Vanishing mediator

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A vanishing mediator is a concept that exists to mediate between two opposing ideas, as a transition occurs between them. This mediating concept exists just long enough to facilitate such an interaction: at the point where one idea has been replaced by the other, the concept is no longer required and thus vanishes.[1] In terms of Hegelian dialectics the conflict between the theoretical abstraction and its empirical negation (through trial and error) is resolved by a concretion of the two ideas, representing a theoretical abstraction taking into account the previous contradiction, whereupon the mediator vanishes.

In terms of psychoanalytic theory, when someone is caught in a dilemma they experience hysteria. A conceptual deadlock exists until the resulting hysteric breakdown precipitates some kind of resolution, therefore the Hysteria is a vanishing mediator in this case.[2]

In terms of political history, it refers to social movements, which operate in a particular way to influence politics, until they either are forgotten or change their purpose.[3]

Fredric Jameson introduced the term in a 1973 essay ("The Vanishing Mediator: Narrative Structure in Max Weber," in New German Critique 1 [Winter, 1973]: 52-89). Alain Badiou uses a similar, but more explicitly post-structuralist term (″terme évanouissant″ or ″vanishing term″) in Théorie du sujet.

Since, this concept has been adopted by Žižek in "For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment as a Political factor", where he uses it in a political sense, similar to Marx's Analysis of Revolution.[1]