ganguro” and “kogal” are subcultures for the Japanese. Importantly, they act as  a form of inauthentic portrayals of placement in a society that has lost meaning within liberalism. Authenticity is the culture of the nation, while inauthenticity is the subcultures that diverts away from the people.

It is no surprise that somebody who considers themself an “anarchist,” or a part of the “Antifa” subculture, has a moral crusade to proselytize others for the truth of their inauthentic subculture, and reinforces the psychosocial placement of their identity. Just like any other identity politics, identitarianism is a nationalist attempt to accept subculture as the praxis and moral code for racial activism. The irony, however, is that racial nationalism is not advocated by the culture at hand, but by a subjective subculture, which any participant can join as a consumer trend or hobby. Hence the word itself, “identitarian,” becomes vague like a “vegetarian,” or “feminist.” And the crusade for subculture thus becomes a reflection about placement, and like love, romance, intimacy, and sex, subculture provides all these things in a customized and niche format.

The consumption goes out of its way for men to prefer silly things like “big titty goth girls” over “trad caths.” As Hebdige writes, “Despite its proletarian accents, punk’s rhetoric was steeped in irony… …Punk’s guttersnipe rhetoric, its obsession with class and relevance, were expressly designed to undercut the intellectual posturing of the previous generation of rock musicians.” (p. 63). As the semantics change, the same agitating behavior from white people can be found in their zeitgeist activities. Irony is when the subcultural person never takes a sincere position, as subculture is naturally inauthentic. Always their mind is changing to the whims of Erik Erikson’s psychosocial analysis, and rather, the subcultural follower is in desperate need of placement. Using irony words like “big titty goth” suggests that he desires such a woman in his life and discriminates other forms to get her. This then explains the rationale of a nation, of an area of geography, that draws a line into its own version of “nationalism.” The new kind of nationalism thus becomes an ideology based around ethnosymbolism, or the consumer collection of symbols, myths, values, and traditions related to subculture.

It is the internet which has provided the acceleration of actualized and niche subcultures to have grand meaning over an American mass of people who do not find meaning in today’s liberal climate. The plausibility of trans issues, being a “virtuous pedophile,” and other unthinkable acts become all plausible with the internet and the speeding technology to create “spaces” for them to communicate, and to virtually show off as that real-life form of social statues to emulate. An innocent user could be doing a simple Google search for college homework, and then accidentally discovers, throwing them into a rabbit hole of radical theory against globalism, a common American belief of good. Because we live in a society of lonely, atomized citizens, under the guise that we are liberated through our capitalist system, the deracinated individual looks for a liberating identity on the internet and claims it like grocery shopping.

Even worse is when the subcultural follower finds out that there are many other more and invented subcultures to assimilate or fight against. Certainly the “cottagecore” crowd isn’t going to get along with the “post-neofolk” fans anytime soon. René Girard explained in his work The Scapegoat that humanity needs a scapegoat to justify its own jealously and envy. For example, if the Asian incel can’t get a similar Asian woman on his side, he blames his hatred on the omnipresent “white men” that took his toys away. The white man becomes the scapegoat for the Asian incel’s actions, and soon enough, he creates a bizarre and paradoxical subculture around hating white men, justifying liberal order, and contradictory theories and objects that wouldn’t make sense together. A classic example would be the Log Cabin Republicans, or Republicans that advocate gay rights, or the clandestine and secretive gay white nationalist scene. How could homosexual men advocate policies that would ultimately shun the freedom of being gay? Just like the hypocrisy of the Asian man who hates the white man, and in return gets an isolated racial nationalism for him, but not the white man who’s paying it for him.

We go back to Badiou and his explanation of love. If love is conquest and discovery of wisdom, its urge of action is placement. Where do we place ourselves when we are in love? We have to look into the mirror, and ask ourselves if this is really us. Inside, we are a mix of many emotions and reasons, but on the outside no one seems to equate that the two want the same thing. Placement is the argument to find meaning in life. And while it is important to find placement in an identity, what is more important is finding placement with another person. That is, love, romance, intimacy, and sex are the foundation of identity, and thus fulfilling placement.

If white nationalism has intolerance around the desire of many, it can only be an exclusive desire, and against the natural will of many.

It is quite common for a man to start dating anyone, and then fall in love with a diverse woman outside his own culture. Then all of a sudden, his atomized life doesn’t become boring anymore. If his girlfriend is Mexican, he proclaims himself as versed in Mexican culture and tradition. The same could be said about the overtly masculine guy who pursues a black woman, and a hipster nerd that pursues an Asian woman. American stand-up comedians, especially women, will often talk about “sex” and their lovers as the punchline and meaning of their humor. “Raceplay,” or the act of talking about and “playing” with the subject of race, becomes the norm. Here, placement is fulfilled, and identity is finally orbiting around this piece of the puzzle.

This contradicts the urge of white nationalism for “whites” to wed other “white women” and to have “white children.” If white nationalism has intolerance around the desire of many, it can only be an exclusive desire, and against the natural will of many. Can a white nationalist still be one, if he does not have any children? What does it make him then, if there is no praxis? Will Fellows argues a similar line in his work A Passion to Preserve, where gay men are “keepers of civilization.” Because gay men can’t have children, they focus on an urge to project society as a whole, without them participating, like loyal eunuchs. What is a white nationalist, if his true desire is to project a certain ethnosymbolism around his own eclectic mix of European desires? What if the French woman in question is not interested in Italians or Germans, and wishes to be with other “French” things? That would be “French nationalism,” and white nationalism in question would be pushed to the side as an altruistic threat.

Such new subcultural lingo arose around this paradox, where one can “RCTA,” or “Race Change To Another,” and if they don’t like their ethnic background, they too can also “ECTA,” or “Ethnically Change To Another.” Tired of being “white”? Become “French”! Don’t like being Egyptian? Become Japanese! These caricatures become all too real, as people can scout out the Socratic “good life” if it means changing an identity for them to find placement. It relates back to the concept of identitarianism, and what it means to have a sincere identity in an age where there is none, even if one has to consume and emulate its supposed behavior. This all relates back to a capitalist system that is ruled by the trends of supply and demand. If it is popular to be Korean, because of the recent fad of K-pop and K-drama, one must become Korean in order to find placement in the 2020s. The same could be said about “Turning Japanese” in the 1980s. What is identity without placement?

The man who wishes to become rooted in something finds identity in the most trivial things. Even if it means a city, a band, or objects, man first justifies his rhetoric that he “belongs” in such a world. But what makes his placement the most important is other people justifying his placement. I believe the intimate nature of the lover is the result of man’s quest for placement. Inauthentic forms also root in this keen interest of meeting someone, and becoming “aroused” over them, as an invitation to a new world.

The true pursuit of placement in the world is finding love with another person. This is what justifies the actions of the nation as a whole, the culture that is developed, and the subcultures around consumption, that all create purpose. We should be thinking about how to fall in love, and be in love with someone, then thinking in terms of religious ideology and semantic traps.

Our meaning is defined by the person who we love.

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Joe Nally

Joe Nally graduated from School of Visual Arts with an MA in Design Research, and blogs at and He lives in San Francisco.

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